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.

1 Comment

Filed under education, Gun Issues

Sex and the Single Issue

Maybe we’re missing at least part of the point amidst the current flap over religion, women’s health, and politics.  Thus far the media has been filled to over-flowing with the politics, the religious perspectives, and the relationship of the two in the election cycle.  This may be a mile wide of the core issues.

Time Machine

Lo, the hand-wringing and pontification about the meaning of the 1st Amendment!  The wording of the Amendment protects our own religious practice and also protects us from the establishment of an official government religion.  It isn’t too hard to figure out why the Amendment eschews an official religious establishment.  Drafting the Constitution required getting Church of England and Deist delegates from Virginia to cooperate with the Congregationalists of the New England states, and with the Presbyterians of western Pennsylvania. Now, toss in delegates representing Catholic interests from Maryland, some Huguenot interests from South Carolina, some representing the interests of Lutherans in the Mid-Atlantic regions, and add an assortment of Baptists, Quakers, Methodists.

Little wonder that establishment wasn’t a unifying factor in American colonial life, by the time we became a nation:

“Religious diversity had  become a dominant part of colonial life.  The colonies were a patchwork of religiously diverse communities and, as a result, the population of America increased quickly. […]  Groups such as the Scotch-Irish were among the first to begin that emigration to America.  As a result, religious persecution was beginning to diminish and religious freedom began to replace it.” [UNC-P]

It’s useful to remember at this point that England did have an established religion — and, that was the problem.  They had a civil war over the subject lasting from 1642 to 1649.  We could move the date of the conflict back further if we start on July 23, 1637 when Jenny Geddes threw her copy of the Book of Common Prayer at the dean of the Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh.  The Scots were not pleased with the perceived level of ‘romanism’ incorporated in the practices of the Church of England and the uproar in the region led to the Scottish National Covenant.

We can also move the end of the conflicts beyond the 1649 traditional date and reasonably assert that the issues weren’t close to being resolved until the end of the Protectorate/Commonwealth with the Restoration of 1659.  It is highly unlikely the Framers of the U.S. Constitution didn’t notice  the 21 years of religious strife in the mother country. Nor were they untutored in common documents like the Cambridge Platform, the Westminster Confession, the 1649 Act Concerning Religion, and the Adopting Act of 1729.

A reasonable argument can be made that had the Framers of the U.S. Constitution NOT put religious issues off the table, it would have been well nigh impossible to come to any agreement on the form of our governance, and the shape of our political system.

Fast Forward

Nothing so fascinates human beings as our capacity to reproduce ourselves and the process by which we do it.   And, the current range of beliefs on the subject extend from almost Neo-Catharian tolerance of euthanasia, contraception, and suicide, to the categorization of all sexual experience beyond pure procreational purposes  (with a dab of doctrinal “Close Your Eyes and Think of England,”)  as intrinsically evil.   Our system of governance is expected to accommodate this rather extensive spectrum of ideologies.

When the Obama Administration’s  Department of Health and Human Services proposed that basic health care insurance policy coverage would include contraceptive prescriptions the issue was drawn into focus.  The compromise position was adopted saying that no religious institution which did not tolerate views accepting of contraception would be required to offer such coverage — but, health insurance corporations would be required to offer the coverage to those wishing such provisions.

Unfortunately for the improvement of our national political dialogue, the level of mis-information soon out shouted the level of accurate commentary. Opponents of comprehensive health care reform (health insurance corporations) have treated us to a barrage of fact-free statements like, “This is taxpayer funded contraception…,” which, of course, it isn’t.  Twisting the logic to say that a coverage requirement for basic policies is tantamount to a taxpayer subsidization of contraceptives necessitates mental gymnastics comparable to the contortions of  Cirque du Soliel.

