Thursday, August 5, 2010

With LIBERTY and JUSTICE for ALL....

Remember that Pledge of Allegiance we all said as kids...

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of
The United States of America
And to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation
(under God)
With Liberty and Justice for ALL

(obviously...the parenthesis was added on my part since I no longer accept its validity and the emphasis on All is added for reason of this post.)

Now I have argued for a couple of years that the Pledge of Allegiance does NOT promote equality since it specifically alienates a large portion of this country that chooses to NOT be "under God", but THAT is not the point of this blog.

The last line...with liberty and justice for significant and is what I want to zero in on today.  A study of the word "justice" implies a definite sense of equality.  Equality is something a lot of people do not like to discuss.  It is important, however, to understand that equality is an integral part of justice.  Justice is NOT justice if it only applies to and defends a small portion of people.

As a highlight to this fact let us consider the ruling of the Judge that ruled that the ban on same sex marriages in California, otherwise known as Prop 8, was and is unconstitutional.  While this came as a surprise to some, all I kept wondering is how can this even be a question.  What I found interesting is that the ruling is the exact same argument I have used in arguing in defense of the rights for the LGTB community to marry and even to adopt children. Simply put....there is NO argument physical, economic, political, emotional, biological, sociological that does NOT have its basis in archaic religious views and ideals.  Because of this, something that should fall under civil rights (since marriage is a CIVIL matter) has become a RELIGIOUS matter.  Now this is something I have argued a bit with some people that are very close to me whom I have grown to love and respect.  I have not approached it least not in a long time.  But I am going to attempt to do so in this blog.

Whenever I make the argument of religion being an intolerant group of homophobic, male chauvinistic bigots I immediately get the response that that is just MY experience with religion and that I grew up in the "fringe" but that "mainstream" religion is much more tolerant.   Immediately I am presented with the example of the Lutheran Church welcoming the gays to their role as ministers, the Episcopalians doing the same and the Methodists are tolerant.  These examples, on the surface, are hard to argue with.  It does appear, on the surface, that religion is becoming more and more tolerant.

But here is the real question...has God, the Bible and Christianity changed?  Now this becomes a question to me that is very relevant.  I am, as I have made no secret, an atheist.  I do not believe in God, I do not accept the Bible as truth and reject all forms of religion (including Christianity) as meaningless superstition designed to provide the needed structure, control and comfort that we as humans require in a social environment.  Therefore, if religion is a tool of social structure then it would make sense that "religion" would accommodate with times and the changes that naturally occur over time.  But that then would mean that there is no basis of TRUTH and FACTS to it because while "religion" would change...TRUTH does not.  That is the whole point of absolutes...they don't change.  So if the Christian "religion" truly has its foundation in faith in God and the Bible then those are absolutes that do NOT change and veering away from them means that those religions are more social clubs than anything.

Now I know this is where the whole discussion about Black & White vs. Gray comes in.  I grew up in a Black & White world.  The Independent Fundamental Baptist movement is NOT know for its gray areas (or gray matter as the case may be!)  I grew up in a world of absolutes, which is one reason I detest absolutes.  But if there is one thing I learned from being a theology student is that the Bible is a book of absolutes.  Because of this I make the very clear statement that the BIBLE is a homophobic, male chauvinistic, bigoted and violent book.  There is just no way around it.  People in modern "mainline" religion may choose to flat out IGNORE parts of the Bible that does not suit their personal ideology but they cannot change its intent, purpose and interpretation.  

