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By Tom Cushing

Religion and Politics II, Domestic Policy

Uploaded: Aug 24, 2011

A high school acquaintance recently surfaced on my Facebook. He is currently the minister to a so-called 'subversive' Lutheran congregation in the east. When I inquired about the adjective, he responded to the effect that they take the teachings of Jesus seriously enough to try and live by them. The irony that their approach qualifies his church as 'subversive' was not lost on me.

So, I come to this week's topic with a dubious predisposition, but an honest desire to understand how readers' religious faiths inform their politics in the domestic policy arena (absent any Jovian thunderbolts, we'll examine foreign policy issues next week -- thus completing this bloggy trinity, err, trilogy). So you know whence I come to these issues, I was raised a Protestant Christian and later found a spiritual home as a UU – and while I recall many a Biblical verse, I am not a serious student of them. I know less about the precepts of other faiths. Help me out, here!

Social Policies: the safety net, women's movement.

In this conception, the safety net includes government transfer payments occasioned by old age, disability and unemployment – and you can throw-in the Coming of ObamaCare (a term you may not find expressed Biblically). Is there something holy in being keepers of our brethren? Does Jesus' call for feeding and clothing the least among us resonate for you? And does it matter whether the support is provided in an organized way, by the community – or is it to be all private charity (in which case, is it really a generally available net?). Conversely, if you lost Everything (as many Americans have), where would you expect to turn for help?

Regarding women in the political world, there has been a recent flap over one presidential candidate's belief about 'submitting' to her husband. Are women distinct-but-equal in your religious conception, or is there a hierarchy (formal or informal) that gives men primacy as leaders? Is there a woman's place in the White Home?

The Economy: Tax Policy.

Jesus was no fan of money changers or tax collectors, and I seem to recall another verse about camels, needles and the difficulties of the rich in achieving the Pearly Gates. Do these suggest support for a strongly progressive tax system, at least for those who make their money with money (as opposed to the more honorable job-creationists)? Or is it enough that the Lord helps those who help themselves – and boy, have they?! Or does it argue for fewer taxes, period? Does the Bible, Koran or some other sacred text offer guidance here (other than to avoid the consequences of evasion by timely rendering unto Caesar)?

The Environment: Climate Change/Industrial Agriculture.

This may seem an odd policy combination, but I recall Old Testament grants of dominion over the earth and its other creatures, and a call to go forth and multiply. Is this an unrestricted conveyance, such that humans may confidently ply the planet's resources without fear of climatic consequences? And does the "dominion" grant excuse the routinely brutal treatment of food animals in today's agricultural economy – or is there a stewardship obligation that accompanies it: to act responsibly in our reproduction, humanely toward other species and cautiously in our depletion of the earth's abundance? Are there other learnings that inform your views on environmental issues? And which candidates' positions are most in keeping with your interpretations?

Constitutional issues: abortion, punishment, same-sex marriage.

'Reproductive rights' is the hardy perennial of American politics. While there appears to be a surface division between churched and unchurched, there are surely many among the former group who favor 'Choice.' How does that choice square with your faith? Do life's rights begin with conception? On the other end of the life cycle, is it ever morally acceptable to kill another person, even a murderer – an eye for an eye, or is there another religious justification for capital punishment?

And finally, I've placed gay marriage among the Constitutional issues both because I think minority rights are fundamentally so, and because I predict that the Supremes will resolve it that way (Judge Walker got it right, in my secular view). There are fierce Old Testament injunctions against homosexuality in general, and marriage was surely then seen as a union of a man and some number of women greater than zero. But are the joys (and let us not forget those trials) of marital bliss to be reserved exclusively to one group, albeit large? Would the author of the Sermon on the Mount really agree? Was Jesus not talking about oppressed minorities in his blessings for such as the meek or the poor-in-spirit? Would he advocate for anything less than full equality among the communities of humankind? What Would Jesus, or Buddha or Mohammed really Do on this point?

There are, obviously, many other political issues than the ones I've chosen. Please feel free to hold forth on any of your choosing. After all, this confessional -- while public -- remains fully, safely anonymous.