17 October 2005

Where's the purple?

Grumble. I agree with the general thrust of this article by Noah Feldman in America's Number One Newspaper (and the one that happens to direct-deposit my paycheck), but several statements really annoyed me. For example:

Beginning of fourth paragraph, just below the heading, "The divide": "The country is split between two camps." Aren't we tired of that simplistic binary worldview yet? Well, some of us are, anyway.

End of the paragraph after that: "Tell me whether you think religion should play a role in government decisions, and I'll tell you where you come out on these core debates [i.e., abortion and end-of-life issues]." No, Noah, you won't. You and I could play that game (and you and many, many people I know could play that game), but if I were you I'd avoid betting money on it. Try rock-paper-scissors instead.

Here's a whole paragraph near the end:

"If we were serious about getting back to the Framers' way of doing things, we would adopt their two principles: no money and no coercion. This compromise would allow plenty of public religious symbolism, but it would also put an end to vouchers for religious schools. God could stay in the Pledge, but the faith-based initiative would be over, and state funds could reach religious charities only if they were separately incorporated to provide secular social services."

I actually think "no money, no coercion" is a pretty good guiding principle for these debates, but I'm not sure I agree with some of his conclusions. Is there really no coercion involved when a teacher stands up in front of a class of elementary school kids and says, "OK class, now we're all going to recite the Pledge of Allegiance together"? Also, what does this say about "In God we trust" on currency? It is money, so does it fall under "no money"? (Obviously it's a stretch if it does, since it arguably costs the same to mint coins with that slogan as it does coins with any other slogan on them.) Is it coercion because everybody who lives in this country has no choice but to use our money, even atheists and Buddhists? Or since using the money doesn't imply that you agree with the slogan printed on it, is that argument weightless? (If I use Canadian money does that mean I'm fond of HRH the Queen?) Hmm.

Right after that, he says, "The public could logically embrace this modest proposal, and the zealots on both sides should think it over." Hang on, you just spent the first part of the article implying that "the public" was made up more or less exclusively of "the zealots on both sides". You mean it's possible that real people are purple, not necessarily fire-engine red or royal blue?

One statement in the last papagraph is something we need to all come to terms with: "No longer Judeo-Christian (if we ever were), we are now Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu-agnostic-atheist." Yeah, and -Sikh-Taoist-Confucianist-Ifa-NewAge-Scientologist-Jain-RollYourOwn-etc.-etc.-etc. We're simply not going to get where we're going by re-establishing Christendom and the so-called "Judeo-Christian society". I just don't think it's what we're called to do in this place and time. But I think what we are called to usher in--a Kingdom of God that welcomes all kinds of folks of all kinds of faiths--is way cooler anyway.

In any event, I thought it was an interesting article, even if parts of it torked me off a little. Apparently it's the beginning of a regular feature of writing on faith topics by my beloved employer, so I'll be keeping an interested eye on what they come up with.

No comments: