Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Republicans' deal with the devil

I just got back from a four-day weekend in Brittany -- another big family Catholic wedding -- where I had a fantastic time!!! I'm planning to tell you all about it, but it will take me a few days to write it up.

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, I'd like to highlight a series of articles that was posted as a comment here recently:

Brad Hicks, a graduate of a Fundamentalist Christan Academy (High School), wrote an interesting five-and-a-half part series arguing that the theology of the right-wing-theocracy-promoting Republicans is the opposite of what Jesus taught, indeed is closer to Satanism.

Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 1
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 2
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 3
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 4
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 5
epilogue

Bonus: The Evangelical pastor who wouldn't preach the Republican party line.

This series of articles is focused on Christian Fundamentalists (doesn't address Mormonism), so since mine is an LDS-interest blog, I'll just add a minor Mormon-related comment:

In the grand Christan debate of grace-vs-works, Mormons lean heavily towards the "works" end of the spectrum, whereas modern Fundamentalists and Evangelicals lean so far in the grace direction that (if I understand their position correctly) they argue that -- aside from accepting Jesus as your savior -- nothing you do has any relevance to your salvation. The author of these articles argues that this extremist grace position ignores important teachings of Christ from the gospels. Of course he also argues that the type of works Jesus requires for salvation involve feeding the poor, not all of those other commandments the Mormons are so fond of...

Then, for fun, let's look at a question from the antipode on the world of American politics and religion: Are outspoken atheists screwing things up for the Democrats? This blogger says no, go have a look for yourself. :D

16 comments:

John said...

Wow! Hicks doesn't pull any punches! Thanks for the links. While I agree with much of what Hicks has to say about the strange marriage between American capitalist ideals and Christianity (which in its purest forms has always seemed socialist or communist to me), he seems to have neglected the relationship between the individual and the state. I know intelligent, compassionate Republicans who agree that we should give all of our money to the poor, but that it should be done of our own free will, and not through state coercion.

I have a more pessimistic view of humanity, and feel that there need to be collective, governmental checks on our greedy natures.

I'm still mulling over what Abstract Nonsense has to say. My general view is that the Democratic party as a whole and many of its most prominent leaders are not very warm towards religion. It seems like something they barely tolerate, rather than actively recruit (with exceptions like Barack Obama). Perhaps this is a misconception, and I'm going to look a little more carefully at the media. Do you think that AN's description of the Dem's affability towards religion is accurate?

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

Regarding atheist Dems: I really hate the fact that both atheist and liberal are considered dirty words, so people who identify as both (like me!) are made to feel like they're sullying the liberals for being an atheist and sullying the atheists for being a liberal...

That said, I don't want to see the fundies succeed in painting Republicans vs. Democrats as being the forces of God vs. the forces of no god because that's not what this debate is about at all.

One thing I like about Hicks' articles is that he makes it clear that any Christian who knows the Bible knows that dumping on the poor is not "God's one true political position."

Personally I have a problem with the philosophy that all charity should be "voluntary" because humans are social animals who don't get their resources in total isolation. Even if you who work to produce goods, you need human society to survive and hence have a responsibility to contribute to the general good.

John said...

I agree with the need to demonstrate that Dems can be religion-friendly. I hate to self-promote (no I don't, I'm a blogger), but I wrote a post titled Calling All Spiritual Progressives that highlights the efforts of Rabbi Michael Lerner and his Network of Spiritual Progressives (which explicitly includes secular humanists and friendly atheists!) to make the Democratic Party religion-friendly once again.

I think that many conservative Republicans see individuals as completely independent from each other (economically, though not always morally), where Democrats are more likely to acknowledge the deep dependence and interconnectedness of everyone in our society.

I have to confess, though--I'm a registered member of the Green Party.

If you don't mind my asking, are you voting absentee in U.S. elections? Or are you French now?

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

I remember reading that post on your blog, but I didn't notice that the coalition expressly included secular humanists and atheists. That's nice. :D

I have a minor hesitation about your inclusion of the word "moral" in the line "I felt frustrated with the Right’s broad claims to divine moral backing and with the Left’s general abandonment (even mockery) of religiosity." It almost makes it sound like you're granting the religious right's claim that the one who's the most loudly pious by definition has the moral high ground; a claim which "W" has amply proven false. ;^)

That said, I agree that the left should welcome religious progressives, particularly those who point to spirituality as their inspiration to help others. But to be honest, I don't think the Democrats have ever really been unfriendly to religion (as that would be the kiss of death far beyond any death the Dems have kissed themselves with before). Rather, I think US progresives are more likely to understand the important role separation of church and state plays in true freedom of religion.

I've voted Green in the past and may again in the future depending on the circumstances, but for the moment I'm supporting the Democrats. You probably saw my two recent posts on that here and here.

I'm currently registered to vote by absentee ballot. I can't vote in French elections since I'm not a citizen of France.

Rebecca said...

Chanson, in one comment you wrote: "...I don't want to see the fundies succeed in painting Republicans vs. Democrats as being the forces of God vs. the forces of no god because that's not what this debate is about at all."

(PS - I don't know how to do italics in comment boxes)

I will, once again, preface this by saying that I know next to nothing about political goings-on (which is probably ridiculously obvious. Whatever). From what I've seen, though, the problem is a little deeper than making the debate about who has the forces of God - it is what the God vs. no God debate inherently claims: only people who believe in God are moral.

