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The Monday to Friday morning drive is made much more pleasant thanks to the "Mensa meeting with fart jokes" that is the Stephanie Miller Show. As I avoided the bumper-car ride that our freeways became this rainy Wednesday, I found guest host Hal Sparks interviewing the Rev. Jim Wallis (as I recall, an occasional Kossack!) of Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace. Rev. Jim's organization is publicly calling for health care reform as a moral imperative, as exemplified by Jesus' ministry and admonitions to His followers.

As the show moved to commercial break, it struck me: Can that argument work in today's United States?

In a country where fundamentalism, libertarianism and objectivism have managed to combine in a horrible amalgam of selfishness, can "doing what is right and proper and morally just" fly?

In the interest of full disclosure: I am an atheist, but I was born and raised a barely-observant Catholic. That is: My dad attended Mass, my mom refused in protest of the hypocrisy and injustice and greed of the Church, and we kids made our own choice. I flirted with observance in collage, but couldn't accept the Church's condemnation of me being gay. And I still don't. I also realized I couldn't reconcile the promise of a protective, loving God who rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness with all the pain and suffering and random horrors of actual daily existence. Once I accepted the notion of existence as chaotic and random-- but with the possibility of making happiness for myself--, and once I accepted that I was a good person and knew right and wrong for myself and didn't need the threat of the Sky Daddy smiting me to avoid doing evil, I was (and am) much happier.

Now, let us frame the question a bit more concretely.

The traditional media in the US would have us believe that the country is moving inexorably toward a more fundamentalist religiosity-- mostly Christian. Even as the media report (grudgingly) that more and more people reject organized religion in their lives. These look to me to be contradictory statements; they also suggest that the ruling powers need the myth of increased religious fervor to maintain their power.

Jesus' ministry was focused most on the downtrodden in society: The poor, the forgotten, the occasional prostitute, the occasional footsoldier with an ill male lover (that's right, Jesus healed a gay man's lover AND didn't condemn the relationship, in fact blessed it-- it's in the Bible!). Nowhere does He say outright that society's "lesser people" are that way because they deserve their bad lot in life, because they're not religious enough, because they don't work hard enough, because they don't want it enough.

But that's PRECISELY what American Corporate Christianity tells us. All of the major Christian sects teach a capitalist/corporatist Christianity that supports a strict caste system in American society. And we are taught that the people on top deserve it by dint of hard work and strident, loud piety. And the people on the bottom deserve it because they're lazy and not pious enough. And the people in the middle can get rich if they pray hard enough, or alternatively they can slide into the horrors of poverty and social rejection by not being sufficiently religious and by not tithing enough.

So let's chat about this.

How can we frame this vital topic-- reforming Health Care delivery so that everyone can enjoy a healthy life without the fear of bankruptcy-- in moral terms, when our culture from the top (the People of Faith) teaches us that people who fail in life deserve their failure, and the successful folk don't have to help them because really, Jesus wouldn't REALLY have helped them, those pathetic losers...?

How can we bring the notion of helping one's fellow human back from the dead after so many years of selfishness being exalted as a noble American virtue?

How do we rescue charity as The Right Thing from being washed away in the sea of -isms (Objectivism, Fundamentalism, Moral Subjectivism, Libertarianism, Assholism)?

Originally posted to CajunBoyLgb on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 09:09 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    Until we are all equal, no one is equal. Pass ENDA NOW!! MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOW!!

    by CajunBoyLgb on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 09:09:45 AM PDT

  •  Gospel of the gonads (5+ / 0-)

    dominates this "Christian" nation.  Morality means sexuality, not compassion, justice, fairness, rectitude, or sharing.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 09:23:42 AM PDT

  •  Not all people who say they are Christians (0+ / 0-)

    are  Christians.  Just like not all people who say there are progressives are progressives.  ( I am not judging BTW)

  •  Bourgeois "morality" insufficient (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm not against advancing your argument, which has some merit.

    But ultimately, I think we need the more pragmatic, practical, material analysis to prevail, which is that we can, and must, go green, implement justice and peace, to save the planet (and I'm not talking about Green Party, heh...we must continue to co-opt that program and constituency to the Democratic Party, as Obama has done).

    Both the moral and practical perspectives are appropriate and applicable, but I think the practical one will ultimately be the one that forces people to act.

    Religion Kills

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 09:34:06 AM PDT

  •  Moral Imperatives scare me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Look at the record:
    Abolition => Civil War & 100+ years of Jim Crow.  Was there a better way to end slavery?
    Prohibition =>  Organized crime became an intractable part of American society.  Just to keep people from drinking?
    Abortion =>  Clinic bombings, doctors assassinated.   Just because sex ed. is icky?

    No keep health care reform about helping people, saving lives and saving money.   Moral imperatives always seem to involve guns.

  •  Morality / ethics / pro-social behaviors (0+ / 0-)

    Linking our concept of morality exclusively to churches and church books creates a barrier to understanding ourselves.

    We humans are a social species. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution programmed our brains to be able to behave in ways that allow us to function in groups. Call it ethics, pro-social behavior, or morality, by whatever name, we do have some built-in defaults.

    Unfortunately we also have a remarkable ability to override our default pro-social behaviors. It's the cultural override that I think of when I read this diary.

    Psychologist Jonathan Haidt's work on our basic moral foundations, and their relationship to politics, seems very relevant:

    Jonathan Haidt, Moral Foundations

    and here's a video of a talk by Haidt

    Thanks for raising the question, and thanks for contributing your perspective.


  •  It worked in 'Real Genius'. (0+ / 0-)

    You have to get even with Kent.  It's a moral imperative.

    Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 12:25:59 PM PDT

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