Blog Against Theocracy 2013

Its been a long time dear readers. One of my earliest posts took part in the 2007 blog against theocracy. When I saw there was no organized blog against theocracy this year, I felt called to write. There is a great need to address this topic.

This past week has seen a historic awakening – a cultural awareness of the validity and importance of recognizing gay rights. It is a big moment, but underneath it an even bigger moment waits to be discovered: Religious belief alone is not a valid source of law. If your belief in the unity of all beings or the importance of love for they neighbor drives you to do good work – that is a beautiful blessing. But when your beliefs force those who do not share them to act as if they do: you cross a line. We see this play out in the absurd arguments against gay marriage. We see it in the obsessive drive to control and repress female sexuality. Increasingly though, we see it burrowing into harder to reach places. As America becomes less religious, as America pushes back on church incursions into state, we are going to see religious influence look for other ways to retain (and expand) power.

That is at play in this effort to push Bibles into public schools.

The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin.

A statement like that ignores the prolific writings of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian sources. It ignores the musings and discoveries of the Islamic Golden Age. The thoughts of Chinese writers are also missing. It also ignores the more interesting contributions of Christian thinkers like St Augustine and St Anselm. I speak from experience when I say you can understand their wonderful and engaging philosophical musings without having read the bible.

If you really want to expose the underbelly of the effort to bring bibles into the classroom, ask if they think students should study the koran. After all, the koran is foundational to much of modern society (just not in the US). Better yet, see if Roma Downy and Mark Burnett would support including critical views of the bible. Is it to be read as is, without the criticism found in English or History classes? Or do they imagine students free to dissect the many logical errors and contradictions found within? More than likely not, since that would defeat the purpose of their effort, similar in spirit and aim to efforts to install the ten commandments at courthouses.

The highest promise of religious thought is to inspire acts of great compassion and vision. When it is instead used as an aggressive evangelical power grab, its value is demeaned and lessened. The strongest and most vocal ally in the fight against theocracy should always be the religious believer. For religion is worth far more than its current use – as a tool for social control.

Trading Jesus for Caesar

Andrew Sullivan has a provocative thought: That the politicization of Christianity in the US is turning people away from the faith (hat tip Pam).

I think there is a lot of truth to this.  The union of conservative politics and conservative Christianity has created a brand. A very strong brand that is associated with denying women access to health care, and reproductive choices. A brand associated with the Duggars and the Quiverfull movement – aimed at trading away agency and free thought for obedience and servitude. Conservative Christianity is tied tightly to the battle against gay rights. A battle that is losing the cultural war with each passing year. A battle with young casualties for gay youth growing up in caustic religious environments. In Rick Santorum the religious right has a champion who is bold enough to publicly attack pornography and pre-marital sex. This union of church and state – this theocratic movement – has a very strong brand with a very simple message: A return to a time where women were second class citizens, homosexuality was hidden or “treated”, and religion enjoyed unelected power.

That brand is costing believers. It is a trade, as the dominionist army gives up their goal of “saving souls” for Jesus in return for taking from Caesar what is Caesar’s.

So to the religious right I ask: Is it worth it?

The Fake SEAL Pastor and His Enabler

Can we fit three of the most poisonous things wrong with our society into a single incident?  YES:

A Pastor fabricated his past as a Navy SEAL (emphasis mine):

Several former SEALs wrote into The Patriot-News casting doubt on the reverend’s account of his service.

“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” said retired SEAL Don Shipley. Shipley also speculated the waterboarding and kitchen details came from the action depicted in “Under Siege.”

One could write a library’s worth of books about the propensity to lie in order to convert, or that sticky mix of patriotism and bloodlust that so fully consumes the national discourse on war.

The paper’s response upon finding out about this falsehood takes the cake (emphasis mine):

The paper, meanwhile, is unapologetic for printing Moats’ prevarications.

“The Patriot-News regularly interviews veterans to tell their stories. We do not regularly ask those we interview for proof of their service, believing these men and women would not lie and dishonor those who have fought bravely defending our country,” the paper said in a special note to readers about the incident.

