Many of you have no doubt heard Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s comment about liberals hating God in response to a poorly done editing job of the Pledge of Allegiance after Rory McIlroy won the US Open:
Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God. And so they’ve had a long history of not being at all favorable toward many of things that have been such a blessing to our country…This is a systematic effort to try to separate our faith and God, which is a source in our belief in individual liberties, from our country. And when you do that you tear the heart out of our country.
These comments have resurfaced since he just won a Senate primary in Missouri to take on Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in November. I, obviously, think Akin is wrong. I think he has fundamentally misunderstood classical liberalism and has taken part in a convenient revisionist form of history when he talks about the founding of this country (hear his defense of his comments here).
Yet, as much as I think Akin and people like him represent a danger to the religious freedoms that we all hold so dear, I have to be honest about where some of the blame lies. To a large extent, liberals are to blame. We have essentially given in to the idea that conservatives have a lock on religion in this country and, for whatever reason, have not systematically and emphatically pushed back against comments like this.
Our pushback, though, can not simply be repudiating his comments, but must also tell the story that exists for so many liberals – we are politically and socially liberal precisely because of our religion. We subscribe to the outlandish idea that Jesus may have actually meant what he said about helping the poor, the widows, the outcasts, and about the love of money being the root of all evil.
This is not in an attempt to somehow make religion the exclusive domain of liberals, but to make sure that it is the exclusive domain of no one. Liberals are, to be sure, a bit more reluctant to talk about their religious or spiritual convictions in the public sphere, but I believe open communication of this sort is necessary if we are going to be a country that truly values everyone’s religious beliefs (and those without any beliefs), if we are going to be a country that fights to uphold the separation of church and state (as enshrined in our Constitution), and if we are going to be a country where comments like Akin’s are recognized by everyone, liberal and conservative alike, as absurd and baseless.
Conservatives have, thus far, written the dominant narrative that says only those who are really conservative care about God and everyone else is out to destroy God and make sure that no one in this country can worship God. We know that isn’t true, but it’s up to us to begin to offer a different narrative, one that is true, one that is honest about those with whom we disagree, and one that represents the best that America has to offer.