Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Amen, Brother!

Slate is hosting a back’n’forth exchange between David Kuo who wrote Tempting Faith (a book I keep meaning to read) and Hanna Rosin who wrote God’s Harvard (a book I’m afraid to read for fear I’ll see evangelicals hiding under my bed.)

Kuo’s personal story is very interesting. He worked in the White House, had a brain tumor and came out disillusioned by the combination of faith, cynicism and sheer flim-flammery he saw in the Republican Party. (Unfortunately he still absolves Bush of all possible sins…it’s always Bush’s circle that causes the problems…never the fact that Bush allows things to happen exactly as he means them too.)

I’m always fascinated to read stories of people’s personal political transformations, especially those that lead them to a new understand of religion. (David Brock’s Blinded by the Right and Bart D. Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus are two such books).

But Kuo finally hits the nail on the head about politics for the spiritually possessed:

Spiritually, evangelicals need to make it clear (and understand, in some cases) that they can have passionate public-policy opinions without presenting them as holy writ. Why? Because in doing so, they give to the world a Jesus known not by his love and sacrifice but by his political stridency. Believe it or not, Jesus never said, "Blessed are the tax cutters for they shall keep more of their money."
Exactly. It’s perfectly fine for religious-minded to engage in politics. But they have to engage in debate, argument and persuasion like everyone else. And their arguments against sex-education, abortion, and whatever should be grounded in something other than “well Jesus says it should be so, and you have to follow what (I think) Jesus says.”

Now it happens I think once you remove the crutch of using “just because Jesus says it should be so” I think they’ll lose their public policy debates. But maybe it will also cause them to ask themselves why are they arguing for whatever policy they are favoring?

The point I think Kuo was making is that policy debates shouldn’t be by-proxy religious wars despite what some people want to make them out to be.


Anonymous said...

If you only hear "just because Jesus said so" as reasons to oppose abortion or same sex marriage, you haven't really been paying attention. Having a strong faith may be the rock on which one builds one's arguments, but you still need logic, and there is logic aplenty to support conservative views.

David Kuo is small potatoes, and the Left has vaulted him to sage status. David Brock would have been ignored, had he not written The Real Anita Hill all those years ago.

Your post is true about one thing--Jesus should not be lightly used to support one's arguments on public policy (and despite Kuo's Straw Man, I have NEVER heard anyone link religion and tax cuts), and there is certainly a segment of the right that does so. But I strongly disagree with your take that if you took Jesus (but not morality) out of the equation, conservative views collapse like cheap houses of cards.

Jim in Cleveland

NewsCat said...

Okay, Jim...what is a non-religious argument for opposing gay marriage or any gay-friendly public policy?

Anonymous said...

"Gorky maintained that homosexuals were not a social minority that needed to be defended in a workers' state--"In the land where the proletariat governs courageously and successfully, homosexuality, with its corrupting effect on the young, is considered a social crime punishable under the law."

Well, unless of course you consider Stalin to be religious figure.

NewsCat said...

:-Jon I always knew you were a closet Stalinist.

Okay, fair point. So to debate Stalin's argument all I have to do is prove that gays don't actually corrupt the young? That at least can be a debate.

Anonymous said...

I think the pro-life arguments are way easier to defend without religion, but there are arguments against gay "marriage" that are non-religious, just more esoteric. For one, changing the definition of marriage reduces the societal importance of marriage. To argue that same-sex couples can have families that are the equivilent of man-woman couples supposes that there is no differences in the genders other than pieces/parts, which I don't buy. In other words, a male and female raise a child with complimentary assets, while two women or two men raising a child do not have that to offer. One can come up with exceptions to the rules, obviously. And at the risk of being grouped with Rick Santorum (whom I admire very much), gay "marriage" blurs the definion further, weakening any arguments against polygamy and incest.

Being opposed to what you call "gay-friendly" public policy is different. I am not certain there is an argument using religion or not using religion that calls for anti-gay policy.

My personal opinion about gay marriage would be to allow civil unions, but I am not in favor of same-sexers adopting. One thing that does get my back up (ignore the pun/visual there) is the accusation that if you are against gay "marriage," it follows you are a homophobe or a religious nut. My beliefs about homosexuality are not personal, and if same-sexers want to call themselves married, I have no objection. I just don't think the government should.

As for abortion, I think you can be Kathy Griffin and still be pro-life (which I doubt she is).

Jim in Cleveland

Anonymous said...

In the US, marriage is essentially a social contract that permits one to bestow certain benefits upon a loved one: the right to automatic inheritance of property, the right to make decisions if the other is incapacitated, etc. Why does anyone care who enters into these contracts, as long as they are consenting adults? Maybe you have a moral problem with polygamy or incest or the gays, but what difference does it make to you if I want to marry my brother and sister? Our relationship should be our business, and I don't understand why two non-related people of different sexes can enter into an intricate social contract for the price of a marriage license, but if I want to enter into the same contract with someone who does not fit the other sex/not related to me/just one person definition, then I need to hire a lawyer and spend a ton of money to get a similar set of benefits, and they still won't be able to share my health insurance. It seems to me the only arguments against this behavior are based on personal morality (often interpreted as one's religious beliefs) which should not be legislated and forced on others.

Of course, all contracts should only be entered into by consenting adults, and churches have the right to choose who they allow to marry. Church weddings and legal weddings should be two different things. Maybe only churches should have weddings, and the government should only have civil unions.


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