Susan Jacoby is, indeed, a “spirited atheist,” and a very smart one.  Her most recent post for On Faith, the religion blog that is a joint venture of Newsweek and The Washington Post, is biting, and one of the best statements I’ve seen in opposition to the “mamma grizzly” feminism of Sarah Palin et alia.

Jacoby sees the attempt to capture the feminist label as the latest development in a long-term political strategy:

Mainstream journalists have taken great pains over the past year to distinguish between the Christian right and the Tea Party, and it is true that a few tea partiers, particularly Rand Paul in Kentucky, are not Christian soldiers but anti-government libertarians. In a practical sense, though, there is a huge overlap between the Christian right and the tea party movement, between the Republican Party and the Tea Party. One of the signature achievements of the Christian right over the past 30 years has been to meld traditional anti-tax and anti-government positions with support for government intervention on behalf of the morality articulated by conservative Christians.

For the rest of the article, click here.

What is sometimes missed in the press coverage, and what is very much worth pondering, is the question of why the rhetoric of the Right (whether it’s Tea Partiers, Ms. Palin, or other high-profile spokespersons) resonates beyond the base.  In a recent post for Call and Response, I argue that at least in the case of the “mamma grizzly” phenomenon,  it’s because we as a society have tended to use religiously-based family ideals as our template for thinking through the relationship between the public and the private, between reproduction and production, between faith and politics.

This is why, I think, the “mamma grizzlies” spark such a strong reaction.  These questions—about life and reproduction, about women’s bodies and their choices, about what it means to be a feminist—they are often, as Jacoby points out, mere foils for other political ends.  But they also tap into deep, and deeply felt, cultural contradictions.   Post-feminism aside, these questions are not “over.”  And there’s not much middle ground in sight.