fresh voices from the front lines of change







Since the days of Lee Atwater, Republicans have relied on the politics of division and persecution fantasies.  James Inhofe road into the Senate in 1994 on a platform of “God, Guns and Gays.”

Now? Not so much.  Americans just aren’t as afraid of the gays as they used to be.  Even religious folks have started to come around.  The delusions that were so effective just a few years ago aren’t working.   I have already written about how shifting religious demographics left “God’s Own Party” high and dry last November.  The voters let them down and feelings have been hurt.  Bill O’Reilly has made the first desperate stab at it with this years version of the war on Christmas.

The war on Christmas?  That’s where the men in black snatch nativity scenes.  They slide down your chimney and scrawl secular humanist slogans on your tree’s baubles.  At least, that’s what I think it is.  I learned about the whole thing from the Daily Show.  Jon Stewart watches Fox News so I don’t have to.

Poor Bill O’Reilly is coming apart at the seams.  To save his War on Christmas, he’s expanded the definition of “Christian” to include damn near everybody. The problem is, it’s impossible to do that without seriously lowering the bar on faith.  Christianity is now a “philosophy.”

O’Reilly may have been making a deep theological point.  Christianity redefined as a philosophy that is also performance art. We all get a part in this play. We won’t have to trouble ourselves with virgin births or original sin.

He could be drawing on the rich Buddhist tradition with its easy-going attitude towards other religions.  As a Buddhist myself, I understand the appeal.  We don’t view other religions and ways of think as a threat. In fact, we encourage others to practice their own religions. Many take on Buddhism alongside their own faith.  My religion has a big tent.  It welcomes all beings, living and dead with universal compassion.  We call it mettā.  Bill could be doing that.  Or he could be nuts.

What if Bills “Christianity as Philosophy” were a plea for an expansive, open faith that insists on investigation, a curiosity about the world?  Perhaps he found the words of Shakyamuni Buddha:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Or perhaps….he is nuts.

Universalism is a bad fit for the party of the 1%. If this is their path, they are not long for this world.  They will either become Democrats, Greens, or attain nirvana. (Perhaps then we will get a public option?)

As a former Baptist Sunday School teacher, I can tell you O’Reilly’s redefinition of Christianity would be difficult for the flock to handle.  Let’s encourage Bill in his new non faith.  Next year I’ll try to keep an open mind when we celebrate the “War on Christmas.”

Please enjoy your walking,
the sensations, your breath,
the fresh air—step by step—
“Inhaling … calm … body
Exhaling … joyful … smile”
Having a slight smile for
someone who is angry,
someone who is scared,
someone who can’t smile.

Edward Espe Brown

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