Saturday, December 13, 2008

My President

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do -- some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

Barack Obama, June 28, 2006


BS said...

As a heathen, I've always resented the way that Christians trick me into arguing on the side of Jebus against them.

Pro-war, pro-wealth, pro-capital punishment... I mean I only have a passing knowledge but I'm pretty sure I know where Jebus stood on those issues. And I'm not even using him in place of logic when arguing my points. Read a book!

Jim H. said...

Pro-war? Pro-wealth? I don't think these are partisan traits. Framing the democratic party as the party of fairness and peace is equally as inaccurate as when the repubs frame politics as a battle of good vs. evil.

BS said...

I didn't say anything about the democratic party (or the republican one, for that matter). I'm not very happy with either.

My point was that the demographic that identifies itself as a christian block often goes against the big bullet points of the dogma christains supposedly hold above all else. (And in doing so they also vote against their own economic self-interest, against their own civil liberties, and arguably against their own security).

It seems they value the herd mentality more than the values they've ostensibly joined together to worship.

Jim said...

Sorry, I assumed that because the original blog entry was directed at the religious right, your response was as well.

Politics and religion are hard to reconcile for many. I have a hard time with most democrat candidates because of my views on abortion. I think Jesus would oppose abortion as well. However, you are correct that the republicans can be hypocritical by not being socially responsible on issues like health care and poverty. My left-leaning friends dismiss me as a one-issue radical, which strikes me as unfair.

The state-sponsored destruction of 50,000 soon-to-be babies per year just doesn't seem morally tolerable, but i digress....

I think one of the reasons the Democrats have a hard time gaining votes of many Christians is because they are so often dismissive of religion in general, and Christianity seems to take the brunt of criticisms. Obama addresses this in the article Eric linked too.

Even your reference of Jebus (Simpson's) illustrates how it is socially acceptable to make fun of Christianity but most won't go near Buddhism or Islam in the same sense; it would be viewed as intolerant. Why is it ok to be offensive toward those who follow one religion but not another?

On a side note, "jebus" doesn't bother me but I'm sure it would my mother.

Eric said...


I wouldn't consider you a one-issue radical, but you are a one-issue voter.

If somebody is pro-choice, you would never vote for him/her. That means you are a one-issue voter in that sense, so the only thing that is unfair is calling you a radical.