Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

That was (part of) my response to this quote from Herman Cain (h/t The Other McCain):
One of the reasons we have this moral crisis today is because too many people are trying to take God out of our culture, little by little. … The way we’re going to protect the unborn in this nation is to work on the right problem, get God back in our culture.

And the statement, and the rest of my comments on it, deserve some extension and revision. Or maybe it's that I just deserve some FMJRA action. Anyhoo ...

Which God are we talking about? Ayatollah Khomeini's/the Taliban's/al Qaeda's whole program is "getting God back in Iran's/Afghanistan's/Earth's culture." How's that working out from any particular non-Islamist individual's perspective?

Ah, replies Eric Ashley: But "999 out of a 1000 people understood that Cain meant Jesus Christ, and not Allah."

I'm not sure that's true, but even if so it just opens up a whole new line of questions along the "which Jesus Christ?" axis.

Are we talking about the Jewish/early Christian Jesus Christ, a putative Messiah (i.e. non-divine claimant to priest-king status as an heir of the Davidic line)?

Or are we talking about one of the deified pagan Jesus Christs of the fragmented Pauline heresy (Catholics, Protestants, etc.)?

Or the retro, non-divine Jesus of unitarians like Thomas Jefferson (modern evangelical Christians like to tout the Christianity of the founders as dispositive with respect to modern policy issues, but modern evangelical Christianity didn't really start to coalesce until a century and change after the revolution with the Holiness movement, the Azusa Street revival and so on, birthing Pentecostalism and the charismatics -- that kind of thing would have got you a straitjacket and a shot of thorazine from e.g. unitarian Jefferson, jack-Presbyterian George Washington, or any number of assorted dour Calvinists, if they'd had straitjackets and thorazine back then)?

Or maybe it's the "big brother in the transformation to godhead queue" Jesus of the Mormons we're name-checking?

It should, but probably doesn't, go without saying that all these various and sundry Jesuses have various and sundry opinions on various and sundry issues (including abortion). And it strikes me as more than mere coincidence that the policy commandments of these Jesuses always seem to very closely track the political opinions of their followers.

This seems like a very good reason for that whole "separation of church and state" thing. You may recall the Late Unpleasantness in Europe a few hundred years ago over that kind of stuff, and maybe even get an inkling that said Unpleasantness might have played a role in the founders' thinking on religion as it relates to politics.

So, when a politician's answer to a policy question revolves around "getting God back in our culture," I can't help but be suspicious that he's trying to pull a fast one and that maybe what he's really saying is "I don't have an answer that isn't bullshit, so I think I'll just play as best I can to your favored superstition and hope you don't notice."

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