|That's A Christ I Would Not Worship|
One of the issues that I often find myself disagreeing with my fellow liberals about is religion. Bill Maher, for example, recently, and famously, commented:
"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder."
While religion has often been used as a justification for such things as flying planes into the World Trade Center, starting crusades or jihads, or engaging in genocide, In my own life, I've witnessed religion motivating people to love one another, show compassion, and seek social justice. It's impossible to deny, for example, that the civil rights movement was deeply rooted in the gospels, as was the fight for abolition before it.
South Africa's anti-apartheid hero, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anti-Falwell, presents a more accurate portrait of the role of religion:
I keep having to remind people that religion in and of itself is morally neutral. Religion is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting up bread to prepare sandwiches, a knife is good. If you use the same knife to stick into somebody's guts, a knife is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad-it is what it makes you do...
Frequently, fundamentalists will say this person is the annointed of God if the particular person is supporting their own positions on for instance, homosexuality or abortion. I feel so deeply saddened about it. Do you really believe that the Jesus who was depicted in the Scriptures as being on the side of those who were vilified, those who were marginalized, that this Jesus would actually be supporting groups that clobber a group that is already persecuted? That's a Christ I would not worship. I'm glad that I believe very fervently that Jesus would not be on the side of gay bashers. To think that people say, as they used to say, that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality. Abominable. Abominable.
Bill, we can agree to disagree on religion, but if liberals are going to regain their political clout, they must develop a political vision that appeals to the religious in American society rather than alienates them. On Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Jim Wallis began to articulate such a vision; one that can't help but appeal to both the religious and non-religous. Here's what he had to say about his experience on The Daily Show:
Well, it was really kind of funny. Jon and I made a nice connection on the show-I just liked him a lot. He said, "So, Jim, you like, want to apply religion, like the teachings of Jesus, like, to politics?" And I could feel like millions of his audience saying, "Oh no- Jon's got some wacky right-wing Evangelical. It's going to ruin my favorite show." And I said, "Well, Jon, I hardly think that Jesus' two first priorities would have been a capital gains tax cut and the occupation of Iraq." And the audience started to relax and think, "Yeah!" and cheered.
At one point, my favorite- I cited the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says, "I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. I was a stranger. I was in prison, and you didn't come to see me. You didn't minister to me". And they say, we didn't know- "When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, a stranger, in prison?", And he (Jesus) says, "As you've done it to the least of these, you've done it to Me." And so the audience-this young audience-cheered for Matthew 25. I thought it was great.
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