YOU’RE SO VAIN, YOU PROBABLY THINK JESUS IS ABOUT YOU

David Brody, blogger for Pat Robertson’s CBN, weighs in on Barack Obama’s legitimacy:

He talks about Jesus and how Christ changed his life. But religious conservatives aren’t convinced at all and think he’s way too liberal to be considered legitimate with his faith talk. I expect the faith discussion about Obama’s Christianity to increase as time goes on. Is he genuine or not? If he is, then he’ll need to figure out a way to defend certain positions (abortion and marriage) that don’t jive with the Bible.

It takes a particular sort of arrogance to take every expression of personal faith by a political candidate as an audition for you and Pat Robertson. And it makes you wonder: How does David Brody know that Barack Obama doesn’t share the biblical position that if a man violently causes a woman to miscarriage, he should be held financially culpable? Nothing there that doesn’t jive with pro-choice doctrine.

This is a good example of why (though contra Rawls, I don’t want to force “public reason” on everyone) we should prefer political appeals to the persuasive power of your religious tradition over political appeals to its authority.

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THE WAR ON RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

A few days ago, I watched Bill O’Reilly assure viewers of his TV show that Christians had won the War on Christmas (TM). “Christians have the right to defend their traditions,” he said triumphantly.

It’s easy to laugh at the excesses of the War on Christmas crusaders (Dan chronicled them well here). But it’s a campaign that’s worth paying attention to. It serves as a sobering reminder of how many of the standard-bearers of the right believe themselves to be spokesmen for a righteous majority besieged by hostile religious, sexual, and racial minorities.

Behind the rhetoric about religious freedom, the demand of the War on Christmas crusaders, as articulated by their most earnest advocates, is that both public and private employees greet people of all religions as if they were Christians. They want schools encouraging teachers to say “Merry Christmas” to their students and department stores encouraging check-out clerks to say it to customers. Having them say the “Happy Holidays” instead, which merely acknowledges the possibility of a multiplicity of religious observances, is to be seen as religious persecution of Christians.

Bill O’Reilly showed a Wal-Mart commercial in which “Merry Christmas” appeared on screen, but declared it only to be a step in the right direction from Wal-Mart because it appeared with the hated “Happy Holidays” and neither was mentioned in the voice-over. This is a few weeks after he showed a (year-old) clip of Samantha Bee on the Daily Show joking about separation of church and state and then sneered “Merry Christmas, Jon Stewart.”

So what we’re facing is self-appointed spokespeople for a majority insisting that everyone, be they members of the majority or not, speak as if that majority encompassed everyone in the country.

As for the real desecration of the values of Christ this holiday season, not a creature on the “religious right” is stirring, not even a mouse.

A generation ago, my Dad got kicked out of his first grade classroom for refusing to write a letter to Santa Claus. Unfortunately, that’s still what some people have in mind when they say “family values.”

Happy holidays to all our readers.

In the latest round of the struggle for political license over Catholicism, Democrats, including my Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, have prepared a “Catholic Voting Scorecard” designed to demonstrate that when one integrates candidates’ stances on issues, from DOMA to child tax credit refunds, on which the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken stances, Democrats are better Catholics. Personally, I’d rather see John Kerry et al articulating the kind of Catholics they are and the policies that dictates (“My personal faith and political conviction demand that we mean what we say when we promise that no child is left behind”) than touting their fidelity to the policy proscriptions of the Conference of Bishops (“I’m 74% faithful!”). But this scorecard seems worth it, if nothing else, only for having elicited this tragically ironic condemnation:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said both the bishops and the Democrats are confusing means with motives. “Many of the issues they’re talking about really have nothing to do with actual Catholic teaching or religion,” he said. “It is interpretation of economic policy.”

As I’ve alluded to before, the modern permutation of religion in political discourse into apologetics for social conservatism and the hollowing out of the economic justice which is central to all faiths is a deeply cynical and tragic abuse of the tradition. Where Jesus preached that the meek shall inherit the earth, Congressman King insists that whether the poor will have a share of the wealth of this nation is a matter of interpretation. This reminds me of nothing so much as last summer’s declaration by the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that “the budget is not a Jewish issue.”