Monday, September 13, 2010

My Problem WIth "Family Values"

"It has nothing to do with politics, it has everything to do with God, turning our face back to the values and principals that made us great.”
-Glenn Beck at the Restoring Honor rally (8/28/10)

During Glenn Beck’s speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, he reinforced an argument that has been in the political field since the time of Nixon. It’s the idea returning to core Christians values, “family values” as a way to improve our country.

Here's the thing: My parents aren’t Christian and they didn’t raise my brother with an affiliation to any organized religion. However, all of us are good citizens. We pay our taxes, work hard at our jobs, don’t disturb the peace (except for maybe a parking ticket) and we’ve all done the best we can to take care of the people we love and improve the world around us. We did this all without "Christian" values.

You may argue that my family does exhibit Christian values even though we are not Christian, but that’s implying that only in Christianity do you find the values of hard working, love and family. These wonderful ideas are found in almost every book of faith from religions around the world including the Koran, Torah and the teachings of Buddha.

Christian values directly contributed to some of the greatest things in our country including the public schools system and music education. However, these same "values" also were distorted to lead to institutional racism and the ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans (If you think the term "ethnic cleansing" is too rough a term, read up on the Trail Of Tears).

I understand that it seems like there’s a lot people acting wickedly in society. People regularly cheat and steal from each other. Some people are motivated more by money than by good deeds while many of us ignore the plight of others who are most in need of our compassion. If doesn’t take a lot of effort to find examples of people who act sinfully.

Maybe an injection of “values” into all of us will remind us what it means to take care of each other and be a community. However it’s not a return to a Christian God that will get us there. It’s in acknowledging and embracing the best values that we share, religious or not that we can improve our communities.

The main reason I feel so strongly about embracing religious plurality is because it’s been such a positive aspect of my marriage. My wife is Catholic and I’m Buddhist. I’ve watched her cantor in her Catholic Church and she’s done Buddhist chants with me at my grandfather’s funeral. We had a beautiful interfaith wedding ceremony and while I would never claim that we have the greatest marriage ever, I’m proud of our relationship.

One of the reasons we make such great partners is because we share so many values. My parents and my in-laws are similar in the best ways and the instilled in us life-affirming ideas and a perspective in life that Diana and I share across religions.

By preaching a return to a Christian ideas and values it divides us alienating non-Christians.  Instead let's unite under the values we all share.  This requires us to have some tough discussion, to be more accepting and to put aside our instinctual to fear of what is different.  But if we can do this it will bring us together which is the only way that we can make a better America for generations to come.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in Glenn Beck. He's a tool. His career is one of bafoonish showmanism that changes to suit whatever wave of emotion he sees going on in the world. As such, I doubt that people aren't already embracing that religious plurality that you describe. New York mosque issue aside, hundreds to thousands of mosques have been built in the U.S. since 9-11 with no controversy related to it. I don't hear about people ganging up on or denouncing Buddhists or Hindus either. I do think that a lot of people turn out to events like Glenn Beck's recent one, not necessarily because they want us to become a bible-belt nation, but more because of a generalized distrust and disgust with the way a lot of things are being handled in our society today. Beck puts on the mantle of religion to try to avoid criticism for some of the things he says. Recently by wearing the mantle at his rally he's trying to rebrand himself as a modern-day Martin Luther King which is absurd enough to make milk curdle in my stomach (had I drank any).