Monday, July 11

Onward, Moderate Soldiers

Increasingly, the most important question on the political agenda is whether persons of differing religious persuasions can "just get along." Those who perpetrated the terror attacks on the London Underground suggest one possible answer.* Former Senator John Danforth -- an ordained Episcopalian minister -- recently supplied another.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Danforth, a Republican, issued a broadside against the fundamentalist approach and a manifesto for a different way to blend politics and religion:

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two.

To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that only I know God's will, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility. By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth.

We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

Danforth's philosophy is diametrically opposed to that of the evangelical Christians -- or more precisely, those who have manipulated them to achieve power. Interestingly, the dean of the Cardozo School of Law (which is affiliated with Orthodox Judaism) also warned in recent days of a "'collision course with democratic order and social unity' as politically outspoken religious leaders wield increasing influence over the nation's public policy."

Perhaps these two examples mean moderates in this country are finally getting the guts to stand up to the Taliban of every religion, all of whom would rather drag us back into the religious wars of the dark ages than have to co-exist with people of different world views.

* See also Fred Phelps' depraved, gleeful note thanking god for the London bombings.