Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Slouching Towards Biblical Government

There was a news item the other day that I've not been able to track down for this post, but in sum, it announced the formation of a new progressive religious group intending to challenge the religious hegemony enjoyed by christian conservatives on the nation's airwaves and in its public debate.

On the subject of progressives and religious liberals joining hands, I'm of two minds on the subject.

On the one hand, as someone affliliated with a Christian church my whole life, and as someone who still embraces spiritual values, I welcome any effort to puncture the common misconception about religion that conservatives have engendered. The intolerant, anti-pluralist, imperialistic christianity trumpted by the right continues a long and sad history by religious leaders to gain political power by marginalizing or exterminating their opponents.

As a Democrat and a progressive, I similarly welcome any effort to undermine the Republican party's attempts to manipulate religious symbols and to confront traditional conservatives with the hypocrisy of their "values" claims.

But on the other hand, I'm afraid attempts by Democrats to color their rhetoric in values hues aggreable to religious adherents and to challenge conservatives on their policy applications of bible teachings risks making Democrats fight on the Republicans' terms and terrain. Such conflicts usually end up benefitting the latter.

The Bible is a mighty strange book. As a source for spiritual contemplation, it is an important tool. As a source for determining public morals and public policy, the whole of it leaves a lot to be desired, not the least of which because the Bible's components were written between 2000 and 3000 years ago, in a different language, for a vastly different audience and for reasons that are largely misunderstood or unrecognized.

While Democrats should be sympathetic to "people of faith" and our desire to worship as we please, Democrats must also affirm the value of keeping church and state separate, uplift the values of political and religious pluralism, and caution the body politic of the necessity for basing policy decisions on grounds that recognize the advancements of science and expansion of human freedom over the last several centuries.

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