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?

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Prop 8: Bigotry Wins in California

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Voters have approved prop 8, writing discrimination into the California state constitution.

Their jubilation comes at the expense of people they denied the right to marriage by successfully hiding behind the veil of religious freedom and appealing to people’s worst instincts.

The thing to remember is that their victory will be short lived.  There will be another proposition to overturn prop 8 as surely as there is a will to victory emboldened by Obama’s historic win and call to service.

Younger generations by far favor equality, not bigotry.  If not in 2 years then in 4.  If not in 4 years then in 6.  To those of good heart in California take heart: This is a battle we will win!

Our Religious Litmus Test

The myths we tell ourselves shape our world.

So let’s take a look at one man and his problematic relationship with reality, and the politics that surround it. Aside from Mitt Romney, Huckabee has generated the most enthusiastic press coverage concerning his religion. This in itself isn’t bad. A preacher turned politician could make a formidable ticket, but such is not the case with Huckabee. Nonetheless he knows his strengths and plays to him. Thus when he recently went to South Carolina to campaign, he took his message straight to the Pews. (AP):

Republican Mike Huckabee spoke from the pulpit Sunday, not as a politician but as the preacher he used to be, delivering a sermon on how merely being good isn’t enough to get into heaven.

Ah, but preachers are politicians. And Huckabee was spinning furiously (emphasis mine):

On Sunday in South Carolina, Huckabee avoided politics entirely, instead preaching about humility and trusting in Jesus to open the gates of heaven.

“The criteria to get into heaven is you have to be not good, but perfect. That’s the real challenge in it,” he said at First Baptist North Spartanburg, a megachurch with 2,500 members.

“On that day, when I pull up, I’ll be asked, `Do you have what it takes to get in?'” Huckabee said. “And if I ask, `Well, what does it take to get in?’ ‘Gotta be perfect.‘”

“Well, I’m afraid I don’t have that, but you know what, I won’t be there alone that day. Somebody is going to be with me. His name is Jesus, and he’s promised that he would never leave me or forsake me,” he said.

Asked by reporters later if he thinks only Christians will go to heaven, Huckabee refused to say. He often says that as a minister, he joked that he doesn’t even believe all Baptists are going to heaven.

Let’s be clear on what game Mike is playing here:

He argued that the Constitution forbids a political candidate from being subjected to a religious litmus test.

In South Carolina, Huckabee didn’t ask for votes or discuss the campaign, but senior pastor Michael S. Hamlet encouraged the congregation to vote according to how they try to live their lives, by the principles of Bible scripture.

“I’m going to tell you something, when you go vote, you ought to follow those principles,” Hamlet said.

Outwardly he is sticking to a script of a uniter and a reformer, a conservative with a slight hint of moderate. Outwardly he is saying religion should not move voters in the polls. But beneath every word his forked tongue carves is a world of life, and its no reflection of the words that conceal it. Huckabee is mobilizing Christians to vote for him based upon his willingness to govern this nation as a Christian nation. Mike Huckabee is just fine with a religious litmus test as long as his own results are positive, and Mitt Romney’s come up negative:

However, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also been asked about his Mormon faith. In fact, Romney got questions about his faith after Huckabee, in The New York Times, asked whether Mormons believe Jesus and the devil were brothers. Huckabee quickly apologized to Romney and said the quotes were taken out of context.

He isn’t fooling anyone. His political positions on creationism, reproductive rights, and gay rights all show that he will cross the line when it comes to Church and State, no matter how feverishly his campaign tries to sedate voter concerns. Which brings us back to his sermon. Am I the only one who wonders what other beliefs will find their way into public policy? If we allow this country to slide into a Dominionist Theocracy, what will become of non Christians? What rights have the damned, and what privileges the saved?

Unite Church and State… Then What?

Let’s say the far right fundamentalists win over the reasonable and progressive.  Church and State become one.

The first question is, which Church?  Given the makeup of the far-right, we are looking at some kind of Christianity, most likely Protestantism.   Then what happens?

