Tuesday, May 23, 2006

AMERICA'S RELIGIOUS WAR

Yesterday, well-known Seattle commentator Ken Schram excoriated initiative champion Tim Eyman over his recent church-based drive to collect signatures for an anti gay-rights initiative he intends to field this year:

“Timmy Is Turning To God”

http://www.komotv.com/stories/43554.htm

Opines Mr. Schram:

“Timmy is turning to God.

I guess Mr. Eyman figures that since Jesus turned water into wine, the Lord would be willing and able to transform church-going Christians into bigots.

Timmy describes this as an "opportunity" for 500,000 voters in 5,400 churches to sign a petition to cancel out gay rights legislation passed in Olympia earlier this year.

Timmy says it's all about ending "preferential treatment."

I say it's all about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

And I think that Timmy's just trying to turn conservative Christians into another tool in his money-making initiative arsenal.

To those folks, I have a now familiar question: What would Jesus do?”

A damn good question for Christians… A damn good question asked by a man who, if one can judge by his writings, is himself a Christian – A liberal one.

A liberal Christian? In the eyes of many that’s an oxymoron. For quite some time –since at least the Reagan years – conservatives have worked to claim sole ownership of the American church. By and large, unbelievers such as myself have given “them” a bye on this claim – it is, after all, not our fight - and media professionals have abetted it by discussing social issues in the language created by religious conservatives, speaking of “family values,” “morals,” and the like as being “conservative” issues.

Meanwhile, religious liberals, prompted, perhaps, by Christ’s promise that the meek would inherit the earth, have meekly stood by and allowed the conservatives to claim the American church as theirs alone…

Success often sows the seeds of failure…

And so it may be with the conservative movement and their allies, the religious right. For them, the Presidency of George W Bush has been the greatest success in a very long time.

For liberal Christians, it has been a wake-up call… And more than a few are fighting back.

Speaking of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently remarked “"I worked for two presidents who were men of faith, and they did not make their religious views part of American policy,” a policy that clearly leaves the Secretary uneasy:

“Bush's faith worries Albright”

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/22/albright.bush.reut/index.html

Madame Albright describes herself as “"an Episcopalian (U.S. Anglican) with a Catholic background" and states "I know I believe in God but I have doubts, and doubt is part of faith,"”

I hear the snickers and groans… Bill Clinton, a Christian? Such is the nature of the conservative’s success…

But if a “Christian” is any person who believes in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ – and if belief is a private thing – how can any short of the Almighty dispute their claim?

Over at Time.com, Andrew Sullivan makes the arguments very well:

“My Problem with Christianism
A believer spells out the difference between faith and a political agenda”

It’s a subscriber link only, but the piece is a worthy read if you can get it:

http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1191826,00.html

Mr. Sullivan begins:

“Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented by the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.
The number of Christians misrepresented by the Christian right is many”…

He elaborates, describing a tolerant church of many denominations: “very orthodox believers who nonetheless respect the freedom and conscience of others as part of their core understanding of what being a Christian is… evangelical Protestants who believe strongly that Christianity should not get too close to the corrupting allure of government power…  lay Catholics who, while personally devout, are socially liberal on issues like contraception, gay rights, women's equality and a multi-faith society.”…

He bridles at comments such as those made recently by the disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay: “"Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will."”

Mr. Sullivan then asks: “So Christ is a conservative Republican?”

It’s the awakening of a sleeping giant… Perhaps…

Yet Mr. Sullivan argues against the creation of a “religious left,” suggesting instead that what the religious right practices isn’t a religious faith at all, but rather an “ism:” Christianism. He elaborates:

“"My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand? So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.
That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.”

It’s a powerful idea, if powerfully wielded by people brave enough to speak their minds, even if their voice shakes. And it’s about time, IMO… As a nonbeliever, I have watched in disgust as the religious right sought to drag this Nation back into the dark ages of governmental enforcement of religious intolerance and governmental approbation of nonsense like creationism. But I have been even more disgusted by the disorganized, misfeasant fashion in which tolerant Christians have defended their faith…

Watching the two groups, I have become utterly convinced there is no value in either…

So I welcome the new counterattack. People, by and large, need faith to survive – it’s built into man, as if it were a philosophical instinct. Yet the “faith” of the religious right - and the policies it inspires - is clearly a destructive influence in a modern, creative, diverse society that will only become more diverse as time goes on.

Maybe the “religious left” can give the American church a better way.



Comments:
The true issue here is a misunderstanding of the Christian life and the principles that Jesus taught. Jesus taught love for the sinner but not for the SIN. christians must love our enemies, and help them if we can, but we must also stand against the sin which entangles the lives of those around us and ourselves. Jesus taught that the Law will never pass away and the only freedom from it is the fredom of forgivenss based on His cross. The penalties for evil are stil there. Homosexuality is still a sin in the Bible, as is adultery and theft and lying and murder and hatred, etc. Any "faith" that allows people to continue to live as they wish with no fear of judgement from God, and excuses things that God condemns is not faith it is license and against the will and expressed Word of God. I too think that christians are becoming too political for the sake of politics alone, but we do have the responsibility to teach the word and hold to the faith once delivered to us. Read the bible, that's in there. We are to love mankind and pray for them, but also to warn them and save them from judgement, not give them cheap love that allows them to die in sin and face judgment. Read First Timothy in the New Testament for a great discourse on this. God Bless.
 
Jesus told the Women at the Well to "go and sin no more." Jesus would have expressed his love for gays...he would not have "accepted" their behavior.

Intolerant you say? Not at all.
Tolerance allows those who choose to go against the norms of society to do so despite their own beliefs and practices. However,it does not mean we have to accept those actions which we consider to be sin.

I feel sorry for the gay community. Do I believe they should be treated with the same respect as all other human beings? Yes! Can I tolerate their personal practices? Yes.
But do I have to accept their lifestyle and allow them to "force" their acceptance on me via our legal system which attempts to "make us"? Absolutely not.

I may tolerate to a point, but I shall never accept. Can I forgive? Yes. How? GO AND SIN NO MORE.
 
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