Friday, March 17, 2006

Klugman on God

I'm a big Jack Klugman fan. Twelve Angry Men is one of my favorite movies. He was in some terrific Twilight Zone episodes. (I especially like that one with Jonathan Winters in the pool hall). And television definitely hit a high-water mark with Quincy.

But I must take issue with part of this brief essay from The Huffington Post:


I'll come back to what the movie says about God in a minute -- now I'm gonna get political for you. Remember, I'm a lifelong Democrat. Never vote any other way. And as a Democrat, I want to say this to the Democratic Party, "GOD IS NOT A REPUBLICAN!" Get that? Heard me clearly? Read it again. That's why I wrote it in capital letters.

We live in a religious country. Get over it. And not only that, but religion is not a superstitious bromide for the ignorant. There is tremendous wisdom, accumulated over centuries of deep thought, in all the major traditions, and all those folks who invest their time and energy in faith are NOT idiots. Why is this a political thought? Because our party has set itself up as the party that's against God, and as long as it does that, we will keep losing power. If we were to do all the same things we're doing now, however, and somehow extend an olive branch to the faithful, we could swing the Washington pendulum hard and fast to our side. Think about it. There are plenty of religious people who respect women's rights and believe in evolution - that's not the point. The point is, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Both sides pray to the same God.” God is not a Republican, and it's about time we gave Him equal opportunity on our platform.


For the purpose of this blog entry I will accept the premise that Democrats lose elections because they don't appeal to religious people.

My question is: what form does the olive branch take? The Democratic party believes in a strong separation of church and state. It believes that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should reside with the mother in most cases. It believes that science and rationality are sounder bases for public policy than religious faith. It believes in full civil rights for homosexuals. Granted, the party has not always been as steadfast in defense of these principles as it should have been. Individual Democrats might dissent from one or more of these ideas (or various other issues I could have listed). But the fact remains that these are things that Democrats have historically stood for. Does Klugman believe that Democrats should compromise these principles?

In what sense is the Democratic party hostile to God or religious people? Certainly they are hostile to using the government to promote particular religious ideologies, but any religious person who sees no distinction there is not someone we want to court. Has any Democrat of any prominence made statements hostile to religion? Has any Democrat proposed legislation that is hostile to religion? Is there any plank in the Democratic platform that is hostile to religion? I fear that Klugman has simply absorbed a standard Republican talking point (no doubt because of its frequent repetition.)

Democrats believe that religion is a personal matter and should not be used as the basis for public policy. If extending an olive branch to religious people means sacrificing that principle, then I would prefer to lose elections.

6 Comments:

At 12:23 AM, Anonymous Dudley Chapman said...

Jason,
I understand your sentiments on this. The bigger problem is that the Democrats look like "the secular" party when compared to the Republicans only by contrast. As you say, Democrats are usually mute on how their faith affects their politics.

But you may have fallen into the Right Wing trap of thinking that being religious means hating gays and denying evolution. In fact, most of the mainstream denominations are very accepting of gays. They also have a very strong 1600 year old theology that the natural processes of the world are God's gift to us and are worthy of study with there being no surprise to them that God is not discovered under the microscope. To wit: the last four Popes' pronouncements in strong support of evolution.

You probably already understand this stuff, so let me add that it wasn't more than 25 years ago that Christian politics were identified with civil rights and aid to the poor and disadvantaged. Its only recently that Christianity was stolen by the extreme Right and redefined into something nasty.

So to answer your question on olive branches, take a look at this website and see what God's Politics could look like:

http://www.sojo.org

Thanks for listening to my rant. Can you tell I am angry at the Right for stealing my religion?

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Jason said "If extending an olive branch to religious people means sacrificing that principle, then I would prefer to lose elections."

I feel much the same way as you. But from the other side of the issue. I believe that compromise of my beliefs is a cancer that needs to be removed.

Jason “The Democratic party believes in a strong separation of church and state.”

I also believe that the institution called the church should be silent. But the church as the Bible describes is not an institution or a building it is the people. The people must never be silent.

