Hugh Hewitt and Jeff Jarvis continue their excellent conversation about whether (or to what extent) Christian faith is under fire in this country. I agree with Hugh’s position that an important struggle is occurring “between secular elites and a majority that is Christian.” Hugh’s latest post makes makes the most important points, but I wish add two thoughts.
First Jarvis states:
I find arguments that there is a war on Christianity to be disingenuous in a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian. Here, too, you can’t have it both ways: You can’t argue on the one hand that the moral values army is sweeping the land and that’s why George won — and then argue on the other hand that you are a persecuted, downtrodden sect. You can’t play the power card and the persecution (aka paranoia) card at the same time. Doesn’t wash.
But, there is nothing contradictory about arguing that President Bush won a clear but narrow victory in part because his voters supported traditional Christian values, while at the same time recognizing that those values, along with Christianity, are under serious attack. This is particularly true given the red state-blue state dichotomy. Nothing in this year’s election returns is inconsistent with the view that, in many locales and some states, Christianity is vulnerable to attack. (Please note that I’m not relying on the elections returns to demonstrate such vulnerability, I’m arguing only that Jarvis errs in invoking them, or their interpretation by some triumphalist Republicans, as evidence for his positiion). Nor does Christianity’s present position in this country mean that there is no struggle against it that should be of concern; I think what has happened in Europe makes that clear.
Second, Jarvis offers the following response to my argument that the politics of the religious divide (Republicans pick up big majorities among practiciing Christians; Democrats prevail among other voters) means that liberals have not only a cultural but a political incentive to marginialize Christianity:
Be careful or you’re going to marginalize me: I go to church. I vote. I just don’t vote your way. You’re arguing that the right is religious and the religious are of the right and I think that would be a big mistake.
At one level, Jarvis is wise to counsel caution when it comes to generalizing about which side of the political debate is religious. But I don’t see how those who worry about who holds political power can ignore the striking statistics showing a strong correlation between religious belief and voting tendencies. It seems clear enough that liberals are not ignoring them. What else should one make of the “Jesusland” meme — the attempt by liberals to blame Kerry’s defeat on what they see as the excessive and/or misguided religiosity of many (most?) American Christians. And, whatever one thinks of this meme’s power to explain the past election, it’s difficult to deny (and Jarvis did not deny) my statement that the extent to which people hold, and are serious about, Christian beliefs is likely to have a direct bearing on who will hold political power, and what our policies will be across the spectrum of key foreign policy and domestic issues.