Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure

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Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure
, a new book by Daniel C. Bruch and Thomas W. Strieter, gives clear and reasoned answers in a Judeo-Christian context to what the religious right gets all wrong.  It is designed to be read by everyone — religious or secular, conservative, moderate, or liberal — who is alarmed by the agenda of the religious right and is concerned about religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

 

The book describes the historical roots of Christian fundamentalism, its biblical distortions, its social/religious agenda, its insistence on foisting its beliefs on the entire country, and its current influence in the political arena.  As a response to the Christian right, the authors then examine the hot-button issues of today through the lens of a moderate/liberal perspective consistent with the ethics of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Christian Realism.”

1425722288.01._aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v59190634_ Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure, a new book by Daniel C. Bruch and Thomas W. Strieter, gives clear and reasoned answers in a Judeo-Christian context to what the religious right gets all wrong.  It is designed to be read by everyone — religious or secular, conservative, moderate, or liberal — who is alarmed by the agenda of the religious right and is concerned about religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Often people who don’t agree with the religious right simply don’t know how to challenge their rhetoric. If this is true for you, the authors believe you will find this book to be a useful resource.  It is their contribution to a much-needed rational debate about the role of religion in American society. Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure describes the historical roots of Christian fundamentalism, its biblical distortions, its social/religious agenda, its insistence on foisting its beliefs on the entire country, and its current influence in the political arena.  As a response to the Christian right, the authors then examine the hot-button issues of today through the lens of a moderate/liberal perspective consistent with the ethics of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Christian Realism.”

 

liveliberal_book_dan_bruch_pictureNiebuhr, in the spirit of Martin Luther, realized that “you can’t rule the world with a rosary,” forcing a Christian agenda upon society.  Although Christians understand that agape, the self-giving love of God expressed in Jesus Christ, is the ideal for ethical decision-making, nevertheless Niebuhr realized that we cannot insist that our pluralistic, diverse, and often secular society operate with that ideal.  The government is to operate with principles of enlightened reason which promote equal justice under law, and it is the duty of Christians to call on the government to be faithful to that task.  Our involvement in the public arena of necessity often involves compromise and recognition of moral ambiguities.

 

 

The religious right does not want to operate within this Niebuhrian framework.  These literalistic fundamentalists operate with the myth that America has forsaken its Christian roots and it is their task to recreate a “moral America.” Theirs is a theocratic vision. They applaud a crusading foreign policy, condemn dissenters as unpatriotic, wage a holy war on  abortion, homosexuals and gay rights and the teaching of evolution, and they insist that their spin on “family values” must govern all of society.  Those who hold views contrary to those of the religious right constitute the enemy. Liberals are perceived as aggressive secular humanists who are destroying family values and are – in a word – immoral.

tombookphotoIt is in response to these alarming assertions of the religious right that Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure  endeavors to offer sound and scholarly biblical, historical, and sociological arguments within the following chapters, each of which include suggestions for positive action and talking points to aid in civil and reasoned dialogue.

•    Patriotism -  There is a difference between patriotism and chauvinism (blindly loyal and aggressive patriotism). Patriotism should not be based on the mistaken premise that America was founded as a Christian nation, but rather it holds America to the ideals on which it was founded. A true patriot has the courage and the duty to call our leaders to accountability.
•    War – America is divided over the issue of war in general and specifically over the Iraq war.  There have been three views on war in the Christian tradition: the early church practiced pacifism; “holy war” was exemplified in the medieval crusades; the need to defend society and its institutions led to the formation of the “just war” theory. “Just war” principles have been incorporated into the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter. The Iraq war is inconsistent with international law and our leadership should be held accountable.
•    Abortion –  Abortion is a moral issue which cannot solely be settled by the Bible or theological authority, but also involves basic principles of human reason, love, and justice. Much of the abortion argument centers around when the fetus becomes human. Case studies which are offered make clear that ethical decisions about abortion must recognize the complexities and ambiguities involved.
•    Homosexuality – Our approach to the biblical text involves dialogue with science and human experience. The element of change within Scripture itself causes us to recognize that God’s movement in history changes the nature of things and the way we perceive them. The few biblical passages often cited to decry homosexuality must be examined in their contexts; some of them are simply not applicable. Motivated by love expressed in Jesus, when we relate with gays and lesbians in our personal relationships, we see real, often hurting, sensitive and loving people.
•    Wealth and Poverty – Wealth in itself is not a bad thing, but poverty must be addressed as a moral issue, – a “family values” issue. When people fall into poverty, numerous barriers keep them there. Poverty is a justice issue that can be addressed effectively if there is the moral and political will to do so.
•    The Environment – Some fundamentalistic conservatives are deeply suspicious about environmentalists. Many people have a misunderstanding of the biblical phrase that God gave “dominion” over the earth to humankind. There is a Christian ethic for the environment and we have an urgent responsibility for the care of the earth.  Awareness of the environmental crisis and need to sacrifice to improve it is growing again. Christians and churches must be effective at proclaiming the environment as a critical part of personal and corporate stewardship.

Finally, the book addresses the crying need for civility and cooperation in the public     arena,.and that people of faith, and all people of good will, must contribute to the common good. It begins with me.

Each chapter concludes with suggestions for positive action, as well as talking points to aid in civil and reasoned dialogue.


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