Distinctions

When looking at the war the right is waging on our freedoms, it’s important to take a moment to distinguish between Christians and the right. We should not be lumping all Christians together, nor should we be forcing all those of a particular political orientation into one box. There’s a spectrum, and it’s wide.

Not all people on the right are Christian, though the right is heavily dominated by so called “Christian values.” Specifically, most of those on the right who are Christian are evangelical, though once again not all evangelicals are on the right. It’s just something about evangelical Christianity, in particular, that lends itself to snooping around in other people’s lives and making high and mighty statements about how everyone else should live. There’s something righteous about knowing you are God’s chosen, living your life the way God has told you, that just drives you to share with others. And sometimes others aren’t interested, so you need to take the additional step of forcing them to live as your God wants them to.

Likewise, not all Christians are on the right. I know a number of deeply devout Christians who are also further to the left, politically, than I. Which just goes to show you that the left isn’t a horde of rabid atheists, either. Indeed, there are a number of Christian peacemaking organizations that work around the world in various communities doing service. Pax Christi, for example, is a large Catholic organization which is working on global violence and justice issues.

Religion and politics in the United States have become entangled to a dangerous and tragic extent. It’s interesting to me when people mount criticisms of fundamentalist Muslim governments when the United States government is essentially a fundamentalist Christian government, creating a sharia all its very own. I think this is sometimes hard for people to see from the inside, and it’s unfortunate because I believe that if more Americans realized what was happening to them, they might fight back.

In general, I am a strong supporter of a the separation of church and state. I think it’s an important political value, and that we can accomplish a lot more as a society if we can get the church out of our legislature and into the community doing good works.

For me, this is what Christianity is about. Christ never told his disciples to oppress women, to kill murderers, or do any of the other things the American government is doing in the name of Christian values. Indeed, he said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Christ brought a message of love and respect, of assisting others and strengthening communities. Apparently that message has been garbled over the years: paging God, we need another messiah.

There was an interesting article in the Chronicle yesterday talking about a large evangelical church in Southern California which was doing AIDS outreach. One can imagine my surprise, since the evangelical church is in general know for such gems as “God hates fags,” “fags deserve AIDS,” “die fags die,” and other creative variations on that theme. But this is a church which repented on its language about AIDS, and realized that with the size of their congregation and the amount of power they controlled, they could do some positive good in their communities and are determined to do it. Of course, they are meeting substantial opposition from people who are concerned that they may try to proselytize AIDS patients. But if they strive, I think they can overcome that–and as church leaders themselves admit, they have given the AIDS community no reason to trust them before, so why should that trust be automatically gained?

I applaud this church for reaching out into their community to build stronger ties and to help people. I also applaud them for their bold move within the evangelical system–it cannot be easy for them to buck party line and say “hey man, AIDS patients need hugs too.” This is one example of something good any church could do.

It saddens me to see people calling themselves Christian and not living as Christ did. It’s hard for me to take someone who has a multi-million dollar net worth and calls ouself Christian seriously. It’s hard for me to reconcile the hatemongers picketing funerals with anti-Gay signage with Christ, because I don’t think that’s something Christ would have done. It also troubles me to see so many people calling themselves Christian and declaring that their faith is the one true faith, that other sects of Christianity and other religions are worthless and condemn you to eternal hellfire.

Remember: Christ was Jewish.

I don’t know how to go about disentangling religion from the state, because it has been embedded from the very beginning. I do wish there was a way to make those in charge realize that they are not behaving in a very Christian way. Imagine an entire government participating in tithing, good works, and community service. My oh my.

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