A Blue Christmas? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

A Blue Christmas?

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The Rev. Jerry Falwell pulled no punches when he told an election training group of the Christian Coalition in 2004 who controls the Republican Party.

"The Republican Party does not have the head count to elect a president without the support of religious conservatives," he said, as quoted by the San Diego Union Tribune.

"I tell my Republican friends who are always talking about the 'big tent;' I say make it as big as you want to, but if the candidate running for president is not pro-life, pro-family ... you're not going to win."

Falwell is unapologetic in deciding who are good Christians and how they should vote: "You cannot be a sincere, committed born-again believer who takes the Bible seriously and vote for a pro-choice, anti-family candidate."

Evangelical Christianity's involvement in American politics has waxed and waned over the years, but the last 30 years have been unique both for the intensity of evangelical engagement and for the fact that evangelicals have flocked en masse to the political party most hostile to progressive reform—the Republicans.

A Country Built on Progressivism

Until recently, progressive reform in the U.S. was as religious as it could get. In the 1960s, legions of African American civil-rights workers employed a church as base of operations, leading to the habit of so-called Christians to firebomb houses of God.

"Whereas the white community had many more options for communication, civic clubs, fraternal organizations and so forth, black folks used the only method for communication left to them," said JSU professor and Councilman Leslie McLemore. Furthermore, appeals to faith helped a diverse group of civil rights workers of various faiths eventually turn back legalized segregation in states such as Mississippi.

Even before the Civil War, abolitionists stirred the cauldron of sectionalism during the final days of legal slavery precisely because they were very Christian, and many were evangelical. The rousing speeches of Nathaniel Taylor in New England and other rabble-rousers like Lyman Beecher and Charles G. Finney set the North on fire with talk of social reform, slave emancipation and women's rights.

After World War II, evangelicals' involvement with politics, though, shifted emphasis to fears of a "godless Communist" takeover. In 1951, Yale graduate William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a book called "God and Man at Yale," slamming elitist Yale faculty members for their "lefty" views on the military and secularism. Buckley felt he was watching a country tumble down into the godless mire that had already claimed Russia, and he proposed that religious leaders plunge headfirst into the dirty waters of politics in order to preserve the country's religious character.

The new conservatism took time to catch on, but in the 1960s, as the nation's emerging hippie population unashamedly attacked a culture that was sending them to die in Vietnam, the under-30 masses burned their bras and fried their brains—and proclaimed religion part of the problem. Only the most radical leftists adopted the slogan "God is dead," but nevertheless, this was a movement epitomized by John Lennon's lyrics in the song "Imagine," which asks listeners to imagine there's no religion.

Then, after the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Catholics and protestant evangelicals—two groups hardly on speaking terms—finally had a common cause around which they could unite.

The coalition grew stronger as the decade drew to a close. President Jimmy Carter did not exactly qualify as a secular enemy of Christianity. The former peanut farmer from Georgia was evangelical and deeply religious. His family read the Bible, and he was happily married and attended church most Sundays. He also came out about his decidedly God-fearing ways and told Americans he would "never lie" to them. But Carter made the mistake of taking the South for granted during his re-election campaign.

The solid Democratic South had begun to change with Barry Goldwater's primary run in 1964, when he showed that the GOP could win the South and the West by appealing to Libertarians, religious conservatives and racists. Nixon despised Goldwater, but he rode Goldwater's new "southern strategy" to two presidential victories.

Even before Nixon's victories, President Lyndon B. Johnson had already anticipated the southern strategy that would be employed by Republicans. When Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, he said, "I just signed away the Democratic South." That came true in 1980.

Enter the Moral Majority

Hinds County Democratic Committee President Claude McInnis says he was always puzzled that Republican Ronald Reagan was able to get a foothold among white southern Christians in 1980.

"We all know Carter's background. He was a Sunday school teacher, an old Baptist, the whole bit, but for some reason it was Reagan who got elected by the Christian right. I went to the Christian Conservatives of Mississippi that year—I was working with them that year, back in 1980—and I got them in a room and asked them, 'Please explain it to me why you voted for Reagan,' Because I just didn't understand it at the time.

"I told them, 'You've got a man who is a southern Baptist, a Sunday school teacher, a military officer, a man from the South, a farmer, and I don't understand how you guys elected a glittering playboy, who was the first ever president elected who was divorced. ... And what was their answer? They didn't have one," McInnis said.

