Monday, August 08, 2005

Update On Counter Events To Just-Us Sunday II

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State comes an announcement of a Community of Faith and Unity Service on Sunday, August 14 at 3 p.m. at the Cathedral of Praise (Pentecostal Tabernacle), 4300 Clarksville Pike in far north Nashville. According to the announcement, the organizers (Americans United, Christian Alliance for Progress, FaithVoices, and Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) are not promoting protests at Two Rivers Baptist Church, but instead intend to fill the 2000-seat sanctuary with people of various religious beliefs in order to draw media attention to the "broad support which is given to the separation of church and state." Other groups like the National Organization for Women do plan to protest Just-Us Sunday II--starring House Rep. Tom Delay, who will know doubt be lecturing people on ethical behavior--at Two Rivers.

Besides Americans United's Rev. Barry Lynn, speakers at the Unity Service will include: Bishop Maynard of Cathedral of Praise Tabernacle, Bishop Walker of Mt. Zion Ministry, Rev. Rita Brock of FaithVoices, Patrick Mroteck of Christian Alliance for Progress, and Rev. Emilee Whitehurst of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries. The announcement says that numerous other speakers will be confirmed later this week.

I wrote last week that numbers don't matter in matters of faith, but that they do matter to the media. I've been in the Cathedral of Praise church on a number of occasions. It's huge and impressive, but it can look empty even if a good size crowd attends (kind of like Two Rivers looked when Hardball recently did a broadcast from its partially-filled sanctuary). Getting 2000 people to attend will be a challenge, especially if protests are planned by others at Two Rivers, but it is a must for media attention, given the size of the Cathedral of Praise.

08/08/2005, 9:20 p.m. Update: You'll see in the comments below that Blake, conservative commentator from has leveled a serious charge: he charges me and Americans United (the two are not necessarily intertwined) with hypocrisy.

But I believe that his charge of hypocrisy is based on misunderstanding on both counts. First, in fairness to Americans United, they oppose mixing the state and religion, not mixing politics and religion; AU would not be very effective if they could not politically organize their mainline and liberally religious base. Here's their verbatim description of the event:
Several Nashville and national organizations will gather to let Americans know that there are many people of faith who understand the importance of the separation of church and state, who believe that all faith traditions should respect one another, and who oppose the use of government to impose the beliefs of one doctrine upon our diverse country. The gathering is intended to give Americans a spirited and inclusive message.
In order to oppose government's imposition of a specific religion on everyone in a Republic, AU would have to organize politically.

As for myself, I don't disagree with mixing religion and politics; I don't particularly care for the partisanization of faith, but that's a risk of political participation. I don't oppose the entitlement of conservative Christians to organize; I do object to them claiming Christian values for themselves without reference to the rest of us Christians. Some organizers of Just-Us Sunday I basically called conservative Christianity the only Christianity. My faith considers that a sinful expression of pride and presumption. I also object to conservative Christians who talk the language of Zion but flex the political muscle of Zeus. Exercising power is not any better if you cloth it in religious garb. It's still power.

If you read my criticisms of Just-Us Sunday I & II, they are not directed at the co-mingling of politics and religion, because I believe that even when religions avoid politics, that avoidance has political affects. I just think that the conservative Christians attending those events are plain wrong and that they are not as moral as they claim to be, nor are they any more moral than the rest of us sinners. I also think that moderate and liberal Christians should organize to counter the tremendous influence conservatives have gained over the past couple of decades.

Trouble is, liberals and especially moderates don't subscribe to blind, uncritical allegiance and call it loyalty like some conservatives have. They debate and divide until they absolutely have to come together. I don't know if this is the event where that convergence needs to happen, but it surely better happen soon if somebody's going to check the conservative agenda to turn this Republic into one huge Protestant evangelical church.


  1. Uninvited spam was just deleted from the comments section of this post. In an attempt to maintain quality and protect this medium for genuine personal commentary, Enclave removes all attempts to spam its readers, even if those attempts come under cover of general or specific comments directed at content. Enclave is not trying to hurt any one commenter's feelings; Enclave is just reserving its forum for discussion and debate concerning north-by-northwest Nashville.

  2. Mike,

    Can you tell me how you distinguish between "separating state and religion" and "separating politics and religion"? What is the practical difference between the two in your mind?

  3. I would first distinguish state and politics. I take my definition of state from Max Weber: compulsory organization with a territorial basis, which monopolizes the use of force in defense of the general welfare and of the integrity of its boundaries. I would define politics as: the internally conflicting interrelationships among groups and individuals within society, the rhetoric and debate employed to demonstrate legitimacy to people with regard to governing the state, the tactical methods used to gain or to give power within the state, and the art of governing from positions of power.

    Hence, separating religion and state is necessary because as both a monopoly of power and a democratic Republic, the state must remain neutral, not preferring one religious expression at the expense of others.

    Politics basically involves the give-and-take and communicative action within the state on the ebb-and-flow of power, especially on questions concerning the legitimate exercise of power. In a democratic Republic, all groups have a stake in influencing the state's protective monopoly over the general welfare, without having the right to take that monopoly for their own specific good. Therefore, religion is one legitimate voice among many and has its place in politics. It can even influence the direction of the state, but only as one among many in the political fight.

    But religion oversteps its bounds when it is used through the state to promulgate itself rather than the general welfare.