Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Public policies and religious arguments for and against them (1 of 2)

Digby (Hullabaloo) and Sarah Posner (Religion Distpaches) had an interesting exchange about what is sometimes call the "religious left" in these posts:

Digby, Paul Ryan refuses a Bible 06/04/2011

Posner, Paul Ryan's Bible, Jim Wallis', Or None of the Above? 06/06/2011

Digby, A Justified Scold 06/06/2011

And a related post by Digby, False Idols 06/04/2011

The discussion is over Digby's Schadenfreude over Paul Ryan being embarassed at a religion-and-politics conference by a liberal activist trying to give him a Bible with passages in the Gospel of Luke highlighted relating to social concerns. Posner uses it as a taking-off point to remind us that the self-described "religious left" including leaders like Jim Wallis of Soujourners that have tried to offer a political counter to the Christian Right have been pretty disappointing to liberal activists:

As I argued last year, writing about liberal-leaning religious groups countering Glenn Beck's attack on social justice, the debate about the role of government should rooted in policy, not theology. As Peter Laarman has noted in these pages, in support of a robust defense of government, liberal and moderate Christian leaders "know in their heart of hearts that only government can take strong and decisive action to end poverty and mass suffering, but they are in some degree of denial about it, in part because. ... They, too, rather fancy the idea of an independent sphere for private faith-based charities - they mostly go along, after all, with the horrendously obfuscatory and constitutionally dubious Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Since the discussion covers both general concepts like applying the Bible and Christian theology to public issues to more concrete experiences in recent years with "common ground" efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies running aground on the Christian Right's lack of interest and the anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-women's-rights positions of some "Christian left" figures like Jim Wallis, it's hard to say how much I'm agreeing or disagreeing with either of them.

Here is how I framed the issue in a comment to the second of Digby's posts cited above:

Sarah Posner's concluding sentence in that post is, "When you wave a Bible in someone's face, just remember that someone can wave one in yours, too."

I'm not much for literal Bible-waving, myself. But the Christian Right isn't going to stop waving their Bibles figuratively and literally in the faces of Democrats and mainstream Christians. And there has to be pushback in moral and religious terms to disrupt those messages.

What's wrong with liberals agreeing with Wallis on Medicare and disagreeing with him on women's rights? People can make moral, religious and practical arguments on the liberal side of both issues.

Honest religious arguments have their limits, because any honest believer would have a problem claiming that they knew for sure how God would want them to vote on a particular legislative bill or political candidate. But the Christian Right aren't making honest religious arguments when they lie to young women in their fake "pregnancy counseling" clinics about abortion. They're just lying to people who made the mistake of trusting them for honest medical advice. The public policy on how to deal with that kind of fraud may be complicated. But I have no trouble arguing on moral and religious grounds that that's just wrong.

And since the fundis are going to keep making their arguments in the "public square" (as they like to call it), I don't see how either secular liberals or Christians who don't support hate-mongering or torture or lying to pregnant teenagers in the name of Jesus can just avoid trying to counter the religious elements of those arguments. People can make religious arguments for or against a policy like the water torture, aka, waterboarding, without insisting on it as a purely religious policy.
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