Vote conscience

In spite of the campaign rhetoric, this election is about everything but the economy. The economy has been little more than a smokescreen for a chance to press the same social agenda that Republicans have pressed for decades, an agenda that rewrites both Christianity and the Constitution.

A small sign of this, but telling nonetheless, was the uproar created when Kay Hill of Round Rock, Texas, was asked to cover up her shirt at her early voting polling station. The shirt said, “Vote the Bible.” While wearing such shirts isn't explicitly illegal in Texas, there are legal restrictions on campaigning in polling places.

She claimed her free speech rights were violated, as did the group Texas Values which now represents her. In her words, “Vote the Bible” doesn't endorse a political party or candidate, just her belief in the bible. Thirty years ago this might seem reasonable. In 2012, however, the position seems a little disingenuous.

The Republican Party has wrapped themselves not just in the flag, but between the pages of the Bible as well. For all her protestations to the contrary, no one doubts that “Vote the Bible” is an endorsement of Mitt Romney and his Party. In fact, the Christian Right has made it clear that the Democratic Party is not the party of the Bible.

In September, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki wrote in Catholic Times:

I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

This is the same disingenuous language, since Paprocki spells out why the Republicans espouse Christian values and Democrats don't.

What are these Christian values? They all involve compelling others to conform to our beliefs:

  • We want the right to make others join us in public prayer to the Judeo-Christian god.
  • We want pledges to support the nation to be tied to an invocation of our God, forcing those who don't accept his existence to validate our belief.
  • We want to force women to practice our life values. It is not enough to to preserve life in our own bodies, we compel other women to do so as well even when they were raped or their health is in jeopardy.
  • We don't even want women to have the option to prevent pregnancy.
  • We want children to be indoctrinated into the tenets of our faith under the guise of science.
  • We want to deny health care to the most needy.

In every case, Christians would scream bloody murder were the tables turned. If we were asked to join in public prayers to Allah, or to public chants to Buddha, we would consider ourselves martyrs (although I can't imagine many American Christians actually willing to die over it). If the pledge contained the phrase “a nation that needs no God for sanction,” we would call it persecution. If women were forced to practice birth control, we would call it injustice. If children were taught “evolution proves there is no God” in social studies textbooks we would scream political indoctrination. If circumcision were made mandatory, we would proclaim ourselves victims of a war on faith.

Jesus never asked us to be the moral arbiters of those who don't follow him. In fact, when I read the Bible, the only one who answers to God for my sins is me, and I do not answer for the sins of others. If we pursue the agenda of the Christian Right, we risk becoming part of the evil ourselves.

I see a darker possibility on the horizon. There may well be a culture war, but it is not a war on Christians so much as a declaration of war by a a few Christian sects on people outside the faith, and even Christians whose faith they feel diverges from theirs. There seems to be a desire to impose their orthodoxy on the rest of us, and, as recent events have proved, the Christian Right feels they are above the law in ways the rest of us aren't.

As to the economy, let's face it. The Republicans' true constituency will do well with a good or bad economy. But if we look at the record of the Republican Congress, it becomes clear they blocked every measure proposed by the administration to create more jobs and improve the economy because those measures wouldn't do it their way.

Jesus is about choice. Your choice. Your choice to follow him. We can only lead the way for others. Faith is not compulsory and to believe otherwise is to be both unChristian and unAmerican.

The supreme irony is that twenty years ago the Christian Right would not have accepted Mitt Romney as one of them. At least they have become more tolerant of someone.

Yoga is “a goy” spelled backwards

Once again Christian parents are up in arms, this time in California. It seems their innocent children are being subjected to yoga classes, which is tantamount to forced Hinduism. Needless to say, the Christians want to sue.

I did the math, and it does seem that yoga is a perniciously anti-Christian practice. If you spell yoga backwards, you get “a goy.” Any one who knows Yiddish knows that “a goy” is the term for someone who is not one of God's chosen people. It doesn't get more insidious than that. We might as well be forcing our children to pray to Ganesh.

