Saturday, September 6, 2008

An Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan

Dear Andrew--

I read your post on "Religion Is Politics..." with some dismay. In it, you stated:
With Sarah Palin, America has taken one very large leap toward a completely theocratic politics. For Palin, as for Rick Warren, there can be no distinction between politics and religion: all politics is subject to religious guidance and that guidance is to obey the literal truth of everything in the Bible...
You also cited the this NYT article:
In the address at the Assembly of God Church here, Ms. Palin’s ease in talking about the intersection of faith and public life was clear. Among other things, she encouraged the group of young church leaders to pray that “God’s will” be done in bringing about the construction of a big pipeline in the state, and suggested her work as governor would be hampered “if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

She also told the group that her eldest child, Track, would soon be deployed by the Army to Iraq, and that they should pray “that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.”
Now, I find this all sort of vaguely creepy because I'm hangin' ten on the borderline between atheism and agnosticism, but I have to ask: Is there anything in this quote--or in the rest of the article--that points towards Palin using her religious beliefs for anything other than her own moral guidance?

I am deeply troubled by her advocacy of the teaching of creationism in the classroom, although I can't find any reference to her wishing to purge the classroom of the teaching of evolution. And I'm pro-abortion while she's anti-abortion. But there are a zillion conservative candidates that espouse the same positions, either from moral conviction or political expediency. If those positions are the only criteria for a "very large leap toward a completely theocratic politics," then it's time to give up and go home, because we're already there. But that, of course, is nonsense.

Meanwhile, you appear to have concluded that Palin is a closet theocrat based on her use of a literal reliance on the Bible for her ethical/moral decision-making. This would not be my choice. Like most people, I tend to decide right and wrong from my gut, which probably means that I soaked up the usual mishmash of Judeo-Christian morals from the culture I grew up in. Would that sort of moral framework disqualify me from holding high office?

There are plenty of spots in the Bible where a literal interpretation might bear on public policy. All the Apocalyptic nonsense would certainly make for a lively foreign policy. I hope that somebody will ask her about that once she's out on the interview circuit. But I'd be more worried about an amoral president or vice president than one that pulled their morals literally from the Bible. Per the NYT article, there's no evidence that she's doing more than that.

I am very concerned when religious leaders stray over into advocating specific policies because they think that they know better than the electorate. As a result, I support many of your criticisms of Christianism wholeheartedly. But you seem to be crying wolf for purely political purposes here. That devalues your critiques of the real problem.

No comments: