Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The Christian right, the evangelical movement that provided the added push needed to nudge President Bush past a tight election, is equally prone to selective interpretations of scripture. The Ten Commandments are used as a wedge to put across what is essentially a cultural protest against social change, but in the bitter disputes that have followed these seemingly ridiculous arguments the message of the commandments is usually lost. The Christian right pretends to be concerned about the life of an unborn fetus, but expresses little interest for the fate of the living child who emerges from an unwanted pregnancy, and is even ready to kill or at least destroy the careers of those who do not agree with them. Although the commandments prohibit killing, and Christ advised his followers to leave vengeance to God, the fundamentalists seem to delight in the death penalty, and in reducing welfare support to unwed mothers who are struggling to deal with the results of pregnancies that they could not control and never wanted to have.
In the United States, as in the Middle East, the core of this Puritanism stems from a nostalgia for an imaginary past – in our case, a belief that the U.S. was a wonderful place when it was peopled mostly by pioneers who came from good northern European stock, who knew right from wrong, and weren't afraid to back up their beliefs with a gun, or by going to war, if they needed to.
The founding fathers, of course, had a very different vision. They had seen the damage caused by the arcane disputes which triggered the religious wars of the 17th century. They preferred the ideas of the secular enlightenment, which instead of forcing men to accept the religious interpretations of other men, provided the space and security for each man to seek God in his own way.