The Spitfire's Grill
Regular Rants from a Pragmatic Liberal
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Topic of the Day: David Brooks
Today's Topic of the Day was inspired, obviously, by a David Brooks column. It's titled "A Natural Alliance".

"A Natural Alliance"

Liberal bloggers have a tendency to blow off David Brooks right out of the gate, almost no matter what. But his latest column seems to have generated more silence than ever. There's a typical mention and snide comment here and there, but overall, silence (for now, at least). David Brooks tends to be high on ideas and low on facts, but the basics behind his latest column aren't so bad.

Maybe its because he starts off by ripping on Jews (he's Jewish, so its ok, Jon Stewart style), as well as himself. Hopefully it'll lighten all you Brooks haters out there: (Blogger keeps screwing with my quotes...ergh)
Earlier this week I listened to Rick Warren speak at a conference sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Warren is the pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, the country's largest megachurch where 20,000 people or so go to worship each Sunday. He's also the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold more than 25 million copies in English alone.

My first thought was, How come Christians have all these megachurches but we Jews don't have megagogues? I think the answer is that if some Jews built a megagogue, the other Jews in town would say, "That megagogue I wouldn't go to." They'd build a rival megagogue. You'd end up with 10 really big buildings, each with about 40 people inside.

My second thought was, Why don't my books sell 25 million copies? I thought maybe I should write a book called, "The Blinking Flat Purpose Driven Tipping Point That Got Left Behind." Or maybe I could write a book for rich Republicans called, "The Chauffeur Driven Life," which I think would do quite well.

While I haven't read Warren's book, I've certainly liked what I've heard about it. I'm not really into self-help type books. Maybe Brooks only tells the jokes because he couldn't come up with much to write about on the topic so he had to fill some space. But I don't think even he knows what he's onto. There are two types of Social Conservatives: true social conservatives and extremists. Unfortunately, extremists tend to run the movement as a whole and Democrats like to point at those extremists and pretend they are representative of the entire social conservative movement. Well, they're not. Most social conservatives are actually very good people, probably, as a whole, better people than the average American. They're God-fearing people who try to make the world a better place by encouraging life.

It reminds me of Howard Dean's interview on NBC's Meet the Press this past Sunday:
MR. RUSSERT: One issue where the Democrats seem to be changing their thinking is abortion. Here's Howard Dean on April 17: "I think we need to talk about abortion differently... Republicans have forced us into a corner to defend abortion..." And then, April 21: "If I could strike the words `choice' and `abortion' out of the lexicon of our party, I would."

DR. DEAN: Absolutely. I'm not advocating we change our position. I believe that a woman has a right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets, and I think Democrats believe that in general. Here's the problem--and we were outmanipulated by the Republicans; there's no question about it. We have been forced into the idea of "We're going to defend abortion." I don't know anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing. I don't know anybody in either party who is pro-abortion. The issue is not whether we think abortion is a good thing. The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care, or a family has a right to make up their own mind about how their loved ones leave this world. I think the Republicans are intrusive and they invade people's personal privacy, and they don't have a right to do that.

Let me tell you why I think we ought to--why I want to strike the words "abortion" and "choice." When I campaigned for this job, I talked to lots of Democrats. And there are significant numbers of pro-life Democrats in the South. And one lady said to me, you know, "I'm pro-life. I don't like abortion. I would never have one. I would hope my daughter would never have one. But, you know, if the lady next door got herself in a fix, I'm not sure I should be the one to tell her what to do." Now, we call that woman pro-choice, but she thinks of herself as pro-life. The minute we start with the "pro-choice, pro- choice, pro-choice," she says, "Well, that's not me."

Democrats and social conservatives have quite some common ground. That common ground is hidden most of the time because Republicans like Tom DeLay and liberal institutions like the ACLU know that if its exposed, they'll both suffer. I commend Brooks for giving it more national attention. Brooks:
My third thought, which may be more profound than the other two, is that we can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy.

The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don't get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won't get done.

Again, its the more extreme elements of both parties that are tearing these two large groups apart. I had read, with great interest, TIME Magazine's issue on the 25 most influential evangelicals. I was able to go back through my TIME magazine online archives and find some snippets:
[Rick Warren] met with 15 Senators, from both parties, who sought his advice and heard his plan to enlist Saddleback's global network of more than 40,000 churches in tackling such issues as poverty, disease and ignorance.


(from Ted Haggard's bio) A document issued last fall offered a theological justification for civic activism by U.S. Evangelicals, calling on them to protect the environment...
The list goes on. Jesus preached about stewardship and poverty far more often and with far more conviction than he preached about homosexuality. Can Democrats and social conservatives put aside their differences? To work in another Jon Stewart-ism, if there's anyone that can rise above all the hate, its Bono. Brooks:
I recently went to a U2 concert in Philadelphia with a group of evangelicals who have been working with Bono to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. A few years ago, U2 took a tour of the heartland, stopping off at places like Wheaton College and the megachurch at Willow Creek to urge evangelicals to get involved in Africa. They've responded with alacrity, and now Bono, who is a serious if nonsectarian Christian, is at the nexus of a vast alliance between socially conservative evangelicals and socially liberal N.G.O.'s.
And then Brooks said the big F YOU to Dobson and Faldwell and Robertson:
Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor.
The ACLU and Focus on the Family's dominance of their respective political parties might just cause their eventual undoing. Politicians will soon learn that with the rise of the Internet in general and blogs in specific, events such as Darfur cannot be written off and ignored without a significant political smack in the face.

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