The Bible is Wrong: Part 1: Mercy, Suicide and Homosexuality

Religion is a political beast wherein spirituality plays a varying part.  It is therefore apt to go beyond discussing the role of religion in public life, to discussing the nature of religion itself.  It is essential to balance respect for beliefs and people’s freedom to have and express them, with one’s own freedom to express one’s own beliefs and criticize others.  Aside from a few brave atheists, the discussion in this country thus far has been tilted grossly towards the Conservative Evangelical Christian worldview, with liberal Christians, secularists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists and others meekly keeping to the Church vs State debate.  Its time to step past that, and the only way to do that is to speak for one’s own beliefs, and use that as a platform to counter the beliefs you find harmful.

We need to be honest with ourselves.  It isn’t simply that we oppose conservative Christians using their religion to oppress homosexuals, it is that we abhore the belief itself that homosexuality is a sin (and all that entails).  So let’s bring that criticism into mainstream discourse.  In its absence we create a society where fear of blasphemy de facto retains its power unweakened by our distance from the dark ages.  The only way to move the frame of discussion back to a place of strength and equality is to make our opinions loud and clear, and no longer shrink back from voicing them.

Which brings me to my first topic in this series.  I was *finally* spurred to write about this after reading this post by Father Joe (and a particular comment in response), but I’d been meaning to write about the concept of suicide and mercy for a while now.  I’ve been hearing Disturbed’s Inside the Fire for a bit on the radio, and understanding the song plays a role in revealing how twisted a psychology the concept of hell and mortal sin raises.  The song is essentially David Draiman fighting the temptation to commit suicide and join his girlfriend.

The problem is with the concept of judgment, which is central to the judeo-christian-muslim tradition (growing up in conservative Judaism, we made a big deal out of the second most important holiday, Yom Kippur, the day of judgment).  In the case of a murderer, judgment, whatever the punishment, appeals to our sense of justice and revenge.  We want people who do bad things to suffer (however unholy that desire itself is).  However that same concept of judgment is extended to people who have not hurt anyone, or who themselves are suffering from a disease.  On this we should be perfectly clear.  Homosexuality hurts no one.  Suicide isn’t the act of a person who in a moment of weakness gave up on life.  Suicide is a fatal expression of clinical depression.  Condemning someone to hell for eternity for having cancer would be just as “just” and “compassionate”.

Father Joe writes:

When the topic of homosexuality is raised, immediately there are those who deny that we can make a moral evaluation. We are told, “It is not for us to judge, only God.”

Yes, it must be admitted that God is the judge of such things, but that verdict is not pending but has already been expressed by his revealed Word:

To those of us who do not buy the idea of “God’s revealed word” (finding the circular argument of “The Bible Says its So” unconvincing), that is a very hollow stance to take.  And it is one that serves a vision of God that is petty, vengeful, mean, flawed, violent, and utterly unholy.  What kind of God would condemn someone to an eternity of torture for loving another human being in a mutual relationship?

This is why I detest seeing the Bible used as a source for how to live one’s life, let alone how all Americans would be forced to live our lives.  The Bible describes a God who judges people for forbidden love, for depression, for believing in the wrong God, and condemns them.  Is that merciful?  Is that loving?  Is it holy?

Such beliefs have no place, no place at all in the running of our country.  And frankly subjecting people to them is a cruelty we seem unfortunately far from recognizing.  Its painful to think of the faithful relatives who think their loved ones are burning in hell, and whose hearts weep, confined by the belief that they will always be imprisoned there.


Peace and Love

I’m off on adventures, computer access will be random for a week or so.

I saw this, and it made me happy.  With all the bad news its easy to forget there’s a lot of positive energy out there.

“Let’s make my birthday, July the 7th at noon, all over America… whichever state you’re in, Pacific or Eastern, Western… peace and love,” Ringo told Access.

Ringo is instructing fans to say the phrase “Peace and love,” when the clock strikes 12 PM, no matter where they are in the world.

“Everybody goes ‘Peace and love,’” he explained. “In the office, on the bus… wherever.”

“It’s still peace and love for me, I’m a product of the ‘60s and it was a very influential period in my life, and you know, my head was turned around a bit, my eyes were opened as it were, ” said Starr. “In fact, I even have it on my arm, peace and love. I see nothing wrong with peace and love.”

Peace Inside and Out.

Love for All Sentient Beings.

Thanks for reading, hopefully when I get back the world will be just a bit warmer.