  1. Schools will teach the Christian Bible
  2. Abstinence only education
  3. Homosexuals:
    1. Will not be allowed to marry
    2. Or adopt
    3. Firing and hiring based on sexual orientation will be permitted
    4. Hate crimes will not cover those motivated by homophobia
    5. Homosexuality will be taught as deviant behavior
  4. Courts and other public building will put Christian religious symbols on display
  5. Abortion will be completely outlawed
  6. Laws governing sexual practice (anal, oral, sex toys, before marriage etc) will be reinstated
  7. More blue laws (shops and other businesses closed on Sunday)
  8. Evolution will disappear from some schools, and be taught with bias in others
  9. Some schools will drop any science that could be perceived as threatening to the Christian faith
  10. The official state religion will be worked into legal and public proceedings
  11. Books that question/insult Christianity would be banned
  12. Art that question or insult Christianity would be forbidden
  13. Television, Radio and the Internet would be heavily regulated to conform to Christian ideals purity

What else would happen?  Would we join a repressive book of the month club with countries like Iran?  Would the state sponsor evangelism and efforts to convert non believers?  Could foreign giving come with strings (let our missionaries in) or religious litmus tests?  Would there be overt religious litmus tests for certain jobs or public office?

Now imagine what living in this country would be like for Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Atheists, and others.

Would it still be America?

The Earth is an Immoral Heathen Slut!

The problem with using the Bible to make a political argument is you then open it to critique.

Sisyphus at blogs for Brownback has given us an unfortunate glimpse into the lines of thought Brownback supporters are doing:

However, for both moral and theological reasons, we should always bear in mind that the Earth does not move. If it moved, we would feel it moving. That’s called empiricism, the experience of the senses. Don’t take my word for it, or the evidence of your own senses, Copernicans. There’s also the Word of the Lord:

“He has fixed the earth firm, immovable.” (1 Chronicles 16:30)

“Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm …” (Psalm 93:1)

“Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken.” (Psalm 104:5)

“…who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast…” (Isaiah 45:18)

“The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

There is so much gold here!  Let’s move past the brilliant “we’d feel the earth moving” argument, and skip the biblical quotes which do not support his thesis.  About Psalm 104:5… do earthquakes count?  Where is the foundation of the earth?  The rest of the quotes simply suggest the earth is “fixed”.  Which of course translates directly to “center of the universe”.

There’s more though.  Let’s take a look at Job:

 5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.

 6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.

7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.

So apparently the earth is on pillars.  Neat.  Maybe Sisyphus can organize some NASA funding to find them.  But in the meantime there is a bit of a problem.  How can God have made the earth “immovable” and “so that it can never be shaken”, if he “shakes the earth from its place”?  Can God make an earth that can never be shaken or moved, and then move and shake it?  Apparently.  God has super anti-logic powers!

But this is the diamond in the rough: “However, for both moral and theological reasons, we should always bear in mind that the Earth does not move.”.

Moral reasons?  You may be thinking “what the hell is he on about?”, but bear with me.  You see, there is a direct correlation between earthquakes and immoral godless behavior.  And if it turns out the earth revolved around the sun, people might suspect we created God, and not the other way around.  That’s right kids, science leads directly to atheism!

I can’t wait to hear from the moonbats and the Darwinists and the other rubes on this one, though. Go on, witch doctors. Preach to me how the planet hurtles through the ether, Scriptural and physical evidence to the contrary! Your false doctrines will be cast down on the day when America rediscovers its Christian roots. That is a promise.

The ether is a relic from Greek mythology, a conception of “upper sky”.  Space dear Sisyphus, space!

Here is a promise, America will not be fooled into becoming a theocracy where cowards keep children locked way from a real education.  America is the land of the free, not a Christian nation where we stick our heads in the ground and recite scripture.  Heliocentrism is not an atheist doctrine.  It is a theory, a theory with mountains of solid empirical evidence to support it.  You see, science doesn’t have doctrine.  We don’t need to say “believe this or else”.  We can prove our points.   And those of us who believe in God, such as myself, don’t need to attack knowledge of the world and how it works to strengthen our worldview.

Fundamentalism will not take root in our country without a fight!

Why We Don’t Want a Christian Nation

A letter to the editor and a blog post both got me thinking about the separation of Church and State, and history.