Carter had not anticipated the rise of the Moral Majority, directed by evangelist Jerry Falwell, which flooded the South with radio commercials demonizing him with accusations questioning his Christianity and warning voters that the White House was full of homosexuals.

Falwell's agenda was pro-traditional marriage, pro-creationism, pro-military, rabidly anti-gay and militantly anti-abortion rights—political wedge issues we know well today, though they were novel then. McInnis thinks the Falwell message resonated with white Southern Baptists for reasons far beyond abortion. The Southern Baptist Convention had approved Roe v. Wade for years. In fact, it wasn't until the 2003 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that members formally repudiated previous resolutions on abortion from three decades before.

"If you go back at the history of the rise of the southern Republican Party, it has nothing to do with Roe v. Wade. It has everything to do with race," McInnis said. "Black folks know what the words 'Christian conservative' mean. There are very few black folks who are tripped up by Christian conservatives."

McInnis, and Stennis Institute of Government Executive Director Marty Wiseman, explain that Reagan was popular with southerners because he pandered to racists using code words such as "states' rights." States' rights was the clarion call for southern whites determined to hold onto the last vestiges of segregation, which was reborn in legal form through accelerating suburbanization of mixed-race cities.

"From the opinion of someone who sat here and watched it, Nixon's southern strategy and his veiled playing of the race card was the modern playing of the wedge game. You always hear folks saying, 'I didn't leave the (Democratic) Party; the party left me.' They're really saying that the (John F.) Kennedy and (Lyndon B.) Johnson civil-rights initiative took hold, and they fled the party," Wiseman said.

In 1980, Reagan continued along the trail stomped out by Nixon, announcing at the Neshoba County Fair during his 1980 campaign that he favored "states' rights," long after southerners had already lost the legal battles of the civil rights Era. He styled himself an heir to Goldwater, a demagogic opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and announced that he was against the newly enacted busing rules forcing integration of public schools. Reagan would also perfect the myth of the black "welfare mother"—even as most welfare recipients were, and are, rural white women


Reaganomics and You

President Reagan stayed true to at least some of his campaign promises, condemning busing for school integration, opposing affirmative action and threatening to veto a proposed extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Reagan believed in small government, deregulation and reduced taxes, especially for the wealthy. It is a theory to which modern Republicans like Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring still cleave.

"We believe government is best that governs least," he said. "I believe that the free enterprise system is what made the country great and that small businesses create the wealth that drives the engines of this country. ... You need to keep taxes low to promote job creation."

However, Reagan's economic policy—and the policies of White House Republicans following him—have marked years of obscene deficit growth. Reagan presided over an average budget deficit of more than $200 billion, Bush Sr. had a $290 billion deficit, and George W's deficits have been on the order of $445 billion. Bill Clinton, by contrast, reduced the deficit and left office with a $236 billion budget surplus.

The Reagan/Bush/Bush years are also notable for widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Some critics, like the government watchdog group Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes, say it also had a lot to do with renewed burdens on the middle class. Conservatives who backed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and every cut thereafter were doing no favors for the middle class, according to Robert McIntyre, director of the group.

"Regarding the Bush tax cuts, the cut-off point these days for people who benefited from it is people making $420,000 or more. We're talking about the top 1 percent of Americans being net winners," McIntyre said.

Mississippi's Republican congressional representatives march lock-step to the tune of tax cuts for the wealthy. Lott even told the JFP in January that tax cuts should be targeted to those who have enough expendable income to invest back into the economy. "Tax cuts just for the sake of tax cuts, no, that's not a good idea. Tax cuts that are targeted in a certain way that will encourage growth, savings and investment, that's good for the economy," Lott said.

Mississippi is one of the states that has benefited least from such tax cuts. The median income of a Mississippi four-person family, according to a 2003 census report, is $46,570—nowhere near the bracket targeted by the Bush tax cuts. Yet every senator and representative who supported the cuts got re-elected in this year's elections.

Furthermore, Democratic popularity seems to be at a nadir in the South, where the poor are most numerous. The 10 states with the lowest median income, the least likelihood of having health care, and the greatest levels of poverty—Mississippi included—all voted Republican in the 2004 presidential election.

