Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Thoughts on Faith and Politics

Yesterday evening I sent an email to my youngest sister and my nephew that contained a link to a Daily Kos article, You Cannot Be A Republican And A Christian -- please take the time to read the article.

My sister is a devout Protestant and my nephew (her son) is a political operative for a state Republican party.

My sister seemed to take offense, which wasn't especially surprising, though I perceived it (maybe I'm wrong) as emotionally stronger than I expected.  I certainly never mean to offend, but rather want to provoke thought and reflection.

To be honest, I pretty much agree with what the author writes, and his conclusion "You can’t have it both ways. You have to choose, because, today, you cannot be both a Republican and a Christian" is pretty close to the mark.  The conclusion and article title are hyperbole, of course, but only slightly so in my view.

While I was raised in a evangelical and moderately fundamentalist church and home, I left organized religion many years ago.  Even now, as non-theistic Buddhist, I am not presently engaged with any group, though I have a very loose affiliation with a local Zen centre.  (My sense is that most Western Buddhists are either non-theistic or atheists.  There are many Buddhist traditions and lineages, some of which embrace the existence of deities, though usually the role of any god(s) is not central.)

I belong to no political party.  I have never been registered as a Republican, Democrat, or any other  party in the US, nor have I ever been a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP, the Progressive Conservatives, et al.  In my current jurisdiction, I am registered as an independent.  I don't see that changing.

Enough preamble ... I have met people whom I consider to be "true Christians".  I don't mean that to be a reverse judgment on those who call themselves Christians but don't seem to act accordingly.  But my sister is one who pretty much walks the walk.

Both political parties are "guilty" of using faith for political purposes that do not align with the tenets of the faith.  The GOP gained traction and ascendency partly because of the hypocrisy and outright bigotry of southern Democrats - Dixiecrats.  So I would say the same of Christians who belonged to or supported the Democratic party of the 50s and 60s - you can't have it both ways.

Since the start of my Buddhist practice, I have frequently contemplated the similarities between the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha.  I challenge anyone to read only what Jesus supposedly said and what Buddha directly taught and not come away with substantially the same conclusion.

I don't know if "Red Letter Editions" of the Bible are still published, but I would hope so.  We had them when we were kids, and even then I liked them; their existence actually made a big impact on me and helped me decide to leave organized Christianity.  The words and teachings that have been credited to Jesus stand in stark contrast to most of the Old Testament, some of the writings of the apostles in the New Testament, and, as pointed out in the article, how Christianity is predominately practiced and promulgated in North America.

When was the last time the GOP supported a non-military path to peace?  When was the last time they condemned limiting voting rights in state legislatures by the use of non-constitution trickery?  When was the last time they supported helping the poor with legislation that would actually workJesus never said that government should not engage in social welfare or justice.

There are a lot of things that Jesus never said but self-identified Christians use his name to try and justify their political and social agenda.

I leave with one example.  The next time a Christian trots out "God helps those who help themselves" as validation of any political view or position on social policy, ask them to quote chapter and verse.

I'll welcome with open arms a follower of Jesus any day.