Friday, April 08, 2005

The Rise of the Poli-Christians

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

-The Serenity Prayer (I learned this through some weird association to Alchoholics Anonymous when I was about 10. It is to this day the only prayer I know by heart, unless I have misquoted it here, which means I don't know any.)

Conservative evangelism has a grip around American politics and the rest of America is beginning to feel the squeeze. When do we, as sensible constituents of our elected officials declare that enough is finally enough? Organizations exist whose stated purpose is to infuse religion into politics in order to gain ground in the political arena. The watchdogs of the conservative right are attempting to dictate policy in order to promote a predominantly religious agenda including teaching creationism in our schools. Separation of church and state has never been so gravely threatened as it is now.

There are many dangers in infusing religion and politics. The first, and most obvious, is the influence that such beliefs could have on policy and not just of a moralistic nature, but also on domestic and foreign affairs, finances and education. Secondly, common religious beliefs could be culled into statutes of law, thereby all but eliminating jurisprudence and impartiality based on societal moral trends.

The church, from a political standpoint, insults its constituents. The notion that any one person needs as a guide a religious figure is insulting beyond all reason. The prevailing ideology amongst the Poli-Christians is that most Americans are not morally sound enough to make their own decisions. One cannot adequately express how alarming it is that the church is quickly gaining power and influence in our governmental institutions. Surely there are citizens out there who are good Christians who recognize and acknowledge this disturbing trend towards a more puritanical society.

And what of us who don’t believe in organized religion or those are not Christians? Aren’t we becoming underrepresented and/or misrepresented? One might point that out to the Poli-Christians, but they would only ignore the facts and say that they’re not speaking for all religions, just Christianity and each religion (though already at a disadvantage) has the opportunity to do the same.

Where does this infusion end? When is enough enough? When does the average Christian admonish the religious leadership in this country and distance himself from the absurdity of their political ambitions?

One thing is abundantly clear: there is an increasing gap in values both demographically and geographically in this country. However, we of common sense must transcend this gap and let common sense prevail. No religious doctrine belongs in our government. Keep the religion where it belongs – in the church.

Many neo-conservative Christian leaders of the so-called right are called religious fundamentalists. The 9/11 terrorists were also called religious fundamentalists. Clearly there are some very stark differences between these two groups. But there is one commonality and that is the shared belief that God – however different their definitions may be - should be omnipresent in every aspect of life. However, the founders of this country were wise enough to foresee the inherent hypocrisy and inevitable corruption such a melding of church and state could bear and chose to allow citizens the freedom to practice whatever religion they chose as long as it was kept separate from and had no direct on influence the policies of the American government.

One needn’t argue that Christianity doesn’t or shouldn’t have any affect whatever on the social and moral fabric of this country. As the primary religious belief for most Americans, there is a strong undercurrent and indirect influence of Christian moral philosophy present in American policy, which is to be expected. Christianity has and will continue to serve a moral purpose in America in that it allows a frame of reference from which to draw when such policies are being debated, especially in the theater of national politics. However, an increasingly theocratic government would lose sight of any fault in the sometimes hypocritical and impossibly dogmatic Christian doctrine and would therefore be weighted on the side of blind acquiescence to an often times archaic and sometimes morally reprehensible code of conduct.

A government that is predicated on religious doctrine is known as a theocracy.

We must stop giving religious leaders political clout and credibility in the media. Politics is supposed to be approached with an objective, analytical and socially conscious frame of mind. Christianity has predetermined bias certainly against those of other religions and also against those who choose to live outside the strict boundaries of Christian doctrine. True political discourse does not exist in the presence of religious convictions.

Morals, and values are good for any citizen. In this country we are generally quite free in deciding how to conduct ourselves. Each individual is unique in her assessment of what kinds of morals she would apply in her life and pass down to her family. There may be some stark contrasts, but morals, no matter how they derive, are basically the same across the board. People know right from wrong and they don’t necessarily need a religious reference to facilitate the process.

Religious institutions exist so that we may freely explore and decide for ourselves which avenue of spiritual faith we would prefer to pursue. It is not in the best interests of our country to allow any one religious institution to dictate any kind of moral conduct whatsoever, for then our laws will have lost the impartiality which our forefathers held so dear. Many fundamentalists are quick to point out that those who first came upon these shores were doing so to seek asylum from an increasingly repressive and discriminate religious regime in Europe. Perhaps this is the best point they make, though not necessarily in their own favor. Let us not forget this fact. Yes, this country was founded by those who not only sought out the right to practice their own form of religion as they saw fit but also to practice it in a country whose government was untainted by the rhetoric of dogmatic religious law to which they did not subscribe.

I believe I am consistent with the writers of our Constitution when I say: God has no jurisdiction in the government of the United States of America!

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