Friday, January 21, 2005

Religion & Politics

Okay, we're starting to get a little creeped out.  This is twice in a month that we've found ourselves agreeing with Chuck Colson:

First, "red" Christians must reach out to "blue" Christians and vice versa. Ideology must not divide believers. Second, Christians are not seeking political power, so we're not out to "destroy" perceived political enemies. Nor do we line up for the victor's spoils, as if we were just one more special-interest group. Instead, we need to graciously contend (and demonstrate) that Christian truth is good for the right ordering of our lives, individually and collectively, and manifest our commitment to the common good by doing the things Christians do best: creating strong families, restoring relationships, helping the poor, working for human rights.

Christians are in a unique position to bring common grace to a deeply divided nation and offer something more than brief periods of peace between outbreaks of mortal combat every election cycle. In rejecting ideology and putting the common good first, we offer hope to America's warring factions.

It's a thoughtful Op-Ed, though some progressives may find it difficult to get past Colson's right-wing perspective.

From the same issue of Christianity Today, this piece takes an honest look at "Five issues [that] will test the strength and unity of Christian conservatives in the new term."  

Two things stood out for us:  first, our own US Representative, Joe Pitts, leads a "congressional caucus promoting values legislation."  We're not surprised, and we've actually met Pitts a couple of times and liked him in person.  Still, with all due respect, Representative, we'll be doing what we can to oust you in 2006...

Second was this bit:

Christian conservatives also have a number of legislative ideas to ban same-sex marriage, limit abortion, and promote premarital sexual abstinence through the nation's education system.

Job One is passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would constitutionally define marriage as "the union of one man and one woman."

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family vice president, says his organization has been fundraising and building networks for the effort. The pro-marriage-amendment Arlington Group has been meeting with Perkins in Washington since mid-2003. Every six weeks or so, 50 to 70 top activists such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, and Gary Bauer of American Values join in the strategy debates.

Do progressives have such a coordinating group?  If not, why not?  If so, where do we sign up?

The United States is far from the only nation to have problems with the mixture of religion and politics.  In fact, in other parts of the world, it's much more serious.  Witness India, where memories of recent religious pogroms are all-too-fresh as a national election approaches.

Yesterday was Inauguration Day.  Didja notice?  All kinds of groups used the occasion to organize, speak out, or otherwise push their agendas.  For example, an evangelical group wants Pres. Bush to focus on hunger and poverty in his second term.

And, as GetReligion points out, it's pretty much inevitable that observers of the inauguration will attempt to parse the religious messages in Bush's inaugural speech.  And yes, as tmatt says, it's inevitable that some of those considerations will be ill-informed.  That notwithstanding, here's a couple of the better ones:  from BeliefNet and Ethics Daily.

Even worse than agreeing with Chuck Colson, we find ourselves sort-of agreeing with Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention:

"All Americans of whatever political stripe pause to give thanks for the fact that America is a land that accomplishes peaceful transfer of power and in which the citizens peacefully accept election results," Land said in a statement to Baptist Press. "If they lose, Americans resolve to make a better case and be victorious the next time.

"This should be a moment of supreme unity when we reaffirm that after the electoral process -- whether we voted for him or not, whether we support him or not -- whoever is elected is our president, and we give due respect to the office of the presidency,"

Yes, sir.  Due respect.  Still got them snowballs and eggs?


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