Gary Hart: God and Caesar in America

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We take up again on Monday the church-and-state question — the Jeffersonian legacy and our Theocracy in America anxieties — with Gary Hart, the former Senator and presidential contender from Colorado. Before he got into law or politics, Gary Hart earned a divinity degree at Yale. He was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and graduated from Bethany Nazarene College. He has just published a thoughtful brief about a religious revival underway in America and the risky implications in political life.

…personal faith must be translated into the political context, not politics translated into the religious context.

Those on the right seem to think that they deserve a special place on the political platform simply because they are intense in their beliefs and that their intensity is somehow significantly more spiritual than anybody else’s. But I hold to my religious beliefs and am committed to the liberal humanitarian agenda they command in me, every bit as strongly as any person on the religious right. It does not seem to occur to those on the religious right that another person’s spiritual beliefs might lead them to different political conclusions, conclusions that we should care for the poor, seek peaceful resolution of conflict before making war, act as nature’s stewards, or be committed to social justice. The religious right is entitled to its interpretation of religious truth. It is not entitled to concludde that the intensity of its passions grants it a position of political superiority.

Gary Hart, God and Caesar in America, Fulcrum Publishing

That’s just a fragment of the argument, but it’s a start. Senator Santorum, James Dobson–will you join us?

Gary Hart

U.S. Senator from Colorado, 1975-1987

Author, God and Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics

Dr. Barrett Duke

Vice President, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Roy Moore

Former Chief Justice of Alabama

In 2001, Moore installed a 5,300-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the central rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building.

Running for Alabama Governor in 2006

Jeff Sharlet

co-founder, Killing the Buddha

editor, The Revealer

previous Open Source guest for God 2.0

A Gary Hart Reading List by Listener Franz Hartl

Who will say ‘no more’?

When the Personal Shouldn’t Be Political

Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st-Century America

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  • This is EXACTLY the type of Values-Message that I think the Democrats must start to make. I’m so sick of this perception that the Conservative Right somehow owns the realm of moral values.

  • manning120

    Senator Hart gets off track immediately. In our country, if we’re true to the ideals of the founders, personal faith must NOT be translated into the political context. The greatest invention of all time isn’t electricity, the automobile, or medicine – it’s separation of church and state: the principle that laws must be more than codifications of religious belief.

    While religious beliefs such as Senator Hart’s, or those with whom he contrasts himself, can inspire laws, and laws may even coincide with religious tenets, there must always be an underlying secular basis. It doesn’t matter whether religious belief is liberal or conservative, devoutly or passionately held, or even hypocritical. The secular ground is paramount.

    Our early national experience of a multiplicity of religious groups and attempted imposition by such groups of their particular doctrines on everyone gave rise to the constitutional laws embodying separation: the anti-establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment, as well as the prohibition of a religious test for office holders.

    Of course, these days separation of church and state has fallen into disrepute, and the legal safeguards are falling into disrepair, although they still retain a lot of vitality. We must address the problem by educating the populace about why separation of church and state is imperative, and by resisting efforts (like the banning of abortion and same-sex marriage, and establishing official religious symbolism) to codify religious doctrine into law.

    I agree that believers — on the left or the right — aren’t entitled to conclude that the intensity of their religious passions grants them “a position of political superiority.â€? The reason isn’t that such believers ought to recognize that “another person’s spiritual beliefs might lead them to different political conclusions.â€? It’s because we should honor separation of church and state.

  • loki

    Bring Back Gary Hart! We need fresh ideas! Gary Hart ableit moneybusiness has been one of the great political thinkers and practioners of modern time. His essys on national Sercurity and Ecology have been timely. Now we hear his thoughtful comments on religion,politics and society. Kerry,Gore and Clinton(Hillary and Bill) move over-Hart is the true democrat visonary response to Busharama.

  • Potter

    I was listening to John McCain today. He apparently has a book out and is making the rounds. He apparently also polls as a favorite for president in 08. He feels that “inteliigent design” should be taught in the schools along with the theory of evolution side by side, not in separate classes. I am horrified.

    What are we going to do about this? What can we do about a large percentage of the population questioning science, seeing it as a threat to their religion and insisting on changing the school curriculum to reflect their beliefs? How do we deal with this?

  • Franz Hartl

    So I have been subscribing to the podcast for quite a few weeks now, and decided to make the plunge and become an active member of the radio open source community. One of my first suggestions was going to suggest Gary Hart to answer your Jeffersonian religious question. And, before I can say anything here we are with Senator Hart and Christopher Lydon connecting. So now I HAVE TO PARTICIPATE.