CNN asked a spokesman for the Christian Right why parents would object to yoga and he said exactly the same thing. Well, not the backward spelling thing, but that making kids practice yoga was forcing them to “take poses that honor Hindu Gods.”

Up until that moment I didn't know that “downward facing dog,” and “salute to the sun,” were Hindu gods, not to mention “corpse,” “tree,” and “mountain.” But, it seems, they are.

Oh, wait. Using the backward spelling trick, “downward facing dog” is really “downward facing God.” It all makes sense to me now.

Carol is Cherokee, and we made medicine bags at the Cherokee Township meeting this afternoon to appreciate the artifacts of their passing culture. It reminded me of school, when we made headdresses and other native artifacts. I realized that if we were to make medicine bags in school these days, the Christian Right would claim we were honoring Native American Gods and sue the school district.

As I recall, with school funding being slashed right and left because of No Child Left Behind, schools had to give up arts and PE just to keep their budgets afloat. Yoga seems to me to be a pretty cost effective way to provide physical fitness. The districts could even stiff the parents for the cost of the mat as a “school expense.”

If the suit is filed, and upheld, a small minority of Christians will have denied school children across the country another opportunity for fitness.

So I will conclude with a thought I have shared before:

Stop whining, Christians. You sound like babies who lost their pacifiers. You're supposed to be persecuted. It's in your Bible. People are supposed to hate you, revile you and even kill you. How can you bear the cross when you can't even bear to be in the same room with people who disagree with you?Listening to you, I would think the US Constitution is supposed to spin a comfy womb where you can suckle the milk of faith and never be exposed to doubt.

When you stand before God at judgement and he asks what you did for him, you should hope you have something more to offer than you voted Republican and stopped a yoga class.

Stop sex: Defending marriage for real

Gay marriage? Three weeks in a row?

I can hear the complaining now. But the Christian right has latched onto same sex marriage like a dog with a bone, so I might as well throw them another bone.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the verse in the Gospels most often used to justify banning same sex marriage is, in fact, a verse saying that God does not permit divorce. (Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mat 19:6). It has nothing to do with gay marriage except by extreme extrapolation.

(By my own extrapolation, however, since the verse talks about “man and wife” without specifically saying “female wife”—because females are only mentioned in an earlier verse—the verse accepts same sex male marriages but not same sex female marriages. If this seems bizarre, it’s only because that’s where extreme extrapolations lead you.)

But I was reading further and discovered that the Gospels go on to say: “It is better not to marry.” So there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, no one would be allowed to get married.

Some might argue that Jesus doesn’t say this, the pharisees do. But that doesn’t matter if you believe every single word in the Bible is true. If the phrase makes it in the Bible we have to accept it. But, you know what? Jesus agrees with them. He says in response that some people can’t deal with that truth but it remains the truth.

In fact, he goes onto say that those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of heaven are better off than people who marry. So double there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, not only would marriage be banned, but we would all castrate ourselves.

But let’s back up. When questioned about divorce Jesus says laws permitting divorce are only a convenience for sinners (you know, gay people and liberals). But once people marry they are always married in heaven. So if you’re divorced and remarry, you commit adultery, which, in Paul’s book (and the OT), is just as bad as homosexuality.

But wait. Why does God consider a couple married forever? Because they cleaved to each other. Which means they had sex. So when you get right down to it, once you have sex, you’re married to that person for life. Even if your first sexual experience was with someone of the same sex and you later repented and became a Bible believing heterosexual Christian.

That’s right. If your first sexual experience is a same sex experience, according to the Bible, you are already married to your same sex partner. Male or female. So the defense of marriage act is actually calling the Bible a lie. Don’t take my word for it.

You can laugh, but I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), and trust me, this was exactly what I heard every time a Baptist, Pentecostal or otherwise evangelical minister preached about marriage. And that would be up until 1972 when I decided to pass on the Baptist thing for good.

