In the Sunday Fish Wrapper, Tom Krattenmaker writes what is a typical opinion column for the Fish Wrapper - a lot of liberalism and bashing the Christian right wherever possible. The thrust of his column is that Christians should be more concerned about the liberals favorite public policy issues, and move more towards the political center, away from the values of the Christian right.
He starts out with the focus of the piece, a conference on Scripture and public policy.
On a recent Saturday, about 150 Christian pastors, activists and politics-conscious college students gathered at a Northeast Portland church to hear a prominent theologian discuss the application of Scripture to public policy questions. Large printouts of key Bible verses were plastered on the vestibule walls, and the tables downstairs displayed the literature of various faith-based advocacy groups.
He then jumps right in to the bashing on conservative Christians.
No, this was not another "values voters" event put on by the Christian Right, and barely a word was uttered all afternoon about abortion, gay marriage or "reclaiming America for Christ." The conferees did talk politics between the prayers and God-themed songs -- the politics of poverty, homelessness and economic inequities -- and what Christians are called to do for a more just society.
"I wish everybody in churches would have a letter-writing campaign to say it's a moral outrage that 47 million Americans lack health care," declared Ron Sider, the featured speaker at this early October workshop organized by the Oregon Center for Christian Values. "We need a revival!" he added -- not of outward piety, but of Christians putting their faith to work for a more just society.
Such is the changing sound of the religious voice in American politics. It's becoming more progressive than what we've grown accustomed to during this past quarter-century, with strident moralizers such as Pat Robertson, James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell dominating the microphone, and presidential candidates shamelessly courting evangelical voters.
To paraphrase Jim Wallis, the leading Christian progressive evangelical, religious Americans are ready for a true dialogue to replace the "monologue" of the Christian Right.
What doesn't work
But as Christian centrists and progressives (ed., why is it so hard to say "liberal"?) raise their voices and project different faces of politically applied religion, will they simply try to out-shout their conservative co-religionists -- fight biblical fire with biblical fire? Or will they model a different form of faith in public life, one in which religion is no longer wielded as a political weapon but as a unifying force for the common good?
He actually addresses the question of the classic liberal copout of the separation of church and state.
Wait, some will say: Who says religion -- conservative or progressive -- should play any role in politics? Isn't there a wall of separation between church and state?
It's probably time for secular Americans to find a more nuanced stance on that matter. Religion has been part of our culture and politics since the beginning, and it probably will remain so as long as office-holders and activists base their political behavior to some degree on the contents of their hearts and consciences. The question is not whether religion will play a role in our public life, but what role.
To answer that question, for Democrats it's only when it looks good to the public, but that's another story.
And then, after that reprieve, it's back to the conservative bashing.
I suspect we have a pretty good idea by now of how not to bring religion to policy debates. For that we can thank Bible-thumping conservatives who have seemingly reduced Christianity to a narrow set of hard-line stances on social issues and who have fought with a disturbing combativeness to enshrine them as the law of the land.
So here we see the typical liberal drumbeat that there is no right and wrong, life is not worth fighting for. As scholarly as some of these people who write this stuff claim to be, they show incredible ignorance of the importance of human life and the family. The value that we place on life and the worldview it engenders determines how we our actions. If we see human beings as the product of random chance with no real value of purpose then we treat them that way. Over 45 million babies slaughtered since 1973 and legalized suicide give the pretty clear picture that we don't value human life at all. But that's not worth fighting for, is it?
The same is true for the family. Whether liberals realize it or not, the family is the basis of society, and without it, society crumbles. Many, if not most, societal ills can be traced back to a lack of family stability. Whather you want to look at crime, suicide, depression, or what have you, you will find a lack of family structure at the root. Gay marriage is nothing but an assault on the family, because 1) the homosecual activists don't want straight people to have something they don't have and 2) they want their lifestyle to be considered normal. I personally get tired of being told that fighting for the sanctity of human life and the traditional family are a waste of time, because it is usually by people who either really don't know what they are talking about or have another agenda that involves "me, me, me."
Krattenmaker then (and throughtout the column) shows his ignorance about the history of the United States:
Unfortunately, uses of religion as a political weapon have become far more common in the United States the past quarter-century, beginning with the Reagan administration. In his new book "The God Strategy," University of Washington professor David Domke details how U.S. politicians and political parties invoke faith today in significantly more calculated and partisan ways than they did in the 1970s and before.
