Monday, July 14, 2014

Religion, the Christian Right and Republican Party/Tea Party politics

Digby flags a Daily Beast article by Jack Schwartz The Tea Party Isn’t a Political Movement, It's a Religious One 07/13/2014, in which he writes:

But when religion is thrown into the mix, all that is lost. Religion here doesn't mean theology but a distinct belief system which, in totality, provides basic answers regarding how to live one's life, how society should function, how to deal with social and political issues, what is right and wrong, who should lead us, and who should not. It does so in ways that fulfill deep-seated emotional needs that, at their profoundest level, are devotional. Given the confusions of a secular world being rapidly transformed by technology, demography, and globalization, this movement has assumed a spiritual aspect whose adepts have undergone a religious experience which, if not in name, then in virtually every other aspect, can be considered a faith. [my emphasis]
Digby notes - maybe with a touch of sarcasm? - "I do think the fact that so many of them are also members of the Christian Right may have something to do with this."

Actually, the phenomenon he's describing has mostly to do with the Christian Right. The Republican Party has effectively adopted a theocratic ideology and merged religion with politics. I do think religion can and should inform politics and vice versa.

But merging religion and partisan politics means that if you make a deal on say, taxes or gun proliferation, that you're not just making the best deal you could get and working a set of tradeoffs. It means you're betraying God Almighty!

I actually don't like the way he frames the article. For one thing, you don't need to argue that a social phenomenon is like religion when what you're analyzing is religion.

I would rather look at this as a question of fanaticism, which doesn't require you do define religion so very broadly as he does here. I'm not sure that religion necessary requires a belief in God(s) or even the supernatural. But defining religion as "a distinct belief system which, in totality, provides basic answers regarding how to live one's life" is definitely too broad a definition. A system of ethics, a club, a political doctrine, a secular philosophy can all serve that purpose without a kind of belief in God or a world beyond the material one or the kinds of rituals we typically associate with religion.

With the Christian Right and the five conservative Catholic guys on the Supreme Court who gave us the Hobby Lobby decision, I would prefer to keep definitions of religion more narrow than the one he gives. After all, segregationist thinking provides "a distinct belief system which, in totality, provides basic answers regarding how to live one's life." If we define that as religion, white folks wouldn't even have to claim a church affiliation or even claim a faith in God to say serving African-American customers was against their "religion."

Also, this is a comment that would be hard to defend: "To question the validity of Moses parting the Red Sea or the Virgin Birth or Mohammed ascending to heaven on a flying horse is to confront the basis of a believer's deepest values."

It's true that the Virgin Birth is mentioned in the Nicene Creed, which the Catholic Church and almost all Protestant churches theoretically claim as a basic statement of the faith. But I doubt most non-fundamentalist Christians would thing that was an essential part of "the basis of a believer's deepest values."

Tags: ,

No comments: