What’s Right with the Religious Right

By Timothy Dalrymple

Sometimes those of us who write in defense of the Tea Party or Christian conservatism fear that an actual encounter with Tea Partiers or Christian conservatives will be disillusioning.  It’s easy to defend the principles of economic and social conservatism from a distance; but what happens when you actually encounter the people up close?  You’re on record claiming that these are salt-of-the-earth people, good rational people (darn it) with a genuine faith and sturdy American values — but what if you’re wrong?  Everything you’ve written makes sense to you from behind your desk, when you’re typing away at your laptop, but what if the liberal media is actually right, and these people are a bunch of barking lunatics?

I felt a little of that fear as I approached a Tea Party event in Boston a couple years ago, and I quickly found those fears unfounded.  Yet I felt that fear again last Saturday as I drove the last few miles to the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the Faith and Freedom Coalition banquet and presidential forum.  Those fears were not assuaged when I saw a withered old man on a street corner near the fairgrounds holding a sign that read: “Sodomy Ruins Nations.”  Neither were my fears allayed when I saw a group of 22 men and women standing in a group outside the venue who looked as though they had just rolled out of bed and decided to act self-righteous, judgmental and disorderly.

However, as it turns out, the men and women who had actually come for the Faith and Freedom Coalition event were courteous, informed, reasonable, good-humored people — and the 22 in the group outside the venue were Occupy Wall Street protestors.  ”This is what democracy looks like!” the OWS protestors chanted, over and over again.  Well, true enough; protesting is a fine democratic tradition.  But democracy really looks a lot like the 1000 Iowans who ate fried chicken off paper plates inside the Knapp Center and listened with understanding and appreciation to a far-ranging discussion of political problems and policies, in order to select a candidate who represents their values.  As Ralph Reed said to me and Michael Gerson after the event, “This is what’s right with America.”

I agree.  It’s not the only thing right with America.  But there is something right about the Christian Right…

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