Commentary

Sue Schaefer: Inaccurate to see Dobbs ruling as a power move by white Christians

This commentary is by Sue Schaefer of Essex, retired after many years working in the education field. 

The wake of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is frothing over with a never-ending torrent of vitriol and hyperbole from progressives, once thankfully relegated to the leftmost fringe of a strong and vibrant liberal center at the core of our nation, but now in firm control of most of America’s major institutions. 

This progressive cadre now dominates academia, the press, most bureaucratic agencies and, increasingly, corporate America as well. Radical commentary that was once relegated to the op-ed sections of a few newspapers and the lectures of long-haired professors at Berkeley is now regularly front-page reading from The New York Times or press releases from corporate execs. 

Nowhere is this better seen than in responses to the Dobbs decision, invariably presented through the lens of intersectionality and power dynamics, the way the far left now chooses to see and understand the world. 

Progressives seem to always argue Dobbs with the same tired and clichéd rhetoric, describing a white, patriarchal, Christian elite with its claws on the mechanisms of power and a conscious desire to hold on at any cost. 

This is lazy, sophomoric thinking. It is obsession with power. It is almost unimaginably arrogant in its condescension toward history and the countless generations of people who have gone before. It is also intellectually dishonest, refusing to acknowledge its own necessary biases and moral fundamentalism. 

Why, for example, does the left so often insist that any anti-abortion stance is a religious one? First, many strict religious practitioners of all faiths profess a strong anti-abortion belief. The left’s propensity to suggest that it is only conservative Christians who share this perspective shows how ironically insensitive to racial, religious and cultural nuance the left is. 

Sure, there are more Christians than Muslims or Hindus in America. So what? The truth is that conservatives within virtually all faiths overwhelmingly share beliefs on the sanctity of unborn human life. The unifying factor, therefore, is probably not which faith one adheres to, but how earnestly one adheres to it. 

This bogeyman of the Bible-thumping, red-in-the-face, fire-and-brimstone, rural, white Christian man is a tired trope that progressives cling to — because it’s easy, and it works. It’s also lazy, condescending and a little bigoted. 

The insistence by the left that the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause” somehow precludes conservative Christians from enjoying a seat at the political table is also somewhat perplexing. Progressives invariably obsess over the First Amendment’s admonishment that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” while conveniently forgetting the following “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

Obviously, our Constitution acknowledges a tension there and does its best to walk a middle road. However, the constant refrain from the left that a Christian must not allow her religious beliefs, morals, or understandings to influence her politics is obnoxious. Imagine demanding that an atheist refrain from allowing a lack of belief in a higher power to impact decision-making. You don’t believe in ANY God?? Leave your crazy religious beliefs at the voting booth door, you crazy zealot! 

It's just as absurd as it is impractical to ask people to ignore their beliefs when participating in representative government. 

Ultimately, the reason the left is now so insistent on categorizing and labeling its opponents on issues like abortion is because of its anti-liberal obsession with identity. 

Progressives see in the Dobbs decision evidence of, to quote one activist, “pseudo-religious orthodoxy that uses religion to enhance privilege, power and profit to engineer a white Christian theocracy in America.” Mainstream progressives’ casual use of such extreme rhetoric to describe and easily dismiss political opponents is demonstrative of the sad decline in the discourse of America today. It also demonstrates how radically the left in America has departed from classical liberalism. 

This new left, increasingly in control of our major cultural institutions, is obsessed with power and identity, rather than ideas and debate. The debate surrounding Dobbs is a good example of this. Instead of addressing the complex legal, historical, philosophical, religious and ethical issues surrounding abortion, the left just labels its entire opposition as “white” or “male” or “Christian” (or, gasp, all three) and then insists that, because of their identity, they don’t have the right to a voice in the discussion. 

This is the horrible and insidious legacy of Marxism that has pervaded the left — the obsession with identity. 

Only those with a specific identity, according to the left, have the right to speak on an issue. If you’re not a woman, you don’t get to speak on abortion. If you’re not an immigrant, you don’t get to speak about immigration. If you’re not a minority, you don’t get to discuss how to address inequality. 

This refusal to allow us all, regardless of where we currently land in the identity grievance hierarchy, to argue, lobby and advance our convictions in the political arena is ugly and undemocratic. Imagine, for example, that society had used this same identity-obsessed argument to insist that abolitionists (largely rich, northern, white, Christians) should have no right to oppose slavery. They weren’t slaves or slave owners. How dare they impose their Christian ideas on Southern property owners? 

If we allow this infection of identity politics to continue unfettered, our society will lose its cohesion. Classical liberalism’s insistence of focus on ideas, rather than identity, unites us and allows everyone a seat at the table. If we all retreat into our identity and are only permitted the authority to speak on our own issues, how can we survive as a society? 

One needs only look throughout the world today to see examples of how sectarianism divides and destabilizes. Do we want our cities and states to further segregate along red/blue ideological lines? Will we one day be able to safely live only around people who believe the same things we do? 

This is where obsession with group identity leads and is why casual dismissal of Dobbs as a power move by white Christians is both inaccurate and unwise.


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