Jesus clearly sets out two different standards. Legal marriage and God’s marriage. As far as God is concerned, legal marriage is a technicality because it allows for divorce. So if legal marriage is a technicality for sinners like us, then defending legal marriage with a defense of marriage act is pointless because God doesn’t honor it.

In heaven, you’re either married or you aren’t, and you just get one shot at it. So the only marriage that matters is marriage in heaven, it doesn’t matter about marriage down here because it’s just a meaningless legal civil paperwork bone he threw us anyway. So let gays marry. It’s not God, it’s just the Constitution.

But if you’re still determined to have a defense of (US civil law) marriage act, here’s what it should say based on what we’ve learned over the last few weeks. Marriage is defined as a union between two people who:

  • Are virgins
  • Not divorced (i.e., virgins)
  • Not adulterers (i.e., virgins)
  • Not witches (and still virgins)
  • Never wished their parents were dead when they were children (and virgins)

This should come as no surprise. When I was raised BPK there were only two kinds of people God approved of, virgins and married people. And Paul, as you recall, preferred virgins.

So the real defense of marriage act should read: “In order to keep marriage sacrosanct, no one will marry and they won’t have sex either.”

With the resulting population decline we won’t even need a defense of marriage act.

Damned Democrats. Literally.

Growing up Baptist I heard a lot of crazy things. I didn’t even have to be a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), even though I was. All I had to do was listen. And I heard some doozies. I heard:

  • “Back in the USSR” was a secret homage to Soviet Communism.
  • The apostle Paul carried the King James Bible on his missionary journals.
  • Jesus turned water into grape juice but they didn’t have a name for it so they called it “wine.”
  • The Bible forbids boys and girls from swimming in the same pool.
  • Everything in the Bible is literal but the bit about communion being Jesus’ body and blood is only symbolic.
  • The Bible forbids negroes from marrying white people. 1

I never heard anything as weird as the one Carol sent me from Dennis Marcellino on Get this: “The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell.” In fact, his message is so important, the entire sentence is the address of the post.

The “die thereafter” part is superfluous since it’s pretty much a given that anyone who votes Democratic or Republican or doesn’t vote at all will die thereafter. But it sure makes the warning even more dire. And he doesn’t warn about a lifetime of voting Democratic, we’re damned if we vote just once. Their is no scale for more acceptable Democratic candidates and the really evil Moslem Democrats who lied about their birth certificates. All Democrats are 11 on a scale of 10.

Marcellino is fairly apologetic about delivering the news. He says, “This is not meant to be emotional or inflammatory, it is simply stating a fact and to warn.” Too late for me, mind you. I was damned when I voted for McGovern in 1972 and have sealed my fate in every election since.

Even worse, I served as Democratic Precinct Chairman and was elected delegate to the state convention in 2000. To throw more fuel on the fire, I voted with La Raza Unida whenever they ran a candidate, volunteered for the Rainbow Coalition both times Jackson ran and I worked with ACORN for several years. I joined the Wobblies and if Eugene Debbs were still around, he would get my vote.

But Marcellino is simply stating facts and who am I to argue with facts, especially knowing that my fate is forever sealed? It’s too late for me, but perhaps I can help Marcellino reach my readers before they cast that fatal vote.

If only I had known in time to warn you for the primaries. But since the primaries don’t actually elect anyone, maybe there’s hope if you vote right in the fall.

You see, Marcellino qualifies his warning little. You can repent (and presumably vote the Tea Party line from here on). But here’s a little more to chew on:

  • “The Bible does say that if a person votes for a democrat (the promoters and supporters of sin) and were to die without repenting of that, he or she is going to hell.”
  • “I think this is an important message for blacks and hispanics who think they are Christians and who don’t want to offend God but who vote lock step for democrats.”
  • “2Thess. 2:12, says that if a pro-gay marriage person were to die today with that stance, they would not go to Heaven. ‘Then everyone who did not believe the truth, but was delighted with what God disapproves of, will be condemned.’ And one way that a person expresses that delight is: how they vote … especially if it’s for a candidate who supports gay marriage or any other sin.”

