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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Wednesday, January 14 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

First things

Considering how much flak I've received for discussing topics with a religious angle in these Jonal entries, I can't help being fascinated and bemused by the sudden emergence of a "religion emphasis" in the Presidential campaign of Dr. Howard Dean. The Christianity Today Weblog summarized some of its highlights on Tuesday:

...it's not like Weblog has some kind of obsession with Dean: it's just that it's his religious comments that are getting quoted; mainly because they're so remarkable. Take, for instance, Dean's comments on Friday, criticizing President Bush for taking religious values into account in opposing embryonic stem-cell research.

"I think we ought to make scientific decisions, not theological and theoretical decisions," he told a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire. "I think that what the president did on stem-cell research was based on his religious beliefs, and I think that is wrong."

Several news outlets noted that Bush didn't make his decision to limit embryonic stem-cell research on religious values alone (and it should be noted that he hasn't limited research on stem cells from adults). In his August 2001 address outlining the limitations, Bush said he consulted "scientists, scholars, bioethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my Cabinet and my friends." He added, "I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your president I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world."

Is Dean saying that such belief is wrong? To act on such a belief is wrong?

Fortunately, there was a follow-up question to Dean's remark, as a reporter asked the candidate the difference between the Bush's stem-cell decision and Dean's decision to support same-sex civil unions in Vermont. (Just three days earlier, Dean had said that his Christian beliefs had influenced his decision.)

"I would differentiate it from my support of civil unions because I didn't deprive anybody of anything by supporting civil unions," he said. "That was really a choice that had to do with, many people would say, morality or ethics. That's a different thing, I think, than applying your religious beliefs, with the result of depriving people really, literally, in some cases, a very long disease-free life as opposed to one that has significant complications."

Okay. So morality and ethics are okay, so long as they're divorced from religious belief? Eh? The difference between moral conviction and religious belief is that religious belief deprives people of something? Huh?

And does Dean really believe that embryonic stem-cell research is equivalent to "a very long disease-free life"? If so, he needs to read the newspapers more often.

Sunday, at another town hall forum, this one in Oelwein, Iowa, Dean declared, "George Bush is not my neighbor. It is time not to put up any of this 'love thy neighbor.' I tell you, I love my neighbor, but I want that neighbor back in Crawford, Texas, where he belongs The president is always my president but the president is not my neighbor if he takes 500,000 kids off their health care benefits."

File that one away for the next time you're preaching on Luke 10:25-37.

I quote all this not to rag on a Democrat or a liberal politician, nor am I interested in discrediting Howard Dean. Rather, it's an example for what bothers me in the criticism I too often hear that there's something not acceptable about getting into "religious territory" in a public forum like the Jonals.

I'm convinced that those who approach religion as Dean is here ("we ought to make scientific decisions, not theological and theoretical decisions") have a completely different conception of "religion" than I do, but his conception is not an uncommon one. I think he has the same approach that French President Jacques Chirac and his government demonstrates whem they decide it's of little or no consequence to tell Muslim girls they cannot live their religious identity in the way they dress in the state's schools of his country. It means nothing to him to deny the comparable right to Jewish boys who feel it would betray their religious identity not to wear their kipots (yarmulkes), or the Christian students who want to wear a cross not hidden under a shirt or blouse. It reminds me of a secular friend years ago who, when we were putting together a curriculum for a writers' conference, suggested that "writing for the religion market" should go under fiction. To such, religion is pretense; a Sunday-go-to-meeting-to-impress-the-neighbors thing and little more.

We, on the other hand, profess at the risk of being misinterpreted and disbelieved: life is religion. Religion is the first things of life. Without it, nothing else in life has a floor to stand on.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Signs

On an electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."

In a nonsmoking area: "If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz 

Thought for today

An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.

— Will Rogers

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