Editor's Note: Mark Osler is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.
By Mark Osler, Special to CNN
The divide between Democrats and Republicans that has frozen the mechanisms of American politics has many causes, but one of them is tangled up in the faith differences of our legislators. Faith, for many lawmakers on both sides, is the source of their outlook and principles, and faith has in part created the conditions for the current impasse about the fiscal cliff.
For many (though certainly not all) Republicans, the root of knowledge is a bedrock certainty about the inerrancy of a literal reading of the Bible. This provides them with clear, absolute answers – that gay marriage is wrong, that modern science is suspect, and that much of what we see on earth is a struggle between good and evil.
When the 2012 Republican Party platform stated that we should “reaffirm that our rights come from God,” that reflected a sincere and genuine sense of bright-line natural law.
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That kind of certainty in faith, which so often draws good/evil lines on theological issues, very naturally supports a similar outlook on political issues that aren’t directly rooted in the Bible. Faith, after all, if it really is faith, structures the way we view and interact with the world.
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that some American conservatives tend both to see their opponents as evil and to catastrophize potential political losses.
If the world is locked in a battle between good and evil, and our side is good, that leaves only one possibility for our opponents.
Bending to that other side becomes unthinkable. A loss or even a compromise is something terrible – it is a victory for evil. When Rush Limbaugh tells his audience that Democrats “want to ruin America,” he knows how a significant part of his audience will receive that message, through the lens of a faith that offers certainty and bright lines.
Some Democrats, too, suffer from political disabilities that are formed by faith. Few of them have the absolutist outlook describe above, but their own New Testament-focused view of the Bible leads in a different problematic direction.
There, we see a Jesus who is anything but a capitalist. Instead, he urges others to give away all that they have to the poor, and often disparages the wealthy.
To the rich young ruler who has followed all the commandments, Jesus instructs that he must also sell everything he has and give the money to the poor, without regard to the people he will have to fire and the resulting poverty of his own family.
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Many Democrats have taken this broad lesson of concern for the poor to heart, as we all do with core messages of faith. That quiet wind is always there.
This gets us to gridlock because it puts Democrats in the position of class warriors – they favor the poor and disfavor the rich.
This is most clear in framing tax policy, which is at the heart of the gridlock we have seen around how to avoid the fiscal cliff. At times, the Democrats' certainty on these issues is the equal of what we see in Republicans.
So we end up in a deadlock. Now, we hear, that gridlock may be breaking up a bit.
On one side, the certainty is less certain as the “no increase in taxes” pledge is abandoned by some. On the other, there is an openness to cutting government spending.
Some will say this is simply political expediency, but I am more hopeful: This opening may be tinged with a blessed uncertainty, the faint hint that the complexity of politics may be as messy and glorious and private as the complexity of our faiths.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Osler.
Isn't it more 'fundamental'? To caracature: Republicans believe in Hell Fire and imperfectibility of mankind, scarred with original sin. Democrats, behind religious lip service, 'believe' in rationalist, perfectibility of mankind. And bigger government [angels like them] is the means to achieve it. They have a pedigree which includes Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, Moa, Pol Pot and the Euro Kommisars.
Of course Hitler was a Christian. And your generalizations are useless.
Only for the new members of this blog:
Getting rid of religion's roots, saving "souls" and balancing the budget all at once thereby ending the gridlock:
In order to pay down our $16 trillion debt, we need to redirect money used to support religions especially the christian and islamic cons and put it towards paying off our debt.
Redirecting our funds and saving a lot of "souls":
Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.
– One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.
– Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.
– Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.
Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!
– The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.
– the faith-based federal projects supported by both Bush and Obama will be eliminated saving $385 million/yr and another $2 billion/yr in grants.
– the ~$ 100 billion/yr donated mostly to the Jesus-con religions will now go to something useful.
– Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
Abraham and Moses never existed.
– Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.
– All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.
Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign
No bodily resurrections?
Ro 9:20 Who art thou that repliest against God?
Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.
The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
"Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
Finally, someone with a brain around here. And, some "reality."
This is a first.
Since when did CNN care about religion except to demonize or criticize it??????
aaaahhhhhh, Boo hoo
Ummmm....CNN didn't write the article...SMH...
Scott wrote on December 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm, writing, "Is it strange that Republicans are against abortion, but are also against later, supporting the child or its mother? I agree that parents should take responsibility for their own children, but many obviously don't. So the group that forced the woman to go through with her unwanted pregnancy, should pay the tab, not me."
