Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Democrats and Religion

This is a tough one for me, I don't believe that law is moral or theological in practice. I believe that law is intended to maintain civil order. Law is backed by force, it is not a suggestion, it is backed up by threats, takings, guns, and bars. Any attempt to make such a system moral or theological fails in the practice of enforcement.

That said, the act of producing government can easily be informed by morality, ethics, philosophy, or theology; because the actors are human. Their thinking processes are informed by their, in general terms, philosophy. A regard for the poor and infirm is a feature of most religions and many philosophies and a government that functions with regard to their plight is informed by that feature. The practice of governance is (or should be) informed by a philosophy. I use philosophy as inclusive of religion, morality, ethics, etc as they are, finally, philosophies.

The espousal of a religious background is neither a guarantee of nor a bar to ethical behavior in governance. The simple fact is that humans are fallible and cannot maintain the rigidities of religious codes, but their expression of them is informative. A system of reference to a mean narrow expression of a religious code is informative as to the person's outlook on governance, as is reference to a loving caring expression of religious code. All religions have varied expressions of their codes, there is important information to be had there.

For the Democrats to court the Dobsons and Falwells is ludicrous, their agendas or expressions of their religious codes exempts them from consideration. While this is true, there are very many different expressions of the same religion which are intimately connected to Democratic Party agendas and should be courted. The real dividing line regards the creation of theocracy. There is a vast difference between religious based regard for your fellows and the institution of theological law. Somehow the Democrats must make clear that there is a bright clear line between government and religion, that government is not to meddle in religious matters for the protection of religion. When government espouses religion it must necessarily interfere in the free practice of religion. Government keeping its hands off religion requires that government not institute laws of a religious nature. A law based on a religious codification must interfere with the practice of religion for that practice includes widely varied codes and the practice of no religion as well. This is not to say that there are not congruences between religions and civil order, much of religion is about coexisting in a society. A religious prohibition of murder and a civil order based prohibition of murder commonly prohibit it, but for very different reasons. If we prohibit murder because god doesn't approve we enter that faith based arena which is very different from the fact based prohibition that murder is counter to civil order and place a legal entity in the position of determining what god approves or disapproves without the ability to point to fact.

The argument that I am making is frequently turned on its head, that religion must be kept out of government which I believe is an entire impossibility. Whatever religion a person holds to will travel into government with them, it would require pyschosis not to. The belief that all life is sacred and abortion is wrong is not a bar to governance, it is the desire to impose a purely personal belief on society at large without the civil order requirement that is a bar. Civil order clearly does not hold all life sacred, there are ample instances where civil order allows the taking of life, warfare, self-defense, defence of others, and in some cases property. It can be properly argued that it is in the interest of civil order to reduce the need for abortion and thus its occurrence on the basis of mental and physical health which is a different proposition from a religious ban and a valid governance aim of the person holding all life as sacred. It may seem contradictory to state that a person could be morally completely opposed to abortion and yet maintain a pro-choice legal stance, and yet I believe it is a quite reasonable outcome when the line between civil order and religious teaching is adhered to.

Republicans' appeals to the religious right are much simpler in political practice than what I am pointing out. This argument of mine takes more words and more sophistication than, "God says so," and I'm unsure how a political sound-byte of it could be accomplished. One of the weaknesses of principle is the process of explaining it. How, when, and where to explain it? I have given political speeches and I can clearly see that the two paragraphs above would leave people's eyes glazed over. Since I'm not running for anything, I'll leave the "punching up" editing to somebody else.

Quite frankly much of what is wrong with our government at this point in time is directly counter to the principles of many major religions and having people who actually practice their religion in positions of governmental power might easily be a vast improvement. I say this as a person of no organized religion and a complete supporter of the 1st Amendment.


sattvicwarrior said...

good post. a little LONG but cool. thanks for sharing

Chuck Butcher said...

Yep, it's too long. Thanks for stopping by.