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Citizen Voices

I don't follow baseball. So it should have come as no surprise that my last-minute decision to quickly check team colors before heading to Petco Park last Sunday revealed that I was - you guessed it - wearing the opposing team's colors. (To my credit, I was wearing Padres blue. But layering it with red resulted in what could easily be mistaken for Philly pride.)

But I should introduce myself as something other than an ignorant sporting event attendee. I am your new conservative KPBS (stop right there - did I just use "conservative" and "KPBS" together?) citizen blogger, and my attendance (sans red layering tee) at a Padres game brought politics, faith, and patriotism into focus. Perhaps there's just something about singing "God Bless America" with 30,000 strangers during the seventh inning stretch that triggers feelings of unity, pride, and yes - true thankfulness. This, combined with the Saddleback Church Civil Forum of the evening before, got me thinking about the place that religious beliefs - anyone's religious beliefs - hold in American politics.

It is important to recognize and practice the separation of church and state. We do not live in a theocracy, and this country was founded on the principle that every individual is free to practice his or her religion. Separating religion and government, however, does not render a candidate's faith irrelevant. Without morality, a government has no reason for existence - what need would there be for law ? And as long as morality is an important feature of our nation, so too will the religious perspectives of presidential candidates be of interest. This much is made clear by the attention given to the recent conversations Pastor Rick Warren had with Barack Obama and John McCain

Warren was an excellent moderator, posing serious and thought-provoking questions that went beyond what one might expect during a faith forum. And before we rush to judge Warren's motives, it should be noted that he said in a CNN interview last month that he would not publicly support one candidate over the other. In reading Alma's most recent post, it occurred to me that had Obama and McCain been interviewed by a Muslim imam or a Jewish rabbi (interviews I would find newsworthy and interesting), very few would express suspicion at the motives of the interviewer. If Warren had an "all encompassing mission," as Alma puts it, I believe he made it quite clear: "I think I can set up an environment that people can actually say, oh, so that's what that guy's really like." Why must "Christian" be a code word for "Crusader"? I certainly don't believe that "Muslim" is a code word for "terrorist." But back to the forum...

Chuck from Escondido, CA
August 21, 2008 at 09:49 PM
Welcome, and glad to have you here. I hope you get a response to your request for a non-religious argument against same-sex marriage - I'd like to hear that one too.



Alma from San Diego
August 22, 2008 at 12:57 AM
Great post, Jessica. As Chuck said, welcome. I promise you there won't be any intimation of punching bag syndrome coming from me. I respect your retort to my underlying premise -- why does "Christian" = "Crusader"? In so many ways, that is exactly the question I was asking, only with a different tone. Fair enough, as you say, that "Muslim" does not equal "terrorist." Point taken. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say about policy. You said "morality drives policy" thus, "we should all care about the religious perspectives of Obama and McCain." I think you're absolutely right about policy's underlying purpose. I guess what's different for me, although maybe not divisively so, is that ethics and morality don't always equate with religion. And the blending of religion into ethics honestly scares me to death because of how extreme or outrageous religious beliefs can be for some. You never hear about some "ethical zealot" who kills in the name of his or her ethics. Yet to be ethical in the world is to behave with respect and honor. As long as those values are held sacred, then I think there will be a place for civil discussion about differing points of view.

Jessica Jondle
August 22, 2008 at 02:30 PM
Thanks for your comments, Chuck and Alma! Alma, I agree that religion is sometimes sadly abused as a justification for immoral behavior (and there is tragic irony in that). Also, no one religion has a monopoly on "terrorism" - the person who bombs an abortion clinic in the name of God and the person who blows himself up on a bus as an act of perceived martyrdom are both misguided and, as you put it, scary. Although I would say that ethics stem from some universal truth (otherwise, for example, whether the murder of an innocent person is right or wrong would be subjective), I certainly respect your view that ethics and religion should be separated. There is a lot of injustice in the world that would make such a separation immensely appealing.

Chris
August 22, 2008 at 08:27 PM
Jessica - good to have you and your (sometimes) bleacher seat perspective aboard, your blog got me thinking...Because KPBS and NPR are generally perceived as a haven for latte sippin' liberals (as opposed to bitter gun lovers) - there is an apparent need for conservative voices to assume a slightly defensive posture in this forum: "So let me unashamedly say..." "but I will not apologize for my perspective..." The assumption that a well reasoned opinion will be attacked simply because it expresses an opposing idea cheapens the dialogue and is what churns the stomach in the case of Keith Olberman and Bill O'Reilly - the merits of your arguments are good enough for me, and I suspect the rest of us Citizen Bloggers - so be as free as you want to be. Back to your argument...Do you believe an athiest can hold a moral or ethical code? Thomas Hobbes would argue that self interest is justification enough to not commit murder - no need to invoke god or the spiritual world in commending Jesus' beautiful words: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Welcome and I look forward to hearing more, Chris

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