Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Caesar's unto Caesar

Personally, I love haranguing born-again types, driving up blood pressure levels left and right. Leviticus is spot-on for this stuff, especially since the catchall punishment for even petty crime is death by stoning, preferably by your neighbors. On my doctor’s advice, however, I really have to avoid this as a daily entertainment, even if a twice-weekly dose of vitriol does keep one’s brain cells on their toes. Still, we all need to get along somehow, and if we are going to recapture even some small modicum of civil discourse in this country, perhaps we should meet on a more level playing field. I propose modifying the language of Progressivism.

Perhaps the most galling thing about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they are so freaking righteous about their every position, disregarding Jesus’ comment to “deliver unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and ignoring everything else that Christ and the rest of the Bible has to say about political issues.

The authors of
The Search for Christian America have this to say about getting along in a political landscape that harbors Christians and non-Christians:

Some Christians speak as though there is an absolute antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought, neglecting the degree to which Christians themselves are hampered by sin and error, and the degree to which God’s common grace allows substantial room for communication and cooperation among all people in practical everyday life … Because we all live in God’s world, we have, in God’s common grace, some basis for discussing and shaping public policy without explicit appeal to the Bible. In fact, people from all nations of the world have been able to agree on many principles of justice and human interest, as for instance, in agencies and statements of the United Nations. That they violently disagree on other points or on the application of their common principles should not obscure this degree of commonality. So, Christians and non-Christians may be able to agree on the value of charity toward the poor and the starving, on the undesirability of genocide, that literacy should be encouraged, on the virtue of loyalty to friends and parents, and on many other things (pp.135-136).

Perhaps it’s time to take some of the heat out of the conversation with conservatives, particularly Christian fundamentalists, and engage with them in their own language, i.e., talk Christian to them. Quote the Bible, chapter and verse. To quote the authors of the article above:

As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to disobey civil government (except, of course, when they compel us to disobey God’s Word – Acts 5:29), but subject ourselves to it (Romans 3:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and pray for such rulers and authorities so that we might live a tranquil life (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

I’m not prepared in this column to pursue the argument that Christians are bound by a New Covenant, one that supersedes the Ten Commandments per se, including Leviticus and Deuteronomy; I am sure there are a lot of thoughtful Christian bloggers out there who can clarify my point. I don’t propose that every Democrat or progressive turn him/herself into a theological lawyer. I do suggest that we, each one of us, when talking with a fundy, bear in mind their
confused, inconsistent, irreconcilable and self-contradictory theology. You might want to ask them their position on stoning vs. public burning, say, and take it from there.

Don’t be surprised when they honestly come out in favor of public
disembowelment, though. You will want to point out that, as enlightened citizens of the 21st Century, we have moved passed that particular barbarity, and quote some Biblical mumbo jumbo about peace, not piece, on Earth, etc. Buy a Biblical concordance and study it. Get one of those pocket books with appropriate Biblical quotes and be prepared to whip it out at any mention of “we are a Christian nation.” Fundamentalists are suckers for anything printed:
"The Bible is inerrant, infallible, true, trustworthy, without mixture of error and that, singularly or together, these words mean that every statement and word of the Scripture is absolutely accurate concerning every field of knowledge it discusses."
Keep a talking points flash card on your person at all times, and stick to the script. Do not get upset when they tell you that you are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, unbabtised babies are going to hell, gays are going to hell, abortion doctors are going to hell, etc., etc. Fire back, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." --Matthew 6:33. Gently remind these people that it is not for them to judge, and as Christians, they are enjoined to stay out of worldly affairs.

Bear in mind that these people (the Fundies) regard America as the product of European civilization, the so-called Judeo-Christian ethic and especially the
Great Chain of Being. They haven’t moved into the Humanist 16th century, much less the 21st.

But don’t argue their religion with them. We’re not out to start a new Reformation here; the fundies are well advanced (or maybe devolved) in that already. The whole point of this exercise is to establish your Christian credentials so we can cut to the chase: a reduction in the temperature level, a return to civil discourse, an airing of differing points of view with a Christian demeanor on everyone’s part.

In short, let’s try a different approach, a sort of verbal judo; instead of saying “fuck the South,” let’s say “Jesus loves you, too,” get a civil conversation going and move on from there. It couldn’t hurt.


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