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Progressive Faith Didn't Lose The Election


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Progressive faith did not lose this election

by Jim Wallis

 

Religion was a big factor in this election, and "moral values" were named as a key issue for voters in the exit polls. On the Republican side, George W. Bush talked comfortably and frequently about his personal faith and ran on what his conservative religious base called the "moral issues." On the Democratic side, Senator John Kerry invoked the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan, talked about the importance of loving our neighbors, and said that faith without works is dead - but only began talking that way at the very end of his campaign.

 

We've now begun a real debate in this country over what the most important "religious issues" are in politics, and that discussion will continue far beyond this election. The Religious Right fought to keep the focus on gay marriage and abortion and even said that good Christians and Jews could only vote for the president. But many moderate and progressive Christians disagreed. We insisted that poverty is also a religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor. The environment - protection of God's creation - is also one of our religious concerns. And millions of Christians in America believe the war in Iraq was not a "just war."

 

So in this election, one side talked about the number of unborn lives lost each year, while the other pointed to the 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. But both are life issues - according to the Pope, for example, who opposes both John Kerry's views on abortion and George Bush's war policy. Some church leaders challenged both candidates on whether just killing terrorists would really end terrorism and called for a deeper approach. And 200 theologians, many from leading evangelical institutions, warned that a "theology of war emanating from the highest circles of government is also seeping into our churches."

 

Clearly, God is not a Republican or a Democrat, as we sought to point out, and the best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the moral independence to critique both the left and the right.

 

It is now key to remember that our vision - a progressive and prophetic vision of faith and politics - was not running in this election. John Kerry was, and he lost. Kerry did not strongly champion the poor as a religious issue and "moral value," or make the war in Iraq a clearly religious matter. In his debates with George Bush, Kerry should have challenged the war in Iraq as an unjust war, as many religious leaders did - including Evangelicals and Catholics. And John Kerry certainly did not advocate a consistent ethic of human life as we do - opposing all the ways that life is threatened in our violent world.

 

We didn't lose the election, John Kerry did, and the ways in which both his vision and the Democratic Party's are morally and politically incomplete should continue to be taken up by progressive people of faith.

 

In a deeply polarized country, commentators reported that either political outcome would "crush" the hopes of almost half the population. So perhaps the most important role for the religious community will come now, when the need for some kind of political healing and reconciliation has become painfully clear. In the spirit of America's greatest religious leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the religious community could help a divided nation find common ground by moving to higher ground. And we should hold ourselves and both political parties accountable to the challenge of the biblical prophet Micah to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."

from an email from www.sojo.net

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A message I sent to my "email dialogue list" on Nov. 3rd:

 

Dear friends,

 

Well, it seems that the proverbial "fat lady" has sung and George Bush has actually won this election.

 

I did my darnedest to persuade as many as possible of the many failings that I perceived with the Bush Jr. administration. I'm pleased to know that I played a role in helping sway a good number of you to reconsider your support for the president and to maybe even vote for Kerry.

 

This said, I wish to thank all of you for the wonderful banter and dialogue over the past two years. I have learned much and I've considered all of you as friends.

 

While I still feel called to "speak prophetic truth to power" and provide constructive criticism where it is warranted, I remain a proudly patriotic American. I believe in our democratic electoral system and I have great hope for our future.

 

This election has been a very close one and I hope and pray that our president doesn't feel that his winning this election is a "referendum/mandate" upon all of his policies, behaviors, and agendas. I trust that the Democrats and non-beholden Republicans will continue to provide checks and balances to moderate any extremism that might come forth in the years ahead (Supreme Court nominations, foreign policy, etc.).

 

Anti-American hatred and terrorism is still a very real threat to our nation and I urge those of us who have been pointing out the Bush administration's shortcomings in homeland security and foreign policy will now shift gears and do our best to help his team implement many of the helpful recommendations that we have been advocating.

 

And now, I'd like to extend my personal appreciation to the conservatives who I've reached out to for engaging me and being open to hearing what I had to say. I thank you for your passion and for your being open-minded - at times ; ) - to a differing point of view. I thank you for your patriotism and for putting forth your best efforts. While I still firmly disagree with you on many matters, I share your love for this great country and I pledge to do my best to help us be the best nation we can be.

 

To my fellow liberals, Let's roll up our sleeves and do what we can to help inspire the very best in the Bush-Cheney administration. Let's applaud them when they do right; criticize them when they fall short; and support them as best we can.

 

Remember, our glass is not half empty, and nor is it half full; rather, our glass is overflowing. Keep your eyes on the prize and let's keep on being the best citizens that we can be!

 

God bless you all.

 

BrotherRog

Lakewood, CO, USA

 

p.s. Alas, it seems that my earlier prediction was correct; i.e. that the GOP's strategy of raising the issue of gay marriages turned out to have made all the difference. I'd mentioned before that the Bush campaign was banking on the hope that the American people's sense of homophobia was stronger than their disdain for the many failed and wrong-headed policies and actions of the Bush-Cheney administration. Alas, it turns out that they were right. I guess gay-baiting is the new race-baiting... it sure brought people to the polls.

 

While I affirm various religious denomination's decisions to not conduct marriages or holy unions for homosexual couples, I find it most troubling that so many citizens felt the need to deny the right to civil marriages to our gay and lesbian friends.

 

This said, I am very glad that so many Americans turned out to vote this year. Perhaps if we can work on educating and transforming the hearts and minds of more of them over the next four years, a different result with a similarly high voter turn out will take place.

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As I see it, much of the political "left" has largely forsaken religion - and this clearly is not helping them.

