Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Religion & Politics

  • The biggest story going around the leftie faith blogs in the past couple of days has been the Beliefnet op-ed by David Kuo, the former director of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Heck, even Kos diaried on it yesterday.

    Essentially, the fuss is all about Kuo's assessment of the FBIs pork-barrel politics. Nobody gave a hang about helping the poor, Kuo discovered to his shock: Congressional Dems weren't interested in the program; the Republicans just saw it as another form of patronage, and the Bush White House refused to lift a finger to convince anyone of anything else. Beliefnet has the White House's less-than-convincing defense (from a Scott McClellan press briefing) here.

    The rest of the reaction is pretty much what you'd expect: Amy Sullivan stops self-promoting long enough to suggest once again that the Democratic Congressional leadership was asleep at the switch; Christianity Today thinks it's all just politics as usual. But at least they get off a good line:

    So it's politics as usual, Kuo concludes. "At the end of the day, both parties played to stereotype -- Republicans were indifferent to the poor and the Democrats were allergic to faith." And the theme of compassionate conservatism became more or less a farce

    But hey, at least evangelical leaders got to shake the President's hand, right?

  • While we're citing CT, let's take notice of a couple other pieces they have up: a snide, unfair review of Dean's performance at last weekend's Democratic National Committee convention; and this piece purporting to expose the idolatry of government:

    Many Americans are "practical atheists" who have long since forsaken a Creator and a theistic worldview--and in the process have seemingly transferred onto the government the divine qualities of omniscience and omnipotence. For centuries people have tended to blame God for not preventing everything bad that happens. In fact, Freud (and others) posited that God is merely a human invention created to explain and possibly to blame for those phenomena that cannot otherwise be rationally explained. Many now blame the government because they presume it should possess the divine foreknowledge and requisite power to protect citizens from all harm.

    Exactly how this transferal took place is a mystery, but it seems to reflect the erosion of the dominant theistic worldview and the growing acceptance of a naturalistic worldview. Perhaps it was Freud's influence. Perhaps the growing "victim mentality" in our culture (which some call "the Oprahfication of America") played a part.

    Yet, all the interpreters and advocates of the secular worldview have only managed to marginalize what they consider the outmoded theistic worldview. They offer no new insights to explain the anomalies of life. In place of God, government--a most imposing institution that also seems bigger than life--has assumed the default position.

    Any article that begins with mocking Richard Clarke's apology to the American people for the failure of their government to at least try to prevent 9/11 as replacing God with government can't be good. We'll return to eviscerate this one later.

  • Meanwhile, another Christian seems to think the workings of government are awfully important:

    Evangelist Pat Robertson indicated Tuesday that if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expects backing of religious conservatives for a possible 2008 presidential bid, he had better get President Bush (news - web sites)'s judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate, or at least voted on.

    "It is the ultimate test," Robertson said at the National Press Club. "He cannot be a leader and allow Democrats to do what they did in the last session."

    Robertson may have to wait for a true leader. The prevailing signs are that judicial nominations are being pushed down the congressional agenda, more than likely meaning that Republican leaders aren't ready for the fight they're sure to provoke.

  • Two ministers are running against one another to become mayor of Boca Raton, FL. The article's got some flaws--it repeats the tired lie that mainline denominations are eroding because of their politics, and it attempts to draw a distinction between two guys who are pretty similar--but it is worth a read.

  • The Philadelphia City Paper has a profile of Michael Marcavage that does absolutely nothing to improve our image of him as a fanatical opportunist along the lines of Fred Phelps. Martyr for Christianity, our butt.

  • Question: What do cartoon bunnies and candycanes have in common? Answer: new tactics from the conservative end of the political spectrum. Bunnies first, from the First Amendment Center, reporting on the funding issue that's arisen over Buster's infamous "Sugartime" episode:

    whatever the chronology, "Buster" and other children's programs that receive federal grants are now on notice: Avoid including any family with two moms or dads, or risk losing your funding.

    Just to make sure the message is heard loud and clear, last week the Department of Education disinvited Carol Greenwald, executive producer of "Buster," from speaking at a conference on children's TV. Since DOE is a major funder, this doesn't bode well for the survival of the series.

    The ripple effect may go beyond PBS. Broadcasting & Cable reports that DOE is now exploring ways to change the guidelines so that grants in the "Ready-To-Learn" program (which funds "Buster") can go to commercial as well as noncommercial children's programmers.

    Spellings, of course, can't directly prevent PBS from airing this or any show. But her letter contains an implicit warning of Education Department retaliation if children's programs receiving federal funds dare to include images of families with same-sex parents.

    We've bolded the key part of the quote above. This isn't about moral values at all; it's about using "moral values" as a vehicle for another form of crony-based privatization of government funding. Jim Towey must be proud.

    As for the candycanes: the Federal Department of Justice is intervening in a Michigan case concerning the right of a schoolboy to attach religious messages to candycanes he distributed to classmates. It is highly unusual for the DOJ to get involved in such a matter.  But it's nice to know they respect states' rights--when it suits their political agenda.

  • Another one from The Conservative Voice: global warming is apparently now a religion:

    Global Warming has become a religion that the faithful have vowed to follow no matter what the true facts may show. Global Warming is a theory, nothing more, and large numbers of scientists around the world are beginning to question its validity. There is no consensus of support.

    This, of course, is the same tactic used against Darwinian evolution. Declare it a religion, then complain about how "unreasonable" its proponents are. We're not buying it.

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