I posted the following as a comment in wildpaletz journal, but I wanted to post it in my own as well. Readers of bradhicks will find much of this familiar…
I have pondered much on the issue of “moral values™” and have been troubled by it. By “moral values™”, I mean “the selected moral questions which happen to strengthen the bond between religious conservatives and fiscal/social conservatives”. These are the “hot button” issues that Christian fundamentalists are passionate about, but that if they took a moment to think about what’s really important, which they would find are not pillars of their faith.
The marriage of “faith” and “right-wing politics” is a relatively recent thing (since the 1970s). Some Republican leaders have managed to convince some Christian leaders that their goals are compatible, starting with getting rid of communism, but that has been replaced by new “moral values™” that have taken center stage, mostly abortion and gay marriage.
The irony of this alliance, of course, is that Republican politics is the politics of greedy, rich white men. When you ask Christians about the core of their beliefs, they will probably agree that doing good works for others, and helping others in need, is a big part of it. But their 30-year alliance with Republicans has made them sort of forget that “faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity” bit.
So, probably one thing I would probably ask an anti-abortion activist is, “Have you given more to pro-life organizations than you have given to feed the hungry, care for the sick, etc?” To me that would indicate whether his faith is a way of walking, or just a way of talking.
If there is a positive note, it is that the alliance of Christians and Right-Wing politics is not guaranteed. The tide has also turned the other way… in the 50s and 60s it was civil rights that became a rallying cry to Christians to go and vote their conscience, and carry the fight to Washington.
I have to disagree about the question you’d ask an anti-abortion activist. Remember that a committed anti-abortion activist truly believes that abortion is murder — that’s not just a slogan. So what you’re really asking is “Have you given more to organizations that try to prevent murder than to organizations that feed the hungry, etc.?”
This is pretty clearly a form of the classic question “Is it more important to prevent death caused by someone’s actions or death caused by failure to act?” I don’t think you can conclude that someone’s faith is false based on their answer to that question.
I think I agree with everything you said. I guess the thing that troubles me most is that religion, and in particular Christianity, is used as a soapbox on which fundamentalist freaky folks go off in their own weird directions.
In other words, there are many many beliefs that go into a working belief system, and sometimes the difference is a matter of degree: how strongly you feel about something and how it motivates you to act, as opposed to other beliefs. I guess that to me is the difference between “beliefs” and “values”.
So, when someone’s *values* are that they will spend their time and effort and money on making sure that certain kinds of murder don’t happen, rather than helping the needy, that is their choice. I just don’t believe most Christians would describe Christianity as being all about forcing others (even non-believers) to comply with a certain moral code. I would even go so far as to say that there is something very un-Christian about extreme fundamentalism.