Incidental Acts of Spontaneous Cerebral Violence

Monday, November 08, 2004

There but for the ‘Monkey Business’ went he

Gary Hart acutely tackles evangelical hypocrisy in today’s NYT Op-Ed:
A neglected thread of church doctrine was the social gospel of John and Charles Wesley, the great reformers of late 18th-century Methodism. The Wesley brothers preached salvation through grace but also preached the duty of Christians, based solidly on Jesus' teachings, to minister to those less fortunate. My political philosophy springs directly from Jesus' teachings and is the reason I became active in the Democratic Party. Finally, in the qualification-to-speak category, I will seek to pre-empt the ad hominem disqualifiers. I am a sinner. I only ask for the same degree of forgiveness from my many critics that they were willing to grant George W. Bush for his transgressions.

As a candidate for public office, I chose not to place my beliefs in the center of my appeal for support because I am also a Jeffersonian; that is to say, I believe that one's religious beliefs - though they will and should affect one's outlook on public policy and life - are personal and that America is a secular, not a theocratic, republic. Because of this, it should concern us that declarations of "faith" are quickly becoming a condition for seeking public office.

Declarations of "faith" are abstractions that permit both voters and candidates to fill in the blanks with their own religious beliefs. There are two dangers here. One is the merging of church and state. The other is rank hypocrisy. Having claimed moral authority to achieve political victory, religious conservatives should be very careful, in their administration of the public trust, to live up to the standards they have claimed for themselves. They should also be called upon to address the teachings of Jesus and the prophets concerning care for the poor, the barriers that wealth presents to entering heaven, the blessings on the peacemakers, and the belief that no person should be left behind.
. . .
There is also the disturbing tendency to insert theocratic principles into the vision of America's role in the world. There is evil in the world. Nowhere in our Constitution or founding documents is there support for the proposition that the United States was given a special dispensation to eliminate it. Surely Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. But there are quite a few of those still around and no one is advocating eliminating them. Neither Washington, Adams, Madison nor Jefferson saw America as the world's avenging angel. Any notion of going abroad seeking demons to destroy concerned them above all else. Mr. Bush's venture into crusaderism frightened not only Muslims, it also frightened a very large number of Americans with a sense of their own history.

The religions of Abraham all teach a sense of personal and collective humility. It was a note briefly struck very early by Mr. Bush and largely abandoned thereafter. It would be well for those in the second Bush term to ponder that attribute. Whether Bush supporters care or not, people around the world now see America as arrogant, self-righteous and superior. These are not qualities of any traditional faith I am aware of.
It is unconscionable to permit mysticism driven by fear to overwhelm the pragmatism that has propelled two centuries of American achievement.

When the Personal Shouldn’t Be Political

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?