 

I'm not saying that all Democrats need to become zealous Bible-thumpers, but I do want my more secular friends to be aware that not all Christians think alike.

 

I suppose some might consider me as being a Bible thumper, but I thump about different portions of scripture than my conservative friends do. I focus upon those portions that Jesus focused upon - the "social justice themes" in the prophets (Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, Micah, etc.) whereas the conservatives focus upon the "personal morality" themes in Leviticus and portions of Paul's letters that lean toward legalism.

 

IMO, unless more Americans who lean Democrat begin to embrace the social justice themes within our Judeo-Christian heritage, they will face a less than desirable future. We simply cannot allow the religious "right" to maintain their monopoly on morality and religion.

Some observations:

 

1. The GOP campaigned heavily to sway Evangelical and Conservative Christians to vote for them via appealing to their being "the party of moral values."

 

2. What they meant by this, and how others wanted to hear it,

was that they are the party that opposes gay marriages and abortions.

 

3. Yet, from a truly Biblical point of view, banning civil marriages for homosexual couples makes about as much sense as is does to do what we're currently doing; i.e. to allow heterosexual couples to divorce for reasons other than adultery. Also, in several states, heterosexual couples who live together for a certain period of time can opt to be recognized as legally married (e.g. in Colorado). Moreover, from a Biblical perspective, legally denying homosexual civil unions makes about as much sense as legally allowing divorced straight persons to remarry.

 

Denying gay marriages makes about as much sense as doing these things.

Alas, we live in a HYPOCRITICALLY "Christian" nation.

 

In case our gentle readers didn't know, each of the things that I've mentioned in these last two posts are equally considered as being sinful according to the Bible (though I'd argue that homosexuality was less egregious to Jesus than divorce was).

 

But, since the majority of Bible readers are straight people, they rationalize their sinful behaviors (remarrige, divorce for reasons other than adultery, premarital sex, etc.) by focusing the attention upon the 5-8% of our population who are homosexual; i.e. straight people make them the scapegoats to allow them to fool themselves into thinking that they are "righteous".. Disgusting.

 

While I point out the rampant and shameful hypocricy of my more legalistic "Christian" friends, in reality, Christianity is about love, compassion and Grace. Due to life experience and societal change, most denominations now allow couples who are living togther before marriage to get married in their churches; most denominations now allow their members to divorce for reasons other than marriage; most denominations allow their members who've been divorced to remarry. Not because they "dismiss" the Bible, but rather, they interpret it as Jesus did; i.e. graciously and nonlegalisticly.

 

Would that more demoninations would cease their hypocritical double standards which deny the right to marry to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters - thereby relegating them to lives of celibacy.

 

But again, in regard to civil marriages in our secular society, American citizens really have no good grounding to deny same sex civil marriages/unions by appealing to their "morality" while at the same time condoning divorce, remarriage, etc.

 

Again, gay-baiting has become the new race-baiting. It is tragic that appealing to people's baser predjudices is what it takes to win elections.

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From an email:

 

The Democrats Needed and Need a Religious/Spiritual Left

November 3, 2004

 

Warm greetings to friends of the Tikkun Community!

 

For years the Democrats have been telling themselves "it's the economy, stupid." Yet consistently for dozens of years millions of middle income Americans have voted against their economic interests to support Republicans who have tapped a deeper set of needs.

 

Tens of millions of Americans feel betrayed by a society that seems to place materialism and selfishness above moral values. They know that "looking out for number one" has become the common sense of our society, but they want a life that is about something more - a framework of meaning and purpose to their lives that would transcend the grasping and narcissism that surrounds them. Sure, they will admit that they have material needs, and that they worry about adequate health care, stability in employment, and enough money to give their kids a college education. But even more deeply they want their lives to have meaning-and they respond to candidates who seem to care about values and some sense of transcendent purpose.

 

Many of these voters have found a "politics of meaning" in the political Right. In the Right wing churches and synagogues these voters are presented with a coherent worldview that speaks to their "meaning needs." Most of these churches and synagogues demonstrate a high level of caring for their members, even if the

flip side is a willingness to demean those on the outside. Yet what members experience directly is a level of mutual caring that they rarely find in the rest of the society. And a sense of community that is offered them nowhere else, a community that has as its central theme that life has value because it is connected to some higher meaning than one's success in the marketplace.

 

It's easy to see how this hunger gets manipulated in ways that liberals find offensive and contradictory. The frantic attempts to preserve family by denying gays the right to get married, the talk about being conservatives while meanwhile supporting Bush policies that accelerate the destruction of the environment and do nothing to encourage respect for God's creation or an ethos of awe and wonder to replace the ethos of turning nature into a commodity, the intense focus on preserving the powerless fetus and a culture of life without a concomitant commitment to medical research (stem cell research/HIV- AIDS), gun control and healthcare reform., the claim to care about others and then deny them a living wage and an ecologically sustainable environment-all this is rightly perceived by liberals as a level of inconsistency that makes them dismiss as hypocrites the voters who have been moving to the Right.

 

Yet liberals, trapped in a long-standing disdain for religion and tone-deaf to the spiritual needs that underlie the move to the Right, have been unable to engage these voters in a serious dialogue. Rightly angry at the way that some religious communities have been mired in authoritarianism, racism, sexism and homophobia, the liberal world has developed such a knee-jerk hostility to religion that it has both marginalized those many people on the Left who actually do have spiritual yearnings and simultaneously refused to acknowledge that many who move to the Right have legitimate complaints about the ethos of selfishness in American life.

