Tag Archives: religion

The Power and the Vainglory: Roy Moore’s Sad Mad Power Grab

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, without ever meeting him: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”   The expression actually goes back a bit further in English literature, appearing as “counting spoons” in James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

“Why Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks he is lying; and I see not what honour  he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar.  But if he does really think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”

The metaphor has lost some of its relevancy in an age wherein table spoons come not just in pewter or silver, but in aluminum, stainless steel, and various kinds of plastic.  However, it holds its force as a description of the prudent response to voluble protestations of (self) righteousness.

Did we not wonder why the man was so vehemently anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-modernity?  Why he insisted beyond all reason that a massive monument to the Ten Commandments be installed in his courthouse?   Most counties are satisfied with a smaller, more tasteful, monument located on a nice piece of manicured lawn.  Not so Mr. Moore.  Most public officers were, at least grudgingly, willing to abide by the law of the land on gay marriage.  Not so Mr. Moore.

Most people in this country are willing to tolerate a range of beliefs, even if such beliefs are personally objectionable.  Not so Mr. Moore, who is essentially an eliminationist.  Those with whom he disagrees should be silenced.  Those of whom he does not approve must be incarcerated.   Some scholars have associated the Nazi eliminationism with native antisemitism.  The combination was violently toxic and heinously lethal.  Moore espouses a particularly vehement hatred of Muslims — they are to be excluded from public office and civil society.  Moore has decried that the “government started creating new rights in 1965.”  The date is instructive.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut was rendered in 1965.  Mr. Moore is nothing new on the face of the earth. He’s as old as patriarchal tribal conflict.

He’s as old as the theories of female responsibility for leading First Man astray, as old as the opponents of the cults of Isis, Aphrodite, and  Mother Earth.  There’s no single point of origin for misogyny, but Mr. Moore can find plenty of carefully selected Biblical passages to buttress his prejudices.  We could also assemble a number of equally carefully selected passages to oppose his views.  The common denominator for these views precipitate down to Power.  Not necessarily sex, but power of one gender over another.

This isn’t about a cultural issue, although support for Mr. Moore can be utilized as a “political wedge issue,” under the category of Culture Wars.  However, no matter how it’s implemented, it’s still not a cultural issue. It’s still about good old fashioned garden variety power.

Why else would a 30+ year old man seek the attentions of teenage girls?  Why else would a man grope? Not because it’s a form of play — but because it’s a display of power.  And that’s the last thing Mr. Moore needs to possess — more power over anyone, anywhere, anytime.  The good people of Alabama deserve better representation than that which is so sadly demonstrated by Mr. Moore.

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Culture Wars in the Potty

Iron Age

Once upon a time, for example back in the Iron Age, patriarchal bands hunted, planted, and herded.  Their story was collected, passed down, and now is accepted by some as literal. [AlterN]  Unfortunately, the Iron Age Rules of the Game don’t fit for everyone in the 21st century.  If one of the central rules was an “iron-clad” patriarchal system in which women were only “help-meets,” and daughters could be sold into slavery, [Exodus 21:7]   then it’s plausible that the biblical literalists might be disturbed by the autonomy of the modern era.  However, that’s no excuse to badger everyone into believing urban myths and blatantly false propaganda about women and members of the LBGT community.

As the backlash builds to the HB2 law in North Carolina, die-hards in Texas are doing a bit of chest pounding, declaring that the President can’t tell them to accommodate the needs of transgender children. [TPM]  The Lt. Governor offering:

“We will not yield to blackmail from the President of the United States,” Patrick said in a press conference responding to the administration’s letter. “We will not sell out our children to the federal government. And the people of Texas and the legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to. There is no compromise on this issue.”

He said that the debate over bathrooms “is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.”

The biggest issue facing families and schools? Really?  This potty issue would be more important than the fact that the 2011 educational budget cuts are still having an effect [TXTrib], and that current budget levels have Texas ranked 38th in the nation? [DMN]  Or, perhaps there’s a more simple way of addressing the issue, such as the logic put forth by an Oklahoma legislator speaking of a bill to ban abortions:

“This is our proper function, to protect life,” said Senator Nathan Dahm, the Republican lawmaker who authored the bill, with fellow state Republican colleague David Brumbaugh confusingly adding, “Everybody talks about this $1.3 billion deficit. If we take care of morality, God will take care of the economy.” [InJust]

That’s right. If “we take care of morality then God will provide for the schools,  infrastructure, revenue streams, median household incomes, and corporate profits?  Surely, if we just follow all those Iron Age rules in the book – or at least the ones we want to – eating shrimp is OK? Wearing blended fabric clothing is all right? – then Life will take care of itself.  Leaving a person to wonder what ever happened to “God helps those who help themselves?”