Unwanted s e x can eliminate unwanted children. Why jump into the frying pan if it's filled with very hot oil? Can't teach folks to abstain from things they don't want to claim responsibilities for now can we? And yes, I have no children yet I did so try to but alas, not in the cards! Can parents honestly teach their children to abstain from s e x u a l civilities when the parents themselves are found guilty of such deeds of moral misconduct bringing to life a child brought on by their parental guilt riddled acts of s e x u a l I s t I c emotional unrest?
It is truth that parents do hand down to their child its parents s e x u a l regrets whereby said child does use such truth against their parents giving the child to so wantonly desire and willfully doing the deed of s e x in said child's early adolescents? Is it sound for young hearts to willingly want s e x without understanding the consequences for such actions?
I am childless and have no child of which to have raised therefore my words might be muted by some. Still, I am trying to reason out the calamities regarding the young who may well use their innocence against their parents thru the parents not willing to set their child down and make honesty to their child that s e x is much more then feelings. The consequences of such an action weighs heavily upon the perpetrators willingness when a child is not want one wants at such an early age.
"Unwanted s e x can eliminate unwanted children."
What the hell does that even mean?
Forget I asked.
I don't want to know.
The big plus: LL is without issue. Hurrah!!!
There's got to be some sense to that, but it escapes me.
No, Akira, nothing is escaping you; there is not a scintilla of sense in any of the Lionly Limited's posts.
"Can parents honestly teach their children to abstain from s e x u a l civilities when the parents themselves are found guilty of such deeds of moral misconduct bringing to life a child brought on by their parental guilt riddled acts of s e x u a l I s t I c emotional unrest?"
Are you asking if parents can teach their kids to abstain from s e x when the kids are the result of their parents having s e x?
W T F?!?
I'm done with this.
I am beginning to agree with Apple's salutation more every day.
Akira, refresh my memory, please. What was Apple's salutation to the LL not-cool J?
"Mr. Lamb, how are you, you crazy old fvck?"
So basically what your are saying is that children are gods punishment for having se-x and you don't want people weaseling out of their just disserts.
"Saraswati" said: "The US is the 3rd largest country in the world, and the only one which is a western democracy."
Dear "Saraswati", where do you get these kinds of interesting insights, dare I ask?
I meditate until the skies open and a bolt of lightening hits my temple carrying the great wisdom. You know, that kind of thing.
Well, keep it up, this is exactly the kind of wisdom we need more of.
The Gelgamek v.agina is three feet wide and filled with razor sharp teeth.
Forget about the Gelgameks?!!!
In no other Western Democracy is religion nearly as big a business as in the US. Just makes you wonder, no?
Well, other countries are growing up. We will too, eventually. We're just a little slower.
The US is the 3rd largest country in the world, and the only one which is a western democracy. Of course it's bigger.
I think he meant relatively. Are there similar percentages of religious profiteers in the UK, Canada, France, Germany and so on?Are there as many millionaire clergymen? That sort of thing.
@Jones, I don't know if there are numbers on that. I'd guess Korea was pretty close, at least if you looked at the ~40% Christian population.
it's certainly news to many people that (as YOU put it) the US
– is the "3rd largest country in the world"; and
– is the "only Western Democracy";
where do you get these kinds of insights, may I ask?
I understood what Sara meant: of the three largest countries in the world, the only Western democracy is #3: the United States.
Dear "Akira," please read the original start-of-discussion message again. Then, if you still don't get it, imagine the word "proportionally" is written in for your and "Sara's" benefit. No-one was talking about 3-largest-countries. That's right, "yeesh."
"As You Like It":
I'd like you and your alter ego "Hang 'Em High" to fvck off, you bloody pompous, condescending dick head.
Yeah, that's right, fvck off.
Perhaps, if you consider the Unification Church Christian, maybe?
@Jones, Yes, I would definitely consider the Unification church to be Christian.
How are you measuring the size of a country? Canada is generally regarded as the second largest country by land area, bigger than the USA, and is a western democracy the last time I looked.
Is it strange that Republicans are against abortion, but are also against later, supporting the child or its mother? I agree that parents should take responsibility for their own children, but many obviously don't. So the group that forced the woman to go through with her unwanted pregnancy, should pay the tab, not me.
They're also for expensive capital punishment, expensive drug law enforcement and expensive military spending, but equally opposed to taxing in order to, you know, pay for any of them.
Except from their position that's like saying "the person who didn't kill the homeless guy should pay for his upkeep", they think it's that wrong, so this line of argument won't mean anything too them. The problem is their premise that life in some meaningful way that could have a moral requirement attached to it begins at conception. Some pro-lifers don't really understand early developmental biology, and others don't understand that this is in fact not covered in the bible. Many others haven't thought out the question of how souls are attached to embryos or what he does with them as a result of an abortion...or why he can't handle that scenario. All these are issues you can address with a pro-lifer, but it's the premise you have to address, as from their perspective they are consistent.
