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Old 06-18-2005, 12:02 AM   #1
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Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

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Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers
By JOHN C. DANFORTH

St. Louis

IT would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.

John C. Danforth is an Episcopal minister and former United States Ambassador to the UN and former Republican senator from Missouri.
Christian, Repulican and a decent human being.
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Old 06-18-2005, 12:22 AM   #2
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Re: Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

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Christian, Repulican and a decent human being.
That shouldn't be an oddity, but certainly seems to be in the past several years.
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Old 06-18-2005, 12:29 AM   #3
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Almost like the elusive moderate muslim, if you don't make waves then you don't matter.
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Old 06-18-2005, 01:43 AM   #4
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It's one of the saddest things I've seen happen to Christianity, to watch it descend from a really revolutionary message to a philosophy that no longer strives to be like Christ but lies content in the smug assumption that God is just like them--nationalistic, flagwaving, sexphobic, humorless, approving of aggression, disapproving of science, concerned with life only in the womb or in a vegetative state, wanting a whole of humanity that thinks alike. I guess I'd like a religion to that didn't demand anything of me except follow a few rules, attend a few prayer sessions and quote the Biblical text to support everything I am, while conveniently ignoring the text that challenges everything I'm not.

I think these vocal misanthropes are a minority. They gain their power by their voices and their aggressiveness. How often do they actually quote the words of Christ? Rarely, if ever. Very few of the "red words" bolster their position. I think most Christians either are the Sunday and holiday Christians, who actually don't think much about Christianity until they perceive a threat to it, or are part of a group of quietly practicing Christians who go about their business the way Jesus taught, who struggle with the issues, but make a sincere effort to live the message taught, humbled by how often they cannot achieve it.

The "red words" of Christianity are a powerful philosopy, simple to understand when they aren't being convoluted and hard to follow. They ask for a complete turnaround of human nature--to give instead of take, to forgive instead of seek revenge, to love strangers as we love ourselves. It is not a philosophy about sin. It is a philosophy about life. It is instruction on how to handle yourself in this world.

I respect the original intent of Christianity immensely. I respect many Christians who try to live by that intent.

But when someone uses Christianity as a weapon instead of a tool, I'm just not interested.
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Old 06-18-2005, 05:46 AM   #5
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I think many conservative Christians are good people who mind their business, work hard, raise their families, or whatever. They don't tell me what to do with my vote. The loudmouth self-righteous jerks are in the minority. Unfortunately, they're the ones who are in the news and who give their co-religionists a bad name.
*edited because I can't spell*
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Old 06-18-2005, 08:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
It's one of the saddest things I've seen happen to Christianity, to watch it descend from a really revolutionary message to a philosophy that no longer strives to be like Christ but lies content in the smug assumption that God is just like them--nationalistic, flagwaving, sexphobic, humorless, approving of aggression, disapproving of science, concerned with life only in the womb or in a vegetative state, wanting a whole of humanity that thinks alike. I guess I'd like a religion to that didn't demand anything of me except follow a few rules, attend a few prayer sessions and quote the Biblical text to support everything I am, while conveniently ignoring the text that challenges everything I'm not.

I think these vocal misanthropes are a minority. They gain their power by their voices and their aggressiveness. How often do they actually quote the words of Christ? Rarely, if ever. Very few of the "red words" bolster their position. I think most Christians either are the Sunday and holiday Christians, who actually don't think much about Christianity until they perceive a threat to it, or are part of a group of quietly practicing Christians who go about their business the way Jesus taught, who struggle with the issues, but make a sincere effort to live the message taught, humbled by how often they cannot achieve it.

The "red words" of Christianity are a powerful philosopy, simple to understand when they aren't being convoluted and hard to follow. They ask for a complete turnaround of human nature--to give instead of take, to forgive instead of seek revenge, to love strangers as we love ourselves. It is not a philosophy about sin. It is a philosophy about life. It is instruction on how to handle yourself in this world.

I respect the original intent of Christianity immensely. I respect many Christians who try to live by that intent.

But when someone uses Christianity as a weapon instead of a tool, I'm just not interested.
I usually don't like to posts that are just like, "Yeah, what she said," but I give that one an unqualified. .
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Old 06-18-2005, 09:14 AM   #7
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Thank you.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
It's one of the saddest things I've seen happen to Christianity, to watch it descend from a really revolutionary message to a(1)philosophy that no longer strives to be like Christ (2)sexphobic(3)humorless(4)disapproving of science(5)concerned with life only in the womb or in a vegetative state(6)wanting a whole of humanity that thinks alike. I guess I'd like (7)a religion to that didn't demand anything of me except follow a few rules, attend a few prayer sessions and quote the Biblical text to support everything I am, while conveniently ignoring the text that challenges everything I'm not
(1)Bogus.
(2)Bogus.
(3)Bogus.
(4)Bogus.
(5)Bogus.
(6)Bogus.
(7)Bogus.

