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December 2, 2005

Bush: A Beleaguered Disciple?

Larry A. Lane on January 20, 2006 04:03 PM EST writes:
Religious Left & Right

Dear Ms Garrison et al, As a subscriber to the The Wittenberg Door I understand your use of satire in this article. However, there is the religious left and the religious right which each have examples of misguided religious zeal. However, I beleive these people to be sincere as they can be in the living out of their faith. Nothing good comes out demonizing either group of Christians. The problem with poverty, homelessness, etc could never be adequately addressed by government ran by either party. Government is ill equipped to do so. Why do we need any recognition from any party platform in addressing these issues? What we really need are churches and believers willing to give up their gilded chapels and their desire to be right; and take on the job of poverty, homelessness, famine, and environment all by themselves. Christians of either political persuasion should shut their mouths and do what is needed. I think Ole Anthony would agree. - larry lane
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Julia on December 18, 2005 10:08 AM EST writes:
I did read Our Endangered Values. In fact, I was going to nominate it for soma's Book of the Year Award, but someone else already had.

Again, if you want to go after Dems, you'll get no objection from me...
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becky garrison on December 17, 2005 05:47 PM EST writes:
Why mentioned Kerry

I mentioned John Kerry because during the 2004 election, a number of religious leaders endorsed Kerry as the lesser of two evils instead of decrying why poverty and the environment were missing from both parties' political platforms. Even today, I get literature from religious groups discussing how the Democrats can take back Congress in 2006.

Have you read Jimmy Carter's Our Endangered Values? I found this to be one of the saner discussions around this issue.

Like I said, I don't have any answers here - I just read the Sermon on the Mount and then scratch my head wondering why the very central teachings of Jesus are so absent in the public policies set forth by those that used his name in order to get themselves elected? Republicans are the worst offenders of this by far, but I'm not prepared to let the Democrats off the hook here.
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becky garrison on December 17, 2005 05:43 PM EST writes:
Closer than think

I think this dialogue illustrates some of the confusion and frustration around the issue of what role does faith have in the political sphere. The big question for me is how can the church maintain it's prophetic witness without becoming enslaved to the whims of a particular party. And based on the literature I'm receiving in the mail from progressives there's a tendency to hold Bush's feet to the fire (and rightly so) without bringing the Democratic party to task.

And I don't have the answers by any means but I do believe it's a dialogue we need to be having. Right now, the Religous Right feels that it holds all the Christian cards as it were and I beg to differ.

I brought up Jim Wallis' book A Call to Conversion becauase there are a lot of good gems in here. This was the first book he wrote before the media appointed him the primary spokesperson for the progressive movement.
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Julia on December 17, 2005 04:26 PM EST writes:
You mentioned Jim Wallis... I'm of two minds on him. On the one hand, he's in many ways a lone voice on social justice issues that should be much more at the center of religious and political discussion today. On the other, he seems to be a little full of himself these days. And he pushes this idea that we can't have a compelling moral, social and religious vision unless its based in a kind of biblical literalism and theological orthodoxy that I find to be way more 19th and 20th century American holy roller than 1st or 2nd century Christian.
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Julia on December 17, 2005 04:06 PM EST writes:
John Kerry? Jesus! Kerry and the Democratic Party of late certainly are not what I think of when someone mentions "progressive Christianity." Is this why we're talking past each other?
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Becky Garrison on December 17, 2005 10:52 AM EST writes:
Kerry vs. Bush?

Our choice in 2004 was Kerry versus Bush - this is akin to asking me if I'd rather have a cold or pneumonia. And so far, it doesn't look as though our choices in 2008 will be much better. At least here in NYC, I saw too many liberal clergy endorse Kerry from the pulpit instead of chiding both political parties for failing to discuss issues such as poverty and the environment.

There are religious leaders walking the walk - I am still seeing way too much talking though. When I interviewed Jim Wallis back in 2000, he was talking about how he saw a movement akin to the civil rights movement starting to emerge around the issue of child poverty. At times it's frustrating and I confess comical to see such potential and then not that much action.