Yes, how much of a "soul" can an embryo have? Do they imagine the consciousnesses of embryos cavorting in heaven, enjoying the experience as much as a person with a personality might?
Jones, I think they believe it has a fully attached soul.
"Uncle Sam" needs your money folks! He is in a real pickle! Uncle Sam has spent your children's even your grandchildren's money with no more a pot to dump in! Dump your uncle folks! He only wants more money to spend unwisely and with no prejudice toward who gets it! Get your state to formally secede from the Republic! No more squandering pilferers of our hard worked for monies being shammed and given away and for what?
Sure we need a militia but why be a world cop for Pete's sake? Sure we need EMS crews and surely we need firemen! Better road systems too! These needs don't even reach into trillions of dollars now do they? And they call it a technical marvel our new age? God Damn them all those money pilferers for Christ's sake! Amen and amen and amen!
So, I would get as much out of heaven as an embryo, something without a brain or senses? That is not a very strong selling point.
@Joes, I've never really been clear on what they think happens to this soul after an abortion. If it goes right to heaven what's the big deal – that's better than earth anyway and saves you the risk of failing to make it. If a god can't hanlde what would happen to this soul it seems to me he or she is kind of incompetent.
Ah, yes, the poor little embryos are martyrs to the great cause. Does it matter to them that there was no choosing on their part to be believers like actual martyrs, or is it like the 9/11 victims, an automatic martyrdom as long as you were "killed" by the enemies of the Church?
@Jones, Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me in light of allowing a whole planet's worth of embryos, fetuses infants to be wiped out in the great flood, which presumably this god handled. But I'm sure there are some creative answers on that.
And then there is the rest of us who believe the Bible is a bunch of hogwash and the same moral teachings and values can be found in the context of thousands of other good books including some that are non-fictional. Moral responsilbility is on the onus of the individual not on their interpretation of a book. The bible has gotten humankind into some major messes and has yet to get us out of one.
"When all else fails blame religion!" Yeah right!
Religion plays no part in the practical realistic appraisal of the situation. Excessive liberty gives rise to indulgence and waste leaving behind it a wake of mess including debt. The only way to clean it up is ruthless effort, not pretending it will just go away. The deadlock is because neither republicans or democrats want to see pain, either to rich or poor, but there must be pain. Somebody must pay the wages of sin. Is it bad thing? no. Bite the bullet today and in three years you won't remember it as anything other than history. You can cut out cancer or suffer with it, what will it be? To continue to destroy the climate will eventually destroy all hope of recovery, it must be dealt with, debt must be dealt with. It doesn't matter if your Republican or democrat, moslem or christian, rich or poor: you will pay one way or another. Do you want to hurt now or later? or string out the pain till you become so sick that even operations offer no hope?
That argument only holds water if we are actually crossing into giving "excessive liberty". For non-conservatives, there are many obstacles still in the way before we reach the proper level of liberty for all. Equality, it seems, is an "excessive" level of equality for some groups to have, according to conservatives.
I agree that pain is necessary to fix things, and I agree that putting it off and dragging it out isn't doing anything but prolonging that pain for all of us. I'd rather pull the bandaid off quickly than peel it slowly.
But I disagree with your first sentence. There is no such thing as "excessive liberty." It is impossible to be "too free."
The sins of our nation's elder statesmen successions have systematically destroyed any real hopes of overcoming fiscal ineptness at least in the long run of things! Your children will pay thru their nostrils and even your children's children will be the payees of the fiscally irresponsible statesmen who really don't seem to much care one way or the other about being fiscally civil in their spending ways! Bring back the wooden cross and get some real use out of it waylaying the ilk of governances money launderers!
Flat tax on real income, no exemptions (zero, period), including business (Supreme Court interpreted corps as "individuals"). Then see what happens, other than the IRS laying off some employees. Truly secular.
How is a flat tax more secular than a progressive tax?
Yep. Help the rich. Hurt the poor. Very Republican.
I'll let "saraswati" ask the really relevant questions here, but
a flat tax where the top 1% pays the same percentage in taxes as the middle class sounds about as fair as you can get, sure (if you're a neocon.)
Zealous devotion to a specific religion doesn't leave a lot of room for political manuvering. The fundamental morals espoused by many religions are similar, but the manufactured (read "man-made") doctrines interspersed through each can be very different.
Imagine the difference between a government operated by stringent Southern Baptist principles compared to that run under strict Roman Catholic dogma – and both of those are Christian denominations What would Wiccans or Zoroastrians do if they were in charge? You need to hang your religion in the Congressional coat room to be a good statesmen.
Don't forget tp cut off any statesmen pinky for dealing with PACs who only give in order to get more than what is given!
