In her piece on the progressive “Moral Mondays” protests in North Carolina, which have featured a coalition of religious leaders, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick complains that the Left has been foolish to marginalize religious belief and religious language:
Progressives are not used to so much religion in their politics. I met someone who planned to avoid Saturday’s protest because of the God talk, and it’s clear that for many liberals, it’s easier to speak openly about one’s relationship with a sexual partner than a relationship with God or spirituality. But there are a lot of liberals who live on the seam between faith and politics. And one of the core messages of Moral Mondays is that ceding all talk of faith and morality to the political right in this country has been disastrous for the left. Or as Barber put it when he spoke, those who dismiss these protesters as “violent, and losers, and leftists, and socialists” fail to understand that the great prophets of the Bible and the founders of American constitutional democracy were “violent, and losers, and leftists, and socialists,” too.
As discomfiting as it may be to hear the Bible quoted alongside the Federalist Papers, the truth remains that for most people of most faiths, kicking the poorest and most vulnerable citizens when they are down is sinful. Stealing food and medical care from the weakest Americans is ethically corrupt. And the decades long political wisdom that only Republicans get to define sin and morality is not just tactically wrong for Democrats. It’s also just wrong. This is a lesson progressives are slowly learning from nuns and the new pope. When we talk of cutting food stamps or gutting education for our poorest citizens, we shouldn’t just call it greed. We should call it what it is: a sin.
OK, fine. I don’t have a problem with using that kind of rhetoric in principle. But if you’re going to go that route, you lose your right to complain about religion interfering in politics. No more griping about how conservative Christians are trying to impose their morality on the rest of us. That’s exactly what the progressive religious leaders in North Carolina are trying to do. And more power to them, sort of. I mean, I don’t know much about what’s going on in NC, and chances are I oppose most of what the Moral Mondays coalition is after. But I think they are doing the right thing in bringing their religious convictions to the public square to influence the political debate.
But let the Left be on notice: if you endorse this kind of thing, don’t ever open your mouth to complain about conservatives doing it. You can’t complain about the Religious Right bringing their faith to the public square when you don’t like their politics, and praise the Religious Left for doing the same thing when it suits your goals.