Catholic or Protestant? Today the Divide is Between Religious and Secular

May 31, 2004

Source: The New Yorker

On May 31, 2004 The New Yorker reported, "It isn’t every day that the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party is a junior senator from Massachusetts who was educated at an élite boarding school and an Ivy League college and whose political career was founded on his war heroism as a young Naval officer in command of a small boat and who has family money and a thick shock of hair and a slightly stiff manner and beautifully tailored suits and an aristocratic mien and whose initials are J.F.K. So rare is this phenomenon that the last time it happened was fortyfour years ago, way back in 1960. That was also the last time that the nominee of the Democratic Party—or of either major party, for that matter—was a Roman Catholic. There are plenty of other similarities between now and then, each of which comes equipped with its own corresponding difference. Here’s one: in 2004 as in 1960, a large number of evangelical Protestant ministers have been alerting their followers to the danger posed by the man from Massachusetts. The difference is that last time they were against him because they were afraid he might be subservient to the Vatican. This time they’re against him because they’re pretty sure he won’t be... The salient division in American political life where religion is concerned is no longer between Catholics and Protestants, if it ever was, or even between believers and nonbelievers. It is between traditional supporters of a secular state (many of whom are themselves religiously observant), on the one hand, and, on the other hand—well, theocrats might be too strong a term."