Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Protecting Religion

I’m really concerned with what’s going on at the moment in Albany. The New York State Senate is at a standstill over whether to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples. It’s another battle in the culture wars and there’s a chance religion could take a beating. Their sacred right to discriminate could be trampled on. Bad enough they have been forced to admit that Jews are as good as Christians, when they know that’s not true.

We started down that slippery slope away from religion when we decided to ignore the clear biblical evidence that God approved slavery. We need to slow the pace.

I know it’s hard to keep religious ideas straight sometimes, particularly when the religionists always seem to be changing them. And when they almost never agree with the folks in the church across town. Or across the street. But there’s no need to be bothered by inconsistency, when so much is at stake.

And by religion, I mean the forms of authoritarian religion that speak the truth, and are not deterred by the errors of those folks across the street. Gutsy, righteous American religion. Real man Christian muscle religion, not some cow or ancestor worshiping nonsense from lands far away. Religion that came from Europe. And before that the Promised Land.

It’s a fine tradition we have in America, this separation of church and state business. When God tells us, either directly, or through the good offices of some old man, that he wants us to have more than one wife, what government would dare try to make us live our lives otherwise? When God tells us that women should take their cue from their fathers and husbands and brothers, what government would dare suggest they should be allowed to vote independently – much less hold public office? I know we’ve done that in some places, but we must never forget it was clearly government extending itself way too far into the religious realm, and not make a habit of it. Where would we be today if the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant body in the U.S., founded by Baptist breakaways who wanted to maintain slavery, had been halted in their tracks?

Catholic officialdom (but not the majority of catholics, interestingly), represented by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, is insisting that gays have cooties, and letting them marry would only send a message that having cooties is good. He doesn’t use that expression, at least in public, but we all know that’s what he means.

And he’s not alone. Fundamentalists, too, are getting out the message that “tolerance” in America is just a code-word for “intolerance of Christianity.” As we learn from Answers in Genesis, “There is no such thing as neutrality, although many Christians become ensnared in the trap of believing there is.”

Bible or Constitution. When they conflict, there is no neutral place. You’ve got to go with Jesus.

Let’s not get too big for our britches and think we can live without religion. If people want to believe Jews murder children and drink their blood on Passover, or that black people were born to toil in the fields for the benefit of the white man, that women need to keep their hair out of sight, their mouths closed and their bodies available for child-rearing when their man calls, or that gay people are responsible for the volcanoes in Iceland and Chile, who are we to say it isn’t so?

Hopefully, if the state of New York does allow same-sex marriages, they will guarantee the right of religious groups to shun gay people, to refuse to recognize their marriages, to say openly that gays make lousy parents, and to forbid gay-straight alliances in their schools.

It’s their right and it’s a right that needs to be protected.

After all, can you imagine where would we be in America today without religion?


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