by Molly Ivins
the matter of Gov. George W. Bush's favorite political philosopher: To some extent, one's reaction is a matter of taste and tradition. Many people prefer not to wear their religion on their sleeves; they consider it an unseemly and even offensive form of showing off.
In this school of thought, one acts like a Christian, and that is sufficient advertisement for the merits of the religion. Pietistic lip service is automatically suspect.
There is considerable biblical justification for this stand. Matthew 6:5-6 specifically warns against making a great show of faith and advises us to go quietly into a closet to pray. And again, when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, he made the same point. And, of course, there is no shortage of modern-day Pharisees to set an unpleasant example; we have all known cases in which religion is the first refuge of a scoundrel.
But many other Christians are raised in the shout-loud-the-name-of-the-Lord school, believing that witnessing and celebration are proper components of their religion. And there is much to be said for that point of view as well. Many of these folks say our public life has become a secular desert -- that we are so careful about the separation of church and state that we are in danger of losing all moral perspective on public affairs.
Just as an aside, from a political point of view, I have been amused by a couple of Republican candidates who seem to think that the way to our electoral affection is to tell us all what moral lepers we are.
They announce that we are sunk in sin from sea to sea, a nation of moral depravity, set to outdo Sodom and Gomorrah, rotting from the weight of our collective turpitude, and that we should therefore vote for them. I doubt it will sell.
Besides, my own observations lead me to conclude that Americans, as a bunch, are actually remarkably nice people. A little odd, a trifle comical, to be sure, but by and large a decent set of folks.
I truly believe that dragging Jesus Christ into partisan politics is a grave mistake. It will do Jesus no good at all to be seen in the company of politicians -- apt to ruin his reputation, if you ask me.
If you add religious passion to what are now merely public policy debates, you promptly add an element of fanaticism that can only destroy democracy. We have only to look at Afghanistan and Iran to see what comes of mixing religious zealotry with politics.
I'm going to give you an example of what happens when you mix religion with politics from my point of view, and let all you conservatives see how you feel about it.
We are all agreed that God is nonpartisan, but I have long believed that Jesus is a liberal. The original bleeding-heart liberal, in fact. And you can't weasel out of this by saying Jesus didn't intend for his instructions to be carried out by government; you are the very people who have been complaining about not enough religion in government. So taking Bush at his word that Jesus Christ changed his heart, I would ask him the following:
OK, right-wingers, get it now?
December 24, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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