Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin, Religion, and how Secularism is out of touch

Jonalyn sent me this article she found on "What's the Difference between Palin and a Muslim Fundamentalist? Lipstick"

Listing abortion, God, creationism, and every other thing secularists hate about religious ideas, the author saves his worst grievance for last with this remark, the one that makes us all gasp with horror at the audacity of Palin's views:

The most noxious belief that Palin shares with Muslim fundamentalists is her conviction that faith is not a private affair of individuals but rather a moral imperative that believers should import into statecraft wherever they have the opportunity to do so.

There it is - a private faith is the highest virtue and must not be touched at all costs. Making faith public is worse that even stopping science and abortions. Quite an assertion.

I recommend you read this article, not because it is helpful, but because it is an example of how unreasonable secular 'reason' has become. Not only does this author equivocate between Palin's views and fundamentalist Islam, but he also blows it out of proportion. What is even worse is that this author believes what he is saying.

Teaching creationism alongside evolution (and other views) in the public school classroom is not the same as banning it (which is what his Islamic examples did). And there are people who are non-religious who also think abortion should be radically limited from it's abuses today.

But as for private vs. public faith, the author of this story has certainly made his faith public. He's pushes it on the reader. It's amazing how easy it is to play the hypocrite. Every single politician that has ever taken office has used his faith in something (be it God, the human spirit, or whatever) to push through laws and regulate the people. The Founding Fathers did the same (even the Declaration of Independence makes the audacious claim that the "Creator" endowed humans with rights).

For an intelligent discussion on religion in the public square, I recommend this dialog between two preeminent philospohers, Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff: Religion in the Public Square.

Palin thinks everyone needs to have a heart right with God. This is different than the comparison that the author makes that Khamenei, only replacing "God" with "Islam." At least in American you have the freedom to say which God you believe in. When Palin says such things, it is speaking the language of her audience but is also a call to weed out corruption. For Khamenei, he's speaking from a context outside of freedom of conscience and refers to a specific religion. What is more, if God does exist, I would think he would want us to use our resources wisely and make us less dependent on those who don't. Is the author against that virtue as well? On this accounts (as well as his several other points), the parallel just cannot be made. Some people may not like Palin's remarks, but to equate them with fundamentalist Islam (which is just shy of using the word 'terrorist') shows he's out of touch and stretching concepts to fit his prejudice.

Makes me also wonder what the author thinks of Obama's "faith."

Would this author enjoy being called a fundamentalist Christian because he shares the idea that caring for the poor is important? Or would he like it if he agreed with Christains that humans should be treated fairly and with dignity? We can all find things we have in common and wedge in assumptions that do not fit. Just because serial killers breath oxygen doesn't mean everyone who breathes oxygen is a serial killer.

A thoughtful reader will get this. And articles like this are written to stir up the religiously uneducated and fearful. One encouraging thing to me is that while much of the secular media says evangelicals are out of touch, well, the statement can be volleyed as a return of favor. Wow, how's that for two movements with something in common!

It should be required reading every year for those in journalism to read the Society of Professional Jouralists' Code of Ethics, including "Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context."


Angela said...

Dale, thank you once again. After all of the Palin-bashing I've been hearing lately, this comes as a breath of fresh air.

Dale Fincher said...

Thanks, Angela. It would be refreshing if journalists could maybe take a course on logical fallacies and intellectual honesty before they are allowed to take up the pen to influence the vulnerable who are counting on them!

Kim said...

I wouldn't defend what the author is saying, but I would make the distinction that this is not "journalism," but editorial. No one in their right mind is going to look to Salon for an un-biased perspective on culture or politics.

I think that secularists will always push for the suppression of public displays of faith, but they feel justified because many of the displays of public faith truly are offensive.

I think one of the things driving the emergent church movement (not that I'm a un-questioning fan) is that Christianity has been represented poorly by those who would emphasize judgement over grace, dogmatism over compassion, creationism over creation, legalism over spirituality, etc. etc.

I view Christ as an ultimately irresistable character, as revealed in Scripture. If we Believers were true followers we would be irresistable as well.

That said, we have to be fully aware that He said He would be a dividing sword that would pit family members against each other and bring on us hate and condemnation more than He received.

My own retreat from public faith was precipitated by a new-found self-awareness of my own hypocrisy. With God's grace and a lot of help I'm more unified in my internal and external spirit and I'm making tentative steps back out into the public forum.

Peace, Kim

Dale Fincher said...


Thanks for your comment and good distinction between journalism and editorial.

I agree with you about Christian believers and how we are perceived (and often rightly so) in the public square. I think one of the struggles many analysts have with evangelicals today is that they think we are all on the "Moral Majority" bandwagon, touting the same 'values' as way back then. I'd like to think that mantle is being shed.

Hypocrisy is a dastardly thing, for sure. And whatever prompts us to follow after Jesus more transparently (be it 'emergent' or whatever), I'm for it. Glad to hear you're making steps back out into public! :)

I appreciate your insight.

Jeremy Killian said...

I've been wondering why so many of my Christian friends - at least the ones in my age demographic - are so quick to denounce someone like Sarah Palin. I was recently invited to join the "One Million People against Sarah Palin" group on Facebook by a friend. The whole thing really rubbed me the wrong way. I haven't joined a group "against" anyone, and I don't plan to.

I wonder, in our desire to make Christianity relevant, if we've simply accepted many of the secularist's assumptions regarding politics.

Jesse Gardner said...

Since when did: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or any public trust under the United States" become: "No religion shall every be allowed to influence any office or any public trust"?

I like how you draw attention to the "private" nature of religion that seems to be imposed upon us. It's absurd to think that an individual's religion is permissible so long as it has no bearing on how they behave. Thank God for men like James Madison and Martin Luther King who acted on their strong religious convictions and changed the course of our great nation.

Dale Fincher said...

Great point, Jesse.

Today's secularism really believes (contrary to history) that no religion can be grounded in reality and on reason and that faith means believing against the evidence.

As long as they operate on these premises, they will always go wrong. They are false categories.

If God exists, he's as real as molecules and hanging chads. If God exists, we'd better stop and all remember who are the creatures after all.

Mary said...

Isn't it crazy that people are willing to equate Palin with Muslim faith, but won't go near it when it's in Obama's own backyard? Why is that topic off limits for Obama's critics when it is a legitamate concern, yet some want to make up connections with Palin?!

The media is solely to blame for the world of politics being what it is. That is why your last paragraph sums it up beutifully. 'Nuf said.

Dale Fincher said...

Jeremy, I think that's an excellent point. We've accepted the secular assumptions in many areas, especially when it comes to religion in the marketplace. Thanks for posting.

Mary, it is dangerous thing to attack your opponent speck in the eye when the beam is sticking out of your own guy. Obama's history does have some speculative things about it; though he does share a very secular view of religion when asked.