04/26/2005: To "lead" where one can not follow...
Here’s a good one from the NY Times editorial page The Disappearing Wall:
”To the dismay of many mainstream religious leaders, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, participated in a weekend telecast organized by conservative Christian groups to smear Democrats as enemies of "people of faith." Besides listening to Senator Frist's videotaped speech, viewers heard a speaker call the Supreme Court a despotic oligarchy. Meanwhile, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, has threatened the judiciary for not following the regressive social agenda he shares with the far-right fundamentalists controlling his party.
Apart from confirming an unwholesome disrespect for traditional American values like checks and balances, the assault on judges is part of a wide-ranging and successful Republican campaign to breach the wall between church and state to advance a particular brand of religion. No theoretical exercise, the program is having a corrosive effect on policymaking and the lives of Americans….”
The issue isn’t whether one must “check their religion at the door” when they enter the realm of governance in the public sphere -- But -- Whether, what ever their personal religious convictions may be, as a "Public Servant" in their official capacity, they can act in manner to ensure the fair governance of ALL the various peoples and cultural background differences and degrees of religious fervor down to the non-religious among us. The Religious Right is positing the wrong formulation of the issue and putting it out backwards to attempt to co-opt a very narrow and distinctly religious point of view into the secular realm of Legislative government and now the Judiciary -- it's "given" that they've co-opted the Executive branch already.
I wrote a longer piece about this issue last fall concerning Governance by either a "consensus" approach or a “leadership” approach. Click on the "more" button to read this viewpoint.
There were some recent commentators who write about Bush Sr. having had a "governing by consensus style" versus Bush II having a "leadership" style. Much is also commented about the lack of national "unity" and the increasing divide under the Bush administration; so here is my analysis of that governing v. leading viewpoint and illustrates in my mind why the national divide is not really a surprise.
Looking at many of the hallmarks of the Bush policy agenda (and even his "war in Iraq" justification), it would be fine as a pastoral mission if he were the leader of some Church of the United States of America and this were its Theocratic government. While it's amusing as the premise for a movie like the "Blues Brothers" when the characters proclaim to be "on a mission from God," it is not a workable or desirable quality for a person in the position to be the leader of a large, multi-national, multi-religious, multi-denominational, multi-regional style of country. It is also of note that the 2000 election popular vote, though not decisive of the election results, proved that more than 50% of the country did not/does not support this Bush "message."
This is where the main division comes: despite this overriding disconnect with more than 50% of the American people, the President was not disposed to "govern" among the various groups and factions currently making up the varied populace, but instead injecting his narrow views, personal religious goals, as the only goals and policies to be foisted on the fabric of the whole nation. His personal "mission from God" as he calls it. Some may try to call it "leadership" but it does not lead people to force particular religious ideals where their faith and reason can not follow. That course of action, pursued over a broad array of agendas, oversteps the bounds of leadership and crosses the line into carrying convictions into becoming proscriptions. It creates a situation of dictating and governing on the basis of one (and only one) religious point of view which can allow for no other governing principles and fails to account for that 51% of the nation. It is no longer governance, but a pastoral mission appropriate for a church group of Bush "faithful," but not a nation of many faiths like the United States.
That is why so many Americans who describe themselves as “people of a faith” can not follow an agenda based solely on the faith of a single president as he'd like to force it upon them. His faith is not their faith, his mission (based on his faith) can not be their mission as they view their faith. It is a divide that can only grow when the president fails to govern as he should for the majority of the electorate as is appropriate in our democracy. It is failed leadership. This "leadership" is not suitable for democracy…only a vision of the theocracy Bush would like to live in…but the half-majority of Americans (myself included) would not want to wake up there in the Bush Theocracy. Any wonder the divide grows only deeper?
Some voters analyze the “Bush faith litmus test” on the abortion question issue as requiring some "moral weighing" for the Supporter of this "right" (as well as on the judicial issues because this is a protected constitutional right) and a "black/white, no nuances" issue for Bush. But what about the embryonic stem cell question? For the Black & Whiter's who applaud Bush, there seems to be no problem in his "moral weighing" when it comes to Federal funding for this research. This simply can not be logically reconciled and is equivalent to a complete moral sell-out to say, as Bush did, "I've allowed embryonic stem cell research to be allowed...up to a point. And besides, those embryo's were dead anyway." If the taking of those embryonic "lives" was murder, then he should reject the fruits of that poisonous tree and anything which flows from that murder. He can't have it both ways. Yet in Bush World no one slaps him around for this obvious flip-flop, two-faced position. I guess he's just such a "compassionate conservative" they don't care if he's sanctioning the funding for those murders and the research which flows from it.
What is most troubling, regardless of what anyone's faith tells them on these issues, is the fact that Bush seeks to impose his own narrow, personal faith as answers to questions for the entire nation. Our founding fathers were not lacking in faith or religious values...but they did not want our laws, our government, our constitution to embody only one single particular faith over and above any other. (It's what they had left England to escape, religious persecution from other faiths for their strongly held beliefs.) What Bush is saying, without actually saying it, is that his interpretation of his faith is the only one and should be codified throughout our entire society and government, and any other faiths, beliefs, or moral compasses are degenerate, inconsequential, corrupt or of no moral value to the extent that they conflict with his faith. Plus, it's OK for him to choose "moral weighing" on questions like stem cell research...but nobody else has that right. (They are all “flip-floppers” who can’t answer a question “yes” or “no” in his view because there are no nuances.)
I would fight to the end of the earth for Pres. Bush's right (or your right) to believe in his faith and practice his faith all the way up to the point at which he tries to legally use the government to impose his faith on my faith. Despite his protests to the contrary during the debate, this exactly how he's is using his faith: to essentially highjack our government in an impermissible way and put his articles of faith on me.
These are the real problems in how I view Bush’s use of his faith or anyone, based on their faith, who may agree with him on one issue, like abortion, but not one each and every tenet of his faith. With Bush and this Extreme Religious Right movement you only get black or white, all or nothing, and their faith and nothing else.
Karen on 04.26.05 @ 06:46 AM CST