by Jay Johansen | Dec 2, 2004
Okay, now I'm confused.
For at least twenty years liberals have been warning Americans about the dangers of mixing religion and politics, of trying to impose morality through law. But now suddenly, in the last few weeks of the 2004 political campaign and especially since that election, liberals have started telling us that the problem with conservatives is that they don't mix religion and politics ENOUGH, that if people will just vote for them next time around they will impose Christian morality more than conservatives ever dreamed.
Thus during the 2004 campaign we heard Mr Kerry quote from James in the Bible, "Faith without works is dead", to challenge the sincerity of Mr Bush's faith. If he was really a Christian, Kerry said, he would support programs to help the poor and advance equality. Thus we saw a widely-published but puzzling column by Jesse Jackson, saying essentially the same thing without the personal references. (We could debate the connection between Christianity and any of these policy proposals, but that's another subject.)
Apparently some haven't gotten the memo, because at the same time that some leading liberals are calling for a government that will turn their understanding of Christian religious teaching on, say, poverty and equality into law, other liberals continue to condemn conservatives for trying to turn their understanding of Christian religious teaching on, say, abortion and homosexuality into law.
So is it wrong to mix religion and politics or not? It's hard to debate the issue when one side is debating with itself.
Perhaps the underlying principle is that when Christian religious teaching can be used to support liberal political ideology, then mixing religion and politics is good; but when Christian religious teaching can be used to support conservative political ideology, then mixing religion and politics is bad. Or a cynic might speculate that liberals are not really seeking to put a sincere faith into practice, but are simply looking to exploit other people's faith to return themselves to political power. Personally, I have a hard time taking someone's faith seriously when he alternates between pious expressions of the need to put faith into practice, and attacking others for doing the same thing.
© 2004 by Jay Johansen