Narrow-mindedness on the Left
Stephen L. Carter is a professor at the Yale Law School, and an author of many books, both non-fiction and fiction. He first came to my attention sometime in the ’90’s with his book, The Culture of Disbelief. Among other things that book documented the way that many liberals treat religious believers with disdain.
Recently Carter, in his column at Bloomberg News, commented on an article in The New Yorker which critiqued the entry — “infiltration” — of Chick-A-Fil into the New York City market. The problem here, for The New Yorker writer, is the traditionalist Christian faith of Chick-A-Fil’s founder and CEO. The corporate headquarters in Atlanta houses a statue of Jesus washing his disciples feet! Imagine a business that closes on Sunday!
“What the author really seems angry about,” writes Carter, “is that the company’s CEO opposes same-sex marriage. But the framing of the piece made Christianity the villain, and the headline — “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City” — was sufficiently troubling that Nate Silver quickly tweeted “This is why Trump won.” Fair point. Religious bigotry is always dangerous.”
But Carter has more to say and a fascinating take on it all. He notes that when you mock Christianity and Christians who you are really mocking is black people and in particular black women. Carter, who is African-American, draws on recent Pew Research Studies to show that Christianity is not just growing rapidly in Africa and Asia, that is among people of color in other parts of the world; its growing strength here in America is also among people of color. So, argues Carter, when you diss Christianity, you are dissing black people.
“Overall, people of color are more likely than whites to be Christians — and pretty devout Christians at that. Some 83 percent of all black Americans are absolutely certain that God exists. No other group comes close to this figure. Black Christians are far more likely than white Christians (84 percent to 64 percent) to describe religion as very important in their lives. Of all ethnic groups, black Christians are the most likely to attend services, pray frequently and read the Bible regularly. They are also — here’s the kicker — most likely to believe that their faith is the place to look for answers to questions about right and wrong. And they are, by large margins, the most likely to believe that the Bible is the literally inerrant word of God. In short, if you find Christian traditionalism creepy, it’s black people you’re talking about.” (Italics added).
Carter’s article at Bloomberg is titled, “The Ugly Coded-Critique of Chick-A-Fil’s Christianity.” He has certainly found a way to give an eminently respectable liberal rag like The New Yorker a severe case of indigestion.
He concludes with this observation,
“Narrow-mindedness of this sort is alarmingly common on the left. A few years ago, a well-known progressive commentator mused to his large Twitter following that sometimes he wishes all the Christians would just disappear. I would like to believe he was simply too uninformed to realize that he was wishing for a whiter world.”
I am not sure I am convinced that The New Yorker attack on Chick-A-Fil’s Christianity is a veiled attack on African-Americans. Still, Carter’s take on all this certainly gives one pause. A big pause.
What I am pretty sure about is that in many liberal/ left circles, and often in Seattle, it is okay to view Christians and Christianity in quite prejudicial and demeaning ways that are not, to put it mildly, consistent with the open-minded, tolerant vision many left and liberal folks typically have of themselves.
Same-sex marriage is the law of the land. I support that. But I also support the right of people to not agree with that without being read out of the human race. Pluralism does not mean an inclusiveness that includes everyone who thinks like I do. It means that we don’t all have the same views on things and we have to figure out a way to live with one another.