The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

Religion Not Always for the Masses

In courts of law, we swear by it. In just about any ratty hotel, you're sure to find a copy to muse over. But why are people so obsessed with this document?

Obviously, the Bible lies at the heart of Christianity. And since a large percentage of the population subscribes to Christian beliefs, it makes sense that the Holy Bible is the one book you can most easily locate. But all you Bible-beaters out there should realize that not everyone subscribes to your dogma.

Take our very own President-elect George W. Bush for instance. Recently, at a meeting with religious leaders in Austin, Texas, ol' Dubya outlined his plan to create a new federal agency -- the Office of Faith-Based Action. Bush has said time and time again that his administration will seek out faith-based organizations to educate kids, fight drug problems and combat a slew of other social problems.

So far, Bush has primarily showed interest in supporting Christian organizations. If he's so intent on federally funding Christian groups, he should be just as willing to fund other religious groups. But how likely is it that Bush is interested in handing over taxpayer money to Muslim groups or Buddhists? Members of other religious groups might be just as interested in solving a variety of social problems, but are they going to be federally funded for their work? I wouldn't bet on it.

Odds are, Bush plans on primarily supporting Christian organizations that do actually help drug addicts and such improve their lives -- with the hidden agenda of expanding church membership.

In the past, Bush has praised the work of San Antonio's Victory Fellowship, which has helped many drug addicts overcome their problems by helping them dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ.

Groups that help troubled individuals by inviting them into their faith community should be admired. But Bush's proposal to hand such groups taxpayer money comes just a little too close to blurring that important line dividing the church and state.

These faith-based organizations should be left to operate without any sort of federal interference.

I'm not comfortable with the idea of the government using my taxes to support some religious groups while it will likely disregard others. But it doesn't surprise me that Bush would think this idea would flow well with the general mass.

This brings me back to my whole question of why everyone seems to be obsessed with the Bible in general.

By making plans to federally support Christian groups, Bush is doing the pretty thing. He's doing exactly what too many people in society do everyday by assuming that everyone is Christian and does -- or at least should -- subscribe to the doctrines laid out in the Bible. People are far too quick to assume that the Bible, or Christianity in general, is right for everyone.

But what truly befuddles me is how individuals use the Bible in ways most fitting for their own lifestyles.

Take the entire book of Leviticus for example. It clearly states that homosexuality is wrong or somehow evil. Then again, the book also forbids one from eating pork.

Okay, if you're going to tell me I'm destined to burn in hell, tell me it's because I unabashedly enjoy sausage biscuits for breakfast. I love pork chops, ham, bologna and just about anything else you can get from a pig -- the unclean beast that it is. Or pick any of the other sins spelled out all through the Bible and condemn me all you want.

But don't ride to me on your high horse with news that homosexuality is evil and therefore by sleeping with men, I'm going to burn in a pit of fire and brimstone.

Tell me I'm doomed because of my choice for breakfast foods instead.

Either way, I'll laugh all the same.

It's just not that often you find people protesting the consumption of pork. Instead, individuals pick the parts of the Bible to live by that most conveniently fit their own lifestyles. If you're not a homosexual, then it's easy to say that it's wrong. But if you are gay, you might find parts of the Bible very offensive and degrading.

And people are entitled to follow the beliefs that work for them. No one can claim his or her individual truth is right for others. So if you find that all parts of the Bible -- or just small segments -- float your spiritual boat, grand. But if the Bible does nothing for you, that's fine as well.

Either way, don't assume that everyone's going to follow your beliefs. The Bible itself is very contradictory and open to mass interpretation. Some people would rather not interpret it at all, for they want nothing to do with religions centering around the Bible.

So even if someone as prominent as George W. Bush assumes that using taxpayer money to support Christian groups is OK, that doesn't mean that you should.

Nor should you ever assume that what's pretty and acceptable to the mass is good for everyone else.

Cameron Mitchell is a junior journalism and mass communication major from Burnsville. Reach him at mitchel6@email.unc.edu. If you feel the need to threaten the columnist with bodily harm, vent your frustration by writing a letter to the editor instead.

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