A party where few are showing up

September 18, 2007, 2:09 pm | Posted by

Here’s another brick in the wall separating the Christian right from the rest of the country. The Values Voters debate not only didn’t attract the top four Republican candidates, but their failure to show antagonized — and further marginalized — the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich, Rick Scarborough, self-proclaimed representatives from “America’s Largest Voting Block.”

(If you don’t know who these folks are, I recommend a visit to Talk to Action.)

Apparently they conducted a straw poll and Huckabee won overwhelmingly. According to debate’s press release:

“The big losers last night were the no-show candidates Fred Thompson who placed at 4 percent, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain who each received 1 percent and Mitt Romney who was the only candidate to receive zero votes at the end of the night.”

Or maybe the big losers are the folks who threw this party. It looks like voting against the top four wasn’t enough revenge for being ignored:

“How can we expect these no-show candidates to take on Osama Bin Laden and other world leaders when they’re afraid to show up and answer questions from Phyllis Schlafly?” asked Rabbi Aryeh Spero of the Jewish Action Alliance, and Values Voter debate panelist. Rick Scarborough, President of Vision America, and Values Voter Debate Committee member added, “If you care about our votes, you need to care about our values enough to show up.”

Or perhaps pollsters are doing some work and realizing that even most Republicans don’t want this crowd’s mix of privatized Social Security, increased funding for abstinence education, opposition to hate crimes legislation and attacks on embryonic stem cell research?

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View God’s Christian Warriors

August 27, 2007, 2:13 pm | Posted by

In case you missed it, feel free to watch Christiane Amanpour’s CNN documentary, God’s Christian Warriors below:

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God’s Compromised Warriors

August 27, 2007, 12:40 pm | Posted by

Soon I’ll have the full installment of CNN’s God’s Christian Warriors up, but I wanted to point out — in a quick montage below — a theme that ties all three the Jewish, Muslim and Christian right together: the repeated compromise of morality for MORALITY.

Of course compromise is the mechanism of democratic politics and leads to the natural dilution of power among interest groups. But on the religious right among the three monotheistic religions, the desire to not compromise like the rest of the “world” leads to an interesting pattern of internal compromises of personal theology over personal morality. Lying to build settlements, blowing up people to stop the violence, advocating war while believing in the Prince of Peace.

This is classic ends-over-means morality.

And, of course, this sort of ethical compromise is not news to anyone who’s followed the rise of the religious right, but now the question is: how do we turn the rubberneck of the media away from this religious wreckage and back to the growing movement of Jews, Muslims and Christians who know how to get to the voting booth without c(r)ashing in their values?

In this eight minute montage, the news is not that the violent rhetoric of fundamentalism leads to both state-sponsored violence (Iraq war and ’67) and terrorism, but how, in political acts, True Believers can lose their morality to their theology. See for instance, the early juxtaposition of Sunday-school teaching Jimmy Carter with barely church-attending Ronald Reagan. From there onward, the rhetoric of war, of no compromise, leads repeatedly to an Abramoff-esque morality of saving and then selling out souls for personal gain.

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God’s Jewish Warriors and the problem with pragmatism

August 22, 2007, 1:05 pm | Posted by

Like many Americans, my heart’s an idealist and my head’s a pragmatist on things religious and political. I often search for ways to split the difference between these two all too often separate states of being. However, last night Christiane Amanpour showed the danger that occurs when religious idealism and political pragmatism substitute soul above everything else. It’s clear in the people that she interviews who participate in the Israeli occupation that when a humans lie, preemptively attack, and occupy, they lose their head and their heart in the process.

She set it up with this contrast of two warriors on the same side in 1967. . .

But it goes beyond the personal, to explore the last four decade of Jewish history that these individuals influenced — in part — through their Godly warring. During the interviews with the settlers, one cannot miss the struggle in the faithful as they admit that they lied and killed in a pragmatic pact with their ideals. As the Times noted, the most interesting aspect of this is the footage of the fund raising in America that support this cultural war. The mix of money and religio-political strategy should give folks of any faith — liberal or conservative — pause at the cost to morality and dignity that comes with the territory.

