March 28, 2006
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Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right
In case you haven't noticed, BuzzFlash has been "message pushing" on two key issues: the environment and spirituality/religion.
We are focusing on the environment because even Time Magazine has awakened to the fact that Bush's rock head indifference to science may have moved us passed the tipping point in global warming.
We've also offered many premiums on the way that the Republicans have hijacked God and opportunistically and dishonestly used religion to lure voters into the GOP column.
The GOP has been enormously successful in driving people further into "locked-in" religious positions by using fear (since a bedrock of absolute faith is often solace when people feel threatened by sinister forces). The RNC has also literally joined with an army of far right "Armageddon" Evangelical and Baptist voters in a pact that blurs the line between the separation of church and state. Nothing more clearly evidences this than present and former high Republican figures like Nino Scalia and John Ashcroft, who have espoused that America is a Christian nation that belongs to God. (In such a scenario, the will of the people is basically irrelevant, because God trumps the popular vote.)
Pro-democracy, pro-constitutional advocates are often confused as how to face this religious challenge because so many of us fall into the category of "secular humanists," even if we have some sort of religious identity. This term is often used derisively by the James Dobsons, Jerry Falwells, and Pat Robertsons of the world, because it implies that the power of the nation is in the hand of enlightened voters rather than the will of God.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is also a psychotherapist, is a Berkeley-based progressive leader of a revived religious-spiritual community. One of the brilliant concepts in his popular new book "The Left Hand of God" is that the "secular humanists" actually share quite a bit in common with the arm of religion that is compassionate, loving, and embracing; i.e., the essence of Judeo-Christian theology (before it was hijacked by the stern fire and brimstone "End Times" crowd).
Lerner (who came to national prominence as an informal spiritual advisor to the Clintons) warns progressives that we cannot afford to dismiss religious Americans with derision. This is the mistake that allowed the Republican Party to capture the loyalty of many "true believers."
Rather, Lerner argues, whether or not one is identified with organized religion, most "secular humanists" share the spiritual values of faiths that believe God created a human community that is caring and loving. If you don't attend a church, synagogue, mosque, etc, but believe in these values, you really have the same spiritual foundation -- in many respects -- as those who are more directly tied to religion through a firm belief in a specific denomination.
That is not to say that pro-democracy, secular humanist advocates are going to be sitting down soon and breaking bread with the likes of the "End Time" guru, Tim LaHaye (who has sold more than 70 million "Rapture" and "Armageddon" books), but it does mean that most Americans associated with organized religion do share many common religious "values" with BuzzFlashers, for instance.
Look at the outpouring of support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, from just about everyone in America, except for the Bushevik government and racists.
Lerner's point is that we may not agree with everything that some "true believers" hold dear (such as many of them being against "choice"), but that we can build upon the common spiritual values of compassion, caring and love.
In many ways, Lerner provides the meat to the "values" component of messaging and framing encouraged by fellow Berkeley resident, U of California Professor George Lakoff.
Indeed, Lakoff says of Lerner's book: "The truest spiritual impulse is progressive, centering on caring, connection, and community. It is, in the words Lerner has made famous, tikkun olam [Hebrew], about healing the world. To heal it, you must be in it. Spiritual commitment requires political action, or it amounts to nothing. That is the fundamental truth of 'The Left Hand of God.'"
The Bush Administration, arm-in-arm with the extreme politically driven religious right, wants to divide America. Lerner returns us to the common spiritual and religious values of community, compassion, nature, peace and justice. And he provides a roadmap to crossing over to the other side and sharing those values within the framework of a true democracy.
This is a thought-provoking book that challenges many hidden feelings of disdain toward organized religion. Lerner argues that we should set aside the preconceptions about the institutional framework of religion and, instead, build upon common spiritual goals and values. After all, we are a national community.
Shouldn't loving, caring, compassion and justice be the real wedge issues?
Not a bad idea.