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.

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