Sunday, January 11, 2015

Faith and Politics, Guns and Justice

Jim Harbison is a fine gentleman, but his recent hit-piece on CAFé relied too much on name-calling and not enough on facts and analysis.

As you likely know, CAFé led the local campaign for a minimum-wage hike. Mr. Harbison writes, “CAFé is a community organizer group (think ACORN).” He alleges no relationship between the two; but ACORN's a code-word in Right-Wing-Speak. It's like saying “Joe is a cop (think Ferguson)."
He criticizes CAFé's Sarah Nolan for wanting people to experience power and develop faith in their ability to create change; he says she favors social change – which is somehow assumed to be bad, and somehow inappropriate for a faith-based organization. 
I don't quite get it. He doesn't seem to mind if faith-based organizations oppose tolerance or support the Tea Party agenda; but using Christ's teachings to encourage social justice is somehow wrong. The Bible I read portrayed Jesus Christ as rather sympathetic to acceptance of others and social justice, and a little suspicious of rich or judgmental folks.

Similarly, he complains that CAFé supports “stronger gun control and opposes the NRA,” then adds, “I believe it is incompatible for any truly religious 'faith'-based organization to advocate the taking of a human life.” That sounds like a non sequitur, but he goes on to say that some of CAFé's board-members who are pro-choice.

Couple of questions. 
First of all, an abortion isn't “taking a human life” under U.S. Law or the laws of most civilized countries. Too, plenty of people have room in their hearts for both religious faith and compassion toward women who need abortions.

Nor is acceptance or even approval of marriage freedom inconsistent with Christian faith. More than a few LGBT folks are leaders in recognized Christian denominations. While Mr. Harbison may say what he chooses, it seems a little . . . presumptuous . . . to assert that Christian groups who disagree with him politically lack faith.
Third: I don't know how Jesus would have come out on a lot of these issues, though he tended toward tolerance; but let me ask you: if Jesus came back and had time to serve on a board, would you really believe he'd rather serve an organization fighting to allow everyone to carry semi-automatic weapons around than an organization dedicated to social justice? 
Speaking of semi-automatic weapons, maybe someone can remind me what's wrong with requiring background checks on people who stroll in and want to buy 'em. Those folks could be terrorists, mental-asylum escapees, convicted murderers, or men against whom a court has issued a restraining order because of domestic violence. I understand that to some, any legislation involving guns is automatically part of a Communist plot; but really, how's it hurt a responsible gun owner to try to keep a few dangerous folks from buying such weapons without a background check? 
I guess I'm a little edgy this week. Two or three jerks with such weapons killed 12 journalists in France with such weapons, because they didn't like what the journalists said. Religious faith and guns can be a combustible mixture I tend to be uneasy about. (I don't mean at all that most religious folks are dangerous; but it does seem that extreme religious faith can lead to killings. In recent years that's more the case with Islamic believers than Christians, by a long shot; and it's more often true with Christians than Buddhists. (Nor does such conduct truly reflect the words of Mohammed or Jesus.)

Yes, the killers felt the journalists' comic images of Mohammed were unthinkably vile; but we live in a secular society. All kinds of beliefs jostle each other daily. Get used to it. 
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 11 January, 2015, as well as in other area newspapers.]

[The more I think about this column, the clearer it seems to me that:
-- we are blessed with a secular democracy in which decisions should not be taken based on the tenets of any particular religion or religions;
-- some of the people in this community not only believe otherwise but believe they are in some sort of "war" against those who would keep our democracy secular; and
-- insisting decisions follow one's religious beliefs, and asserting that anyone who doesn't agree with our personal interpretations of our religion cannot have faith, makes meaningful civic discourse difficult.]

[Further, this sort of religious-based thinking leads us to fail to acknowledge, or be able to acknowledge, the full humanity and legitimacy of others and their views.  Taken to its extreme, that sort of thinking leads to the murders of journalists who mock our gods or the murders of doctors who perform abortions we believe our God prohibits -- or, in earlier times, to the murders of non-believers, supposed witches, Jews by the Inquisition, or even of Catholics by Protestants and Protestants by Catholics -- or, still, Jews and Christians by Muslims, and Sunni Moslems and Shiite Moslems by each other.  For the Islamic believer who mistakenly  believes his God would have him murder those who don't believe just as he does or for the young Christian believer who mistakenly believes his God would have him murder "baby-killers," such killings seem not only acceptable but almost required.  Obviously Mr. Harbison has no intention of encouraging such actions, and no one should read the above column to suggest otherwise; but even at the less dramatic level of municipal political discussion in our Southwestern city, it's a shame to close off other voices on religious grounds -- whether you're Jim Harbison or you're someone who doesn't interpret Christianity quite as Jim does and therefore closes off Jim's voice in your mind.]

No comments:

Post a Comment