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The Human Cost of Anti-Immigration Fervor

The mother and child you see there are Elvira and Saul Arellano. As many have noted (Nez at Unapologetic Mexican, Xicanopwr, Lindsay at Majikthise), this is painful to watch. No matter what side you take on the immigration debate, you must acknowledge the human cost.

There is a beautiful and ancient tradition that has long been a part of our culture.  Throughout our history it has been there: quiet and subtle, hidden and mysterious.  I am speaking of mercy.  The notion that even when someone is guilty of a crime, we can reach into our better selves and act compassionately.

The responses to this are sure to revolve around “She broke the law”.  Yes.  But how we respond to that is an expression of who we are and how we want to be.

So I am asking for the moment that we put aside our considerable differences on immigration, and simply consider the human cost of our policies.  And maybe when we pick our differences back up again, we keep that in mind when we try and find a compromise.

Compassionless Conservatives

When taking the time to retro fit your political idealogical in a more attractive guise, care must be taken.  Wouldn’t want your future actions contradicting your message (or confirming an opponents!).  Apparently the so called political genius Rove and the team behind Bush’s run for office neglected to consider how their “Compassionate Conservative” tagline might play out over the years.  Austin Cline has taken a look, and the body under the tarp is not decomposing nicely:

Deeds are more important than words, so rather than pretend that conservatism can be made compassionate by a mere rhetorical flourish, we should instead ask how the Bush administration has acquitted itself over the past years. It’s hard to see anything remotely “compassionate” in a single policy, proposal, signing statement, or any other action taken by the Bush administration. Indeed, there are so many actions that seem to be the opposite of compassionate that it would be difficult to single any one out as truly emblematic of the Bush administration’s true character.

Austin takes a look at Bush’s response regarding health insurance for children (emphasis mine):

In explaining why he opposed any expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, George Bush made it clear that his position was purely ideological. It’s not the S-CHIP fails to work or fails to be efficient, but it’s a government program and that’s enough. In response to suggestions that children need access to adequate health care, Bush insisted that everyone has access to health care: “you just go to an emergency room.”

This is more than a “let them eat cake” moment for Bush.  It is a rhetorical stab right into the heart of conservatism.  As Austin points out:

Something had to be deeply wrong with conservatism if anyone imagined that the public needed to be told that it was possible to be conservative and compassionate at the same time, or that conservatism was being transformed into an ideology more compassionate than in the past.

If this is how compassionate “Compassionate Conservatism” is, what must so called “real” or “classical” conservatism be like?  In fact if you look at the current crop of Republican candidates for 2008, is there a single one who would take the compassionate road of ensuring children have health insurance?  Would any of them oppose any federal effort just on the basis of idealogical opposition to federal law?

Austin is absolutely right.  There is a huge opportunity here.

Let’s ensure that “conservative” is welded hard and fast to the government response to Katrina, to denying medical insurance to children, to wars based on lies, to denying gays equality under the law, to religious extremism, and so forth.

The phrase “bleeding heart” liberal has been thrown around for ages.  But it is a very instructive insult.  The opposite is the stone heart.  The ruthless corporatist who is so obsessed with small government and tax reform that they are willing to let people die and lives be ruined so long as the wheels of industry keep turning.  In conservative America, for all the harping on the individual, the individual does not matter.  The conservative position is that everyone has the potential to become or remain an individual who matters and has rights. It is this potential and the definition of who matters that they are so set on defending.  So much so that they have no compassion for those who for one reason or another fail to become someone who matters (and therefore someone who deserves even the most basic rights).

Conservatism represents a fundamentally broken approach to government.  One that ignores the heart.

Marijuana: Compassionless Court Sentences Woman to Suffering

Dying Woman Loses Appeal on Marijuana as Medication:

The woman, Angel McClary Raich, says she uses marijuana on doctors’ recommendation to treat an inoperable brain tumor and a battery of other serious ailments. Ms. Raich, 41, asserts that the drug effectively keeps her alive, by stimulating appetite and relieving pain, in a way that prescription drugs do not.

She wept when she heard the decision.

“It’s not every day in this country that someone’s right to life is taken from them,” said Ms. Raich, appearing frail during a news conference in Oakland, where she lives. “Today you are looking at someone who really is walking dead.”

Like any drug, marijuana can be abused.  But should the abuses of some restrict the freedom of many?  Just what is it about non alcoholic mind altering drugs the government finds so threatening?  If we can have legal drugs that do have harmful effects, why can’t marijuana be legalized for medicinal usage?

You’d think this issue would be a natural for bridging the conservative liberal gap.  It’s about individual freedom and about compassion.