Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The Church of Secularism

Are you a Secularist? Has the question ever occurred to you? Perhaps not. But if blithering right-wing columnist John Leo is allowed to characterize politics and the media as he would like, you will be considering the question shortly.

Leo writes in his latest column for US News & World Report,

Most people realize that the news media do not just report. They frame and package the news. Stories reflect the mind-set and values of the newsroom. This packaged world is now under heavy assault, partly because different packaging is available (Fox News, talk radio), partly because a strong unpackaging industry has arisen (bloggers, bolder anti-Establishment voices in academia and traditional media).

For instance, last year the very smart political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio completely unwrapped the orthodox newsroom view of religion and politics. They described the basic media view this way: "The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans."

That seems about right to me.

Writing in First Things magazine, the authors conclude that secularists and religious people have been struggling against each other for many years, but in the newsroom accounts, one struggler (secularism) essentially disappears, leaving the religious side as oddly divisive people who want to take over the culture and "impose" (vote) their values.

I consider the division of humanity into the "Saved" and the "Unsaved" oddly divisive. Yes, I really do. And it's especially divisive (1) when being saved becomes a qualification for political office and (2) when certain religious leaders, despite their own teachings, set themselves up to decide who are among the Saved.

I cannot recall anyone—ever—remarking that he or she would have voted for a candidate except that the candidate was "saved," which is what one would expect if the "secularist" forces are "struggling" as Leo describes. But you will hardly need to step around the block before you find people who will only vote for candidates they consider to be "saved."

Leo is framing American politics as a religious struggle. The more that he and his ilk are successful in this framing, the more you will find yourself addressing the matter of your religious beliefs not just if you decide to run for public office but every time you go to vote. This is by intention.

The authors believe newsrooms have been partisan in the debate for many years, partly because so many reporters are Democrats who do not go to church and do not fully understand that secularism is basically an aggressive quasi religion now central to the core constituency of the Democratic Party. Some Democrats (i.e., Hillary Rodham Clinton) are beginning to understand this. When she said recently that believers have the right to live out their faith in the public square, she was taking dead aim at the secularist goal of banishing religion from public life. [boldface added]

Here's a fine piece of writing if I ever saw one. In the same paragraph Leo manages to claim that secularism is a "quasi-religion" and that it's the goal of that quasi-religion to ban religion from public life. If secularism is a "quasi-religion," it is behaving very strangely.

Of course, by defining secularism as a "quasi-religion" a subtext is created that will be immediately apparent to all "Believers." And that is that the secularist "forces" are in league with the Devil. You see, in the us-or-them world of John Leo and the religious right there really is only one power that opposes their vision of Christianity and that power is Satan himself. So guess where that places secularist newsrooms and the Democrats.

While unwilling to have John Leo define my alliances for me, I am ready to found the Church of Secularism so that he will not be proved a liar. In this church self-interest will rule.

The Secularist Creed

It is not in my self-interest to allow other human beings—

Secularists must be allowed "to live out their faith in the public square." Any donations to the church will be tax deductible and any properties owned by the church will be excluded from taxation.

Does that accord with your framing of the issue, John?

Related posts
Dominionism and the Yurica Report (7/24/04)
The descent of the Holy Ghost—the lucrative Crusade (8/29/04)
Handy Fuse ignites, defends the underdog (9/19/04)
Right prescription, wrong religion? (12/30/04)

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