Presidential Circus, Featuring Some God-fearing Clowns

presidential politics

Here we go again. It is that time again when aspirants to the White House, both Democratic and Republican begin announcing their intention to run for president in 2016, thus initiating a media circus featuring, on both sides, an array of supposedly God-fearing clowns, groveling before Evangelicals and prattling on about their belief in the Almighty and their certainty that if we just looked, we would find answers to all of our ills in the Good Book.

Of course, the candidates will cloak their true agendas – serving the fathers of corporate America far more zealously than Our Father who art (or art not as the case may be) in heaven – in pious patter about “family values,” or about the need to “restore America,” or about returning us to the state of divinely-granted exceptionalism that President Obama has so gravely squandered. This carnival season of unreason will end with the elections of November 2016, but its consequences – the validation of the idea that belief without empirical evidence is a virtue, and that religion – and especially Christianity – deserves a place in our politics, our Constitutionally-enshrined secularism notwithstanding.

But it does not have to be this way.

Of course, there will almost certainly be no declared atheist or even agnostic among the candidates. In all probability, the candidates will all be professed Christians of various persuasions. I, for one, find this to be scandalous, given that one out of five (20%) Americans claim to have no religious affiliation. Nonbelief is trending, and among a sizable, growing demographic. About 106 million Christians are expected to switch affiliation from 2010 to 2050, while only about 40 million people are expected to enter Christianity. The religiously unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics) are expected to see the largest net gains from switching, adding more than 61 million followers.

With that trend in mind, we should take a look at those who have announced so far, and what sort of religious views they hold. Let me start with the Republicans.

First, there is Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, who is officially a “devout” Christian (is there any other kind?), who now lists himself simply as “Dr. Rand Paul” (he’s an ophthalmologist). Paul finds it hard to see “God’s hand” in the suffering he encounters as a doctor, effectively dispelling the notion that a benevolent deity watches over humanity. Paul states: “As a teenager, I found that something was missing and decided that I would find that in Jesus. It’s something that – I tell people it didn’t always stick, either. I don’t know if that’s not – if that’s uh, blasphemy to say you have to be saved more than once, but I think sometimes it takes more than once for people. I’m also somebody who’s in science and medicine so it’s not always been easy for me to say, well, gosh, how do I see God’s hand in this horrible, horrible thing that I’m seeing; how do I see God’s presence in something – you see small children dying from brain tumors and this and that. Religion and faith isn’t always easy. But I always keep coming back.” Paul closed his announcement speech asking for “God’s help” in getting elected. Whether he meant it, we don’t really know, but we should care.

Next is Marco Rubio, the dapper senator from Florida, who is perhaps in the more disturbing category of Republicans whom we might charitably diagnose as “God-fearing.” Among the God-fearing candidates, Rubio stands out. He briefly dumped one sacred book for another, converting from Roman Catholicism to Mormonism and then back again to Roman Catholicism. Yet even as a flip-flopping, re-minted Roman Catholic, Rubio cheats on his church when he plays footsy with a megachurch in Miami called Christ Fellowship. One article that I read describes Christ Fellowship as a hotbed of demonology, exorcism, Young Earth creationism, and evolution denial, and is so intolerant that it demands its prospective employees to certify that they are not practicing homosexuals and do not cheat on their spouses. As regards evolution, Rubio confesses that he’s “not a scientist” (no fooling!) and so cannot presume to judge the fact of evolution on its merits, and holds that creationism should be taught in schools as just one of many “multiple theories” about our origins.

Though he munificently acknowledges that people such as atheists “have a right to not believe in God,” Rubio has called the Almighty the “source of all we have,” and, further, stated that “our national motto is ‘In God We Trust,’ which reminds us that “faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.” I guess that according to this logic, atheists and/or agnostics are not fully “American.” Rubio also believes “You cannot do anything without God,” which he terms “a profound and elemental truth.” I suspect that Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist known for his far more profound and elemental accomplishments in melding the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, and, most recently, for publicly declaring his atheism, would beg to differ.

