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Religion and Politics [Jan. 5th, 2008|09:35 pm]
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That's right, two of those old favorite forbidden topics in one post...

Men of faith have made excellent elected persons in this country before...let me start there, because it's true.  Religious faith, in itself, is not a sign of mental instability, stupidity, ignorance, dishonesty, malice, bigotry, or any other impediment to participation in our government.

Religious faith is also not a guarantee of sanity, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, fairmindedness, honesty, goodwill towards all, or any other virtue necessary for governance.

Religious faith can be associated with a deep commitment to the rights and privileges our Constitution grants to all citizens...or it can be associated with a deep commitment to privileging one religion over others, attempting to impose one religion's beliefs and practices on those who do not share the same beliefs or agree with those practices.

Our Constitution is supposed to guarantee religious *freedom*...the right of each citizen to choose the kind, and degree of involvement (from zero to 100%) of religious belief and practice *so long as that practice does not infringe on the rights of those whose beliefs are different.*  The government is forbidden to privilege any one religion--to promote one over the others, to impose on those with different beliefs the rules of any one.  It was intended to be secular, even when the positions of government were held by persons of religious faith--that is the only way to guarantee the rights of all in a society where not all hold the same beliefs.

It was written that way because the men who debated and wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had experienced--or their parents had experienced--religious wars, both in the countries they came from and here as well.  The English Civil War.   The wars of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation all across Europe.  They knew that unless the Puritans of New England and the Catholics of Maryland and the Dutch Reformed of New York and the Anglicans of Virginia and the Quakers and Calvinists of Pennsylvania agreed to set aside their individual disagreements for the common good--to live and let live--this new nation could not even begin to come together.  Only a secular government--a government that did not sanction any one of them above the others--could work.

Every citizen could believe what he or she chose...but could not impose his or her beliefs on others outside his or her own group.  Where citizens agreed on a policy that might have had its origin in religion (murder is wrong; theft is wrong; etc.)  such laws could be made--because they were not just religious laws, but practical and reasonable rules for living together that atheists, agnostics, and religious believers could all agree on.

But there  are beliefs which, legal in themselves under this protection, unfit someone for public office, especially at the national level. Anyone who sincerely believes that he or she is commanded by their deity to convert others, or impose on others their beliefs and practices, to appeal to or quote their religion's scriptures, runs into a problem the moment he or she is elected to public office, or is appointed as a judge or an officer in the military.  These positions require one to swear, under oath, that the candidate will "uphold and defend" the  Constitution of the United States.  That Constitution includes the proviso that no religion will be established by the state, that no religion will be privileged over another.   And if someone thinks the Constitution is wrong in so saying--believes that his/her religion requires  trying to force the nation to behave according to one religion's rules--then that person cannot take that oath of office honestly. 

Note well:  that  belief is legal--within the private sector.  But it is incompatible with the duty to uphold the Constitution.   The individual who holds such a belief must either choose not to take that oath--not to run for office, not to become a military officer, not to become a judge--or choose to lie, to say the words but intend to undermine the Constitution he or she has just sworn to uphold.

The honest person will see that, and step back.   When a religious zealot does not step back, you know you're looking at a dishonest religious zealot and such persons (however charming, personable, and apparently reasonable in other ways) is a serious, clear, and present danger to the common good of a nation that has stood for religious freedom for over two centuries.

It does not matter what your religious beliefs are.  What matters here is that you grasp the underlying problem:  if someone sincerely and deeply believes that their deity trumps the Constitution, *and* believes that he/she has a duty to convert others and make others conform to his/her beliefs and practices, then he/she cannot be honest when taking the oath of office (or for that matter the commissioning oath of officers in our military.)  Someone cannot at the same time uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution...and be planning to subvert it.

We do not need a religious zealot as President.  I would say the same of *any* religious zealot, but since the country has leaned way over on the side of Christian fundamentalism (a very controlling group of beliefs) in the past >10 years, with the help of the Administration in the past 8, I am particularly concerned that no Christian fundamentalist who thinks he/she  has a mission to turn this into a theocracy be elected this time.

What we need is someone who--whatever their own faith and however they live it--will respect the rights of every individual citizen of every color and every creed (including the creed of disbelief), will not demonize segments of society he/she does not agree with...someone who understands, and will practice, the need to create unity and not division.   Someone who respects the role of religion in peoples' lives, but is committed to a secular government, holding the line against the zealots of every faith.  (And someone who isn't relentlessly anti-intellectual...that would be nice too.  Someone who is willing to learn and can think straight...)

As for me, I'm a Christian...the other kind.  The kind who thinks "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned..." will keep me busy enough to let other people go their own way (unless they don't want to let me go mine, and others go theirs, and in that case...I'm firmly behind the Constitution.)  