Based on this argument I would suggest that it is impossible to be a LGTB AND also be a Christian by the Bible standards.  Now this on the surface seems to be a harsh statement that a LOT of people would disagree with but the Bible itself presents its own argument.  There is of course the Old Testament passages that have often been mocked and decimated by the simple logic of reciting the other laws and the simple logic that if you are going to give credence to one law then you must give credence to the others as well.  But the homophobic tendencies of the Bible are not merely Old Testament antiquated ideals.  The New Testament also clearly condemns homosexual practices.  For instance, consider Romans 1:24-28:

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
 28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Now that is the New International of those new versions that are supposed to make it clearer than the Old Fashion King James 1611.  The Revised Standard Version says:

 24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
 26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Hell...that makes it even "clearer" and "harsher" than the trusty ol' King James Version that the Independent Fundamentals are so fond of:

24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
 26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

The point amount of creative interpretation can make the Bible's homophobic ideology go away. The truth is that by its very nature it does not allow for both.  Acceptance is NOT part of a book that speaks of divinely sanctioned genocide (Face it, what the children of Israel did in Caanan in the book of Joshua is no different than what Sadaam Hussein did in Iraq with mustard gas...except...God authorized it and they killed more than Sadaam Hussein ever dreamed of in his most evil fantasies of genocide) and promotes discrimination based on faith, gender and race.

The religious right has been allowed to make the political landscape of our great nation one that is centered on religious fights and a culture war that is founded on their religious values their moral rules.  Values and ideals that they want to legislate on everybody around them.  It is for this reason that Murray County (in North West GA) JUST voted in the right of privately owned businesses to be allowed to sell alcohol in a glass;  the vast majority of couties in the south do not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday (because church people can't bear the thought of the heathens daring to drink their booze and enjoy a football game while they are at church) and it is for this reason that Prop 8 was even allowed to be voted in.  It is for this reason that a Mosque in NYC is such an issue to people that do not even live in NYC.  Because religion by its very nature is divisive, racist, discriminatory, homophobic and sexist.

I would love to see the following questionnaire answered by 30,000 people...10,000 in the South East, 10,000 in the North East and 10,000 in the West...(and yes...I put it together and I am sure it would be modified after more thought)

Demographic Baseline

1.       How old are you?    

          18-25,    26-32,    32-45,    45-65, 65+

2.       What Gender?     
          M, F, Unspecified

3.       What geographical area of the country do you live in?  

          SW, W, NE, MW

4.       Income Level?

5.       Level of Education?

Religious Baseline

1.       What Religious Affiliation do you hold? (Denomination)

2.       How often do you go to church in a week?  

            occasionally, 1x week, 2x week, 3x+ week

3.       Have you ever read the Bible completely through? more than once?

4.       How dedicated would you consider yourself to your church and faith?

Current Issues

1.       Do you believe that America is a “Christian” nation?

2.       Do you agree that same sex marriages should be recognized by the state?
           Explain the reason for your answer.

3.       Should same sex marriages be allowed to adopt children? 

          Explain the reason for your answer.

4.       Do same sex marriages affect the endurance of the “traditional” family?  
          If so, in what way?

5.       Is abortion a matter of women’s rights?

6.       What reason would be acceptable for an abortion to be considered morally permissible?

7.       At what point does “life” exist? 

         Based on what?

8.       Should a Mosque be allowed to be built near ground zero?  


      If this were put out as a poll and you could get 30,000 people to respond there are a couple of things I predict you would find...

      1. The more dedicated a person is to their faith, their church and their Bible the more intolerant, bigoted and homophobic they would be.
      2. Education, income and geography would VASTLY affect the opinion of each person on the current issues.  Higher educated people and wealthier people would be more tolerant while people that are poorer, less educated and live in the south would be the most intolerant.
      Oh...and ironically...the area of the country that is considered the "Bible Belt" also happens to be the area of the lowest education scores and they have the highest single parenthood percentages in the country. So much for the LGTB community destroying the sanctity of marriage.  As a matter of fact a study done by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007 showed that with the exception of Washington D.C (that had the HIGHEST percentage of single parents in the country at 54.3%) all of the top States were southern states: Alabama (30.9%), Arkansas (27.3%), Florida (27.2%), Georgia (27.4%), Kentucky (25.5%), Louisiana (31.8%), Mississippi (33.4%), North Carolina (27.1%), South Carolina (30.2%) and Tennessee (28.4%).  Now mind you, there were some northern and mid-western states such as Delaware (28.9%), Maryland (25.9%), Michigan (26.2%), Missouri (25.3%), New York (27.0%) and Ohio (26.7%) that were above the national average but all the top states were in the the Bible Belt...because they do such a good job protecting the sanctity of marriage. (for the chart with these numbers go to the U.S. Census Bureau site and search for the chart file by name detailed_tables_ACS.)