A newspaper that eschews proof in favor of faith is worthless.

So there we have it.  A pastor who lies and the newspaper that enabled him and refuses to apologize for taking the information it gathers at face value, and the underlying obsession with our warrior class simmering underneath it all.  If you have any question as to how we find ourselves continually suffering as a nation, look directly at this fact: That we glorify violence and avoid the truth.

Huckabee – Jesus in Every Home

If Huckabee does end up running again – in 2012 or 2016 – remember this guy is going to use his position of power to push Christianity into our legal system, into our policy, and onto our citizens.  He consistently “jokes” about forcing Christianity on citizens in the same way Bush used to joke about wanting to be a dictator.

Actually Bryan Fischer Has a Point

I’m an unabashed liberal, and stand firmly for the separation of Church and State.  The rest of Bryan Fischer’s worldview is morally repugnant in its blatant support of theocracy.  That being said, Karoli and John Amato of Crooks and Liars are wrong, and Bryan Fischer is correct, in this particular argument.  They are discussing the case of a Mr Cranick, who refused to pay the Fire Department until his house was literally on fire, at which point the Fire Department refused his last minute offers to settle the bill and let the house burn down.  He writes:

What angry folks fail to realize is that if Mr. Cranick had been able to get away with this – if he’d been able to wait til his house started to burn, then offer $75 and immediately get help – it wouldn’t be long before everybody else stopped paying. Why bother if you can wait until the emergency hits? If you pay when you don’t need to, that just makes you a sap. Pretty soon nobody would have fire protection at all since the city can’t afford to fight fires at $75 a pop. The city would have to withdraw its offer to the county, and everybody, especially responsible folk, would be less safe.

(Essentially what Mr. Cranick wants is “guaranteed issue” for fire protection. This is the same thing that is going to destroy the health care industry, as it is already starting to do under RomneyCare in Massachusetts. If you can wait til you get sick before applying for insurance, and the insurance company has to provide it, everybody will just wait til they get sick to get insurance and pretty soon nobody will have insurance or health care, either one.)

This is a very good point.  What does our school system look like when only the parents of children attending a given district paid?  That situation leads to huge disparities between districts.  Now imagine going a step further and only paying when their kids actually attended.  Would that work everywhere?  What would the tax burden for those particular families be?  Now imagine pay as you go applied to the police, fire department, hospitals, etc.  Some services are essential and require infrastructure and investment to operate effectively.  Pooling resources allows us, as a society, to get more (or in some cases anything at all) for our buck.  This is where Karoli misses the point:

No, actually what Mr. Cranick wanted was grace — the ability to pay whatever he needed to pay at that moment and in that time to get them to turn on the damned hoses. What he wanted was someone to say yes, we will accept your perfectly good money and turn the water on for you. What he wanted was forgiveness, which is above all else, the foundation of Christian values and principles. That’s what Mr. Cranick wanted.

His money wasn’t perfectly good.  Again, if everyone acted that way, there would be no Fire Department.  Now perhaps if we ran a Christian society where grace and forgiveness were law, then the Fire Department would have been obligated to respond.  Ironically, Bryan’s argument is a secular one – one which does not rely on any sort of religious precept to make its point – it works just fine with logic.  Bryan doesn’t seem to get that himself:

This story illustrates the fundamental difference between a sappy, secularist worldview, which unfortunately too many Christians have adopted, and the mature, robust Judeo-Christian worldview which made America the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world. The secularist wants to excuse and even reward irresponsibility, which eventually makes everybody less safe and less prosperous. A Christian worldview rewards responsibility and stresses individual responsibility and accountability, which in the end makes everybody more safe and more prosperous.

Actually that “sappy” worldview is Christian.  The view that suggests Mr Cranick should have paid properly isn’t one that stresses individual responsibility.  It is a pragmatic one that says “if we want x, we need to do y”.  Simple, no god-magic needed.

Don’t get me wrong, John and Karoli are dead on in their criticism of Bryan Fischer and his religious-political views.  One would not have to stretch the imagination to call them anti-Christian, and they are clearly anti-American.  We are not a theocracy, no matter how hard extremists like Mr Fischer might wish it.

