Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Godless Constitution Chapter 8 - Religious Politics and America's Moral Dilemma's

This was the last chapter in earlier editions of the book. The big wrap up chapter where the authors take their argument and apply it to the modern day.

The authors select three of the current proponents of "religious correctness" to focus on. The three they select are Pat Roberston, Ralph Reed, and Patrick Buchannan. This dates the book a little bit (which is, presumably, why they felt to add a chapter. While both Robertson and Reed are still players and Buchannan is still around.

Pat Robertson is notable for how he blended his religion and his political ambitions. Ralph Reed is notable for how he has successfully marketed the Christian Coalition by downplaying it's specifically exclusionary demands. And Patrick Buchannan is notable for how he combines a sort of muscular Christianity with libertarianism. If Kramnick and Moore were writing the book today, possibly they might switch their focus to Bill O'Rielly, defender of Christmas. They might also reference James Dobson, who's star has certainly risen since President Bush took office.

The section on Pat Buchannen is interesting for how it explains a particular distinction between previous generation's understanding of the phrase "Christian" nation and our current generation's understanding of it. Previous generations might understand our nation as having a sort of national relationship with God. Just like God might bless or punish a person for committing sin, so might God bless or punish a nation for committing sin.

This theory can be used as a rationale for controlling private behavior. It's hard to argue that I should have the right to say you can't drink (assuming you aren't going to drive drunk). How does your choice to drink hurt me? Well in this theory of a national morality, your drinking offends God and weakens our nation's relationship with him. Remember these statements by Pat Roberts.
We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said we're going to legislate you out of the schools. We're going to take your commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states. We're not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We're not going to let the Bible be read, no prayer in our schools. We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And then we say, "Why does this happen?"

Well, why it's happening is that God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.
Patrick Buchannan has, in statements excusing modern responsibility for slavery or the treatment of the Indians, rejected this argument. Frankly it's hard to be a libertarian and believe in this sort of thing.

Of course, it's also easy to point out that the fact that we allow thousands of children to go to bed hungry every night does not seem to bother God nearly as much as removing the Ten Commandments from a court house. At least in the mind of Pat Robertson.

The authors conclude the chapter with a clear statement that religious people need to be involved in the political process, but they do not need to use their religion as a sort of holy trump card that ends debate. Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

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