Articles From the September 1994 Unification News


On Religion and Politics in America

I read two fascinating articles this month, which illustrate the appeal of both the political left and right:

"It is not a question of what policy government should finally adopt. . . . Rather, it is a question of the spirit with which Americans--and Christians--should regard the poor and the terminally ill. The Christian right is, in fact, a perfect example of what happens when the founding principles of church and state are violated. What Jefferson and Madison understood, and what Niebuhr affirmed 150 years later, is that Christianity does not provide a political agenda but rather an underlying social conscience with which to approach politics. Religion plays its most constructive role precisely when church and state are separate.

"When the two are fused, however, when organizations acting in the name of Christianity seek political power, then religion becomes subordinate to politics. It becomes infected with the darker egoism of group and nation; it no longer softens and counters our ungenerous impulses but clothes them in holy righteousness." John B. Judis, "Crosses to Bear" The New Republic, 9/12/94

"Media stories describe--or perhaps intend to further--a growing rift between 'Main Street conservatives' (as the Chicago Tribune styles them) and the 'Christians,' frequently qualified as fundamentalists. Actually it is these 'extremist' and 'fundamentalist' Christians who represent what until recently was taken for granted as the common standards and the common moral language of America. By consistently calling such former common standards extreme, the coverage tends to frighten those whom we might call meek moralists off the field and leads them to huddle around morally questionable leaders such as President Clinton and Senator Robb lest--perish the thought--they be found inthe company of 'religious rightists' such as Messrs. Pat Robertson, Allen Quist, et al. The fact that the whole debate is pressed within the confines of one party obscures the fact that the 'extremists' are raising moral and ethical issues of fundamental importance, issues that should not be masked as though they were merely pretexts for a power grab within the minority party. This is an impoverishment of the political process in the United States, the sort of thing that Steven Carter and Richard Neuhaus have condemned, winning a measure of applause--but scant cooperation--from mainstream media." The Religion and Society Report, September 1994.

Here we have two nicely crafted statements presenting the logic of the contemporary left and right in America, and difference between them. For the left, religion is an attitude of heart and conscience. It is the leaven of spirit which allows those who differ on public policy to maintain mutual respect and cordiality. God likes nice people, and beyond that has no opinions. From this perspective, once religion is identified with particular policies, it creates not righteous feelings but self-righteous feelings. God becomes a political partisan whose opponent, naturally, is Satan. Men have done terrible things, in the name of God, to those whom they judged to be in league with the devil.

For the right, on the other hand, religion means little if it does not tell us what is right and what is wrong. God is a being not only of heart but of moral law and principle. Here the adjective "moral" indicates that practice of these laws is dependent upon human responsibility. God's moral laws describe the ways in which love works; to practice them brings God's blessing and harmony with nature (the creation's and our own). God has very definite opinions, therefore, about how we should live. God's law is written in our hearts; to violate it is to betray our own being, is to lose God's blessing and to stand alienated from nature and from ourselves. This world is the theatre of struggle between good (obedience to the law) and evil (disobedience thereof), both within ourselves and within society.

To the left, then, God is on the side of those who are generous, compassionate, reasonable and tolerant. The government is responsible, then, to bring about a society which is generous (welfare, health care), compassionate (public housing, save the spotted owls), reasonable (personal privacy, pro-choice) and tolerant (affirmative action, equal rights for gays and lesbians). To the right, God is on the side of those who work hard and maintain good marriages and families. The government is responsible, then, to honor ownership based upon work (private property, free market economy), and the nuclear family (pro-life, premarital abstinence, sanctions against homosexuality, anti-pornography).

Unificationism is the middle way, the "head-wing" between the right and left-wings. Our doctrine of the "merit of the age" helps explain the character of the left-wing. The merit of the age signifies that as history progresses, the spiritual level of the human race as a whole matures. It is not accidental, then, that at the close of the twentieth-century we find a relative abundance of generous, compassionate, reasonable and tolerant people. Principle teaches, however, that this state of affairs is the result of thousands of years of indemnity, of living in obedience to God's laws.

To separate humane virtues from the life of practicing God's laws is to undermine the foundation for those virtues. It is to create what Durwood Foster, in an early New ERA theologian's conference at UTS, termed a "cut-flower culture." Now the sociological evidence from every quarter is clear that the violation of nuclear family norms- i.e., the moral law-leads in a very short time to the breakdown of culture.

It is an irony worth mentioning that Barbara Defoe Whitehead's famous article in the Atlantic which brought this fact home to most literate Americans was titled "Dan Quayle Was Right". Is Dan Quayle dead? Has he changed his views about two-parent families? Neither is the case. Then, why wasn't the article entitled: "Dan Quayle Is Right"?

In this instance, the left is following the most scorned tradition of institutional religion: burn the heretic and adopt the heresy. In one fell swoop they relegated Mr. Quayle to history and took possession of his "family values" agenda as their own. Thus the way was cleared for our Surgeon General Dr. Elders to champion family values. For her, of course, a family is any set of human beings who live under one roof, enjoy sex together, and are generous, compassionate, reasonable and tolerant with each other.

Unificationism also explains the limitations of the right. Obedience to the law should lead to, and finally be sublimated by, the perfection of heart. This is to be accomplished realistically in the family. The first great achievement or goal of lawful living is the perfection of one's individuality. The family is the social environment planned by God to bring about this fulfillment for every person. Within the context of true parental love and education, along with brother and sister love, the perfection of individuality is a natural outcome of true family life.

The problem of Jesus not marrying and rearing a family now becomes obvious. Without true parents bringing about true families, the perfection of individuality is an unattainable goal, proximity to which has been approached only by a few saints. Thus we have imperfect families producing immature people, imperfect people, who themselves marry and create more imperfect families. There is no perfection of heart in this world. In this context, obedience to the law becomes an end in itself; there is no payoff of true love. "Where's the meat"?, the left can rightly complain. The right all too easily becomes strident, narrow, bigoted.

Reverend and Mrs. Moon's brilliance is in their maintenance of true parental love for all God's children, of both left and right. They are teaching and practicing the essential truth of love. In them the moral law of family life is fulfilled. In the embrace of that love, left and right can harmonize.

Children, who are immature, naturally despoil the house and fight with each other. This is because the first quality of immaturity is selfishness, inability to see from God's viewpoint, the parental viewpoint. The destructiveness and conflicts of children are controlled by the parents, who are relatively mature; parents tend naturally to see from the vertical, or parental, position. This "control", of course, has meaning and effectiveness only on the basis of the children's recognition of the parents' love for them.

Adults, who are immature, naturally despoil the planet and fight with each other. The destructiveness and conflicts of national leaders are to be controlled by those who can take a parental position to the world. Again, this "control" has meaning and effectiveness only on the basis of the recognition of God's parental love through them.

This is the significance of Rev. and Mrs. Moon's great efforts to bring together national leaders around one banquet table. They are able to unite left and right; Jew, Christian and Muslim; black, white and yellow; communists and anti-communists; and that greatest of divisions: men and women. The resolution of conflicts does not come from the negotiating table alone. The first requirement is the presence of true parents' love.


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