News Intelligence Analysis
The Ship of State Is Sinking, Who is on the Lords Side?
A discussion on what kind and size of buckets to use to bail out the boat
Katherine Yurica responds to Jim Wallis' and Susan Jacoby's articles
By Katherine Yurica
July 25, 2005
Updated July 26, 2005
[Editor's note: we incorrectly identified The American Prospect magazine as the American Prospective. We have corrected it and apologize to our readers and to the American Prospect.]
Labels, even when they are of our own making are sometimes meaningless. There are people who call themselves Christian who are really ravenous wolves. There are those who call themselves Black Sheep who exhibit more kindness and love than a thousand on the pews on any given Sunday morning. Spiritually developed people, regardless of what they call themselves, actually bow down to Truth, to something higher than their own egos or will. So it is not surprising to find atheists and agnostics, and people of many faiths sharing deep rooted moral values which include a love for others, a desire and a need to search for truth, humility and courage that quickens the heart and makes one proud to be standing with such beautiful people.
The Yurica Report had just begun to post two articles from the American Prospect, one written by Jim Wallis, the publisher of the evangelical Sojourners and the other from Susan Jacoby, called an aggressive secularist by her publisher, when the questions began about whether a real conflict exists between progressives with faith and those without.
The article containing the two essays is titled, With God on Our Side, and it appears to set two opposing views against each other with Wallis writing Time to Take Our Faith Back, and Jacoby writing an essay titled Reason Before Religion. In fact, I found myself agreeing with both writers quite often.
I found that both Wallis and Jacoby are saying the same thingtheres no disagreement here unless its a lovers quarrel: Wallis makes three points, (1) Religion does not have a monopoly on morality . (2) A moral discourse on politics is something we all need and are all needed for and (3) when religiously motivated citizens get to the public square, they must enter into a moral and political discussion, not a religious one.
Jacoby makes the same points, (1) Yet critics of recent Democratic campaigns are absolutely right to argue that civic life would be greatly enhanced by a discussion of moral values that transcends the current American fixation on sexual issues . (2) But men and women of faith wield their most effective influence in public life when they speak truth to power, as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. did so eloquently, from outside the governmental structure . (3) But a Democratic candidate today must challenge the slanderous right-wing assertion that respect for secular government means disrespect for religion. (Emphasis mine.)
Wallis then makes a fourth point that Jacoby strongly disagrees with: The biggest mistake that progressives have made in the last several decades is conceding the whole territory of religion and values to the religious and political right. This last sentence does not necessarily contradict Wallis first three points. However, Jacoby responds:
According to this credo, Democrats, to regain the White House, must adopt a strategy of fighting fire with fire -- presenting socially progressive religious values as an alternative to the right-wing religious ethos so forcefully articulated by President George W. Bush. Americans are to be convinced that God himself is displeased by the Bush administrations tax cuts for the rich, its war in
, and a host of other initiatives that the Republican religious right has cast in its image of the deity. If the advocates of faith-based campaigning have their way -- and there is good reason to fear that they will, given the Democrats panic at the election results -- it could mean nothing less than the end of the American experiment as we have known it since 1789. Iraq
Jacoby then goes on to say:
What Democrats and liberals need to do is convince voters not that Bush is a bad theologian, but that he is a bad president. Moreover, liberals who cite the peace-loving, wealth-redistributing Jesus as their authority are every bit as selective in their interpretation of the Old Testament and the New Testament as are Bush and his favorite Supreme Court judge, Antonin Scalia, who frequently uses biblical quotations to argue on behalf of the governments right to impose the death penalty.
That I generally agree with Wallis politics and disagree with Scalias is irrelevant to the civic danger inherent in looking heavenward for solutions to social problems that can only be resolved on the earthbound plane of human reason.
I think that Susan Jacoby is expressing a deeply felt fear that we need to understand. Yet we also need to understand that not everyone reads the biblical literature blindly based upon selective use of passages for the purpose of supporting a faith based argument. The biblical literature is rich in poetry and language, but it is also, a text book of statutory laws for an ancient and venerable nation. It has much to teach us as literature alone. But if we add in the statutory foundations of ancient
, we find we are looking into the very heart of western civilization and law. This source cannot be dismissed out of hand. Israel
I recently published a book titled Bloodguilty Churches, which is addressed to the churches, to Christians and to people of faith and to others who might have a need to understand whether the religious right is representing the Bible accurately or not. In addition, I used biblical passages that conclusively demonstrate that the Bush administration is violating not only Old Testament legal statutes, but the words and intent of Jesus. I am a senior citizen, who has taken up the challenge of the dominionists by addressing their errors and agenda in every way I can. I personally believe along with Jim Wallis that the churches and our faith have been hijacked by unscrupulous wolves in sheeps clothing. And it is my desire to reach the hearts and minds of the innocent who have been led away into a sort of mental captivity.