I already talked a bit about the letter, but it is one line that sticks out (emphasis mine):

THE GLOBE does a public service in publishing letters like that of the Rev. George Szal (”Womb, woman, and child,” April 29), in which he espouses the breathtakingly medieval notion of blaming the world’s troubles on a woman’s choice — in this case, the biblical Eve. It serves as a useful reminder of how far most people’s concepts of morality have evolved since the Middle Ages, and at the same time of how much remains to be accomplished.

ANDY GOLDSTEIN
Hudson

There is sometimes talk of whether or not religion played an active role in the formation of our country. Even if it did, why would we want to return to that? Supposing our country was formed in the bonds of a theocracy reminiscent of the worst the dark ages had to offer, why would we seek it again? Does anyone seriously refer to our history as a country built on slavery as a positive, or as a compelling reason to justify more racism in government?

The blog post is by Marcelonious over at Silent No More:

Just a couple interesting thoughts for you. Someone sent me the following quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are a gift of God?”

Consider then, this man, who obviously had some affiliation with religion and God, proposing the “Wall of Separation”, aka separation of church and state. Why would a man who said the previous quote propose such a thing, unless he obviously had the safety of religion (as well as government) in mind?

The wall of separation does indeed protect religion from the state. However, what Thomas is clearly saying is that our liberties are intrinsic. They are human rights, not civil rights. Civil rights are granted at the pleasure of government.  Human rights transcend governments and simply are.

Now, obviously, I don’t think that such a wall is impossible to bypass. Whether one chooses to acknowledge the fact or not, people carry their religion with them wherever they go. To say that the First Amendment nullifies religion within government is poppycock. But to say that the 1st Amendment nullifies government within religion is not. Government is not allowed to interfere with religion, but religion is allowed to interfere government.

No, religion is not allowed to interfere with government. If the people of one religion interfere with government, and get a law passed that establishes that religion, then government would be interfering with other religions. So much for the first amendment!

But even if this were the case, why would it be desirable in the least? What Marcelonious is describing is a return to the middle ages, a return to one state religion writing the laws of the land. We do not want a Christian nation because it would mean an end to religious freedom. Eventually even how you choose to practice Christianity would be the domain of the government.

This is something to keep in mind as we listen to our Presidential Candidates. We do not want a Christian nation. We want an America where every person is free to practice or not practice as they see fit. We do not want a Theocracy, we want a Democracy.

I Agree With With 95% of This Racist Bull Shit

Don Larsen, a District Chairman for the Republican party, has brought forth a truly paranoid racist piece of batshit crazy legislation (via Pam). From the Herald Extra via David:

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants “hate American people” and “are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won’t do.”

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to “destroy Christian America” and replace it with “a godless new world order — and that is not extremism, that is fact,” Larsen said.

David notes that this kind of speech simply starts with the radical radio hosts.

As we saw in Montana last week, the spread of vile, hateful rhetoric specifically intended to dehumanize liberals, illegal immigrants and Muslims is hardly relegated to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. That’s just where it starts.

So we can expect more. How comforting. What really gets me is Senator Howard Stephenson’s take on this:

Senator Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, spoke against the resolution, saying Larsen, whom he called a “true patriot and a close friend,” was embarrassing the Republican Party.

“I agree with 95 percent of this resolution but it has some language that is divisive and not inspiring other people to its vision,” he said. “This only gives fodder to the liberal media to give negative attention to the Republican Party.”

95%? So he agrees that Democrats and Immigrants are destroying this country? Or is it that Satan is behind the whole thing? Or that this is a Christian Nation? Well, maybe not the Satan part (Jesus’ General via Pam).

The best reason for the resolution was given by a nameless supporter (emphasis mine):

Another, who declined to give her name to the Daily Herald, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because “they are not going to become Republicans and stop flying the flag upside down. … If they want to be Americans, they should learn to speak English and fly their flag like we do.”

The not becoming Republicans part is very understandable (perhaps we can even extend that to legal immigrants and citizens some brave new day). What gets me is the “flying the flag upside down” quote. The immigration debate has come down to butter. What an interesting way of saying “because they are not like us”.