That being said, Cranick’s actions expose a gaping flaw in the reality challenged perspective of the libertarian.  Sometimes – not always – taking a communal approach to resources and services is a far wiser move than leaving them to the unstable winds of the market.

It leaves one with some interesting food for thought though.  What would a truly Christian country look like?  With tithes – there would surely be taxes.  With grace and compassion, there would surely be a social safety net.  Christian conservatives can count on opposition from secularists who respect freedom of and from religion as a founding precept of this country of ours.  Its only a matter of time before their own argument bites them in the ass, as the heart and soul of Christianity is anything but violent, fearful, reactionary, or conservative.

When Religious Insanity Maims and Kills Children

Religion – throughout history – has on occasion stoked the fires of ignorance, hate, and violence.  The attacks on witchcraft – often a cover for overt misogyny or the elimination of competing religions – are a particularly brazen example.  Witch hunts continue to this day in NigeriaSpecifically targeting children (nytimes – may prompt you for registration – if so visit bugmenot.com):

Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.

some have read her book “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” where she confidently writes that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

in her sermons, Ms. Ukpabio is emphatic that children can be possessed, and that with her God-given “powers of discernment,” she can spot such a child. Belief in possession is especially common among Pentecostals in Nigeria, where it reinforces native traditions that spirits are real and intervene in human affairs.

Since “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” was first shown in Britain, in 2008, Mr. Itauma’s home state has adopted a law against accusing children of witchcraft. But Ms. Ukpabio went on the offensive by suing the state government, Mr. Foxcroft, Mr. Itauma and Leo Igwe, a Nigerian antisuperstition activist.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Ukpabio alleges that the state law infringes on her freedom of religion. She seeks 2 billion naira (about $13 million) in damages, as well as “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents” from interfering with or otherwise denouncing her church’s “right to practice their religion and the Christian religious belief in the existence of God, Jesus Christ, Satan, sin, witchcraft, heaven and hellfire.”

In other words, in the name of religious freedom, Ms. Ukpabio seeks a gag order on anyone who disagrees with her.

This is Christianity at its very worst.  The strategies employed by Ms. Ukpabio mirror those we see in the US from conservative Christians – claim persecution and vigorously defend their “right” to persecute and vilify others – often with violent results.

In general one wants to say people have a right to preach and spread ignorance.  One’s will to defend this right begins to erode when that ignorance clearly leads to violence.  What is absolutely clear is that we do have a right to criticize that ignorance and do our best to counter it.  That means everything from explaining the difference between autism and witchcraft to tackling a belief system that was founded on bronze age fears of the unknown – and fears of competing belief systems.

Religious Conservative Incestual Rape Apologists

Sharron Angle is making public a textbook psychotic position on the horrible matter of incestual rape that leads to a pregnancy.  Digby Reports:

Sharron Angle has a plan for girls who are raped by their fathers and get pregnant. Force the little girl to have a child and then adopt both of them out to a new family!

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

No word on what happened to the incest victim, but that’s really not something anyone should waste much time worrying about.

And anyway it just shows that God provides many good alternatives to abortion for for young girls who are raped by their fathers — perhaps we could just bend the rules a little bit and the little girl could marry her daddy so they could make a new family all their own.

That she leaves out the rape victim – aka the baby carrier (you know, the non-woman as per fellow Republican Christianist David Vitter) – is telling.  Nuts like these really don’t give a shit about mothers.  They aren’t anti-choice, they are anti-mother.  And God help you if you become a mother against your will, or if becoming a mother poses serious health risks.  Because they sure as hell won’t.  At that point you cease to be a woman, cease to be a rape victim, and become an incubator.

Let’s put the positions of these religious nuts who advocate forcing raped girls to bear their father’s children into context.  Consider the biblical story of Lot and his daughters.  He offered them up to be raped by strangers, and later had offspring with them.  Is this what religious conservative mean when they suggest using the Bible as a basis for law in our country?