Posted by: drew | March 9, 2006

The Religion Button and Some Balance

After posting that article about so many Americans discarding Evolution in favor of a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, I thought I should provide some balance in the form of what I deem a positive religious influence in America.

I won’t get into my religious beliefs or philosophies, and just in case the subject might freighten some readers away, know that my views on religion will likely only ever be presented as objectively as I can manage. I write this neither as a Democrat, nor as an Evangelical. The subject is simply relevant in these times when the evangelical influence on our government is growing, and perhaps beginning to recede.

During my customary weekend marathon of satire where I play back DVRed Daily Show and Colbert Reports, I saw this guy Tony Campolo interviewed by Stephen Colbert. It was really interesting and appealed to me. Despite my semi-regular whining about the influence of conservative Christianity within the Bush Administration, I should make an effort to balance this issue with positive aspects of religion in our society.

While I’m very uncomfortable with the blurring of the wall between state and church, I absolutely realize that religion does and can play a very valuable role within the American society.

My brief recollection of Mr. Campolo’s interview was that he describes himself as a “reluctant Democrat” who is pushing for an approach to foreign and domestic policy that is more in line with the teachings of Jesus. My own beliefs aside, I can’t imagine anyone thinking ill of the lessons from the Beatitudes, etc any more than the lessons of Buddha or the Prophet Muhammad.

Go below the fold to see exerpts from an interesting interview with Tony Campolo.

There is abundant material on Mr. Campolo available via Google, but I’ll direct you to one article from a PBS interview I found interesting.

Yes. I think the real place where most evangelicals have trouble with the Democratic Party is on the issue of abortion. But it should be noted that in 1950, when abortion was illegal, 27 percent of women over the age of 35 had had an abortion. In short, I’m not sure that the abortion problem can be solved by legislation. I think it can only be solved through moral persuasion.

The churches and the mosques and the synagogues of this country have really failed to convince the American people that this is a sin. And until we do, we shouldn’t be trying to impose our values by law — not because it’s wrong to do so, but because it won’t work.

I don’t agree that Abortion “is a sin”, but I absotulely agree with Tony’s stance on solving this “problem” via legislation. From what I’ve read, he is very much against legislation that restricts American’s rights. He continues on the abortion question:

I think it is an absolute. For some of us, it’s a very, very strong absolute. We just don’t know, and we are not convinced, that passing laws is going to solve the problem, especially in the age of a pill, where people can have abortions without an surgical operation, where it all becomes a very private matter. Prior to ROE V. WADE, abortions were common even though they were illegal. I don’t think making them illegal again is going to solve the problem.

And I agree even though I don’t agree with his religious/moral opinion of abortion.

Now, onto the topic of Gay Marriage:

The reality is that people like me have very strong feelings about the gay situation. I feel that the government should not be in the business of marrying anybody; that, in reality, what the government should do is recognize civil unions, both homosexual and heterosexual. That’s what they do in Europe. You go down to the city hall and you become legally connected. You have a civil union there. Then, if you’re religious, you go down to the church, and the church blesses the union. That gets the problem solved.

I don’t know of many evangelicals who want to deny gay couples their legal rights. However, most of us don’t want to call it marriage, because we think that word has religious connotations, and we’re not ready to see it used in ways that offend us. Now, I have to say this. My wife and I differ on this issue. She goes to a church that does marry gay people. I don’t. We go to different churches. That’s all right. It seems to me that a gay couple could go to a church like hers and get their marriage blessed. They couldn’t come to mine and get their marriage blessed. But I think it’s up to a local congregation to determine whether or not a marriage should be blessed of God. And it shouldn’t be up to the government.

I respect this stance very much. This “hot-button issue” could be solved oh-so-easily if some folks would stop trying to legislate their morality upon America-at-large.

And finally, forgive the length, but his views on Iraq are interesting:

The most important [Bible] verse for our nation, which is on the Liberty Bell, is 2 Chronicles 7:14. In the bicentennial year, we quoted that verse over and over again. It reads something like this, God saying, “If my people who were called by my name will humble themselves and repent, I will restore them and I will make them whole again.” I love that verse. I believe that America should live up to its nationally designated Bible verse. The time has come for America to do what a powerful nation has never done: say we’ve tried to do right; we know we did right in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But the way we have gone about doing it, without bringing together an international community, without really dealing with this thing in depth, rushing ahead on faulty intelligence, was wrong.

We made mistakes, serious mistakes. We are humbling ourselves before the world. We repent. If America is too arrogant, too prideful to repent, it’s not the kind of country that God wants it to be. And in that repentance, we need to say to the peoples of the world, “Inherent in our opposition to Saddam Hussein, we have nurtured an anti-Muslim attitude, which has to be criticized.” When leading evangelicals say terrible things about Islam, evil things about Islam, terrible things about Muhammad, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I am saying the time has come to repent of all of that and to say, “We want to be brothers and sisters. We may not agree, but we want to be brothers and sisters. And we want to do what’s right.” And what’s right is that the time has come for the United States to withdraw from Iraq and for an international army, sent by the United Nations, to take our place. Our soldiers are being hated more and more every day. It’s time for us to recognize it’s a no-win situation. We’re sorry. We made a mistake. We tried to do what’s right.

There’s no question in my mind that President Bush tried to do what’s right. But it didn’t turn out right. Does a great nation continue to pursue stupid policies? Or does it say, “We’ve made a mistake. We repent. We humble ourselves and call upon the rest of the world to send in armed forces that will, in fact, be welcomed by the Iraqi people, instead of being shot at, as our soldiers are”?

In any event, this intrview covers many other areas and is very interesting. I hope more folks take Tony’s lead and can manage to use their religious beliefs to apply a positive (in my opinion of course) effect to the US and our government. (For instance, respecting the Separation of Church and state would be a great start!)

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