A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Response

A conservative Methodist pastor raises some questions so I figured I'd take a stab at them:
Why does the separation of church and state mean clergy cannot speak out against abortion but they can speak out on immigration?
Clergy can free to speak out on any issue they feel moved to speak out on. Though clergy should not be given deference on these issues because they are clergy, they speak as any other citizen does.
Why must I seek to be sensitive to not offend in preaching but I'm not allowed to be offended by crass films
We're called to a higher standard than profiteers. Paul highlights this in a number of passages but to preserve community means we do not seek to be a stumbling block to others. This reflects a thoughtful stance to others that a common life requires.
Why does Limbaugh not get medical privacy that AIDS and cancer patients get?
Because he's a celebrity. It's a dual edge sword because Limbaugh has the followers and financial success as a celebrity so when bad things happen such as his drug addiction, it too takes on celebrity status.
Why can Christians be mocked but not Islam?
Every religion and aspect of society needs the jabbing of humor and satire to knock down our self pretensions. Can it be done in a way which is good naturedly? One way to help in this is to primarily make fun of ourselves instead of others.
Why do social justice passages matter but not sexual immorality passages in the Bible?
This could be asked of the religious right as well in the reverse. The reason is it's assumed justice = lefty politics, sexual morality = religious right politics. I suspect the Bible doesn't fit so neatly into these categories though.
Why are folks raising a stink about illegal wiretapping when a democratic congressman did this against Newt Gingrich and there was no such similar protest?
The difference is that it involved one person and it was recognized as an illegal act. Today the spying covers all Americans and we have an administration who claims to be above the laws that make his spying program illegal. That's a problem everyone shuld be upset over.


At 9:32 PM , Blogger Chris said...

It's interesting that you choose to paraphrase these questions rather than quote them. The result is often a mischaracterization of what I was communicating. For instance, the first question was actually,

"Why does the impenatrable wall separating Church and State make it inappropriate for mainline leaders to speak out on abortion, while many of these same leaders demand lawmakers heed their prophetic words on immigration?"

The issue is not whether a member of the clergy can speak out (I assume individual clergy members can speak out on whatever they please), but why those heading the mainline agencies charged with examining social policy find one appropriate and not the other.

Likewise with the second question, which I asked as follows:

"Why must I carefully employ politically correct language lest I offend anyone who might conceivably be present in a worship service I lead, while my offense at a feature film containing 312 instances of profanity is dismissed as stodgy and overly sensitive?"

The point is not really about me ("Why can't I be offended???" is not the question I'm asking). The point is, when I'm offended I'm "stodgy" and "overly sensitive." But there's a whole class of enlightened folk whose finely tuned sense of offense is understood to be "progressive."

My phrase "cancer and AIDS patients" was reduced to "AIDS patients." Do I, the conservative Methodist pastor, seem more sinister to the left when "cancer and" is omitted?

I agree wholeheartedly that the oft perceived social justice/sexual morality divide is not so neat in biblical thought. This should make both right and left uncomfortable.

Finally, I would maintain that the Jim McDermott phone call leak to the New York Times reveals some that much of the Democratic hyperventilation over wiretapping is disingenuous. One of them did it, the rest kept silent. It was used publicly, and it altered the course of a House ethics investigation. This type is wiretapping for political gain is far more damaging in my mind than listening in on a fellow having a phone conversation with a known terrorist operative in Kabul.

Thanks for the engagement.

At 10:37 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

For the first question I was suggesting as a liberal mainliner that I and a good number of folks support clergy speaking out, including conservatives.

The point of my response to the second question is that we ought to not seek out to offend. Movie makers may do this for a quick buck and that's a poor reflection on them. But it's not license to do likewise as Christians.

I didn't mean to modify the questions in a way that made it sound bad, I was doing it for space. I wasn't thinking that removing the word cancer would reflect badly on the question, so I'll edit it back into the post.

I do hope that Christian faith can act to unsettle easy political positions of left and right, I worry when a set of political positions get so closely identified with a religion.

In terms of the wiretapping issue, it may be that some folks are disengenious, but the crux of the problem of Bush's program remains and that is we have laws which regulate what Bush is doing and he's not submitted himself to these laws. Whether left or right. That's a serious problem.

At 5:39 AM , Blogger Eric Lemonholm said...

Wasn't part of the issue with Limbaugh and his addiction (I did not pay much attention to it at the time)hypocrisy? Has Rush been kind to liberals with addictions?

About the wiretapping: the problem with the government's current program of wiretapping is precisely that it is above the law, with no warrants sought, even after the fact. With no checks and balances in place, how are we to know if this secret activity will be used against innocent citizens or not? We're not even supposed to know about it. Who are we supposed to trust with this power?

Finally, as a Lutheran, I am fond of making fun of my own tradition's eccentricities. I see that as a strength of my tradition - check out the new Lutheran Handbook. I am a little more careful of making fun of other traditions - especially Islam, when our government is engaged in a couple wars in Islamic countries - but the deeper issue is dealing with the log in my eye before I tweeze out the sliver in yours.


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