[Sawyer] Replacing the Law Book with the Good Book | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Sawyer] Replacing the Law Book with the Good Book

"Value voters" is becoming the new buzz phrase in politics. They are identified as evangelicals, fundamentalists, so-called suburban moms and NASCAR dads, and conservative Catholics. When it comes right down to it, these million-plus men and women have emboldened America's right-wing polity toward a culture guided by the ethos of a fundamentalist Christian worldview.

I think the Rev. Jerry Falwell said it best—as he so often does:

After more than 25 years since I formed the Moral Majority and began mobilizing evangelicals to participate in the political process, I actually realized the fruit of my labors nationwide as Macel and I watched the election returns into the early hours of Wednesday. I could not hold back the tears of joy. Hour by hour, we observed a "slam dunk" as the Church of Jesus Christ made the difference in initiating the return of this nation to moral sanity and the Judeo-Christian ethic. (World Net Daily: Nov. 6, 2004)

As a young man dedicated to the Christian mission, I often grow weary of comments from the ultra-right-wing crowd. Their message is saturated with hypocrisy and textual errors—often to the demise of the veritable message that Christ himself was attempting to put forth. Jesus was and is, for the world, a revolutionary—probably a long-haired hippie rebel—who challenged the status quo and the conventions of the day. His message was to radically love one another as we do ourselves. He ended the Old Testament's vision of a vengeful and wrathful God and brought to us a hopeful and peaceful God that, before anything, loved those that He created.

Christ was hung from a cross—for the entire world—not because he stood behind the conservative power voice. He was hung from the cross in light of his rejection and challenge to the powers that be. And now we see men and women—"value voters"—claiming to be voting for a president and an agenda that run lockstep with the Good Book. The Rev. Falwell and his cohorts that abound are probably feeling a sense of peace—like God himself is patting them on the back.

I beg to differ.

Abortion and the legalization of homosexual civil unions are the rallying cries of the ultra-right. As soon as Bush supported a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage and painted John Kerry as a moral relativist, the election was his for the taking. In essence, George W. Bush ran the Bible like a football across the finish line on Nov. 2. And many voters liked this approach. But it must be acknowledged that—no matter where you worship—George W. Bush is not orthodox about the Bible. Let me explain.

Bush touts a message opposing homosexual marriage and, as his basis, he co-joins public policy with the Bible. But if we are going to employ the Bible as a public policy tool, what about divorce? The Bible is clear about divorce. Matthew's Gospel says that married people become one flesh and that what God has joined, man cannot separate. Should we also ban divorce, while we are banning gay marriage? It seems that if we are going to claim homosexual marriage is a defilement of the institution of marriage, then it seems that divorce is also a defilement.

Conservative politicians also frequent the Ten Commandments. God calls us—in Exodus—to not commit adultery or to bear false witness against our neighbor. Should we ban lying and adultery? The penalty for committing adultery is death in Leviticus. It seems that many conservative politicians would hang from the rafters if they chose to be "orthodox" about the Bible. Moreover, the 10th commandment compels us to not covet what is our neighbor's. Doesn't coveting drive our capitalistic system? My neighbor has a new grill, and I want one, too. Should we drive wanting out of America as well—I surely don't think so. After all, Wal-Mart would go bankrupt, and we couldn't have that.

We really do not want to be totally "orthodox" about the Bible. Then why are so many ultra-rightists hell-bent—yes, hell-bent—on exploiting the value message each election cycle? The answer is quite simple. It moves voters in droves time and time again because issues of hate—anti-homosexual, anti-women's rights, anti-government—hit human beings in the gut.

Conservative politicians know they can misquote and misuse the Bible (with the permission of folks like Falwell) to galvanize their power base. But the "value voters" become the greatest victims. The politicians and the message that they vote for will never come to pass because if these right-wing politicians ban sodomy, then they no longer have a rallying cry with right-wing voters. They know that these voters will then move on to other issues—like why don't we have jobs, or why are our kids not learning in schools or, better yet, why aren't we getting quality health care?

So for those who claim to be value-oriented, please know that these ultra-right wingers do not care about the issues they put forth on the table. They care about getting the voters out—and scaring everyone with anti-gay rhetoric is just what it is—talk, cheap tasteless talk.

John Sawyer is a senior political science major at Millsaps College. He plans to enter the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the fall to become a Roman Catholic priest dedicated to social justice concerns.