A very nicely written piece! I'm an athiest but have no problem with any individual person believeing whatever makes them happy. It's only when they insist that I believe it too (and try to inforce it through the laws of our land) that I have a problem with it. Again, nicely written.
I disagree with this article. Ayn Rand, who was ANTIRELIGION, put forth the mantra of "Never comprimise on anything!" that the GOP has adopted and that has pushed the Democrats into the spot of either fighting back by those rules or giving in to Republican demands.
Not that religious zealots don't cause uncompromising situations, but in this case it's people like Paul Ryan who are incapable of resolving the wide swaths between Objectivism and Thomism.
Say what you will about Jimmy Carter's leadership ability, but there's no denying that he is the most decently Christian man to have ever held the office of President. Would a Congress full of Jimmy Carters (a scary thought, LOL) be as deadlocked as this one? The answer is 'No.'
The adoption of Ayn Rand thinking and admiration is a scary side-effect of what happens when you give people just enough education to use a dictionary but not enough to really understand what they're reading. No one with any training in philosophy takes her remotely seriously, yet high school kids and people with undergrad business degrees and no real education seem to be unable to see how incoherent her supposed "philosophy" is. Very scary.
If you read Ayn Rand carefully what she's advocating for is personal selfishness. Is this really what Christians want to take on as a philosophy?
I think Ayn Rand is usually picked up by non-religious 17 year old white males. I'm not religious myself, just quoting the demographic that reads this stuff.
Well, your average 17 year old white male would lack the empathy necessary to see her philosophy as a good one, I suppose? Come to think of it, many Republicans also seem to lack empathy, so maybe I do see the link.
@Jones, I think the religious branch of the Republican party have more empathy than the non-religious part. Secularists with empathy are more likely to migrate to the democrats.
I see the religious Republicans having empathy for others like them, if that's what you mean?
"For many (though certainly not all) Republicans, the root of knowledge is a bedrock certainty about the inerrancy of a literal reading of the Bible."
Perpetuation of that highly suspect correlation does a disservice to the reality that we're all a lot closer in what we really want from our government than what is advertised by the political parties currently in charge.
I agree with Mr Osler in general, that gridlock is one of the problems we get by dragging religion and God into the convoluted and filthy realm of man's government. Scripture doesn't tell political leaders to legislate according to Scripture, and Scripture doesn't tell the Church to demand that government follow Scripture.
Let government govern our secular society, and leave spiritual issues to the Church. Our Founding Fathers knew that, and formed a nation that meant to keep the two separate.
Like the article says, Republicans are Old Testament kind of believers, and the prophets of the OT had no problem telling their kings what God supposedly wanted them to do. Thus the mindset that they are all modern-day prophets of God with the right to pass their opinions off as what God wants, see?
There are a number of comments in here that insult religion and question it's place in any political discussion. They are all from liberal democrats. What on earth is this writer smoking? Oops, Thats another topic that is completely one sided for those same liberal democrats that take mind altering substances to try and enjoy "life" more.
Drugs have nothing to do with this article. Pathetic attempt.
You are an example why many refer the the conservative party the Republican party of Stupid.At least when you post have some common sense.
The irony here is that you are a prime example of the type of people this article is about, and you don't even realize it.
If you cannot even imagine that the people who disagree with you are not evil, then you are part of the problem.
You say that now, Scott, but would you say that if your religious group were in the minority? How would you feel about living in a predominately Catholic country, like Ireland, or a Muslim one?
Fun how Rush Limbaugh is the best known drug user in the politican opinion sphere.
your religion IS a "mind altering substance"
Has Rush divorced his fourth wife yet? It's hard to keep track of how many women this "conservative, family values" guy has gone through.
Tax the rich because the multi-billion dollar religion industry pays no taxes. But they sure seem to have the money to pay their religion industry lobbyists.
I guess. They're not allowed to spend THAT much, you know...
I hope this username has something to do with Jonathan Swift!
My username is a quote from Xenophanes, he was a 5th century BC philosopher and theologian. Even 500 years before Christ Xeno sure knew what religion really was.
If memory serves, didn't Xeno actually say something like, "if horses (or cows, etc) had arms and could paint, wouldn't they depict their gods as horses (or cows, etc)? Anyway, your screen name is shorter. And Xeno was 2500 years ahead of his time. And he lived to an extraordinarily old age for people of that era.
Xenophanes espoused a belief that "God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind." He maintained there was one greatest God. God is one eternal being, spherical in form, comprehending all things within himself, is intelligent, and moves all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind. He is considered by some to be a precursor to Parmenides and Spinoza
This article hits it right on the nose. Congratulations Mark Osler.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.