Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Evangelist accuses Obama of 'distorting' Bible

The 'evangelist' in question would be one James Dobson. In case anyone was unaware, if you're enthusiastic about 'the family' and 'family values', you can count on Dr Dobson's support - with the caveat, it goes without saying, that your family and its values should at the very least aspire to be a replica of his. Y'know - smack your weans whilst condemning homosexuality and other abominations and think to yourself you wouldn't be having half of these goddam discipline problems if we could have prayer in schools. That shit.

Anyway, Dobson accused Obama of bad theology in fairly strong terms:
"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology," Dobson said, adding that Obama is "dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
An old saying containing the words 'beam' and 'mote' immediately sprung to mind. Then I thought perhaps the one with 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black' was better because in this case it catches the sense that these two men, despite their opposite political allegiances, are about the same thing - asking or demanding 'respect' for religion, advocating the extension of religion into something they like to call 'public life'. One suspects - indeed knows in certain cases - that with regards to the latter, 'public life' equals legislation - to allow and forbid according to the consciences of those who claim to derive their morality from a book they hold to be inerrant. And we can say without a doubt that the role of religion in 'public life' clearly involves politicians inflicting their pretentious theological musings on the rest of us. Surely we can all agree this is objectionable on aesthetic grounds at least?

And more than this, of course. Dobson is clearly an asshole of significantly larger proportions than Obama because he's an intolerant rightwing Republican who has much larger ambitions for the role of religion in 'public life' than Mr Obama - but in as far as both men favour injecting their politics with their own particular brand of the Truth, they are both wrong. Historically, politically, legally, morally, and philosophically wrong. But there's something else too: they're theologically wrong. I don't care which particular branch of political Christianity someone comes from; I think they should be confronted with the fact that a salvation religion by definition - even if it were desirable - simply cannot serve as the foundation for the morals of society and shore up its basic institutions.

All the soft sell, all the talk of the positive influence of religion in terms of providing something called 'social cohesion', seems to me to be avoiding one basic, inescapable fact about salvation religions: for them the world is divided into the saved and the damned and that this irreducible factor can have, has had, at various times and in various ways the most devastating impact on all of society's institutions - from the state down to the family.

Do we have to demonstrate this? Superfluous rhetorical keystrokes there - of course we do. What happens, for example, if the saved and the damned are found in the same family? Believers - here's your instruction:
" If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
If this is the case for the most primal and immediate of human institution how much more so for the wider, looser, associations we form in civil society? Anyone uncertain of the answer here is cordially invited to read some history - I'm off duty right now.

J'accuse all political Christians of 'distorting the bible'. You'll search the pages of the New Testament in vain for any political programme for reshaping civil society in God's image. It simply isn't there. Instead indifference to human institutions is what you'll find. Indifference because they are part of this age which is already passing away. Anything beyond this is just interpretation and extrapolation born from the delay of the parousia. Moreover, it is interpretation and extrapolation that is curiously utilitarian in character. Curious because religious believers seem to be unaware that by making this argument, they undermine the very reason why they believed in the first place. For converts, this has nothing much to do with social utility, cementing social institutions and shoring up the family but a great deal to do with the salvation of their own souls. Christianity is very individualistic that way. What impresses me is how few of its (loudmouthed, public) adherents seem to get this.

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