Previous Comments

ID
69602
Comment

Falwell is a moron. It constantly amazes me that this man so integrates politics and religion, with so much success. I guess he's finally come out of Larry Flynt's outhouse. But I think that this article's correctness helps to illustrate the incorrectness of your last one--the use of Christian religion for ANY political purposes, "legitimate" or "illegitimate", if that can be determined, is inappropriate. This applies to "helping the poor to achieve a better world" or "calling out sinners to achieve a better world"; you view one of these as positive (last article), and one as negative (this article), but both are argued for in scripture. The problem I see is not with these notions themselves, as they are authoritatively exegetical of what is moral, but the way they can be manipulated for the benefit of each other in a political setting, when I believe the intention of scripture was for such sentiments to be personal, or individual. I think this is abused by many Christian 'evangelicals' daily in terms of who is sinning, when they're sinning, which Teletubbie exhibits sinful behavior, etc. But also, I think it is illegitimate, as you do in your article, and Jason agrees with, to do this with political realignment and social betterment in our communities--that is just as littered with our own personal perceptions of the collective, that we lose focus on the spiritual morality of the individual. And Mr. Falwell (the most definitely NOT 'reverend' Mr. Falwell) is a habitual 'offender' in this sense. Where is he on the war in Iraq, or the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo? When you select which morality you want to follow collectively, instead of following Christ individually, you get the very definition of immorality. As for your political statement, yes, I think it's true that many people are misled by 'right-wingers'. I think the South sometimes skews an understanding of politics in an unhelpful fashion. It's true that very rarely are the issues of social importance to conservative Christians the "Republican agenda". As such, I think the 'poor vote' continuing to move to the Republicans, and the votes of the 'rich' moving toward the Democrats, is the most troubling trend; I see this in Northeast political numbers, specifically. There was this one town in Maine that I live about 15 miles from, called Limerick, and in 2004, Dubya got 711 votes, and Kerry got ... 711 votes (my town actually went marginally for Kerry, after going for Bush in 2000). That is the reality of our political system--we really are very, very divided. Democrats just need to get back about 4% of the vote. What one must hope is not that we unite, which almost never happens in electoral terms, but that we get a little sliver of the pie back. One thing that comes to mind is getting better candidates. Howard Dean? Hillary Clinton? Not only do these people NOT represent the mainstream, they are antithetical to it. We need values orientation, but more than that, we need a MAN (and I don't mean that in a sexist way; it could be a woman, but it needs to be someone with some sort of character). The Democrats are not in touch with the majority of America, apparently. The way one might fix this is to take someone who most definitely IS in touch with them, and make him/her your candidate. Michael Moore suggested Oprah Winfrey off-hand; but there's something to that kind of selection. Instead of letting people make the determination of whether or not someone is in touch with them, pick someone they are already in touch with.

Author
Kevin J. Maguire
Date
2005-01-05T20:59:13-06:00
ID
69603
Comment

Kevin, I agree. Thanks for the post. Also, if you look at the polls, most Americans favor issues that the Democrats put forth. It can't be the "people" but rather the politicians that are being put out there for the Republican dominance.

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-01-05T21:52:30-06:00
ID
69604
Comment

While we're on this topic, This non-partisan site is a vital source of information on religion and public life. It's the Pew Charitable Trust's Religion and Public Life research group http://www.pewtrusts.com/ideas/index.cfm?issue=17 The other Pew Charitable Trusts organizations are an EXCELLENT source of information about a wide variety of societal and policy issues in general - a diamond mine, I tell you. http://www.pewtrusts.com

Author
Philip
Date
2005-01-06T06:16:36-06:00
ID
69605
Comment

You are too quick to assume that all your so-called "value voters" fall on the overplayed 2-dimensional conservative/liberal plane. You and the many other pundits that breathe corresponding messages would like Americans to feel that if they hold rather common belief in Traditionalism that you must be linked with a vicious right wing conspiracy to shove the Bible down the throats of every American. No one, not one, can escape the fact that this nation was founded upon basic JudÊo-Christian values. And clearly from these values are born many of the traditions that we practice today. Many of the voters you are so quick to stick in a box and label don't claim to be "by the good book" practicing Christians, but simply Traditionalists that prefer less change in the social fabric of America. Divorce, while less common in the past, has always been a common practice in our culture. Therefore, many Americans do not oppose the idea of dissolving a marriage if necessary. Gay Marriage goes against the traditions of almost every culture that boils in this melting pot. Abortion has been a frowned upon practice throughout our nations history- and also many people are simply uncomfortable, religious or not, agreeing with a practice that allows humans to decide who should live and who should die before the person ever steps foot on this earth. While the root of most cultural traditions are obviously religious in nature- that doesn't necessarily say that everyone that appreciates a tradition is being hypocritical because they do not practice every command in the root religion. I think its counterproductive and simply impolite to label all of your so called "value voters" as bible beating, Falwell Fearing Christians. They may frequently find common ground politically- there still remains a significant difference between cultural traditionalism and religious fanaticism/hypocrisy.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-01-12T12:39:23-06:00
ID
69606
Comment

