I need to respond to the article Jeff Sharlet wrote for Rolling Stone. This is a super-scary article and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t yet. Go ahead, I'll still be here when you get back.
My gut reaction was: This is not the way our government is supposed to work! Congresspeople do serve their constituents, like it or not. They are not elected to serve God (as if God needed representation in our government!). They are in fact elected by people who vote for them with the understanding they’ll be represented. Saying a Congressman should consider himself as having only one constituent is irresponsible, un-American, and not why we pay their salaries.
But what if they boldly proclaim, "I am a Christian first and then an American/politician"? Well, after I pick myself up off the floor from laughing, I will tell them that if they are a Christian first, they can’t be in politics. Period.
Why? Because when you are elected as a politician you take an oath to serve your country or state or county – to serve the people who elected you. And Christians serve no one but God. So either Christian politicians are lying under oath (not big in God’s book) or they are idiots for thinking they can serve two masters. Idiots who’ve never read the Bible, where Jesus clearly says no dice on that one. No, I take it back – they are not idiots. The people who vote for them are.
And then there’s this idea of putting the country under Christianity – simply crazy. How good are theocracy track records? Let’s just look at the Islamic-run governments, for instance, or the way Europe was when the church and state were in bed together (they don't call it the Dark Ages for nuthin'). America was founded on precious principles of freedom of religion. And it is a pluralistic society people, whether you like it or not. If you want to live in a theocracy move to the Middle East. Please. See how that works out for ya.
In fact, did you see in all the election coverage of Hamas’ victory – did you see why they were elected? It wasn’t because all Palestinians are bloodthirsty and want terrorists running their government. It was because Hamas was the group that ran schools, hospitals, food banks…Hamas was the faith-based charity organization that kept the country fed, clothed, educated, and well while their government did...not those things.
Now I deplore their militant activities. I would never defend a suicide bomber, just like I wouldn't defend an assassination or a missile strike. But I can see where they are coming from - it's a horrible situation. And like it or not, certain arms of Hamas were essentially acting as a faith-based charity.
These American politicians who want to privatize everything – not just social security and healthcare but education, energy, transportation…these politicians are taking us down the same road. Because they are telling us not only to trust them to privatize all these areas of the government, but also to let them kill people for our safety!
Who does that sound like? They are “hunting down the terrorists”…they are waging wars in two countries…they are shooting missiles into apartment buildings willy-nilly. They are Killing in the name of the Safety of their Citizens.
Who else does that? Hamas. Who else privately runs the government services? Hamas.
Sam Brownback and his New Federalists come off a little less rosy when you export them halfway around the world and take away their enormous wealth and First World power. Serves us right if Hamas sets up a violent Islamic state. We would do no less if we could get away with it - we'd just call God by a different name.
We may have helped to make their bed, but their people have to lie in it. Let us pray for peace in Palestine. God's got to handle this one. It's just too big for us.
And you know what? These days, saying that you want Christianity to be the only recognized religion or that you are governing by that faith is the equivalent of racism. To say you won’t govern (or perform in a multifaith celebration!) next to a person of another faith is the same as saying you won’t do so with someone of another color. It’s so incredibly arrogant and offensive!
Yet we teach our students to reject interfaith opportunities as dangerous. We want to keep our wealth out of “Islamic hands.” We want only Christians in office with Christian values (or at least one version of them) running the country, shaping the Constitution (not an inspired document, by the way). We fear what could happen to us, our faith, and our God if a liberal judge gets on the court or a woman preaches or a gay couple marries or God forbid Hollywood makes another entertaining sex comedy.
Is our faith really so weak? Are we so threatened by Baal that we think our God isn’t going to show up and consume the sacrifice, altar, and all the water with holy fire??
We do not believe in God’s power, so we are trying to help God out. That’s always worked out so well in the past…the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust…
(okay, deep breath…)
I guess you can have at me now. But think about what I'm saying and see if it doesn't make a little bit of ironic sense.
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Hey. I always enjoy reading your blogs because they are always so well thought out. I might not be under the same tent as you, but I find myself very enamoured with your writing.
I've also never seen the arguement against theocracy so nicely and simply put.
Good luck to you. The week is nearing its end. =)
I'm going to print this out and hand it to my neighbors....
AWESOME post. Sadly, this:
It's just too big for us.
Is not something we are good at believing about any political issue. It is funny that the Christian Right talks so much about the sin of others, but it doesn't recognize the basic truth of everyone's original sin. We are finite, and we cannot create a perfectly just and godly society. We will certainly not do it by coercion and fear. Some things just have to be left to God.
Thanks, Feminary. You got right to the heart of the matter. Too many commentators have been so hung up on Brownback's language that they didn't notice that he, uh, doesn't believe in democracy. Or doesn't understand it.
You got it. We're dealing with American Taliban here.
For something equally scary, take a look at this about how the dead Marine Bush referred to in the SOTU understood his mission as a Christian mission. If I can find graceful words, I am going to write about this. In any case, we need to know that our lunatic fundamentalist brethren are creating their own suicide bombers.
They are in fact elected by people who vote for them with the understanding they’ll be represented. ... And you know what? These days, saying that you want Christianity to be the only recognized religion or that you are governing by that faith is the equivalent of racism.
