Practically no one thinks they’re the bad guy


Crossposted from

david brooks

David Brooks wrote (quelle surprise) an insipid NYT column advising social conservatives to tone down their devotion to litigating other people’s sex lives and instead embrace the “compassionate conservative” shtick of George W. Bush circa 2000. It reads like a stump speech for Jeb(!) Bush.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

In her blistering response on Raw Story, Amanda Marcotte suggests that Brooks’ treacle was really directed at liberals.

This op-ed by David Brooks titled “The Next Culture War“, which asks social conservatives to drop all the sex policing stuff and instead do something like feed the poor, is topping the New York Times most-viewed and most-emailed lists. I’m guessing that is not because a bunch of religious conservatives are impressed by his argument and are forwarding it to their friends and family. No, I suspect this is all being driven by liberals who, in an attempt to show off how open-minded they are, are bending over backwards to show that they believe that religious conservatives are good people who are just misguided.

I certainly saw several of my Facebook friends posting it, uncritically. Liberals can be big suckers for this type of kumbaya crapola.

My beef with Brooks (in addition to his insinuation that no one besides religious conservatives cares about love and stability) is with his assumption that religious conservatives haven’t already been engaged in very public acts of “charity” for ages.

Take Crisis Pregnancy Centers (no, take them, please!), for example. For several years now, these organizations have been cropping up all over the country, particularly in areas politically hostile to abortion rights. They sell themselves to the public as objective providers of information and assistance to women considering their options in an unplanned pregnancy. In reality, they often mislead women into believing they offer abortion services and the much touted (by anti-abortion advocates) material assistance they offer to women who do give birth comes with a heavy dose of religious proselytizing.

What of the woman who simply wants to have and raise her baby and get some help to do that, who isn’t interested in joining a Biblical crusade? David Brooks might chide her for being so scornful of the “selfless love” she is being shown by her benefactors at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. Of course, that would require Brooks to think for two seconds about the women he wants to throw off public assistance and into the arms of religious conservatives.

And the Salvation Army that Brooks offers as the antithesis of the Moral Majority has its own issues with bigotry against LGBT people. Does Brooks care about that?

If David Brooks is sincere in his call for religious conservatives to retreat from the culture war over sex, then he has gotten their motives completely wrong. They think they are right and that God is on their side. They believe that policing other people’s sex lives is crucial to the formation of a functioning society and, more importantly, to the attainment of the sublime.

In other words, calling upon religious conservatives to be good guys is useless because that’s how they’ve always thought of themselves. No matter what.


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