Today in Tablet, I wrote about one hypocrisy evident in this unfortunate discourse:
Imagine if a group of prominent religious leaders went to Washington, D.C., to advocate against abortion. Imagine these clerics filmed a television ad in which they made a faith-based appeal for the cause, citing scripture while dressed in full religious regalia. And suppose this campaign were funded by a political action committee backed by one of America’s wealthiest politicians. Can you imagine the outcry from the commentariat? How quickly such an initiative would be denounced by liberal columnists and politicians as a religious encroachment on our country’s politics—a dangerous theocratic imposition on our secular democracy?
This past weekend, such a faith-fueled campaign kicked off in the nation’s capital, except it wasn’t pushing restrictions on abortions—it was pushing restrictions on guns. Backed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the political action committee co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, dozens of esteemed faith leaders converged on Washington on Friday to kick off National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath. The event coincided with the release of a pro-gun control TV ad featuring many of these clerics, including Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, and Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center.
Not a single column was written protesting these religious leaders preaching in service of a partisan political cause. But such selective censure should not be surprising: The charge that faith leaders are inappropriately meddling in our politics is one that only seems to be leveled at religious conservatives and not at their liberal counterparts. For the overwhelming majority of critics, it’s not really the fact of religion’s involvement in politics that’s troubling—it’s the “wrong” religious views being involved in politics. Take a closer look and one finds that their cries of “theocracy!” tend to be motivated more by partisanship than principle.