Sunday, June 26, 2005

I don't care if it rains or freezes...

Let me preface admitting I'm your typical lapsed Catholic. Lot's of hope and I think good acts, but the faith is close to running on empty. I wasn't always this way. I think it had something to do with my univeristy level theology classes. The failure of the church to deal with pedophile priests and naive view of human sexuality didn't help much. Besides, secular humanism provided me with a path to similar ends, with science rather than dogma being the guiding light.

I do remember a time when the religious left held the moral high ground. They were prominent leaders and thinkers in the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements. Back in those good old days when they had folk music during mass, there was an emphasis social justice, and acceptence of the dignities of man. I don't recall many religious leaders of that day obsessing over whether a cartoon character visits a family with two mommies. The preachers and priest seemed more concerned with Christian acceptence of all humanity.

We all know the current state of affairs. A congressman tries to amend an appropriations bill, to control Officers in the Air Force Acadamy from using their position of power to evangelize cadets, many who are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, non-evangelical Christian, agnostics, or atheists. This simple request was based on complaints by constituents, who said it was resulting in religious bigotry and a hostile environment, which had the potential of impacting unit cohesion. It resulted in this litany:

"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," said Rep. John Hostettler.

I won't go into the Federalist and anti-Federalist arguments made by our founders (who were Christian, Universalist, Deist, and even agnostic), as to why there was a need for a wall of separation for the benefit of both government and religion. I was just wondering where our progressives of faith were hiding, since I hadn't heard much from them in awhile.

It seems like they wish to reemerge into the public discourse.

A new, well-organized religious group has emerged. And guess what: It actually supports Christian values.

The Reverend Timothy F. Simpson, a Presbyterian minister and the group’s director of religious affairs, said in an interview Wednesday that the Christian left has for too long allowed the Christian right to be the public face of his religion in America. “The language of our faith has been placed in the service of policy ends that don’t reflect the Gospel, and we have become deeply troubled over that,” he said.

The Christian right, he says, in the persons of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson, has come to stand for bigotry, intolerance, and division. Simpson says that his organization will try to repair the damage done by the right’s insistence that the United States is a “Christian nation” that ought to be governed according to their narrow interpretation of Scripture.

“I understand that the truth can be spoken by Muslims, and the truth can be spoken by Jews. The truth can be spoken by atheists,” said Simpson. “And listen: An atheist who stands for the interests of the neighbor, an atheist who stands for the interests of poor people at the margins, for the oppressed, is worth more than a hundred Christians who have made their bed with the fat cats, because that atheist is actually articulating the ends of the kingdom of God.”


Visit their website: Christian Alliance for Progress


At 1:59 AM, Anonymous Gravity Love said...

Christianity as an organized religion must cut this element loose, disavow it, or Christianity will collapse.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Paul of DC said...

Hey, as an atheist, I really appreciate those closing comments - nice of him to be so charitable towards us heathens (but note he said we're furthering the kingdom of heaven, not necessarily joining it).

I was getting worried about my rights, especially equal standing in social and civic contexts, based on the fundie right wing's agenda. (Well, okay, I'm still worried . . . But it's nice to see a christian left still exists.)


At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Paul of DC said...

Oops! After my last post, I actually read the full article DT's post linked to (rather than just his excerpts). Now I feel a little differently. Sorry for the long excerpt, but it's necessary:

Simpson also railed against what he characterized as a small minority in the Democratic Party who believe that religious rhetoric has no place in the politics of a secular government.

“One of the great problems of the Democratic Party,” he said, “is that the 5 percent or so [of its members] who don’t want any religious rhetoric at all, and who do not represent the mainstream of American political or religious life, have been allowed to call the cadence in the [party]. And when that happens, Democrats get their butts kicked. Because people in this country are believers.”

For Republicans and Democrats, he said, openness to religion “is clearly the winning strategy in this, the most religious of the Western industrial democracies. You just cannot ask people to check their faith at the door of the public-policy arena and expect to resonate with any significant segment of the electorate, because that’s not where people are. And folks on the left have just got to deal with that.”

Simpson characterized Democrats who are opposed to the injection of religion into politics as “extremists,” saying that he can call for more religion to influence politics while still advocating a clear separation between church and state.

“What we think the extremists in the Democratic Party fear, and rightly so, is a Christian takeover,” he said. “We’re trying to emulate the style of [the Reverend Martin Luther] King, which is more to speak to the government than to become the government -- which is what the folks on the right are doing.

“What we want to do is tell that fringe movement that you can talk about your faith without wanting your faith to become the exclusive faith of the nation.”

Well, I don't care for this one bit. What he's saying is the xian right can go ahead and impose its religion on the republican party, but we're going to do the same with the democratic party - and those democrats that don't like it can stuff it. No thanks. I'd like to have a political environment in this country where your religion (or lack thereof, as the case may be) is irrelevant. In case he hasn't noticed, that would leave exactly zero (viable) political parties for the rest of us. I'm tired of being marginalized in the political arena for lack of a religion, whether that's by one party, the other, or both!

Go ahead, Simpson. Speak your religiously dictated conscience in the political arena. Speak it to both parties, if you like. But don't try to take over either one and exclude the rest of us. It's as bad as trying to take over the country, believe me.

One of the few things left that I like about the democrats is their (currently wavering) resistance to following the republicans' example and infusing their agenda with smarmy religious sanctimony. I love that they're trying to tell right-wing xians that they don't speak for them. Buy these guys don't speak for me, either.



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