“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” James 2:24

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10 Responses

  1. Personally, while I think it’s important for those “progressives of faith” in civil society to be active in the manner you describe, I’m not at all comfortable seeing members of Congress or politicians in general relying on a discourse of faith to animate political rhetoric of any sort, especially insofar as it is sectarian (even if the overwhelming members of the public belong to Christianity and Judaism, and increasingly Islam). This risks the exploitation of genuine religiosity or spirituality for partisan political purposes in a way that may end up only furthering widespread cynicism about and distrust of religious discourse. I don’t like when Christian politicians of the Right do it, nor would I like to see Christian politicians of Liberal or Left persuasion do it either. I suppose it’s something about linking spiritual praxis and commitment too closely to conventional power politics if not simply the power of the State (think Tolstoy here). You and I can be motivated by our spiritual beliefs and ways of living to support progressive political change but politicians have a responsibility to address us in a language that transcends religious sectarianism and appeals to all members of the public, irregardless of their adherence to either religious or non-religious worldviews. Such public appeals by politicians can nevertheless be based on moral principles common to all religions and shared by those of no faith whatsoever.

  2. I might have mentioned my comment is perfectly consonant with your suggestion that we “simply demand a debate about whether our system is ethical and just.”

  3. Hippo says:

    You seem very confused. Christians should feel free to demonstrate their faith by doing good works (that would be a mitzvah!) but you propose something quite different: you propose to force *other people* to pay for works that you think are good!

    That is not charity, it is tyranny. It is also hypocrisy, since you want the Lord (or your neighbors) to credit you with “good works” for your actual action of theft (we know how the Lord views theft, since the 3rd of the Noahide laws and the 8th Commandment both forbid it).

    “But,” you may exclaim, “those I will rob have so much, and those to whom I will distribute the booty (after a small deduction for expenses) have so little!” That is an appeal to envy, forbidden by the 10th Commandment. Worse, you imply that it is proper to rob some people merely because they have a bit more wealth than others. That is Stalinism, not Christianity. Jesus condemned arrogance and false or Pharasaical piety but not wealth, which (go look it up) he recognized could be the fruit of hard work or good management.

    When you (and your friends) do good works you please G-d, or perhaps you express the loving spirit which suffuses you. Fine. When you point the gun of the IRS at my head, strip me of the resources I need to support my own family and charities so you can spend the money on yours, that is in no way a good work on your part. It is rather a crime or a sin.

    Even if you are an Antinomian who believes the Lord has remitted all of the laws for the faithful, you should still be chary of folk-Marxist schemes. You yourself have more than many. This week you will level “healthcare.” Next week someone will decide to level “food resources” and you won’t be eating risotto with gorgonzola while others subsist on Kraft dinner any more.

  4. Anon Mouse says:

    Most of the key Senate Demos. Obama is afraid to call them out on it because of the two-party zero sum game–whatever hurts Dems, helps the infinitely worse Republican rump.

    An operator like Baucus believes in very little except getting reelected. They aren’t making a religious case because they have no moral compass, and it just feels too hypocritical to call the types of insurance company windfalls they’re promoting a Christian imperative. (The problem, of course, is that the other side is willing to frame their active efforts to cut aid to the poor as a God-inspired duty. The Democratic strategists are probably calculating that it will be easier to call out the right-wing Elmer Gantry’s if Dem politicians abstain from God-talk themselves.)

  5. Can a “progressive of faith” also invoke faith to achieve protection for the unborn or are their limits to your call for action?

  6. AYY says:

    “Why aren’t progressives of faith, whether in the pulpit or in the well of Congress, not employing every persuasive tool to advance healthcare reform as an imperative not only for the least among us but for us all?”

    Who said they aren’t? You were in one church on one Sunday and didn’t hear anything. Try a church with more of a liberation theology bent, or try the Unitarian or
    Episcopalean or Quaker churches, or a Reform Jewish temple. There’s a good chance you’ll hear all you want.

    The question is not why some don’t push health care reform, it’s why some do. If all you can say about Obamacare is that health care reform is an imperative for all of us, then you really need to read the criticisms of the bill. A compelling argument can be made that Obamacare is riddled with problems.

    “The left has ceded public policy grounded in faith to the right”

    Ever hear of the REVEREND Jesse Jackson, the REVEREND Al Sharpton, RABBI Michael Lerner, etc. etc?

    “Democratic presidential candidates emphasize their faith (Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter) when they run, but as soon as they take office they revert to dry policy arguments for social goals that meet with passionately poetical threats of sin and damnation from the right”

    Well some people on the right will disagree with the Dems, and some of them are religious, but there are plenty of arguments against Dem policies that have nothing to do with a fundamentalist conception of sin and damnation. For example, had you fairly discussed the objections to Obamacare, you might have mentioned that they are based on the view that the program is expensive, creates a horrendous bureaucracy, and will lead to inferior health care. If the right is arguing that’s the same thing as sin and damnation, then, well, they have a point.

    “Are Democrats unable to invoke a competing interpretation of faith to inspire outrage that 50 million people living in the United States are uninsured?”

    50 million? You sure about that? How many of them are illegal aliens? How many of them have simply chosen not to buy health insurance? Besides, shouldn’t the outrage really be that Obama is trying to destroy the health system for about 300 million Americans?

    “Progressives were likewise paralyzed in the “death panel” debate, with no politician effectively arguing that the over-medicalization of death seemed an ironic position for people of faith who aspire to an after-life with God.”

    Because it’s not ironic. If your afterlife depends on what you do here, then you want to be here as long as possible to build up your works. But your real mistake is in attributing the religious motivation to opponents of Obamacare. You can be an atheist and still have good reason to oppose

    “. . . we can simply demand a debate about whether our system is ethical and just.”

    That’s not really the question. At least in the abstract. The real question is whether it’s better than any other practical alternative. If it is, then it’s ethical and just, although we can tinker at the edges to make it better. The real question is whether Obamacare is ethical and just. As much as we’d like to have a debate about it, when we try the Obamacare supporters come around and beat people up, people like Nancy Pelosi make irresponsible accusations, and people like Rep. Grayson tell us that the Repulicans want the elderly to die and die quickly.

  7. Templar says:

    wow, AYY is totally fair and balanced, just like Fox. Go join a teabag party! I would bet dollars to donuts that AYY, Conservatarian, hippo, and their pals have no idea about how to reform the health care system to make it better.

    There’s no chance at bipartisanship in this country because, as the Washington post op ed said last week, conservatism is brain dead.

  8. okay Templar – I’m at the Krispy Kreme; how many dollars you putting up?

  9. AYY says:


    So what did I say that you dispute? You weren’t too clear about that.
    BTW, the question is not whether I, or MC, or Hippo or our pals have any idea any idea of how to reform health care to make it better, it’s whether Obama does.

  10. A.J. Sutter says:

    Amen to Patrick. I’m not comfortable importing religious discourse into politics, either. There are perhaps many political strategies the left has “ceded” to the right, but as for ceding most of them I say baruch HaShem. To the extent one’s political position is influenced by prophetic visions, that’s fine, but I really don’t want to hear about it. BTW one can “self-identify…with a specific religious denomination” without (a) attending orgainzied religious services often, or (b) wanting to hear about politics when one does.