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Religion and Politics II, Domestic Policy

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Aug 24, 2011

A high school acquaintance recently surfaced on my Facebook. He is currently the minister to a so-called 'subversive' Lutheran congregation in the east. When I inquired about the adjective, he responded to the effect that they take the teachings of Jesus seriously enough to try and live by them. The irony that their approach qualifies his church as 'subversive' was not lost on me.

So, I come to this week's topic with a dubious predisposition, but an honest desire to understand how readers' religious faiths inform their politics in the domestic policy arena (absent any Jovian thunderbolts, we'll examine foreign policy issues next week -- thus completing this bloggy trinity, err, trilogy). So you know whence I come to these issues, I was raised a Protestant Christian and later found a spiritual home as a UU – and while I recall many a Biblical verse, I am not a serious student of them. I know less about the precepts of other faiths. Help me out, here!

Social Policies: the safety net, women's movement.

In this conception, the safety net includes government transfer payments occasioned by old age, disability and unemployment – and you can throw-in the Coming of ObamaCare (a term you may not find expressed Biblically). Is there something holy in being keepers of our brethren? Does Jesus' call for feeding and clothing the least among us resonate for you? And does it matter whether the support is provided in an organized way, by the community – or is it to be all private charity (in which case, is it really a generally available net?). Conversely, if you lost Everything (as many Americans have), where would you expect to turn for help?

Regarding women in the political world, there has been a recent flap over one presidential candidate's belief about 'submitting' to her husband. Are women distinct-but-equal in your religious conception, or is there a hierarchy (formal or informal) that gives men primacy as leaders? Is there a woman's place in the White Home?

The Economy: Tax Policy.

Jesus was no fan of money changers or tax collectors, and I seem to recall another verse about camels, needles and the difficulties of the rich in achieving the Pearly Gates. Do these suggest support for a strongly progressive tax system, at least for those who make their money with money (as opposed to the more honorable job-creationists)? Or is it enough that the Lord helps those who help themselves – and boy, have they?! Or does it argue for fewer taxes, period? Does the Bible, Koran or some other sacred text offer guidance here (other than to avoid the consequences of evasion by timely rendering unto Caesar)?

The Environment: Climate Change/Industrial Agriculture.

This may seem an odd policy combination, but I recall Old Testament grants of dominion over the earth and its other creatures, and a call to go forth and multiply. Is this an unrestricted conveyance, such that humans may confidently ply the planet's resources without fear of climatic consequences? And does the "dominion" grant excuse the routinely brutal treatment of food animals in today's agricultural economy – or is there a stewardship obligation that accompanies it: to act responsibly in our reproduction, humanely toward other species and cautiously in our depletion of the earth's abundance? Are there other learnings that inform your views on environmental issues? And which candidates' positions are most in keeping with your interpretations?

Constitutional issues: abortion, punishment, same-sex marriage.

'Reproductive rights' is the hardy perennial of American politics. While there appears to be a surface division between churched and unchurched, there are surely many among the former group who favor 'Choice.' How does that choice square with your faith? Do life's rights begin with conception? On the other end of the life cycle, is it ever morally acceptable to kill another person, even a murderer – an eye for an eye, or is there another religious justification for capital punishment?

And finally, I've placed gay marriage among the Constitutional issues both because I think minority rights are fundamentally so, and because I predict that the Supremes will resolve it that way (Judge Walker got it right, in my secular view). There are fierce Old Testament injunctions against homosexuality in general, and marriage was surely then seen as a union of a man and some number of women greater than zero. But are the joys (and let us not forget those trials) of marital bliss to be reserved exclusively to one group, albeit large? Would the author of the Sermon on the Mount really agree? Was Jesus not talking about oppressed minorities in his blessings for such as the meek or the poor-in-spirit? Would he advocate for anything less than full equality among the communities of humankind? What Would Jesus, or Buddha or Mohammed really Do on this point?

There are, obviously, many other political issues than the ones I've chosen. Please feel free to hold forth on any of your choosing. After all, this confessional -- while public -- remains fully, safely anonymous.

Comments (11)

Posted by Christine Connor, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I too am a Lutheran, apparently subversive. As a Christian I can't support capital punishment as an individual I think that human life begins when said human enters the world at birth. Too many babies are born to parents who cannot responsibly raise them . I think this is a tragedy. Abortion is painted by conservatives as a choice women take lightly, I don't buy it. Jesus had women disciples as well as male, the fact that they are often described in the Bible as the women rather than by name speaks to the times in which the Bible was written...and re-written, not I think the view of Christ.Jesus never said women should "submit" to men ...or vice versa. I do in fact think we were given "dominion" over other forms of life. My understanding of this however is not that that means we are to run roughshod over all, rather dominion is in the sense of a benevolent monarch, RESPONSIBLE for the welfare of all. As a Christian, I think we are called to see Jesus in every face we see. Gay, straight, able-bodied or not, all races. We are specifically instructed not to judge. As to taxes...absolutely , Christ on earth was a social activist and the Bible reports it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to be saved....Did I leave anything out ? :)


Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Dear Tom and Editor,

Thank you for asking very important questions.

So, to get things rolling, here are my answers:

Social Policies are governed by the reality that USAmerica's wealth belongs to all its citizens and we provide government to insure such equality of opportunity and support.

Our obligation to each other as USAmericans must be equal to our income in our tax policies without obligation on those that have no resources to pay a share of such tax.

Beyond Milankovitch climate cycles we have impacted our climate and environment and we share an obligation to preserve our world going forward.

No man or other woman has the right to decide the right of abortion and it remains the singular right of a woman to decide. No people or its government has the right to take a life unless in dire defense of other lives. No people or its government has the right to decide marriage beyond the laws of such contractual partnerships.

No belief exceeds the rights of individuals or should restrict the people's government. Thus, George Carlin's edit of the Ten Commandments covers such beliefs, "Keep thy religion to thyself!"

Let the wild rumpus start!

Of Ralph remembering MAX


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:20 am

Tom, in worrying about how the opinions and actions of people are influenced by holy scripture I think you may be overestimating the influence of the Good Book on how they think. Christians of all denominations, at least, seem perfectly happy to pick what they like from the Bible and ignore the other parts. No one worries about the rich man and the camel in the eye of the needle, or about turning the other cheek. Paul's teachings about sex are happily disregarded by modern Christians, and daughters of our best Christian families get pregnant before marriage. The many atrocities sanctioned or commanded by god mainly in the old testament are also, thank god(!), ignored, at least by Christians. The long list of "crimes" punishable by death is forgotten. The many crazy laws designed to keep the minds of the faithful on their religion 24 hours a day are disregarded.

The truth of the matter seems to be that the teachings of their holy scriptures are pretty much irrelevant to what the faithful think and do. Good people select the good teachings in the Bible as a guide, and nasty people have no problem at all finding the nasty stuff to justify their inclinations.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

Tom,

It would seem you could oppose ineffective and inefficient giant government wealth distribution programs and still be a good Christian. Why should we think God wants us to embrace every federal welfare program dreamed up in Washington DC? Local government is more accountable than big government. What's wrong with letting state and local governments tackle poverty and other social problems?

Man-made climate change is a tragedy. Another tragedy is the false belief that our green agenda will stop it. Dismantling our carbon-based economy will not stop China from building a new coal power plant each week or stop poor nations from seeking wealth through deforestation.

Shouldn't Christians devote their resources to where they will do the most good? For example, Kyoto asks that the global economy spend $180 billion per year for each year of the coming century mitigating CO2 emissions. Yet spending just $10 billion annually, the U.N. estimates we could save 229 million people from hunger today.

Finally, everyone focuses on the tragedies of climate change with scant regard to its benefits. For example, global warming is expected to result in 400,000 more heat-related deaths globally. However, isn't it also expected to result in 1.8 million fewer cold-related deaths?

Web Link

I'd like to address your other points when I have more time.

Ralph,

Why do you assert that "America's wealth belongs to all its citizens?" By that rationale, shouldn't the world's wealth belong to everyone on earth? Why not divide all wealth equally among everyone on earth? Half the world lives on $2 a day or less. Do you think you should be entitled to more than $2 per day, just because you happen to live near rich Americans? Why should you be entitled to their wealth more than the world's poor who actually make the products Americans enjoy?


