Thursday, November 10, 2005

Christianity and Government

On Randi Rhodes show last night and on Jay Marvin's show this morning, there was a lot of talk about religion and politics. I think that, since there are so many people of a religious or spiritual inclination, that it's a worthy discussion. What is the proper place for religion in politics?

There is a false idea that being a liberal or on the left means being an atheist or wanting no mention of God at all anywhere. While I think there shouldn't be state-sponsored religion or religious expression or activity (state-sponsored is very very different than individual), such as God in the pledge or the US motto or school-lead prayer, people's actions cannot help but be directed by their own moral codes, especially religious ones.

But what I'm really talking about is fundie Christianity in American government legislating "Christian" morality. You know it and I know it.

And the ones I'm really talking about are people like Falwell and Robertson, who are apparently afraid that if the United States of America allows two men to kiss, God will destroy us all -- though I seem to recall a story about sinners being destroyed for their own sins, while the righteous were allowed to escape. I also seem to recall someone saying something like "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." Though he was talking specifically about cash money, I'm pretty sure it applies to things like sex laws, as well. You know, just because it's legal to marry a man doesn't mean you have to marry a man.

The implication that Falwell and Robertson make when they say God sends hurricanes, tornadoes, and airplanes to indiscriminately kill large groups of people is that God punishes the righteous and innocent for the iniquities of the sinners, thus explaining their need to control us all with legislation. They fear they will be punished if two guys aren't arrested for holding hands in public. They seem to forget, also, that when they take over the Government and compel others to obey their laws, they have become Caesar.

And who does Christ rail against? Those who publicly pray, the moneychangers in the church (like getting a new car for a donation to a televangelist who prays publicly), the powerful and exploitive and wealthy. Any televangelist who prays on TV for death and destruction, wears a made-to-order suit, anything more than a $60 watch, a gold wedding band, and pays more than $15 for a haircut is mocking Christ.

Who does Christ defend? The powerless, the poor, the infirm. What was Christ's stand on boys who do with boys? If they were wealthy, that they should give their money to the poor.

Given Christ's unconcern with homosexuality, premarital sex, or abortion, and his overabundance of concern with helping poor people, why is it the Christian fundies (not the progressive types, which there are) have no problem legislating sexual morality, but don't want to legislate social morality? Shouldn't there be a concerted effort by fundie Christians in government to pass higher taxes for social programs, rather than a concerted effort to outlaw gay marriage?

Except that conservative fundie Christians aren't so much Christians as they are Old Testamentians, or Leviticans, obsessed with the more lurid behaviors and in the letter of the law, rather than the spirit. There seems to be a good reason for this.

I recall reading somewhere a description of Pat Robertson's formula for success in fundraising. The reason a person gives, teaches Robertson, is that it is in his best interest to do so. There is no true altruism; everyone gives to benefit himself, even if it is for a cause on the other side of the world -- at very least, one feels good about oneself. But you must find a way to make potential donors feel they have some personal stake in donating.

I submit the same goes for controlling others, especially concerning "moral" matters -- if somewhere you're allowed to do naughty things that you really really want to do, at some point you're going to go there and do them. It is not an altruistic concern for the souls of the sinners, it is a concern for one's own soul or safety. Falwell and Robertson fear they will be killed for the sins of others. And many morally conservative Republicans who rail and attempt to legislate against immorality get caught for misconduct of one type or other. Every other day Atrios and other bloggers document Bobo's World, in which the crimes and offenses of such hypocrites come to light. (BTW, hypocrites were another group Christ disdained). Such hypocrites seek to be saved from their own dark impulses.

I find it very interesting that I -- who do not believe in the divinity of Christ and questions whether he even existed -- am more of a Christian than those who do believe. Jesus was a socialist. The Pharisees were free-market capitalists (though probably with an overdose of regulation -- stoning? Come on!).

But am I a hypocrite for seeking to legislate social morality when it comes to poverty and equality while mocking those who would legislate personal morality when it comes to sex, drugs, and rock & roll? The answer lies in the words "social" and "personal." Government is social, sex is personal. Of course there are always exceptions, but they deal with protecting the powerless, which is still a social concern of government, and of Christ.

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