As evangelical blogger Peace and Piety writes: “Watching this, I found myself engulfed in disbelief, awe and amazement at what faith can accomplish. When faith is used to try and transform the masses, it destroys civilizations, neighborhoods, homes, cities, kills children and demolishes peace- to say the very least.”

Yale student Baptist Like Me notes that as a part of the God’s Warriors documentary Madeline Albright gave an interview, titled here as On Religion in Politics: Ignore It “At Our Peril.’ She adds, “I’m not really a partisan person, and even though I would never have voted for her Baptist boss and I long for a compelling, ethical pro-life voice to emerge in her party, I didn’t boycott or picket Madeleine Albright when she came to Yale a few years ago. I really admire the Secratary (sic) for many reasons, and I think this new interview, part of CNN’s “God’s Warriors” series, is a very good read.”

Methodist seminarian Facilitating Paradox found the topics covered to be evocative of other less prime time work on the Middle East, writing:

her documentary reminded me of the similar reporting of Bill Moyers and others on the subject. I’ve heard of AIPAC before, heard of its power, and knew that illegal settlements were the persistent problem in any Middle East peace process. I’ve read and heard enough Rabbi Michael Lerner to know that Israelis are just as much in the wrong as any Palestinian. I have a good deal of respect for President Jimmy Carter and his analysis of the situation. But how many other people are already aware of these things? This was the surprise to me: that I was watching this on CNN on primetime. How many people would have their eyes opened? How many people saw these things and heard these stories for the first time? Hopefully millions.

The Two State Peace Plan promotin’ OneVoice blog got to

“thinking about how many people there are in the world NOT engaged in violence and enmeshed in “holy wars,” but are actually working to make things better.Extremists make a lot of noise and carry out their initiatives with a kind of unmatched zeal, dedication, and persistence. They make so much noise, in fact, that they very easily drown out the voices of those calling for tolerance, moderation, nonviolence, and pragmatic steps toward a less conflict-driven and conflict-ridden world.

Thus, we come back to pragmatism. But perhaps a different kind, not the sort where the ends justify the means, rather the ideal of a pragmatism deployed which finds hope in ethnic and metaphysical difference and always negotiates to keep heads cool and hearts beating on. Because as that old Federalist “blogger” James Madison wrote in famous paper number ten:

“Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time, must be prevented; or the majority, having such co-existent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together. . . .”

Although the embed has been disabled, you can still watch the whole first night: God’s Jewish Warriors here.

And if you’re watching tonight’s installment, let us know what you think of God’s Warriors and the issues raised.

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God’s Warriors Today

August 21, 2007, 1:09 am | Posted by

Reflecting on this week’s six-hour prime time series, God’s Warriors, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says, “I did come away with a sense that we — or those people who don’t want to see religion in politics and culture — if we don’t look into it and see what is going on, we’re in danger of missing it and not be able to react to it properly.”

Last night I attended a dinner party, packed mostly with graduate students in religion. One student mentioned an article that he was writing on the recent spate of New Atheism. A budding scholar of the Early Modern period, the question he seeks to answer is, why now? Atheists have been around to a louder or softer degree for centuries. And the title of the article hints at his answer: Religion after 9/11.

As has happened in other times of national, even international crises, the metaphysical battle lines between good and bad become more political than pious. (See the Lisbon earthquake, the Spanish Armada, the Thirty Years War.) Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism gets at this human habit to see in times of trouble a Time of Trouble. If there’s one thing that al Qaeda, Likud, and the Patriot Pastors of Ohio agree upon, it’s that they are on the good side of a Big War.

Christiane Amanpour sets out to explore this religious warrior mentality and examine ” the intersection between religion and politics and the effects of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on politics, culture and public life.” In this preview, Amanpour talks with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell shortly before his passing, about his fight against abortion and confronts him on his disgusting claim that 9/11 was caused by America’s tolerance of homosexuals. It also looks at other Christian zealots who have bombed abortion clinics and murder doctors who perform them in the name of religion.”

The documentaries will air beginning Tuesday, August 21 through Thursday, August 23, at 9 p.m. ET.

Oh, and the dinner? Some pro-life Catholics argued over the Supreme Court with some pro-choice Protestants and everyone declared that the desert brownies were divine.

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