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4 December 2004

Look closely

I had Google Ads on the sidebar, and I’ve got almost no control over
what shows up there.  I noticed one easrlier today, with a link to this.  It’s a website sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.

It’s a profile of a college student on a website dedicated to a very
evangelical version of Christianity — one that, for instance, thinks
that Catholics can be Christians, as long as they enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
It presents a view of various religions, but in the end they all prove
inadequate because they don’t provide a personal relationship with God,
as this Christianity says it does.  (I might note that this is a
entirely tautological “critique”, wherein the failing of the religions
that one presents is that they do not match the definition of the
religion they’re pushing.  I hope that the college students for
whom this is aimed have enough sense to use their brains in evaluating
this, but my own experience with college students leaves me unsure
whether that will happen.)

But they chose an HIV positive person who’s a hemophiliac as their
spokesperson.  Why a hemophiliac?  Well, they’re almost the
only “innocent” victims of the plague, because they got the disease in
an entirely passive way — i.e., they did not have sex or shoot
drugs.  And there’s a small fop to not blaming the obvious

…So initially I decided to
blame the entire homosexual community. Easy cop-out. But after I thought about
it, I realized it’s kind of stupid to blame an entire group of people for my
problem. I then decided to blame God….

(What about the blood bankers who spent the better part of two years in
the early ’80s trying to prevent any controls being placed upon blood
distribution, even in reaction to AIDS, because they knew it would cut
into their profit margins?)

More to the point, the choice of a hemophiliac presents
difficulty.  Considering what some conservative Christians have
said in the past regarding HIV, about “innocent” versus “non-innocent”
victims of the scourge, we should be suspicious.  I don’t expect
that they would have chosen someone gay, or who had pre-marital sex, or
some other such way — although these are FAR more common than the
hemophilia/blood products transmission route (millions versus a few
thousand).  This is calculated to play to the emotions and to a
blame game, to make the version of Christianity that’s being peddled
more attractive, more pathos-laden.

But it seems fundamentally dishonest.  And I wish I could say that
I’m surprised.  But with this group, I’m not.  They’re not
Jerry Falwell, but they’re not Desmond Tutu, either.

I wish Steve Sawyer rest in death.  And I feel sorry that he and his story have become used in this way.

Posted in Rayleejun on 4 December 2004 at 10:37 am by Nate

Dems and religion

I wrote this about a month ago and shopped it around, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.  So I publish it here.

“Don’t panic.”

That’s the first action that the Democrats need to take, in light of
the election returns.  Then they need to get to the business of
addressing the role that religion plays in public life in our society,
as many Democrats have for many years been uncomfortable talking about
religion in public. 

Public professions of religion serve as one sort of shorthand, a signal
for the star of values that guides a candidate through the night of
policy.  Voters are wise enough to know that they will not care
about the arcana of legislation and regulation. They prefer to leave
decision-making to their politicians, as long as the shortcuts that
tell voters how a candidate might make a decision reassure them that he
shares the ways they might make similar decisions.

Eighty-four percent of Americans attend a religious service with some
regularity.  And yet, very few religious believers seem to exist
publicly on the higher levels of the Democratic Party (with notable
exceptions like Mike McCurry).

If the Democrats want to connect on religion, what should they
do?  From a former Christian evangelical turned Anglican and
Harvard academic, here’s my few cents.

1. Don’t use religion, be religion – I grew up as an evangelical
Christian in a conservative part of California.  Although no
longer an evangelical, I still know the language, and I can hear it in
virtually every speech that George W. Bush gives.  And it
resonates with a number of Christians in this country because it tells
them that he’s committed.  In their understanding, to use the
language of life-conversion indicates a wholesale change of heart, of
life, of love.  Anyone who would reveal such an inner personal
transformation in public demonstrates the life-altering effect of that
change, proving that his religion resonates deep down within him. 

Faith has and does play a role in American public life, and many
Democrats need to get used to and accept that fact.  The Democrats
need to begin becoming comfortable talking about the role that faith
plays in their own lives.  Even if they don’t speak an evangelical
language, they need not be shy using the language of their faith,
whatever that may be.
Using religion will have the opposite effect that the Democrats want
right now; being religious will make all the difference. 
Religious Democrats must get used to speaking openly and honestly about
how their faith informs the choices they make.  They must call out
hypocritical uses of religion for political gain, whether by
Republicans or Democrats.  And they must explain how the historic
faiths they hold value openness, honesty, charity, and mercy.

2. Social values versus personal values – If you actually read the
Hebrew Bible, the Qu’ran, and the Christian Scriptures, you note that
God spends lots of time lecturing his people on the care of the
lowliest people.  God lays down rules for the Hebrew nation how to
treat the poor, slaves, and all sorts of vulnerable people.  When
God gets angry in the Hebrew Bible, it’s often because his people have
abused the poor and lowly. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, sings of how God
will “cast down the mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and
meek.”  Jesus promises in the gospels again and again to upset the
social order and take care of those who are forgotten.

These are all the values and morals of a society, and historic Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam have focused the vast majority of their
attention on these matters.  Yes, personal morals are of concern
to each of these religions.  But the greater concern of these
great religions (and to some extent in all the world religions) has
been for how a society treats its weakest and meekest.  Not only
do these have a basis of appeal to religious believers, but also they
can help appeal to non-believers in a language of political ethics.

Religious Democrats (and there are a number of us) know that our
opposition to this war draws heavily on the moral teaching of our
faith.  We believe that we proclaim our moral values most loudly
when we take care of the poor.  We believe that God made a world,
and to treat that world badly, to harm that creation demonstrates a
lack of love and gratefulness to that God and ourselves. We believe
that our Creator has made us all good, unique, and equally valued,
which is why we believe that we must minimize the effects of inequality
and discrimination on racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious
minorities.  Even when we act in ways that seem to discriminate
against some of the religious (opposing prayer in schools, for
example), we do this at least partially out of our religious concern
for the inherent dignity of all God’s human children and the different
understanding of God that a different religion teaches – and even
respect for no belief in God.

When Democrats explain that such policies above are traditionally the
highest Christian values, Jewish values, Muslim values, and religious
values, they will present a coherent philosophy that tells the voters
they can trust Democratic politicians to make decisions.
It has become something of a clich

Posted in Politicks on 4 December 2004 at 10:10 am by Nate