November 9th, 2010
08:23 AM ET

My Take: Let’s aim for respect in post-election America

Editor's Note: The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel is the Faith Work Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

By Rev. Rebecca Voelkel , Special to CNN

Two simultaneous and seemingly competing responses are evoked from this election cycle: deep disappointment and clarity about the desperate need for respect.

The disappointment is not a partisan streak, but rather springs from the reality that an electoral winner this week was the radical religious right. While much of the credit was given to the Tea Party movement, the reality is that the political victory went to those whose stated goal is the creation of a “Christian Nation.”

As a Christian pastor, I am clear that this goal is dangerous — to the heart of Christianity, to this nation and to anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of the “right kind” of citizen.

When U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a Christian Nation proponent who won by large numbers, declares during campaigning that gay people and single mothers shouldn’t be school teachers, we are in danger.

When U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who won the most expensive House race in the country, supported insertion of “Creationism” and “12 Christian principles” (akin to the Ten Commandments) in the curriculum of a public charter school whose board she served on, we are in danger.

And when Christian Nationalist thinking and rhetoric attempt to become the law of the land (which these candidates have promised they will attempt to do), we are in danger.

It is corrosive to Christianity to be used to deny the humanity and civil rights of anyone. And it is detrimental to a democracy built upon the values of liberty and justice for all to qualify who the “all” is.

But as a Christian pastor, I am equally called to nonviolence and deep respect for the humanity of all people. This is a paradoxical impulse given what I believe is at stake. But, perhaps, it is not at all paradoxical.

Especially in these times, we desperately need voices — religious voices — to speak on behalf of respect, pluralism, civility and nonviolence. When rhetoric of a qualified justice, a qualified humanity fill the airwaves, religious voices of unqualified justice, unqualified love, unqualified respect must be raised in song, in prayer, in preaching, in politics.

It is these voices that give me hope today.

Like the United Methodist pastor from Bowling Green, Ohio, who refused to let the campaigning lie that transgender people were a threat to the community go unchallenged, but who, instead, stood before a press conference and declared the beloved humanity and gift to this country of its transgender citizens.

Or the Roman Catholic nun who consistently and passionately speaks of the sacredness of the lives of those who are undocumented workers living in Arizona.

These voices must be raised even as we must affirm the full humanity of those whose words and actions seek to lessen the humanity of others. It is these that challenge me this day: clarion call for unqualified justice and paradoxical plea for respect. Yet, our democracy requires nothing less.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebecca Voelkel.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture wars • Homosexuality • Opinion • Politics • United States

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Akhilesh Kumar Karna

    God is , in every body human inside, in every animals, in every place and also every world wise........ So we would be believe them. I mean – Only mostly understand hindu people what is god......... and where is live...... but i dont tell you come on join Hindu festival and culture . But you look and feel what is the main best point. how the man can feel comfortable and mind concentration and health for best exercise .
    But one thing i also know the Christian and Hindu people never think religions. They want to walk without religions tension which best think............... i want to write full of page like to make one book about religions but what can i do...........or not important because nowadays most of people know what is real or best....... Thanks for give me a chance to write some thing.....about human beings life related to religions .

    February 13, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  2. Brandy Bucktook

    My Take "Let's Aim for respect in this post election America.
    That is the name of the article when in reality it is a backhanded insult. A compliment couched in the form or tone of an insult. Often used by people who *want* to be nice, but fear being seen as weak.
    You want to be respected but lack being respectful or understand for others belief. I'm sorry but you are not right on in any fashion.

    November 21, 2010 at 5:22 am |
  3. Iqbal khan

    Check this eye opener...


    November 17, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  4. Patricia Gries

    Thanks, Rev. Veolkel for your clear and compelling article. What is so needed today is civility in discourse concerning matters of politics, education, human relationships and religion to name but a few areas of life! Any time one group attempts to define life for all others we know from history that we are headed for trouble.....consider Nazi Germany. Wouldn't it be great if there was a place at the table for all with love and respect being the guiding principle for conversation!

    November 11, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  5. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    I'm shocked that CNN would give the Joker a forum like this.

    November 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Amalia Sheran Sharm


      November 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    "They are all attempting to assert their brand of *dominance* over everyone's thought and actions."

    But, my friend can we not say that about the majority of folks around the planet? There are few that live and breath, of faith and non faith, democrat, independent or republican. If we are truly honest with ourselves, each of us would feel that the world would be a better place if every soul on the planet shared our views and believed exactly as we do.

    If everyone cared...... Wow that was a great song. 🙂 In the end the song should have been, "if everyone cared.. as I do"

    November 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  7. Peace2All

    Well said by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel....!!!!

    She is absolutely *spot on* with her article. And, let me be clear. I don't care what brand of fundamentalist is trying to insert their flavor of radical doctrine into our lives, whether it is the fundamentalist religious- right christians, or the crazy fundamentalist muslim zealots.

    They are all attempting to assert their brand of *dominance* over everyones thought and actions. They know the *true* word of God, and function as the world's 'moral and spiritual' police. If you don't believe or convert..... prepare to be blown up, arrested or assimilated(yes, borg talk).

    Anyways, nice to see a Christian minister come out and recognize the truth of the issues, and the inherent problems certain fundamentalist groups present.

