Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When Politics and Religion Collide

I ran across this NY Times article by Ross Douthat while reading Justin Taylor’s Blog.

It is an interesting article giving advice to journalists as they write about religious beliefs (specifically “Conservative Christianity” in this instance) when they do not share those beliefs. His four points boil down to this:

  1. Conservative Christianity is vast and complex with overlapping beliefs and practices. It is easy to hold up the fringe and extreme views as the “normal” views of either a political candidate or a religious movement.
  2. One should avoid a double standard. If you don’t think it is important to hold a Democrat’s feet to the fire for their ties to radical views then you shouldn’t turn around and say that it is important to hold a Conservative’s feet to the fire for similar ties to radical views.
  3. Don’t see conspiracy in movements and organizations in which you are unfamiliar. Often “code words” are not conspiracy driven code words but merely the normal everyday language of those movements and organizations.
  4. Republican politicians have been better at using their religious constituents than the constituents have been able to “use” the politicians. Douthat uses a great example in George W. Bush and the Federal Marriage Amendment.

I would love to simply say, “Yeah! You tell ‘em!” But I think that I need to take his advice very seriously as well.

  1. Liberalism is a vast and complex movement. It is easy for me to pigeonhole the whole movement as socialist but when I reflect back on my experiences with those that would self profess to be liberals often they are merely concerned for other people. They have no desire for a socialist system but rather they are trying to find a way to help those that are in need and quite often ignored. We may disagree as to why things are the way they are and the best way of fixing them, but often we both have a mutual concern for others. The disagreement frequently stems from the initial analysis as to what leads to the problem. Until we agree on this (and that day may never come) we will continue to disagree on the course of action that needs to be taken. I need to remember this whenever I engage in these conversations.
  2. If I want to hold Democrats to a high standard then I need to start by holding myself to either the same or an even higher standard. Then I need to move on to holding Conservative politicians to those standards. I like to think that I hold myself to those high standards but sometimes I really don’t do that good of a job.
  3. Even if I really do think there is a conspiracy going on, it rarely helps to jump up and down and wave my arms while yelling. How often has a real conspiracy (Area 51 notwithstanding) stayed a secret? In order to have a large conspiracy there must be a large number of people know about it. And that means the odds of someone spilling the beans gets closer and closer to 100%. How often does a crime get solved because someone couldn’t keep their mouth closed? I need to just tackle the issue head on.
  4. We may be a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles but we are not and never will be a Theocracy. I have every right to argue against laws that I do not like but “Because the Bible says so” is never (nor need it be) a valid argument as to why a law needs to be changed. If I believe that I have the Truth on my side then I should be confident that a intelligent and logical argument can be made to change a certain law. If my only defense is “Because the Bible says so” then I should probably start to examine why I want that law changed.

Finally the most important thing is to handle any of these discussions with grace and civility. He who yells loudest during an argument is probably not doing well.

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