    So let me throw some stuff to the community, show you why I wanted Senator Hart on Radio Open Source

    1. Two of the best Op-Ed pieces written last year were written by the Good Senator. Who will say ‘no more’? a little ditty found in the WaPo about the little adventure we have going on Mesopotamia. And When the Personal Shouldn’t Be Political A piece religion in the public square, that was dropped immediately after the 2004 election. Both pieces are scrumptious. Required reading for anybody wanting to see a way out of the mess we find our politics in today.

    2. Hart’s “Restoration of the Republic� A Jeffersonian vision for democracy is fantastic work of political theory. The book is about the idea that we should bring Democracy down to the people, to establish “ward republics.� I want to know how something like this can be translated into Protestant Christian Values. As a Catholic, I view the “ward republics� and the idea of open source to be consistent with the Social Justice value of Subsidiarity (discussed in “Restoration of the Republic� on pages 19-20) How do you two religious minds, (I’m looking at you Chris too.) reconcile your love for open source and democracy and your personal religious beliefs.

    3. The GodFather of open source politics is not Joe Trippi, it is Gary Hart. Concentric Circle organizing, Blogging for the Presidency, all pioneered by Senator Hart. And this after he pioneered direct mail! So on Radio Open Source, I need to hear what Senator Hart is thinking about ’08. I don’t want to hear anything about Age, Especially when this two time Candidate here is younger than McCain. And the tools that were developed in ’04 season would be mature enough to run a truly different type of campaign. So ask him THE question.

    I can’t wait to listen and participate online.

  • howardpark

    Sen. Hart’s message (I have not yet read the book) sounds a lot like things I’ve also heard in the media from Jimmy Carter and former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) — is there any possibility that Hart would get together with people like Carter and expand the message into a movement? Any hope for beyond the book tour?

    Howard Park

  • Cooking dinner, so I didn’t catch who said what, but I always took “render” quote to call for a seperation of church and state. If I’m not mistaken, I thought that the Jews of the first century era felt that the Temple was too pervasive in their lives. This atmosphere produces not only Jesus of Nazareth, but namesake, Yohanan ben Zakkai, who urged Jews that “the true temple is in your hearts” (as or after the physical Temple was destroyed).

    Oops. The latkes are burning…

  • Oh my goodness, I just wanted to point out that the bible is full of stories of incest, so I’m not certain it’s entirely fair to say that the bible is what keeps us from incest. O_o It’s not in the constitution, but there is a culture that exists bewteen the constitution and the bible, and it too infuses society with values and ideas of right and wrong.

    Had to be said.

  • Potter

    Gary Hart is absolutely right… it’s about tolerance and the religious right is not tolerant. That’s the way I see it too.

  • There is of course incest in the Bible, but used to explain the genesis of competing tribes (e.g., Ham, the father of Canaan).

    Chris probed Roy Moore on the prohibition of false idols… he probably had Joshua Green’s Atlantic Monthly article Roy and his Rock in mind. The message of the Ten Commandments may well be that God can be one’s co-pilot, but certainly not one’s running mate.

  • Potter

    Gary Hart: Religion is about absolute and politics is about compromise.

  • howardpark

    I do agree with Potter — Hart’s succenct, penetrating one sentence exposition of the difference between religion & politics is what I will remember after I have forgotten much else about today’s show.

  • Potter

    Gary Hart should have had the hour without the other guests who were a repetition of what we have heard before.

    To Chris’s PGA: I feel that we are already in the hazardous zone. of this “fashion”.

    But I love your comments after that about religion. For me religion IS tolerance and in the political realm that must mean compromise. But that means pushing back.

    Today I heard an interview with John McCain that turned my stomach on that score.

  • jrl

    This has been a very interesting discussion but, unless I missed something, there has been no recognition that there is some healthy proportion of atheists in this country that have no representation in this government and no protection from religious indoctrination. There has been discussion about the rights of people of other faiths, besides christianity, but there are many people that believe we should have freedom from religious people who feel it is their right to tell us what to do and what to believe. I believe that people of all faiths and no faiths should be free from each others influence to practice each as we choose. The existence of a supernatural being is, as yet, unproven and should be absent from any form of civil governance.

  • ctodd

    Shame on ALL of you for issuing another language-war victory to the religious right. How can you let Dr. Duke refer to the “abortion culture in this country” and not say ANYTHING!?! NO ONE is PRO-ABORTION! And EVERY time some one refers to the “abortion” side of the debate or the “pro-abortion” group – we ALL must stand up and correct them.

  • loki

    Why not Gary Hart and his lawschool/dvinity John Danforth on a show together-perhaps McCain?

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