Siding With the Enemy?

The questions remain: Why do so many impoverished white southerners continue to vote against their economic interests? And what is religious—Christian—about supporting policies that hurt the poor?

Amy Sullivan, a Washington Monthly contributing editor who writes about faith issues, says many voters remain seduced by their convictions into voting against their economic interests due to the efforts of tax-exempt evangelical pastors carrying GOP water.

"Conservatives, many of whom have confused their faith with their politics, have hijacked evangelicals. I say that as an evangelical who often doesn't recognize my faith anymore," Sullivan says. "I attend an Episcopal church instead of the Baptist faith I grew up in because I don't want to have my faith called into question because of my political belief in the middle of Sunday service." Sullivan says she still recalls her pastor telling her, "You can't be a good Christian and be a Democrat."

"That's a message that's everywhere. It's sad. There are people who have liberal politics but who are still very much orthodox Christians when it comes to theology. They now have to choose. They can end up in a 'wishy-washy' church where they feel comfortable politically, or they can go to a church more in line with their theology where their faith is called into question because of their political view."

But alienating a party from a philosophical school of thought is easy if a minority of individuals manage to narrowly define the entry requirements. Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications of the conservative advocacy group The Catholic League, admits that the definition of a good politician these days is narrow indeed, at least by League standards.

"People can make the argument that there are many different positions that Christians identify with in both parties, but there is a moral hierarchy among these issues," McCaffrey says, arguing that the Democrat umbrella is too big, containing a chorus of voices all bickering with one another.

Unfortunately for moderate Democrats looking to attract religious votes, it remains largely pro-abortion rights, and McCaffrey argues that Democrats will never be able to garner widespread Christian support as long as they defend Roe v. Wade.

"All the free-lunch programs in the world pushed by the Democratic Party aren't going to help children if they're not allowed to be born and are killed in the womb. Sure we want more outreach to the poor and community services, but they aren't going to do any good if the children aren't allowed to live," she says.

Not all Baptist pastors agree, especially African Americans.

Rev. John Cameron, pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, says even though he is against abortion, he also stands behind social programs for the needy—a doctrine that modern Democrats champion.

Broadmeadow United Methodist Church Pastor Robert Hill rejects wedge issues: "What matters to me for candidates is how they care for all of the people. That means how they care about public education, if they're willing to fully fund education and other issues. ... I don't care for abortion, but there are more issues to life than just Roe v. Wade."

The Democratic Umbrella

Many white evangelicals don't share this sense of balance, and spurn Democratic entreaties because most Democrats support a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion. It's for this reason that many national Democratic leaders count religious voters as already lost.

Democracy For America Chairman Jim Dean said that Democratic candidates just have to be honest: "What I've told people is to go out, say who they are, and not be ashamed of it. … I've seen some people out there who really shouldn't be talking about faith because they're really not that into it. I've seen other people talk too much on faith when they should be talking about balancing the budget, getting health care for their citizens and doing something about the war in Iraq. If you're honest, that's something that voters respect more than your stance on certain issues."

Honesty was a big issue in the November elections, with voters weary of corruption, scandals, lies, the Terry Schiavo farce and the disastrous Iraq War. Democrats managed to capitalize on the bitterness and swept the House with congressional victories that dumped Republicans into the backrooms and broom closets relegated to Democrats for the last 12 years.

Ohio Gov.-elect Ted Strickland is a Democrat who reclaimed a state that went to Bush in the 2004 elections. He did it, he says, by sidestepping the abortion wedge issue and staying true to his beliefs. "I tried to talk about what our obligations are in trying to be true to our faith, such as being concerned for the common good, recognizing that we're obligated to care for the sick, hungry and homeless. I tried to point out that those are religious values that are more deeply emphasized in the Christian religion than most of what I hear coming from the so-called religious right," Strickland said.

Strickland, a devout Christian who studied three years in a theological seminary, took his argument straight to talk radio, dominated by uplifting choir music, level-headed Christian advice sessions and the occasional hellfire rant. Though pro-abortion rights, Strickland has no fear of the church and viciously challenges any Republican looking to question his faith during the recent election.

"I tried to emphasize that the community of faith is larger than a handful of television evangelists who are frequently setting themselves up as spokespeople for the church," Strickland said. He also advises other Democrats to "emphasize the real breadth and the depth of religious faith."

