John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton


From today's Bleat at

When exactly do we stop scrunching up our shoulders when we’re happy? It's one of those things we teach ourselves not to do, perhaps; it's too unguarded, too childish.

You know, I still do this. There are times when I get so happy that I scrunch up my shoulders and literally bounce up and down. Is that childish? I've never thought of it that way. But if it is, so what? "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." And to prove the point, I may as well admit that quote came from an episode of Doctor Who ("Robot," the first Tom Baker adventure).

Elsewhere in the same Bleat, Lileks describes another aspect of my personality:

There are the religious liberals, who may take issue with the positions of their church, but are devout believers, and vote Democratic because they believe this is the best way to achieve a certain set of objectives; they are motivated by their conceptions of justice and compassion, and regard liberal policies not as the only way to achieve them, but the surest and the best.

That's largely true of me, though I disagree that liberal government policies are the surest and best way to achieve my conception of compassion and justice. I would argue that locally-run programs provide services to their communities that are better and more sure than any government program could provide. For example, I occasionally work with an organization called Interfaith Relief, which provides food assistance to families in need throughout Loudoun County. The families with whom Interfaith Relief works are almost without exception also eligible for Federal assistance, through the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. But the USDA doesn't have the resources to look for people in need; they rely on the people in need coming to them. And that's why an organization like Interfaith has the USDA beat: they're based in Loudoun County, so they're far more capable of finding people who need help and of making sure that those people get what they need.

Unfortunately, Interfaith Relief can't serve every community, and not every community has an organization like it. The value of liberal government programs is that they can extend some level of assistance to a far greater number of people than can any local organization.

Ultimately, the surest and best way to help people who need help is through public-private partnerships. That's one thing President Bush and I agree on: that government support of faith-based initiatives is a good idea. We differ on the details, of course, but we're on the same wavelength. The way I see it, funding for faith-based initiatives should work much like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting works: Congress would appropriate a certain amount of money each year to a private, non-profit corporation, which would in turn invest that money in local organizations, faith-based or otherwise, that perform certain social service functions. I think the Bush administration has in mind something more along the lines of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which to my way of thinking is not as good a solution, because the NEH is vulnerable to political pressures in a way the CPB is not.

It's interesting that Lileks happened to mention this today, because I've only very recently begun describing myself as a religious liberal. I've always been a liberal, and I've attended church most of my life, but I don't think I became a religious liberal until about six years ago. In my youth, I went to church every week, but I didn't take it very seriously, and I didn't really see that there was any connection between my religion and the rest of my life. And then I moved away from organized religion for about ten years, and during that period my faith waned. But after I started attending worship services again, I developed a more holistic approach to faith. Everything I do, everything I experience, influences my faith, and in turn my faith influences what I do. My (now former) pastor calls this "the faith journey" So of course my religious beliefs influence my politics, and vice versa. I think it was my irritation toward religious conservatives, and my belief that people shouldn't go around trying to impose their religious beliefs on other people, that kept me from realizing it sooner.

Religious conservatives still bug me, even though I understand where they're coming from better than I used to. But then, we religious liberals probably bug them too. Assuming they know we exist. There aren't many of us, and we tend not to draw much attention to ourselves. It's good that someone like Lileks is giving us a little exposure; he's widely read and respected in the conservative blogging community, so maybe he'll bring the concept of religious liberalism to the attention of some people who were previously unaware of it.


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