Many writers to the media and other pundits claim we are a "Christian" nation and that Judeo-Christian values should inform our political process. Although our Constitution is secular, it is hard to argue with those who think otherwise.
There are actually two types of religious conservatives. There are those who are simply conservative in the theology and practice. Others, however, are politically active in strong conservative movements and their theology informs their politics which in turn informs their theology.
Many think liberalism, or progressivism, are incompatible with Judeo-Christian values without realizing that many liberals and progressives are people of faith themselves. This includes a lot of Christians and Jews.
But, when one considers the values of the ultra-conservatives, it is not really a question of whether the U.S.A. is a "Christian" nation. It is more question of "are their values really Christian?" Of course, they may be orthodox on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. They may believe in the Trinity, the Resurrection, and the Virgin Birth. They may love God. But do they always show love to their neighbor?
Many of the values they espouse are far from "Judeo-Christian." Of course, if one uses "Biblical Quarterbacking" and takes different verses from different parts of the Bible out of context, one could well come to such conclusions. You can justify slavery, flogging, and patriarchy from the Bible if you want to. However, the overall message of the Christian and Jewish Bibles is one of justice, love of neighbor, and fair treatment of all human beings.
A common Christian slogan one hears is "what would Jesus do?" Of course, it is not easy to know what he would do or say in the modern age but it is interesting to think about. If we were to take the general whole of his teachings and their spirit and not take them out of context, many might find him critical of those who promote mean social policies in his name.
What WOULD Jesus do today? Would he tell a 12-year-old victim of incest that she should have her baby? Would he make a 14-year-old girl who was molested by a 40ish married man stand in front of a fundamentalist congregation in Concord and confess "her sin?" Would he cut food assistance to the poor and resist any type of health care reform? Would he support militarism or the death penalty (he did, after all, stop an execution)?
Or, would Jesus, like many extreme conservatives promote "big lies" and fear and disinformation about "death panels" and our president? Would Jesus, like such heroes of the Christian Right as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell support apartheid in South Africa and dictatorial butchers in Latin America? One might surmise that Jesus would not.
Humane and compassionate values are not just in the New Testament. The Jewish Bible has a lot to say about social justice. For example, those religious people who bash immigrants should read the commandment against oppressing "a stranger in the land". The Hebrew Prophets talked a lot about rich people who "eat up the poor".
Meanness, contempt for the poor, and other characteristics of many on the Religious Right are not "Judeo-Christian" values. While many condemn biological Darwinism, they are fine with Social Darwinism which seems contrary to the ideals of justice and mercy mentioned in the Bible. Especially disturbing is the identification of selfish libertarian values with Christianity.
One has to laugh about an interview years ago with Anton LaVey, the late High Priest of the Church of Satan. Of course, LaVey did not believe in a literal Devil but instead saw Satan as a symbol of our human selfishness. He said that his "Satanic" ideas were pretty much those of Ayn Rand! Do these Christian conservatives know she was also an atheist?
Liberals and conservatives generally support anyone's right to practice any religion as long as there is Separation of Church and State and that other people's rights are respected. There is no "war on Christianity" as some maintain. However, many are concerned when meanness, hate, fear, and anger are masked by religion.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford. He is not a professional theologian.)
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