Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bridging The Neo-Con Divide

Now that the nightmare of a second W term has proved to be a waking reality (a $35+M reality, and that's just a start), one tries to make sense of the phenomenon once called the "religious right", now "neo-cons". Thought to be a dying breed in the late 80s early 90s, the W age has laid bare the embers of a group patiently waiting for their turn, while pretending to be part of a modern, progressive, tolerant, increasingly enlightened society.

It seems at times hard to even find the language to communicate in a constructive and meaningful way with that bunch, their whole world consisting of simple, closed ended, non-negotiable bizarre interpretation of select parts of the King James Bible. To compromise, even to tolerate other points of view as legitimate is seen as a weakness to them, the beginning of the path to moral ruin. Logic, science, and reason play no part in the infrastructure of their lives (note the recent interview with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on ABC conducted by George Stephanopoulos. Frist, an accomplished physician and surgeon, when asked if HIV can be transmitted by sweat or tears, refused to plainly say "no, it can't" or even "there's no evidence to support that". The question was sparked by a statement in an administration-backed abstinence-only program which stated that it was possible). Indeed, there seems to be little ideological difference between them and the extremists they are trying so hard to smite in the Middle East. Where to start with them.......

I was pleased recently with a guest on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, a gentleman by the name of Jim Wallis. Jon introduced him as a christian evangelist, or some such thing, and plugged his new book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (Harper Collins, 2005). Immediately, my reaction was one of "time to turn the TV off".

Something made me listen, however (more than the righties would have done!), and I was surprised at what I heard. While I'm sure there's plenty Mr. Wallis and I could disagree on, I found that there's also plenty we can agree on; he may be, in effect, part of that bridge I was looking for, part of a growing group speaking out against the hijacking of christianity by the extreme right. I've long believed that a number of people hiding behind the sword and shield of being self-proclaimed "christians" actually conduct their lives in direct conflict with true christian principles. But Jim points this out very eloquently in several statments made for the TV soundbite age. He wants to know since when has christian principles mandated that we invade countries under false pretenses, trash the environment, embrace the rich, and ignore the poor, hungry & sick? He asks as well, since when did the republicans corner the morals market? At the same time he takes a shot at the lefties, asking why one has to push faith in god aside to promote and pursue a progressive social, environmental, and economic agenda (this one puzzles me; I was unaware that this was a requirement, in fact, folk from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to John Kerry have repeatedly affirmed the importance of faith in their lives. Maybe it is a misunderstanding of the fact that by nature, a progressive is more open to question the existence of one, omnipotent god.)? He questions why the righties pass over some 3000 mentions of caring for the poor and sick in the bible, and focus with laser-like vision on the perceived anti-gay passages (the "god, guns, and gays" focus of the righties).

This latter point was also discussed on an Air America program I happened to hear yesterday. The guest was questioning why the righties (particularly the "Left Behind" series nuts) wallow in the fire and brimstone language of the metaphorical Old Testament, then jump right to the Book of Revelations, completely ignoring the love, peace, and charity messages that make up the vast majority of the New Testament. He pointed in particular to Matthew 25:41-46.

This seems to me a place to start, to return the idea of spirituality and morality to the mainstream, and as a personal matter, regardless of religious or political persuasion.

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