A Gordian Knot of similar proportions is also required to frame this issue in terms of religious freedom.   The concept of religious freedom as contemplated in an American context requires the accommodation of varying religious precepts, NOT the acquiescence to the precepts of any single institution.   If the views of the Catholic Bishops had prevailed, then what we would have experienced was the antithesis of religious freedom, i.e. one group imposing its views on all the rest.  The American public seems to sense this.

A rational discussion of women’s health issues requires moving beyond the religious rhetoric while still being cognizant of the implications of public policy on religious tenets.  Federal funds may not be used, for example, to pay for abortions.  Those who would outlaw abortion under any circumstances may not be pleased that the medical procedure is still legal, but they may be mollified by the fact that they aren’t paying for it.   Those who don’t believe in the use of oral contraceptives may take some comfort in the fact that the health insurance corporations are the ones who will be required to offer coverage, and not the federal government. Those who are not comforted by these compromises are, in essence, seeking to impose their narrowly drawn religious proscriptions on those who don’t share them. Again, this is not religious toleration and freedom, but its polar opposite.

There was a reason back in the 17th century religious reformers were called Puritans.  Their emphasis was on the purification of the established Church of England, but as with most reformational activities their voices were not necessarily in unison.  There were those who believed the Church of England beyond redemption, awash in ‘romanism,” and incapable of restoration — they were the Separatists or Brownists — we call them “Pilgrim Fathers.”

At the other end of the spectrum were those who believed that the accommodations of Archbishop Laud were all that was required,  and still others who thought that neither Laud nor the Separatists had gotten it right — we call them “Puritans.”

It took 21 years of Parliamentary struggles, outright bloody war, the dissolution of the British government, and its eventual restoration in a different form of monarchy, to settle the three major factions into a reasonable state of cooperation.  The Framers of the Constitution learned from this experience. We should as well.

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Where does Santorum’s 62% come from?

Where presidential candidate Rick Santorum found the research to substantiate his claim that college is a Indoctrination Mill decimating the religious faith (by 62%) remains a mystery, but it would take some doing today to find a left leaning blog which isn’t highlighting this quotation:

“I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.”  [CBS]

Actually, perhaps we can clear up part of the mystery of the 62% by conjecturing that what Mr. Santorum was speaking of was a 2006 survey by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government which found that 62% of college Republicans said “religion was losing its influence on American life.”

If this is the source of the Magic 62% figure, then the conservative commentary missed the report’s most important point:

“Seven in ten college students today say religion is important or very important in their lives. What’s more, a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”

Interesting, while 62% of college Republicans bemoaned the declining influence of religion in American life, 25% of their cohorts were becoming more spiritual while only 7% were becoming less so.   A smaller study conducted by the Newman Society of specifically Catholic institutions found that only 6% of the young people educated at Catholic institutions had left the faith after graduation.  More to the point, SICHE research reported “… 54% of respondents say the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church. Thirteen percent (13%) say the experience decreased their support, 30% increased.”  [SICHE pdf]

Former Senator Santorum may also be amplifying another aspect of the SICHE report, while possibly conflating it with the Harvard Study, that the SICHE found young people engaging in “negative behaviors,” (drinking, pre-marital sex, watching porn) and tolerating dissent.  60% believed abortion should be legal, even if it violated their personal moral standards.  78% didn’t find using a condom to be sinful behavior, which is a good thing because 60% of the young people surveyed didn’t find pre-marital sexual activity to be untoward if it were done with “someone you really care about.”   Ah, some lines never change.

Be that as it may, after an afternoon of “Googling” to find the source of the serious 62%, as close as I could come was the Harvard Study, and it’s impossible to conclude that because 62% of college aged Republicans are dismayed by the “decline” in religious influence they perceive in American life that their collegiate friends are having the same experience.

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A Brief Discourse Upon Phony Theology

Preface — when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum found himself in a bit of hot political water after alleging that President Obama was practicing a Phony Theology during the flap over contraception, the former Pennsylvania Senator attempted a fouetté rond de jambe en tournant to explain what he was “really” talking about:

“An incredulous Bob Schieffer began his interview with Santorum Sunday by asking, “What in the world were you talking about?”