"I don't think there's anything more powerful than the teachings of Jesus in the attempt to reach out to the community of faith. This is a subject that most political parties need to start thinking about. The faith community is so much deeper and broader than is sometimes presented through the media, and I think there are people in both political parties who are concerned that a very right-wing element within the Republican Party has chosen, in a very calculated, manipulative way, to divide people rather than unite them," the governor-elect said in an interview.
Whose Morality?

The Democratic National Committee is just now getting to the prayer meeting. In some cases, they're still sitting in the parking lot, shivering and gathering up the nerve to come inside.

"It's still a relationship-building effort at this point," says Leslie Brown of the DNC's Faith in Action Initiative.

"Part of the problem is not having a relationship with churches. As we sit down and talk about the issues, we find that we have much more in common with one another than we'd all originally thought."

Brown says the national party is resisting Republicans' caricature of Democrats by addressing issues beyond abortion. "We have to broaden the dialogue beyond just abortion," Brown said. "We're talking about health care and addressing poverty and the underlying situation that leads a woman to make that (abortion) choice in the first place."

McCaffrey insists that the abortion issue is too contentious to be skirted. "Nobody said during the civil rights era that we should work to change people's hearts and minds before striking down racist laws. ... As long as the Democratic Party is espousing pro-choice views, it's not going to win a lot of Christians to give them the Democratic vote."

"Well, the conversation can't end there," said former Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Ricky Cole. "Pro-choice is not the only issue here, and it shouldn't be a conversation ender. Human beings have lives before birth and after birth as well, and we must honor and respect life after delivery as well. You need to understand also that certain Republicans are right with the Catholics on abortion, but dead wrong with the same people on capital punishment. Neither political party has a corner on the market for morality, but there is much to the Democratic method that should welcome people of faith."

Kate Jacobson, vice president of Mississippi Young Democrats, says anti-abortion arguments should be attacked as a means to deprive an American of her rights.

"This is a women's rights issue. Whether you believe in abortion or not, to say 'this decision needs to be made by a bunch of men in D.C.' is just wrong. It's not their decision to make, and it's not their right to legislate morality either," she said.

Know the Life

Cole is a volunteer in an outreach group looking to build relationships with religious communities to "reverse the demonization of the Democratic Party" in the state. He says he intends to expand the membership of the group so it can act as a direct line to the churches in time for a major initiative during the 2007 state-wide elections.

Cole says the social gospel of Jesus Christ—compassion and caring for your fellow man—matches exactly with the Democratic message. "We operate on idiom, and the idiom of faith is ubiquitous in Mississippi, but it isn't like that everywhere. People like John Kerry and Mike Dukakis grew up in a different milieu, and they had difficulty connecting in the way that Presidents Carter and Clinton instinctively know how to connect."

Conceding even a single voter over a wedge issue is defeatism, Sullivan says. "A really destructive line sight in the Democratic Party for the last six years or more is this very strong belief that evangelicals only care about abortion and gay marriage, and they won't vote with you unless you change your positions. It's not like that. I had a very smart pollster say to me months before this last election that white evangelicals will all be Republican voters, and there's no reason to go after them. But if that's what you believe, then you're not going to be convincing anybody of anything anyway."

Jacobson comes from the new power bloc of young southern Democratic leaders who believe that progressives must take their social-reform message straight to the people—without fear of wedge issues.

"The issues of abortion and gay rights affect such a tiny percentage of the population. Education, Social Security, health insurance—these are the things that affect all of us,, and that's what Christianity is all about.

"Cutting taxes for the rich is not taking care of your neighbor."

Previous Comments

ID
80739
Comment

Fallwell has a lot to answer for, and not all of it he can excuse.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-20T22:29:45-06:00
ID
80740
Comment

Abortion is probably the biggest seperating issue. Get a Democrat to run for President against abortion. I bet you he would win.

Author
optimisticaboutNewJackCity
Date
2006-12-21T14:39:24-06:00
ID
80741
Comment

Religion is such a divisive subject I feel--- and it has always puzzled me why. It goes back to the fact that for many years wars were fought based on religion... and today we have taken the levels of morality and righteousness to new heights. I can't help but think that many of those who voted for Ford in TN were republicans, simply because of his message and his personal beliefs, especially about faith.

