Wednesday, December 19, 2007

 

Christian Intolerance

I’m not sure who Harold Meyerson more offends in his Washington Post hate-screed
against a “Christianized GOP,” Republicans or Christians. He clearly slanders both.

It is no surprise or new development that liberals and others devoted to the Secular faith take every opportunity to demean, degrade and demonize religious faith among their inferiors. Those who hold a pretense of Intellectualism likewise hold as a logical truism that the very tenets of faith automatically make those who adhere to such tenets intellectually and morally inferior. It’s a high minded prejudice, but prejudice just the same.

Meyerson begins his diatribe by tracing a pair of disparate and entirely unrelated public political utterances and calling it a Himalaya-like ascendancy of “Christianization”:
There's nothing new, of course, about the Christianization of the GOP. Seven years ago, when debating Al Gore, then-candidate George W. Bush was asked to identify his favorite philosopher and answered "Jesus." This year, however, the Christianization of the party reached new heights with Mitt Romney's declaration that he believed in Jesus as his savior, in an effort to stanch the flow of "values voters" to Mike Huckabee.
How foolish is this. Was the GOP in any way, shape, form, or manner influenced by then candidate Bush’s invocation of Jesus? I remember well the chorus of catcalls and insults from pundits, politicos and other partisans, most along the lines of, “he’s so stupid he can’t think of any,” or “he’s never read philosophy,” so he had to jump at Jesus as a lame alternative.

Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Christians in name only, those of other faiths, and even agnostics and atheists do in fact often regard Jesus as a philosopher whatever else they think He is or was. But when Bush made that statement, you’d think he’d suggested his favorite philosopher was Popeye.

Note to the religiously ignorant: born again Christians would by definition consider Jesus the most important philosopher to whom to attend. George Bush was perhaps one of the few politicians reckless (or confident enough) to say so.

As to today’s candidate Mitt Romney, one attendant result of his declaration might be a lessening of support for Huckabee and greater support for Romney, but as one of the evangelicals to whom Romney’s speech was specifically targeted, I can tell you that first and foremost the speech was intended to assuage evangelical and other “religious right” voters that a Mormon can be trusted with the Presidency. Romney made the speech for the same reason Kennedy made his. He needed to reassure voters skeptical of the independent-mindedness of a Mormon President, and perhaps as well to confront what some might describe as prejudicial notions of what Mormons claim to believe. (Note that in Kennedy’s case, making the same argument in relation to his Catholicism, that Nixon was hardly some “Christianist” alternative as a Quaker.

Meyerson then confuses Biblical instruction for the individual believer with some kind of Christianity for Government:
But if Bush can conform his advocacy of preemptive war with Jesus's Sermon on the Mount admonition to turn the other cheek, he's a more creative theologian than we have given him credit for.
Ah, that pre-emptive war. A third of Meyerson’s basis for calling the “Christianized” GOP hypocritical. Wasn’t our declaration of war against Germany preemptive? They hadn’t attacked us. Not to dredge up all the arguments along the “road to war,” but there will never be a war that somebody on the Left can call preemptive if they decide there’s no “reason” for it. That’s the point, isn’t it? We should evolve “beyond war.” Just forget about all that Just War nonsense, or any thoughts that WMD make waiting for the “-emptive” alternative to preemption rather costly in human lives and catastrophy.

This stands as one of the more juvenile and uninformed premises for a school of leftist and anti-war dogma dressed up as Theology. Interestingly, you will find few actual believing Christians making this argument. That’s because people who actually study the Bible and believe what it says about God and our duty to God, man, and civil authorities knows there’s a difference between the different audiences. God speaks to individual man, He can influence leaders and Governments and the fate of Nations, but the Bible is for individual people. Turning the other cheek is what a person who is wrongfully treated is to do. It’s not Jesus’s Leadership for Dummies.

