Monday, June 26, 2006

Ken Blackwell's God, Pt. 2.

If it were merely a gaffe, I’d let Blackwell’s Godsmack go with one post. But this now week-old story isn’t about an aberration, it’s about something fundamental. Plus I hate writing a Pt. 1 without a Pt. 2 following it.

My Part B on the subject was originally to be a point-by-point refutation of campaign blogboy Matt Naugle’s “Is too!” post. Eric at Plunderbund pretty much nailed that, so instead I’ll make this a little more personal.

Yes, it pisses me off that Republicans paint all Dems as Godless, but that’s not what really bothers me. First off, admittedly, Democrats have a lock on the atheist/agnostic/don’t really care vote. It’s obnoxious to conflate atheists voting for Democrats with Democrats being atheists, but this is politics – obnoxious is to be expected.

What’s more, I wonder if anyone who matters – that is independents and moderates, really buy this. The Republicans’ holier-than schtick can devolve into self-parody as quickly as moneychangers get chased out of the temple. I still haven’t figured out whether I’m supposed to be impressed by the cross Ann Coulter wears on her new book cover, or her prominently featured breasts.

What really troubles me about this is what it says about the Blackwell campaign and a Blackwell governorship. A couple of weeks ago my minister said from the pulpit that she fears a movement to make this a Christian state. While Conservatives laugh off charges that they are advocating theocracy, incidents like this are the only evidence we have of their intent

    • Strickland voted against a measure that permitted the public display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. (Vote 221 6/17/99)
    • Strickland voted against protecting the Pledge of Allegiance from attacks from liberal judges. (Vote 467, 9/23/04)
    • Strickland voted against a constitutional amendment to guarantee every citizen’s right to pray and express their religious beliefs on public property, including schools. (Vote 201 6/4/98)
    • Strickland voted against allowing faith-based organizations compete for federal housing program grants. (Vote 109 4/6/00)
    • Strickland even voted against allowing government-funded religious organizations to use religion as a factor in hiring. (Vote 175 5/8/03)
In other words, Strickland believes in a separation of church and state. Apparently Blackwell believes . . . well, what exactly. He’s apparently in favor of all of the above, but where does this end?

At the Meet the Bloggers session I asked Dr. Green what Christian Conservatives believe about the First Amendment – do they believe that there should be an establishment clause, and if so what do they believe it means?

His answer is that they believe in the Establishment Clause, but believe that it only means that the government should be non-sectarian. That’s the answer I would have expected. Two problems with it: 1) the line between sectarian and non-sectarian government endorsement of religious belief is really doesn’t exist, and 2) I kinda don’t believe it.

Number one will wait for another day. This post is about #2. When people like Blackwell declare that God, not government solves problems, what does that mean, exactly? I think it means much the same as when people say that this country started going downhill when schools could no longer lead students in prayer. Or when they say that belief in evolution leads to social ills. Or that we need to post the Ten Commandments because society will be better served if people live by them. Or that ours is a Christian nation.

The inevitable conclusion to these observations is that government should be in the business of persuading people to believe in God. And since these same people believe that the only way to know God is to know Jesus, inevitably the government’s religious advocacy will be Christian advocacy.

So here’s the personal part. I’m a Unitarian Universalists. We believe – well first of all we believe that our church shouldn’t be saying what “we” believe. Ours is a non-creedal, non-dogmatic faith. Practicing our religion involves what we call “finding our own path” or “creating our own theology” and our critics call “making it up as we go along.”

It’s not easy to offend a UU, but one thing that usually does the trick is Christian exceptionalism. It’s certainly the case for me. I reject the notion that salvation can only come through a belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Too many good people have led exemplary lives pursuing other faiths for me to accept this.

So my wife and I are trying to raise our children in this faith. It’s not easy. We see the Christian message pretty much everywhere. And as they get older and understand what those fish on the cars mean and their Chapel-going friends get more into evangelizing, it will be that much tougher. We live with that. What we do not need on top of that is the government using its vast resources to preach to my children. I accept that we are a small, minority religious community, but I will not accept my family’s faith being marginalized by our own government.

So it is important for me to know what Ken Blackwell thinks of all this. Does he think I have the right to practice my faith in peace? Or does he think it’s the government’s job to tell me I’m wrong? He has said, one time, that he has “a healthy respect for religious liberty and religious pluralism.” But he says a lot more about wearing down the "Secular State."


Jill said...

Scott, lovely post.

What Blackwell says and what he does, we know, are not the same and not consistent.

I feel very much as you do about the separation of church and state. I actually thought that fish symbol was for Bass car dealerships because I grew up in the East and NEVER saw that fish symbol until I moved here. So, for 18 years? Yup - thought it meant that that Bass family had a lot of dough from selling cars.

On the other hand, as a ray of hope to you, and you've read or heard this from me before, my faith in Judaism deepened because of my exposure to how others worshipped - but those who I observed NEVER improperly flaunted, flagged or spoke about their religion.

THEY JUST WENT ABOUT BEING THE FAITH THEY WERE, they didn't have to TELL EVERYONE, Hey, look at me! look at me! I'm such a great Christian! Everyone should be a great Christian! Great Christians are, well great! And you should be one too!

I'm sorry - I really don't mean to be making fun of anyone, but that's how the difference seems to me to be now - rather than just BEING and DOING their faith, they way I DO my Jewish thing, so many people feel so compelled to SHOW everyone. In mental health, we'd say those folks have a real problem believing what they're doing themselves, as in, they doth preach too much.

Anyway - you're not alone in how you feel. Thanks for expressing those feelings.

Frank said...

My name is Frank and I am a Catholic.

(Hello, Frank.)

Excellent points, all. I've always felt that even if Church and State weren't separated legally, the Church should WANT that separation. Maybe even more than the government. The idea of (as Kerry phrased it beautifully in one of the debates) "legislating an article of faith" is very un-Christian, in my opinion. To be sure, a lot of Christians feel that they're being better Christians by evangelizing, but spreading the word is far different than legislating the word.

Some folks, though, think that unless their belief system is front and center, they're being marginalized. It's that kind of thinking that causes problems.

STTD said...

(That's Speaking Truth to Douchebaggery)

For me, red flag always go up when someone's expression of their faith is so externally manifested.

What I mean is, when someone is basically saying, "My religion tells me that YOU should be doing XYZ" look out.

Another red flag goes up for me when people say "I'm Christian" but what they clearly mean is "I'm MORE Christian than YOU!"