Today Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post about "Hard Liners for Jesus." Things like Bush advocating torture and preemptive war yet touting Jesus as his favorite philosopher (although to be fair that was before 9/11 "changed everything" so maybe he swapped out Jesus for a more war-friendly philosopher). Meyerson also has good thoughts about the treatment of immigrants, which is of great concern to Judaism and Christianity: "the distinctive cry coming from the Republican base this year isn't simply to control the flow of immigrants across our borders but to punish the undocumented immigrants already here, children and parents alike." (Huckabee is actually on the "more Christian" side of that issue.)
Last week Judith Warner had a blog post titled Holier Than They in which she discusses what exactly is so Christian about the policies and platform of the GOP: opposition to progressive taxation and programs for the needy, attitudes toward gays, etc. But how about this from Barack Obama:
“We cannot abandon the field of religious discourse,” Barack Obama, the most eloquently convincing of them all, said back in June of 2006. “Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations toward one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.”
The Christian conservative vote is, apparently, splintering. Younger evangelicals are increasingly said to be interested in putting their faith to greater use than bashing gays, promoting guns and putting God on the presidential ticket. That would seem to indicate that we’re facing a moment of opportunity: a chance to expand and amplify the reach of the voice of religious moderation. The silence I’m hearing makes me think, though, that as a society we’ve come to accept the slippage of prejudicial and hateful attitudes into religious doctrine as somehow normal. Whether that’s due to cynicism or due to cowardice, it’s very troubling.
Warner rightly faults Huckabee for some of his less charitable moments, but Huckabee's surge is due to some of the splintering we're seeing. The other candidates are cynically pandering for the evangelical vote, whereas Huckabee is a true believer and presents a more hopeful message. I'm hopeful that maybe the cynicism and cowardice has had its day and that the country is ready to move beyond it. Now it's time for the Obamas and the Huckabees and those who look toward a better future to step in the gap. (Regardless of his tone, though, Huckabee is essentially a fundamentalist and I'd have trouble trusting him for that reason alone.)
God, guns and gays doesn't quite get it anymore, and that's a good thing for this country. Let's hope we can really listen to Bush's favorite philosopher and try to love our neighbors as ourselves, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, welcome the stranger, and give a voice to the voiceless. In our personal lives and in our society. It's hard but it's worth working toward.