Then there is Ted Cruz, the most flagrant God-fearing candidate of all the Republicans. (Just ask him.) For starters, Cruz pandered profusely to the “faithful” by choosing to announce his candidacy at Liberty University, that bastion of Evangelical Christianity located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Once administered by the late Jerry Falwell, Liberty University promises a “World Class Christian education” and boasts that it has been “training champions for Christ since 1971” – grounds enough, at least in my view, to revoke the institution’s charter and subject it to an immediate quarantine until sanity breaks out in the insane asylum.

Let me digress briefly here. I have to wonder in Cruz’s case if the fruit does not fall far from the tree.  For example, Cruz’s father, Rafael, is an Evangelical pastor, and a Christian Dominionist, who believes that the government should be controlled by Christians and that the only laws should be Biblical laws. Of course, that very idea violates the constitutional provisions that forbid the establishment of a State Religion. That kind of thinking may not be shared by Ted Cruz, but at least one of Ted Cruz’s own direr musings take his rhetoric to the next level, accusing gay rights groups of waging “jihad” (holy war) against Christians: “We look at the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas, going after people of faith who respect the Biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cruz said. (Tell that to King David and King Solomon, both of whom had multiple wives). But such a statement prompts the question: If Cruz were to be elected, will he classify homosexuality as terrorism and dispatch gay “jihadists” to Guantanamo Bay detention camps? It would seem consistent with his statement.

During his thirty-one minute announcement address at Liberty University, Cruz peppering his talk with references to God, informed his listeners that he will restore a United States brought low under Obama’s maleficent reign by uniting “millions of courageous conservatives” who will rise up “together to say in unison ‘we demand our liberty!’” But, I have to ask: from whom, exactly? From what, precisely?  Cruz does not say.

Cruz’s platform comes as no surprise. He wants to do many disconcerting things, including protecting Hobby Lobby and the pesky Supreme Court decision that birthed a plethora of Religious Freedom Acts such as the ones in Indiana and Arkansas; and saving the reactionary, contraceptive-denying Little Sisters of the Poor. He also, of course, aims to “uphold the sacrament of marriage.” (sacrament being a particularly Christian concept, not even held by all Christians). All of this will come not from Washington, he says. It will come “only from the men and women across this country . . . from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution.” Those are words that I can only describe as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” (Macbeth: Act 5, Scene 5).

And finally, there is Mark Everson, the sole Republican candidate unknown by almost everyone. That is not surprising. He receives virtually no press coverage. But Everson, a native New Yorker, has a record of sorts. He served as George W. Bush’s IRS commissioner. After he left the IRS, he ran the Red Cross – until an affair with a subordinate became public and he was forced to resign. That sort of thing might hobble a top-tier candidate, but not to a candidate whom no one could pick out of a police line-up. And then, finally, in his website’s “Letter to America” Everson does not even mention God! He has thereby doomed himself among the God-fearing faithful.

And what of the Democratic candidate(s)?

Well, there is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is (so far) the sole Democratic contender for the White House. Hillary Clinton announced by Twitter and a video, the first part of which was so bland I kept hoping and waiting for that tiny clickable SKIP THIS AD box to appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Yet Hillary Clinton is a believer. We are told on her website, Faith Voters For Hillary that “her faith is deeply personal and real.” Not only that, but she claims to have grown up in a family who were elbow-to-elbow with none other than the Almighty. In her 1996 book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us, she and former President Bill Clinton were struck by the profound spiritual questions their daughter Chelsea and her friends raised and her deep roots in the United Methodist Church. “Religion figures in my earliest memories of my family,” Clinton wrote, and said that the family’s quest for spirituality was continual. “Our spiritual life as a family was spirited and constant,” she continued. “We talked with God, walked with God, ate, studied and argued with God. Each night, we knelt by our beds to pray before we went to sleep.”

What?

