Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Let's Talk About God 

speakingcorpse writes:

Dean is a step ahead of us. Blicero and I were just talking about how he should start talking more about Christ, and we weren't aware that he was already doing it:
Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South.
It's really a smart thing to do. The GOP has a monopoly on Christ, but they maintain it by connecting their policies vaguely with God and people's perpetual willingness to submit to the "way things are" in this world. But, as has been pointed out a million times, Christ was a radical anarchist threat to all established authority who finally got himself crucified. Any specific talk about Christ's ministry will lead one very quickly down the path of socialism. And theologically, Christ's whole polemic against the Mosaic Law and its guardians finally justifies a THIS-worldly stance. It was Paul's ideas about grace and justification by faith alone that quickly became a justification for submission to temporal authority (works and actions are futile; only faith can save us, and not in this world, the world of work and action, but the next). But Christ himself could be understood, and was understood by people like Luther and Bonhoeffer, as saying that the religion of the Law--the Jewish Pharisaic code of ritual piety--was inadequate because EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO ought to be in accordance with the Law. Going to the temple, praying, observing the food restrictions--these rituals are outdated and old-fashioned NOT because the old Mosaic Law has been superseded, but because they suggest, in their specificity, that the Law can be appropriately observed with the execution of a few, specially set-aside ritual actions. No, says Christ, it's not enough to be kosher. You have to live every moment of your life in accord with the law. The law cannot in any way be separated from the realm of every-day human conduct.
[At] an appearance at an African-American church in Columbia, S.C.,...before nearly 100 parishioners, Dean said in a rhythmic tone notably different from his usual stampede through policy points, ''In this house of the Lord, we know that the power rests in God's hands and in Jesus's hands for helping us. But the power also is on this, God's earth -- Remember Jesus said, `Render unto God those things that are God's but unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's.' ''
The contradiction with GOP Christ-licking ought to be clear enough: it's totally wrong to "Support President Bush and Trust Jesus" if you haven't first very carefully determined that Jesus himself, in accord with the Ten Commandments, would have supported President Bush. And he obviously wouldn't have supported the President in his systematic desecration of the Word, his murderous foreign and domestic policy, his brutalization of the poor, his rape of the environment, etc., etc. We need to find a way to get Dean to re-read carefully the Sermon on the Mount, and also Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship.

Blicero would like to add that perhaps David Brooks was thinking of that very Sermon when he wrote in his New York Times opinion column:
In the political sphere, there is conflict and rigid partisanship. In the religious sphere, there is mobility, ecumenical understanding and blurry boundaries.

If George Bush and Howard Dean met each other on a political platform, they would fight and feud. If they met in a Bible study group and talked about their eternal souls, they'd probably embrace.
That's nice, isn't it? But Mr. Brooks isn't quite so nice in his first paragraph when he writes:
Howard Dean was baptized Catholic, and raised as an Episcopalian. He left the church after it opposed a bike trail he was championing, and now he is a Congregationalist, though his kids consider themselves Jewish.
David Brooks, I am sure that if called out on this point you would insist that that sentence intends no irony at all. But let me just say this: there is more substance and more spirit in Dean's act of leaving his church over a bike path than there is, cumulatively, in all the "words" that have ever dribbled out from the hole in your face on the subject of "religion." These kinds of comments, Mr. Brooks, confirm to me that you are a rotting corpse, and that your inner spirit is far more revolting to look upon than your physical exterior--and that's sayin' somethin'!

Blicero would also like to add that while Gov. Dean will be talking about the power and hope inherent in the figure of Jesus (and we wish him the best in doing so), presidential candidate Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut will be
chastis[ing] other Democrats for forgetting ''that faith was central to our founding and remains central to our national purpose.''
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, with his emphasis on "chastisement," will no doubt prove that he is the most Christian of the presidential candidates. Meanwhile, he's been doing this:
Lieberman: Dean Will 'Melt' Under GOP Attacks
I might compose a follow-up article, headlined Blicero: The Lower Half of Lieberman's Face/Head Has Already 'Melted,' Despite Absence of GOP Attacks.

But perhaps Joe (who considers his greatest qualification for president the notion that he can protect Americans "at least as well as President Bush") will be heartened by this article from the Palm Beach Post:
Christian Zionists heralded in Israel

HERZLIYA, Israel -- As they say in the preaching business, Pat Robertson had them in the palm of his hand.

No matter that his audience wasn't predominantly Christian, let alone American. They drank up every word. And when the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network culminated his give-no-ground speech to the elite of Israel's political and military establishment with the ringing declaration, "Be strong! Be strong!" many of his listeners jumped to their feet to give him a boisterous round of applause.

High-profile events in recent months underscore the blossoming ties. In October, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed 3,000 visiting evangelical Christians from 80 countries, including some 450 Americans.

"We love you!" Sharon told the gathering, and in a march through the streets of Jerusalem they returned the affection, waving signs such as "Oklahoma Loves Israel" and shouting, "Hallelujah to the God of Israel!"

The same month, several thousand evangelical Christians flocked to Washington to participate in a "Christian Solidarity for Israel" rally sponsored by the Christian Coalition.

Days later, about 16,000 U.S. churches, many of them in the South, participated in a one-day "Stand for Israel" prayer campaign co-chaired by Ralph Reed, who formerly headed the Christian Coalition and is now an Atlanta-based political consultant and Southern regional chairman of President Bush's reelection campaign.

Robertson also delighted many here when, in remarks to local reporters, he called for the "elimination" of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and warned that any attempt by Bush to force Israel to cede East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as a capital for their future state would cost the president "an enormous amount of support among the evangelical votes in the U.S."
Full story.

What fantastic news!! Anyway, Gov. Dean's take on religion doesn't sound nearly as exciting as that. All he says is
''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind...He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''
Think? Huh?


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