Morally Correct

Beinart, Peter
November 2004
New Republic;11/29/2004, Vol. 231 Issue 22/23, p6
The article debates the influence of religion in U.S. politics. In the 1980s and 1990s, when African Americans and other campus minorities claimed they were victims of racism and demanded greater respect from white students and faculty, conservatives popularized a term for this group whining: political correctness. One of the things that galled the right during the "political correctness" wars was the way leftists casually threw around terms like "racist" and "bigot." In recent weeks, prominent conservatives have been anything but scrupulous in charging Democrats with bigotry against people of faith. To be fair, occasionally liberals do treat evangelical Christians with condescension and scorn. But, most of the time, what conservatives call anti-evangelical bigotry is simply harsh criticism of the Christian Right's agenda. What these (and most other) liberals are saying is that the Christian Right sees politics through the prism of theology, and there's something dangerous in that. And they're right. Identity politics is a powerful thing--a way of short-circuiting debate by claiming that your views aren't merely views; they are an integral part of who you are. And who you are must be respected. But harsh criticism is not disrespect--and to claim it is undermines democratic debate by denying opponents the right to aggressively, even impolitely, disagree.


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