Religion and Politics
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:18 PM [+]
I listened to a speech by Barack Obama given at the "Call to Renewal Conference" sponsored by "Sojourners." In it, I found more reason to feel isolated from both of the politcial parties - not to mention the old fuddy duddy "religious right" and the hip new "religious left." Obama explained - derisively - that conservatives have been "all too happy to exploit the gap" between those who attend church regularly and those who don't. Fair enough, but he then seems to go on and explain that democrats need to do a better job of doing just that...albeit more subtly. In fact a brief overlooking of the sojourners website seems to indicate a fair degree of bashing the "religious right." (alas free registration is required to read about the "false stewardship" of James Dobson)
He also takes the tired line (in my book) that on CERTAIN issues he cannot "impose his own religious views on another" and of course the religious views he means are the very same that the conservatives exploit with regard to the "regular church attenders", such as gay marriage, abortion, intelligent design taught in school etc. What strikes me as unfathomably ironic (maybe hypocritical) is that fact that ending poverty (a noble goal that Obama speaks at length about) somehow is not inherently tied to a religious view? For if there is a secular view that can convince me that the rich ought to give away more of their money to the poor then I would surely like to hear it. What on earth outside of a religious view would convince me to lift a finger for the poor? Of course, this sword of hypocrisy is double edged, isn't it?
I don't trust the new "religious left" and I think we ought to view them - as a political force - as being just as odd and awkward as the "religious right." To view one or the other as misguided at best and evil at worse is niave...because they are operating on the same principle and, in exceptionally unhumble opinion, they are both missing the mark, albeit in different directions. Yes, I find myself decidedly out of place in either circle. Obama notes that his opponent said that Jesus wouldn't vote for him and Obama's insinuation was that many of the "religious right" take a similar stance with regard to democrats and the so called progressives in general. But friends, if such a statement offends the "religious left" then the "religious left" had better be damn careful not to fall into the same trap - yes, there may well be a beam in the eye. As I've always tried to believe (yes tried), our Lord has an uncomfortable surprise reserved for us all - in His time on earth, no one came away from Him without a profound and unexpected challenge being given to them. If this is not true still today, then maybe he isn't "in our Midst."
I have never been very good at reconciling religion and politics, at least in the context given to us. For instance I see it as a Christian obligation to help the poor, but by the same token I do not think it is Christian value (let alone an obligation)to FORCE anyone to help the poor. So when Obama speaks about the "estate tax" being repealed and returning money to "people who don't need it", I am astounded that he would assert this decidedly relgious view on others and fail to see it as such.
All of this said, it is a good speech and worth reading. Obama seems to be a very genuine person. But then, I have felt the same about a fair share of people in the "religious right."
BTW, as a side, I have a real pet peeve with the new "crunchy con" label. Sounds like a breakfast cereal. My political opinions tend to be like nails, screws, and nuts fired out of a home made shotgun - who knows what I'll hit.