Again, I recommend reading the Left Hand of God when it is released in February for an analysis as to why the Democrats lost the high moral ground they had during the civil rights movement and what they can do to recapture it.
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Greg on December 17, 2005 09:08 AM EST writes:
Why are you guys even debating this? Never mind the religious left, which has been largely ineffectual and invisible in recent years. The religious right has long used hate and bigotry in a very deliberate, organized and open way to energize its followers, raise funds and influence elections. They demonize everyone and everything that falls outside their herd, and it's effective because it taps our most basic, lesser natures--fear, survival, etc.

Liberal Christianity has never done anything like this. By comparison, it's always taken the high road, appealing to our higher natures, embracing ambiguity and emphasizing reason, compassion and faith. That's why progressive Christianity is harder sell, so to speak, than conservative Christianity.

You two might as well be arguing to what extent the Amish are responsible for pushing us into Iraq!
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Becky Garrison on December 16, 2005 07:19 PM EST writes:
Different stories

As we both have different life stories, I'm sure we're going to come at any gathering with a different perspective. I have covered religious gatherings where I heard people say "I hate Bush," "How can anyone be a Christian and vote for Bush" and like minded moments all the while failing to offer an alternative positive agenda.

I found Jim Wallis' book A Call to Conversion an invaluable resource in starting the process in thinking about how to implement one's faith into the political sphere. Another interesting book is Michael Lerner's book The Left Hand of God, which is due out in February.
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Julia on December 16, 2005 06:57 PM EST writes:
Continued...

But on one point we do seem to disagree. You think there's a spate of hateful Bush bashing going on among progressive Christians, and that this is a matter of concern. I don't see it, and I think there are much greater problems we need to address.
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Julia on December 16, 2005 06:42 PM EST writes:
I don't think we're disagreeing about Jesus in the temple. We're having two different conversations, and probably would agree more if we weren't. I'll try to be clearer.

For what it's worth now, I brought up Jesus in the temple, back when you mentioned these unspecified hateful progressive Bush bashers, to make the point that it's awfully difficult to discern whether such an outburst (again, a previously unspecified outburst) is done in love or not. Just as it would have been difficult to judge Jesus' outburst at the temple if you'd been there and COULDN'T INTERPRET IT AGAINST THE ENTIRE BACKDROP OF HIS MINISTRY.

To put it differently: I was cautioning against judging progressive Christians who are angry with Bush as hateful, unless you're similarly able to interpret their actions against, let's say, the entire backdrop of their ministry.

Personally, I'm relieved when religious groups don't throw Scripture around. The Bible can be used to justify anything, and always has been.
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Becky Garrison on December 16, 2005 05:10 PM EST writes:
Respectfully disagree

I think we will have to agree to disagree as far as how we perceive what happened at the temple. I am interpreting this instance against the backdrop of his entire ministry - His ministry was not one based in anger but in love. Without talking to Him personally, we'll never know the exact triggers that set him off. What I offer is simply one person's view and others will have their perspectives.

Actually I have been to numerous churches where I have seen literature displayed of a hateful nature either against Bush or the Democrats. Also, I have received press releases from religious organizations representing the left and the right that give me considerable pause.

One thing that troubles me about what I see coming out of the progressive camp is often the lack of scriptural references. While Sojourners uses scripture to illustrate their points, some others do not. At times I can't tell is the material is from a religious group or a secular one.
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Julia on December 16, 2005 04:38 PM EST writes:
Becky: I can't think of a progressive Christian--either that I know personally or a prominent figure--whose response to our president can been summed up as pointlessly irate and frivolous as a "Bush Sucks" t-shirt. Does that attitude really typify progressive Christianity in America today, or does it typify a reaction you saw in protestors at the GOP convention?

Who is progressive Christianty's outspoken nut that needs to be reined in? Our Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or James Dobson? I can't think of one.

