Sunday, November 07, 2004

Religious Writing

Well, there's an awful lot being said about the role of religion in this most recent election, and I figure I better get my say in before a newer, hotter topic comes onto the scene...

I've watched the media divide this country into two groups: the religious and the not religious. They go on to make many assertions about what it means to be labeled with each. I thank God, literally, for people like Jim Wallis who have been willing to stick their necks out and challenge the traditional labels. Unfortunately, I think PBS is the only station that ever invites him.

I am religious, and I think I'm right. But I am not a Republican. Here's why:

When the polls and the religious right refer to moral values, they are only actually referring to two issues: abortion and homosexuality. I do, in fact, believe that abortion is wrong. It is killing and that is a sin. I also believe, however, that abortion is an effect of other ills in our society. Women who choose to have abortions are not necessarily being selfish. If you have no way to support a child, you cannot count on our government to help out. Republicans have historically opposed subsidizing day care because they believe it is unfair to stay-at-home moms. So the cost of quality day care continues to skyrocket. Republicans also, however, have led the charge to reduce welfare benefits. Do you realize that the majority of welfare recipients are under the age of 18? The point is, if you are a single pregnant woman, you won't be able to afford day care, but you can't stay at home with your child either. Your only choice is to leave your child in the hands of our foster care system which has failed so many of our youngest citizens. If people really want to stop abortions, why don't they get out there and provide help for single moms? More than that, why don't they volunteer to be foster parents? I fully believe that would be much more effective than standing on the street, holding up signs, and yelling at people.

On homosexuality...I'm pretty sure it's wrong. There is more than one verse in the New Testament that equate homosexuality with sin. I haven't spent enough time researching the issue to say unequivocally that it is a sin, though. I also can't deny the research that suggests people have a tendency to be homosexual. That doesn't make it right though. Some people have a tendency to be alcoholics or shoplifter. I am leaning toward a position that homosexuality is an evil temptation that people should try to deny, but I do not in any way suggest that would be easy, or that I even would be able to do so myself. The issue on the ballots isn't about whether homosexuality is wrong, though, it is about whether they should get married. Frankly, my dear, I don't care. If in fact homosexuality is a sin, how does marriage change that fact? The religious right would tell me that I should be offended because it destroys the sanctity of my own marriage. Well, the whole time the lines were forming in Massachusetts, I didn't feel any less connected to my husband. You want to talk about a threat to marriage? Let's talk about the divorce rate! Why don't we? Perhaps because many churches have ignored what the Bible has to say about that, and as a result many members of the religious right themselves would be convicted.

...Which brings me to my next (and most cynical point). Why is it that these are the only two issues considered by the Republicans/religious right? I would suggest it is because it makes people feel good about themselves. People want to know they are right. They want to assure themselves of salvation. They want to simplify Christianity into a list of requirements with a few boxes you can check off. Perhaps the form looks something like this:

Not homosexual?
Never had an abortion?
Congratulations! You are now guaranteed a future in Heaven. (Note: this
also gives you the right to point at other people and say they are WRONG.)

You don't see anything about helping the poor on the list, even though there are over 2,000 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue. Why? Because you can't check it off! Who can ever say to themselves "I've done all I can do to help the poor." The story of the Widow's Mite shows that we can always do more. In my opinion the Republicans could barely do less. Where does Jesus suggest tax cuts for the wealthy as a way to help the poor? What if the Good Samaritan had gone up to the beaten man on the side of the road and said "I can see you are in poor shape. I tell you what I'll do -- there is a small business owner up the road that owns a motel. I'll stop by there and give him the few extra gold coins I have. That way, if you need a place to stay tonight, he can afford to help you. See ya! Be warmed and filled brother!"

Something else that doesn't appear on the list: Have you done all you can do to pursue peace in the world? Have you prayed for your enemies? Have you turned the other cheek? Those were things Jesus himself suggested. Could the United States check this one off? Could George Bush? Could I? I mean, I've tried to on occasion, but I wouldn't say I've lived up to it on a daily basis.

Yet, as a Christian, I've been constantly barraged by people who suggest that you can't be a Christian and vote for a Democrat. I'm not exaggerating. They've used those words. This kind of thinking is just wrong. It comes very close to what the Pharisees did during Jesus' time and Jesus condemned them for it. (By the way, if you are thinking I needed an S after the apostrophe on Jesus, I don't. I checked. You don't put the extra S on Jesus, Moses, or Greek names with more than one syllable. I have no idea why.)

In sum, I encourage everyone to double-check their list. Are you missing some things? I am. Maybe we can work on it together.