My colleague Lisa De Pasquale has written a lively Bridget Jones-style memoir of dating in the conservative movement, Finding Mr. Righteous. (I imagine “Finding Mr. Right-Wing” would have been a bit over-the-top.) Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, one of many illustrious names to blurb De Pasquale’s book, writes that it is “[a] true Christian story, disguised as racy Chick Lit.” It’s more than that, though: it’s also journalism.
What De Pasquale has done is pull back the veil to reveal the hot-blooded desires (and, occasionally, earnest romantic ambitions) of conservatives who are trying to balance faith and desire, sex and politics. Along the way, she describes her own journey towards faith, encountering a new religion with each new romance. There’s an atheist, a Catholic, a Quaker, and a Jew–and they even walk into bars, often at conservative conferences.
The men in Finding Mr. Righteous don’t come off too well. (Lisa assures me that the stories in the book are real, though some names and occupations have changed.) There is a preacher who gives sermons about abstinence–and then demands phone sex. There is a friendly spiritual adviser who can’t work up the nerve to take things down to an earthly level. There is a surprising amount of cheating on wives and girlfriends.
Pretty much the only sympathetic male in the book is De Pasquale’s beloved, departed dog, Buster. But her “Mr. Righteous” does hold out hope that love can be found between those who share the same values. What is also refreshing about the book is Lisa’s frank discussion of the constant dating challenges facing women who struggle with their weight. More than a few female–and male!–readers will relate to her experiences.
Woven throughout the book is a subplot: the behind-the-scenes struggles about the role of gay rights groups at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which dominates the predictable mainstream media coverage leading up to CPAC every years. (De Pasquale came down on the side of inclusion, as did Andrew Breitbart, who in 2011 threw what is still the greatest party in the history of CPAC, co-hosted by GOProud).
Yet Finding Mr. Righteous does not have a political agenda, despite its political context. De Pasquale writes about dating, desire, and sex among conservatives not because she wants to judge them, but to express their basic humanity–and her own, with them. It is a book about disappointments, but its real aim is to inspire confidence that all of the contradictions and frustrations of love and politics may have a purpose after all.