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Monday, August 1, 2011

Religion and Politics: Disgraceful

Disgraceful adjective shameful, shocking, scandalous, mean, low, infamous, degrading, unworthy, ignominious, disreputable, contemptible, dishonourable, detestable, discreditable, blameworthy, opprobrious, without grace.


I've been observing the Tea Party and their campaigns, views and choices since before the presidential election in 2008. I keep looking for what I must be missing - the part that makes sense.

I completely understand the disapproval of the way things have typically been done in Washington, and the business of politics. I understand wanting to "shake things up" over there and get things done the way that Americans agree they should be done, but that's where I get stopped. This group doesn't seem to really represent what Americans agree should be done, not as a majority. The polls are pretty clear about this.

The Tea Party is consistently driving their personal agenda of swaddling most of their decisions and opinions in religion and making no apologies for it. There are many examples of this but the one that struck me last Thursday was when a handful of freshmen Congressmen - the one's that the Tea Party endorsed and helped get elected to office - stepped out of the debt ceiling negotiations to go into the chapel to pray for answers. They were leaving their voting decision to God. Really? Is that what they were elected to do - pray? Surely someone told them they were supposed to be paying attention to what's going on and representing their constituents, right?

So not only aren't they doing the job they were elected to do, but they are getting paid to sit in a chapel and pray and bring THEIR faith into OUR government process? That's disturbing to me. The entire Tea Party's influence is clearly disproportionate to the wishes of the majority of American people, yet there it is, and it's inhibiting all the good work that could be getting done by standing in the way and insisting on unreasonable demands shaped by narrow-minded religious views. Is that what God wants?

I'm not against religion. I'm not against faith. I believe everyone is entitled to the freedom to choose to believe in whatever they want to and to worship however they please, privately and keeping their practices legal. I don't have to agree with them but if that's what they want to do it's okay with me so long as they aren't imposing their beliefs on others. I'm against mixing religion and faith into our government in a way that doesn't serve everyone fairly and positively, or restricts personal rights and freedoms. I'm also against the big business of religion getting away with the tax loop holes that only religion can.

Religion, as a cornerstone of any elected officials' platform and it's influence on their decision making when it comes to government policies, seems to me to be inconsistent with the business of governing a country of people as diverse as ours, especially when it comes to faith. Morals and ethics are not exclusive practices to religion or the religious and they are not found in a chapel. They are available to everyone. Everyone who chooses to practice them.

I don't mean to single out just the Tea Party. Certainly poor choices are not exclusive to them. I find myself wondering; if the Tea Party, or anyone for that matter, is going to mix religion and politics, what's the benefit for everyone? Where do Tea Partier's morals and ethics really lie when those who believe so strongly in their faith and their religious institutions make such underwhelming contributions to the solutions in our country? And why is God allowed to grow richer at everyone's expense?

It's disgraceful.

Religion received 35% of all the charitable donations, or over $100 billion just last year, with an additional non-cash donations of another $18 billion+. http://www.nps.gov/partnerships/fundraising_individuals_statistics.htm  and it keeps going up, year after year.

Religious institutions hold large portfolios of property and assets which continue to grow but they pay no taxes on those. They generate revenue and earnings from the businesses they own and operate, some unrelated to their causes, those aren't taxed either.  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,909200-2,00.html  

These are the numbers that are reported to the IRS. But religion is providing services for those in need, right? Well sort of, but it's services are not always available to any and all of the needy, like non-faith based charities, sometimes just their own and not nearly proportionate to it's revenue and value. Studies show that when it comes to providing charitable services, faith based organizations fall significantly short of secular charity and government funded services. http://yashwata.info/2010/07/16/charity2/

Oh, and unlike any other business, religion and faith-based charities depend largely on volunteers to keep their organizations running and profitable. That's right, so it isn't a taxpayer, it doesn't provide charitable services for everyone and it isn't a job creator.

So here's what does make sense to me: Taking the narrow-minded religious views that are not shared by the majority of voters out of our country's policy making and taxing religion just like any other business, because that's what religion is, BIG business. Then it would gracefully be contributing to good for all of us. And from what I've learned from religion, God would want it that way.

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