Sunday, August 04, 2013


Two of my favorite conversational topics.  Nice discussion from facebook over Thursday's post:

Bill I'm a Christian, Ron, and I love you. Again, hope to have coffee sometime! And I do believe, despite the radical teaching of Christ, I believe He'd be a conservative.

Ronald Question for Billy: how do you define the word or concept "conservative"?

Chris He'd advocate the subjugation of women and would oppose helping the poor? Dang. C'mon, Jesus. Be a bro.

Ronald Well, that's why I ask what "conservatism" means. Those things might not be in Bill's definition, or he might have a nuanced understanding. For instance, Bill might fall into the "teach a man to fish" camp, which ties compassion to personal responsibility, and rules out welfare as violating both ideas. That sort of thing.

Chris I can get behind that. But I still believe that women should be treated as equals (at least!)

Anthony Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but isn't there supposed to be a separation of church & state? How about keeping organized religion out of the government & vice versa? And that includes the judgement of individuals based on their political views.

Ronald Well, okay, I'm sympathetic to that point of view, myself, Anthony. But separation of church and state, as a legal concept, comes down to the first amendment's establishment clause. So it's a very specific idea, I think, which has some very specific ramifications as far as the law goes. But is separation of church and state also a sort of philosophical principle by which we ought to live our political lives? Like I said, I'm sympathetic to that idea. But that would then be simply a sort of social tradition, for us to violate or observe. And I worry about such traditions, with which I group stuff like "don't burn the flag" or "support the troops means support the mission" or "patriotism or loving one's nation must necessarily be (fill in the blank)." So I think it's probably up to each individual citizen, ultimately, to decide what one's own religion means in terms of political expression.

And really, when one considers the nature of what it means to be religious, it becomes obvious that religion is quite often, if not always, part of one's very identity. How do you toss out part of your identity in order to understand politics in a sort of spiritually neutral way? Is that even possible?

Anthony An individual using his religion as a guide post to decide how to vote is one thing. I don't like it when religious institutions try to influence their parishioners how to vote in elections. It should strictly be a matter of individual discretion and organized religion shouldn't be involved with such decisions. And for such institutions to make judgments about individuals based on political views is going a little overboard in my opinion. Accept people for who they are.

Ronald Agreed. Churches occupy an interesting social space such that, if unregulated as far as partisan political speech is concerned, they effectively become unregulated PACs, cash machines for the influencing of political thought. Fortunately, they are, in fact, regulated in this way. As for judging a politician's individual worthiness based on his or her religious preferences, I hope and pray that everybody remembers how George W Bush was hailed for his fundamentalist views, which was immediately followed by him illustrating for one and all to see that personal piousness does NOT translate into political ability.

Bryce I find it is interesting that conservatives who believe in Jesus are certain he would be a conservative, and Jesus-believing liberals are equally certain he'd be a liberal. All based on a book written by a bunch of people who never knew a dude named Jesus. So it seems like this would be unknowable, yet people argue it vehemently both ways. Sounds like it has way more to do with what the believer believes than some dude named Jesus.

Ronald Well, the Bible's an enormous book. Lots there to argue about.

Bryce Agreed. But argue to what end? It has to be one of the worst books ever written, unless you like mythology. Anyone can support any crazy-ass shit they want to because somewhere in the bible that's what it says. Seems embarrassing to base one's beliefs on something that has been written and rewritten so many times over the centuries, all by persons with different agendas and belief systems. Yet people quote it as though a god or Jesus actually said these things. Frankly, it's delusional. Perhaps if we wait another 2000 years we can come back and see similar arguments about what god really meant in the book of scientology.

Ronald Well, okay, I'd agree with you if we were regarding the Bible as a textbook on, say, chemistry or something. But to follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, we must also say that Greco-Roman myths have no value. We must also dismiss as coincidence that certain myths and legends have a bizarre habit of repeating themselves in numerous cultures, some of which have absolutely no connection with one another. We must ignore the fact that Judeo/Christian thought has dominated the West for a millennium and a half, and affects our understanding of reality in ways we often don't see or acknowledge. That is, the Bible is a profoundly important work of literature, and its cultural ramifications infuse countless aspects of our lives. You don't have to literally believe it in order to see that it has great value in as much as analysis and discussion go.

We quote Shakespeare, too, because he spoke certain truths, even though we're quite sure that those truths are transmitted to us via fiction. Actually, I'll quote Shakespeare right now: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Check it out:

Brian I'll respectfully submit, because this agnostic is respectful of all faiths, that I find most self proclaimed "conservatives" in the media mainstream (meaning most politicians and pundits) to be extremely ignorant of The Beatitudes which are certainly on the short list of the Most Poignant Things Ever Written. And that (once again I'll respectfully submit) is NOT Christian, by its very definition.
My old pal Brian definitely deserves the last word tonight.  So 'nuff said!