Why Ridiculing Tim Tebow’s Faith Does Progressives No Favors
Robert Wright at the Atlantic has an important reflection on the message pop culture humor about Tim Tebow’s faith sends to religious conservatives:
When secular liberals who shape the culture fulfill the religious conservatives’ stereotype of them as threatening–by, say, seeming to ridicule Jesus, or seeming to ridicule Tebow’s faith–conservatives will be more inclined to stay within their walls, avoiding engagement with the secular world. So they’ll find it easier to reject the entire liberal agenda, ranging from gay rights to uncensored science education in the public schools. (Don’t get me started on the damage that I fear Richard Dawkins is doing to science education in the heartland by embodying a false equation between Darwinism and a militant, contemptuous atheism.) In short, when liberals are seen as ridiculing Christianity, they’re energizing their adversaries and making it harder to turn adversaries into allies, or at least neutral parties, on particular issues.
Wright is exactly right. Churches across the country are filled with proud people of faith who often have progressive or sympathetic views on a host of issues including economic justice, immigration and environmental stewardship.
By emphasizing the religious foundation for their views on a few divisive social issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, the religious right seeks to broadly paint progressives (and subsequently their issue agenda) as hostile to faith itself.
To further bolster the claim that Christians are a persecuted minority, conservative leaders point to liberal “elites” in cultural channels who they see as mocking religion and traditional family values. As the preponderance of Christian alternatives to everything from radio stations to dating sites shows, many Christians very much desire their own spaces outside of the “mainstream” outlets they presume have little interest in or tolerance for them.
Unfortunately, cheap humor at the strangeness or “backwardness” of religious belief only confirms these anxious stereotypes in ways that empower the narrative religious right leaders want to tell and shuts doors to broader coalition building. Progressives don’t have to compromise their values in their attempts to combat this frame, but it’s probably not a good idea to unnecessarily shoot themselves in the foot for a quick laugh.
Via Rod Dreher