In Danforths view, the religious conservatives are the dividers. He and his fellow moderates could get along with everyone:
[M]oderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess Gods truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is Gods work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in todays politics.
For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lords table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love.
This embrace of broad-thinking and toleration comes pretty close to saying that those who have other views--those who, for example, restrict the Lords Supper to those who have made a profession of faith in a particular denomination--arent genuinely following Gods word. Those who dont share Danforths vision of humility and all-embracing love, and the practical consequences drawn from it, must be arrogant and un-loving.
Its also easier to be tolerant if you can call yourself pro-life, but not see what all the fuss is about when it comes to stem cell research:
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.Messing with the building blocks of life--playing God, so to speak--is no big deal. Only a crabbed, purely and narrowly religious person, moved by pride, not humility, and without a shred of compassion, could hold a view contrary to Danforths.
Its also easier to be tolerant if you say that you favor traditional marriage, but argue that you can think of no reason other than a mean desire to humiliate people to enshrine that opinion in the Constitution.
Perhaps the best explanation of Danforths position comes from
another WaPo profile, this one on the occasion of Ronald Reagans funeral:
If he sticks to his usual form today, Danforth, who declined to be interviewed for this article, will mention God once or twice near the end of his homily. But he can be counted on not to cause a stir by freelancing an impolitic mention of Jesus, as Franklin Graham did at George W. Bushs inauguration. He will likely perfectly embody Washington National Cathedrals other role, not as an Episcopal chapel but as the closest thing we have to a national church, a place where faith is present but muted, as on the dollar bill or in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"Jack will deliver a little homily," says Alex Netchvolodoff, his former chief of staff and close friend. "Its not deep theology. He knows that funerals are for the living; they are gatherings of people to celebrate a life, that they should be upbeat, full of hope."
Official Washington likes its religion beige, interfaith, tastefully alluded to rather than shouted from a mountaintop. Danforth will oblige: "He wont step on any toes," says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "People who dont have any religious sensibilities will feel comfortable with him."
Now read that last sentence again. All are welcome at John Danforths table, except those he perceives as intolerant.
It is of course true that there are folks on the religious right who are smug and self-righteous, just as there are on the secular right, the religious left, and the secular left. There also seem to be some in the religious center.