Inevitably here at Le Blog I end up mixing politics and religion. My hope is that the mixture is not so much substantive, as it is illustrative. I think that the political realm is a wonderful place to witness and learn from human drama. When asking, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” there seems to be no better place to turn for data than the world of politics. Witness the tragi-comedy of Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter. He’s no longer just haunting Europe—I’ve just outed all of you grinning pinkos!—he’s leaving the GOP and moving across the isle to play nice with his new Democratic allies. (Ok, so they’ve stripped him of his seniority, but he still left the GOP.)
What makes this story such a dandy is the rare honesty that Specter showed when announcing his decision to switch parties. His state party was shrinking, and as it shrunk it was becoming more conservative, less tolerant of dissent and outlying positions, and more concerned with doctrinal purity than with winning elections. Specter’s polling showed that he had practically no chance of winning his own Republican primary due to his moderate stances and especially some recent votes in which he sided with the Democrats. So, rather than lose the primary, he switched parties. Yes, we heard the old line, “I’m not leaving the party, the party left me!” but it isn’t clear that any ideological shift had actually taken place. Specter doesn’t line up any more neatly with Democratic ideologues than he did with the Republican purists. There is just more tolerance for internal dissent among the Democrats right now, in large part because they are in charge. Noblesse oblige is so much easier to manage when you’re running the show. So it seems that the moderate middle has moved, shifted, or drifted Left. Is there an inevitable drift toward Liberalism. Are today’s moderates destined to be tomorrow’s Left?
And what does this have to do with our churches?