I believe that our elected Democratic officials need to know and become aware of the fact that there are strong biblical statutes condemning the Bush administration agenda. They need not quote those passages, but they need not walk into the public forum feeling inferior in any way to their Republican counterparts or opponents! And what is more, they need not arrive at a public debate with the wrong belief that the progressive case is not even contained in the Bible! We do not expect our officials to be biblical scholars! However, neither do we desire them to develop a sense of inferiority that will affect their confidence and their moral authority as they debate and present their position on issues. Nor should they hesitate to quote passages of great beauty to inject uplifting language in their speeches. A line of beauty can lift the spirits of a whole assembly:
Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos ) NEB
Since I am guilty of quoting scripture in my essay and book to demonstrate that Mr. Bushs agenda is anti-Christian and against biblical moral standards, I would like to give all my readers the benefit of a portion of the preface I wrote for the book because it answers Jacobys concerns. You must decide for yourselves if I am writing out of reason or out of blind faith. The section opens with this question:
Cant Anyone Prove Any Position By Quoting Bible Verses?
The short answer and the long answer are both No. But first, I think you are entitled to know that I hold no degrees that would identify me as an expert on the Bible, save only this: I read the Bible through from cover to cover by the age of ten for the first time! Ive read it cover to cover many, many times since then. Also, I spent five and a half years of my life in the 1970s and early 1980s studying and researching the Pentateuch for a book that remains unpublished and which I initially titled, The Great Superbook Trial. My book became a defensean apologetic workthat showed the integrity and genius of the Old Testament.
The second fact about my background that plays a huge part in my book Bloodguilty Churches is my legal education at the
s Universityof Southern California . Though I completed only two years, those years redirected my life. I developed a passion for the rule of law and our judicial system and have actively participated in court cases and legal research and writing over a thirty year period. This book has been born in my passion for the biblical literature itself and in my love of the law. I am motivated by one major principle that up until now has made Schoolof Law a distinctive nation: we must continue to be ruled by laws not by men. America
After I posted Bloodguilty Churches on our web site at the YuricaReport.com, I received a number of letters from my readers. One letter stands out. My reader wrote, Your latest article cites chapter and verse from the Bible to argue against the far right policies of the Bush administration and its attacks against the poor. However, you fail to consider the opposed viewpoint, which justifies Bushs regressive policies. My correspondent then listed a long list of Bible verses that appear to denigrate the poor in some fashion. Verses such as, The poor are despised even by their neighbors, while the rich have many friends. (Proverbs 14:20-24.) The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7).
However, these verses do not pretend to speak for Gods view of the poor. In any case, they do not outweigh the statutory passages of the Bible. My correspondents position is not unlike the lawyer who must defend a client, but who has little or no legal precedents and no statutory law to back up his position. If that lawyer searches long enough and hard enough, he might find a court case in which a judge wrote something on an issue that was not adjudicated and that was not even part of the decision before the court but which supports his position. Thats called dictum, or in extreme cases obiter dictum.
If a lawyer has only dictum on his side, if he finds only statements here and there to quote either in or out of context, but his opponent has statutory law, documentary evidence and legal precedents to citethe first lawyer is going to lose. The reason is: all words in a book or in legal decisions do not have equal weight. That is also true of the Bible.
And here I would like to insert an example that is not in my original preface. When I was a youngster in a Pentecostal church, we all wanted to hear from God on a daily basis. The only way we could be sure we were hearing from God was to read the Bible. But thats a pretty big book! So we played what came to be known as Bible Roulette. We would take our Bibles, close our eyes and turn the book every which way, open it at random and point at something on a pagethen open our eyes to see what God was telling us. This worked pretty well until one day one kid read his word from God for the day: And Judas went out and hung himself. We all decided that was not an inspiring word from God so we told him to do it again. This time, he went through the process with great intensity. When he opened his eyes, his finger was pointing to these words, Go and do thou likewise! Thats how we learned that not every word in the Bible has equal gravity.
In Bloodguilty Churches, I cite the Criminal and Civil Code of the nation of ancient
as my authority. In addition, I cite passages from the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Micah to name just several. These prophets stood in a unique position; they were eyewitnesses to events and they authoritatively charged that the peoplethe citizensof the nation had been or would be carried away as captives and slaves because of the nations policies toward the poor (the widows, the orphans, the working poor of Israel and the immigrants). The prophets made the charge that the nation and its citizens had violated the statutory laws of Israel that required a national tax for the purpose of feeding and clothing the needy. Israel
But my correspondent was not satisfied with my response and sent another email saying, You fail to cite any commandment for governmentthe king, not the prieststo give to the poor. This is essentially my response with a few changes for clarification:
First the civil code of
ordered the people to pay taxes for the purpose of feeding and clothing the needy and to pay the civil servants who were to administer the laws. The government was established to execute or facilitate the purpose of the taxation. Not the other way around. In other words, the legal documents and laws were written before the government was even establishedjust as the Constitution preceded the establishment of the Israel U.S.A.
