The recent criticism of hate speech on campus is entirely appropriate. But we ought to make one exception to this rule: the “religious right,” a retrograde coterie of unattractive common folk who seek to impose their irrational beliefs on the rest of us. These fundamentalists lie awake at night, plotting the imposition of the truths they have received by revelation from God. God has decreed the necessity of prohibiting abortion and gay marriage, lest the land be scourged by His wrath, so the unquestioning hordes of Jesus-freaks flood the polls on election day.
The few who are at Yale (here by affirmative action, no doubt) know that we won’t tolerate their religious arguments, so they present a secular facade. But it is so unconvincing, they might as well go home. Ask them why they are anti-abortion, and they claim the authority of science for the proposition that life in our species begins at conception. Apparently they can’t make the distinction between potential life before birth and life afterward. It is laughable to think we don’t know our own science; they are the ones rejecting the Origin of Species, after all. Ask them of their homophobia, and they suggest that the reduction of marriage to a contract between individuals may displace the family as the basic unit of society. It’s as if they think a social hierarchy ought to trump our inalienable right to liberty.
But if that is bad, it is nothing compared to their certainty and self-righteousness outside of politics. They affect to be concerned with our souls, and lament our lack of faith. Little do they know that our Hope isn’t pie in the sky, by and by, but a present reality, here on Earth. We need not lament original sin, for the election of our candidate will cure the racism in our national soul. We need not delude ourselves with divine promises, for we have our candidate’s word. We need not worry that our bitter animosity go unforgiven, for He has taken upon Himself the mantle of rhetorical conciliation. And we need not look to a second coming, for we can empower Him in this dispensation to make a better world. Look, the religious right can worship however it likes, but they ought to stop expecting us to take their God seriously. Barack Obama is good enough for us.
The fundamentalists seem to be supporting John McCain. Funny, since he isn’t one of them. He served his country in the military, and his stance against torture is grounded in his suffering as a prisoner of war. I suppose he has worked on campaign finance and immigration reform, demonstrated independence from corporate interests and never taken money for a pork barrel project. Oh, and he was an early critic of the Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq. But he was the most vocal proponent in Congress of the surge, which is not working because our troops are still in Iraq. Never mind the dramatic reduction in violence or increasing stability of the Iraqi government — McCain is simply a clone of George W. Bush, which explains their chummy relationship over the years.
The bottom line is that we have been waiting for change, and McCain won’t herald its coming. But from our Hope, we have received good news: We are the change we have been waiting for. What a profound saying! Why elect a national hero with a record of bipartisan accomplishment, fiscal restraint and military judgment, when his opponent supplies sublime intimations of salvation? The fundamentalists reject the notion that God is dead, but can it be possible they haven’t heard that McCain may soon be too? Our Hope is: young, vigorous and in tune with the times, the vision of change flashing in His eyes, reflections of thousands long-suffering, disappointment no longer muttering, but yes we can, yes we can, yes we can!
It is practically tautological to say that the critic of our Hope thereby becomes a killjoy. It is our duty, while fundamentalists are in residence at Yale, to protect them from that horrid fate. What will we do when they do not listen to reason, when they willfully reject Hope? We must draw them out of their grim study, invite them to our glad Obama fete, and help them to fit in, however hard, to make of them disciples of our Hope, that they too may become the change we seek. For if we can change Yale, we can change New Haven; if we can change New Haven, we can change America; if we can change America, we can change the world. And in that day of global transformation, religious fanaticism fading away, the trumpets shall sound and we shall experience in ourselves the glorious consummation of our longing by changing into change and thus remaining forever more.
Peter Johnston is a junior in Saybrook College. His column usually runs on alternate Wednesdays.