Friday, May 06, 2005

Forcing My Hand

I was trying to avoid commenting on the whole brouhaha regarding First Lady Laura Bush and her jokes the other night, only because it seems like everyone is getting WAY too worked up over what should be a non-issue. Unfortunately, it's the level 0f worked-uppedness that has forced my hand. That and the fact that it ties in to several other issues that have worked their way under my skin under the guise of "Church-State Issues".

For the record, I think that the level of offense some have taken with the First Lady's comments is a bit Sullivanesque. Lighten up -- the event has ALWAYS been irreverent, and the Horse joke specifically has been misinterpreted.

On the other hand, I also think that those defending Mrs. Bush have also taken this one not just over the top, but through the wire and well into No Man's Land. I'm getting a bit tired of the chracterization of anyone with a modicum of morals as being a repressed Victorian prude. There's nothing wrong with a little proper decorum and respect for one anothers sensibilities.

Now, to be sure, there are some morally conservative people, most of whom are Christian,s who are overreacting. But to paint all Christians, or even all social conseervatives, with the same brush is a bit much. Today Ace posted an excellent bit on the current friction between religious and non-religious conservatives. I think he's dead on. In addition, there's a good and lively discussion going on in the comments. I especially appreciated this comment by Ace's reader Jason:

Well, this just depends on who you consider the "Religious Right" to be. If you're referring to any conservative who has the audacity to be religious, then it's simply not true. If you're referring to specific religious conservatives, it's true, but trivial. You can point to members of any political group that demand 100% compliance.

Also today I noted that the esteemed Smallholder addresses persecution. Twice. While I agree whole-heartedly that the characterization of ANY opposition to Christianity as persecution trivializes real persecution, I'd beg to make two points:
1. I have heard the argument before that Christians here keep whining about persecution. A good friend of mine made the same observation on his Blog. However, with the exception of a few loudmouths who get more attention than they deserve and whom one can almost dismiss out of hand any time they speak, I quite honestly don't hear the "P" word being used as much as Smallholder seems to indicate.

2. Having said that, let me address Smallholder's comment, It's not Christians who are persecuted. We are doing the persecution (though not all of us agree with it).

Again, any reasoned agreement or disagreement with this statement on my part would require that I extract from Smallholder a definition of Persecution. Included in that definition there would necessarily be either an acceptance or rejection of degrees of persecution. In one Blog Entry, he states that real persecution would be execution for ones faith. In another, limiting tax benefits is persecution. This leads me to believe that he must at least recognize varying degrees of persecution as still being persecution.

Furthermore, I must take exception with his comment, So when my coreligionists whine about the persecution of not having Principal-led prayer in the public schools, I become a bit indignant. I become indignant when Pat Roberston complains that extending civil rights to gays "persecutes" believers.

I do hope he really doesn't think that that is the extent of the objections many Christians have with our treatment in modern society. But I will reserve further reaction until he has clarified.

A few days ago, my good friend and reader Mary left a comment asking me if I feel any moral obligation to provide for public education. I shall address her here, because itis, as you will see, germain to the crux of my post. I do geel a moral obligation to help others -- to give to the poor, to help provide those in need with that which will help them. But as I've stated before, when it comes to translating my personal morals into political policy, there's a fine line to be walked. As Ace argues in his article, it is unfair to expect people of religious convictions to not apply those convictions to the way they vote. Because, as his reader hobgoblin points out, ALL law is morality. Anything we require or prohibit by law is because the majority have determined that that which is required is morally necessary and because that which is prohibited is morally wrong. The question is, whose morals? Which morals? Which morals supercede other morals -- freedom vs. Justice, for instance? In the long run, it seems to me that the best laws are those which enforce the moral concept of not doing wrong to others. Once we get into the realm of forcing people to do good to one another, the law becomes a bit too intrusive, and open to debate. And that is why I can see the point of those who think that taxes for public education is not as morally or legally necessary as, say, fire or police or defense or tort laws.

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