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When I explained in Thursday’s column why some of us fear Bill and
Hillary Clinton, I got a number of letters from people who are afraid of
me. They say that I represent something called the “far right.”
It should be said that labels like “right” and “left” are not always
helpful. Libertarians, for example, believe that Nazis and Communists
are at one end of the political spectrum, while anarchists are on the
other end. Socialists, liberals and Communists typically assign
conservatives and libertarians to the Nazi end of the spectrum. In many
respects this is a silly game, but people indulge in it nonetheless.
Perhaps there is only one political distinction to be made. Are we
good, decent and honorable people? That is what the political spectrum
should boil down to. So many of our ideological distinctions serve to
confuse the mind. The truth is, everyone recognizes genuine goodness as
opposed to badness. Most people, even in today’s morally confused time,
can distinguish something that is noble from something that is not.
Sometimes it is disturbing to reflect on the great ideological
dividing line that has grown up in this country. In so many respects we
are a divided nation. More divided, I think, than at the time of the
Civil War. What holds us together, for the moment, is the country’s
prosperity. And this is worrisome, because the current good times
probably won’t last forever.
It is therefore important for us, as Americans, to be patient with
those whose political views are strange to us. We need to deal calmly
with accusations, and present our opinions in a clear and rational way.
This is something that needs to be done.
Here is the misunderstanding I’d like to clear up today. It is the
notion, held by well-meaning people on the left, that cultural
conservatives are a threat to liberty. Here is what one reader wrote to
me on Thursday, in response to my column on Bill and Hillary Clinton:
“For the same reasons that you fear Clinton, we fear you. After all,
you wish to mandate your viewpoints on the American public, within
public schools and public functions. You demand that we honor you and
your religious views because your cause is just. You have attempted time
again to impose censorship on what the public can see and read. You
demand that we solemnize all public activities by uttering your prayers.
Yet with all this you still can’t understand why anyone would fear you.
Your cause may be different but your methods are the same as any
dictator. Hence, I worry about your type even more.”
This letter is important because it contains an error which needs to
be corrected. The error is to think that conservatives use dictatorial
methods. But the reality is, the whole conservative movement is
committed to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is its point
of departure. It is therefore the worst possible misunderstanding to
imagine that conservatives are engaged in some kind of sinister or
criminal plot. This accusation is unfair. All that conservatives have
done is use the ballot box — the democratic process. Conservatives are
merely campaigning and voting for what they believe in.
Perhaps the left doesn’t pay attention to what conservatives say and
do. Perhaps they would understand us better if they did. American
conservatives want to uphold freedom and republican institutions. That
is what they are struggling for. Perhaps there are those on the left who
point to the “Christian right,” and say that this is the group that is
threatening to send the sex police on a rampage. But if you listen
closely to what the “Christian right” is saying, there is no plan to
police people’s bedrooms. The fact that Christians uphold moral values
does not mean they intend to send the police to effect moral changes in
our society. Cultural conservatives and Christians are sophisticated
enough to know that sheer police power cannot bring positive moral
The person who wants a national police force, on the other hand, is
Bill Clinton. That is something he’s been advocating since 1992. But
none of the cultural conservatives or Christians I know are advocating
the use of police agencies to punish fornication, homosexuality, or
the conservatives are worried about the decline in moral standards.
Certainly the conservatives want to elect leaders who exemplify these
standards. But there has been no call for chastity belt legislation.
In this matter, left wing paranoia has created, out of whole cloth,
an imaginary right wing monster. It is a mad, delusional notion that
should have no place in rational political discussion. I challenge my
friends on the left to take a look around. We live in a century of mass
murdering secular dictators — from Lenin to Saddam Hussein. We do not
live in a world of mass-murdering Christians.
I hate to give an elementary history lesson, but Christians have not
organized any systematic persecutions for centuries. And furthermore,
the so-called Christian persecutions recorded in barbarian times were
not committed by real Christians. They were committed by North European
savages who picked up Christianity in the midst of centuries of
pillaging — much as a cannibal might wear an item of clothing belonging
to someone he recently ate. But to the religion-haters on the secular
left, Christianity will always be associated with the barbarism of the
Crusades, the burning of
heretics and witches. Contrary to Gibbon and Nietzsche, Christianity did
not bring on the Dark Ages. Instead, Christianity brought Europe out of
those barbaric times by preaching a doctrine of love and good will.
Despite everything, Christianity got the upper hand over the Germanic
barbarians, and Europe became civilized by degrees. And consider what
Christianity then established. After centuries of gradual improvements,
there came the ultimate Christian century, the nineteenth century —
which was something entirely different from the tenth. It was not a time
of persecution, but the high-point of European culture and the advance
of liberty. Christians had been building universities and schools for
centuries. Learning and science and commerce grew as public morals
improved. Contrary to what they’re teaching in schools today, our modern
scientific, liberal society was built on a Christian foundation. And now
the so-called liberals want to obliterate that foundation — as if our
civilization’s structure could stand without its base. And now we come
to the very end, to the last outrageous chapter. Today, if Christians
act to preserve the basis of Western civilization by voting to support
their values, then they are usurpers and dictators.
How odd, indeed, that the moral basis of a civilization should
suddenly become a threat to that civilization. The logic of the secular
left is not logic at all. It is blindness and irrationality.
Christ taught us to love other people and to love God. He taught
mercy and forgiveness. For this teaching he was crucified. In this
context, I cannot imagine what the left could possibly be thinking when
it likens Christianity to Marxism or Nazism — which are doctrines of
hate. (The Nazis preach race hatred and the Marxists preach class
hatred.) Everything that is modest, decent and law abiding is upheld in
the Christian teaching. Yet those who go to Church, who apply these
teachings, are supposedly a totalitarian threat.
Someone ought to point out that hatred of Christianity is itself
something irrational. To be frightened of people who believe in the Ten
Commandments, and who acknowledge a doctrine of love, is not entirely
reasonable. And if one wants to look at real persecution, give an eye to
tortures employed against Christians in Sudan and China. Christians are
actively persecuted, even murdered under Marxist and other
dictatorships. This is why Christians are apprehensive about the
Clintons and their Marxist friends. Some of us fear that the pattern
we’ve observed in other countries will be repeated here.
In the war of words between the right and the left, there are
rhetorical excesses on both sides. Unfortunately the Marxist left,
unlike the Christian right, advocates a political doctrine that seeks to
subvert the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Until the
left renounces the politics of envy, the method of class struggle and
the sociology of Marx, I will continue to regard the left as the most
immediate threat to liberty.
At the same time, until I hear a cultural conservative or Christian
denounce the Constitution, and oppose the Bill of Rights, I’m not going
to let an outrageous slander against the legitimate political activity
of good people go unremarked.