Author
for_the_people
Date
2006-12-21T15:54:53-06:00
ID
80742
Comment

This is absolutely the best column I ever read on the issue of DEMOCRATS versus republicans. It was easy to read and even managed to hold my attention to the end. Great Job, Adam.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T13:34:16-06:00
ID
80743
Comment

I forgot to say down with republicans - even before they meet God then the devil.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T13:35:09-06:00
ID
80744
Comment

Actually, Jacobson has the best idea. Promote your strengths and let people make their own decision. That's about what people do anyway, really. Why do you really think Repubs are losing? Too far away from most voters on every issue. Abortion is fine to argue, but let's face it having Social Security around when I retire is more important. Ray, never make an enemy of someone you might need to vote for your side one day. No one wins a game of hate.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-22T15:09:59-06:00
ID
80745
Comment

Agreed, Iron. I was only joking in that last comment. I couldn't resist doing it.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T15:12:54-06:00
ID
80746
Comment

Agreed, Iron. I was only joking in that last comment. I couldn't resist doing it. Oh Good. Now if I can convince Tom of that!

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-22T15:23:05-06:00
ID
80747
Comment

Also Iron, believe it or not, my real goal is to bring us all closer together by exposing our conflicts and differences, whether real or imagined, so that we can all live, work, and do what's best for all of us. I know I often get mad or comical when faced with what I think is invalid resistance or rejection. Pike said I get crypted or something like that. I also joke to keep from being mad or sad. Comedy is good therapy. I intend to maintain good mental health as long as I can no matter the oppositional forces or life obstacles I encounter.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T15:42:46-06:00
ID
80748
Comment

I really hate how politicians have used faith as a means to divide Americans. The message that I get from Republicans is that if you have to be a Republican in order to be a Christian, and that could anything further from the truth. Same goes to the Democrats too, but they exploit it nearly as much as the other side of the aisle. One thing that befuddles me about moral values and politics is that issues of moral values only seem relevant to issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Well, there more to morals than abortion and gay marriage. What about the poor? Jesus said that what we do unto the least of us, we've done unto Him--meaning that if we mistreat the poor, we mistreat Him. So how can politicians ride their moral high horses and look the other way when it come to cutting social programs that could help the poorer among us? WWJD?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2006-12-22T16:40:58-06:00
ID
80749
Comment

You know, I always thought moral values was mainly about what I do, not about what strangers do. There is no religious mandate to control the behavior of others; in fact, Jesus rather explicitly says that if someone sins by striking you on the cheek, you should give the person the opportunity to sin yet again by turning the other one. If someone sins by stealing your cloak, let them sin again by stealing your shirt. Hardly consistent with a government policy oriented towards forcibly wiping out sin in the secular population. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-12-22T16:57:15-06:00
ID
80750
Comment

I understand GED. One thing I like about the British or English people is they don't bullshit about religion. Most never go to church. And since the 1940's or thereby they're not as aggressive or imperialist as they once were or we still are. I hope someday we will learn to stop fronting too. Finally, I have always questioned the realness of religion in the south because I can't understand how Christianity comports with so much hate and military aggression.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T16:57:34-06:00
ID
80751
Comment

(And I'm speaking here emulating the POV of someone who actually considers this stuff sinful. I of course don't.)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-12-22T16:58:12-06:00
ID
80752
Comment

Ray, I agree. I think that if most people were honest, they wouldn't identify as Christians. I mean, when 9 out of 10 Americans have engaged in premarital sex but 60% of Americans don't want to legalize gay marriage because they think it's sinful, that's really kind of laughable. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-12-22T16:59:21-06:00
ID
80753
Comment

Tom, is that why Gandi said he would have become a Christians if he had ever met one? - somebody who actually does all of this!