Golden Rule

Or perhaps more importantly, what ever happened to the rules and advice imparted by Luke 6: 31, or by Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, or Sutrakritanga 1.11.33, or Udana-Varga 5:18?

If we take a step further into Biblical territory we find:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6: 16-19

Thus, spreading false information about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people is abominable? Publishing misinformation and outright lies about Planned Parenthood is hateful?  Disseminating that which is harmful to individuals who do not share a particular interpretation of the Iron Age Rules is abominable?

It is NOT true that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles and child molesters. [UCDavisEdu] It is NOT true that transgendered people are a hoax. [MMA] It is NOT true that transgendered people just want to ogle the opposite sex in the restroom.  That’s the province of the immature.  What’s required to play the Potty War Games according to the Iron Age rules is to discount and discredit actual scientific research with statements like:

“I am not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.” [MMA

The correct interpretation of this statement is  “I am perfectly willing to deny and discredit any scientific findings which don’t comport with my opinions,”  even if doing so is harmful to others.

And, accommodating the needs of transgendered children certainly isn’t harmful.  The LAUSD has already implemented a policy of accommodation for a decade with positive results:

“Opponents of A.B. 1266 have expressed concerns that students will abuse the policy, imperiling the safety of others. But our experience stands in stark contrast to such fears: In all the years since the LAUSD implemented its policy, we have encountered nothing but positive results. We are committed to providing safe schools for all children. Our equal access policy enhances, rather than diminishes, school safety.” [HuffPo]

Absent anything other than acceptable results in states that do have statutes protecting transgendered individuals, conservative media has resorted to contriving situations designed to make people uncomfortable and then reporting it as “news.” [EM.org]

rest room sign

What would happen if we were to follow the Big Rule, the one in Luke 6:31 et. alia., and thought of our rest room accommodations accordingly?  A single person’s discomfort is not an excuse for discrimination against – a transgendered person, a person in “gastric distress” who needs to find the first facility immediately available, a young father who wants to change his baby’s diaper, a father or mother escorting a child to the toilet – anyone who’s just trying to get by doing to others as he would have them do unto him.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, gay issues, privacy, religion

Oh The Kids These Days! Young GOP laments Oldsters’ Platform

Little Old Lady Someone, somewhere is going to craft an article or blog post pointing out the obvious: That the old GOP coalition of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives was a marriage of convenience, not a mutual love match for time immemorial.  Perhaps it takes the kids to say it.

“The Washoe County Republican Party adopted a platform at their county convention on Saturday many young Republicans felt was too focused on socially conservative issues – and might turn potential voters away during the general election.” [Reno GJ]

I’m not advocating holding one’s breath until the Big Pundits begin talking about the Republican Party in disarray.  However, the combined efforts of the Trumpery and the Cruz Seven Mountain Dominionists, are not conducive to drawing fiscally conservative but socially moderate younger people into the GOP fold.  The identity crisis among Republicans is in full view and the kids are watching.

As the right wing of the right wing becomes the voice of the GOP, consider how these comments would sound to younger ears:

“Titus warned that if conservative Christians give up on trying to shape government to biblical specifications, they will end up like the Amish, with special protections for their religion but “no influence in the greater society”

“God didn’t call us to just be in a closed-off, religious community, God called us to exercise dominion,” he said.

He repeated that public officials who disagree with marriage equality should defy the law and “make people remove us from office, if that’s what it’s going to take you, ‘you can remove me, but I’m not going to just ask you to give me a special privilege, or resign and will no longer function in a civil capacity.’ What that does, I think, is basically sounds the bugle of retreat.” [RWW] (emphasis added)

That’s right kids, the Christianist Right doesn’t want respect – they want dominion, and they don’t much care if your gay friends are mowed down in the cross fire.  In fact, they welcome it. And so, the Washoe County GOP voted on their platform, without debate:

A majority of party members ratified the platform without debate, including planks such as denying man-made climate change, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and abolishing legal prostitution in the state. [Reno GJ]

This platform option assumes the old coalition of Money and God, but it also presupposes a foundation based on Cruz-ian theocratic philosophy:

‘Cruz resonates with the evangelical culture warriors. He mixes what New York Times columnist David Brooks describes as political “brutalism” with a belief that he is engaged in a fight with the devil for the soul of the nation. It is only a matter of time before Cruz assumes the role of the Old Testament prophet Elijah and tries to cast down fire from heaven to destroy the “prophets of Baal” who oppose his campaign.

