Trading Jesus for Caesar

Andrew Sullivan has a provocative thought: That the politicization of Christianity in the US is turning people away from the faith (hat tip Pam).

I think there is a lot of truth to this.  The union of conservative politics and conservative Christianity has created a brand. A very strong brand that is associated with denying women access to health care, and reproductive choices. A brand associated with the Duggars and the Quiverfull movement – aimed at trading away agency and free thought for obedience and servitude. Conservative Christianity is tied tightly to the battle against gay rights. A battle that is losing the cultural war with each passing year. A battle with young casualties for gay youth growing up in caustic religious environments. In Rick Santorum the religious right has a champion who is bold enough to publicly attack pornography and pre-marital sex. This union of church and state – this theocratic movement – has a very strong brand with a very simple message: A return to a time where women were second class citizens, homosexuality was hidden or “treated”, and religion enjoyed unelected power.

That brand is costing believers. It is a trade, as the dominionist army gives up their goal of “saving souls” for Jesus in return for taking from Caesar what is Caesar’s.

So to the religious right I ask: Is it worth it?

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Fighting Religious Tyranny

Blog Against Theocracy

We need to step up our fight against religious tyranny, for there are surely those fighting as hard as they can on theocracy’s behalf.

The politically dominant expression (and face) of faith in this country is that of conservative Christianity.  And conservative Christians are in battle mode over their perceived right to force their religion on Americans.  Attempts to portray themselves as the victims only makes sense in that they are weakening.    To paraphrase Mike Gronstal’s incredible daughter(via),  they don’t get that they’ve lost.  Maintaining love segregation is a position held by the old and the fearful.  Men and women who clutch onto their bibles tightly in the presence of unbelievers, and who are only comfortable to the extent that they can force their peers to adhere to their own religious laws.

That this flies in the face of the letter and spirit of our constitution means nothing to them.  Theirs is a single-minded pursuit that allows no room for observation of facts or the inclusion of reason.

Fortunately ours is a resistance to religious tyranny that allows no room for pessimism or blindness.  Rather than fight for control, we stand up for freedom.  For all the Christians who wear their faith on their neighbor’s sleeve, there are those who truly embody the noble spirit of love and humility.  And that is why this is a fight that will go to those who value love.

But no fight is sure until the ending bell tolls.  We must engage in the practical optimism of committment and steel ourselves to see this battle through to victory.  And be certain that the anti-love crowd will surely to step up their attacks (mostly by ratcheting up the crazy) in the coming years.  For example, ironically named NationForMarriage (aka NOM NOM NOM) has a video attacking gay marriage by suggesting it is in fact an attack on conservative Christians and their own faith.

Irritating, no?  So how should we respond?

I think there are two immediately clear approaches.  One is satire that cuts close to the bone.  An idea behind NOM’s deliciously innacurate ad is that public schools teaching kids gay marriage is ok is somehow wrong.  We can run a satirical using impact and extension.  The impact ad would go like this:

Teacher: “Everyone, during the last week of parent teacher conferences, we found out Billy’s parents are both men!”

(Flash to a surprised and slightly embarrassed Billy)

“Gay marriage is morally wrong.  His parents are sinners.”

(Billy slinks below his desk)

“Feel free to bully him during recess.”

(Billy gulps and looks at a nearby, larger kid with a mean look on his face).

“Next up, Rachel!  I hear your parents are Jewish, and are therefore going to hell?”

(Cut to the slogan “Church and State: They Belong Together”).

The extension ad would go like this:

Concerned Parent: “Do you want schools teaching your kids about gay marriage?”

Concerned Parent: “Just how many other non Christian ideas might your kids be subjected to?”

Concerned Parent: “Sex before marriage is ok?  The Bible isn’t 100% true?  The world wasn’t created by God?  Not believing in Jesus is ok?”

Concerned Parent: “Where will it end?”

(Cut: “Put the Christ Back in Schoolchrist”)

The other approach to satire is to go for the throat of their interpretation of Christianity itself.  We can start by advocating and adgitating to give liberal and moderate Christians a voice in the national dialogue on faith.  Too often the only people allowed to speak for Christianity in the public square are conservative Christians.  A good next step would be to bring discussion of religion’s rationals and merits into the public square.  This means more discussions not just of whether or not to be religious (and finally including the nonreligious), but internal religious discussions of what it means to be a Christian brought out into mainstream discourse.  When all we have are conservatives controlling what we are allowed to talk about, we’ll get nowhere.  There is so much more to the disccusion of what religion means and what we can get out of it.

As a part of this effort we need to make an effort to give the 15% of Americans who have no religious affiliation a very public political voice.  This means more elected officials, more voices in the media, and inclusion in discussions of faith’s role in public life.  It means aggressively revealing and debating public officials who treat unbelievers as social deviants.  We need to start including the non religious in inter religious efforts to promote understanding.  For example, a local interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews needs to include Humanists!  We need to get those who do not believe in God, or in Scriptures, or just in organized Religion into the light so religious Americans can realize “hey, they aren’t that scary after all”.  We need to make clear that the 15% with no affiliation are not all atheists, but include Americans who believe in God but don’t adhere to holy books (like myself), and Americans who believe in Scripture don’t take kindly to organized religion.  Each of these groups needs to be seen and heard.  We need to give the non religious the voice we are so adamantly denied.

To sum up, we have every reason to feel optimistic, but now is the time to step strongly forward.  We should use sharp humor as our primary weapon, and work to change the rhetorical landscape to include more traditionally excluded voices (liberal and moderate Christians, the non religious, etc).

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