Such a statement raises all sorts of questions for me. I do not mean to be dismissive, but I believe any rational person would ask them. For instance, what type of cuisine did God prefer? Did God use Cliff Notes while hitting the books with you? How was God in a debate? Did he, being God, simply smite with thunderbolts those with whom he disagreed? If she replies that she did not mean to be taken so literally, then what exactly constituted evidence of the Almighty’s presence in her home? Did she actually hear a voice respond as she prayed? Did she have visions? If so, did she consult a psychiatrist?

I can hardly wait for the likes of Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker to formally announce, but until that time, reasonable people can only contemplate a depressing, even infuriating, nineteen-month run-up to the election. Reporters should do their job and not allow any of these potential commanders-in-chief to get away with God talk without making them answer for it, as impolite as that might appear to be. Religious convictions deserve the same scrutiny as any other convictions, perhaps more. After all, they are essentially wide-ranging assertions about the nature of reality and supernatural phenomena. As always, the burden of proof lies on the one making the extraordinary claims. And if the man or woman carrying the nuclear briefcase happens to be eagerly-desiring the End of Days, or the Rapture, (as did one-time presidential contender Michele Bachmann) we have not only a need to know, but also a right to know.

So, if I were a journalist, here are some questions that I would ask the candidates: With the assumption that you accept the Bible in its totality, do you think sex workers should be burned alive (Leviticus 21:9) or that gays should be put to death (Leviticus 20:13)? Should women submit to their husbands, per Colossians 3:18? Should women also, study “in silence with full submission” as commanded in 1 Timothy 2:11? Would you adhere to Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and ask Congress to pass a law punishing rapists by fining them 50 shekels and making them marry their victims and forbidding them to divorce forever? Given that the Bible ordains genocide (as in 1 Samuel 15:3), will you work for the release of  Father Athanase Seromba, the Roman Catholic priest imprisoned for his role in the mass Rwandan slaughter of 1994? Will you call on Congress to repeal the Thirteenth Amendment and reinstate slavery, since the Bible, in 1 Peter 2:18, de facto sanctions the horrific practice and demands that slaves submit to their “masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel?” Please clarify.

And then, specifically I would inquire:

Ted Cruz, will you denounce your father for his belief that America should be ruled by religious “Kings” like those in the Bible?

And Marco Rubio, will you please explain how your membership in the fanatical homophobic cult of Christ Fellowship has influenced you? In how much demonology do you believe? Has the Fellowship conducted any exorcisms lately? If so, have you taken part? If yes, please elaborate.

If any of the candidates have read Reza Aslan’s The Zealot (which I doubt) and laugh off my questions, telling me they do not take the Bible literally, I would ask what scriptural authority they can cite that permits them to disavow some parts of their holy book but accept others. The answer: there is none.

But I do have a dream. I dream of the day when a candidate (and future president) will say: “I do not consider it important whether I believe in the theistic God of the Bible or if I believe in a heaven or a hell. I do believe that we have but one life on our precious planet Earth, which floats amid a cosmic void of unfathomable dimensions, governed by the unyielding laws of physics. I will follow reason and promote consensus-based policies that will do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. I will work to build up Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. Secularism and reason offer us the only way out of our dilemmas. We Homo sapiens have to grow up and realize that, barring interference from forces of nature beyond our control, everything we humans achieve, or fail to achieve, depends on us.”

As a former President of the United States notably said: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address)

We need a president who will acknowledge that. And we should settle for nothing less.

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Christian Service?

discrimination sign2

Just in case you were concerned about Memories Pizza in Indiana going out of business after owners Crystal and Kevin O’Connor announced that their pizzeria would not make any pizzas for any same-sex weddings, you can relax. This “Christian establishment” is doing just fine financially.

The pizzeria came under fire after saying it would refuse to cater a gay wedding, memories-pizza-indianadespite the fact that no same-sex couples ever asked it to provide such a service. As a result, the O’Connor’s claim that they were forced to shut down for the day after receiving a barrage of bad reviews and some crank phone calls.

