Santorum and the gospel of Rome

Isn’t it ironic that fifty years ago the Republican electorate feared John F. Kennedy because they thought he would owe more allegiance to Rome than the American people. Now a strong plurality is lining up to support Rick Santorum who, while he doesn’t come out and say it, makes it clear that his allegiance is clearly aligned with Rome.

Just today I heard a Santorum sound byte claiming that people who support the President’s health care plan have surrendered their health to the government. What an interesting concept, the suggestion that we would let the government control our health.

He forgot to mention that he wants the Pope to control our health. This is the reason he and other Republicans like Newt opposed Obama’s move to require religious organizations to offer birth control to their employees. They believe the church should have the power to control our health.

As you know, I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK). I was taught that the Mormons and Catholics were a source of heresy and a threat to true faith. Today those same Christians are lining up behind a Mormon and two Catholic candidates to defend their faith. It seems to me that, by the standards I was raised with, the Christian right have allowed themselves to be led astray.

In fact, they seem determined to seat the enemies of Christ in the halls of government.

What is their strategy? Accuse the President of heresy. For example, this week Rick Santorum called the President’s beliefs: “”phony theology. Not a theology based on the bible, a different theology.” He went on to claim that the President was “exercising his values and trumping the values of the church.”

In other words, the church of Rome should dictate the values of the American people. Santorum would claim that the Pope’s values are the values of all Americans, but this is clearly wrong. This was also the reason why the founding fathers wanted to avoid an established religion.

Another hint that Santorum (and Gingrich) want to establish Catholicism as the official religion of Americans is the declaration that the evangelical Christians like President Obama have “a different set of moral values that they are imposing upon people who have a constitutional right to have their own values within the church.” He called this “a new low in this country’s history of religious freedom that we have never seen before.”

Does he think Obama is less of a Christian? When asked, Santorum claimed that “no one is suggesting that.” But, in fact, this is exactly what he’s doing. He is suggesting that the President’s evangelical beliefs, which are rooted in the concept of free will and the right of everyone to choose to accept or reject the path to salvation, should be sacrificed for his own, which is that Americans should be forced to comply with the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy.

This is not the America I signed up for.

The is not the America Jesus signed up for.

This is definitely not the America our founders signed up for.

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Judge not the judges

especially without the facts

Newt is fading so quickly at the polls that this post may seem like kicking the wounded dog. Nonetheless, Newt rebounds quickly, even when he shoots himself in a vital organ. Whether or not he’s finished, he keeps serving himself up as defender of the faith. With the economy improving and Obama’s fortunes rising, I suspect more and more Republicans will try to reframe the debate around Jesus.

Recently he declared once again that federal judges need to be put in their place because of their open hostility to Christians. His campaign web site declares: “The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, are gifts from God and cannot be given nor taken away by government. Yet, secular radicals are trying to remove “our Creator” – the source of our rights – from public life.”

This is a profound misinterpretation and is fundamentally misleading. The “right to life” in the declaration has nothing to do with abortion, it has to do with what John Locke’s social contract. Until the rise of the Christian right, even conservative scholars would have agreed that the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” meant the government had no right to take the life of a citizen without just cause.

Since the “right to life” stands on equal footing with the “right to pursue happiness,” Newt’s more restrictive interpretation of right to life as a stand against abortion puts the right to life in direct conflict with a woman’s right to pursue happiness. I would even go further and suggest that arch conservatives were always quick to point out the phrase “all men were endowed by their creator with the right to…” excludes women. Since men couldn’t have abortions, obviously right to life meant something different altogether.1

On the other hand, Republicans in the past have always claimed that the Declaration of Independence is little more than a statement of intent; the Constitution is the edifice on which this nation was built. This is because too XXXXX many liberals and Democrats appeal to the Declaration. God and the “right to life” appear nowhere in the Constitution. Even more horrifying, the “Creator” who endowed us (men) with our inalienable rights was a remote and impersonal deity. Many of the founding fathers were deists.

In a recent speech, Gingrich referenced a case from Central Texas to prove that Federal judges were little more than “dictatorial religious bigots.” The case, which I’ve discussed before, resulted in an injunction by San Antonio Judge Biery ruling on a lawsuit against Medina Valley High school, who, according to Newt, declared that “not only could students not pray at their graduation, if they used the word ‘benediction,’ the word ‘invocation,’ the word ‘God,’ asked the audience to stand or asked for a moment of silence, he would put the Superintendent in jail.”

Wrong on all accounts. Biery ruled that school officials and students couldn’t ask audience members to pray with them, could, in fact, speak of their faith as long as it wasn’t presented in a way that could be considered coercive, and, in fact, could say just about anything. However, an official benediction or invocation couldn’t be included as part of the official graduation program. Nor was anyone likely to go to jail since fines were also included in the possible penalties.

I have referred to the situation before as coercive prayer, and the Book of Daniel praises Jewish martyrs who would rather to be burned to death than forced to pray to another God. An option I’m sure Newt would take in the same situation. But Jesus’ invocation “do unto others as you would have them do to you” also means Christians shouldn’t coerce others to pray either. Judge Biery simply decided that the Constitution agreed with Jesus.

For Newt this means that the Constitution needs to be rewritten to stop judges from making the wrong decision (i.e., force them to bow to the will of local citizens and politicians).

The most important fact left out of Newt’s account is that the next higher court of appeals overturned the decision almost immediately. In other words, the judicial system tries to be self-correcting by referring decisions up the line to more experienced judges with more distance from the case. This seems to me to be far better than putting judges on a chopping block whenever they decide the law disagrees with a plaintiff or defendant.

