Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

A 'conservative' teen columnist calls for
separating religion and disaster-relief politics

My May 11 Jonal entry was a letter to a teenage columnist, Joshua Parker, about his column on homosexual marriage written from a liberal perspective. Though I'm coming up, next week, on the 48th anniversary of the launch of my own teen column on September 20, 1957, I'm still the teen columnist at heart. So when on Sunday I saw another well written political column on Hurricane Katrina and her purported "causes" by yet another teen writer, I was intrigued. Rudy Takala writes frequently for "conservative" web sites, but I suspect his conservatism is strictly economic and strict constructionist (regarding interpretations of the U.S. Constitution) rather than social. So that would make his worldview diametically opposed to my own social conservative Christian one. I said the column is well written, which is true, but the arguments are largely unsupported and come across as attacks on straw men. But having said all that, his column is still better done than most of the editorials and syndicated columns I've seen commenting on the same topic!

His general theme is the same one I addressed here on Friday, the proliferation of articles claiming to find the "cause" of the worst weather disaster in recorded American history, in this or that moral, political, or social failing. Ironically, however, Rudy lambastes only the conservative and Christian blamers without mentioning Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s pointedly blaming Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour as the culprit (for opposing the regulation of C02 emissions), and a parade of political and media leftists who blamed President Bush and his appointees for all the destruction. Strange indeed for a writer who claims to be a conservative.

I'll try to take up most of Rudy's "theological" lapses. As always, his points are indented, followed by my responses. For starters, I completely agree with his topic sentence, but after that I find almost no agreement with his "supporting" arguments that support nothing. His topic sentence:

In God’s eyes, all sin is abhorrent. Homosexuals aren’t any more despicable than Rush Limbaugh’s stellar divorce rate. Newt Gingrich - affairs and all - is no more righteous than the producers of Girls Gone Wild. Death exists because of everyone’s sin – not just the sins of specific political factions.

All true, to a point. The point being that I have never heard Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich say they are "proud" of their adulteries, whereas the whole gay movement has "pride" as its second name. Proud of what? Preference of sodomy? Also, though all sins are abhorrent, some are more so than others: political sins (injustices perpetrated by governments) come in for an extra large dose of God's disapproval through the whole of the Old Testament, and it can't be denied that governors are held to a higher standard than their subjects. (I would allow, however, that in taking the role of "prophets" in our society, the Rush Limbaughs and cable news commentators like Newt Gingrich may be setting themselves up for an even higher standard yet than that God expects of elected government officials.)

I found a recent poll by the Pew Research Center to be interesting. According to the study, the "religion gap" between Republicans and Democrats is widening. Twenty-nine percent of the public sees the Democratic Party as "generally friendly" toward religion, down from 40 percent a year ago and 42 percent in 2003. A 55 percent majority continues to see the GOP as friendly toward religion. How exactly are we to define “friendly”? Is that term simply a description of those who are most willing to give free money (also known as “tax dollars”) and institutional perks to their favorite religious establishments?

This seems a frontal attack on the Bush Administration's Faith-Based Iniative to funnel support for social programs that are being conducted by organizations like Catholic Charities, World Vision, and many others. You would think that a professing conservative would realize that the professing "secular" social agencies are just as vested in promoting their worldviews (aka religions) as churches and admittedly religious helping agencies are. Bush's initiative is an attempt to rectify this basic injustice in our society (all the "public" money going to socialists), when the great preponderance of our population doesn't want socialism. Furthermore, working with churches and agencies with religious motives stretches the money by being able to use more dedicated volunteers than government agencies can. Is AIDS spending in Africa going to be administered more honestly if funnelled through agencies like Samaritan's Purse and World Vision, or African governments? No one has asked the government to fund religion or religious organizations, but rather to use them to make government funding for social programs work more effectively and efficiently. Nothing has pointed out the absurdity of the Washington bureaucracy's secularist approach to disaster relief than Katrina, where we have been told that storm victims being housed in government warehouses like football stadiums can get FEMA help, but those being offered beds in church basements have been excluded from FEMA funds!

As for what "friendly" means, I think it's easier to say what "unfriendly" means. It means trying to zone churches out of neighborhoods, as Democratic city and town councils all over the country have been doing, trying to ban Christian people and their perspectives in the public square not only at Christmas but all year round, trying to unjustly funnel all tax dollars into state schools rather than funding all schools that educate taxpayers' children and grandchildren without any religious tests, telling Christians they can't wear crosses in public school classrooms that their own taxes have made possible, and myriad other ways the left has been on the attack against religion.

We’re witnessing the rise of a sort of “neo-Christianity,” defined by so-called Christians who are out to cleanse the earth of its iniquity.

Rudy offers no evidence that there is any truth to this wild assertion. Of course coercively trying to cleanse the earth of its iniquity would be patently unChristian. Advocating your own philosophy of social organization, on the other hand, is what the First Amendment exists to facilitate and encourage. But "advocating your own" doesn't mean you want to stiffle or ban anyone else's opportunity to do the same. Until he offers proof that some responsbile Chistians are doing this, I think he's engaging in facile and unfair hyperbole. I think the example Rudy mentions of someone seeing a fetus in the shape of the hurricane as seen in satellite photos is silly, but being silly doesn't mean it's rooted in evil or insincere motives. I see no evidence than those people are out to cleanse the earth of its iniquity, though they do have a responsibility to prophesy against it. Are they doing more than that? Is he suggesting that all pro-lifers are of the same mind as abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph?

He quotes an Italian critic of "religious" involvement in politics, A. Fogazzaro...

“Social action… is certainly good as a work of justice and brotherhood, but, like the Socialists, certain [Christians] mark it with the stamp of their religious and political opinions, [and] refuse to share it with men of good will unless they accept that stamp…. They preach the just distribution of wealth, and that is good, but too often they forget to preach at the same time the poverty of the heart; and if they deliberately leave it out… this is abominable in God’s eyes. Cleanse your action of these abominations.”

Fogazzaro was correct – those who use religion as a means to political ends are nothing more than abominations. Contrary to their own beliefs, they are not the second coming of Christ. They’re closer to false prophets.


So irreligious or antireligious motives in politics are more pure than "religious" ones? How can it be? And A. Fogazzaro sounds suspiciously socialistic in "They preach the just distribution of wealth, and that is good...."

Rudy also cites an "Orthodox Russian" writer who comments on something presumably going on in his country during the cold war, but makes no attempt to tie this in to today's Christians and their attempts to find God's message through Hurricane Katrina.

Those who manipulate religion for political purposes are no different than the spammers who keep trying to sell me on a “Christian health plan.” The only difference is that spammers aren’t out for blood. The brutish neo-Christians who are on a mission to “purify” the human race are.


Yes, Christians are to purify themselves through the lifelong process of sanctification, bearing the cross of resisting sin, and they are to invite all to share the way of salvation, but it's never coercive. Of course there are "religious" charlatans, not to mention well-meaning ignoramuses, but the claim that anyone who expresses a biblical critique of current society, or tries to see a prophetic message in anything God does, is out for blood or is corrupt, hasn't been proven. Saying it doesn't make it so.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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