Or, perhaps, Marcellino misread the scriptures. The key phrase in this verse, at least so far as the English translation, is “delighted.” I don’t think “delight” describes the feeling Christians, or even liberals, feel when we take a political stance that the Constitution was intended to protect the rights of the disenfranchised. We don’t delight in homosexuality any more than we delight when an unborn child is terminated. We don’t dance in the street and shout giddily: “Hooray, another baby died and two more deviants tied the knot.” We don’t put on party music and silly hats or celebrate in any way

Unless, perhaps, we’re invited to the wedding. But the celebration would be for the happy couple, not the fact that we participated in an institution offensive to God.

In fact, I don’t know any woman who had an abortion who took delight in it. Women are usually emotionally devastated by the act. And the gays I know only delight in being gay as a challenge to those who hate them. It’s there way of saying, “If you’re going to get in my face, then I’m going to rub my gayness in yours.” I don’t know a single person who said, “I’m going to be gay and put up with crap from my co-workers, family and gay bashing Christians because it’s so delightful.”

Okay, maybe we take a little delight when certain folks write ignorant comments like, “The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell.” In fact, it’s really hard not to laugh out loud. But that delight quickly fades when we remember how crazy some Christians can be when they start torching abortion clinics and beating gays to death.

Let’s see what else Marcellino wrote. “Romans 1:32, ‘Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things* deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.’ And one way we approve is by how we vote. (* “such things” are in the rest of Romans 1:18-31 – e.g. homosexuality, lesbianism, strife, deceit, slander [political sound bites], gossips, idol worshippers, God-haters, atheists – all primarily attributes of liberals.)”

His conclusion? “Many who think they are Christian aren’t going to Heaven.”

How nice of him to let us know who made it into God’s Book of Life before it’s official.

There’s a problem with using that passage in Romans, however, because the Christian right gets caught in their own blowback. For instance, strife. Who causes the most strife in today’s Church? The Christian right, who is willing to accept homicide as a solution to abortion (not all of them, but some of the most outspoken). Liberal Christians tend to prefer pacifism, which is the opposite of strife. We don’t provoke or encourage others to decide as they do, we accept them regardless. As did Jesus, who thought hookers and drunks were a lot more fun to hang with than stuffy old rabbis and self-righteous.

Tea Party members have even been known to physically assault opponents and the Christian right has made it clear that they will not compromise otherness, nor will they accept them as believers. They even make provocative statements such as “unrepentant Democrats will go to hell.” Which would be unrepentant Democratic voters like me. 2

This is the opposite of the apostle Paul who made a practice of honoring the practice of the local churches he visited, even if he didn’t accept them himself. In the Jerusalem church he kept Kosher. He did not deride Peter and James for advocating circumcision even though he didn’t see it as God’s command (and even though he was under constant fire from the Jerusalem Church). Many Christians felt is was impossible for Christians who ate meat sacrificed to idols to be saved (including the author of Revelations). Even though Paul disagreed, he refused to eat sacrificed meat in the company of kosher believers.

How about gossip and slander, which includes (at least according to Marcellino) political sound bytes. I went to the web site that featured his column (which is ironically called and found:

  • No mistake! Obama backs Muslim Brotherhood again
  • Obama Politicizes Memorial Day: No More Wars Unless ‘Absolutely Necessary’
  • Planned Parenthood Encourages Woman to Get Sex-Selection Abortion
  • Obama’s Secret ‘Kill List’
  • Obama Twice in 2 Days Mentions ‘My Sons’ — even with Teleprompter (!!! Now that’s a byte worthy scandal)
  • Obama Expanding His Enemies List
  • What Unemployment?: Obama To Attend 6 Fundraisers Today (next to a picture of Obama playing golf and ignoring the fact that Romney held a number of fundraisers too)
  • Muslim Brotherhood infiltrates U.S. public schools?
  • Obama Flies Special Barber To WH Every Two Weeks
  • It’s the Little Things: Obama Insults Poland, Awards Medal of Freedom to Socialist Icons
  • Reprehensible Holder Scares Black Voters
  • Businessman Faces Backlash After Appearing on Obama’s Enemies List
  • Obama Insults Poland with Crass and Ignorant ‘Polish Death Camp’ Remark
  • Somebody (Obama) Watched Too Many Episodes of ‘The West Wing’