I agree that you should not say that Christianity should be the only recognized religion. However, I fail to see how you can not govern by the values which you hold? People are elected to represent their constituents, but I'll give you an example -- here in New Zealand we have a parliamentary system, so two votes: a party vote and an individual vote. Individuals run and are elected for each district. Each party also gets to appoint "freestanding" individuals, the specific number based on the percentage of votes that party received nationally. Presumably, when the party appoints you, you are there to represent the interests of that party (your constituent).
Last year NZ passed a civil unions bill, which is marriage except for the wording, open to gay couples. A member of the National (conservative) party broke ranks with her party and voted to *pass* the civil unions bill. It was a conscience vote. Did she do wrongly? She did not represent the stand of her constituents. Should she have voted the party line simply because it was the party line?
To say you won’t govern (or perform in a multifaith celebration!) next to a person of another faith is the same as saying you won’t do so with someone of another color. It’s so incredibly arrogant and offensive!
If I was to be part of or attend a multifaith celebration I would want to be very very careful that anything in which I participated was not worshipping the gods of the other faith. I am not saying that I would be categorically unwilling to do so, but I would think idolatry would be a concern.
Just some thoughts. I enjoyed your post. :0)
You were right: I could leave your post and read Mr. Sharlet's essay and you would still be right where you said you'd be. Thank you for staying put.
I agree with you, I think, but I agree with exactly half: the half that is presented here. But there is another half, ignored entirely by Mr. Sharlet. It is that half of America, the Religious Left, which is equally entrenched in American politics, and is similarly adept at affecting change. Doubt me?
For example, the Unitarian Church, essentially a political vessel, has worked tirelessly in New England, and particularly in Massachusetts, in their own types of "cabals" in order to ensure gays have the right to marriage. The UCC, the United Church of Christ, works similarly. At a nearby UCC church, a recent meeting was held to work toward the establishment of a new federal bureau, The Department of Peace. Reformed Jewish synagogues also work for social and political change, as do urban black churches. Interesting that in virtually every case, these groups work to promote Democratic Party ideals.
I once discovered an article in a magazine in which it was reported that ministers and rabbis had delivered--in person--a letter asking President Clinton to ensure that religion remain separate from the state. The report was in Church and State, a journal devoted to the issue of separation, and I found it in the Unitarian Church in which I was working at the time. THAT article is ironic.
Mr. Sharlet leaves out much, and, as far as journalism goes, his report is rife with alarmist language and suggestion. His first lines, that Mr. Brownback was present at a Manhattan Church where everyone "believe(s) that every word of the Bible is inerrant dictation from God," should have given you, a Fuller student (right?), pause. Surely you realize that evangelicals do not hold this view of scripture. Only Muslims hold this view of dictation, and that regarding the Koran. Mr. Sharlet has either lied, or he's misunderstood this church's view of inspiration. Why trust the rest of his article when his first line is wrong? But, if he is accurate and telling the truth, then both you and I know that the church in which Mr. Brownback spoke is a religious backwater, an absolute rarity. It is not emblematic of 99% of American evangelicalism.
Indeed, there is much that Mr. Sharlet leaves out; his journalistic sin is one of omission. But there is no time to address him directly. I've at least pointed the way to discern the quality of his work. Besides, his is a piece published by Rolling Stone, so one would instantly expect it to bend the facts a certain way: Rolling Stone is after all an institutionalized purveyor of a "worldview" with an image it must sustain; an image it even sustains politically.
Today, reading this article, marks the very first time I've read ANYTHING about Mr. Brownback. It was only yesterday when I heard Mr. Brownback's "fruits" quote, an unfortunate attempt on his part to be cute. I don't think I had even heard of him until Wednesday. So I have no bias in his favor; and I am no theocrat. I am too iconoclastic for his political tastes, I am afraid.
But I will say that every congressman is at least a constituent of one: Each elected official is permitted by the assumed tenets of democracy to represent him or her self. With that said, I have no problem with Mr. Brownback following his own heart. After all, he lives in his own district and no doubt voted for himself. My beef, really, is with those who did not vote for Mr. Brownback who nonetheless claim to be constituents that he must represent. Alas, that is not democracy, but tyranny: It is the expectation, even the demand, of the losers that the winner still heed their wants and desires. For Democrats here in New Hampshire to demand that Congressman Bass represent them as his constituents is obscene and anti-democratic, particularly when these "constituents" loathe him and work tirelessly to unseat him.
But you raise a good point, about whether a person can be a Christian and a politician; and whether God really wants politicians to do His (sole) bidding.
BTW: I found this site through the blog "Rude Sermons."
Keep on thinking.
Peace and mirth,
I agree with almost all of it, but I am concerned about one point. Are you suggesting that no one who calls themselves Christian can faithfully serve in public office?
Should George Bush, John Kerry, Tim Kaine and everyone else who professes faith resign now?
Yes, no Christian should run for public office. Those who are already in office would have to examine their consciences to see whether they can truly obey Jesus and serve a democratic state.
Maybe it worries you to live in a country not run by Christians. The early church managed OK. They manage it in China today. No, it wouldn't be not easy - but it would certainly separate the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly.
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