This also serves to stress a more important issue. Jesus doesn’t need the Christian right to enforce his will on anyone. Nor does he want us to. People have to come to him of their own free will. To demand that they pray, in public, to our God (or to demand they give up their beliefs) is to behave exactly like the Babylonians, Assyrians, Soviets and other enemies of true faith.


1Okay, I’m playing semantic sleight of hand here. In my defense, however, semantic wrangling is a key element of being raised Baptist. If you can’t twist the scriptures to your own end, you’re little more than a heathen.back

 

Life begins at home

(the base, not the building)

 

I’m  not sure who I’m more grateful to for allowing me to return with such a great topic, President Obama or crazy Republicans. Usually I try not to use epithets like “crazy” to describe Republicans but in this case I feel it’s not only called for—it’s accurate.

And to be fair, I’m not calling Republicans crazy; just the crazy ones.

The ones like Texas Attorney General Gregg Abott, who—even though Obama backed down on requiring organizations affiliated with religious groups to provide birth control coverage for non-Catholic employees—still intends to sue the feds for making providers cover birth control.1

Or Missouri Republican Roy Blount who plans to introduce an amendment to the Patient Care Act to prohibit mandates on any employer to offer sexually related preventive health care. All of this just to make sure sperm is free to penetrate any egg it chooses.

Blount’s amendment would allow any employer to claim religious freedom as a reason to refuse to cover birth control, HIV testing and even cancer screening as an employee health benefit. In fact, employers will be allowed to deny benefits for any health condition that comes from what they believe to be an unhealthy or immoral life-style.

Or the sponsors of Oklahoma Senate Bill 1433, the “Personhood Bill,” which declares life to begin at conception and that “unborn children have protectable interest in life, health and well-being.” (Notice, they don’t have those rights after birth.) Ironically the bill is getting more attention for one Democrat’s satirical amendment that would make masturbation illegal, too.

Monty Python fans can’t help but chuckle.

According to Republicans of all ilk, crazy or not, the birth control requirement was just one more salvo in Obama’s ongoing war on faith. Obama is yet another of a long line of Democratic Presidents engaged in anti-Christian jihad: the born-again Baptist Jimmy Carter, the admittedly mixed-signal sending Methodist Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, who, as we all know, was born in Kenya and raised chanting the Koran at the feet of Imams in his local mosque as he secretly infiltrated America to lead the fifth column against faith.

I could stress that Obama’s birth control initiative didn’t target the Catholic Church or even churches,  only hospitals and non-profits that declare religious affiliation. I could stress it, but I would be ignored since this doesn’t seem to matter. Every other commentator (including the President) who tries to stress this is ignored.

I have two things to say about this nonsense:

Who’s persecuting who?

Nothing in Obama’s current plan (or the other one for that matter) forced employers to break their religious vows. Providing birth control in employee benefit plans does not make the employer the birth control provider. Churches would neither pay for nor hand over condoms, birth control pills, diaphragms or IUDs to their employees. They would merely cover costs out of the employees’ contributions to their premiums. The provider would be the insurer.

To deny benefits to those who don’t practice your faith is tantamount to religious persecution. It would be to allow religious institutions to coerce employers into a code of conduct. In other words, it would be the state requiring all religious employers to enforce Catholic theology. Not only is it unconstitutional, it’s hardly something Christians should want to do.

It may backfire too. This practice, which could be called “persecuting others for righteousness’ sake,” might give sinners a free ticket to heaven. That’s right, and the proof is in the Gospels. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10).

So if we take our scriptures seriously, denying birth control to non-practicing employees would make them into martyrs. That’s right. You will pay for their pass to the afterlife. On Jesus’ dime.

Don’t blame Jesus for your cheapness

Speaking of Jesus’ dime. This whole uproar is really a cover for a total lack of Christian generosity. Gregg Abbott actually admitted as much when he claimed that insurers would pass the cost of covering birth control onto paying customers (i.e., guys like him, who can afford it).

But let’s just say that the evil doers in this scenario really are the employees who need access to affordable birth control. Or the evil Obaminator who wants to mow down righteousness with one stroke of his pen. Jesus has a command for that too:

“Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (39-42)

Our Christian responsibility is clear. If the liberals expect us to provide birth control for one employee, we should turn around and provide it for two. If called on to provide birth control for all employees, we should provide it for another employer’s workers as well. It’s called “tough love.” In other words, it isn’t really love if it isn’t tough on you.

What’s wrong with birth control?

I never understood why Christians are upset with birth control. If everyone who had sex  practiced birth control, we wouldn’t have to stop abortions. Isn’t that a good thing?

I know the answer, of course. Religious leaders who oppose birth control think it encourages immorality. If kids have condoms, they will also have sex.

Let me take a cue from the NRA in response to that:

Condoms don’t get people pregnant; people do.

Mainly people who don’t practice birth control.

It’s clear to me that religious conservatives are trying to push the boundaries of conception further and further back. Soon life won’t begin with conception, but with ejaculation and then the act of sex itself. Before you know it we will push the instant of birth back from home plate to third base, and then second and even first. Just the thought of kissing will knock her up.

That’s in the Gospels too. “…everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (28)

Life will begin with intent.


1As I recall, the Constitution says no one can sue the feds without their permission. It’s called “sovereign immunity,” and the Torts Claims Act and Tucker Law don’t seem to apply here. So, good luck with that, Gregg.back