“I don’t know if we will re-open,” Crystal O’Connor told the media, “or if we can, if it’s safe to re-open. We’re in hiding, basically, staying in the house.”

It turns out, going into “hiding” proved to be pretty profitable for the homophobic duo. Because while the O’Connors were hunkered down in their living room praying and/or watching Fox News, a GoFundMe campaign was set up for their business and as of this writing, the campaign raised $842,442 for the pizzeria, with donations from nearly 30,000 contributors. Subtract GoFundMe’s transaction and processing fees and the O’Connors are left with a tax-free payout of more than $767,000 – enough to serve up more than 23,000 16-inch specials with everything on them. I hope the pizzeria’s owners do the good Christian thing and give at least some of that money to charity rather than pocket it all for themselves.

All of this started me to thinking. If it worked for Memories Pizza, why not for me? So I decided if I owned a business in Indiana, I would post the following sign on the front door of my business establishment. The sign would read:

Dear Valued Patrons:

Due to my sincerely held religious beliefs and in light of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently signed into law by our dearly beloved leader, Indiana Governor Michael Richard “Mike” Pence, not only will I not serve anything to a same-sex couple for their wedding, but also I will not serve the following persons listed below. I will neither do business with them nor permit them in my establishment. Please understand that my authority for making this statement is based not only on the recent Indiana law, but also on the support of God’s holy Word (King James Version, of course).

To wit: I will not serve –

Any divorcees.  See Matthew 19:9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

Those who have ever read their horoscope or called a psychic hotline.  See Leviticus 20:6: “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”

Anyone with a tattoo.   See Leviticus 19:28: Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

Anyone born illegitimately.  See Deuteronomy 23:2: A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” Also, anyone who, back to ten generations, is descended from someone born illegitimately.  If you cannot PROVE, using appropriate church sources, that ten generations of your family were born in wedlock, I will have to err on the side of caution and not serve you.

Anyone who makes a practice of praying aloud, or in public.  See Matthew 6:5-6: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Any woman with braided hair or gold jewelry.  Just to be on the safe side, NO jewelry at all.  See 1 Timothy 2:9: In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”

Any man who has ever, by accident or not, had his genitals damaged. (Current interpretation of this scripture is under debate, so just to be on the safe side, if you have had a vasectomy, or testicular cancer, I can’t serve you.  I apologize for the inconvenience but I am worried for my eternal soul.) See Deuteronomy 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”

Those who bring their children to my establishment who have a bowl haircut. See Leviticus 19:27:Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”

And as hard as it is to believe, Anyone who celebrates Christmas. See Jeremiah 10:3-4: “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

And for those of you complaining that some of these scriptures are from the Old Testament, and that Jesus came to redeem us from these laws, I must refer you to Matthew 5:17-19, wherein Jesus himself says:  17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Well, there you have it. If you are not one of the above, then you are welcome in my establishment. If you are one of those listed above, please do not even think of visiting my place of business. Again, I am sorry for the inconvenience.  It is nothing personal. I believe in “loving the sinner but hating the sin,” and all that stuff, but I simply cannot serve anyone who would blatantly disregard God’s sacred law in such a fashion.

Yours in Christ

(signed) The Owner

Well, of course, I am not such a business owner and I would never post such a sign. To those who would even be tempted to post such a thing, I believe that it would be helpful to remember that Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors and was accused of being a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! So get over it. Get over yourselves!

Bad Religion

religion and politics

Religion has been in the news recently – and from my perspective, it has all been bad!