 

Imagine if John Kerry had been able to counter George Bush by insisting that a serious religious person would never turn his back on the suffering of the poor, that the bible's injunction to love one's neighbor required us to provide health care for all, and that the New Testament's command to "turn the other cheek" should give us a predisposition against responding to violence with violence.

 

Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk about the strength that comes from love and generosity and applied that to foreign policy and homeland security.

 

Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk of a New Bottom Line, so that American institutions get judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize people's capacities to be loving and caring, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and capable of responding to the universe with awe and wonder.

 

Imagine a Democratic Party that could call for schools to teach gratitude, generosity, caring for others, and celebration of the wonders that daily surround us!

 

Such a Democratic Party, continuing to embrace its agenda for economic fairness and multi-cultural inclusiveness, would have won in 2004 and can win in the future. (Please don't tell me that this is happening outside the Democratic Party in the Greens or in other leftie groups--because except for a few tiny exceptions it is not! I remember how hard I tried to get Ralph Nader to think and talk in these terms in 2000, and how little response I got substantively from the Green Party when I suggested reformulating their excessively politically correct policy orientation in ways that would speak to this spiritual consciousness.

 

The hostility of the Left to spirituality is so deep, in fact, that when they hear us in Tikkun talking this way they often can't even hear what we are saying--so they systematically mis-hear it and say that we are calling for the Left to take up the politics of the Right, which is exactly the opposite of our point--speaking to

spiritual needs actually leads to a more radical critique of the dynamics of corporate capitalism and corporate globalization, not to a mimicking of right-wing policies).

 

If the Democrats were to foster a religions/spiritual Left, they would no longer pick candidates who support preemptive wars or who appease corporate power. They would reject the cynical realism that led them to pretend to be born-again militarists, a deception that fooled no one and only revealed their contempt for the intelligence of most Americans. Instead of assuming that most Americans are either stupid or reactionary, a religious Left would understand that many Americans who are on the Right actually share the same concern for a world based on love and generosity that underlies Left politics, even though lefties often hide their value attachments.

 

Yet to move in this direction, many Democrats would have to give up their attachment to a core belief: that those who voted for Bush are fundamentally stupid or evil. Its time they got over that elitist self-righteousness and developed strategies that could affirm their common humanity with those who voted for the Right. Teaching themselves to see the good in the rest of the American public would be a critical first step in liberals and progressives learning how to teach the rest of American society how to see that same goodness in the rest of the people on this planet. It is this spiritual lesson- that our own well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and on the well-being of the earth-a lesson rooted deeply in the spiritual wisdom of virtually every religion on the planet, that could be the center of a revived Democratic Party.

 

Yet to take that seriously, the Democrats are going to have to get

over the false and demeaning perception that the Americans who voted for Bush could never be moved to care about the well being of anyone but themselves. That transformation in the Democrats would make them into serious contenders.

 

The last time Democrats had real social power was when they linked their legislative agenda with a spiritual politics articulated by Martin Luther King. We cannot wait for the reappearance of that kind of charasmatic leader to begin the process of re-building a spiritual/religious Left.

 

*respectfully sent to you by

Rabbi Michael Lerner.

 

Rabbi Michael Lerner is national co-chair (with Cornel West and Susannah Heschel) of The Tikkun Community, an interfaith organization that seeks to build on the political vision articulated above and more fully explained in our Core Vision which you can read at www.Tikkun.org ; editor of TIKKUN, a bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, author of Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco. www.tikkun.org RabbiLerner@tikkun.org

 

P.S. DON'T DESPAIR--YOU COULD HELP US BUILD THIS NEW APPROACH TO AMERICAN POLITICS

 

P.S. HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO:

 

1. Send this message to everyone you possibly can think of.

 

2. Call the media and demand that they cover this perspective and ask them to contact Tikkun to do interviews with us.

 

3. Join (yes you personally) The Tikkun Community, the organization that is taking the lead in trying to create this very kind of direction in liberal and progressive politics. Become a dues- paying member to make it possible for this view to get heard. The organization we are creating has as its first and foremost responsibility to create this kind of discourse in American politics, not only by challenging the Right but also by challenging the anti- spiritual biases and demeaning attitude toward those who don't agree with the Left that prevails in too many parts of the liberal and progressive world. So we need you not only to join, but to help us spread this new way of thinking. To understand it more fully, we urge you to read and then create a study group with friends on the book The Politics of Meaning or the book Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul.

 

You can join The Tikkun Community on-line at www.Tikkun.org If you can't join, you could still make a tax-deductible contribution to support this work--we can't get transform these ideas into a force capable of changing society unless we have serious financial support (know anyone in a foundation that you could approach for help? or someone with more money? could you do a fundraiser in your community? Whatever you can raise will be most appreciated).

 

Tikkun Magazine and The Tikkun Community need (unfortuantely unpaid) interns and volunteers at our national office in Berkeley, California, and volunteers and interns to work on logistics and organizing for our East Coast conferences in NY and D.C. (working initially out of our apartment at NYC). If you'd like to volunteer

either place, contact liz@tikkun.org

 

***** We are up against a very difficult period ahead.

 

There will be struggles to end the war in Iraq and to protect us from what is likely to be very scary moves to limit civil liberties, decrease social supports for the poor and the powerless, increase militarization and even new wars. If we face all this with the kind of liberal and progressive movements that we've been relying on the

past, we are likely to continue to be very ineffective. That's why taking the Tikkun ideas and building a new kind of social change movement is such a pressing priority. We are not asking people to become religious or spiritual if you are not; we are asking for a new sensitivity to this arena, and new ways of talking to people and new ways of framing progressive ideas, and a new sensitivity to awe and wonder to replace a narrow utilitarian way of approaching other human beings and nature (an ieda already accepted in many ecologically- sensitive circles).