    November 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Reality

    No simple cause for se-xual orientation has been co-nclusively demonstrated, and there is no scientific co-nsensus as to whether the contributing factors are primarily biological or environmental. Many think both play complex roles.[1][2] The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psy-chological As-sociation have both stated that se-xual orientation probably has multiple causes.[3][4] Research has identified several biological factors which may be related to the development of a heteros-exual, ho-mos-exual or bise-xual orientation. These include genes, prenatal hormones, and brain structure. Conclusive proof of a biological cause of s-exual orientation would have significant political and cultural implications. [5]"

    The general population to include many of the voters in California find g-ay s-exual activities, "unionized" or not, to be unusual and typically as-sociate such activity with the spread of AIDS which is of course wrong. Said AIDS epidemic in the g-ay male community at the start of the AIDS crises will always remain unfortunately a stigma on the ga-y community.

    There is an impressive list of g-ay people who did not let their defect get in the way of being a contribution to society.

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-exual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex s-exual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    Finally, good gay people abide by the human-living rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    November 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  9. Mark from Middle River

    "The funny part is, they can put up all the crosses they want. Deny women's and gay rights"

    Wait Davey, you forgot denying African Americans rights and returning them to slavery, the Environment, and the other cry me a river scare tactics that lost the Libs the last elections.

    And for Gay rights Davey..... it was reported its the Gay Republicans that have been fighting with Obama to get Don't ask Don't tell over turned.

    November 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark from Middle River

      Dude! Gay rights are toast. As is abortion. Rand Paul would like for business to decide for itself, if they will serve African Americans. Rand Paul does not stand a chance of getting the Civil Rights Act "edited". I am not worried about that, and is why I did not mention it.

      God does not exist. If he does, give me an argument. Give me proof. I am not a racist or anti-gay or against a woman's right to choose. I am an atheist. There is no Christ to put as head of state. Only the Religious Right will be able to hear the voice of Jesus. They will tell the rest of us what Jesus wants. All the Christian Crosses, and all the Christian"s prayers, can't bring Jesus back from the grave he has been in for the last 2000 years.

      I spent the last 3 months warning people that a theocracy was in the making. Are you saying I'm wrong? Let's wait to tell me so, for a while. The bill for all the Republican support will be presented soon. What do you think will be on the list? LOL

      November 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Davey – You offer up Rand Paul and I offer up the black Republicans that ran or have ran for office. My apologies but to attempt to define an entire party or group by one person or segment never has or will work with the thinking public. Many have tried but it is that simple argument of, "it only takes one". Your side says that the Right does not like gays, but then the its the log cabin Republicans pushing for don't ask don't tell when Pelosi and crew sat on their hands. Your side says that Christians have issues with women, then along come Republican women from Palin to Olympia Snow.

      You have spent three months trying to warn, I have to ask Dave did, at any time, did you listen to others? Or are you like Reality with similar single mindedness? I would think you better than him or her.

      Here, I will give you a piece of knowledge that pretty much every person of Faith on the planet knows. A theocracy in a country such as ours is almost impossible. People say Christian vs Muslim....heck don't you know that such have had issues throughout time more within than outside of the group. We have churches within the same denomination that can not get along. For the theocracy that you claim to happen you are going to need all the persons of faith to get on-board or behind a single person or leadership. Davey I have heard of fights within churches, so how do we get to this big group that will be knocking on your door? As a Atheist Davey, you should not worry so much, your going to get an ulcer. 🙂 Then again you do sound like the kind that would claim the "Enemy is at the gates" during the Christmas holidays ...

      November 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Fud!

    Put more effort into those sandwiches!

    November 9, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Peace2All

      Which sandwiches...? What kind...?

      November 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Fud!

      u r not making sammiches! get 2 work! dont talk at fud!

      November 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Frogist

    Bravo Rev Voelkel! I absolutely support your efforts for "unqualified justice". There is far too much talk of a Christian nation, and the equivalent hijacking of govt by zealots who want to put forward a "Christian" theocratic agenda. People are afraid of sharia law, but have their eyes closed to the abuses that alleged Christians seek to impose upon our democracy. And these people are now in our govt. But while they call for armed uprising and violence if they don't get their "christian" way, we the people fight back with respectful disagreement... By offering tolerance, discourse, consideration, peaceful protest. It begs the question, who is being more "christian"? I respect you, Rev Voelkel, for recognizing the humanity of those who are different from you. I know your voice is but one of many. I hope they speak up, and speak loud. It's imprtant now more than ever.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • honestanon

      "they call for armed uprising and violence if they don't get their "christian" way,"


      November 9, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  12. David Johnson

    Rev. Voelkel said: "While much of the credit was given to the Tea Party movement, the reality is that the political victory went to those whose stated goal is the creation of a “Christian Nation.”

    Yep, she is exactly right. Now, watch how the Republicans will work to define marriage as being possible, only between a man and a woman. Watch how the Republicans will work to overturn Roe Vs. Wade.

    The Religious Right has a shopping cart full of items Jesus wants: Prayer in school; Creationism taught in schools; Banning of anything the Religious Right/Jesus believes to be por_no_graphic; Installing crosses, and commandments and nativity scenes in every nook and cranny.

    The funny part is, they can put up all the crosses they want. Deny women's and gay rights. Pray non-stop. But it won't make their god any less false.

    Will there be a law passed making it illegal for anyone to question the Christian Religion?

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:20 am |
    • Kathryn

      I am afraid David. And you are right on target. Take heart though, there are many more like us out there. We're the silent majority.

      November 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
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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.