For starters, consider Arizona Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen who famously said during a committee hearing on uranium mining: “the earth’s been here 6,000 years and has managed to survive human plundering this long, so don’t worry about a little digging near the Grand Canyon.” This same “expert” on environmental issues also said that once the uranium was gone, the mining company will patch everything up and “you’ll never even know the mine was there when they’re done.” This darling of Arizona’s theocratic tea party pinheads not only sits on the senate committee that oversees mining and other natural resource policies, but also sits on the education committee. Heaven help us. It is almost as bad as having climate change denier, Senator James Inhofe being the Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Allen also believes that America is experiencing a “moral erosion” that can only be cured by more God. A devout Mormon, Senator Allen believes the “divinely inspired” United States Constitution is under attack by communists, gays, feminists and minorities, and only good white Christians can save us.

Recently, Senator Allen attended a hearing considering a bill that allows people to enter public facilities packing a gun. She said she is in favor of the measure because carrying a weapon might bring about a “moral rebirth.” I fail to see the connection, but that is just me, I guess.

If the truth were known, it does not matter to Senator Allen whether the topic is guns or uranium, her solution all comes back to God and God’s 6,000-year-old creation (that is probably flat) that does not need the EPA’s help or anyone else’s for that matter. But it was during the debate on guns in public places, that the good senator let loose with another one of her real doozies, She said: “Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their [sic] choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.” She actually said that. I am not making this up! Has this woman never heard of the separation of church and state? Does the senator realize that Sunday is not the day of worship for anyone but Christians – and not of all Christians at that? How about Seventh Day Adventist?  Shabbat worship for Jews is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night, and Friday is the day that Muslims gather together to pray in congregation.  Perhaps Allen wants another Inquisition and force everyone in the country to become Christian! Seriously, those who champion this kind of stuff and say they believe in following the Constitution should actually read it.  For instance, the part about freedom of Religion, and no establishing a state religion!  As Bill Maher so pointedly said: “I have a problem with people who take the Constitution loosely and the Bible literally.” There needs to be a requirement that people in elected offices prove they have a working brain! I am not sure Senator Allen qualifies in that regard.

Later, Allen told reporters, “I believe what’s happening to our country is that there’s a moral erosion of the soul of America” and that this erosion began when “religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools.” Wow, we Homo sapiens must be one powerful species if we can expel the Almighty with a few court decisions!

Senator Allen also said she wishes society today was more like the 1950s, when “people prayed, people went to church.” She might have added: when blacks could not vote and knew where to sit on the bus; when women were expected to cook dinner, vacuum (and little more), and could not secure a loan without a male signature guarantee; when the elderly had no healthcare options; when Miranda rights did not exist; when lynchings were common; and when gays had to stay in the closet or risk a ruined life. Yeah, bring back those wonderful days of Ozzie and Harriet. No thank you!

Senator Allen can grouse all she wants about America’s “moral erosion,” but the fact is, nearly every bill she has sponsored or has supported has hurt someone: children who want an education, women who want healthcare, Latino families who want to stay together, gays and lesbians who want equal treatment, the poor and elderly who want to vote, and families who just need food.

So, here is a novel idea, Senator: Rather than make it mandatory for everyone to attend church, how about it if we make it mandatory that you live in the real world for a change, so that you can experience the disastrous effects of your “moral erosion”?

And if the foregoing is not enough to make you regurgitate, there is this item for your digestion or indigestion, as the case may be.

An Orange County, California attorney has filed a proposed ballot measure with the California Attorney General’s office, asking voters to criminalize homosexuality in the state and to impose a death penalty on those who are homosexuals. The actual wording is: “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” No kidding! You can’t make this stuff up!

The filing, submitted along with the required fee will allow attorney Matthew G. McLaughlin to begin the process of collecting the 365,000 signatures needed to put the measure before California’s voters on an upcoming ballot. And I would not be too sure that he will not get the necessary signatures! It is unlikely, but he will get some signatures. You can bet on that.

