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Open Letter to Kathleen Parker (Update)

John on November 19, 2008 at 11:33 am

Kathleen Parker is one of the loudest voices asking the GOP to ditch G-O-D:

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

I think her level of snark suggests this is a bit more personal for her than it is a detached evaluation of our situation. She sounds like your garden variety secular humanist venting her spleen at religion. As I did earlier in response to David Frum, I wanted to respond. I sent Ms. Parker an e-mail:

You seem to be soliciting hate mail, so I’ll happily buck the trend.

As a white, married, evangelical I concede that people like me inevitably alienate people like David Frum (though I’ve sent a nice e-mail to him and he responded in kind). But here’s the problem with your analysis from a real G-O-D conservative:

First, people who talk about Christian evangelicals as low-brow, street preachers inevitably alienate people like me. But in a nation where 40% of people attend church weekly and 85% call themselves Christians, alienating people like me is a sure-fire way to lose elections. Hence, after Bush’s big win with evangelicals in 2004, you saw a lot of Democrats hire evangelical outreach specialists (Hillary’s guy was named Burns). But Hillary’s efforts were trumped by Barack Obama who made the same pitch but had a more compelling claim to be a genuine believer and who, like Bush years earlier, even mentioned Jesus during the campaign.

By contrast, the Republicans nominated a man who was clearly uncomfortable discussing his faith and who spent much of the campaign mocking Obama with religiously loaded language, calling him “the One”, comparing him to Moses, calling him a false prophet, etc. Frankly, Sam Harris might have designed that line of attack. To use your own terms, the party of “armband religion” won this election. The party of private faith lost. And yet you and Frum and others are now arguing that the GOP suffers from too much G-O-D? Can we at least agree that an intelligent observer might draw the exact opposite conclusion from the facts at hand?

When it comes to diversity and the decline of marriage as factors, I’m with you part way. Diversity covers a multitude of sins, including the fact that minority Americans voted for the minority candidate. Racial identity politics won out over Palin’s religious identity politics. So the lesson is abandon identity politics altogether? The other side won’t.

As for marriage, it’s likely that marriage and family actually make people conservative. So declining marriage (and stable family) rates will inevitably hurt the GOP. But here again your willingness to ditch the social engine that drives the conservative party doesn’t strike me as a long term winner. What does the GOP appeal to non-married, non-conservatives without kids look like? How will it ever offer more than the party of non-married, non-conservatives? How will it do so without alienating the married with kids crowd?

I think what you’ve done here is scapegoat the base with the same sort of secularist smarminess McCain used in the election (Yes, I did vote and campaign for him anyway as my blog will demonstrate). It didn’t work for him and it isn’t going to work for the GOP to adopt this as a long term strategy.


And I’ll just add…Parker’s basic argument seems to be “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Why doesn’t she just turn that around and apply it to the evangelicals (or Catholics) in her own party. Can’t beat em’? Convert, Kathleen.

Somehow of course that would get laughed off as a silly idea. Meanwhile, asking the majority of the party to become swinging-single secularists like the other party…that’s just sensible!

We’ll see if she offers a response.

Update: Ace and Allahpundit aren’t too fond of Parker’s smug tone either. Ace labels it “atrocious” and AP calls it “insufferably strident”.

Granted, her column was unnecesarily condescending to religious people. It’s knee-jerk secularism which pretty much only works as a rhetorical punch in the nose, not as serious analysis. But let’s not forget that the real problem isn’t her tone, it’s her prescription. Though you’d never guess it from reading Kathleen Parker, the party of “armband religion” won this round. Obama was by far (with a brief exception in San Franscisco) the more religion-friendly candidate. Yet Parker wants us to glean from this defeat that faith is the problem. At least on this part of the argument (the religious part) she’s got it exactly backwards.

Not that her piece probably warrants this much attention. In fact, what it probably warrants is the bronx cheer or local equivalent. Still, if you only call her on the tone, she’s bound to claim no one addressed her true contentions (because they know she’s right!). Personally, I think people are focused more on her tone because a) she’s made pretty much the same contentions before and b) the only thing she offers in the way of evidence is the suggestion that the “intelligensia” are whispering about it at cocktail parties. Not exactly an iron-clad case.

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