When Cruz says he wants to “reclaim” or “restore” America, he does not only have the Obama administration in mind. This agenda takes him much deeper into the American past. Cruz wants to “restore” the United States to what he believes is its original identity: a Christian nation.” [WaPo]

That this nation never existed isn’t relevant to Cruz or other socially conservative (mostly white) Republican voters.  It’s simple,” His (Cruz)goal is to lead a Christian occupation of the culture and then wait for the Second Coming of Christ.” [WaPo] It doesn’t sound like the kids are into that.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, religion, Republicans

Bits, Pieces, and Highly Recommended Reading

Jig Saw PuzzleThere’s some good writing in the blogosphere that deserves a second or third look.

##The GOP Vision For America Depends On False Christian Doctrine” from Vegas Jessie is a good place to start.  Seasonal, and an overview of the distortions required to transform a religion of communal compassion into an argument for individual selfishness.

## However, there’s hope.  Pope Francis announced his appointments to the Council of Bishops — omitting at least one notable Culture Warrior.  [See also] “Notably, Francis did not confirm Cardinal Raymond Burke, president of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops. Generally seen as occupying a prominent place on the church’s conservative wing, Burke had been named to the Congregation for Bishops by Benedict XVI in 2009.” [NCR] At some point the Church may have to come to grips with the observation that only 9% of the faithful are aligned with the standard definition of “approved sex,” and only 12% of the regular church-goers are thus inclined. [TRD]

There’s an interesting piece on the difference between what Christianity IS and what some believers would like it to be here.

## On the other hand there’s less hope to be garnered from the infamous Affluenza Defense.  “A North Texas teen from an affluent family was sentenced to probation this week after he killed four pedestrians when he lost control of his speeding pickup truck while driving drunk, a punishment that outraged the victims’ families and left prosecutors disappointed.” [HuffPo] And one rational reaction: “But, the practice of using a client’s background in arguments to make him or her less responsible or culpable for a crime is the core of good defense work, said Filler, a former criminal defense attorney. “The real truth is that our criminal justice system is suffering from ‘affluenza’ because affluent people can afford better attorneys and better get better outcomes,” Filler said.” [USAT]

## What’s Really Needed To Protect Voting Rights?  Answer here.  And, North Carolina offers a classic example of why voting rights protections are still necessary. [Nation]  And, then there’s the $150,000 spent by an Iowa Republican to fine Voter Fraud — and found …. next to nothing.

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Filed under Health Care, Politics, Republicans

Flaying the Fragile

Tea Party crowd

There are about as many articles seeking to explain the Tea Party enthusiasts as there are columnists with an opinion on the matter, but while generalizations are good reference guides, the situation for local politicians and their fellow citizens may be a bit more complicated and nuanced.

Cultural Fear Factor

Andrew Sullivan represents one interpretation in his “Why They’ll Die On This Hill,” article.  Here’s a bit of his analysis:

“The bewildering economic and social and demographic changes have created a cultural and existential panic among those most heavily concentrated in those districts whose members are threatening to tear down the global economy as revenge for losing two presidential elections in a row. They feel they have already lost and have nothing to gain from any constructive engagement with a president they regard as pretty close to the anti-Christ of parasitic minorities.”

Sullivan’s polite language softens the residuals of racial stereotyping which inform many Tea Party advocate’s thinking.    Salon’s Joan Walsh took the point to its obvious extrapolation:

“You’ll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this: It’s the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn’t an accident, it was probably inevitable.”

Andrew O’Hehir is more explicit:

“John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove and the other so-called Beltway pragmatists of the Republican Party have relied on angry white people for political victories for decades. They placated them and pandered to them and fed them an extensive line of bullshit, and absolutely could not afford to alienate them, but were scared of them the whole time. (Many Republican operatives will tell you, way off the record, that the Republican base is crazy.) Now those white insurrectionists have risen up and taken their former leaders prisoner, which carries a certain poetic justice. They “want their country back.” Failing that, they want to let the fire burn.”

