On Not Sweating the Small Stuff
My late father-in-law, a life-long "freethinker," taught Scripture (among other things) in British state schools. When students asked how the sun could have stood still at the Battle of Jerico or how Noah managed to shovel all the poop out of the Ark he said, "Well, it's in the Bible, i'n'it?"
Neither my father-in-law's efforts nor the activities of the Established Church, weekly doses of "Songs of Praise" on the telly or market crosses in public squares seem to have made the British any more religious. In the US religious symbols are banned from the public square. Prayer in the public schools is illegal and people fight major legal battles to keep it that way. I agree with bls: I don't want prayer in the public schools but I don't see why it matters very much--it's not going to make kids religious.
Liberalism, in the public mind, is wrapped up with a variety of doctrines and policies on trivial non-issues that some people consider objectionable and lots more find plain silly--not only campaigns to remove religious symbols and practices from public space, like the crusade to get "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but a variety of other activities aimed at producing greater cultural sensitivity. A few years ago there was there was an attempt to change the name of the local college football team, the Aztecs, even though local Indians had no objections. (I've always wondered why people worried about having teams called "Indians," "Redskins" or "Aztecs" but didn't see any problem with "Boston Celtics" or "Minnesota Vikings.") All this stuff is pointless and dumb.
It isn't always clear which issues are substantive and which are pure baloney. Legal recognition for non-marital domestic partnership arrangements is important; characterizing these arrangements as "marriage" isn't. Gay couples may, understandably, want the imprimatur for their relationships and official recognition of parity with heterosexual couples but, in the grand scheme of things, that is just not very important, especially if it alienates voters and generates backlash against the legal recognition of domestic partnerships. Sometimes what appear to be symbolic non-issues are important: if passing legislation affirming English as the area's "official language" means that instructions in Spanish for getting emergency medical services or dealing with earthquake emergencies are deleted from the local telephone book, then it is a substantive issue. No one should die of food poisoning or get buried under rubble because their English isn't up to snuff.
I am not a moderate or "centrist." I'm a Socialist and I'm outraged by Democrats' rush to the right on economic issues. But I have no sympathy with support for trivial, "cultural" non-issues that sets back the agenda.