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Religious Right vs. Irreligious Left?

Posted by Rick · March 3rd, 2004 · No Comments

As Bob Marcotte said when he sent this to me, “This says it all. It should be required reading for anyone in America.”

As Quindlen notes, the old War between the Conservatives and Liberals, or (as some fashion it) between the Republicans and Democrats, is being spun into the War Between the Religious and the Irreligious (a.k.a., “heathen”)…

…and, of course, once you click the link immediately below, I’ll be doing my best to make sure things are Unspun.

Quindlen says,

[T]he other night I listened to Bill O’Reilly speak of “secularists” on Fox News, and as I tried to parse out who those secularists might be, I discovered to my surprise that they would be me. From same-sex marriage to Mel Gibson’s gory cinematic take on the Crucifixion, the new wedge issue is religiosity, not to be confused with faith. This was fomented by the widely ballyhooed “worship gap” of the 2000 presidential election. The poll results seemed decisive, even damning: if you went to church more than once a week, you were likely to support President George Bush by a 2-1 margin. If you never went, you supported Al Gore in the same proportions. “Capital G” and “small g” voters: there was the divide, as clear — and perhaps along the same lines — as the one between heaven and hell. Quindlen, “At the Left Hand of G-d,” MSNBC

Of course, I get a double-whammy, because I’m not only perceived as being a liberal, but some of my recent posts have been misinterpreted — in my opinion because I’m presenting how things look to me as someone who professes a non-Christian religion — as being anti-Christian.

I think it’s interesting that my writings on religious topics have brought me some emails worrying about my supposedly anti-Christian stance. All I’ve said, so far as I recall, is 1) I think people were jumping to conclusions about Mel Gibson’s beliefs, on which I argued there was not yet enough evidence, 2) that I thought there was a perhaps-deliberate attempt by some to deliberately twist the comments of Jews and Jewish organizations relating to Gibson’s film, The Passion, and, 3) various statements similar to those in the article Bob sent. I did make some deliberately provocative remarks in one blog entry, but anyone who read the whole entry would have noticed that was to demonstrate how some of the things being said about Jews might be perceived by Jews; it only requires a change in perspective to understand it. Those comments were not intended to express my true feelings about adherents to the Christian faith.

I’ll fess up to being anti-religious (in some ways), but I’m not anti-Christian. As I said in a post that was no doubt only half-read by some of those who read my blog at all, “Those people, however, for whom the message of Jesus holds true meaning are no threat to Jews – and never have been.” The context of that comment was in a discussion about anti-semitism; I can state here that those people for whom the message of Jesus holds true meaning are no threat to anyone — and never have been.

Of that group of Christians, I’ve never had anything bad to say. I think of those folk as co-workers in the process of tikkun olam. As Quindlen put it when she said she “had become a liberal largely through religion,”

Loving your neighbor as yourself, giving your cloak to the man who had none, blessed are the peacemakers: taken together, all of it seemed a clarion call to social justice and the obligation of individuals and institutions to help those who needed help. Jesus was the first radical rabble-rouser I’d ever read about in school, and the best.

Unfortunately, the Christians I’ve met who do have a wonderful and solidly-focused faith in Jesus seem to be unwilling to fight the neo-conservative pseudo-christians on issues of faith openly — and perhaps that’s as it should be, given the view those I’ve spoken with express about it sullying their faith.

I only hope — and pray — that when they step into voting booths, they’ll remember that G-d is only manifested on Earth through the actions of believers. Making the world a better place does not mean bringing back the harshness of Judaic traditional laws such as those expressed in the Tanakh to enforce morality — which were meant to be applied within the Jewish community, anyway, and were not applicable to outsiders who were only bound by Noachide law.

To me, this is a perfect picture of why right-wing neo-conservative pseudo-christian politicos and those who drive them are wrong to impose their moral views upon the rest of us via legislation. Let them enforce these more rigid strictures upon those within their own Church. A lesser set of laws should be applied by a government which must represent others as well as Christians. The national law of the United States has to allow for the fact that non-Christians also live here, also have families, also have traditions, also have moral views and that these may not be completely aligned with those who hold to religious views currently ascendant within and increasingly endorsed by, if not (yet) outright established by, the government of the United States under President George Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Legislating Morality
It is often — falsely — stated that you cannot (or at least should not) legislate morality. Let’s get something straight: That’s horse manure. That’s pretty much what criminal laws are all about. I’m not making any kind of argument either that we cannot or that we should not legislate morality. I’m arguing that the degree to which we legislate morality should be just enough to allow for the free and safe development of society. Whether fundamentalist right-wing Christians wish to admit this or not, theirs is not the only, nor even the largest — especially since even so few fundamentalists actually adhere to it — moral code followed by human societies. The United States, as an amalgam of differing cultures, needs to leave room for other subgroups to follow the dictates of their own codes.

American society will not be destroyed if the policy of limited government so favored by right-wing neo-conservatives when it comes to stopping corporations from over-exploiting employees and/or wounding the economy by “offshoring” jobs were followed with respect to legislating morality. (Not to get distracted, but this brings up another interesting point: Why are these neo-conservative right-wing pseudo-christians so focused on sexuality, but ignore other ways — such as the employer-employee relationship — in which humans relate one to another? Compare how Jesus dealt with sexual immorality with how he handled internecine inhumanity. See also Luke 7:36-50 on the former issue; for the latter, see Matthew 5, particularly 38-48, as well as Matthew 6.)

Furthermore, the Bush Administration and its supporters so interested in legislating a specific and narrowly-focused code of moral conduct would do well to consider the precedent they set. (They would also do well to carefully consider that our Founding Fathers, who were arguably as religious or more so than contemporary “Christians,” did not deign to do what the current administration hopes to do.) As John Warwick Montgomery writes at “ModernReformation.org: A Publication of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals,”

In The Bible and the Schools, Douglas noted quite properly that “what the Roman Catholics, the Baptists, or the Presbyterians can command of the public treasury, or in other public support, so in time can the Moslems or the Mormons as they grow politically stronger.” A few years ago I gave politically conservative Harold John Ockenga some worrisome moments when at his “historic Park Street Church” in Boston I declared, as a Christian Education Conference speaker, that I fully agreed that prayer in public schools should be banned. It is perfectly obvious that such prayers either open up the possibility of Mormon or Moslem prayers, or promote “non-sectarian” prayers which are just as bad, since they are not Trinitarian prayers in the Name of Jesus (Col. 3:17). If we want to integrate historic Christian worship with the educational task, the parochial school is the remedy. We cannot expect the state to do the church’s business. Where it attempts to do so or is made to do so, the result is utter confusion of Law and Gospel and the mixing of the Two Kingdoms. In C.S. Lewis’ terms, Aslan (the Christ-symbol) and Tash (the Antichrist) are syncretistically blended into the monster “Tashlan.” Marty is correct that ours is no longer the “placed” Christianity of Constantine or of the medieval “Corpus Christianum”; we have both the agony and the privilege, like the early Christians, of functioning in a pluralistic society as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” having “here no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”

But the primary point I’m trying to get across in this blog entry is that there are people with good intentions on all sides of this debate. And for those who can’t shake the “I don’t care about heathen” attitude, you should note there are perhaps even good Christian people on all sides.

In a pluralistic society, one must follow Jesus’ example and “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” The United States of America is a nation wherein we, the people, in order to form a more perfect union of disparate cultures, establish justice for everyone, insure domestic tranquility in spite of our differences, to provide for the common defense of our rights from challenges within as well as from without, promote the general welfare (and not just that of one particular group), and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and all our posterity, have ordained, established and should continue to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Categories: Religion


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