Monday, July 23, 2007

Evangelicals and republicans: strange bedfellows?

I was reading this very long (but very interesting) article about Ron Paul in the Times, and one passage really struck me:

“I was annoyed by the evangelicals’ being so supportive of pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything that I was taught as a Christian,” he recalls. “The religion is based on somebody who’s referred to as the Prince of Peace.”

We hear the "this is un-Christian" argument all the time in American politics, but rarely is it directed at the evangelicals. Indeed, it is typically left to the evangelicals themselves to throw that argument around. But, it's refreshing to hear someone say it like it is, and it raises an important question. How much of the Republican party's platform really is Christian?

Now, I should note that I am no religion scholar. I was born and raised a true-blooded agnostic. The only times I have attended Church have been weddings and funerals. I have never read the Bible, but I still think I have a relatively decent grasp of the kind of vision Jesus Christ had for the world, and despite my religious leanings, I agree wholeheartedly with that vision, because here's the deal: it's a liberal vision.

Let's consider, say, taxes. While I cannot point to a specific passage, it seems that Jesus would have generally supported a Robin Hood style "take from the rich and give to the poor" type class system. I have a hard time believing that Mr. Christ would have been a hard-nosed free-market Capitalist. So, it seems to me that the "Christian" system of taxation would be a graduated tax, taxing the rich at a higher level than the poor, for the improvement of the whole community, not a flat tax.

By the way, I realize how silly it is to think about what sort of taxes Jesus would have supported, but I think it's a worthwhile endeavor anyway.

Along similar lines, I don't think Jesus would have supported the "Get a job!" mentality that so many Republicans have when it comes to the existence of the welfare state. The welfare state (while it may very well have flaws) seems to be a shining example of Christian charity.

Abortion. While Jesus may very well have been "pro-life," the definition of "pro-life" has to extend beyond the moment a baby is born, or for that matter, the moment someone sinks into a coma. It seems that the only time Republicans want to "protect life" is when a fetus is in the womb or someone is in a vegetative state. What about all the time in between? Is it pro-life to see to it that a baby is born, but then to kick the mother and newborn out of the hospital for wont of insurance? Is it pro-life to allow poverty to thrive? Is it pro-life to send young men and women off to a foreign country to die for no real reason?

I don't think so, but hey, I'm just a stupid agnostic, right?

Gay rights. I think it's funny that Christians (I'm generalizing, of course, so I apologize to all of you progressive/liberal/sane Christians out there) put so much emphasis on homosexuality being a sin. I'm not arguing that it isn't, but there are plenty of things that are sins that are not as despised as homosexuality. Adultery, for instance. Senator David Vitter has admitted to being an adulterer, but I have yet to hear of evangelicals clamoring for his resignation. But, can you imagine how they would've rallied if he had announced he was gay? The point is this: Jesus taught tolerance, not just for some people, for everyone.

Immigration. "Love thy neighbor."

Free speech. Jesus was a revolutionary. He was counter-culture. To think that he would support the silencing of a vocal minority for the "comfort" of the majority seems absolutely absurd.

This all shows why I am so fundamentally opposed to organized religion. This guy Jesus (or the authors of the Bible) had some marvelous ideas, but once they got mixed in with power and politics, they got corrupted. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Democrats are by any means above this kind of twisting. My point is this: religion and politics have to mix, because people's opinions are informed by their religion. However, people need to take a long hard look at what their religion truly stands for. I don't mean that they need to listen to their priest when he says that pro-choicers can't take communion. I mean that they need to seriously look into the core of their religion and see what the fundamental goals and values are. They need to trust themselves as interpreters of the Bible; not their priests or pastors, and certainly not politicians running for President. They might be surprised what they find.

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