Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury

While I do not apologize for the content of my previous post on religion, I do recognize that the tone I chose to take was a bit more confrontational that perhaps was necessary and may have ended up being less productive that it otherwise would have been, had I taken greater care in making clear distinctions between Fundamentalism, Christian activism and Christianity as a whole. I usually try to be as specific as possible, but this time I was reacting to a general movement and shift I see happening in this country and I chose to use the same tone that is used against liberals and secularists by the religious right, in order to make a point. Perhaps it was self-indulgent to use their tactics against them, and instead of highlighting their hypocrisy, as was my intent, I managed only to leave myself open to charges of the same. I do believe in tolerance, especially of views that I find most abhorrent, but when those views turn into political action it is my duty as an American citizen to speak out against them.

Is Christianity destroying the fabric of our society? That is a debatable philosophical question. There is an argument to be made that religion of any kind is hindering our ability to evolve into a more enlightened species. Over the span of human history there have been many Gods created by people to help explain and order the world in a way that made nature understandable. Is the one God that Christians believe in or the one (different) God that Muslims worship any different? As a legal matter, it makes no difference what anyone thinks of God or religion, choosing to believe in God is a deeply personal choice and everyone, in this country at least, is free to make that choice for him or herself. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right granted by our Constitution and critical to the functioning of our democracy. Whether or not religion makes our country better is a whole other question, and certainly not a political one.

Are the worst and loudest purveyors of divisiveness and intolerance in this country right now, self-proclaimed Christians? In my opinion they are and that must be addressed. When United States Senators stand on the Senate floor and use the Bible as justification for amending our constitution to prohibit gay marriage, Christianity is brought into the political debate. When religious activists lobby school boards and state legislatures to force teachers to teach Creationism in our public schools, Christianity is brought into the political debate. When governing bodies use God’s words as justification for denying women sovereignty over their own bodies, Christianity is brought into the political debate. If the Bible is going to be cited as a basis for legislation, then the validity of what the Bible teaches becomes fair game in the debate. This is exactly why religion has no place in politics.

I think because the vast majority of people in this country self-identify as Christian, it makes it difficult to have a productive conversation about the role religion should play in public life. Because Christianity is practiced in so many different ways, it has become difficult to distinguish between the Christian activists with political agendas and Christians that quietly practice their faith with no desire to change our laws to reflect their religious views. I admit that in my previous post, I was a bit careless in not making those distinctions clear. Call it temporary blindness of rage brought on by watching three days worth of sermons delivered on the Senate floor by self-righteous hypocrites posing as lawmakers.

Our Constitution provides for the personal freedom to choose ones religion, but it also is designed to protect the government from becoming a religious institution. Passing laws based on religious doctrine tramples on that right. Maybe that is easily lost in the debate when we have the vast majority all belonging to one religion, but because we are so heavily tilted to one side, it is extra important to pay attention to that right and protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority when it comes to religion.

21 Comments:

Anonymous david e said...

Although I understood your anger and frustration to be directed at evangelical fundamentalists who have come to the forefront of religion in American during the past century, you did forget that most of the advances in liberal democracy have been due to progressive Christians and left of centre Jews. It's a record worth recalling and honouring.

I agree with Bernard-Henri Levy that American liberals don't seem to know what's going on in the religious heart of America any more. Progressives and liberals tend to meditate in private --as Jesus said we should. But the shocking thing is, at least to the Christian Right, there is no such thing as SECULAR HUMANISM. It's not an organized religion, it has no institutions, and without progressive institutions defending the principle of perennial philosophy, a free society will perish. (Consumerism does not count as a spiritual experience.)

It's not enough for American liberals to adopt Buddhism's Eightfold Path in principle. They have to join actual institutions that can provide a voice for human rights. (Ann Coulter had nothing nice to say about Episcopalians.) There is strength in numbers; the Christian Right has shown that. So liberals need to join a progressive church, temple, synagogue, the ACLU, Amnesty International, or Greenpeace. And they actually need to participate in the progressive movement daily.

Progressive religion was once the heart of American spiritual life. It was the virulent anti-communism of the 1950s with its coupling of instant salvation and get rich quick schemes that saw the Christian Right making inroads into the nation's pulpits. But it was the election of Pope John Paul II that sealed the fate of progressivism. He scotched ecumenicalism, terminated Liberation Theology, and undermined Vatican II. His Holiness's spiritual nostalgia handed Bible Belt evangelists victory in matters of progessive faith. Afterall, Faith without Good Works is dead.