Not that Meyerson really would want to know, but Paul in Romans 13 (New International Version) explains:
Submission to the Authorities

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, via Bible Gateway)
No turning of the cheek there. And talk about the need for separation of Church and State, does Meyerson seriously want us to believe that he desires a President to make decisions based on Bible teaching?

I would never argue that non-Christians, or non-practicing Christians, ought not read the Bible, but I do think that they might refrain from quoting authoritatively from the Good Book if they don’t and haven’t studied it. You know, in context, as it applies to life and the world around them.

Meyerson’s second indictment of the GOP relates to Meyerson’s preferred (but hardly universal) definition of torture:
Likewise his support of torture, which he highlighted again this month when he threatened to veto House-passed legislation that would explicitly ban waterboarding.

It's not just Bush whose catechism is a merry mix of torture and piety. Virtually the entire Republican House delegation opposed the ban on waterboarding.
One issue is whether water boarding actually constitutes torture, the other whether such interrogation methods are ever justified. I intend no argument here, as I myself am uncertain on both counts. But I will suggest that taking a position contrary to Meyerson’s on either don’t leave me in jeopardy of eternal damnation. Jesus levels no such indictment in the Bible over the rulers extant in his day, who were surely guilty of gross orders of magnitude worse.

The leader of the free world, quaint notion as it may be now to some, must confront both state and non-state actors who see nothing wrong with beheading journalists and filming it for worldwide consumption, using handicapped children as bomb-carriers, and blowing thousands and someday millions of innocents to dust to advance their aims. They torture their own citizens in ways far more horrible as any even contemplated by military interrogators consider in the face of imminent “ticking time bomb scenarios,” to use the all too realistic expression.

Again, not that Meyerson really cares about whether what he considers torture is biblically supported. He’s like that host of Cheaters, who follows the aggrieved victim of the Cheater around constantly highlighting how terrible the victim has been treated, how awful it is, meanwhile using his faux sympathy to create as much shock television sensation as he can create.

Meyerson reserves his crassest slander for the third part of his indictment, suggesting GOP positions against illegal immigration, for tighter enforcement, or limiting public expenditures as equivalent to slavery or Ku Klux Klan violence.

First, there’s Meyerson’s inexplicable comparison of illegal immigrants in America to the Hebrews in bondage under Pharoah. Right, except for the fact that these immigrants are here by choice, not by force under slavery. Meyerson compares a biblical injunction not to “vex a stranger nor oppress him,” conveniently ignoring companion instructions to force those same strangers to conform to Jewish laws, customs and regulations or be shunned, rejected, ejected, or worse.

Meyerson saves his most venal insults for those who would object to open borders, non-existent immigration law enforcement, amnesty, or unlimited benefits for illegal immigrants. All of course, because to object in any of these ways is to betray racism and bigotry:
The demand for a more regulated immigration policy comes from virtually all points on our political spectrum, but the push to persecute the immigrants already among us comes distinctly, though by no means entirely, from the same Republican right that protests its Christian faith at every turn.

We've seen this kind of Christianity before in America. It's more tribal than religious, and it surges at those times when our country is growing more diverse and economic opportunity is not abounding. At its height in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was chiefly the political expression of nativist Protestants upset by the growing ranks of Catholics in their midst.

It's difficult today to imagine KKKers thinking of their mission as Christian, but millions of them did.

Today's Republican values voters don't really conflate their rage with their faith. Lou Dobbs is a purely secular figure. But nativist bigotry is strongest in the Old Time Religion precincts of the Republican Party, and woe betide the Republican candidate who doesn't embrace it, as John McCain, to his credit and his political misfortune, can attest.
Meyerson is as bigoted as any KKK klansman, and he betrays his hostility towards both Republicans and Christians in refusing to acknowledge any basis for other principled objection to the status quo or efforts to eliminate what few constraints weigh lightly on the flood of illegal immigrants.

One of the darkest ironies exhibited by critics of religious expression or thought of any kind, is that they claim religion immoral because religiosity breeds intolerance. Surely it can and does, quite often among its fiercest foes.

(Via Memeorandum)

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