Posts Tagged ‘church and state’

English: Rep. Albert Wynn (left) joins Gloria ...

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The subject was civility in politics. The show, I think, was Melissa Harris-Perry’s assemblage of refreshingly bright talking heads (although it could have been the Chris Hayes show). The takeaway for me was a recommitment to the belief that the Left should never compromise its principles when dealing with the Right. Consider the abortion debate, for example.One side wants the freedom to choose, the other an outright ban. In the old days…not so long ago, really…both sides would try to resolve differences through compromise. Were they to try to do it today, the conversation might go something like this:

Mediator: Can we agree that abortion is bad and that we wish it didn’t exist?

Voices on both sides of the table: Sure! Abortion isn’t something to like. It’s a terrible thing.

Mediator: Ok. Can we also agree that abortion has been with us for a long, long time, and that the consequences of illegal, back-alley abortions were often tragic?

Voices: Sure. Terrible consequences. Very sad…

Mediator: Can we also agree that if Roe v. Wade were reversed that illegal abortions would reemerge in order to satisfy at least a portion of the demand?

Voices: Yes, that will happen, but there will be far fewer abortions. That’s good.

Mediator: Ok, if we know that illegal abortions will once again flourish, which is bad, but that the number of abortions will go down, which is good, then let’s shift the discussion to what steps we can take together to reduce the number of abortions without having to suffer the tragic reemergence of illegal abortions.

Voices: Sounds good. What do you have in mind?

Mediator: Well, we know that sex education in the schools works, and that easy access to birth control works…

Voices: What? You’re calling for more sex education in the schools and contraceptives? Forget it. Those things are off the table.

Mediator: Why? Won’t it accomplish what you want?

Voices: Contraception is wrong. Sex education in schools is wrong. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. No deal.

Mediator: Really?

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This is what happens when religion masquerades as politics. It’s what happens when dogma trumps common sense. It’s why the Left must never give in to the Right-wing ideologues who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

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James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

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Letter to a friend regarding the relationship between religion and politics.

My anger is focused somewhat differently than yours. I am angry at all those who claim to know God’s will and intent. How presumptuous of us! How presumptuous of any religion!

The events of the past few years have driven a wedge between me and organized religion. I resent those who think that they have some “exclusive” knowledge of things that can’t be known. In place of this spiritual chauvinism, my view of ethics and morality is derived, very simply, from the Sermon on the Mount. Everything is there that anyone needs. Everything else is politics.

I find it more than coincidental that many of our country’s greatest thinkers felt similarly about the role of religion:

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865)

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.” Benjamin Franklin

“In no instance have…the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” James Madison, American president

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” John Adams, U.S. President, Founding Father of theUnited States

“The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known.” John Stuart Mill

Looking at it another way, the religious right would have us believe that there is no morality without religion. History, both recent and past, proves that to be a tragically flawed notion and yet, here we are, walking down that path again.

The Discovery of Global Warming

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This was written in early 2005. It is as relevant today as it was then.

I was recently in Florida for a couple of days. During the trip I had lunch with two people of the evangelical/Republican persuasion. Inevitably, the conversation turned toward the recent presidential election (Bush 2). Because I like to frustrate myself, I made the point that I would have voted against George Bush even if Iraq hadn’t happened, arguing that his environmental, economic and civil rights records were more than enough to convince me he was bad for America. They were, not surprisingly, uncomfortable with this heresy, but I pressed on. I voiced my concern about global warming and what it might mean for my children and their children. Unimpressed, one of my two luncheon companions reminded me that she was a Christian woman, and that I was wrong for not putting more faith in God. She reminded me that if the world was going to come to an end, then it was God’s will.

I thought better of mentioning it at the time, but what she said reminded me of three song titles: “Don’t worry, be happy”; “What will be, will be”; and that perennial favorite, “I feel better when I outsource to God any personal responsibility that I might have for future generations.”

That evening I had dinner with someone of a similar mind. She is a nice woman who described herself as a “believer,” and did so often. We, too, discussed the election and, not being too bright, I shared with her my luncheon conversation in between the entre and dessert. She listened quietly. When I suggested that it was irresponsible for America not to take steps to reduce greenhouse emissions to protect future generations, she continued to listen quietly. So, with that sign of encouragement, I foolishly pressed on: Believing that God is going to solve the world’s problems is okay, I said, but when those beliefs influence America’s policies, they must become part of the national political debate. Seemed pretty reasonable to me.

Then we finished our coffee in silence and quietly left the restaurant.