Thursday, May 08, 2008

Brilliant Column on Faith and Politics

I opened my April 26 radio show by taking issue with a column that appeared that morning in the OWH. Forget everything I said. (What do mean you already did?) Instead, commit to memory the column below by Doug Woodard that ran in the May 7 OWH.

Midlands Voices

Compassion hardly limited to Democrats

BY DOUG WOODARD

The writer, a registered Republican, lives in Omaha.

My good friend Dan Schinzel recently wrote an article (April 26 Midlands Voices) stating that the recent U.S. visit of Pope Benedict XVI was an affirmation of the apolitical nature of Christ during His time on Earth.

Dan’s assertion that the message of hope and peace from the Holy Father was a welcome change to recent political discourse was certainly correct. What is mystifying is Dan’s conclusion that since Jesus was not political, ipso facto, His followers should refrain from exercising their faith in the political arena. It is mystifying because Dan is a founding member of Catholic Democrats of Nebraska. Surely Dan sees the irony of helping to found an organization dedicated to the fusion of the sacred and secular worlds while simultaneously instructing us that it is un-Christian to do so.

The group’s Web site (http://www.catholicdemocratsofnebraska.org) lists this as one of its goals: “Endorse and actively support Democratic candidates who embrace positions consistent with the social-justice teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Now, I will defend Catholic Democrats of Nebraska and its members’ right to agitate politically, as informed by their faith and conscience, in whatever peaceful way they desire. I also will defend the Rev. Pat Robertson or any other “villainous” conservatives and their right to agitate politically, also informed by their faith and conscience.

Dan attacked Robertson for his message of prosperity, James Dobson for his views on homosexuality and the late D. James Kennedy for his view of earthly dominion. Nowhere was, say, the Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized for fostering intergenerational poverty by promoting continued dependence on the state.

Neither was the Rev. Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist minister and founder of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, brought to task for inappropriately mixing the two kingdoms of God and humanity. It seems that political agitation by people informed by their faith is OK only when done by those in agreement with the agenda of Catholic Democrats of Nebraska or the Democratic Party.

Dan correctly states that the gospel of compassion, which Jesus preached more than 2,000 years ago, is largely absent in our society. He also singles out excerpts from the Web site of Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (http://www.cbn.com) that seem to recommend a devotion to prosperity, i.e., greed, that is antithetical to living a life based on the teachings of Christ.

I went to the financial section of the CBN Web site and found admonitions to give liberally to those less fortunate. Presenting Robertson and CBN as greed-centered purveyors of some theocratic materialism might be politically expedient for someone on the Democratic left, but it doesn’t square with the facts.

Surely Dan is familiar with the work of Professor Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University, a registered independent who recently published a book titled “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” Professor Brooks found that:

■ Democratic family incomes average 6 percent higher than Republican families. But Republican families give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average Democratic family.

■ People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Some of us believe that compassion is primarily the role of the church, synagogue or mosque, of other private charitable organizations and finally of private individuals to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

We also believe that government exists primarily as a protector of our external borders and a guardian and promoter of individual liberties. We believe that through representative and divided government, the natural tendency of those in power to coalesce and abuse those liberties is thus limited.

We also believe that it is good economic policy, consistent with limited government and in line with the teachings of Christ, to allow people to keep most of what they earn. The instilling of a spirit of benevolence and charity is the job of the church, not a function of those who govern us.

We certainly can have a healthy and vigorous debate as to which philosophy is (1) better for our country and (2) more in line with the teachings of Christ. We should not, however, seek to limit the voice or influence of people of faith, whatever their political persuasion, because of some misguided notion that religion should not inform or impact the political arena.

5 comments:

OmaSteak said...

Discussing the role/scope of government is a rational discussion to have. Discussing how rational subjects related to the irrational is a waste of time. Religion is like dandruff, people seem to get a lot of pleasure out of spending lots of time and money on it.

Country Time said...

Brilliant! Q. Where did you find the statistic that Dem. Families earn 6% more and Rep. families give 30% more? I'm very curious.

Chip Maxwell said...

Country Time,

Doug Woodard apparently relied on a book by Professor Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University. It's called, “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.”

I'm not familiar with it, but I presume the numbers cited by Woodard are in the book.

Chip Maxwell said...

OmaSteak,

I'll deal with you in the next radio show. :)

OmaSteak said...

Darn, I missed you "dealing with me" on Friday's show but since I'm still here, I presume the Jesuit curse didn't work...LOL!!!