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-12-22T17:05:21-06:00
ID
80754
Comment

To for_the_people: I can understand why you see religion as a divisive issue, especially when you look at the history of the two major faiths. It's all about the ability of people to completely twist and invert the core moral directives of a religion. Jesus tells everyone to love your enemy and turn the other cheek, but instead we humans turn this into the Crusades. Mohammed specifically says to be kind to Christians and Jews, and instead churches in the Middle East get firebombed. This is how you can end up with one religion having dozens of sects and denominations, because of man's ability to misinterpret scripture with a bias towards his own selfish or narrow views of the world. It seems like whole denominations have built their belief system around a single passage of the Bible, with an almost a casual disregard for the passages that follow. I identify myself as a Christian, but with the understanding that not everybody who calls him or her self a Christian actually has let Jesus into his or her life. The New Testament contains a number of statements from Jesus and from the apostles that make that point. Ultimately only God knows for sure who is who and it will all come out in "The End". In the meantime, all we have to go by is how a person lives his or her life--does this person show love and concern for other people? Is this person forgiving and a peacemaker? Does this person follow the ethical AND MORAL teachings of the New Testament? And while we can't avoid making judgements of whether we believe someone is being "a good Christian," we also have to remember that there are no perfect Christians, and lots of very misguided ones, including the ones occupying the White House right now. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are often demonized for their political activism. I understand that to an extent--I disagree very much with a great deal of what they say and do. But each of these leaders has also accomplished much good. Jerry Falwell has worked to help unwed mothers find adoption and other alternatives to abortion--to do something more than just say "Don't have an abortion, but we're not going to help you do the right thing by that child." And James Dobson has written books and held seminars that have helped many families and married couples, and given the high divorce rate in our country, I can appreciate the desire to work with couples in troubled marriages. We should not assume too quickly that controversial religious figures we don't agree with are only up to no good, but it certainly doesn't help when they engage in reckless acts or bigoted statements such as Pat Robertson is known to do.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-12-22T18:33:07-06:00
ID
80755
Comment

I would also add that religion becomes divisive when it its used, mainly by zealots, to demonize those who do not share their beliefs or dare to question their judgement. In this regard, religion becomes a tool to bash or persecute "unbelievers".

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-12-22T18:55:13-06:00
ID
80756
Comment

ejeff1970 writes: "religion becomes a tool to bash or persecute "unbelievers"." I agree totally with this. As a Conservative, I am disappointed at how people on both sides of the aisle use religion--- or the lack of--- to make others feel either self-righeous or ashamed. There is so much work to be done. And discussions such as this is a great start.

Author
for_the_people
Date
2006-12-22T20:01:08-06:00
ID
80757
Comment

From what I can tell, Jesus was entirely, and deliberately, apolitical. His mission field was the human soul -- nothing else mattered to him. I think it is appropriate for Christians to discuss social and political issues, but I think it much better if they refrain from making social or political issues into church causes. I guess what I mean is that Christians should be very careful about assigning to any political cause the status of a Christian duty. It may very well be that the moral foundation of the cause is Christian, but that misses the point. I think Jesus avoided political actions precisely because that was not his mission field. I think it is appropriate for Christians to do the same. Note that the Jews were suffering unjustly under the Romans, but Jesus did not encourage political action then. He did not deny the injustice -- he just considered such issues outside of his mission. Of course, the issue is a bit more complicated than I am making it -- after all, in a Democracy we have a civic duty to educate ourselves about social and poltiical issues, because we are the ones with the power to make those changes. Also, I am no authority on what Jesus really meant -- I am just explaining my impressions of what he meant. But I would like to see much less emphasis on the conflation of politics and religion. I think it only serves to make religion seem more earthbound.

Author
GLB
Date
2006-12-23T11:39:18-06:00
ID
80758
Comment

"render unto Caesar..." and all that. The Christian mission field is the human soul.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-23T11:43:51-06:00
ID
80759
Comment

GLB, I agree with you to a large extent. "Render unto Caesar" is basically my statement to all Christian conservatives in that I interpret that as "give the government what it demands and then have nothing else to do with it." In other words, don't even be involved enough in government to bother resisting it. I think it may be a mistake, however, to call this being "apolitical" or to say that Jesus only cares about human souls. It is, in my opinion, a certain way of being political. Remember that Jesus lived in incredibly politicized times for the Jews. There was a lot of jostling to see who would be the prophet / sect that could resist the Romans. Jesus said that they way you resist military occupation is by taking care of other people. Take care of the poor. Take care of the homeless. And simply refuse to have anything to do with the Roman world, even by directly resisting it. It is extremely telling to me that Jesus did not call down the heavenly host--you know, the legions of angels he had at his beck and call, apparently--even when he was on the cross. Some would argue that this was a tactic to achieve the miracle of the cross, but I think that's shallow. The whole point of Christianity, as I see it, is that he didn't call down those angels. The whole point is to resist by not resisting. That's not political indifference. It's a way of being political, don't you think?