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[User Picture]From: wyldraven
2008-01-06 05:31 pm (UTC)
Very clear and well-written piece. Thank you. I've included a link to this post in one of my own here (on LJ) and here (on IJ). It's good to see a Christian stand up and say these things. Now if only more of you would do the same.

Nope, I'm not Christian, but I have read His words, and have no problem with Him. It's most of His followers who frighten me.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-01-06 05:59 pm (UTC)
There are probably a lot of leaders, religious and otherwise, about whose followers the same could be said.

But in this case I don't think they're following who they think they're following.

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[User Picture]From: knightofravens
2008-01-06 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying this; I'm not an American myself, but I have many friends there (in this day and age, one can't help but) and the situation does worry me. I wish this reverence for the Constitution was more widespread; that there weren't so many people for whom the Constitution seems only useful as a tool to protect certain freedoms they enjoy after they've finished stripping away those they find objectionable.
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From: jhfurnish
2008-01-06 09:17 pm (UTC)
It's interesting that you're from Texas and speaking out on something that seems almost to be made for Texans, the way I perceive most of them. I'm up here in Pennsylvania and I'm very, very worried about Dominionism. It doesn't help that I'm an anarchist and therefore already as cynical about the government and American society as I can get. Well, nearly. I'm sure it can get worse. Great treatise. I hope you don't mind that I reposted it (with full credits in the title) on my LJ blog.
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From: mmegaera
2008-01-06 10:37 pm (UTC)
Am linking to this on my journal. Thank you for being so cogent.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-01-07 04:20 am (UTC)
At this time, I think (my opinion only) that whether the zealots listen or not, the non-zealots must--or some of us must--make it clear that the zealots are not the only Christian voice. We cannot keep the zealors from believing what they believe, but we can say they don't speak for everyone.

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[User Picture]From: roslynsmuse
2008-01-07 05:13 am (UTC)

Your Post is very Timely...

I hope you will publicize the following, far and wide. Our own politicians are tearing up the Constitution before our very eyes. Yes, with sixty co-sponsors, the House recently resolved to honor Christianity as the most important world religion and the prevalent form of religion in the US. I suggest you read these and contact your representatives to protest the use of a US legal body to author approvals and recognition of any religious body. It is a primary violation of the seperation between Church and State.

Go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas and look up House Resolution 847. Here is the text:

I believe the second version (below) is the one which passed the House. The first read even more bizarrely (text also at site):

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the... (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)

LLAlpha3LELHSEENRLhr847--eh.xml [file 1 of 1]
H. Res. 847
In the House of Representatives, U. S.,
December 11, 2007.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its Judeo-Christian roots;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;
(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;
(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;
(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;
(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and
(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

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[User Picture]From: noeltheone
2008-01-08 03:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Your Post is very Timely...

When I first saw this on Right Wing Watch a few weeks ago, I was most amused by the juxtopsition of:

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;


Resolved, That the House of Representatives--...(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide....

Gee, that oppressed majority.
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[User Picture]From: eiredrake
2008-01-07 08:51 am (UTC)

Well said.

Theocracy is bad for everyone except for the leaders of the one sect that seizes power. Our ancestors knew this first hand and i have the sad notion that though we have forgotten it we will soon be learning the lesson again the hard way

But what do we do about it when Congress isn't listening, the Judiciary is stacked like the poker deck of a street corner hustler, the media is owned by the corporate thugs who have a stake in keeping us stupid, docile and ignorant, and the executive is in the pocket of your devil?

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-01-07 02:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Well said.

Say it and keep saying it. Someone will listen, here and there, and then there will be more people saying it. Hearing it said will hearten those who think the same thing but aren't willing to speak out alone.

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[User Picture]From: happypete
2008-01-07 01:33 pm (UTC)

Huzzah; well said.

Good day, Ms. Moon! I believe you've corresponded with my wife, prettypammie on an SFF horse newsgroup. I think this is the first time I've chimed in directly to you. [Gah...I feel like such a fanboy now: "Hi! I'm Pete! Long-time reader; first-time poster!" Okay. I'm over it.]

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who, on learning first that Huckabee was on the rise in the polls, and second that he is an Evangelical christian, thought immediately of If This Goes On, and the Theocratic period of Heinlein's Future History. In fact, a quick search of the web suggests that I am not alone in noting the parallels.

I have loved Heinlein since I was a kid. I am always fascinated by how many of his speculative inventions and ideas have become reality. This is one instance, though, where I dearly hope that his stories can serve as warning instead of foresight.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-01-07 02:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Huzzah; well said.

I thought of _If This Goes On_ some years back, with the rise of the televangelists and their political power, and the Republican Party's decision to ally with the religious zealots to get the numbers they needed to become a majority party.

