Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sign o' the times

If there is a theme that I hear constantly from the left leaning political sites that I frequent so often, it is that the rhetoric of the religious "right," has highjacked Christianity in the same way that radical fundementalism in Islam has determined the public face of that faith. And just what are those who stand in the Christian faith and are appalled at the theology and praxis of this extremely shrill minority doing to counter this?

Well, voices are getting louder. And now, from a grassroots level (courtesy of kos), new attempts to take back the language of faith in a way that reflects the values I would like to see a political organization have. Behold, new signs in South Dakota.

Despite the unfortunate grammer and lack of visual impact, the signs are garnering a response.

"We have received some hate mail, but most of the feedback has been very positive."

Executive Director Roger Berggren noted, "I am not sure the 'Jesus cares for the poor' sign speaks to everybody, but it does speak to those Christian progressives that have spent the last two years walking though church seeing James Dobson fliers and hearing their Priests and Ministers tell them they cannot be a good Christian and a good Democrat at the same time."

Amy Crusinberry a student at Sioux Falls University said she loves the sign. After attending an english class where a student calmly got up and told the class "all Democrats are going to hell," she changed her mind about being silent on faith issues. "For me, a huge part of being a Democrat is changing people's narrow-minded views and I think it's possible. It's just going to take some people who are not afraid."

Will these signs have a positive impact? I really don't know. At this time, they are only going up in Souix Falls, SD, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

For what its worth, I doubt that this will change anyone's voting habits. This is all about re-framing and re-imaging the Democratic party-reaching back to rural, conservative roots. This is, again, using the language of faith to create an identity in people's minds.

With all respect to Ms. Crusinberry, I don't think that being a Democrat is about "changing people's narrow minded views." All indications are that there are plenty of those to go around at all points on the political spectrum. And I can gaurentee you that these signs won't do it.

What will the signs do? They will make those who have thought this way all along (like myself) say: "Yeah! Its about time I saw this!" It will make those who wouldn't beleive it, even if a voter registration card registering Jesus bar-Joseph as a Democrat fell out of the Shroud of Turin, say: "Damn, liars! They've got no right to use Jesus' name in an advertisement." For most people, the signs will barely impinge upon their conscious thought.

Nevertheless, I'm glad to see them. I will be even more glad when the actions of our representatives match the sentiments on the sign. If these signs in any way embolden people of faith to demand that their representatives live up to the standards to which they claim to adhere, that's a good thing. If these signs are the beginning of a true effort by the Democrats towards self-definition, and is accompanied by a firm rejection of the identity imposed upon them in the ongoing battle of the "frame," that is also a worthy effort.

Cynic that I am, I'm not too hopeful that business as usual is going to suffer a loss in profits. Idealist that I am, I am hopeful that by defining the Democratic party this way, we can actually become what we say we are.

Life in tension-is there any other way to live?

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