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2006-12-23T13:49:49-06:00
ID
80760
Comment

WEll, I think Jesus wasn't trying to resist the Romans at all. He just wanted to focus on the souls of individuals. In other words, it wasn't his way of being political, he just thought politics was irrelevant to his mission. How many times did he say "my kingdom is not of this world"? And he contrasted the "eye for an eye" teaching of the law with TWO examples -- one involving violent retaliation ("turn the other cheek" and one involving, essentaily, nonviolent civil disobedience ("walk with him two miles"). He disavowed BOTH responses to injustice, with equal force. (Incidentally, I think Jesus was just trying to teach that one should love you enemies and not desire or demand retribution. I think he wasn't trying to make sweeping statements about either violent or nonviolent action, he was just speaking methaphorically about things his audience understood. But that's just what I think). In the Book of Luke (I think) there are several people who ask Jesus specifically what they should do. One of them is a Roman Centurion. Jesus tells him to essentailly be a just centurion. (I don't remember the quote well enough to cite it here -- sorry). I won't try to draw lessons for all the things Jesus DIDN't say to him, because I think that is always a very dangeous path to go down if you want real understanding (most people only take that path when they want to use Jesus' silence on something as a implicit advocacy of their pet position). But I think, again, it shows that Jesus interest is in souls, for their own sake. Who knows what would have happened to Christinanity if the church had never been enticed by secular power? I guess, like the number of licks required to get to the center of a tootsie pop drop, the world may never know.

Author
GLB
Date
2006-12-23T14:07:42-06:00
ID
80761
Comment

Brian: I do think that, as people begin to change internally , their politics, and then the political system, can change. So political change can be a by-product of what Jesus was focused on. Is that more in line with what you are referring to?

Author
GLB
Date
2006-12-23T14:35:21-06:00
ID
80762
Comment

If the majority of people became concerned with other people and their well being, making sure others are cared for and the like; government would have to bow to the will of the people.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-23T14:39:12-06:00
ID
80763
Comment

What Did Jesus Do? Is a more relevant question that "What Would Jesus Do?" Don't speculate on the actions of my God. Please be considerate of other people if you aren't a Christian, and don't say we're ignorant because of our beliefs. To be honest with you the only things I am against is the Democrats belief that my religion should be limited in the public forum, and the fact that people actually believe killing a baby's chance at life is a choice that a woman has. I don't and I won't be condescending of anybody because of what they do or don't believe, but don't turn around and disrespect my values. "Ray, I agree. I think that if most people were honest, they wouldn't identify as Christians. I mean, when 9 out of 10 Americans have engaged in premarital sex but 60% of Americans don't want to legalize gay marriage because they think it's sinful, that's really kind of laughable." It is a very sad case that gay marriage is such a big thing, because if it's really a union between a man and a woman in the eyes of God it can never be changed by any human law. Premarital sex is sinful, but the basis of the teachings of Jesus is forgiveness. I would love to try and explain many things to all of you who aren't Christian that you may not understand, but I'm not sure I can. You have to know it for yourself. I am not a Republican nor am I a Democrat. I believe abortion is the only thing to fight for on a political standpoint along with the Freedom of Religion. My God is not a Sunday Morning God, but he is around everyday of the week. My God is not a temple God, but he is the God who has rose from the dead and now lives in me. I want to praise him freely anytime I choose. I don't know if you understand that or not, but it's the only way I can explain it to you. Abortion is wrong. Even from a non-religious standpoint. We have millions of women and men who can't conceive a child. We were all once children, or fetuses as they would say today. If abortion were legal 20 years ago one of those aborted fetuses (human lives, babies) could have been us, and we wouldn't have had a chance at life. Each one of those children could have been adopted by the many people who can't have children. All I want is to see every child has a chance for life. We shouldn't take that chance away from them before it ever begins. Let them decide after they are born and have experienced life for themselves. Do I say this to condemn every woman who has had an abortion? No, but even the lady who argued that abortion was legal has regretted it now that the damage has been done.

Author
optimisticaboutNewJackCity
Date
2006-12-23T14:55:07-06:00

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