If we're even arguing about what political party God supports (and I mean the general "we," not the "we" on this blog) we're saying that God's party is the only moral party, and, therefore, that only those who believe in God are moral.

Did I totally just state the most obvious thing ever (like bothering to state that I just happen to be breathing right now)? Or the dumbest thing ever? Anyway...

I read Hicks' posts. I found them informative and completely engrossing, but at the same time I had the uneasy feeling that I was reading one of those things that's so one-sided that it just chooses to ignore any good points the other side has. I don't know if that's true or not - really, no idea. It's possible that I just agreed with it so strongly that I felt there must be something I'm missing.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

You're right to point out that there are multiple levels of debate going on here:

The question of "Does one side have a reasonable claim to being God's party?" is a separate debate from "Is the most religious party necessarily the party that's morally in the right?"

As far as Hicks is concerned, it's true that he has his particular interpretation of the Bible. Even if you disagree with him, I feel like he makes a reasonable enough case to at least grant that it's not clear that the religious right obviously has the canonical only true interpretation of the Bible.

Rebecca said...

Chanson - you wrote, "The question of "Does one side have a reasonable claim to being God's party?" is a separate debate from "Is the most religious party necessarily the party that's morally in the right?""

But the way I'm looking at it, those are BOTH separate debates from, "WHICH party does God support."

"Does one side have a claim" is one issue, "Is the most religious the most moral" is another (although the determination of the first would probably lead to the second, they could also be considered separately but simultaneously).

What I'm trying to say is that "WHICH party has God" ASSUMES that one MUST have God, and with God is the assumption of being morally right. Asking if one side can reasonably claim to be God's party doesn't necessarily assume that there IS a God. Asking if the most religious party is the most moral doesn't assume that a particular party must have God's endorsement - just that the people in it might or might not because of their religiosity (the party by extension, but if they became less religious and the other more, then the debate would be whether or not the Democrats are in the moral right because they're more religious. This one seems to be affiliated with the people of the party, and not the party itself).

If people are working from the assumption that there IS a God, and that one party has God's endorsement and the other does not, then it makes sense (to me) that they're also assuming that people/political parties NOT endorsed by God are necessarily wrong, and therefore not moral because they're on the opposing side.

By making politics about who has God and who doesn't, we're making the assumption that believing in God is necessary because someone MUST have Him, and someone must NOT have Him.

If we're only determining IF one side has a claim, we're not excluding the possibility that NO ONE has that claim.

I don't think I explained this very well, but I'm not sure how to do it better. Plus, I think I may have temporarily dragged your comments into a tangentially related topic. If so, sorry about that.

The Sinister Porpoise said...

Not all Republicans want the party to be in the control of the Religious Right...

It is a fringe group and should have remained as such.

John said...

It's interesting to me that in American civil society there is an assumption that everyone agrees who this "God" is (e.g. the Pledge of Allegiance).

Chanson, I missed the Naderite posts (the dangers of leaving my rss reader alone for a few days), but I'm going to do some catching up--thanks for pointing them out!

Rebecca said...

John - kind of funny that you mention "...an assumption that everyone agrees who this "God" is..." - I was just thinking about that today. The girl I nanny for (aka Sparkle Cookie) is Jewish, and we've talked a little about religion (I know basically zero about Judaism). She finds the idea that God has a body, like that of humans, strange and ridiculous. She also laughs at the idea of Hell, and doesn't know if there's a Heaven. According to her, these aren't uncommon ideas amongst Jews (I cringe when I use that word, because long ago a former Jew told me it's insulting, but this girl, and others, have assured me it's not).

I think I'm pretty safe in saying (famous last words - now someone's going to correct me) that Christians certainly don't believe in these ideas of God and God's plan. But I think most of the people in this debate about which political party is the True Political Party are Christian, and probably hold at least similar ideas about who or what God is.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Being as I'm an atheist, of course I agree with you that we shouldn't assume that one party has God's endorsement (and then try to figure out which side it is...). I was just posing the question because others might find it relevant.

To both you and John -- the fact that religious people don't agree on who God is (or gods are) is a crucial point. UTI recently highlighted a funny series of comic strips illustrating the fact that those who want prayer in school forget that not everyone wants the same prayer, and no one wants to be made to pray to someone else's god...

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

I agree that it's not a natural or obvious alliance...

p.s. to all -- I apologize for using the pejorative "fundy." It's not the fundamentalists per se that I have a problem with, it's the theocrats who think their own personal religious beliefs should be the law of the land for all. It's not necessarily the same group...

Rebecca said...

Chanson - Nice comic strips. :) Yeah, I figured that's what you were doing (about the God's endorsement question), I just wanted to point out that those aren't all the SAME questions, although they sound similar. Why did I want to point that out? Because apparently I feel compelled to be COMPLETELY clear on even the details that are irrelevant to the discussion. Blah.

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks Rebecca!!!

I'm going to accept your compliment on the comic strips even though I had nothing to do with writing them or drawing them or anything. ;-)

Rebecca said...

Oh, yeah, I know - I just meant they're funny so thanks for pointing them out, and here's to you for finding them. :)

John said...

Great comics!

A couple of you might be interested in this swan article in the LA Times on America's gods. There's a study that shows that Americans believe in at least four very different concepts of God, including one that is angry and authoritarian, and another that is very distant.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

Thanks for the link!!! It's interesting how it shows that even within each religion, the members perceive the character of God differently.