Obama on Church and State: Four Problems with the Religious Right - Problem 4
"Oh, I have what a lot of people would probably call communistic thoughts," said Eliot artlessly, "but, for heaven's sake, Father, nobody can work with the poor and not fall over Karl Marx from time to time—or just fall over the Bible, as far as that goes. I think it's terrible the way people don't share things in this country. I think it's a heartless government that will let one baby be born owning a big piece of the country, the way I was born, and let another baby be born without owning anything. The least a government could do, it seems to me, is to divide things up fairly among the babies..."
PARTS ONE AND TWO of this article cited a quote from Barack Obama on the relationship between government and religion, then discussed three of four points which the quote raised for me about the religious right.
This part deals with the fourth point, and the implications when all four are considered together.
- "Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount"
This is a closely related point to the previous one. The religious right does sometimes take positions they can actually find Bible verses to support.
But when they do, a strange warp occurs in the space-time continuum.
The Bible has a lot to say, on a lot of subjects, but whether you are talking about the prophets, or the Law, or the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, it's mightily clear that one of the strongest ongoing themes is the danger of wealth (both to the poor and the wealthy) and the need to arrange both government and personal matters to aid the poor.
The law of Israel gave all of the crops to the poor (in an agricultural economy) every seventh year, and canceled all debts every 49th year. The prophets argued that taking care of the poor was the most important religious duty. Jesus said that it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
Yet these subjects are generally not only ignored by the religious right, they regularly take political positions in favor of cutting aid to the poor, and of strengthening the position of the wealthy.
On the other hand, it is just barely possible to find a handful of verses in the entire Bible which, if you interpret them the way a fundamentalist does, condemn homosexuality. And, on the strength of these few verses, they are willing to go to the mat against gay marriage.
The Sermon on the Mount is a prime example of this kind of picking and choosing. How many of the religious right would have liked our nation to turn the other cheek after 9/11? How many were preaching love for al-Qaeda? How many, on a personal level, even refuse to pray out loud in church?
The disconnect between "Bible believers" and the Bible staggers the mind.
What are we to make of all this?
The idea that our nation has a state religion ignores both history and present reality.
The idea that there is a single, definable, world-view called "Christianity" fails to recognize the broad range of Christian views, from progressive Christianity, to Catholicism, to mainstream Protestantism, to fundamentalist Bible-believers.
And the idea that even "Bible-believers" actually agree with each other, or even with the Bible, flies in the face of the facts.
But if you want to rally the troops, what better troops to rally than those who are capable of projecting their own beliefs on the founders of the nation, the present populace, everyone who uses the name "Christian", and the Bible itself.
The Republican party has had a great forty years, manipulating people who could believe six impossible things before breakfast, and getting them to vote against their own interests.
But just now, the country seems to be waking from the trance, and the number of people you can fool all of the time appears to be dwindling.
At least, that's what I think today.