Not only do all of these headlines qualify as political sound bytes, they sound like gossip and border on slander. I especially like the headline about Obama mentioning his sons. I heard gossip like this constantly as a BPK. “Did you hear what Jennifer said? She said there’s nothing better than drinking on a hot summer day.”

The real message of the passage in Romans is that God finds gossip as heinous as he finds adultery and gay cruising. No one gets to claim the high ground because no sin is worse than another. You can’t grade sin, it’s all 11 on a scale of 10.

So I would like to remind Marcellino of a couple of other scriptures:

  • Don’t judge lest you be judged.
  • Don’t resist evil people. In fact, help them on their way.
  • Don’t point out the speck in other’s eyes when you have a beam in yours.

In other words, worry about your own sins and not the sins of others. In the New Testament depictions of judgment, no one is called to answer for what other people did.

I think we can safely say that most Democrats, and Christians who support the party’s candidates aren’t pro-abortion, or promoting homosexuality. We simply think government should keep out of people’s lives the way Republicans want to keep government out of their gun cabinets.

I’ve generally found that Christians have one of two views of God’s realm. Some want it to be bigger and others want to keep it tiny and exclusive. Too often we say that’s God’s decision but we project our own desires onto the realm we envision. Jesus preached generosity of spirit above most other virtues. And part of that generosity is to stop volunteering to help with God’s plan for others. We have enough time following that plan ourselves.

1Sound familiar? Too bad they didn’t think of a defense of marriage act in the sixties.back
2Technically I’m independent because I will vote for third parties and even candidates I know will piss the party off. (For instance I voted for Al Sharpton in the 2004 primary.) But I will accept the label of Democrat because I have yet to meet a Republican who deserved my vote. Whenever the Democratic party dumped such colossal turds such as Dolph Brisco onto the ballet, the Republicans made sure to counter with a candidate that made him look good. So I voted for the La Raza candidate Ramsey Muñiz. In other elections I simply wrote in “none of the above,” which so pissed off one precinct chair that she posted a sign in later elections warning “No voting ‘none of the above.'” It didn’t stop me.back

Written on stone tablets (made in China)

So we know that Obama is anti-life, anti-marriage and anti-Christian. The latest revelation is that Obama and his lead hit man Hillary Clinton have done an end run around the constitution and used the UN to ban guns in America.

I was puzzled about all this brouhaha until I realized God had revised the ten commandments. This may sound absurd to you, but I’ve already reported that the Christian right has decided to revisit the Bible and release the version God intended.

I got a peek at the Ten Commandments 2.0 and found them enlightening. Here’s the honest to God commandments the way God would have written them had America been there in time for the Bible to be written:

  1. America is God’s nation. Thou shalt elevate no other nations before it.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Lord with guns and keep the government from taking them away to prevent thy defense thereof. This is the second, and perhaps, greatest commandment. 1
  3. Though shalt display images of thy God, his ten commandments and even his commemorative tree on his birthday in every public office, school and mall, yea even in communities where secular humanists abound.
  4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain, which is defined thereby as questioning the Lord or those who defend his name or swearing unless you are in the military or play football or doing guy stuff.
  5. Thou shalt remember the sabbath and keep it holy by observing Football, NASCAR and church if it doesn’t conflict with game time.
  6. Honor thy father and mother unless you are a character in a FOX sitcom.
  7. Thou shalt not kill unborn children, but after that they’re on their own.
  8. Thou shalt not commit adultery unless you can deflect accusations by pointing the finger at others.
  9. Thou shalt not allow the government to steal by levying taxes.
  10. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, which doesn’t count if they’re liberals, secular humanists or otherwise unworthy of God’s favor.

