Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quoting from DailyKos

Yesterday, Devilstower had one of the greatest blog posts ever. I wish to quote a part of it.

This post was about John F. Kennedy's speech to the Baptists, in which he emphasized America's law and tradition of separation of church and state, and saying that his being a Catholic should have no influence whatsoever on whether anyone votes for him or not. This is the speech the Republicans have been distorting into an unrecognizable form since Mitt Romney has been called out on his Mormon faith and has given that speech which was nothing at all like Kennedy's.

But here is a great passage in Devilstower's post:

In discussing the growing influence of religion in politics, many media pundits have been quick to point toward Jimmy Carter. Carter, an obscure candidate trying to reach a broader and younger audience, agreed to a famous interview with Playboy Magazine, a portion of which revolved around his faith. If it had been a cycle or two later, he might have been angling for a chance to guest host Saturday Night Live, or these days face off with Stephen Colbert. The difference is that rather than being pampered through a few minutes of laughs on television, Carter sat down and talked for five hours, during which he answered hundreds of questions.

Of course, only one of those answers is remembered, the one in which Carter confessed that he had "lusted in his heart" after women other than his wife. It's probably the most famous answer in the history of presidential interviews. But do you remember the question?

The question Carter was answering was not whether he'd been tempted to engage in the kind of activities imagined on Playboy's pages. The question was whether, as a professed evangelical Christian, Carter felt that he was better than anyone else. Carter's response was an adamant no. The media sifted his lengthy answer for that "lusted in my heart" moment because they thought it both titillating and funny. Carter's complete answer was a lot more candid and earthy.

Christ says, don't consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who's loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.

And now you know why Carter's Sunday School class is so popular.

The interview also makes clear that Carter was just as adamant as John Kennedy in placing an absolute barrier between church and state. He cites Jesus' admonition to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" as clear instruction that Christians should not insert their faith into political matters, saying that he considered the separation of church and state to be both a constitutional and a biblical mandate.

The current sad state of affairs can't be blamed on Jimmy Carter.

The fault lies in the same calculated cowardice that has dominated Democratic politics post-Carter, and especially in the last six years. John Kennedy went to stand before his opponents and refused to tell them what they wanted to hear, but since September 2001, Democrats have increasingly scrambled to find acceptance, even if that meant reversing themselves so quickly they tripped on their own tongues.

We've reached the sorry state where the Republican Party officially and vocally support everything that John Kennedy stood up against in his 1960 speech. The Democratic Party has adopted a strategy on this and many other issues, in which they either stand aside or lend half-hearted support to Republicans. They do this in the hopes that when Republicans push too far, Democrats can pick up the pieces without having offended anyone. That's the strategy of hyenas. The strategy of vultures.

It's a strategy that wins elections by not losing. But it's also a strategy that advances rarely any cause. After all, when the lions have had their fill, the vultures settle to eat, but the vultures never capture territory from the lions.

In between their efforts to bestow sainthood on bumbling liar, Ronald Reagan, Republicans have recently been trying to remove all evidence of Kennedy's progressive positions so they can claim him as their own. And maybe they deserve him. If George W. Bush can brush the Constitution aside to create his "faith-based initiative," and see it pass the Senate 95-5, how can there be any pretense that the party of John Kennedy still exists? It's worth noting that, previous to the 2002 election, Democrats blocked the passage of this bill in the Senate (even though it had passed the House with the help of 15 Democratic congressmen). If if you're looking for the moment when Democrats officially surrendered the idea of separation between church and state, 2002 is as good a date as any. Sent fluttering by their losses that November, the vultures settled down beside the lions to gnaw away the Constitution.

Forgotten in all this are the issues that Kennedy wanted to address in that long ago speech. The issues that Kennedy called the "real issues" of the campaign. Issues like poverty.

the hungry children I saw in West Virginia

Health care.

the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills

Inequality and education.

an America with too many slums, with too few schools

And the loss of respect the nation was suffering in international affairs.

the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power

Any and all of those issues might have been the centerpiece of a Democratic speech today, because those issues remain unsolved. And oddly enough, many of these issues were also on the mind of the man who two thousand years ago stood up in his family church and announced that "I come bringing good news for the poor."

When you're too busy trying not to lose, you may win elections now and then, but you rarely advance those causes you're supposed to care about. We've reached the point where Republican voters can claim the philosophy of absolute greed.

"I make a great deal of money through my own hard work. I don't want to pay for someone else's child to eat breakfast at school anymore."

Get that? She makes not just enough money, but a "great deal of money." How dare anyone take it away for something so frivolous as feeding a poor child? And yet Republicans, through their actions in blurring the lines between church and state, have become the "party of faith." Because they say so. Because they are bold in their actions and snarling in their defense.

We need to be just as adamant. We need to not hide behind any abstraction or evasion. We need to be unafraid to address this voter and say "I am going to take some of your money, and give it to that poor kid, because it's more important -- both to the child and to society -- that he eat, rather than that you have an extra week in Cabo."

Note that we should not pretend that "a program will take your money." Or "the government will take your money." This is a democracy, and we are the government. I will take your money. I will. Some of that money you worked hard for and want to keep. I will give it to a kid who is hungry. If your concern is that poverty should be addressed by individuals, then there's a simple solution: feed him. If there are no poor children needing food, I won't have to take anything for them. If your position is that people would be more generous if only the government would stay out of it, then sorry. I'm not willing to put this child at risk to as part of your experiment. Besides, if that were true, then why were their more hungry kids before we started these programs to give them a little breakfast? If your position is that your being able to keep all your money is more important than a child being fed, then I simply think you're wrong. And sick. You want to keep that money? You better beat me at the polls.

The strategy of vultures gives us both a party and a nation that would embarrass John Kennedy. The erosion of that barrier between the interest of the state and that of the church gives us a church that Jesus would not recognize. As an American and a Christian, I find both results terrifying.

Those ministers in 1960 might have hated what Kennedy had to say, but they applauded him for having the courage to say it. What candidate today will have the guts to step forward[?]

Thanks for a great post, DT.


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