Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear Melissa Harris-Lacewell

Dear Melissa Harris-Lacewell:

I was delighted today to find your inaugural column in The Nation. Now I have another reason to immerse myself in this great publication. Now admittedly I am just getting to know of you, having followed you on Rachel Maddow and Countdown with Keith Olberman for several months now.

Your post in The Notion blog, Progressive Bible Study, I thought was something of a departure. I can understand why one would not want conservatives to abscond with whatever richness religion has to offer; I would only suggest that this richness never seems to reveal itself within the realm of the political. On the contrary, good democratic governance and free religious expression are greatly enhanced the more they remain free of each other's influence.

If you are suggesting that religious influence—in the form of enlightened morality—is a good thing, may I just say there is nothing uniquely religious about enlightened morality. Right and wrong are readily discerned by accessing more universally accepted paradigms within the realm of the secular.

Your suggestion that progressives stake their claim to a chair at the table of biblical influence in political matters (if I haven't misinterpreted or misunderstood you) reveals at best a naive hope that religious influence in political matters can somehow be moderated to the point of acceptability. I do not share this optimism given what I have seen over the past thirty years.

Whatever richness religion adds to our culture can best be maintained by keeping it quarantined from the political arena. When politics gets entangled with religion, the very religious freedom political leaders are tasked with protecting is threatened.

Don't cave on this issue. The rewards of standing firm are too valuable for our democracy to do without.

Yours truly,
A. Stickler [for keeping religion out of politics]

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