Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In the Wake of Prop 8

1. Quote of the day:
"If you're a woman, I can legally marry you in the US for any of the following reasons: money, social status, pity, pride, drunken stupor, green card, practical joke, to win a bet, to save you, to abuse you, to force your father to give me a job, I ordered you online, I won a reality tv show, marriage is on my "to do" list, you're my only hope, or just for fun. If you're a man, not even love is reason enough."
-Phil Putnam (the link is to his Facebook profile; I don't know if non-friends can view it)

Seriously, if the religious right were truly concerned about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, they'd be doing a lot of housecleaning beyond merely trying to stomp on the gays.

2. A heartfelt plea for equal treatment from a survivor of extreme anti-gay prejudice. Stories like this one remind me how blessed I am to have several supportive family members, including a mother who has always placed a higher value on people than on dogma.

3. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty speaks out in support of gay marriage. He mistakenly states that many of the Founding Fathers were atheists (it's true that many of them weren't orthodox Christians, but they still believed in God), but aside from that he makes some good points.

4. Regarding the ruling itself, Andrew Sullivan believes the California Supreme Court made the right call. Classically Liberal disagrees.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Random Addenda

1. It's a pretty huge irony, when you stop to think about it, that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy does not originate in the Bible. While inerrantists have a handful of verses that they trot out when defending their position, the doctrine is ultimately based on the assumption that if the Bible is God-inspired and authoritative, then it must be as perfect as its Creator; the verses used to defend that assertion were conscripted afterward.

For fundamentalists, who view all human reasoning as suspect and believe that nothing about God or his creation can be properly understood without first turning to the Bible, this is extremely problematic. For any belief to be true, it must be derived from the Bible. The Bible is a reliable source of truth because, as God's Word, it is perfect. The Bible itself, however, never claims to be perfect - therefore, according to fundamentalism's own rules, inerrancy is a questionable doctrine at best and a heresy at worst. And without an inerrant Bible, their own either/or thinking leaves them with nothing.

2. Speaking of fundamentalism, Jim Babka of Positive Liberty offers a thoughtful analysis of why some people gravitate toward such belief systems. Babka's ideas correlate with Fowler's Stages of Faith, specifically Stage Three, which is where many people stop growing. Life is much easier to cope with when one can rely on an external authority to spell everything out in black and white terms. It's an escape from responsibility, really, for all that fundamentalists talk about accountability; one never need apologize for anything done in the name of obedience to God, no matter how destructive.

3. On the subject of showing respect for those whose beliefs differ from ours (and I mean genuine respect, not lip service accompanied by passive proselytizing), Doorman-Priest has written about his friendship with a Muslim colleague - an individual who does not at all conform to the stereotypes that most of us in the US have about followers of Islam. In short, there's no reason that reasonable people cannot be neighbors, friends and sometimes even allies regardless of their differences in belief.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life Soundtrack 14

It's a Sin, by The Pet Shop Boys

When this song first came out, I viewed it through the same lens that most conservative evangelicals most likely did (and do) - as a somewhat whiny diatribe by someone too worldly and rebellious to put God ahead of their own wants. Listening to it now, I'm reminded of all the problems inherent in holding to a sin-centric theology, as so many churches do, and I understand why such a legalistic mindset drives so many people away from the church.

The more we obsess over sin avoidance, the less energy we have left to do anything positive and the less we have to offer to a world that we claim needs what we've supposedly got.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Respect, Continued

I recently saw "Atheist vs. Christian," the episode of 30 Days where an atheist spent a month living with an evangelical family. No doubt there were critics who objected that the atheist was a little too perfect - a middle-class mother of three with strong morals who could very articulately explain and defend her beliefs - but contrary to popular belief in evangelical circles, such people really do exist.

The couple she stayed with did exemplify the ignorance that most evangelicals have about how the rest of the world really lives, but the show wasn't weighted against them; they were also very normal, successful middle-class parents who could articulate their own beliefs without being overtly disrespectful.

Even so, it was very telling that the atheist knew more about Christianity than the Christians knew about atheism, especially given the commitment that evangelicals have to "winning the lost." This woman hadn't run to atheism out of a negative reaction to the church, or because she wanted to do things "her way" in defiance of God's commands. She came to her beliefs through an intellectually and personally rigorous process that puts most Christians to shame, and it doesn't bother her in the least that other people continue to believe in God (or gods) despite her disagreement with their conclusions.

Yes, there are atheists like Richard Dawkins who are virulently anti-religion and who actively seek to stamp out religious belief. That their outreach efforts are reminiscent in many ways of Christian evangelism is a telling point that goes over the heads of zealots on both sides, but I digress. The simple fact that most evangelicals seem oblivious to is that there are many more atheists who are happy to live and let live, and who can even appreciate the positive contributions that religions have made to the world.

Such an accepting attitude is, in fact, a sign of maturity and an outgrowth of being secure in one's belief. It speaks volumes that so many evangelicals complain about how much the rest of the world hates them, all the while refusing to show any genuine respect to those who disagree with them. Is it any wonder when such self-serving displays of insecurity earn us the very disrespect that we rail against?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Downfall, Part 4

When I first started the Downfall series, I had in mind writing a segment on the religious right's endorsement of the Bush Administration's use of torture on those it identified as enemy combatants. At the time, though, I mostly had anecdotal evidence to work with; I wasn't certain how many evangelicals really thought torture was a legitimate use of government power.

Now, however, we do know. Via Joe.My.God and others, a new Pew Research Center survey found that 54% of regular churchgoers - and more than 60% of white evangelicals - believe that the use of torture against suspected terrorists is often or sometimes justified. It's worth noting that the survey's sample size was relatively small, but it's nonetheless unlikely that Pew would have found so many pro-torture evangelicals if their numbers weren't considerable.

Only a decade ago, the idea that the President of the United States would authorize interrogation methods that the entire civilized world denounced when they were used against American POW's in past wars was all but unthinkable. Had the Clinton administration been the first to employ waterboarding, there is little question that conservative evangelicals would have been up in arms and shouting for Clinton's impeachment. But since it was initiated by their man in the White House, in the wake of an attack on American civilians by Muslim extremists, it suddenly became acceptable based on the hypothetical possibility that it might eventually save American lives.

And so the church, having abandoned its spiritual mandate in pursuit of a political agenda, has become further tainted by the very power system it thought it could wield in God's name. The same believers who would most adamantly insist that God's high standards preclude a gay person from ever being a genuine Christian no longer see anything wrong with treating suspected enemies with ruthless brutality.

I make an effort to avoid speaking on God's behalf on my blog (or anywhere else), but "Jesus wept" (which CNN tagged onto the end of the url for its article) seems pretty likely to have been his response to this survey.