Justice Sunday III: Revenge of the civil religion?

In case you didn't know, today is Justice Sunday III -- a big rally tonight at a North Philly church transmitted to churches around the country to "petition" the government on the eve of Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings. The Philadelphia Inquirer has it under a headline "Plans for Christian Rally are Attacked."

Ministers from Philadelphia, New York and Washington yesterday criticized plans by religious conservatives to hold a nationally broadcast rally ... at an African American church on North Broad Street on the eve of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington and a United Church of Christ minister, called the gathering nothing more than "a big play" by its conveners "to gain control over the one branch of government they don't now control."

The Family Research Council, sponsor of the event, says Alito's confirmation is part of the solution to the problem of government hostility to religion. Ummmm... say again? Well, who says conservatives are against activist judges. Activism is apparently only working for something they're against.

80 million people are supposed to watch Dobson, Falwell and (it just gets better) Sen. Rick Santorum whip up the faithful. Interestingly, the Inquirer says, some black clergy, such as Rev. Robert Shine of the PA Statewide Coalition of Black Clergy, are concerned about the signal sent by hosting this event at an African American church.
"It gives the impression that the African American church is in full agreement," Shine said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
I find it interesting how people can exercise civil religion to claim that we don't have one.


Lutheran Zephyr said...

The conservative movement thinks that the only way to eliminate "government hostility to religion" is to make the government religious (or, to so weaken the government and legal system so as to allow religion to fill a perceived societal void).

I'd much rather see a government that separated itself from religion and its symbols, and simply let religion do its thing. Of course, conservatives and progressives disagree on what the "thing" is that religion does. It seems that conservative Christians are bent on converting this nation into a "Christian nation," a so-called return to an imagined past that was much more complex than conservatives want to admit.

For me (an admitted "progressive Christian"), it seems that our religion and our God calls us to lives of justice, to work for peace, to promote life, to honor the alien in our midst (not through agressive evangelism or punishing labor laws that benefit the business class, but rather through care, respect, nurture, love, etc.), etc.. I believe we are called to transform our societal institutions into justice-oriented institutions, but not into Christian institutions. There is a difference . . .

Bob said...

Zeph -- I agree, there's a big difference. And there's also a difference between so-called "Christian (religious) institutions" and societal structures that follow the way of Jesus; they're not necessarily the same thing. Most Christians I've talked to about this don't think government is hostile to religion; most, I'd say, think they might be a little too cozy. If anything, these attempts at controlling the government simply convince non-Christians that we're not who we say we are. I agree with you that the establishment clause is a good thing, and it might be that the wall of separation might be in more danger than the rights of religious expression.

JDL said...

While it is certain that sometimes conservative christians get a little too close politically to the GOP. I know my tendency to do that. The truth is, what you've written is that you want us Conservative Christians to butt out so you get to have your liberal policies. Interesting...
Yes, maybe we do get too involved - because we are concerned about the direction America is taking like abortion. Before you tell me about loving the mother, which I do and have had to deal with after said mother felt guilt over taking the life of her child, let's consider the child a moment. Yes there are other areas. I'm not real happy with the Republican party's lack of concern for the homeless. Interesting though, I see more conservative Christians helping the homeless and loving on them than "liberals". Do we want control of the court - yes -because our voices get belittled, we are ignored, and given no thought - unless we are politically active.
By the way Jesus big issue was not social justice. It was the redemption of man for relationship with him. I am involved in ministry to the poor and I love them, but their circumstances in this life are not nearly as important as their circumstances in the next.

Bob said...

Whoa, there, jdl! You've read an awful lot into what I wrote (and didn't write!).

I have not written that I want conservative Christians to "butt out so (I) get to have (my) liberal policies." Uncritical liberalism is as dangerous as uncritical conservatism. I did note the irony in groups that decry "activist judges" (their term, not mine) on, say, Roe then turning around and becoming activist to get appointed activist judges who agree with them. It's manipulative to complain about "activism" when what they really mean is they don't like those judges' views.

I'm sorry that you feel belittled and ignored. But I don't see it. The claim that this government is hostile to religion may raise money and generate letters, but the reality is that religion, conservative religion, is well heard in the halls of power. And any religion that gets too comfortable in those halls is in danger (see Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" for some insight on that).