 

Please help us! It's not enough to support our ideas--we need your more active support. If you can find a more powerful strategy, more psychologically sophisticated and more compassionate in its approach to the people who need to be won over to the side of progressive social change, let us know what it is. If not, join and help us build this strategy!!!

 

In peace,

 

Rabbi Michael Lerner -Tikkun Magazine

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forusa.org

 

Let’s raise up OUR ‘moral values’

 

Many in the FOR family are distressed at this week’s election result, and the prospect of another four years of this administration’s aggressive policies abroad and reactionary measures at home. Adding to the feelings of dread is the fact that the President received an even stronger mandate by decisively winning the popular vote, while gaining firmer control of both houses of Congress.

 

But even as we mourn what might have been, we look to new beginnings and a new commitment to our vision for the future. As we deal with sadness, we learn that our Local Groups Coordinator has, since Election Night, received half a dozen requests to establish new FOR local groups! The last time that happened was just after the start of the war in Iraq.

 

We find strength by looking into the past. There we re-learn the positive lessons that against enormous odds, truth, justice and freedom will eventually prevail. The early abolitionists faced tremendous disappointments in their long struggle to end slavery. There were many moments of despair and hopelessness in the early years the civil rights struggle. During the Vietnam War, there were times when the contempt of our fellow citizens almost made us falter. But we stayed the course – against slavery and Jim Crow; against war; for human and civil rights around the world; for the rights of women, minorities and workers; for the protection of the environment; for an end to weapons of mass destruction everywhere.

 

We learn from post-election polls that it was won on “moral values.” The Fellowship of Reconciliation believes in moral values, but doesn’t believe they are the exclusive property of any religious ideology. War and violence is a moral issue. Genocide is a moral issue. The threat of nuclear annihilation is a moral issue. Racial, economic and gender discrimination, the exploitation of women, children and ethnic minorities around the world --- these are all moral issues.

 

As we recommit ourselves to the work that lies ahead, let us raise up our moral values in the public arena. Let us reach out with our progressive faith. Let us engage those whose speak of moral values but support war and killing. There are many more of us who wish to live in a world free of war and violence than there are those who view faith purely a matter of personal salvation, or whose purpose is to bring about Armageddon .

 

The challenges are difficult, but not insurmountable. We’ve been through difficult times in the past. Let us work even harder to promote our progressive, inclusive and courageous vision for our nation and our world. Let us renew our commitment to work for what Martin Luther King called “The Beloved Community” – a world in which differences are respected, conflicts addressed nonviolently and oppressive structures dismantled; a world in which people are able to live in harmony with the earth, nurtured by diverse spiritual traditions that foster compassion, solidarity, and reconciliation.

 

To help us in this endeavor, we ask for your support and your generous contribution to the work of FOR. Please click here to make a donation

 

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Nov. 5, 2004

 

Contact :

Jennifer Hyman, Communications Coordinator

communications@forusa.org

 

©2004 Fellowship of Reconciliation

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From interfaithalliance.org

 

Dear Friend of The Interfaith Alliance:

 

Like many of you, I am amazed at the role that faith and religion played (and continues to) in this year’s presidential election. Throughout this campaign, because religion was used as a divisive strategy, we are left with a nation bitterly divided over cultural and political issues. Regardless of political ideology or affiliation, people all over this nation are trying to fully understand the repercussions of Tuesday’s elections. We here at The Interfaith Alliance are no different.

 

I know many of you are tired and the thought of talking politics is the last thing on your minds. But as you have heard me say many times, regardless of who is elected president, it’s what happens after November 2nd that most concerns me. Today, it is critical that all of us to begin looking ahead.

 

There are plenty of pundits that will dissect Tuesday’s elections but I think it is more important for The Interfaith Alliance family to look at what the future holds for us with regards to religious liberty, pluralism and the institutions of religion and government. For example, the debate has already begun over “moral values” as an integral force behind getting people to the polls. Yet this debate continues to exclude concern for the poor, war and peace, care for the environment and economic justice as common religious and moral values held by concerned Americans. I firmly believe it is up to each and every one of us to remind society that defining the soul of a nation by wedge-issues promoted by the Religious Right and similar groups will only seek to further divide this nation.

 

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Religious Right in the U.S. grew steadily in size and power until it became a sophisticated political-savvy movement. Today, the Religious Right is more than a movement. The policies and fundamental beliefs espoused by its early leadership are bearing fruit in ways we may not fully understand yet. What I do know is that religion, especially the beliefs of religious right, will be at the forefront of many critical debates in the months and years ahead. We must be prepared.

 

Ten years ago, the shared vision of a number of religion and political leaders gave birth to The Interfaith Alliance. Today, The Interfaith Alliance is the only national advocacy voice of the interfaith movement in the United States. It is now up to all of us to make that voice louder and stronger. We must strengthen our local alliances and start new ones. We must make our voices and our presence known in the halls of Congress and our local state houses. And we must call upon our local and national leaders, both political and religious, to respect the values of all our nation’s citizens.

 

Thank you again for all of your hard work, dedication and support of The Interfaith Alliance. We need you now more than ever.

 

Sincerely,

Rev. C. Welton Gaddy

President, The Interfaith Alliance

 

PS. I also wanted to thank you for being a part of The Interfaith Alliance and for your support of the work we do, especially our Election Year program. As we began planning our Election Year program over two years ago, we looked for creative ways to get our activists and members thoughtfully engaged in the democratic process. I am pleased to report that our Election Year program was highly successful and we are grateful to you for your significant role in that success.

