Monday, December 13, 2004

On Religious Values

Scrolling through old blogs at my Mainstream Baptist weblog, I found this blog from August 24th that fits the objectives of this weblog. Here it is:

Thanks to Carlos Stouffer of the Jesus Politics blog for his thoughtful comment on yesterday’s post. These thoughts led me to reflect on the values that are being reflected by the religious rhetoric of both parties:

Many Christians appear to be persuaded that the Republican party represents better their Christian values. . . . Should Democrats imitate Republicans and shape a religious language that would serve their purposes?

Many Christians seem to look at politics in religious terms. So when the Republicans use religious language they will get their support. What is needed is political and religious education for Christians. This way Christians could challenge the easy assumptions of the Christian Right which are more interested in worldly political power than in following the message of Jesus.

In my personal experience, I don’t find the left reluctant to talk about religious values. I hear the left speaking about “universal” values and I hear the right speaking about “exclusive” values. Universal values are values that can be shared without being diminished. For example, mutual respect and concern for others does not diminish as it is shared, it grows. Exclusive values are values that diminish when shared. For example, if I have ten dollars and the government takes one from me and redistributes it to feed, educate and house those who have nothing, I am suppose to believe that 10% of my wealth has been stolen from me. If the same government takes a dollar from me and redistributes it to wealthy industrialists to wage perpetual wars, my wealth (an exclusive value) has still been reduced by 10%, but I am supposed to believe that is a necessary expense for the “defense of property rights” (another exclusive value).

For most people, Democrats and Republicans alike, the value of mutual respect and concern for others is most certainly motivated by religion. These values however, are not exclusively Christian and in our society only “Christian values” get credit for being religious. The “exclusive” “Christian Right,” searching for a corner in the market for virtue, has chosen to deride most universal values as “bleeding heart liberalism” while championing tax-cuts for the wealthy and “the defense of property rights” as “Christian values.”

The niche the “Christian Right” has created for itself is, at its best, based on the most elemental values, and, at its worst, blesses the vice of greed and the sin of miserliness.

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