Politics and Religion

While residual and institutionalized racism is no doubt an important factor toward an explanation of the Scorched Earth policy of the Tea Party, it still doesn’t quite cover Sullivan’s observation concerning “existential panic.”  There are, no doubt, neo-Confederates for whom an African American President is an affront; and some others for whom any Democrat represents the prioritization of minority privileges — as these individuals see programs to alleviate poverty and advance opportunities; and there are still others for whom The Daddy State is an acceptable option — their need to believe authoritative voices outweighing their sense of individual agency.  John Dean described this phenomena in “Conservatives Without  Conscience,” back in 2006.

“According to Dean’s narrative, “postmodern conservatism” has, over the past decade, regressed to conservatism’s “earliest authoritarian roots.” Vanquished is the principled, libertarian-tinged individualist ethos that once drew Dean to the Republican Party. Gone are leaders of respectable character, of any personal conscience at all.

The 1994 Republican takeover of Congress was authoritarian conservatism’s national coming-out party, made possible by the newly honed muscle of the Christian right, which Dean believes has brought its self-righteousness into the political arena, poisoning the well of rational public debate.” [SFgate]

Dean’s description leads to yet another element in the mix, and for the moment it would probably be helpful to omit reference to the explicit theocrats (Dominionists) and consider those who simply believe in the righteousness of one political party.  The element, of course, is either religion or perhaps religiosity.

Onward Religious Soldiers

Yes, there was definitely a “Southern Strategy” adopted by the Republican Party after the enactment of Civil Rights laws in the 1960’s.  And, yes, there was a “Northern Strategy” as well — a narrative in which the Suburbs (good) were white and the Inner City (Black) was bad.  However, we have to note that along with these came an alliance of conservative evangelical congregants and hard line Republican politicians.   No political party could last 8 minutes without founding its platform on basic mores and values, but as a particular party becomes identified with specific mores and values it risks becoming constricted in its appeal in a nation with a plethora of religions within its borders.   The second problem emerges when some thought is given to how we speak of religion and politics.

Politics is the art of the possible, it is pragmatic, and in a diverse society it is accommodating.  Religion, unless it is to fragment into shards, contains within its structure the concept of heresy.  A religion need not be confessional in format, but a belief system is necessary before an individual self identifies as a member of a specific faith — and there’s the operative word — faith.   It is possible to have a rational argument about political issues — the efficacy of financial regulations, or the necessity of food inspection services — but it is not possible to have a truly rational discussion when political platforms become articles of faith.   If a position taken on an issue  is underpinned by apprehension rather than proof, it is predicated on faith not science, not even on observation.

Hence, for the religious Tea Party adherent there is nothing untoward about accepting (apprehending) that global climate change is a hoax.  There is nothing wrong with dismissing other religious denominations’ definitions concerning the beginning of life. There is nothing awkward about believing that “freedom” means banks should be deregulated. Some or all of these tenets may be accepted as articles of faith.   It doesn’t matter how many studies are issued by the IPCC on climate change — if the advocate doesn’t “believe” in it, then the science contained in the reports might be “secular elitism and  liberal heresy.”

Flaying the Fragile

Imagine if all of our authors cited above are correct — that there are people in this country who are bewildered by the recent social, economic, and demographic changes; who have grown up with the notion that while members of ethnic minority groups can be good, that they themselves are somehow ‘better;’ and, who have been  inundated with information from various and sundry media formats which validate and augment a sense of victim-hood, and isolation.

Their religious beliefs are under attack — there’s a War on Christmas? Their economic beliefs and their politics are informed by a religious connection which requires only that they conform to the orthodoxy of a political faith to be ‘saved’ from socialism, communism, secularism, or any other -ism coming down the pike.

They want their country back — that is — they want to feel comfortable again.  There may be comfort in nostalgia, for an America that existed in scripted  television shows  (and nowhere else), or in a neighborhood long since altered demographically beyond recognition.  Or, with an extended family long since dispersed from one coast to the other.

There may be comfort in listening to voices of authority — a priest, a pastor, a mentor, a leader. There may be comfort in the acceptance of doctrine and dogma, secure, timeless, incontrovertible.  The need for such comfort implies a certain degree of fragility.   Endless propagandizing tells them they are under assault — little wonder then that they seek comfort where they can find it.