Obviously the original tenth commandment was bumped off the list, but it was too long to remember anyway and besides, even if you do know what coveting is, you can buy the stuff you covet on credit.

1I know this is a shift in the order of original commandments, but since the Constitution is the second highest authority for the American Jesus, the second amendment allows new Bible scholars to feel fairly sure that God originally intended this to be the second commandment as well. Since there were no guns at the time, God was holding this back for a later revelation. back

Rejoice in the Lord but don’t be gay

North Carolina joined the ranks of the states willing to secede (or resecede) from the union when it declared same sex marriage and civil unions to be unconstitutional. After all, nothing poses a greater threat to marriage than couples who can’t produce kids.

Cousins can still marry cousins and further narrow the gene pool. But that’s not a threat to marriage at all. Just society in general.

Jesus didn’t speak to me about that. That’s just my opinion. But opinion seems to carry the weight of Gospel these days, so I might as well add mine. Carol was listening to a pundit on CNN while I was in the bathroom this morning so I didn’t get his name (and I didn’t find it worth rewinding), but he argued that gay marriage is a threat to society because homosexuality is picked up from our environments.

His implicit conclusion? Having more gay couples accepted will make more kids gay. He didn’t come out and say this, most likely because the interview would have been posted to YouTube with a laugh track. Facts are facts. Kids grow up in the same communities with the same exposure to gay couples. Most turn out to be straight. So clearly environment isn’t an issue.

Personally, I think the all those Defense of Marriage Acts should be called the Defense of the Definition of Marriage Acts. After all, if we define marriage as “between two people” then same sex marriage isn’t an issue.

So one question we should ask is, does the Bible really define marriage as “between a man and a woman?” The traditional answer is Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” But that verse doesn’t say a wife is a woman. So what’s all the fuss over men marrying men? Maybe we could twist the verse to mean that women can’t marry women. But clearly there’s no prohibition against men marrying men.

I can already anticipate the objection. But Jesus says in the previous verse that God created male and female. So clearly “wife” means “woman.” But I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and I know that it’s dangerous to make one verse’s meaning depend on previous verses. (It’s called “context.”) Otherwise we would be forced to acknowledge that homosexuality and gossip are equally distasteful to God (read Romans).

Besides, if we are going to insist on context, Jesus is talking about divorce, not same sex marriage. Based on that verse, the defense of marriage would prohibit marriage between previously married partners.

What amazes me is that the Christian right, who is all about religious freedom, wants government to dictate to churches who they can and cannot marry. Banning same sex marriage not only affects the legal status of gay and lesbian couples, it dictates whether or not churches can perform rites for their parishioners, should they choose.

Think about it. Your church accepts that same sex marriage is unlawful in the eyes of God. Even before the defense of marriage act, no government would force you to marry a gay couple. Nor would you need to. If a gay couple was even brave enough to admit their love to the congregation (assuming they were clueless enough to be members of your church) they would still have to get married in a state that accepted same sex marriage, and they could have a civil ceremony if they couldn’t find a liberal elitist secular church that would marry them.

But you would be furious if the government told your church it had to marry that couple. In fact, I can imagine that if the government included divorced partners in the defense of marriage act, your church would be up in arms.

This may seem inconceivable, but forty years ago many churches (including the Catholic Church) felt the same way about divorced couples that many Christians feel about same sex couples now. Some churches thought it was heresy for a church to sanctify a marriage involving a divorced spouse. I suspect those same churches would insist on first marriages between a man and woman only. This, in fact, was the point I was making about the original intent of Matthew 19:5.