 

DONATE TO THE INTERFAITH ALLIANCE

 

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From faithfulamerica.org

 

“An election is not the final word – it is the first step.”

First, thank you. Your involvement through FaithfulAmerica.org has helped to strengthen the democratic process and bring the voice of the faithful to the American political process. That is indeed something of which to be proud, and something we will need even more in the months and years ahead.

 

On November 2, America's voters chose their political leaders. In the midst of a sometimes bitter and divisive campaign, the people of our nation spoke in record numbers. Now we come together to do the good work of forging our national future, recommitting to the vision of a nation that embodies the highest and best of who we are and what we believe. Election rhetoric notwithstanding, we stand together at the threshold of a new day in our lives together as Americans, and we hold a powerful promise – that in a democracy, every voice is important. Every person is vital. Every act of faith is blessed.

 

Progressive faith, speaking clearly and boldly in the public arena, was never more important to our nation's future than right now. Broad-minded, deeply committed persons from many faith traditions and practices are coming together to forge a new power in American political life. They know that the integrity of our public debate depends upon the engagement of people of progressive faith who speak with courage and conviction, rooted in compassion and love.

 

As a member of FaithfulAmerica.org you have a unique and powerful opportunity to make a difference as never before. In the coming weeks and months you will be invited to participate in efforts that will help fulfill the vision of a nation that is truly “blessed to be a blessing.”

 

Here is FaithfulAmerica’s pledge to you! We will provide you:

 

- A vital hotline to your elected officials

- Thoughtful insights and resources into the toughest issues of our day, including background briefs and discussion starters.

- Opportunities to serve in your community and around the world!

- The collective voice across faith lines, bound by a common commitment to a progressive, inclusive, and courageous vision for our nation.

 

Thank you for putting your faith into action through your ballot! Now – together – let our work begin! Through involvement in your house of study and worship, through your prayers, through acts of courage and love, and through FaithfulAmerica.org, the dream of a nation united, just, compassionate, and faithful – can be fulfilled. In the words from the book of Esther, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such as time as this?”

 

It all begins with you. Right here. Right now!

 

Deep peace and blessings,

 

Your FaithfulAmerica.org Team

 

PS: Why not take time right now to give a friend the GIFT OF VOICE? To invite a friend to become part of FaithAmerica.org just send them to www.faithfulamerica.org

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God-talk and moral values

by David Batstone

 

Over the past week a bevy of pundits in the national media have sought to make sense of the "moral values" indicator that emerged as a crucial deciding factor in the election. No doubt about it, abortion and gay marriage were wedge issues that separated the sheep from the goats (or more accurately, the elephants from the donkeys) in the voting booth.

 

We would misunderstand the debate on faith and values, however, if we limit our gaze to specific moral issues. It's also critical to examine the theological worldviews that stand in conflict and guide people of faith in divergent directions.

 

Many evangelicals and Catholics, for instance, report that they voted for George Bush because they perceive he has a personal faith in Jesus Christ. John Kerry talks about faith; George Bush professes it. Kerry looks to faith to inform his perspective, Bush asks God to guide his steps.

 

Perhaps an example will help to further illustrate this point. I shared the podium at a conference in Switzerland recently with a man who works in the banking industry and identified himself publicly as a Christian. A week or so later I wrote to him, saying that it was wonderful to meet an individual who shares my engagement in the world of business and seeks to follow the path of Jesus. He responded by e-mail a few days later with the following: "On our commitments, just a clarification. My commitment is not merely to the 'path of Jesus' but also and primarily to Jesus Himself."

 

Why did he get nervous with my language? He is suspicious that a rational application of Jesus' teaching will take priority over a direct experience of the Almighty. In other words, Jesus is more than a great teacher, but the very presence of God.

 

Why, in turn, do I get nervous when I hear his response? All too often I have seen a "personal relationship with God" used to justify behavior that is a radical departure from the life of Jesus. Of course, I believe that a personal experience of God's grace is a foundation of the spiritual life. But I also believe as a Christian that I only deepen my own spiritual experience when I follow the path of Jesus.

 

Case in point: George Bush believes God told him to level a military strike against Iraq. Once such God-on-one directions are accepted, there is no common ground for moral discussion. After all, maybe God is speaking to him in a manner unique to my own mystical experience. That, to me, represents a dangerous theology. It places an individual's own God experience outside of the shadow of the cross.

 

On a different vector, it is now clear that both conservative and liberals see morality as public. It is strange, though, how uniquely they apply their values. Conservatives tend to be economic libertarians - that is, individuals and corporations should be free to practice their economic lives without government intervention. Hence, they revere tax cuts practically as a faith issue. Conservatives do not trust individuals to make moral decisions with their bodies - elevating same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and stem-cell research to be the central tenets of "family values."

 

Liberals are all in favor of regulating economic activity, on the other hand, in large part because they do not trust the avarice of either individuals or corporations. Yet they tend to be libertarians on social values, convinced that personal moral behavior that deals with sex/body is no one's business but their own. How do conservatives and liberals make sense of these contradictions in their own positions?

 

On yet a third vector, people of faith do not understand God operating in the world in the same way. The vast majority of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians see themselves embroiled in an apocalyptic battle against evil. They are on God's side, and they are fighting Satan's emissaries in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Hollywood.

 

Progressive Christians do not shy from a spiritual battle against those forces that do great damage to human dignity and the environment. But they do not see history as inevitable, nor is God hell-bent on bringing about the end of the world. While specific acts can be called evil - for instance, the massacres in the Sudan - they do not aim to color a map of the world into two hues, the children of light and the children of darkness.