If anything, I'd fault progressives for being too eager not to offend. They've lost the kind of prophetic fire they once had.

You missed my point about Jesus in the temple. Who wouldn't say he acted out of tough love? That's what we're taught from Sunday school on. My point was that if you were there, in the temple that day without the benefit of 2,000 years of church teaching, and you didn't know who he was, you'd have a hard time calling such an outburst tough love.
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becky garrison on December 16, 2005 11:54 AM EST writes:
Check out MLK

I recommend checking out Martin Luther King's Beyond Vietnam and Loving Your Enemies speeches for example of how you can protest against what you believe to be an unjust cause while remaining true to Christ's teachings.

I found both speeches with relative ease on the Internet.
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Becky Garrison on December 16, 2005 11:53 AM EST writes:
Jesus and the Temple

Jesus' entire ministry was based on knocking down barriers, so he could let everyone into His kingdom. But if you look at the overall scope of His ministry, it was one marked by love and I would argue that when He raised hell in the Temple he did so out of tough love. I believed Jesus loved the Pharisees and He was angry at them in the same way that a parent would be whose child was involved in destructive behavior that is tearing the family apart.

I compare this to the when I covered the Republican National Convention and would go inside churches that were housing the progressives who were there to protest the convention. At times, there was such venom displayed towards Bush that I couldn't see where Christ's love is evident at all. I doubt that Jesus or his disciples would wear a "Caesar Sucks" T-shirt or tell Herod what he could do with his private parts.
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Julia on December 11, 2005 01:54 PM EST writes:
Becky G: I have a hard time questioning whether progressives who bash Bush lack Christlike love. For example, if I'd been in the temple the day Jesus knocked over the money changers tables and raised all kinds of hell, I don't know if I could say whether what I was witnessing was done in love or not. That's just me, and thank God it's not up to me to decide these things. In any case, I think it's beside the point.

I think Jesus had good reason to go ape in the temple, and he made his point with as much respect and dignity as the circumstances required. And if Jesus resented the way the moneychangers exploited religion, imagine what he'd make of Bush and Company today. I doubt his reaction in that unholy temple would involve a lot of mealymouthed appeasing.

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Becky Garrison on December 10, 2005 05:29 PM EST writes:
George W. Bush made it clear that Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher. So, in light of this statement, it's fair game to ask if his actions correspond with the central teachings of Christ most notably the Greatest Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount. If anyone can find a consistent pattern where Bush (or any politician for that matter) that claims to be Christian listens to the small still voice of Jesus more than the wailings of their financial backers, please let me know.

However, I'm hearing enough Bush bashing coming from the progressive wing of the church that methinks they don't want to buy into this love thine enemy biz either.
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Richard Warren on December 10, 2005 11:09 AM EST writes:
I'd say Mr. Spalding and Becky Garrison have got it about right when it comes to the Bush Family and their closest friends. George Bush has no morals, IMHO.
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John Spalding on December 6, 2005 05:26 PM EST writes:
Misterguss: I didn't say I know what God "wants out of America," and I didn't say that God either wants us in or out of Iraq. I don't think about God in those terms.

I understand "God" to be a concept, a limited human construct, a word, in fact, that may not even mean anything any more. So when people talk about God's position on things--from America as a chosen nation to the righteousness of the Iraq war in God's eyes--I believe they're revealing their own thoughts and yearnings, not "God's." That's what I'm criticizing here.

And so, Misterliteral, when I ask whether, in light of Bush's trouble in Iraq, God might have lost His Pentagon briefing, or when I write a line like, "Clearly, the Big Guy Upstairs failed big time with this war," I'm not being serious.
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Misterguss on December 6, 2005 03:21 PM EST writes:
war in Iraq

Who the hell are you to say you know what God wants out of America? You are walking a fine line to say God does or doesn't want us in Iraq...you and Bush are the same...you just hold different views.
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