Sunday, November 28


Nicholas von Hoffman warns against empowering the pious:

Once the flames of sectarian conflict are ignited, it takes a thousand devils to stamp them out—and that is 999 devils more than the Democrats have at their command. Religion is absolutism, and absolutism goes to war with anything it abuts. Turn on the Christian television—cable is full of it—and listen to them denounce "humanistic relativism." What is relativism? It is moderation, it is accommodation, it is the rule of reason, it is acknowledgment of others who are different, it is a repudiation of dogmatics—but dogmatics are what religion is built on.

Given the history of this party, given thousands of its members in the past who have been the prime targets of faith-based hatred, Democrats will do better in every way to leave the dogmatics to the Republicans. There are worse things than being accused of humanistic relativism and a proclivity for the rule of reason. Who knows, the D’s may be in for a surprise: On occasion, those who are true to themselves have been known to win an election.

Von Hoffman is right. Those Catholic bishops who contemplate refusing communion to voters for pro-choice candidates should rethink their alliance with the fundamentalists. The Southern fundies I grew up among (which include nearly all of my extended family) despised Catholics as much as they did Jews, and often referred to the Roman Catholic Church as the "whore of Babylon." Nothing's really changed. They may welcome Catholic support for their right-wing religious agenda NOW, but just wait until they're confident in their power, and watch them turn on the Catholics. Fundamentalist politicians may swoon over Mormon "family values" and embrace the LDS faithful as natural allies in their religious crusade, but Mormons should take a peek at Southern Baptist training literature, replete with anti-Mormon films, tapes and reading materials. Fundies scorn Mormons as anti-Christian. Our theologies are as different in "fundamental" ways as Christianity is from Islam.

The very nature of Christian fundamentalism is certitude, absolute confidence in its rightness. This is understandable (what else is faith?), and I myself exhibit this in my own private religious beliefs. However, this has been taken to the extreme such that every position taken by evangelical leaders and pastors is perceived by their congregations to be the Word of God and thus inviolable, in direct contradiction to Christ's admonitions that we focus on what unites us and not what divides us, and that each individual rely on the Holy Spirit, not man, to instruct us in interpreting the scriptures. The central characteristic of Bush's candidacy and presidency, and a great part of his appeal to the Christian right, has been certitude. He's never wrong, never mistaken, always confident.

Faced with limited power and a common "enemy," many different confident-in-their-own-righteousness groups have united to affect a common social agenda. But let them win, and you'll see a mighty splintering of the alliance as each group battles for supremacy.


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