I have sat back and watched with bemused detachment the grand saga of the Edwards bloggers. I really do like Melissa’s writing, and I feel quite bad that she got dragged through this…so don’t get me wrong. As for Amanda, consider me a well wisher, in that I do not wish her any specific harm. Seriously, I’m very concerned to hear that part of the reason for quitting was the threats being received. That’s all shades of not right.

But where I take a step back is that I think Edwards is a total sham, and I’m about as nice to his campaign as the next. That is to say I’m not.

But we have a dilemma to resolve. Two smart and talented women, and their supporters, just got owned in the public square by a blowhard anti-semitic “catholic” spokesman. What gives?

To wit.

Morpheus: How did I beat you?
Neo: You’re too fast.
Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? You think that’s air you’re breathing?

What happened was not an exercise of political muscle, prowess, or skill. It was a reflection of the dynamic of secularism of modern America. Bill Donahue is not smarter, more popular, skilled, or better at politics than the netroots. But what he has is the ability to stand back, and watch you run into a brick wall.

How did he beat you? One of the key issues with making criticism is understanding how to separate the diehards from the reasonable. Both Amanda and Melissa engage in commentary that is not criticism. It is polemic. This is not a value judgment…so hold your knee down for a moment. Polemic services the need to unite our position, and radicalize our loyal. But alone, it’s not sufficient, in my not so humble opinion.

Tactically, it is simply a fact that we need to acknowledge the social privilege of Christian rhetorics and act accordingly. This is not to say that y’all ought to begin to tiptoe around or sacrifice your better judgement, but for the sake of the Holy Thing on Top of the High Place…take these rhetorics seriously enough to engage them on their terms. Otherwise, you’re screaming into the wind. This is why i got so peeved at those who got taken by the Donnie Davies scam. If you can’t tell a con job from the real thing, how do you possibly hope to win?

The Falwells, Dobsons, Haggards, Robertsons, and such all offer much to laugh at if you care for such humor. But they also produce a moral vision of American life that millions find compelling. Learn the rules. Take them seriously.

Because then, and only then, will you know which ones can be bent. And which ones can be broken.