 

All to say, Christians in the U.S. today do not simply disagree on a hierarchy of values. They read the Bible quite differently and express their faith in Jesus in radically distinct ways. I award Thomas Friedman, columnist of The New York Times, with the pithy phrase of the week past: We are "two nations under God."

 

from an email from www.sojo.net

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http://denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%7E...2522515,00.html

 

Article Published: Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Nobody has a monopoly on morality

By Diane Carman Denver Post Columnist

 

If you listen to the pollsters and the analysts, 2004 is the year morality stole the election. Exit polls found that 22 percent of voters last week cited moral values as the top issue in the presidential race.

 

After months of polling, this came as a shock.

 

John Zogby of Zogby International and Frank Newport of the Gallup Poll told reporters that when they asked potential voters to list their top five issues before the election, moral values never came up. It was always the war, jobs, health care, security.

 

But on Nov. 2, morality was hotter than Jessica Simpson.

 

Never mind that those same exit polls found that the economy was ranked first by 20 percent of voters. The statistics on the economy have been thoroughly ignored by the pundits, overwhelmed by the far more titillating subject of an outbreak of moral values.

 

And most political gurus out there define red America's moral values with little more than expedience in mind.

 

So, here we are one week removed from the election and the term has been boiled down to suggest that voters concerned with moral values oppose gay marriage and a woman's right to reproductive choice.

 

Period.

 

Honesty, compassion, tolerance, modesty, charity, love, peace, justice, humility, forgiveness, generosity of spirit - they're moral values, sure, but the moral values of losers.

 

Dana Wilbanks, a Presbyterian minister and professor of Christian ethics at the Iliff School of Theology, is troubled by this.

 

He's clearly one who would rate moral values highly in determining how to cast his vote for a president. But that doesn't mean he automatically opposes gay marriage or legal abortion.

 

To him, morality is the sprawling, complex, eternal struggle to do what's right in the face of competing needs.

 

"I definitely believe one can be highly moral and pro-choice," he explained. "It's a recognition of the decisions that women must make in often extremely difficult circumstances. It's behaving with sympathy and empathy, rather than assuming that a kind of impersonal legal system can predetermine for her what the right, moral choice ought to be."

 

Sure, there is right and wrong, good and evil, life and death. But anybody who has struggled with the moral ambiguities that surround the issues of war, capital punishment, abortion and stem-cell research knows there is no one right, moral answer for every situation.

 

Many people "see moral values only in personal behavior terms," Wilbanks said. "Others, like myself, believe moral values also have to do with social, political, public policies.

 

"For example, affordable health care for everyone, that is a high moral value for me. ... And my understanding of Christianity is that there is very high value indeed in regards to caring for the poor and powerless in our midst."

 

In fact, for someone who truly values morality, reducing it to a narrow political agenda is, well, immoral. It is a given that morality informs their vote. To separate it from questions about war, economic justice and civil rights would be absurd.

 

Wilbanks said Christianity and morality are not necessarily synonymous. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists all can be highly moral - or immoral. Nobody has a corner on moral values.

 

"It can be very arrogant to think our moral views are somehow superior," Wilbanks said. "I think it would be much better if we recognized we have disagreements about what's moral, and not use morality as a club for condemning those who disagree with us."

 

So it may be convenient for one party to lay claim to moral values and for voters to mouth those slogans as an explanation for their votes. It may serve a narrow special interest to define a political stand in terms of moral values.

 

But as a reflection of our true morality or a measure of the relative importance of morality to one group of voters or another, it hasn't got a prayer.

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To put things in perspective a bit:

 

22 percent of voters cited "moral values" as the primary consideration they took into account when voting.

 

Of that 22 percent, 17.6 favored Bush. (Which leaves me wondering: Who are the 4 percent of voters who supported Kerry but believed "moral values" to be more important than the economy, the Iraq war, health care, etc.?)

 

It has been my experience that for most folks who go around talking about "moral values" or "family values," the phrases are code for pro-life, anti-gay rights, anti-feminism, and anti-pornography platforms.

 

In a post-election ABC interview, Karl Rove of all people reminded the interviewer that the social issues vote tends to hover around 16 percent, so the 17.6 percent figure should not be accepted as having revolutionary importance. Why the media is harping on this is beyond me. (I never understood the "NASCAR Dads" demographic, either; beer-swilling working-class white religious Southern husband-fathers have always trended Republican. The Bush job losses gave the Democrats some inroads, but they were never going to even break even in this demographic and I think everybody knew it.)

 

Bottom line: The "moral values" vote is the social conservative vote, which tends to make up about half of the Republican base. Progressives cannot, almost by definition, get the social conservative vote on the basis of "moral values." They can go out of their way not to offend this chunk of the electorate, as Clinton did when he betrayed his principles and signed the Defense of Marriage Act, but they will have limited success even in that arena unless they can actually project themselves as being further to the right than the Republican (at which point people like me would probably vote for the Republican, cancelling the effect). I think we need to focus on the other 82.4 percent of the electorate and stop trying to convince ourselves that we can attract right-wing loyalists. John Kerry got 48 percent of the vote--55 million votes, the highest of any challenger in history--and came 70,000 votes away from carrying the presidency. This was against a wartime president who led in the aftermath of 9/11. Could we have done better with John Edwards? I don't think so. Joe Lieberman? Possibly--that's what Bush allegedly told John Howard while visiting him last year. But Kerry was still an excellent choice, IMHO, and he would have made a great president.