Some will eventually recognize that change is inevitable; the fortunate will find out that it adds interest, anticipation, and animation.  Others will not be so fortunate.  For them, truly  “the past is never dead, it’s not even past.” *

It’s altogether too easy to vilify them, marginalize them, even to ignore them — after all, they’ve been advised repeatedly that they are vilified, are victimized, are marginalized, and are being ignored.  Sadly, this flaying of the already fragile will continue as long as there are people willing to take advantage of their capacity to accept things on faith, and to lead them down paths contrary to their own interests for the sake of the political or economic interests of others.

It’s not for me to pile on adding yet more flagellation, I’ll reserve that for those leaders,  politicians, and media concerns which have been, and continue to, take advantage of the ignorant, dupe the credulous, and deceive their believers.  They are the ones who would shut down the greatest democracy on Earth, and they are the ones who would bring turmoil and uncertainty into the most complicated economy this world has ever known.  To call them charlatans would be entirely too polite.

* William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun.

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Filed under Politics

Bells, Books, Candles and S.B. 192

Test PencilWhich of the following does not belong with the other three items?

(a)Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” U.S. Constitution, Amendment I

(b)Second. That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested, in person or property, on account of his or her mode of religious worship.”  Nevada Constitution, Ordinance

(c)Sec:4. Liberty of conscience.  The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed in this State, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness on account of his opinions on matters of his religious belief, but the liberty of conscience hereby secured, shall not be so construed, as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace, or safety of this State.”  Nevada Constitution, Article I, Section 4

(d)Notwithstanding any provision of NRS 41.0305 to 41.039, 25 inclusive, but subject to the limitation on damages set forth in 26 NRS 41.035 when applicable, a person whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against the governmental entity.  The court shall award costs and attorney’s fees to a person who prevails in an action brought against a governmental entity pursuant to this section.”  S.B. 192  *Defines a political subdivision

(ANS: ) Why doesn’t item D (S.B. 192) fit with the others?  Because it really isn’t about religious liberty.

The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus explains:

“SB192, the  Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (NPRFA), is currently being considered by the Judiciary committee. NPRFA is a “statified” version of the federal RFRA (Religion Freedom Restoration Act), which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997 because it overstepped Congress’ power to enforce the 14th Amendment (City of Boerne v Flores).  If enacted, it would “prohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion.”

And what might those “burdens be?”  How about the “burden” of having to avoid asking about a person’s sexual orientation in a job interview?  Or, the “burden” of having to dispense a Morning After prescription to prevent an unwanted conception?  Or, the “burden” of having to include contraceptive prescriptions to an employee in a health insurance policy?  Or, the “burden” of having to have any health insurance coverage for any employee should the employer believe in faith healing alone?

Could it be the “burden” of having to interview a prospective employee who would need to have either Friday or Saturday off for religious services?   Could it be the “burden” of not discriminating against members of the LGBT community?  Or, might it be the “burden” of not discriminating against women in the workplace?  Against, unmarried women with children? Or, would the “burden” be that a young woman who had an abortion could not be summarily fired?

Time for Confession

There’s a problem shared by all confessional faiths.  And, in this instance “confessional” doesn’t refer to the Sacrament of Reconciliation — instead it is used more generally, and might be taken as synonymous with “creed.”

It might be the Nicene Creed, or the Apostles’ Creed, or in Protestant denominations the term ‘confession,’ like a creed but generally longer and more specific — The Augsburg Confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Savoy Declaration, or the Baptist Confession.  Be it creed or confession, the principles are essentially the same.  The profession constitutes orthodoxy as defined by some Christian religious denomination.

The first problem is the term “orthodoxy.”  The second problem is that the United States isn’t orthodox.

The last time Pew Research looked at religious affiliation in America, the numbers showed 51.3% were Protestants of various confessions; 23.9% were Catholics; 1.7% were members of the LDS Church.   1.7% of our population is Jewish, divided into Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and “other.” 0.7% of our population is Buddhist (also divided).  Another 0.6% is Muslim, divided into Shia, Sunni, and “other.”  Hindus add another 0.4% of the population.  Atheists are about 1.6% of the population, agnostics another 2.4%, and there’s a significant number, 12.1% of Americans, who described themselves as “nothing in particular.”