bluedog: "No one, not one, can escape the fact that this nation was founded upon basic JudÊo-Christian values." Whoa, bluedog... I can but I'm not chasing your tail on this one... There are blogs and blogs and blogs on this site where many have listed fact upon fact that many of our founding fathers were deists... More point out that the basic tenets of our system came from many other souces including but not limited to Judeo-Christian concepts. More also point out the dangers of theocracy or a government that gets in bed with the Church (of any persuasion). I do agree with you about the distinct diffference "between culturla traditionalism and religious fanaticism/hypocrisy." But the line is fine and many straddle that fence too often are directly influenced by the extremists whether they realize it or not... Frankly, the more extreme they become, the further right many of the "traditionalists" go -- as those gates are opened. I've witnessed it more and more (these days) with suggestions of book burnings, book bannings, musical/theatrical censoring and banning, lifestyle banning, choice banning.... The list goes on and on. Ban it from your life, your family, your home but please don't tell EVERYONE how to live. That'll eventually backfire in ways Iraq deeply understands and is trying to escape.

Author
kaust
Date
2005-01-12T13:05:51-06:00
ID
69607
Comment

Our social and culturual traditions are generally based on upon basic JudÊo-Christian values. That is the truth. Perhaps I should have been more clear. Most educated people understand that our founding fathers were not all Christians, mostly due to the Church of England I believe, but you'd be hard pressed to argue that our traditions are not based upon the aforementioned philosophy.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-01-12T13:23:11-06:00
ID
69608
Comment

"Our social and culturual traditions are generally based on upon basic JudÊo-Christian values." -bluedog Whose? Yours? Maybe... Not mine. My traditions have roots in earth-oriented traditions including those of paganism. They also have roots in Buddhism. (Tre if you're reading this, love me!) For instance, I prefer to celebrate Winter Solstice which makes much more since to me... Shouldn't Christmas be every day, anyway? ;-) What traditions are so firmly Judeo Christian? Failing marriages (that percentage seems to get higher and higher)... Genital mutilation? Nice but I hate that idea regardless of historical context... Christmas? Which has extreme roots in pagan tradition from the tree down to the date which coincidentally falls in line with Winter Solstice.... Easter? With the cute little bunny and the eggs??? Halloween? Thanksgiving may truly be the one holiday we celebrate (besides the memorial-type holidays) that are not pagan. They all have pagan roots twisted into a Christian concept. This is specifically why the Vatican loathes such holidays because they actually understand the origins and it conflicts heavily with their system. Are you forgetting about the native traditions of the original inhabitants of this state and country? What about their traditions that are still celebrated including harvests and documenting agri-history? What about their natural highways used for centuries that we still use? Traditional routes having nothing to do with Judeo-Christianity... Do unto others? Karma's been around a long time. Actually, I'd assume all cultures throughout history have had a similar "eye for an eye" logic/tradition. See, I don't see it as cut and dry as you. I understand that many traditions are rip-offs of other religions and cultures that were usually demolished in the process. I'm not trying to belittle their significance to modern cultures but it's important to realize that Christians, specifically, manipulated most traditions rather than created them. I say that coming from a Christian family and school and with a strong respect for what Christ taught. Once we start combining Christianity and our American origins, it starts getting very shaky for me. Does that include the wars, rapes, pillaging and genocide? The true Americans? The mistaken "witches"? The slaves? What about Greece and Rome where our government's "pillars" come from? They weren't so, how do you say, Christian. Right? They were heathens that worshipped so many gods details about them could fill huge books thicker than the Bible. A great read by the way (Greco-Roman gods and dieties)... How they ever applied dieties to so many aspects of life still befuddles me. While YOUR traditions may be firmly rooted in traditionalist Judeo-Christian philosophy/theory (hopefully the positive aspects), mine are not. The Muslims living near me are not... The Wiccans I met last week are not. This is a topic I can't help but jump on... I hope you understand I'm not personally attacking you but I can't help but feel that this is a huge misconception for many in this state and this country. I just like to share a different perspective.

Author
kaust
Date
2005-01-12T13:52:58-06:00
ID
69609
Comment

My purpose was not to convince you that the root of the tradition, or the tradtion in itself, is "good" or "bad". Rather, the point was to suggest that most of our traditions have a religious root indeed- but many appreciate the tradition without being a zealot of the religious source. I completely understand where you are coming from, and I think that the constitution is an example of the fact that the founding fathers understood it too.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-01-12T14:29:05-06:00

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