It's the Christianity, Stupid.
Close readers of The Sideshow already know that I was raised on the Gospels and that, to a large extent, this is where my values come from, even though I've left all the churchifying behind. It's not something I normally think of as part of my core identity, but I was taught that certain things were right and certain things were wrong, and I've thought about those things a lot in my lifetime, and they still seem pretty solid to me, whether you believe in a Higher Being or not.
I think most Americans - whether today they call themselves Christians, or atheists, or something else - pretty much picked up the same values in the same way.
Consider the teachings of Jesus: He preached against public piety, against putting material wealth above the spiritual, against casting the first stone, against bigotry. He spoke up for the poor and told us to love our neighbors. He blessed the peacemakers and the merciful, and taught his followers to share. He preached love, hope, and charity. He was about forgiveness and redemption.
And so, as someone who, "was raised on the Good Book Jesus 'til I read between the lines," it's pretty much impossible for me to look at the modern GOP and the Christian right - and particularly at the Bush administration - and see any of Jesus' teachings there. I don't claim to know the mind of any god (which, after all, would be blasphemy), but it seems to me that Bush represents the kind of self-righteous, publicly pious, war-mongering rich men who Jesus warned us not to become.
We all want material comfort, but most of us would rather not see our neighbors starve. We can spare a bit if it prevents large sections of the populace from becoming miserable. And Jesus hung out with tax-collectors, and told us to render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's. We can share.
We all have our prejudices, and many of us are uncomfortable with people who we see as too different from ourselves, but we don't want hateful discrimination written into our laws. And just as Jesus reminded us not to hate those of other religions just because they were of different tribes and faiths, we can learn to judge people by what they do, like the good Samaritan, rather than what they are - Muslims, gays, whatever.
Like most Americans, I do pick and choose which of the Ten Commandments I try to abide by, but some make sense to me not because they were decreed by a god, but because living by them just seems to make the world a better place. Killing and stealing seem like pretty bad ideas to me, for example, and bearing false witness makes things pretty nasty, too. So it's hard to put faith in leaders who steal our Social Security money, rob our treasury generally, and murder thousands of Iraqi civilians based on lies they made up about Saddam Hussein.
(They're not so good on the Seven Deadly Sins, either, now that I think of it.)
So there it is: We're liberals because no matter how far we've strayed from Sunday School, we still think like Christians - even those of us who never were.
And that's what it really means that America is a nation with Christian values. And by those values, we have to reject the leadership we are getting from Bush and the GOP.
[This article was originally published on 9 March 2004 at DailyNewsOnline.]