Here’s where the “orthodoxy problem” kicks in.  While 26.3% of American Protestants described themselves as “evangelical,” another 18.1% declared themselves to be members of “mainline” churches.   And, what to do with the other 4.7% of Americans who aren’t Christian in any form or confession? With the 16.1% of the Unaffiliated?  This is now; so why were the framers of the U.S. Constitution so adamant about preventing the establishment (read: preference) of any single creed or confession of orthodoxy in the newly forming United States of America?

First, there were practical matters — How does a new country reconcile the Congregationalism of John Adams with the Episcopal preferences of George Washington?  How do you keep a nation together with Presbyterians in the western portions, Baptists forming congregations in the midlands, Dutch Reformed Church members holding sway in New York, and Swedish Reformed Church members in Delaware?   Why were the framers so intent upon keeping religion off the table?  Secondly, there were memories of a dismal history in not so Jolly Old England.

Not one, but three civil wars

Most of the original colonists were English. England experienced three periods of civil war beginning in 1642 and not fully over until 1651.  Scholars are still mulling over whether the civil wars were religious or political, or some admixture thereof.   Let’s try “admixture” because some of the confusion between King and Countryside was related to the fact that there was the “High Church” (of England) considered entirely too Popish to be the “real” religion of God’s people; there were the Reformers (We’ll just adjust the Church of England a little bit and that should be enough); there were the Puritans (Get rid of the episcopal nature of the Church of England); there were the Presbyterians  who were at odds with the Independents.  Somewhere between and among the Royalists (usually Church of England) and the Puritans, and the Presbyterians, there was sufficient animosity to keep the fires of war burning and the battles raging.  This history wasn’t lost on the framers of the U.S. Constitution.  Granted, if we take 1646 as the end of the last English Civil War, then there were 143 years between the end of the war and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution — it’s been 148 since the end of our own Civil War, and “Lincoln” is a blockbuster movie… we’ve not forgotten ours either.

The point is that the framers were well aware that religious confessions and creeds were inextricably bound into the fabric of the political factions which caused not one but three civil wars in the Old Home Land.  This would be something to be avoided.

Uncomfortable Pluralism

There’s a trade off to be made between religious freedom and political rights.  Everyone has political rights, and everyone has religious freedom.  However, where does my right to freely practice my religion begin to impede your right to practice yours? Further, when does my right to practice any religion freely become perilously close to Theocracy as I impose my creed or confession on the behavior and beliefs of others?

If we take the dictionary definition of a theocracy (a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities,) at what point are those ecclesiastical authorities impinging upon political authority in a democracy?   No one promised pluralism was ever going to be comfortable.

Tyranny of the Majority or the Minority?

Our discomfort with pluralism is, happily, less obvious, and far less bloody, in 21st century American than in 17th century England.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be as obvious as the daily dose of confessional rhetoric emanating from religious leaders in the media.   Yes, about 75% of Americans claim Christianity in some form, but that covers everyone from those who still prefer the Tridentine Mass to the Unitarian-Universalists.  There’s no way to find any “orthodoxy” along that spectrum in terms of creeds, confessions, or the lack thereof.

So, what is S.B. 192 about?  If we were truly talking about religious freedom, then we’d be cognizant of the variations, of the pluralism, in American religious life and NOT trying to impose the confessionally based beliefs of some ecclesiastical authorities on those who don’t share in the creeds.  However, if we are talking about the imposition of confessionally based beliefs on the body politic then aren’t we essentially advocating the “right” of a minority to determine what the majority will or will not be allowed to do?

As uncomfortable as pluralism may be, it’s origins in the American colonies is well documented, and it’s implications for modern notions of the separation of church and state are the foundations of American tolerance and sense of community.   Just as I have no right to demand others who don’t share my basic religious precepts align their lives according to my lights, I would expect the same consideration from others.

I don’t expect others to put the same significance to bells as I might. I don’t expect a person to follow the Nicene Creed, or the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Quran or Hadith, or the Torah, or Rig-Veda or Avesta, or the Book of Mormon … and I’d be pleased to have others allow me the same consideration.  It’s hard enough in difficult times to keep one’s own candle burning, we don’t need to try to blow each others’ out.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Politics

One Letter We Must Read

Of all the many expressive things written in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT, THIS letter is one of the most thought provoking I’ve seen thus far.  If you have children in school, know a teacher, or even if your only connection is as a former student — CLICK HERE.

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Filed under education, Gun Issues