Sunday, April 27, 2008
About ReligionI have been listening just like everyone else to the discussions of religion, and the Presidential candidate's personal beliefs. I have to be honest, my first impulse is to grab the remote and switch channels when I hear a politician speaking about faith. I tend not to trust the candidates' words when speaking of faith, they have an agenda, an important one, and I think that they tend to spin rather than state what they truly believe. I am sure that the many advisers on every campaign have given them talking points, I can almost imagine the voices of the spin doctors advising the candidates, "Oh! Why don't you tell the story about the moment of grace again?" I guess George Bush ruined it for me, and many other Americans, when he spoke of his deep commitment to Jesus, and acted in a way that was completely unChristian. But before George Bush, there were many Christian politicians and religious leaders who ruined Jesus for me. I have struggled for many years to find my way back to some sort of spiritual life, and I find that the more the political leaders speak about it, the more I reject it.
Still, I look for deeper meaning in my life, just like everyone else, I guess.
I get these newsletters from an organization called Tikkun. It is a Jewish organization, and I'm not Jewish, but it is a very smart and progressive message to those of us who can't quite reconcile the teachings of Christ with the actions of many Christians. The group is headed by Rabbi Michael Lerner, who I am convinced is a spiritual genius. The newsletter I received spoke of the comments Barack Obama made in Pennsylvania about people being bitter, and turning to God and guns. But it's not just Barack Obama, but maybe many of us liberals, myself included, who are tired of world leaders using faith as a way to attract voters. And you know what, I am truly guilty of demeaning people who have faith, I think that maybe they are not as smart as I am, I wonder how they can cling to stories from the Bible, when science has given us a clear picture of the universe and it's origins. I hate the simple acceptance of these tales from the Bible, but at the same time, I long for an answer that is easy; I wish I could just get baptized, born again, and believe that there is a point to all of this, that there is Someone who has it all figured out. These are the wise words of the Rabbi:
The religio-phobia Americans encounter in many sections of the liberal and progressive world often push them away and into the hands of the Right. Deeply suspicious of the slippery slope from some right wing religious beliefs to religious coercion, homophobia, sexism, and racism, people on the Left have created a cultural assumption that anyone who is into religion or spiritual life is probably a little less intellectually or psychologically developed than the secularists, perhaps seeking mystery or a father-figure God to compensate for some lack in their lives. The message that most Americans receive from the Left is an elitist and demeaning put-down: "We need your votes, so you are welcome into our ranks, but we hope that by hanging out with us secular leftists you will eventually give up your pathological need for religious beliefs and evolve to a higher level of rationality that us secularists have been developing as the only possible way to think clearly about the nature of reality." Often unconscious, this religio-phobic message has done much to push away the majority of Americans whose religious beliefs are extremely important to them, even though on purely economic grounds they'd feel more aligned with the Left's agenda than that of the Right.I used to believe that the separation of Church and State was the only way forward for the human race. I still think that America, with its Constitutional provision for freedom of worship is nearly the best form of government in the world. But we can't as progressives, alienate the values that come from religious doctrine. Many Americans learn values from the Church of their choice, and not all of us have the advantage of choosing our own faith. We are raised with specific moral codes, and there is no secondary school for most of us. We go from childhood to marriage, to raising families, and never really get the chance to explore any other alternatives. What values we receive from our priests and reverends should be respected by all Americans, and not manipulated by leaders seeking office.
And the values that Americans hold should not be looked upon as inferior, by those of us who think we know better. If we have faith in each other, and trust each other to do the right thing, and hold each American to a moral standard that is universal, then there is a future for the human race, and a place for our nation in that future. There are some truths that are self-evident, that all human beings share, and therefore there is common ground and hope for America.
Wow. I didn't really want to write this post, I am not the right person to post about religion. I hope I haven't made a mess of it, but I guess it's impossible to speak about religion and not offend someone. But think about this.
Whatever religion you subscribe to, whatever your background, our values are so much more similar than they are different. Common values are things that bring us together, in our communities, in our churches, and in the world. And faith, is an important part of our lives. Faith in God, faith in our future.
But most of all, faith in each other.
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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