“I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” Santorum said, suggesting that they believe man should protect the earth, rather than “steward its resources.” “I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that’s what we’re here to do … We’re not here to serve the earth. That is not the objective, man is the objective.” [HuffPo]

Really?  We might be the “summit” of God’s creation, but the former Senator has conveniently omitted two critical parts of his own Roman Catholic Catechism, specifically items 339 and 340:

339. Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.” Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.

340. God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.

If we take the Senator at his word that he was talking about “radical environmentalists,” albeit in a context that clearly referenced women’s health issues, then whose Phony Theology was he dismissing?  As we’ve seen from the Catechism it definitely wasn’t Catholic.

“And it was so done. [10] And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis]

Perhaps it was Presbyterian? However, that doesn’t seem to fit in light of this statement by the Presbyterian (USA) General Assembly:

“While it may seem that countries rich in natural resources may be rich. That isn’t true. The “resource curse” shows us that countries with great oil, gas and other extractive industries are often the poorest, with less economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with far fewer resources. In fact, countries with rich natural deposits are often plagued by corruption, civil war, human rights abuses, authoritarian governments, land grabs and environmental degradation – because powerful sectors  want to control the profits.”

Now, who would have thought the Presbyterians, those descendents of the solid Kirk, to be radical environmentalists?

Perhaps Santorum might have been thinking of Episcopalians?  However, when we check their Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer we find:

We learn that there is one God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and
unseen.

What does this mean?
This means that the universe is good, that it is the work of
a single loving God who creates, sustains, and directs it.

What does this mean about our place in the universe?
It means that the world belongs to its creator; and that
we are called to enjoy it and to care for it in accordance
with God’s purposes.

Now, if we are called upon to care for “it” (“it” being God’s creation) according to HIS purposes, and not just our own, then it’s Santorum’s statement, “We’re not here to serve the Earth..” that sounds more radical than those “radical environmentalist teachings” of the Catholics, the Presbyterians, or the Episcopalians.

[31] And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day. [Genesis]

Well, perhaps Mr. Santorum was talking about some other theology, maybe that espoused by the Methodists? Here’s their statement on stewardship:

“Stewardship has to do with how we bring all of the resources at our disposal into efficient use in our participation in the saving activity of God. Environmental stewardship is one part of our work as God’s stewards. As stewards of the natural environment we are called to preserve and restore the air, water, and land on which life depends. Moreover, we are called to see that all life has a sufficient share of the resources of nature. With new hope rooted in Christ and with more obedient living as stewards of the earth, we can participate in God’s healing of creation.”

Oh my, “participate in the healing of creation?” That doesn’t sound like a theology predicated on Man as the Summit of All Things does it?   Let’s look to the ardent congregationalist  Baptists and see if they agree?

“Indeed, the Scriptures teach that at creation humanity was given responsibility toward the earth and its resources. Thus, all humanity must seek to preserve the environment and conserve its resources, but Christians especially, who claim not only to have but to understand God’s special revelation, must actively seek to exercise good stewardship over the environment though conservation and cultivation.”  [ZionBaptist.pdf]

And then there’s this statement from the Southern Baptist Convention:

“God has designed us with a dependence on the natural resources around us and has assigned us a dominion of stewardship and protection of those resources for future generations (Genesis 2:7-15); …Our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone.” (pdf)

So, Santorum’s  “Phony Theology” is Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Baptist?  We might move from congregations to undenominational churches like the Church of Christ to see if there is some of that Phony Theology therein.   That Church says: “Our Lord God Almighty is wonderful for He is indeed an Awesome God. Heaven and Earth cannot contain Him for He is greater than all that we see and know to be. His Majesty is glorious and His power is without measure.”  We’re not off to a good start here if “That is not the objective, man is the objective.” [Santorum 2:19]   It really doesn’t sound like the congregations of the faithful in the Church of Christ are all that into Man being The Objective.

