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Meaning of 'faith' distorted in politics

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

According to what I read in newspapers, some Americans are fearful that our country is heading toward a Christian theocracy. I really don’t think there’s reason to worry about that. A theocracy, perhaps, but Christian? Debatable. But then, if you believe the religious right is truly a Christian movement, I can understand the fear. Of course, people have the right to define themselves any way they choose, and those who want to can sign on to that belief, as well. It would be difficult, though, for me to imagine followers of Jesus Christ invading someone’s country with bombs and bullets as an example of loving their neighbors as themselves. And even though we may not agree with all of Pope Benedict XVI’s policies, he certainly has not advocated the shedding of blood as a method of carrying out Christ’s teaching. Obviously, people have the right to interpret the Scriptures any way they choose, but the hearers of their words should take the measures necessary to verify that the written words and the spoken words agree.

What is really getting on my nerves, though, is the way some journalists are labeling these politicians as members of the “faithful” simply because they spout religious verbiage as they make their political pronouncements. Some are actually criticizing politicians who prefer to keep their religion as a personal matter. I think it is a dangerous practice to try to identify the “faithful” on the basis of their public persona. It is bad enough when brainwashed cult members adopt this attitude, but when so-called literary types begin to do this, it is time to be concerned. We can remember that David Koresh’s flock also saw themselves as the “faithful.”

The sad thing to accept is the reality that, outside of divine intervention or some kind of major catastrophe, nothing will change unless we-the-people change it. As we look at ourselves and one another, we become painfully aware that the lifestyle of survival has forced most of us into the belief that self-absorption is our only means of staying alive. If we can keep the wolf from our door, keep gasoline in our cars, pay for our prescription drugs and keep the fallout from out-of-control immigration off our doorstep, we pat ourselves on the back, content with the knowledge that we have done our bit for society just by staying off the welfare rolls. We have not created problems for the governor or the General Assembly. In this economic, political and moral climate, what more can an individual do?

Unfortunately, not much. But in this present situation, it’s good to remember that religious faith is not a new thing. Probably, a majority of the reading public can remember grandparents faithfully reading the Holy Bible every night, leading the family in prayer and saying grace over the dinner table. Except they didn’t flaunt it in the community’s face to prove their sincerity. After a period of burning witches at the stake, most people learned that people had a right to practice their own religion, and the founding fathers thought it a good idea to write separation of church and state into the Constitution. Every now and then, somebody comes along and tries to erase that portion of the document, and up to now, they have always failed.

Even if these people were to succeed in establishing a theocracy, it’s difficult to imagine how they would govern. We can envision that they would proclaim the stock market as wonderful, but what would they do about the television and the entertainment industry? Probably, just ignore them and pretend they have very little influence on society.

You see, that’s the thing that makes a theocracy a better possibility during these times. The climate of mass denial has become so pervasive that convincing people that the emperor is wearing clothes is hardly worth the effort. All one has to do is create a “reality” television show around an idea, and before you know it, the evidence will be served up with your morning coffee at your local cafe. Credibility is no longer a criterion for judging those who pass on information.

Considering that most people I talk to these days do not expect that this mess we find our country in will ever be straightened out, they are hopeful that the lesser of evils will somehow prevail and things will not be as bad as they could be.

Because we seem determined to cling to the two-party system, hope is all we have. So, the good news is with that wee bit of positive reinforcement and three bucks, we can still buy a gallon of gas. Are we lucky or what?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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