Labor Advocate Online

O We Of Little Faith
by Bill Onasch

Let me begin by saying that though I am not religious I strongly defend the right of every individual to practice any religion. If you look for guidance in the Holy Bible, the Torah, or the Koran, that’s okay by me. I have no problems with individuals praying, or gathering together with others of their faith to worship. I don’t object to anyone using their right of free speech, or free press, to try to convince others to voluntarily join them in religious practice. And I won’t take offense if you wish me a merry Christmas.

Faith in politics is another matter, however, and is a hot topic right now. NBC television has been covering "Faith In America," all this week as if it were the Super Bowl. Possibly not coincidently, even the NBC West Wing episode this week fit in with this programming.

Faith based politicians rushed an emergency bill through congress to "save the life" of a woman who has been in a vegetative state for fifteen years and has no conceivable chance of recovering.

On a spurious pretext, the Kansas attorney general is demanding the medical records of abortion clinics–institutions that he believes, as he has many times made clear, are guilty of "murdering babies."

Court cases are pending about displaying edited versions of the Ten Commandments in court houses because this is supposed to be the foundation of all law. Certainly some of the commands from Mt Sinai–such as prohibitions of killing and stealing–have been partially incorporated into our jurisprudence. But there’s still work to be done on legal remedies against craven images and coveting neighbor’s livestock.

(I've always wondered why legal scholars have failed to follow Moses into the next chapter–Exodus 21–where he spells out God’s laws regulating Hebrew slaves.)

The science of evolution is under attack by "faithful" politicians running school boards across the land.

Of course faith based politics is not limited to the United States. In Iraq Shia faith police just this week beat to death students, and ripped clothes off young women, as punishment for an "immoral" co-ed picnic where music was being played. But these same Shia are considered apostates by some Sunnis who have bombed Shia mosques, weddings, and funeral processions.

In Israel Jews riding buses on Saturday are frequently stoned by other Jews seeking to enforce their interpretation of Sabbath laws–which are, of course, one of the Ten Commandments though scholars differ on just when the Sabbath should be observed.

Unlike my tolerance for individual religious practice I have a big problem with such expressions of "faith." Genuine freedom of religion precludes using governmental power, or paramilitary groups of armed men, from cramming one religious dogma down the throats of all.

If NBC wanted to take an honest look at "faith-based" politics they would have noted the patent hypocrisy of the congress and president rushing to "save the life" of a woman brain dead for more than a decade--while continuing to carry out war, and executions, that clearly violate the Sixth Commandment.

Facing death of a loved one is about the toughest thing we ever have to do. It’s hard enough dealing with the loss of a treasured pet. Fortunately, our society recognizes that it is more civilized, more humane, to put a terminally ill dog or cat to sleep with a drug than to force them to endure suffering.

Pulling the plug on a human loved one who would want it that way is an even tougher choice. Worse yet, the humane compassion shown to animals is not yet universally accepted by society for us humans. There are men of the cloth who have convinced their followers that cutting short the medical bills just because there is no hope for recovery is the same as murder. In today’s political climate they are able to find plenty of cynical politicians willing to pander to this "faith."

To harass those put in such a painful situation through politically motivated demonstrations and acts of congress is, in my opinion, morally reprehensible as well as politically disgusting.

Far from representing a moral reawakening, "faith-based politics" is a new yard-stick with which to measure the degeneration of class-based political rule in the United States.

A genuine social reawakening, a healthy recovery from our present sick society, will require unity and solidarity among working people around our common interests. Just as we have to learn to overcome the divisions nurtured by the boss class around race and gender we have to also rededicate ourselves to mutual respect and tolerance for our various religious views–or lack thereof.

March 24, 2005