 

 

Cheers,

 

Tom

Edited by Tom Head
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Tom, re: (Which leaves me wondering: Who are the 4 percent of voters who supported Kerry but believed "moral values" to be more important than the economy, the Iraq war, health care, etc.?)

 

On Nov. 2nd I received a phone call from a polling group. I told them that I voted for Kerry. They then asked me a series of questions, including "How significant was moral values to my vote." I answered "very signficant". Of course, I didn't have abortion or gay marriages in mind, rather I had the moral values of oppossing the unjust war with Iraq; the lies and deciet of the Bush Jr. administration; and the concern for health care, low income housing, poverty etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Tom, re: (Which leaves me wondering: Who are the 4 percent of voters who supported Kerry but believed "moral values" to be more important than the economy, the Iraq war, health care, etc.?)

 

On Nov. 2nd I received a phone call from a polling group.  I told them that I voted for Kerry.  They then asked me a series of questions, including "How significant was moral values to my vote."  I answered "very signficant".  Of course, I didn't have abortion or gay marriages in mind, rather I had the moral values of oppossing the unjust war with Iraq; the lies and deciet of the Bush Jr. administration; and the concern for health care, low income housing, poverty etc.

Into the vortex of the morality and political conviction issue:

 

While it is now popular for Republican Party operatives and associates to declare that their values represent what may be considered the true Christian values of American society, consider the fact that In his Sermon on the Mount, it seems that Jesus made a direct reference to the kind of public declaration now being asserted by the religious right. When asked what he thought about the laws (traditions) of the most influential sects in his culture, this was his response:

 

"Do not think I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not co me to abolish but to fulfill...for I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

 

In his own succinct manner, Jesus implied that in the eyes of the public, the righteousness of the most right seemed superior, but in his eyes (one who comprehended deeper motives and truth) such superior righteousness did not merit the approval it sought to influence and obtain.

 

"Leaven may leaven the entire lump, but beware the leaven of Pharisees," he concluded, and so should a discerning progressive Christian.

Edited by Kevin of the Vineyard
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Tom, re: (Which leaves me wondering: Who are the 4 percent of voters who supported Kerry but believed "moral values" to be more important than the economy, the Iraq war, health care, etc.?)

 

On Nov. 2nd I received a phone call from a polling group. I told them that I voted for Kerry. They then asked me a series of questions, including "How significant was moral values to my vote." I answered "very signficant". Of course, I didn't have abortion or gay marriages in mind, rather I had the moral values of oppossing the unjust war with Iraq; the lies and deciet of the Bush Jr. administration; and the concern for health care, low income housing, poverty etc.

I agree with both of you.

 

And, I think we need to take the phrase "moral values" and re-define it in OUR terms.

 

What is moral about killing innocent people in Iraq?

 

What is moral about the continued lies from this administration?

 

What is moral about not caring for the poor?

 

What is moral about cutting pell grants/opportunities for Americans to succeed?

 

What is moral about increasing poverty?

 

What is moral about a lack of health care?

 

What is moral about ... X

 

We need to stop running from the issue(s) they supposedly champion and expose their hypocricy with fervor.

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  • 1 month later...

An interesting perspective from a group email:

----------

The agenda of the conservative political body will maintain its power, supported by "the church," until the progressive members of the population in the United States return to the religious institutions and change the political agenda in the pews. In addition to wringing our hands and wagging our heads saying, "oh this is awful," we need to reach out to progressive activist groups and encourage them to return to the church and reclaim the power of its voice for progressive candidates in 2008 or 2012. Many people credit Bush's victory in 2004 to the people in the church. I do not think it is possible to change the people in the church by preaching in the pulpit or by sending out position papers from GBCS or the Council of Bishops, but by bringing in a more progressive population. I believe the political power behind the voice of the church is not in the pulpit, but in the pew.

 

It may be too late to prevent an invasion of Iran, but maybe we can begin to prevent a further conservative drift in the US supported by the majority of "the church" by examining what we need to accomplish to get a progressive population in the pew to support the progressive theology of Jesus Christ instead of "triumphalism, self-righteousness, bad theology, and, often, dangerous foreign policy" (Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America).

 

In peace and prayer,

 

Frederick

 

Rev. Frederick Boyle

Peace with Justice Coordinator

Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

pastorFKB@GODHQ.NET

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This IS the problem for ME...

 

"one side talked about the number of unborn lives lost each year, while the other pointed to the 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq."

 

I am a progressive Christian but I am not have have never been Catholic but I do not support either of these forms of taking human life. I agree that i do not believe that others should try and stop gays from getting married and I have no idea why the far right is obessed with this objective and i am also a big supporters of women rights and racial equality as well...but the fact that i support all these things..but I am a pro-lifer from the left is the reason I can not vote...because what i said how "I" can not make a choice in what form of life taking I perfer..unborn children or young men in war. Maybe others feel they CAN make a choice..But I can not...If this huge obstacle was removed than this would not be such a block for me.

 

Pro-lifers are not welcomed on the left and pro-women's equality is not welcomed on the right (where I don;t want to be anyways. Also we get alot of flack from the Humanists who simply don't like Progressive Christian or any type of theist themed belief system even if it is liberal..So I myself don;t know what to do about all this.

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I can understand not wanting to vote. It seems candidates who truly represent our values never make it to the ballot.

 

But I think it is very important to vote anyway. We need to vote when there are ballot initiatives that affect our local communities and states (for example, 11 states had ballot initiatives concerning same-sex marriage during the 2004 elections -- each of these states ended up voting against gay marriage). I also think we need to vote for candidates who share several of our beliefs and values, even when we disagree with them on certain issues. If we wait for the perfect candidate who perfectly matches our beliefs--and if we refuse to vote until those candidates appear--the right wing will only gain more power. I believe we need to be willing to compromise and build on what is available. True change takes time. True change will not take place with just one election or just one candidate. This is political reality.

