On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.Johnathan Rauch wrote the statement above in his article "Bipolar Disorder" for The Atlantic. Hugh Hewitt has chosen this piece for his first Vox Blogoli of 2005. The primary questions at hand are, "what does this piece say about the author, The Atlantic, and the Left's understanding of Christian culture in America in 2005?"
Ruach talks as if conservative Christians are merely some splinter faction of the "vast, right-wing conspiracy." But then he seems to say that the parties should "engage fierce activists" instead of engaging "tame centrists" as this would be "better for the social peace." As if "social peace" is the be-all and end-all goal. So long as there is social peace, everything is fine. So, by Rauch's reasoning, conservative Christians are antithetical to the social peace.
Well, that is probably true. I think that most Christians would rather be morally correct -- especially on issues like same sex unions, abortion, etc. -- than docile and peaceful. Jesus called upon his followers to be "the salt of the Earth." Salt, in ancient history, was used both as a seasoning and as a preservative. Once salt was added to foods, it never tasted the same again. Jesus said that if we lose our effectiveness as salt (our "saltiness"), what good are we? Christians are to be the seasoning of our culture to bring about a good moral flavor for our society. And in doing so, we fulfill the second property of salt -- a preservative. By bringing about the distinctive moral flavor of Christian influence, we then preserve that culture by our presence and our actions. Keeping it from spiraling into the moral depredations and chaos that led to the dissolution of the ancient Roman society.
Ruach seems to be calling on conservative Christians to cast aside their salty nature. But to do so, we would be allowing the culture to slide into decay and ourselves to be "thrown out and trampled by men."
When I was younger, I used to be a bit of nerd. Now, I sometimes take my nerdiness as a badge of honor. But I was frequently overlooked and disregarded. Being ignored led to years of depression. But I finally realized that I had to be distinctive to be successful. Therefore, I took the tiger by the ear and stood up. I was noticed. "What did you do?" "Have you been working out?" I had attitude (saltiness) and no longer was invisible. I was a Voodoo Chile (my personal theme song). When I entered a room, standing tall and proud, I was noticed. Rauch would have me simply return to the life of a recluse. Stop being a "Voodoo Chile" and join the crowd. Stop being salty.
We Christians must defend our presence and positive effect on our culture. If not, we will be shunted aside and have to watch as our nation slides into moral decay and destruction.