We are all spiritual beings, even progressives. But we can only protect our beliefs, however individualistic they might be, through institutions. The Mind needs a Body. Besides, progressive religion can be fun. If you read about the Dalai Lama honouring the cartoon Tintin and Archbishop Tutu, you'll know what I mean. Now, a church of Tintin & Tutu, that's for me.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Jane Johnson said...

I completely agree with you -- see my "atta girl" at http://seajane.blogspot.com/

We need to speak up otherwise our Christian values become confused with theirs and mine are NO WHERE near theirs.

Keep up the good work!

1:39 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

David E—You make a very good point. I actually didn't forget the role that progressive religious leaders and those they inspired through religion, played in the advancement of liberal democracy. In my own convoluted way, I was trying to get Christians who don't think the religious right loudmouths speak for them to re-claim their religion from the un-Christian folks like Coulter, Limbaugh, Robertson and Dobson. There is a history to be proud of and this bunch is sullying that.

I read about the Quakers who are continuing to protest this war, the preachers that are organizing their Evangelical members to help raise awareness about the effects of global warming. I just encourage more Christians to take stock of the public face of their religious beliefs and not only do good works in private, but help publicly repudiate these charlatans and erode their base of support. I understand that many are doing just that, but much more is needed. There's no rest for the weary on this one.

But I still say, when it comes to the political debate, religion is best kept out of the mix. Sure, religious teachings may be what brings some people to take a particular stand on an issue, poverty for example, but that doesn’t mean that poverty is a religious issue nor should the eradication of poverty be framed as such. People of all faiths and no faith can come to the same conclusion, alleviating poverty is the moral and right thing to do, why muddy the waters with religious doctrine? How we come to our positions on issues is less important than what we do about them.


Jane--Thank you so very much. I was heartened to read your blog post about this. I went to bed last night upset that I had angered a few folks on the Christian Left, glad to know not only were you not offended, but that you enjoyed it in the spirit in which I intended.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

(liberal)girl, I applaud your earlier post. The time for anger is well overdue, I think.

It seems to me that it goes without saying not all Christians are violent fundamentalists; that's only common sense. The problem is, a sufficient percentage of them are dangerously militant enough to currently threaten our way of life.

Here's a frightening review of a new documentary I just ran across in The American Prospect...

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=11628

5:38 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

Oops. Looks like I haven't learned yet to do links in this format. Sorry about that.

In any event, please try the site www.prospect.org and scroll down to the second item, headlined "God's army"...

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like what you said in one of your previous posts, that nonextremist Christians need to speak out en masse against those who would hijack Jesus for the extreme right-wing agenda. You are absolutely right.

Some of us nonextremerightist Christians are doing just that.

http://www.sojo.net
http://www.liberalslikechrist.org
http://mnl_1221.tripod.com/liberal.html (this one's mine)
http://mnl_1221.tripod.com/kerrybush.html
(this one's mine, too)

The New Christian Right--ain't
(written in the 1980s)
http://www.lovinggrace.org/Book_Excerpts/living_in_love/livingin6.htm

Healing America's Wounds, by John Dawson
(written in the 1990s)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0830716939/ref=cm_bg_d_2/104-5476486-2397531?v=glance&n=283155

amNew York published my letter which asks, "Where is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Christian Right?"
http://www.amny.com/news/opinion/am-0608lett01,0,5286501.story?coll=am-letters-headlines

I know: we're not that effective yet. The Bible does say something about not despising the days of small beginnings.

Peace,
Melanie N. Lee

http://360.yahoo.com/mnl_1221

6:47 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Melanie--Thank you for the links, I will check them out! As a secularist, I appreciate your efforts greatly.

Here is another site about liberal Christianity that has some very insightful commentary on the subject.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Godlessfriend said...

All,

I coundn't disagree more with anyone who assumes that any member of our society should unite on the basis of any belief for the purpose of shifting control of the government. First, this will create division and that division is exactly what is needed by the power brokers that be to continue their campaign of skullduggery against the American Democracy. Secondly, religion clearly should have no organized voice in our politics as the Constitution clearly intends. Separation of church and state is essential.

On the issue of secular humanism...As a secular humanist, I understand that it does not need any organized institution to keep it alive. There is no purpose for that. Humanism is not a religion and therefore does not need institutions to safeguard or support it. It is simply a way of understanding humanity that offers guidance in this globally united era. Secular Humanism promotes a concept that is biologically inherent in almost all...loving humans for being human. It does not exclude, it does not discriminate, and it does not need to be taught. Many have been taught or brainwashed into believing other religious paths and therefore just need to be reminded. Take it or leave it, but unless you suffer from some pathological disorder, it will not leave you. Thanks for the post.

LG...I must add, it is your passion about issues that keeps me comming back. Please don't punish yourself.