 

As a progressive Catholic I am always voting for someone who doesn't share every one of my values. Folks like me choose candidates by asking: which person will pur forth policies that would help the greatest number of people? Which person's policies would harm the least number of people? Under which president can we, as liberals or progressives, get the most done?

 

Admittedly I have other reasons for voting. I'm a black woman, and history teaches me that people had to die just so people like me could vote. Women and me, black and white, were abused and tortured and killed so that I could vote. The story of Fanny Lou Hamer stands out for me--she was a Southern black sharecropper and voting rights activist who was arrested in the early 1960s after attending a voting workshop in her area. She was taken to the county jail, where two black male inmates were forced to bludgeon her until they were exhausted.

 

I recognize that we should always have the choice to vote or to not vote. Not voting can be another way of expressing one's opposition, I suppose. And it is also frustrating when we see that even today, voting is tampered with. Certainly our electoral system needs re-working. But in the meantime, I cannot NOT vote.

 

Peace,

curlytop

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The way I understood Kerry's position as well as the mainstream democratic postition was that abortion was undesirable and policies should be developed to make it a less likely option. They seem to understand that most people who have abortions do not choose it as what they want to do, they feel that it is their only or best choice in a difficult situation. (Others may see other options, but they don't at that time). Jim Wallis (a liberal evangelical christian - see sojourners.com) talks about making adoption and "pro-life" options more realistic and available.

 

Saying that you are pro-life (not this board, but the right in general) and then cutting funding for daycare, education, health care, etc. does not make sense. Pro-life seems to end at birth for the current right. Very sad and frustrating for me too. I think we could have the best of both worlds with abortion only when medically necessary - as deemed such by the parents and doctors - but not by forcing people who are unequiped to have and raise unwanted children. Life is not a beautiful choice for the child of a crack/crystal meth addict who lives with her pimp.

 

Ok, off the soapbox now, deep breath :>

 

Cynthia

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I've never understood why Christians we be drawn to be anything but Democrats.

 

The egalitarian society as espoused by Jesus was certainly closer to a socialist (Democratic) ideal than it was to our modern day capatilism.

 

Other than the abortion issue, what moral issue is associated with the Republican party and not the Democratic?

 

That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know. Being basically raised a JW, I didn't know the difference between a Democrat and a Republican until the year 2000 and I'm still learning.

 

It's only in the last election thay my husband or I have ever voted.

 

Most everything that the Democratic party platform stands for is what I understand Jesus to have stood for (outside of the abortion issue).

 

And as was pointed out, most Democratic presidential nominees were not pro-abortion, so why choose a Republican candidate over a Democratic candidate that is not only pro-life, but also anti-war?

 

So really, what is it about the Republican party that would attract Christians? Any ideas?

 

Just curious.

 

Aletheia

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I agree Aletheia. I listened to NPR's Fresh Air last night with Dr. Charles Lane (I think that is his name) - the head of the SBC's political arm and Rev. Jim Wallis (Sojourners - a liberal evangelical). The points they made were very interesting. Dr. Lane was so very hostile, beligerent, and brimming with anger and hatred that it was hard to believe that people would see him as close to God. I really was listening with an open mind. I was very hopeful that his presentation would help me to understand how christians can vote republican. I was very disappointed... fruit and all, y'know. Rev. Wallis was wonderful. He discussed the politics of Jesus from (in my opinon) a much more biblical perspective than I have heard from the right. I haven't read his book yet, but it is on this topic - God's Politics: Why the Right is Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.

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Wallis has been mentioned very often lately on this board.

 

Also, as I have been going through older threads, his name keeps popping up.

 

I'm starting to wonder if "someone" is trying to tell me something? :P

 

I guess I better wander over to sojourners.com and see what's there.

 

Aletheia

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Ahhh! Jim Wallis brought up the other issue that Republicans latch onto as a "moral value" besides abortion that influences the way they vote.

 

How could I forget this? Doh!

 

Homosexuality!

 

I guess I didn't think of it when I posted before, because I consider it pretty much a non-issue.

 

So, the Christian right votes republican (mostly) because of abortion and gay marriage. :blink:

 

Like Jim Wallis mentions in the below link, HOW MANY times is poverty mentioned in the Bible?

 

http://www.comedycentral.com/mp/play.jhtml...eleb_10009.html

 

Sigh.

 

Aletheia

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Beach

 

Here is an article I thought you might enjoy reading (if you haven't already that is).

 

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magaz...&article=040651

 

It is about being pro-life and also a Democrat.

 

Something from the article I particularly appreciated:

 

those who are strongly committed on other issues of justice and peace and those who wouldn’t criminalize abortion even as they oppose it

 

That describes me. I'm pro-life but I wouldn't criminalize abortion.

 

I would hope that options other than abortion and education on those options would help many realize they don't HAVE to have an abortion.

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Thanks for the link to Jon Stewart, I had missed that. I've been sighing since all the election hype started... the more spiritual I become, the sadder our government makes me. It's popular to talk about satan's influence on the world... I don't know what I think about that whole idea, but this does seem like a good example of that!

 

Let's keep exchanging ideas and encouraging discussion and thoughtful rather than knee-jerk theology, behavior, and ethics. For now, the sighs are a good reminder to do mindful breathing :>

 

 

Cynthia

 

There's another great link on sojo.net to Phillip Yancey. Surprising, good, hopeful.

Edited by Cynthia
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