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Friday, April 22, 2005

Just Us Sunday: The rest of you get the hell out.

How shall we interpret "Justice Sunday," the Christian nationalist megachurch telethon scheduled for this Sunday around the truly outrageous notion that Democrats oppose some of President Bush's judicial nominees because they're "people of faith"? That lie itself would be noxious enough, but in his bid to be the next Republican presidential nominee Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — who has signed on as one of the telethon's marquee participants — seems to think nothing of playing to a bunch of Evangelical triumphalists by pretending that he agrees. And that really is unacceptable.

Do I object to politicians coddling their political base? No. But there comes a point when political leaders should draw a line and not cross it. Characterizing one's political opponents as treasonous crosses that line, for example. Characterizing one's political opponents as "enemies of people of faith" crosses that line, too. Why? Because it's flagrantly false.

What the Evangelical triumphalists are really saying, of course, isn't that all people of faith are right-wing Republican Evangelicals. They're saying that only right-wing Republican Evangelicals — and their political allies among traditionalist Catholics and perhaps small groups of Jews and Mormons — are "people of faith." Mainline Protestants, moderate or liberal Catholics, Jews who vote Democratic, religious but non-Christian Americans, and anyone who doesn't share Antonin Scalia's judicial doctrines — all the rest of us, in other words — are enemies of the faith. A politician has no business in that business. When the subtext of an event becomes "This country ain't big enough for the both of us," a politician ought to go the other way. Just Us Sunday is bad politics, even it seems like good church to some people.

If you haven't already, tell Senator Frist how appalling it is for him to encourage this kind of deceitful misrepresentation of millions of people of faith and good will who simply don't share the radical Christian right's views. Call him (politely but firmly) at 202-224-3344, fax him at 202-228-1264, or send him email.

Look, I'm no fan of the filibuster, but the danger in what Frist has signed up for has little to do with the legislative maneuvering around judicial nominations. It has to do with a poisonous mischaracterization of a difference of political opinion. Democrats oppose some of President Bush's nominees not because of their faith but because of their jurisprudence. Furthermore, some of Frist's colleagues — like House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who all but said judges had it coming to them if they pissed off conservatives — are radically undermining our constitutional system of checks and balances, not to mention quietly nudging people toward acts of violence.

The rapidly reviving religious left is responding to Just Us Sunday in a number of ways:

  • The New York Times reported today that the National Council of Churches (an ecumenical group representing mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations, including Senator Frist's own Presbyterian Church USA) and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism are criticizing Frist's involvement in Just Us Sunday.

  • The leader of the United Church of Christ had already criticized Frist's involvement, saying that his participation "represents one more highly public and dangerous effort to divide this country by falsely accusing his opponents on the issue of Senate rules and judicial opponents of not being faithful."

  • The president of the Unitarian Universalist Association released a statement today that said in part: “The Constitution wisely ensures that there are no religious tests for political offices. While private groups, including churches, have a guaranteed right to speak out on social issues, our democracy’s highest elected leaders must hold themselves accountable to all of ‘we, the people.’ I believe that Senator Frist has a moral responsibility to declare unequivocally that the political views of the American people do not define the depth or quality of their faith. Our nation was founded on this inspired principle, and we imperil the precious freedoms of all our citizens when we cease to honor and protect the separation of church and state.”

    Meanwhile, people who believe that justice belongs to everyone and not just to right-wing Republican Evangelicals are sponsoring "Social Justice Sunday." Sponsors include the Clergy and Laity Network, Faith Voices for the Common Good, and the Texas progressive group DriveDemocracy. Sojourners has set up its own mechanism to tell Senator Frist how you feel about "Justice Sunday." And UCC minister Pastordan's blog FaithForward is collecting statements from a much broader spectrum of people of faith — a moving tribute to a better and less divisive America.

    Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 22 April 2005 at 6:36 PM

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    April 23, 2005 03:08 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I'm a fan of Pastor Dan's, referred to in DKos as PD, and suggest that people take a look at his blog. Take note that an interesting number of the statements are from non religious people. While Daily Kos has a number of non religious scolds who post anti-religious diatribes at us, I have also noted that a number of them are yelling at us, WHEN ARE YOU PEOPLE GOING TO SPEAK OUT!

    I would also like to recommend the book, United Methodism @RISK to Episcoplians and Presbyterians. It contains information about a group of relioterrorist who have as their goal taking control of the mainline denominations' conventions and general meetings. It can be ordered at the website, Progressive Christians. No tinfoil hat theory, this. It was put in my hands by a United Methodist Deaconess who was advised to read it by her organization.


    April 24, 2005 09:24 AM | Permalink for this comment

    I think that Bill Frist may be pandering to the religious right in order to position himself for a presidential foray in the future. In that sense he would not be the first or the last to do so. Politicians pander prodigiously at times.


    April 24, 2005 01:05 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Oh, well, in that case I guess we can all relax. He's just pandering to conservative reactionaries. No skin off my nose -- and no reason for conservative Unitarian Universalists to worry, either -- right Paul? -- because conservative Evangelicals just love Unitarian Universalists, and so long as we get more tax cuts and can shoot some democracy into Iraq, we'll be happy to let the Family Research Council set the country's social policies.

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