The defense of marriage acts deny churches the right to marry same sex couples if they feel that is the Christian thing to do. This sets a dangerous precedent. By refusing to allow citizens their Constitutional rights, Christians are opening the door to government to curtail their own rights as well. This is not just hypocrisy, it’s stupid.

Jesus did not endorse or approve of this blog. At least not explicitly.

So far as I know.

The pope proves he has the right manly stuff

This evening Carol showed me one of those cyber posters with a painting of Adam and Eve and a punchline wondering why artists always paint them with navels. Actually, the punchline wondered why they always had belly buttons, but as long as we’re being picky (as that particular poster seemed to have been) bellies don’t have buttons. There is nothing on the belly we can fasten pants, shirts, vests or other bellies to. They have navels.

To be honest, I’m surprised Carol didn’t know this gag. It was a classic brain teaser when we were kids. “An archeologist walks into a cave and sees two dead bodies. He immediately knows they’re Adam and Eve. How?”

Please don’t tell me you don’t know the answer. If you intend to, then you need to put your phone down and reread the lede paragraph (and, although the spelling is pretentious, in this context it’s correct).

That being said, I’m not sold on this whole “no navel” business. Why do we assume that just because Adam and Eve weren’t born, but created from dust, mud and ribs, they wouldn’t have navels? Sure, a navel wouldn’t be necessary, but does that mean they wouldn’t have been there?

Don’t fundamentalists get upset with scientists for saying essentially the same thing? If the theory of evolution is correct, then God isn’t necessary to human life. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t out there. And the Bible does say God created Adam and Eve in his image. How do we know God doesn’t have a navel?

If I seem to be picking at gnats, I feel I’m in good company with Pope Benedict this week. He took control of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (read “nuns” in the common vernacular) and handed the reins to a male Bishop. And we all know that unmarried men who run around in robes are completely equipped to discern the spiritual needs of women in the twenty-first century.

Ostensibly the move was because of the conference’s professed stand on same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion, except that the conference has no official position on any of those issues. And that, it turns out, is the problem. The conference takes no official position. It seems they should have.

Here’s what I don’t get. The conference is an organized arm of the Catholic church. By default their official position is identical to the church’s unless they say otherwise. But that’s not good enough for women. They actually have to come out and say, “Whatever the men say, we’re for it.”

But that’s church teaching too. Men make the decisions, women go along. Because Christ is head of the church and men represent Christ in families.

Ironically, this follows almost by two weeks, my Easter blog on the need to give believers the space to find the truth. I guess the Pope doesn’t read my blog.

This kind of lock-step dictation of personal faith was exactly the kind of church policy that caused evangelicals and fundamentalists to hold the church in suspicion when I was a kid. I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and BPKs believed in free will. The church, any church, didn’t get to dictate our conscience.

After all, Jesus said Christians will be known by our love for one another. Not by our doctrinal purity. These days it seems that the religious right, encouraged by the Corporate Christian Complex (CCC) marches in lock step with the Pope. Only this Pope seems determined to roll back two centuries worth of Papal revelation.

As a BPK I learned that there was a deep divide between Catholic and Baptist practice. The church enforced one mind and one doctrine through theological inquisition. We embraced our right to free belief by breaking up into smaller and smaller congregations aligned around pure doctrine. Even if there was only one person in our congregation, at least it was pure. Same result, smaller assemblies.

Jesus would be so proud.

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.