7:09 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Godlessfriend--I'm not beating myself up, I promise. I've toughened up quite a bit since I started blogging. I have to speak from my heart (with some help from my head of course), it has served me well so far, I don't plan on stopping now.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

I think you made it perfectly clear to anyone who cared to listen exactly who you were talking about. If readers missed it in the original post, you certainly clarified it later.

But some folks seemed determined to feel a pea of offense beneath 10 mattresses of good intentions. Maybe they're feeling at loose ends, what with the War on Easter being behind us and the War on Christmas months away...

9:22 PM  
Blogger Jeast said...

There is good reason why our founding fathers wrote in the Constitution that church and state
must be kept separate at all times
Was it their hope that this would prevent future political and religious wars causing to divide and destroy a country?

For example, in England the long fight between the Catholics and the Protestants lasted hundreds of years. Many fled to America in search of religious freedom. Then the American colonists wanted the freedom to govern themselves.

Why is it that all wars through the centuries have been caused by politics and religion...oh and how about some hate and greed too...

1:53 AM  
Anonymous lester said...

Ironically, it is my religious faith that comforts me when ann coulter says horrible things about terror victims. or maybe not so ironically.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Cossack said...

Dear LGND,

As usual I must agree with you and your viewpoint. Your anger and frustration are understood (for those with a brain).

The problem is religion. As you so well noted, this country allows freedom of religion...to a point. If my chosen religion relies on human sacrifice well, I'm entitled to my religion but not my human sacrifice! Also, the idea of 'religious freedom' is a sham anyway. Wasn't it in Washington state (or, was it Oregon) where the 'God fearing Christians' ran off that commune of 'fereigners' who had one of 'them damned crazy Eastern religions'? In other words, most of the 'religious freedom' we have is to join the (Christian) church of our choosing (with some slight tolerance for Jews and some Islamics).

More to the point, religion, in a true sense, is an internal matter. Legislating *MY* religious prejudices into law is illegal. Certainly, religious prejudice (especially in the South) was one of the pillars upon which slavery was continued until the Civil War. We now have Christopaths and Dominionists who insist that we legislate their prejudices into law. This is simply unacceptable!

Last thought, if all these 'good Christians' really believed in the teachings of the carpenter from Nazareth, they're surely doing a crappy job of living by his teachings.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous lester said...

You guys are too nit picky about religion. You can be very public about your religion or not if you want. plus, some liberal christians are pretty annoying as well, like earth day sort of socialist crunchy christians lol

12:01 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Religious faith should be brought to the political/public-policy arena as a meal for the soul that has been eaten and digested — not as rotten eggs and vegetables to be thrown at those with whom we disagree.

2:28 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

S.W. Anderson--I agree with you completely, but sometimes the temptation to peel the rotten eggs and vegetables off your face and throw them right back, is too hard to resist. You know it won't solve anything, but damn it, a gal can only take so much!

5:52 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Fair enough, (liberal)Girl.

My reference was not to you for throwing back. It was to Coulter and other bullies who evidently can't or won't conceive of God as love.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Gobi Cred said...

Well, see, that's just the difference between a liberal like me and your basic nutzoid fundamentalist. If I call somebody a rabid hate mongering religious zealot who is cynically exploiting gayness and abortion for personal gain, and they say that hurts their feelings, why then I just back right down. Instead of pushing for victory, no matter what it costs them, I assume I am discussing a difference of opinion with another rational person. Then I think about what I said, and I question my own assumptions. Then I call them a hate mongering religious zealot who may or may not be rabid, but who definitely appears to be cynically exploiting gayness and abortion for their agenda, although to be fair they might just be the gullible patsy for someone else’s own personal agenda. The trouble is that that is too long a sentence for them to understand and they accuse me of thinking I’m smarter than them. That hurts my feelings, but do they care? Nooo! .

11:56 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Gobi Cred--I'm not backing down and certainly not because of what the fundie nutjobs had to say. I got some flack from the Christian Left that prompted me to clarify my point. I think many of them missed the point because they were so turned off by the tone I chose to take. Normally I wouldn't care, I said what I wanted to say in the manner I wanted to say it (and it needed to be said), but I thought the message of the original post was important enough to give it another shot at being heard.

I stand by what I wrote and I don't apologize for it!

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Gobi Cred said...

No mam, you were real patient and polite. I was trying to commiserate with you trying to reason in good faith with those believe irrational faith is a good enough reason. I shouldn’t have talked like that in a nice place like this. I am sorry.

6:32 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Gobi Cred--And I am sorry if I am reading sarcasm into your comments where none is intended ;)

12:56 PM  

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