As De Toqueville pointed out, religious frenzy was from the beginning, and has always been, a dangerous undercurrent in this country (not this country alone, but certainly here.)
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[User Picture]From: blainn
2008-01-08 03:07 am (UTC)
I am particularly concerned that no Christian fundamentalist who thinks he/she has a mission to turn this into a theocracy be elected this time.

I'm curious about any evidence you can provide that any electable candidate for president fits this description, particularly evidence that indicates a means whereby this take-over could be accomplished. I hear rumblings along these lines not infrequently, but, when I request evidence, none is presented. Have you some?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-01-08 06:09 am (UTC)
It depends on how you define "evidence."

We have in place a president who has advanced the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists over those of other faiths, including other Christians, and has by his actions (Presidential directives, cabinet-level appointments, judicial appointments) attempted to--and in some cases succeeded in--imposing his religious beliefs over the will of the majority and the previous law of the land. He was "electable" and he is in office and he has done these things. There's one very large piece of evidence.

The means by which such a takeover could occur already exist with the expansion of executive power in both civilian and military roles, with the control of education at the state level, in the appointment of persons to the Supreme Court who arrive with a religious agenda to overturn certain laws, in the control of federal funds (for instance, in the very biased distribution of grant money to right-wing Christian providers of social services.)

Of the Republican candidates now in the front four, three--from either personal conviction (Romney and Huckabee) or from the need to placate the religious right in order to have a chance at nomination (McCain)--have toed the line on positions relating to reproductive choice and homosexuality. It is clear from their words and their previous actions that they would use the power of the Presidency to continue to privilege Christian fundamentalism. Huckabee, in particular, has made divisive statements about "believers and unbelievers" and the need for "believers" (in quotes because he is including only people who agree with him as believers) to take more control of the country. He, like others who claim this was and is meant to be "a Christian nation" want to make it so--want to change laws, want to impose their standards, want to restrict education to things they agree with. In my own state, within the last month, the director of science for the Texas Education Agency was forced to resign because she forwarded information about a talk given on the politics behind the intelligent design movement. Intelligent design is a religious notion favored by one segment of Christianity--by no means all of us--and censoring information about its connection to the politics in this state, and removing from office someone who has been ensuring that our children have the freedom to learn real science is attempting to impose a religion--an attempt to create a theocracy.

Is Romney electable? Is Huckabee electable? Is McCain electable? Of these, only McCain has shown the slightest respect for the Constitution, and he has wavered back into the fold whenever the religious right threatened to withdraw support. If these men are electable, then using the means already in place, any one of them could continue to impose one narrow view on those who do not share it.

There is ample evidence for any thinking person to recognize that intrusion of one religious viewpoint into politics is dangerous to religious freedom, and that such an intrusion has been occurring, and is now occurring.

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[User Picture]From: vettecat
2008-01-08 05:14 am (UTC)
Beautifully said.
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[User Picture]From: coleoptera
2008-01-08 10:59 pm (UTC)
As for me, I'm a Christian...the other kind. The kind who thinks "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned..." will keep me busy enough to let other people go their own way (unless they don't want to let me go mine, and others go theirs, and in that case...I'm firmly behind the Constitution.)

Exactly. Honestly, I sometimes come at that from a different perspective: I handle my religion that way, and thanks, no one don't need to spend so much time loudly proclaiming that my idiocy or failings. I don't recall ever bringing it up to someone who didn't ask. People who are fanatically for something are the same as those fanatically against something else--fanatics.
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[User Picture]From: first_clark
2008-01-09 12:57 am (UTC)

Fan for a while...

...and delighted to read your pearls here, too. A friend (vettecat) from Arisia and the Heinlein Society linked to your post with a paean.

Well said, citizen. I've taken alternative oaths for non-believers several times for jury duty and expert witness testimony. I consider them as having enduring, binding power still, too. I still recite the Pledge of Allegiance the way I learned it as a child, without "under God". I'm a member of a church that does not demand adherence to a creed and welcomes me despite my doubts about the supernatural. "A free and responsible search for truth and meaning" is work for each individual, whether in community or alone.

I hope you don't mind my friending you so I get a direct feed from you now that I know you post here. I was dragged into LJ to maintain contact with some others. I'm a low volume contributor, myself.
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[User Picture]From: filkferengi
2008-01-09 03:44 am (UTC)
Brava! Well & truly said.
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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2008-01-10 05:36 pm (UTC)
Well said! I find that the more and louder people talk about being Christian, the less they tend to actually follow the teachings of Christ. I'm not Christian but I've read the Bible all the way through and I don't see Christ telling people to act the way the zealots do.
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