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


Keep the Chrazies out of Christmas

‘Tis no longer the season to be jolly, but to be bitter and derisive. Too many people have a stake in Christmas and that stake has nothing to do with peace on earth and goodwill toward others.1 Christmas has become a platform for political platitudes and posturing. To listen to the religious right and their secular opponents, the fate of America’s soul, and every Christian or free thinker’s soul, depends on the outcome of the war.
Two recent examples:
A post office manager raised the ire of Fox news when he allegedly evicted Christmas carolers from his branch. I say allegedly, not because they were asked to leave, but because differing accounts depict him as irate or conciliatory. He claims he simply asked them to move to the sidewalk outside; according to Fox News, he was irate.
Of course, if you managed a post office and had to answer to bureaucratic supervisors who held you responsible for running things smoothly and avoiding customer complaints, you might be irate if a group of costumed carolers started singing during the rush at Christmas without even asking your permission. To me, their would be no “might” about it. I would be pissed.
Nor does this excuse the carolers for overlooking the need to ask for permission. I understand the philosophy that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but if you practice that philosophy you should consider yourself lucky you don’t end up in jail. To protest their removal is disingenuous, if not dishonest. So I side with the post office manager on this one.
We would expect people to get upset if pro-life or pro-choice protestors tied up business in the post office. Or girl scouts selling cookies when we’re just trying to get to the counter. Or JW’s started passing out Watchtowers. Or even if a guitar player set up shop and let loose a riff from Jimi Hendrix on his Stratocaster.
In another culture clash, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), representing atheists in Pittman, New Jersey, protested the constitutionality of a sign “Keep Christ in Christmas” hung by the local Knights of Columbus. Maybe, they should have kept their mouths shut because the sign maker is now selling the sign as a bumper sticker at cost, so it should be popping up all over the country.
The constitutionality question borders on the placement of the flag. The mayor and town council claim that one side of the sign is anchored on private property and can only be removed by zoning restrictions. The FFRF says the other side is on public property and therefore impermissible.
My feeling is that members of the FFRF should just post their own banner, “Keep Christ out of Christmas,” and attach one side to their own private property. Then they could listen to the Christians howl.
To both the carolers and the FFRF, I say, get over it. We’re all Americans and we’re allowed to celebrate holidays as we choose. We’re also allowed to piss and moan about people we disagree with. In public. What we have is not a war on Christmas, but a war of words.
Speaking of wars of words, President Obama has evidently declared a war on faith itself. I didn’t know that, but Texas Governor Rick Perry says it’s true. According to the esteemed Texas Governor, Obama was responsible for banning prayer in schools, even though the Supreme Court ruled on the issue when Obama was in grade school. (Perry also thinks the Supreme Court is unelected and unaccountable and wants to stop this practice and restore the original intent of the Constitution.) Perry also believes Obama initiated “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and insists on stopping foreign aid to countries with policies of suppressing homosexuals.
Let’s be honest. Faith can not be reduced to gay rights, or even abortion. Not even the Christian faith. Even if we consider abortion to be murder, it still doesn’t make it into the top five commandments. In the Bowl Championship Series of commandments, it would never reach the title game. Being gay, or even marrying someone of the same sex doesn’t even rank until lying under oath or adultery become involved.
Nor can Christmas be reduced to the expression of personal faith or political opinion. Reggie McNeal, in his book The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church considers the modern church to be part “civil religion and in part a club where religious people can hang out with other people whose politics, worldview and lifestyle match theirs.”
Christians on both sides of the political spectrum would smugly smile on reading this and know, in their hearts, it applies to those “other Christians.” It applies to all Christians, including me. But, at Christmas, we need to recognize that the holiday Christmas no longer belongs to Christians.
Christmas has become a social festival to be enjoyed by all. We are supposed to celebrate the Joy of God in the world even if we don’t believe in him. Peace on earth, good will toward everyone. If Christmas isn’t for everyone, even those who choose to celebrate differently or not at all, then we should remove it as a Federal and national holiday.
But the Christian Right would never accept that. They want us all to celebrate Christmas on their own terms. In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one! As long as we celebrate the way Jesus intended.” Bah, humbug, indeed.

1 Oops, I already did it (to twist the words of that great philosopher Britney Spears). I misquoted the Bible. It should be “good will toward men.” If God wanted good will toward women, he would have said it that way.2back

2Who, to be honest was merely parroting the words of song writers Max Martin and Rami. But what a great excuse to chain a footnote off a footnote. If it seems as though I’m treating the war on Christmas with too much levity, I would say that, to the contrary, levity is all the subject deserves.back