The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche correctly described our 2,000-year Christian era as a time of “anti-nature,” in which humanity tamed the normal savageness of reality by emphasizing an ethic of mercy and love. Instead of embracing the survival of the fittest, western nations decided to work toward creating a better world for all, as the Gospels commanded.
In other words, the Bible naturally lends itself to a liberal view of society. If we start from the premise that every individual is a divine treasure, imbued with an immortal soul, it becomes instinctive to ensure that folks have access to universal health care, living wages and an education to fully develop their talents.
One would think that, in light of these facts, the left would use religion as a tool for achieving their political goals.
Yet instead, Christianity’s loudest supporters today are now exclusively on the other side – and their theology is a brutal one, devoid of poetry.
Hard-right evangelicals have taken a doctrine that was originally invented to bring down the powerful and serve the meek, and transformed it into a tool for achieving tax cuts for the rich and greater social control. Instead of faith, hope and love, their message promotes selfishness, fear and bigotry.
This status quo presents a serious problem.
America is still a majority-Christian country where spiritual appeals have great persuasive force. Political movements that successfully claim to speak for the divine — from abolitionism to the civil rights struggle and the Reagan revolution — have a proven track record of gaining power.
Therefore, letting the right have a monopoly on faith is a disastrous mistake.
It is imperative that Democrats also engage with religious communities. We must talk to these people in a mature, respectful way that can persuade them to support a liberal agenda.
This new rhetorical approach should promote two key ideas.
First, there is no theological warrant for using the government to force the Bible on anyone. Quite the opposite. Jesus consistently instructed his followers to instead spread his principles through preaching and missionary work.
The unconverted are supposed to choose holiness through their own free will, not because they’re afraid of going to jail.
The implications of this teaching are clear: Evangelical conservative attempts to restrict gay rights and abortion are decidedly wrongheaded.
Democrats must repeat this message over and over. Far too many Christians still believe they are spiritually required to vote for the GOP, solely because of social issues.
This false thinking has to change in order for the left to have a meaningful shot at rebuilding its influence among the faithful.
Second, practically every other verse in scripture is an explicit instruction to take care of the marginalized.
For example, here is an excerpt from Deuteronomy 15: “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.”
There is no exception to that command, no call for limiting assistance with work requirements, drug tests, or other onerous restrictions.
Where there is suffering, a Christian is expected to heal it by any means necessary.
Only the federal government is capable of mobilizing the resources for achieving this task. Private charity is wonderful, no doubt, but the YMCA is simply not able to match the impact of the Social Security Administration.
Therefore, while there is no legitimate basis for passing laws to prevent a loving, gay marriage, Democrats can passionately explain to voters that a progressive safety net is a Biblical necessity.
We can boldly declare that our program, not the other guys, is the real faith-based initiative.
Equipped with these arguments, the left will be able to meaningfully beat back the phony religion of the GOP, and turn America toward its better angels.
That’s a far better approach than abandoning God altogether, and letting the most crooked figures in our politics claim his mantle.
Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.