Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thou Shalt Cause Divisiveness

It is no secret that Bush, and the Republicans with him, are in big trouble. Apparently, the reason is simple. When in doubt, blame the religious right.

Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri and an Episcopal priest, met with students during a seminar and held a luncheon talk at the graduate school.

"I think that the Republican Party fairly recently has been taken over by the Christian conservatives, by the Christian right," he said in an interview after his talks. "I don't think that this is a permanent condition but I think this has happened, and that it's divisive for the country."

It is obvious that the religious right tends toward the "right" of the political spectrum. In the present political clime, this means the Republican party. However, since the Republicans have seem reticent to do anything blatantly Christian--Jesus never said to cut taxes, invade foreign countries or increase deficit spending, even if Bush says otherwise--it seems odd to find fault with the religious right for causing trouble.

In fact, the problem seems to lie in the fact that the religious right doesn't cause nearly enough trouble. If they did, if they were truly as powerful a force as everyone seems to think, the country would be a Christian utopia by now, at least legally speaking. We are not in this new paradise, and as such, the religious right should be more, not less, divisive. At least until Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the religious right should be marching from sundown to sun-up, peacefully sowing discord wherever they may be.

There is a modern misconception concerning Christians, and it is a big one. We are told to be happy and loving and tolerant all the time. While it is true that we are to "love our neighbor" one should not forget that Christ became rather angry at the traders in the temple. There is such a thing as righteous indignation and it is, as its name would suggest, quite acceptable as Christian behaviour.

Even more important though, is this fallacy concerning divisiveness. It was Christ who said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be the members of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36) How's that for divisive?

Later, Danforth makes another wonderful comment that also happens to be completely wrong.

"Nothing is more dangerous than religion in politics and government when it becomes divisive," he said. "I'll give you examples: Iraq. Northern Ireland. Palestine."

A fellow I used to work with said much of the same thing in the form of a bumper sticker that read: "The last time we mixed politics and religion people got burned at the stake." It could just as easily be written:

"Nothing is more dangerous than secularism in politics and government when it becomes divisive," he said. "I'll give you examples: Russia, China, North Korea." or "The last time me mixed politics and secularism people got shipped to the gulag."

The problem with the bumper stickers is that they are historically inaccurate. Both religion and secularism have been mixed with politics since these events. Religion in politics, divisive or otherwise, does not necessitate a pejorative effect. Abraham Lincoln was a religious man, if not the most fanatatical. Likewise, most of our presidents had some sort of religious leanings, and while some were bad presidents, some, like Lincoln, were rather good ones.

Mixing religion with politics is simply unavoidable. Most human beings are religious, even if they do not know it. There are atheists who are terribly religious people, even if their religion has no god, no light, and none of the pomp and pleasure of a good holiday.

The problem enters in when men, religious or otherwise, act in ways that contradict some of the basic standards we humans share. Bush's war in Iraq is immoral, but not because he is waging it according to the alleged command of God. It is immoral because it is unecessarily causing blood to be shed. It would be just as wrong if a non-religious--in the classical sense--president had done the deed. There are some who may argue that Bush, being a Christian should have known better. This is insulting to every man of every other faith, be he agnostic, atheistic, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise. The facts of the universe are sometimes just that simple to observe.

Lastly, all of this hubbub over Christians seems out of place. If the charge was that Christians were not behaving like Christ, the claim would be a sound one. But it is nothing of the sort. Instead, Christians are, presumably, chastised for causing divisiveness over the very topics they should be most divisive. It would be much more unfortunate if the Republicans chose to give up the few good positions they hold in the effort of getting along like good little Christians. Compromise on principle is always a weakness, no matter what the creed.


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troutsky said...

Does "the few good positions they hold" mean anti-abortion? You can go ahead and say it though Im not in the mood for the whole ad nauseum debate.Does Christian Utopia remind you of Islamic law or Sharia in any way? None? Does the Taliban have any relevance here?Separation of church and state? The religious right is not out marching for the redistribution of wealth because they have lost their moral grounding. Love and indignation are perfectly compatible, love and blowing up clinics are not.The history of the Right as an world force has some disturbing episodes, cautionary tales to those who are free thinking and pay attention.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Perhaps I was less than clear.

I would argue that the one are for certain in which the right has a heads up, morally, on the left is in regards to abortion. I have heard the cliches about how republicans do not care for a child after he is born, or at least until he is of military age.

Whether or not you agree with my assessment is unimportant. What is clear, is that those who believe that a fetus is a living human being are going to be passionate about the topic.

Much of this post was tongue in cheek. The religious right does not seem to care all that much about abortion, though that is the one thing they should care about. Of course, on the other side, the left tells the right to shut up about abortion. Unless they mean that Christians should find a new philosophy, they should not yell at all, for that is the one thing the right should not do.

Christian Utopia was most certainly tongue in cheek. Any decent Christian knows that the utopia we await is not of this world. It behooves us to improve this world of course, but it is ultimately of little consequence in the long run. Further, as a libertarian, I am most aware of the fallacy of utopia, resigning myself to a pessimist political persuasion.

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Seth said...

(holy crap, i hate spam comments...)

Nice post, Wiser. I particularly liked the quote "the religious right doesn't cause nearly enough trouble. If they did, if they were truly as powerful a force as everyone seems to think, the country would be a Christian utopia by now, at least legally speaking."

Good point about the mix of politics with religion/secularism. Secularism is a religion.

Keep up the good work--even though we disagree about the Iraq war... :)

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Thanks Seth. We can't all agree on everything. It will be interesting to see what happens with Iraq in the coming months and years. The ultimate verdict on that war will probably not be decided for some time.

A Christian Prophet said...

To see the Holy Spirit's very words regarding divisiveness, see The Christian Prophet blog: