Sunday, January 09, 2005

Beyond the Echo Chamber, No. 4 - The Gospel According to Kos

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. (Luke 11:44)
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)
Reclamation, joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works! (A Clockwork Orange)

Kos (of the Daily Same) decides to get himself straight with Jesus - sort of: On faith and values.

I have been a militant atheist all my life. Not militant in wanting to destroy religion, but in keeping it out of the public sphere.

But I have come to a conclusion recently that has startled me, obvious as it seems to me in retrospect -- it wasn't religious language that bothered me, it was the "values" promoted couched in religious terms ...

Liberals, outside the black churches, have ceded the moral language to the Right, in large part because of people like me who flinched at every reference to God by a Democrat.

But using Christianity or Buddhism or any other religion as a moral foundation is really no less superior than the moral structure I use to guide my life (I'm a utilitarian). All that should matter is that we all arrive at the same conclusion.

In other words, it doesn't matter how we get there, as long as we all arrive at the same place. And there should be no shame for Democrats to explain the reasoning for their value structure. And if Jesus is the reason, then so be it.
I suppose this counts as a spiritual journey of the T.S. Eliot sort: "The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." In this case, Kos arrives at the dog-eared "Social Gospel" of the Progressive Pharisee, which predates the invention of the steam engine. Welcome to the 18th Century, I guess.

So Jesus is just another expedient gear that the utilitarian can shift into when the going gets rough. As it does when dealing with Black evangelicals - whose unabashed Jesus-ridden and Holy Ghost-driven spirituality has been carefully ignored by secular liberals. If you can't say anything that isn't condescending, don't say anything at all.

There are a couple of problems with this Utilitarian Facsimile of Jesus. First, false confessions of faith do not generally inspire respect - either in the faithful or the unfaithful. They tend to inspire the opposite. That's why people admire Mother Theresa, but not Elmer Gantry or the Borgia Popes. The last thing the left needs is another truckload of intellectual dishonesty, no matter how utilitarian they think it is. You can look down your snoot at the American public (God Bless 'Em) all you want, but those peasants can smell your manure spreader a mile off.

Secondly, the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is meant to prescribe the spiritual and moral conduct of the individual, not the public policy of the House Appropriations Committee. To think otherwise is to make a mess of the separation of Church and State (remember that?) and repeat the errors of William Jennings Bryan and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. With the Democratic left already repeating so many errors, do they really have time to reprise that one, too?

Lastly - and this one for the umpteenth time - so long as Democrats understand "values" only as political issues that are expended in public debate like so much ammunition, then they will never understand values - or politics, either.