I wish I could agree with Digby and Atrios that strains are likely to develop among the Protestants, Catholics and Jews of the religious right -- but really, haven't we been waiting for a "conservative crack-up" for years and years now? Where is it? I've always heard that the GOP has a "fragile coalition," but somehow tax breaks to plutocrats never seem to make working-class NASCAR fans question the appropriateness of voting Republican. Somehow the objection of many police forces, and even of the man many Republicans think invented crime-fighting, Rudy Giuliani, to the guns-at-all-cost agenda of the NRA has done nothing to slow the gun lobby. Somehow Hollywood libertine Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't alienate the GOP's "values conservatives" when he set out to become California's governor. Somehow the deficit hawks haven't split off to form a third party, nor have the anti-war Buchananite paleocons. Why should religion cause serious tension on the right when nothing else seems to?
Digby mentions three recent examples of religious conflict. Here's the first:
In Pleasant Grove, Utah, for example, a Ten Commandments memorial, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1971, sits in a secluded area of city property that is intended to honor the city's heritage. Pleasant Grove is now facing litigation about the display, not from civil libertarians, but from another religious group that wants equal treatment.
Interesting -- but as I noted a few days ago, the "other religious group" is the Summum religion, which "makes sacramental wines that adherents use to enhance seven types of meditation, including sexual ecstasy." Summum's founder has the laughable name Corky Ra. How is this a sign that conservative theocrats will someday be under serious attack?
Digby also cites a challenge by "The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy of several faiths," to a Bible study course used in Texas. But how relevant is the TFN to the religious right? This fall the Austin-based group will hold a tenth anniversary gala featuring Jaston Williams, the drag-wearing co-star and co-creator of the play Greater Tuna, whose most recent project is a "one-man show about his life as a gay man in a rural West Texas town." Isn't this just the sort of organization the right can shrug off as part of the vast left-wing conspiracy?
Digby's on somewhat more solid ground when he talks about disagreements between Catholics and the Protestants who don't think Catholics are legitimately Christian; I've linked a number of stories about this, including the one he cites, which involved an evangelical adoption agency that refused to place children with Catholics. But I've yet to see a groundswell of popular support for any of the low-level functionaries who've engaged in these acts of Catholic-bashing; the adoption agency's policy was swiftly changed, and the church marquee with the Pope-bashing message was quickly taken down, and so on, and that was that.
The leading Protestants of the religious right love Catholic conservatism. Gary Bauer summed up their attitude before the 2004 elections:
''When John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that the Vatican would not tell him what to do,'' Bauer told USA Today, ''evangelicals and Southern Baptists breathed a sigh of relief. But today evangelicals and Southern Baptists are hoping that the Vatican will tell Catholic politicians what to do.''
Evangelicals love Mel Gibson, who's Catholic. They love Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, both Catholics. They've largely closed ranks in support of John Roberts, a Catholic. They greatly admire Rick Santorum and Alan Keyes. (Keyes, in his turn, is a passionate supporter of that embodiment of evangelical Protestantism, Judge Roy Moore.) Converting to Catholicism even seems to be politically expedient on the right: Father John McCloskey, a member of Opus Dei, has converted Robert Bork, Robert Novak, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. To McCloskey, as Slate has noted, the real enemy is not Protestantism, but liberalism:
McCloskey blithely predicts the imminent demise of liberal Protestantism: "Over time, most of them will fall away from Christianity or become Catholics." And when he goes before a mass audience, he doesn't back down, telling Russert on CNBC that if the pope were to reverse himself on birth control, "that would be the end of the Catholic Church because it would put in doubt any teachings of any sort, including adultery or any number of the Ten Commandments."
Protestants may disagree with conservative Catholics and Jews on this or that, but a generalized sexual disgust (abortion, gay rights) and hatred for liberals will bind them for the foreseeable future. I wish trouble were in the offing for this coalition, but I see no serious signs of dissension.