Jason “It believes that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should reside with the mother in most cases.”

Abortion is the murder of a human child. At what point is it not a human child?

Jason “It believes that science and rationality are sounder bases for public policy than religious faith.”

Our constitution is based on religious faith. How can we separate that from public policy?

Jason “It believes in full civil rights for homosexuals.”

Homosexuals have civil rights.

Jason “In what sense is the Democratic party hostile to God or religious people?”

The Democratic party (but not most democrats) is hostile to those that are outspoken in what they believe. Do I not have the right to believe what I want and the free speech right to say what I believe?

Mark

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problems with the Democratic Party is that too many of them are in the hands of corporate interests and/or the Party's public speakers lack a spine.

I'd venture to guess that Democrats would get a lot more respect if they actually stood for something - anything! If Bush can keep a straight face giving a metal of honor and/or promotions to those with the worst records in the "war on terror" (e.g. Wolfowitz, Bremmer, etc.), then why do the Democrats act so cowardly and ashamed to stand up for an agenda of equality, peace and fairness?

Also, Klugman does not seem to distinguish between religious zealots who ARE idiots (that includes most fundamentalists - e.g. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell). After all, you have to be either a complete moron or wear a tinfoil hat to still believe the earth is 6000 years old.

The far-right religious element in America is NOT mainstream. They are energized to be sure; and the GOP has learned how to whip them into a frenzy with issues of abortion, gays, stemcell research. 9/11 gave them Jingoism for good measure.

But, they do not represent a majority view of Americans - either religious or secular.

Instead of focusing on the far-right religionists, maybe Democrats should keep-it-simple and appeal to both secularists and mainstream religionists. That would be a winning combination.

But first, they need to stop being ashamed of their positions and take a stand. No more wishy-washy Democrats. Be frank. Be honest. Tell it like it is. Don't apologize. Don't flinch. And then let the chips fall where they may.

As long as the party leaders continue to act like spineless cowards, the rank-and-file will remain demoralized.

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Anonymous said... But first, they need to stop being ashamed of their positions and take a stand. No more wishy-washy Democrats. Be frank. Be honest. Tell it like it is. Don't apologize. Don't flinch. And then let the chips fall where they may.

Same for all politicians. With a good helping of integrity.

Mark

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous SkookumPlanet said...

I don't even agree with the premise you accept, "Democrats lose elections because they don't appeal to religious people."

Democrats lose elections because they haven't got a clue how to appeal to religious people because they haven't got a clue about the new realities of mass communication/decision-making in the U.S.

And, per the interest of this blog, scientists/anti-creationsits are on the same road to perdition.

I just posted two detailed comments about the reaction to Randy Olson's film on a Carl Zimmer post from last Saturday, Hipster Dodos. Olson responds to my comments favorably and a brand strategist/advertising strategist has dropped in to give a bit of an idea how this approach can be done with factual and emotional honesty.

Also, another comment of mine about a review of a recent Olson screening at Kansas State University was put up as a post, "Dodos Redux", on Red State Rabble Monday. It's the same slant as my Zimmer comments, and I've added a bit more in the comments section. On RSR, very briefly, I point to the psychomarketing incompetance of the Kerry campaign and that the Democratic Party is decades behind in this arena.

Jason, for Democrats "extending an olive branch to religious people" consists of getting smart enough to figure out that the only vehicle for communicating with these people is psychomarketing. The reality of the Democratic party's relation to, attitude about, and policies toward religion matters little. It's the perception of reality that's critical and the Dems continue to allow the radical right to do that defining of reality. So any other answer to your question is premature -- Dems won't be able to effectively "extend" it. [Anyway, what such an olive branch should be exactly is a job for psychomarketing professionals.]

This also means, obviously, I disagree with the other 4 commenters here.

My posts above are directed at scientists, but virtually every word applies to the entire left. Everbody needs get over whatever it is causing this psychological blind spot. Here's my idea of a new, internal, slogan for the left...

Perception is reality -- Get over it.

 
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