One look into the inner workings of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is enough to make even the staunchest moderate recoil. The State of Maine recently unsealed confidential NOM documents as part of its investigation into the organization’s finances. The 2008-2009 report presents a “divide and conquer” strategy that pits racial minorities against the LGBT movement.
NOM’s goal is to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks -- two key Democratic constituencies.” They also want to make sure that heterosexual marriage is a “key badge of Latino identity -- a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” Their language is disturbing. It’s paternalistic. And it clings to the Christian Church for support.
The document states, “Gay marriage is the tip of the spear, the weapon that will be and is being used to marginalize and repress Christianity and the Church. ... It means faith communities that promote traditional families should be treated in law and culture like racists. It means the authority of parents to transmit moral values to children will be eroded.”
These are not just desperate words; this is the battle cry of a culture that feels its existence is being threatened. No surprise there. According to a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 61% of 18-34 year olds are in favor of gay marriage.
Which means this is an important opportunity for liberals.
What NOM is lacking here is the ability to critically evaluate its own strategies. It is eternally afraid of being excluded from the public square, while faithfully planning the marginalization of an entire group of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who just happened to fall in love with someone of their own sex. As NOM tries to recover from the fallout, it’s vital for the Left to check for signs of hypocrisy in its own strategy. NOM is clearly intent on using the race card. Liberals, on the other hand, should be careful not to "drive a wedge" between believers and non-believers within their own ranks.
It might seem antithetical at first. Liberals who are attacked for their religion? Do these people even exist? Yes, they do. And their numbers are increasing. The number of college Campus Crusade chapters is growing. Churches founded with youth in mind, like Redeemer Presbyterian and Hillsong are filling up with young people. People are choosing to be religious for a variety of sensible reasons— because of extended self-evaluation or life-changing experiences. To ignore this group is to replicate NOM’s strategy of selectively representing the facts.
Instead of tapping into this potentially powerful base, it’s people like Rick Santorum who are claiming roles as advocates for religious liberty. What Santorum really means is that all religions should be allowed in the public square, as long as their views don’t contradict his. Sounds ridiculous, because it is. But are non-believers on the Left doing the same thing to young people of faith? Faith is mocked in many leftist blogs, or used merely as an identifier in the mainstream media.
The tricky part about mixing religion with politics is that it carries with it a “divine” right that is granted by God. But people who don’t consider themselves religious are also beholden to ideologies that lie outside of themselves. Yes, they might not be followers of a supernatural force that has a gender, a salvation plan, or tax exemption. But they are led by powerful convictions that arise from a particular time and place.
The release of these NOM documents is more evidence that faith (or lack of faith) is one of the most divisive elements in American politics. The solution isn’t “Let’s take religion out of the debate.” As an important part of the American psyche, religion should be acknowledged and respected in the public square. But the Left should make more of an effort to reach out to young people faith who feel lost — tied to one party because of their religion and to another because of their ideologies. This means avoiding rhetoric that devalues the role of faith in citizens' lives. After all, it often helps determine who you dine with, who you marry, and who you vote for. There are rational, well-educated, liberal-minded believers out there. Get to know them and you'll realize that "religious liberty" is an issue that should be championed by liberals.