January 26, 2007

Christians and Politics

The recent ascendancy of the Religious Right has led many to conclude that Evangelical Christians should stay out of politics. Even though I myself am an Evangelical, I sympathize with this view, agreeing that the actions of such leaders as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have been, to put it mildly, misguided.

But does the wrong-headedness of my fellow believers mean that Christians should start practicing political abstinence? Again, as sympathetic as I am to this view, I don’t think so.

Christians are called to help others. (I’m not going to reference any biblical verses here because support for this point can be found on pretty much every page of the Bible.) And given that governments can be instruments for both helping and hurting people, it follows that being politically involved is one way Christians can go about helping others.

In the past, politically involved Christians have helped make the world a better place. For instance, some of the staunchest abolitionists were Evangelicals, from William Wilberforce in England to such Americans as Charles Finney and William Lloyd Garrison. Christians were also at the forefront in the fight for women’s suffrage in the early nineteen-hundreds, as well as the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties.

The problem with the Religious Right, then, has not been that they’ve engaged in politics but simply that they’ve engaged in it so wrongly.

The first mistake of the Religious Right has been the inconsistency with which they’ve applied their faith to public policy. Evangelicals have focused on attacking a small number of issues (e.g., abortion, gay marriage, and divorce laws), all of which seemed to be condemned by literal interpretations of Scripture. However, at the same time, they have espoused policies that would seem to be condemned by the same interpretive methods. For example, the New Testament clearly portrays Jesus as a pacifist and would therefore seem to condemn such actions as Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war, a doctrine that has been fervently embraced by the likes of Robertson and Falwell.

The second mistake of the Religious Right has been its determination to force unbelievers to live by distinctly Christian values. It’s my belief that all people (barring those with such mental illnesses as sociopathy) share a core set of moral values. This conclusion is shared by such scholars as anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn.

According to Kluckhohn, “Every culture has a concept of murder, distinguishing this from execution, killing in war, and other “justified homicides.” The notions of incest and other regulations upon sexual behavior, the prohibitions upon untruth under defined circumstances, of restitution and reciprocity, of mutual obligations between parents and children—these and many other moral concepts are altogether universal” [1].

Given that virtually all of us share these values, it makes sense to establish our laws accordingly. For example, I doubt anyone would want to repeal prohibitions against such acts as murder and theft.

But there are some values that are more controversial. The wrongness of homosexuality, for example. Although we conservative Christians may find homosexuality to be contrary to God’s law, this isn’t so obvious to many other people. Whereas everyone agrees that such actions as murder and theft are wrong, a large number of people see nothing wrong with giving two men or two women the right to marry.

So, in conclusion, I think Christians should be politically involved. But they must not be so consumed by such issues as abortion that they fail to realize the importance of other issues. And they must realize that unbelievers should come to embrace the peculiarities of Christianity through evangelistic preaching, not state coercion.

[1] “Ethical Relativity: Sic et Non,” Journal of Philosophy, LII (1955).

Also published at ZealForTruth.

January 15, 2007

When ‘the Lesser’ Governs

I’m proud to say that I voted for several Democrats last November. But it wasn’t because I liked them. (I didn’t.) Or because I’m a Democrat. (I’m not.) Or even because I’m a liberal. (I’m actually fairly conservative.) No, I voted for these Democrats simply because they weren’t as bad as the Republicans running against them.

And if the Republicans nominate someone like John McCain next year, I imagine I’ll be voting for the Democratic presidential candidate. But again, it won’t be because he or she deserves it.

Like the GOP, the Dems are showing themselves to be a group whose political ambitions exceed their sense of responsibility. It just so happens that the Republicans, namely those in the White House, are worse.

But back to the Democrats. The American people voted them into Congress last November largely because of Bush’s incompetent handling of Iraq. Moreover, most of these voters hoped the Dems would force an end to the war.

But now that they’re in power, what are they doing to end it? Nothing. Not only that, but they’re not even preventing Bush from sending more troops.

Yes, the Dems are preparing to vote on a resolution that would express their disapproval of a surge in troops. But that vote would be purely symbolic, and Bush has made it clear that, no matter what, he will go ahead with his plan.

There’s also talk that the Dems might vote on a resolution that would demand that the President get their authorization before attacking Iran. But there’s no reason to believe that Bush would be deterred by that resolution—as he could argue that (a) Congress already authorized the war in Iraq, (b) Iran is funding the insurgency, and therefore (c) Congress has implicitly authorized an attack on Iran.

