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Liberal Christianity Has Not Yet Risen to the Occasion

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While dark forces have been taking over America in recent years, the institutions from which one might have hoped for a vigorous defense of what's best in America have thus far failed us.

It is hard to imagine how any group could have moved America further and faster in the direction of fascism than has this Bush administration-a news story historically enormous proportions. But the viewer of our mainstream broadcast media has hardly been helped to see this momentous story for what it is.

And while the forces behind this Bush administration have been systematically assaulting our democratic institutions and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the presumed opposition party has been anything but bold and courageous in denouncing these dangerous usurpations.

But there is another part of the American cultural and institutional system from which one would hope for a more powerful defense of our most basic American values: I am referring to mainstream liberal Christianity.

Which Christianity?

America was not founded as a "Christian nation" in the sense that some of the right-wing theocrats would have it. But Christianity is America's majority religion, and it therefore matters a great deal what form of Christianity becomes dominant in this country.

The many forms of Christianity incorporate, in one way or another, the wide range of disparate elements that comprise the sacred Christian texts. They can differ considerably, however, in which elements are given emphasis.

This difference in emphasis makes it possible for profoundly different spirits to express themselves. And when one of these spirits becomes the salient public voice of "Christianity" to wield power in America's national politics, it matters greatly to the whole country which spirit it is.

Will the voice of Christianity that speaks the loudest be one that emphasizes a God who smites his enemies or a God who says "Love Thine Enemies"?

When Christianity is heard in America's political arena, will the predominant voice be one that focuses on condemning those who diverge from the straight-and-narrow path, or the one that emphasizes more the teaching, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"?

Which Christianity will help shape our public policies-the one that is pre-occupied with the distinction between those of right and those of wrong belief, or the one that is most concerned with protecting the most vulnerable and needy?

With what image of the sacred will the strongest Christian voice imbue the American culture?

Will it find the heart of the Christian vision in the "Book of Revelation," where God saves his own while not only destroying his enemies but also inflicting prolonged agony on? Or will it emphasize the teachings of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, with its blessings on the life-serving virtues of the merciful and the peacemakers, and its assurance that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth?

Will it emphasize, as the heart of the human relationship with the divine, the torturing of the flesh of the flogged and crucified Christ (as did Mel Gibson's disturbing and polarizing film, the Passion of the Christ)? Or will the predominant image of Jesus be of him comforting the afflicted and healing the sick?

Will the Christianity that helps shape our public affairs be a religion of guilt and punishment and revenge, or one of forgiveness and love?

Those Into God-as-Warrior Are Trouncing Those Into 'Turn the Other Cheek'

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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