Thursday, December 02, 2004

Can These Bones Live?

Rick Mercier has written a terrific article called The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right in America. He says things we already know, but he says them so eloquently that I can't help quoting him at length. What impressed me most was his concluding discussion of the GOP's "moral values," and the destructive role they're likely to play in a culture already crippled by self-inflicted moral idiocy:

For political operatives, the phrase's beauty lies in its meaninglessness. It can be made to mean anything, and, in a culture with no meaningful moral narratives, it can be turned into a cudgel that's useful for political ends but has nothing to do with any coherent religious tradition.

In the spiritual vacuum that exists in this country, the Christian right is well-positioned to argue that its menagerie of fears and chauvinisms--piled into a box labeled "moral values"--constitutes a serious moral narrative. It doesn't, but the Religious Right's contribution to the denigration of Christianity will continue unabated until other Christian communities come up with a compelling alternative.

The trouble is, our society seems to lack the kind of exemplars who could build that alternative. What we need are the spiritual descendants of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day, people who are willing to endure the enmity and scorn of the political establishment and mainstream culture.

Maybe those people are out there, but I don't see them. That's why I'm not optimistic about the survival of the Christian tradition in our culture. What many view as a great spiritual revival looks a lot to me like another stage of rot in American Christianity's corpse.

Can the cadaver rise up? It doesn't seem hopeful. In contemporary America, the Jewish Palestinian whom many call their messiah has become just another Middle Easterner to be ignored or reviled.

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