But the Democrats aren’t really as powerless as they may seem. Contrary to popular belief, they are capable of ending the war. All they have to do is defund it, a right afforded them by the U.S. Constitution. And they might be able to prevent an attack on Iran by, as Paul Craig Roberts suggests, making it clear that they will impeach Bush and Cheney if they attack Iran without receiving congressional authorization.

But the Dems are worried about the political consequences of these actions. If they defund the war, they might be accused of leaving our troops out to dry. And if they threaten to impeach Bush and Cheney, they might be perceived as being contentious. So, with only a few exceptions (e.g., Russ Feingold), the Democrats have decided to play it safe and let Bush go ahead with his hawkish ambitions.

Defunding the war, of course, wouldn’t be leaving our troops out to dry. The 2007 budget has already been signed into law, meaning that, no matter what Congress does, our troops will be funded for the remainder of the year. By refusing to fund the war in 2008, Congress would simply be forcing the president to bring them home by the end of the year.

And, although threatening to impeach Bush and Cheney would certainly be contentious, wasn’t their contentiousness against the Bush administration one of the main reasons they won last November?

So what we have on Capitol Hill today is politics as usual. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, along with the likes of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, are too greedily eyeing next year’s elections to fulfill their campaign promises, let alone to do what they think is best for the country.

Of course, given who the Republicans nominate for president, many of us might again find ourselves voting Democratic in 2008. If that happens, however, let’s just try to remember that we are simply voting for the lesser of two evils—and not, say, a candidate actually worthy of our respect.

January 7, 2007

To Bloggers Everywhere

You’re a bunch of jerks. You really are. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Have you read your own blogs lately? Well, I have. And do you know what I saw? Well, to put it kindly, fecal matter. Lots and lots of fecal matter.

But that’s not quite fair. See, feces has a purpose. Feces makes the world a better place. If it weren’t for feces, we’d all get bloated and die. But your blogs don’t have a purpose and in fact they’re making the world worse.

You want to know what I’m talking about? Okay, I’ll give you a few examples.
  • im dying. i hate myself. somebody kill me.
  • I stare at a keyboard and think about saying a million things.but all i do is stare at the keyboard and...
  • YAY for my B in logic class! OMG!!!! stupid class! so damn hard! ahhh~! I was SOOOOO sue i was gonna get a C or.... d.... but YAY! a B!
And those are some of the more interesting blogs I’ve come across. The worst are when you go on and on about your personal lives. And I wouldn’t have a problem with you talking about yourselves if you weren’t so incredibly boring.

And I don’t begrudge you for being such boring people. I can only pity you. I can’t even imagine how horrible life would be if all I had to talk about was what my boyfriend got me for Christmas or how my friends and I just sat around all weekend and watched Charmed reruns.

I pity you. I really do. But, even though your lives are so pathetic, could you please spare the rest of us all the excruciatingly moronic details.

You see, the world would be a better place if most of you didn’t blog. Or if you only blogged when you had something to contribute.

Contribute. That’s the key word.

Think of blogging like donating to charity. You wouldn’t give away something that no one else could use. You wouldn’t, for example, give away an empty jar of lima beans to a homeless shelter. In the same you, you shouldn’t blog something that won’t benefit anyone else.

You want to whine about your bad day? Guess what, that doesn’t really help me. Unless you whine in such a way that makes me laugh. And, NEWSFLASH, most of you aren’t very funny. So give it up.

So you want to complain about President Bush? Again, it doesn’t really help me. Unless you’re able to make a point or suggestion that hasn’t been made before.

Now I realize that some of you blog as a way to keep in touch with friends. Well, let me share a little secret with you. There’s this thing called email. You can do everything through email that you can blogging. Only email has one major advantage: when you email a message, there’s absolutely no possibility of me reading it and realizing what a total jerk you are.

I know that Time magazine named bloggers everywhere its Persons of the Year. Well, guess what, in 1938 Time named Adolf Hitler Person of the Year. A few years later, they gave the award to Joseph Stalin. So your award doesn’t mean anything.

And your blogs are just clogging up the internet, making it harder to locate those people who actually deserve to be read.
So please, for the love of humanity—and I mean that, for the love of humanity—please, stop it.