Secondly, one must recognize the existence of the civil code of
and the dual roles of the Levites (both as civil and religious servants). Moses was essentially a civil leader but his brother Aaron was a priest. While both brothers were Levites, all Levites were not priests. But the people of the nation were required to pay the taxes or tithes and the Levites were required by law to administer the program. (It is unclear if they consistently acted as civil servants or did so only sporadically.) Israel
It makes no difference which word you use to delineate the act of taxation. In Deuteronomy 24:17-22 the people of the nation were required to leave portions of their crops for the poor and needy, the widows and the orphans and even the wild animals to eat (see Leviticus 25:7).
The Statutory Code required that oil and grape crops be set aside and these two crops were excellent cash crops, which the needy could sell. I am describing a tax which the people executed without any apparent interference by the Levites. It was also a tax that transferred some wealth to the poor.
(Note: The tax payments consisting of crops from a farmer were not sent to the Levitesthe payment stayed upon the farmers own land.)
The working poor (See Deuteronomy 24:14-15), the widows, and orphans, the sojourners, and even the wild animals gleaned the fields as a matter of legal right. (See the story of Ruth in the Book of Judges.)
The entire nation was ordered to comply with the tax requirements. Moreover the Judges of Israel ruled
for about 410 years if we take the biblical literature at face value. Samuel, the last of the Judgeswas technically neither a Levite nor a Priest, but the taxation process was in forceyet there is no mention of priests or Levites in Israel at the time of his rulership. It was not until the people chose a King, that the kings began to neglect the Statutory Codes of Israel. When the people chose Saul over Samuel they substituted the rule of law for the rule of men. The Kings decreed the law at their whim. Israel
It is with great sadness that I point out in the pages of this book that we are standing now for the first time in the history of America, at a crossroads where American democracy hangs in the balance: either we shall regain the initiative from the religious-right and insure that we are a nation ruled by laws or we are doomed to march down the road toward the destruction of our Constitution and our freedom.
In closing, I would like to end with a parody I wrote because the fear of appearing to bring a Dr. Frist-like-cloak of religiosity into our public forum is real. While it is no laughing matter, it does help to laugh a little. Imagine what a public debate on the issues might consist of in the year 2020 should the GOP win their war. If there is a two-party system left it might sound like this:
The 2020 Presidential Debate
Democratic Candidate: John
Republican Candidate: Matthew 28:19
Democrat: James -27
Republican: Thats completely against the rules and I object! He quoted two verses at once!
Republican: Two can play that game: Romans 12:1-2
Democrat: Matthew 7:7-8
Republican: Matthew -21
No Democrat that I know of wants a theocracy. Lets not handicap ourselves by asking our side to enter the ring with one hand tied behind our collective back. We are a moral people. We are a courageous people. And we must not forget that social equality and political equality were created in ancient
and were renewed the day Jesus elevated the two precepts: the love of Truth and the requirement to love our neighbor as ourselves! Israel
Social and political equality were forged by the blood of our forebears and are the cornerstones of what it means to be democratic. I say, Shout it on the rooftops! (Its another line from the old torn book!) And if our side doesnt exceed Mr. Bushs speech writers ability to float across the country and reach the millions of folks who listen with an ear for the cadences of that old time religionwe may rue the day we failed to use the talent available to us.
Id love to hear a really great choir at the Democrats Convention singing, When the saints go marching in, when the saints go marching in. Oh Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in! Marching in where? In to the White House! In to the Senate! In to the House of Representatives! Were taking our country back! Were taking our faith back! Were bringing America back home! Were bringing our atheists, our agnostics, our humanists, our Muslims, our Hindus, our Buddhists, yes and our Christians with all the thousands of denominations, our immigrants and our youths and our elderly, our vets, our babies, our sick and our maimed, our hurt and all our pluralistic, multi-voiced, beautiful peoplewho are all welcome in our America! And were bringing America and ALL Americans back home! All Americans will have full civil rights and all will have the right to be who they are! We will never allow others to dominate our neighbors. Weve been to the mountain top with Martin Luther King! And we still carry his dream! We can still hear him sing, We shall overcome some day! And our day is now! We belong to the Family of Man! We live under the free stars of the heavens! We are the American dream! And we are the hope of all the ages! And yes, we believe in the separation of church and state because that was and is the inspired intent of the framers of our Constitution!
Edwin Markham wrote something we need to keep in mind:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took him in.
Katherine Yurica is a news intelligence analyst. She was educated at East Los Angeles College, the University of Southern California and the USC school of law. She worked as a consultant for Los Angeles County and as a news correspondent for Christianity Today plus as a freelance investigative reporter. She is the author of three books. She is also the publisher of the Yurica Report.
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