If he would bother to learn some history (and not revisionist history), he would know what religion is not used as a political weapon by conservatives; it has been the basis of our country from the very beginning. Go back and read documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, and you will see constant references to God, the Bible, and religion. Going back even farther, to the first century, it has been shown that Christianity was where the drive to abolish slavery (something I would think liberals would love to talk about) got its start because of what people saw in the Bible about all men being equal. Capitalism and the idea of free markets sprung from what people saw in the Bible (Rodney Stark lays all this out in his great book "The Victory of Reason"). The only time it is used as a tool is when Democrats - with Hillary being the worst offender - trot out their lines during election season about how faith is so important in their lives, and this is in direct opposition to they way they live the rest of their lives and the policies they promote.
A passage from the Bible, or any other religious text, cannot be the sole basis for legislation in our religiously diverse society. It is simply not good enough to say that a particular amendment must be passed because it says so in the Bible, or that a particular candidate must be elected because God wills it.
That I can agree with, but he then makes a statement that gets to the heart of what he is saying.
For our system of government to work, appeals must be made to something more universal: a principle or idea on which Americans of various religious stripes, or none, might agree. Our varying religious beliefs naturally will shape our values. But in our political rhetoric, our notion of "what God wants" cannot be the first and final word.
So in other words, Christians should just ignore God and go with what feels good and what everyone can agree on. There are no moral standards of right and wrong, just what feels good to everyone at the time. Nothing like a little moral relativism, eh?
So how does this idea of including all different views and religions to shape our values work?
I proposed this recently to a progressive evangelical activist, who was generally supportive but expressed reservations. Wouldn't this water down religious beliefs, she asked, reduce them to their lowest common denominator?
Yes, it would, but Krattenmaker puts his liberal spin on it.
I think of it another way, I told her: as a way of raising them to their highest common denominator.
The notion might not work as a mathematical concept, but it's probably the best hope for accommodation in our religiously diverse society. For insight on how the highest common denominator might work in actual practice, rewind to that recent Northeast Portland conference of progressive Christians.
Why are liberals so afraid of using the term "liberal", by the way?
Running through Sider's address and the various groups' literature was the same ideal: for the common good. It's a Christian ideal, to be sure, this notion of Jesus' followers challenging social greed and working for a fairer society. But it is rooted in other faiths and resonant with the ideals of most secularists, too. You don't have to be Christian -- you don't even have to be religious -- to get behind the common good.
Not only does it not work as a mathematical concept, it doesn't work here, either. The more and more inclusive you try to be, the more and more your goals get watered down. That may be good for moral relativists like Krattenmaker, but not in real life.
You'll also note that, as is typical with liberals, the socialsim concepts are sprinkled throughout. In this case, he mentions "social greed and working for a fairer society." He doesn't elaborate, but to me it sounds like the typical socalist tripe that capitalism is evil, and that all wealth should be "redistributed" from those who actually earn it to those who don't. Those who spout this rhetoric are living in their ideological world which is separate from reality. If they would look at history, they would see that capitalism has proven over and over to be the best way for creating wealth, which is then used to help the poor and needy. It is also the engine that was used to make our country as great as it is from an economic standpoint.
The socialism push continues farther on:
An example of religion in the public square done right comes courtesy of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and a coalition of other religious groups that recently stepped up strongly for Measure 50, the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would raise cigarette taxes to provide money for children's health care and other health programs.
EMO Executive Director David Leslie framed it thusly in a press release: "The faith leaders . . . who have endorsed Measure 50 include Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders throughout Oregon. We may disagree on many articles of belief, but our diverse traditions agree on the need to care for all our children and on the right of all persons to quality health care."
As we all know, Measure 50 is an attempt by liberal Teddy and the Deomcratically controlled legislature to tax smokers to support a government health care program that will not be funded sufficiently by these new taxes in a few years, and is another attempt to impose government funded health care. How does that promote the common good, especially since it is fiscally irresponsible, and it is also being demonstrated that government health care causes people to flee to countries that don't have it? Probably because, as has been demonstrated, liberals don't believe in giving to charity, since they expect the government to take care of everything.
So what we are being told is that fighting for life and the family, two of the most basic issues that exist, is wrong, but instead we should all find common agreement, which is (or should be) redistributing the wealth gained by those greedy capitalists.
Ignorance illustrated, but to be expected from the Fish Wrapper.