Zealotry has no room for compromise
When I hear someone say they didn’t leave the Republican Party or the Catholic Church it/they left them, I wonder why they choose not to take responsibility for so powerful act of volition. I was once a member of both and leaving them were choices, which at the time were not easy, but in hindsight not so difficult in that I preferred living in then the 20th century.
I used to wonder about what I was thinking being a member of both, but I’ve concluded I wasn’t thinking, but subscribing. Being a member of both was an act of faith, and faith is where one goes when either reason fails or becomes uncomfortable.
The problem the Republican Party faces today is the same as it did in the 1990s: On the one hand, it talks about opening the flap to its self-defined Big Tent, but on the other, guards—rightwing ideologues in the person of mass media commentators, fundamentalists, and now the Tea Party—who determine access to the Big Tent, like dragons who guard access to sacred places in mythology, have the final say about who enters.
If the party were by definition a dogmatic institution—that is, a church—then it would make sense, but a political party, especially in a democratic republic, ought not to be transcendental in its advocacy.
The Catholic Church will never tolerate the idea of same-sex marriage, which is fine and dandy unless one who subscribes to its myth and/or buys into its dogmatic positions ardently desires the Church do a Pope John XXIII window opening.
Its opposition to same-sex marriage, like its preference to keep women subjugated in an inferior and controlled role, is not the determining factor whether the issue is constitutional or enacted into law. The bishops can declare all they want, but in the end, our elected officials, vote of the people, or the courts have the final say and sway.
The Republican Party has sadly gone the route of the Islamic parties in Iran. There Allah is first and foremost when it comes to setting earthly policy. For many Republicans, secular policy-making is correlated to personally held beliefs about God.
Same thing; different setting.
America, however, is moving forward. In 20 years, the numbers on same-sex marriage have inverted moving from approximately—varying a tad among polls—mid-50s disapproval to approval. Today a clear majority gives ascent to same-sex couples legally coupling, and that number portends only to grow.
In the backwaters of American thought though, there exists a solid minority that believes America is a theocracy, that somehow America is ruled by one version of the Bible or another. If you ask them which should hold sway, the Bible or the Constitution, they unequivocally proclaim the Bible.
They will at times go to great pains to argue the Constitution has a biblical underpinning, when in fact it doesn’t. If the Founders would’ve wanted to set up a Christian republic, they would’ve included such language in the document. But they didn’t.
Only twice does the Constitution mention religion at all, and only in a generic sense: in the First Amendment positing separation of state and church and Article VI, which prohibits any sort of religious test for public office. Of course, that provision does not prohibit an individual voter from imposing his/her own religious application.
Religious liberty does not give one the right to impose his/her dogmatic beliefs, from transubstantiation—the communion host being the Body of Christ—to same-sex marriage on the general populace.
In fact, it means just the opposite: You have the right to believe anything you want regarding the realm beyond this one, if one exists at all, but you do not have the right to impose it upon me. What might be enacted in heaven, has no force when it comes to public policy. That’s the essential core of a vibrant, secular, democratic republic.
Neither the Republican Party nor the Catholic Church left me; I left them.
The GOP might have a big tent, but seating inside it is increasingly becoming more spacious. Atheists, animists, and heretical types need not apply or bother to run in the Grand Old Party.
Not only is it unlikely for the party to change, it is probably impossible for it do so simply because of the rigidity certain types of people who too often register in it—zealots—have, and in zealotry there is no room for compromise.