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Aug 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Ralph, you make a good point in your last paragraph in your response to
Tom. I and probably other people who are disturbed by the vast inequity in wealth distribution in this country and the world tend to feel that the people who have too much money are the ones who are richer than we are. But you don't have to be a Christian to be bothered about this. Surely a "good Christian" can not think that Jesus would approve of the unbridled accumulation of wealth in a poor world by many who profess to be his fervent followers?

(I know you weren't addressing me!)


Posted by Ralph, answering, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Dear Tom and commentators,

Let's take the concept of the wealth of our nation as its opportunities and the support WE, the people, provide each other through our goverments. Our nation has the wealth of resources both economical and physical that are employed for WE, the people by WE, the people. As we transfer such wealth to those in need of support we build opportunity for contribution to our economy through our services and provide jobs within our economy based on such services.

The more we reduce our support and services to those among WE, the people, that need support, the more we remove value from our domestic economy. In the end, each reduction simply creates another downward step in our domestic economy and is recessive to jobs and the economy itself. Such reductions also impact demand for private sector goods and services and further reduces our economy.

Of Ralph without ROFL


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Aug 25, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I'm a little confused by your last post, Ralph. When you say "... we transfer such wealth tho those in need ..." are you talking about government services or is that a corporate "we" and refer to job creation etc? Do you also include the transfer of wealth by the obscenely (sorry, I mean tremendously) rich through the building of mansions and private yachts and tennis courts?

But in any case, what does any of this have to do with being a good Christian? Is a good Christian just a reasonable person?


Posted by Christine Connor, a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2011 at 4:25 am

Hello All,

Dirk, in response to your last question, I think it is probably not so that a good Christian is the same as a reasonable person (my husband is an atheist and a better, more reasonable person can't be found).

In spite of some of the irrationality of the "Christian" Right however ,it IS possible to be a "good" Christian AND a reasonable person...



Posted by Normal mainstream republican, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I strongly believe in personal responsibility, and am short on tolerance of those whose irresponsibility encroaches on me. If a person has 3 children they cannot feed, it should be a crime to breed a fourth. If it is so important to catholics, then let their pope bankroll them, not the US taxpayer. Sadly, I strongly feet the pope is responsible for the poverty in Mexico and other catholic countires. I strongly think condoms should be included in all charity baskets, and must be part of any foreign aid package. I was outraged in the last decade, that religious zealots preventing those protections...far more important food, which is temporary. I believe in the 'teach' them, to help them out of poverty. We should not reward irresonsible breeding.
Along the line of choice, I strongly feel the topic does not and never belonged in political discussions. I truly resent catholic and evangelicals talking about 'conception'....like there is a child before you have wiped the sweat from your brow !! To the best of my knowledge, the only reference in the bible is to 'quickening' or 'viability'..4 months. In biblical times this was not written..only 14-15 centuries later was the topic even discussed. I have little patience with those who pontificate on a matters of faith, without science, yet so absolute ! Thumbs down on any candidate to do so.
...more on another day.
Likewise, I think any truly religious would obey and die when their god calls them home ! Hookups are for short periods of time, for stabilization, during operation periods, understanding unhooking would follow. We absolutely cannot hookup indefinitely, as science and mechanical engineers make improvement into perpetuity !! The patient should have signed a request, and for reasonable time hookup OK, but the ones making the decision, are at that moment also, morally committing to UNhooking in a reasonable period of time. Never ever can a Shivao fiasco be allowed again. The one with legal right must UNhook, unless they have some macabre' desire to keep with them, that would be at their cost, certainly not taxpayers.

So, I've covered a few of the dividing issues. I vote accordingly...a true fiscal conservative, no hypocrisy here.


Posted by Normal mainstream republican, a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Pope's answer to struggling families. On kgo news this week, I heard the pope wants to pay people to have more babies. How insane is that? If you can't afford to feed the children you have,...breed some more ! ! ! of course the educating and care would be left to the US taxpayers !! Pope just breeds more poverty...just look at Haiti and Mexico...keep popping those babies...keep this pope happy !!


Posted by Normal mainstream republican, a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Pope's answer to struggling families. On kgo news this week, I heard the pope wants to pay people to have more babies. How insane is that? If you can't afford to feed the children you have,...breed some more ! ! ! of course the educating and care would be left to the US taxpayers !! Pope just breeds more poverty...just look at Haiti and Mexico...keep popping those babies...keep this pope happy !!


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