Here is the text of the act that McLaughlin has proposed. It will make you angry; it will make you sad but, alternately it may make you laugh because it is so preposterous. (You can skip reading this outrageous document if you like. I have included it for those who might want to get the full flavor of this proposed act)

SODOMITE SUPPRESSION ACT

Penal Code section 39

a) The abominable crime against nature known as buggery, called also sodomy, is a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

b) Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.

 c) No person shall distribute, perform, or transmit sodomistic propaganda directly or indirectly by any means to any person under the age of majority. Sodomistic propaganda is defined as anything aimed at creating an interest in or an acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman. Every offender shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.

d) No person shall serve in any public office, nor serve in public employment, nor enjoy any public benefit, who is a sodomite or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does.

e) This law is effective immediately and shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.

f) The state has an affirmative duty to defend and enforce this law as written, and every member of the public has standing to seek its enforcement and obtain reimbursement for all costs and attorney’s fees in so doing, and further, should the state persist in inaction over 1 year after due notice, the general public is empowered and deputized to execute all the provisions hereunder extra-judicially, immune from any charge and indemnified by the state against any and all liability.

g) This law shall be known as “The Sodomite Suppression Act” and be numbered as section 39 in Title 3 of the Penal Code, pertaining to offences against the sovereignty of the state. The text shall be prominently posted in every public school classroom. All laws in conflict with this law are to that extent invalid.

In this proposed act, you have classic bigoted terms from yesteryear, plus bonus terms and phrases that you may have never even thought you would ever hear, such as: “Buggery,” and “Sodomistic propaganda.” What do these terms even mean?

What is the reason behind this kind of a proposal? For me, the obvious answer is religion and a gross misinterpretation of the words of scripture. For instance, McLaughlin cites Sodom and Gomorrah, which I am sure he believes was God’s great victory over homosexuality. Well, if it were such a decisive victory, then there has been no homosexuality anywhere since those good ol’ days in Sodom and Gomorrah, and therefore no need for this proposal in the first place. But that is not what the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about anyway. The Genesis story is really about other things than homosexuality, such as hospitality, gang rape, and incest. Check it out in Genesis 18 and 19 and see for yourself. In case you do not have the time to check it out, here is a brief synopsis. Be forewarned: It is not a “nice” story.

Here we have an ancient biblical narrative that features a God who needs divine emissaries to gather first hand intelligence. It is a story that portrays all of the men of Sodom as eager to gang-rape two heavenly visitors. It is a story in which a father, in order to honor the hospitality code, offers his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. It is a story about scheming daughters who seduce a drunken father into dual acts of incest. How, in the name of all that is holy, could a story like this ever have come to be used as the biblical basis for condemning faithful, loving, committed gay and lesbian relationships? How could anyone ever suggest that this story be used to fan human prejudices and thereby to encourage the violent behavior that has marked both our homophobic world and our homophobic churches? That would be possible only if a sick and uninformed prejudice overwhelmed all rationality and destroyed all moral judgment.

Of course, gang rape is wrong, whether homosexual or heterosexual people carry it out. Of course, the plot to commit incest is wrong. But what does that have to do with the hopes and aspirations of two women or two men in the 21st century, who love each other and who want to live for and with each other in a blessed partnership of intimacy and faithfulness? To use this text to condemn the legitimate desires of homosexual people is to attempt to perfume a sick homophobia with the sweet aroma of Holy Scripture. On the basis of this text, prejudiced people such as attorney McLaughlin have fashioned bitter, hostile, destructive attitudes that have victimized gay and lesbian people through the ages. This means that the Bible has been used to justify the murder, oppression and persecution of those whose only crime, or ‘sin’ if you insist, is that they were born with a sexual orientation different from the majority. Such a tactic is so blatantly evil, so overtly ignorant and so violently prejudiced that it should be worthy of nothing but complete and utter condemnation. If that constitutes biblical morality, I want none of it. The Sodom and Gomorrah story from Genesis should never be used in the service of homophobic oppression.

As I said in the beginning of this post, religion has been in the news lately – and it has not been good. There is more religion in the news, including the Indiana “Religious Liberty” law and the even more recent similar law in Arkansas, but since those stories are still in a fluid state, I hope to tackle them next week.