If you'd like, I can back up every single "bogus" I have written.
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Old 06-18-2005, 11:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint

The "red words" of Christianity are a powerful philosopy, simple to understand when they aren't being convoluted and hard to follow. They ask for a complete turnaround of human nature--to give instead of take, to forgive instead of seek revenge, to love strangers as we love ourselves. It is not a philosophy about sin. It is a philosophy about life. It is instruction on how to handle yourself in this world.
It is about all those, but it is also about sin. Jesus spoke about sin many times. In fact, the reason he came in the first place was to die in your place and in my place, to pay the price for our sins, that we could not pay ourselves.

I'll ask you a question:

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, what did he say?

(A)"Then neither do I condemn you. Go your way."

(B) "Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

It was (B).

My point is that despite what many people think, forgiveness from Christ and committment to him will result in a changed life, which means that the follower is more concious of sin than he/she was before and will sin less.

We can't just say "Oh well, Christ forgave me, so I can just go do whatever feels good."
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Old 06-18-2005, 11:21 AM   #10
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It's one of the saddest things I've seen happen to Christianity, to watch it descend from a really revolutionary message to a(1)philosophy that no longer strives to be like Christ (2)sexphobic(3)humorless(4)disapproving of science(5)concerned with life only in the womb or in a vegetative state(6)wanting a whole of humanity that thinks alike. I guess I'd like (7)a religion to that didn't demand anything of me except follow a few rules, attend a few prayer sessions and quote the Biblical text to support everything I am, while conveniently ignoring the text that challenges everything I'm not
1) That's a matter of opinion, I guess, although I think that conservative Christians, en masse, are more like the Pharisees than anything else. Of course, I can't speak for individuals; only the institutions that they let speak for them.

2) Catholicism is certainly anti-sex, that's for sure.

3) "Humorless" is also a matter of opinion, although it's one I'd agree with.

4) Religion is the antithesis of science, it seems, especially with their homophobic rancor and the pseudoscientific organizations they create solely to create the semblence that their religious quackery is correct. This one I agree with completely.

5) It certainly seems that way, unfortunately. Save the fetus and fuck the living.

6) Well, when you think in "absolute truth," that does tend to be the end result. It's a modern "Tower of Babel," as I see it.

7) No one joins a religion that they disagree with, ultimately. That's why most Christians just choose a different religion, if they don't like it anymore, and Protestants, especially, will switch if they hate the minister. No surprises here at all.

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Old 06-18-2005, 12:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


2) Catholicism is certainly anti-sex, that's for sure.
Protestantism certainly isn't.

Quote:
Originally posted by melon

5) It certainly seems that way, unfortunately. Save the fetus and fuck the living.
Really? Is that why many, if not most, of the organizations that feed and shelter the children of the world, such as Feed The Children, Compassion International and World Vision, are founded and run by Christians?

Quote:
Originally posted by melon

6) Well, when you think in "absolute truth," that does tend to be the end result. It's a modern "Tower of Babel," as I see it.
Think alike? No. I would say that most Christians have a set of moral standards that they wished everyone lived by, but that's hardly "wishing everyone thought alike".

Quote:
Originally posted by melon

7) No one joins a religion that they disagree with, ultimately. That's why most Christians just choose a different religion, if they don't like it anymore, and Protestants, especially, will switch if they hate the minister. No surprises here at all.
Christianity doesn't demand that people simply "follow a few rules, attend a few prayer sessions and quote the Biblical text to support everything I am, while conveniently ignoring the text that challenges everything I'm not". Christianity demands and provides a life change.

How many Christians have you known of that "switch religions if they don't like it anymore"?
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Old 06-18-2005, 12:09 PM   #12
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80s,


What do you think of Danforth's thoughts.
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Old 06-18-2005, 12:37 PM   #13
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80s,


What do you think of Danforth's thoughts.
I like Danforth. In fact, the couple of times he ran for the Republican presidential nomination, I wanted him to win.

And, I agree with some things that he said.

However, I believe that in this article he has over-simplified some complex issues (such as the Terry Schiavo case) and even judges those whom he accuses of judging. For instance, when he says "when, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube" he casts in a negative light those us on the other side of the issue, saying that it's all about power for us, rather than what it really was for most of us. And what was it really about for most of us? It was about life; We saw signs that we interpreted as Schiavo being more lucid than what some said; we saw our plight as protecting Terri against a husband who, although having left Terri years ago and shacking up with a woman and having 3 kids by her, expected us to have faith in his word that Terri had said she's want to have feeding stopped, even though he couldn't provide a scrap of proof towards that end. So, to say that those of us who wanted the feeding tube to stay in wanted thus for reasons of power, is a gross misinterpretation, and he should be ashamed of himself.
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Old 06-18-2005, 01:06 PM   #14
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I don't think anyone would say:

"Even if I have no brain left, I want to be hooked up to a feeding tube and be left a vegetable for 15 years."

Melon
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Old 06-18-2005, 01:36 PM   #15
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But melon, that was part of the issue. Neuro-specialists were not completely in agreement to the theory of "persistent vegetable state".
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