OK, 1.7% of us in the United States are Jewish, and the members of the Union for Reform Judaism doesn’t seem to be in line with Senator Santorum’s theology either:

“The earth is full of the fruit of Thy works….In wisdom has Thou made them all,” declared the Psalmist. But America, in thoughtlessly abusing its natural resources has disregarded the Biblical injunction to conserve God’s creation for the good of all. Water and air pollution are all too common in areas of major population concentration. Our forests have been neglected and we have not reseeded fast enough to keep up with anticipated needs. Our clean, fresh water supplies and mineral resources are being exhausted by industrial and population growth.”

There are those radical environmentalists again?  Perhaps we might find views more compatible with Senator Santorum’s among more orthodox practitioners?

“The Torah has a deep tradition for protecting the environment. Reading our sources with an eye for environmental sensitivity, we find a wealth of connections and teachings that encourage us to protect our resources, care for our health, prevent unnecessary damage to our neighbors, show concern and respect for other creatures, and avoid unnecessary waste. These teachings can help us find solutions to some of the grave environmental threats that we face today.”  [IJII]

All right, the “Man is the Objective” school of thought doesn’t seem to fit with Jews, so how about with the  0.6% of us who are Muslim?

Thus man has the freedom to do what he wills with the power invested in him through these two means. One is his closeness to God in spirit and second is his acceptance of the trust. Man’s superiority, control and power over nature and the rest of creation was thus a part of this trust. After having taken the responsibility man had to show that he was indeed worthy of keeping it. If he forgets about the responsibility of the trust and instead takes full and destructive advantage of the power conferred upon him, the other side of his  superiority takes over. Because he has the spirit of God within him, he now deems to set himself up in rivalry to God. He wishes to take control of the destiny of the world not as a trustee but as a demi god.  [IslamFI]

So, if a man were to be the Object, then he would not be a trustee but a demi-god.

When push comes to the point at which it reaches shove, the only “philosophy” that remotely offers that Man is the Object, was that presented by Ayn Rand’s novels.  “It is the individual alone that is real, objective, and the true foundation for ethics. Therefore, Rand can postulate the basic premise of her philosophy: “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A – and Man is Man.

The Catholic Church has an opinion about that, but it may not be one Mr. Santorum is likely to accept:

“No man,” she (Rand) emphasizes, “can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.'” Moreover, there are no rights of special groups, since a group is not an individual reality. As a result, she firmly denies that groups such as the “unborn,” “farmers,” “businessmen,” and so forth, have any rights whatsoever. […]

“No philosopher ever proposed a more simple and straightforward view of life than the one Ayn Rand urges upon us. Man=Man; Existence = Existence; only individuals are real; all forms of altruism are inherently evil. There are no nuances or paradoxes. There is no wisdom. There is no depth. Complex issues divide reality into simple dichotomies. There is individualism and altruism, and nothing in between. Despite the apparent superficiality of her philosophy, Rand considered herself history’s greatest philosopher after Aristotle.”

Not exactly any form of ringing endorsement from this angle.

In actuality, the Phony Theology former Senator Santorum would like for us to adopt is the “Man is the Summit” morphed from “Man Is the Measure” pseudo-Objectivism of Randian adherents.  Where Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theologians read their holy books beyond Genesis 26 and acknowledge the relationship of man to the rest of Creation, hewing more closely to the notion expressed as “And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day,” Senator Santorum and Ayn Rand seem to be outside the mainstream of theological thought.  By their lights, Man — the Object — appears to be the only part of His Creation with which He was most pleased.

There is another bit of scriptural advice for the proponents of Rand’s dismal philosophy: “As I live, saith the Lord God, forasmuch as my flocks have been made a spoil, and my sheep are become a prey to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd: for my shepherds did not seek after my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flocks…” [Ezeckiel 34:8]  The bottom line? God wasn’t happy.

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Filed under 2012 election, ecology, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights