Friday, July 15, 2005

The Clash of American Culture and Religious-Right

Unites States Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is third-ranking Republican in that body. A 47 year old, attractive fellow that one might otherwise see as an up-and-coming person within his party. Unquestionably conservative, but more poignantly an example of the extreme nature of the religious right in this country. He scored 100 in the 2004 Christian Coalition scorecard and has been courted by the religious-right and visa-versa. It is no secret that he is interested in the GOP nomination for President in 2008.

If the two - extreme religious fundamentalists and Santorum are a cozy fit for each other, and they certainly appear to be, then many of Santorum's recent public statements clearly spell out what is wrong with the mentality of the of these religious zealots.

Tuesday, Santorum refused back off on his earlier claims connecting Boston's ''liberalism" with the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal, saying that the city's ''sexual license" and ''sexual freedom" nurtured an environment where sexual abuse would occur. ''The basic liberal attitude in that area (Boston) . . . has an impact on people's behavior," Santorum maintained. Three years ago on a website called Catholic Online, Santorum said, ''It is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm" of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Santorum seems particularly blind to the fact that the "pedophile scandal" is not a "Boston" thing and for that matter is not a "Catholic thing". Just two days ago there were two separate local (Kansas City area) church leaders that were not of Catholic denomination that were embroiled in current "sex sandals" with young people.

Santorum has a book coming out later this month titled ''It Takes a Family." I suppose in response to Hillary Clinton's book many moons ago titled "It Take a Village." Santorum in this book will continue to beat the drum with conservative "buzz word issues" to satisfy his hungry political base. Those themes that he will blast, two-income families, divorce, cohabitation before marriage, all things that he considers liberal ills. For example, he blames ''radical feminism" for encouraging women to work outside the home. ''In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them don't really need to or at least may not need to work as much as they do," Santorum writes.

I don't think Rick Santorum is disingenuous when he says these things. I'm relatively certain he believes them. I don't think he is simply pandering to the conservative Christian movement. The problem with these positions and the problem with the movement itself, is that it this is divisive, highly judgmental and seeks to culturally shape everyone else into a singular role the has been predetermined as the perfect fit.

I am not anti-religious. I am not anti-Christian. In fact, believe there are two very good reasons here why the approach of Christian conservative activists here is wrong.

The first speaks to the role of church and state. Efforts to continually commingle the two of these spell problems for the future of this nation. It was religious freedom that brought this experiment in democracy into existence to start with. The founding fathers had suffered the tyranny of religious oppression on several fronts. The religious right seems to have forgotten this. We are a nation of rich diversity. Our strength is in the bonds of that diversity and not diffusion. Any attempts to shape this nation into a "church sanctioned state" will only divide the various religious and denominational entities.

The second reason the Christian conservatives are wrong is that if you believe in the fundamental teachings of the Church you must accept the premise that belief in Christian teachings is centered of the free will of people to accept these teachings of faith. To do otherwise is counter to biblical principal. It is one thing to witness. To lead a life of example. It is quite another to dictate who and how people will come to worship and structure your governmental and cultural infrastructures to support "one way" all else be damned!

Christian zealots spend too much time on the "soul" of government or the people as a whole and would better turn there efforts inward ministering to themselves and there own communities / congregations.

Similarly, as a part of government, if Senator Santorum is concerned about impacts of two income families on their children, then he should dedicate himself to working for policies that benefit the financial impact of today's economy on them. Health care issues, minimum-wage legislation, fair credit reform and not pro-business changes in the bankruptcy act.

We cannot unite as a nation if we are going to constantly judge one another on religious, cultural, and sexual, ethic and economic basis. Right now, the religious right is perhaps one of the biggest offenders of this. In response to some of Santorum's remarks, fellow Republican Senator John McCain quipped, ''I think he probably has written off Massachusetts." What Santorum needs to know is that Massachusetts is not an isolated island apart from the rest of the country. It is he and the religious-right that are isolated from reality.

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