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.

Legislating Religious Values

Here's another post from the Mainstream Baptist weblog that fits this weblog:

Baptist Press quotes Richard Land, head of a Southern Baptist political action committee, as saying that Christians "have a right and an obligation to bring our religious convictions to bear on public policy issues." He added, "That's not called a violation of church and state. That's called religious freedom. It's called freedom of speech."

When will Land wake up? People of no faith and people of all faiths -- not just Christians -- have an equal right and and obligation to bring their convictions to bear on public policy issues. Religious freedom and freedom of speech are rights that all citizens of our society share equally. These rights exist because the First Amendment created some "sacred ground" where, by force of law, we do not permit others to force their religious convictions on us and where we are not allowed to force our religious convictions on others. That is what separation of church and state means.

Our first responsibility as citizens of a pluralistic democracy is to assure that the laws governing our society are just, equitable and that they preserve religious liberty for all. Then, by persuasion -- not by force of law -- in an ongoing, open public forum, the people all religions and of no religion are free to promote their competing visions of the common good.

Mainstream Baptists still believe that salvation comes by persuasion, i.e. the "foolishness of preaching." We think we can be salt and light by sharing the gospel in the open forum and respectful dialogue created by the common ground of religious liberty for all.

Southern Baptists are giving up on persuasion and are now trying to save society by legislation. They think they can be salt and light by voting for politicians who will force their values on a nation with increasingly diverse values.

- - Progressive Christian Blogger Network blogs en