God Politics

spiked-essays | Essay | The curious rise of anti-religious hysteria is filled with old news and views, but far into the article I came upon some rather strange takes….

Unable to justify creationism as a matter of faith based on divine revelation, advocates of Intelligent Design are forced to adopt the language of science to legitimate their arguments and the existence of some kind of God. This highlights their theological opportunism and inability to justify religion in its own terms. Of course Intelligent Design isn’t science; but its appeal to faith in science exposes the limits of the authority of religious faith today.

First of all, if ID is not science by this criteria then neither is Evolution. When one is theorizing on origins both require faith… if that is what you want to call it. Actually it is simply theorizing and without replication ( which is not to be had in this topic) it is all speculation. The best scientists ( most expert and most honest) will admit it.

I think this whole idea of “[u]nable to justify creationism as a matter of faith based on divine revelation” is plain loopy. It depends on the idea that all of the religious camp holds post-modern ideas … deconstructed to oblivion. That people of faith are still in the “God is dead” dilemma, since that simply is not true, this undercuts the whole structure of the argument.

“Anti-religious crusaders, in particular in the US, continually exaggerate the influence of Christianity in culture and politics. Every time I visit America, this fear seems to have worsened. Raising the alarm about Christian fundamentalists has become a taken-for-granted affectation among those who define themselves as liberal or left-wing, who are forever telling horror stories about the power of the religious right.”

Yes and no. Yes, this is a mantra made into a mountain, but it is the remainder of the fact that the Liberal/left underestimated the great middle of America that had both moral concerns and increasingly conservative politics. The reality took them by surprise and scared them because they were actually quite blind and self-absorbed.

But it is true that those who are religious and concerned about the direction of the nation are a force to be reckoned with. It had the effect on the left of waking up to face your worst nightmare…. which was cast in that light due to the intemperate rhetoric they have accustomed themselves to….

The idea that religious fundamentalism is on the offensive and threatening to dominate public life is widely held on both sides of the Atlantic. It is fuelled by the belief that recent developments in the world of politics point to a revival of moralism.

In a way they’ve got that part right. Man has a need to set his moral compass. When it gets out of kilter groups of people panic to correct what they feel is a dangerous situation, understandably so. The difficulty in this is that panic not only tends to overcorrect, it tends to send the entire society spinning. This is why there is a general lumping together of all ‘fundamentalists’ and all attempts to correct the moral compass to traditionally tested values. This is another reason I feel it is important to key in on the concerns of Muslims that have a universal application… such as how to accomplish justice, how to resolve matters through the process of law, how to honorably treat a religious creed, and address those in appealing for cooperation. this accomplishes two things: one it has chance for success in building a better world; two, it clarifies when one is dealing with irrational, and thus impossible demands. That makes it easier to know how to respond.

One of the greatest dilemmas for the West is unifying in the rationale of how to respond to religiously motivated demands. Some are for the good of society…some are as good as death. One needs to discern the difference.

But now we get to the most interesting point of this essay…

Lakoff and others argue that many people who vote for Bush, or who are influenced by the religious right, simply do not know what is in their best interests. Instead of acknowledging the failure of its own political projects, the liberal elite prefers to indict sections of the public for being thick and gullible.

This trend for blaming the rise of theocracy on ordinary folks’ apparent penchant for simplistic black-and-white solutions shifts the focus from the elite’s failure to promote and uphold a positive vision of the future on to the alleged political illiteracy of the masses. That is why discussions of so-called fundamentalist movements often contain an implicit condemnation of the people who support them – and why the alleged creations of fundamentalist culture are implicitly condemned as immoral. It is the insecurity of the Anglo-American cultural elites about their own values and moral vision of the world that encourages their frenzied attacks on religion. There is a powerful element of bad faith here: many leftists and liberals denounce those who appeal to moral values as being inferior, but they are also envious of them. So when the ‘progressive’ Rabbi Michael Lerner criticises his fellow liberals for their ‘long-standing disdain for religion’ and for being ‘tone-deaf to the spiritual needs that underline the move to the Right’, he is implicitly paying homage to the power of persuasion among his fundamentalist opponents .

I take issue with that first contention- that there is a “rise of theocracy”. If we are talking about conservative Christians… this is not so. There is only the smallest fringe element that could be called advocates of theocracy. But the underlying theory that this worry amongst the Left creates the broad condemnation of religion is probably accurate. And as this article then points out… is leading to an envious appropriation of what seems to “work” so well. “…a growing number of liberal and leftist politicians have called for a new moral dimension in their own political platforms.

“The sense of desperation with which some opportunist politicians are searching for moral values indicates what they really hate about the Narnia film: that Aslan is not on their side. Aslan possesses a superabundance of faith – something that the cultural and liberal elite conspicuously lack. When Lerner exclaims that the ‘last time Democrats had real social power was when they linked their legislative agenda with a spiritual politics articulated by Martin Luther King’, he only draws attention to the moral wasteland inhabited by his political associates today “

Even though the author is using the ‘Narnia’ film and reactions to it as a case in point… I believe we ought to be mindful of this tactic and the hidden agendas in such issues coming to the fore as abortion. One of the most insidious – and favored- comments take the tack of “I’m against abortion, but for choice” exemplified in the new rhetoric of Hillary Clinton, et al. If you look at the issue carefully you will still find the “moral wasteland” in such a stance. It just has a new billboard to welcome you there.

In theology I would term this the use of god-words without the God content. The language is appropriated but the substance of meaning is deliberately edited out.

The problem with politically motivated calls for the restoration of a moral dimension to public life is that they are driven by the instrumental purpose of gaining or retaining power.

This is well said. And this is why political activism will never replace Christian evangelism as an efficacious remedy to the moral vacuum and the crisis of Islamic inroads to society.
And why Furedi is right when he says,”Morality marketed by people who do not necessarily ‘believe in such things’ is unlikely to set the world on fire.”

There are many moral dilemmas to be chosen from in our present world. The question for us, as Christians, is not only do we have the answers, but are we brave enough to stand by them. Do we even value what the Liberals so enviously eye for themselves?

William Davies of the London-based Institute for Public Policy research:’The liberal, secular left has somehow to find ways of supplying citizens with emotional and metaphysical comforts even when it does not itself believe in such things’

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