      (for more on the sanctity of marriage in our country see the U.S. Census Bureau

      I know this blog has been somewhat scattered, but the point comes down to this: homophobia, bigotry and male chauvinism are hallmarks of religion; it is based and founded on it.  It is part of the control.  Some things simply are not compatible.  Since it is generally accepted by everybody that is NOT hyped up on religion that homosexuality is not a choice but rather genetic or natural and religion is a product of indoctrination and brainwashing...essentially a trained aspect of the human psyche...if it comes down to a choice between the two I guess the superstitions of religion would lose.  

      Furthermore, I want to emphasize that I am not in any way saying that gay people should stop being if they could...I am saying that there is not really a home for them in a faith founded on a book that is old fashioned, superstitious, homophobic and bigoted.  That is just my opinion of course... But regardless, the judge in California made the right call...there is no non religious reason for promoting or supporting the bigoted and hateful discrimination against the LGTB community.  Lets just hope Kagan is on the bench by the time this goes to the Supreme Court so that there would some balance on the conservative right leaning activist court when this case hits the I am sure that that is where it is headed.

      P.S.  This is strictly MY opinion...and by no means do I expect ANYBODY to agree with me.


Will Shealy said...

Okay, here we go. Get comfortable.

Once again I have to take issue with the lumping of religion into one basket. Spirituality, indeed life, is determined by perspective. If one must accept only what is the current content and interpretation of the Bible, then yes, you may have a point. But the Bible has changed, been interpreted, re-interpreted, and still is. Many believe it is largely parable - and by many, I mean many Christians.

Yes, there are those who believe in the exact literal interpretation, and to me this is just as narrow as those who pick and choose what to believe.

Telling Christians that they may not call themselves such if they decide to ignore aspects of the Bible, when you yourself do not espouse the Bible, is the same as a heterosexual, who cannot understand homosexuality, dictating who one may or may not marry.

As I have said over and over again, as have many others, true tolerance and compassionate coexistence will never occur in this country if those who accuse others of intolerance are living in lofty glass houses.

On that note, off my pedestal I step, and accept that you have seen extremes and have not had the advantage of living in, exploring and embracing the gray. I'm fairly certain that it's in the gray where we're all far more likely to find a common ground.

Please don't take this as an attack - quite the opposite - it's simply a welcome to the family.

We like to argue around here.

Darkwulfe said...

lol..well said..and thank you for the welcome. I guess I must ask the following question there such a thing as absolutes?

This is a key question in any discussion. Absolutes are exactly that. The fact that I know longer espouse the faith of the Bible does not change the years spent studying it.

Once again...are there absolutes? And at what point is "God's Word" actually "God's Word" and at what point do people get the liberty to dictate "what he meant to say"? I think this is where I take exception with "gray" area.

Is the Bible God's Word? If not then what can we accept as truth and what can we ignore? I am quite happy with saying the Bible is a parable. Once I can choose what in it is truth and what is not...then I can determine the verses about the existence of God are not truth either...(which btw I have decided anyway lol)

So in this world of gray...are there ANY absolutes? That would have to be my first point of discussion.

Will Shealy said...

Flatly - no. There are no absolutes beyond those we impose on ourselves. Right and wrong are morally intrinsic and do not require a written code of eithics. Therefore the acceptance of the Bible as he or she sees fit is a choice motivated by faith - and true faith is found not in the written word but in how it resonates within. Religion is a subjective experience not dictated by external forces - but then, that's an entirely separate argument.

Darkwulfe said...

interesting...except at the risk of using circular logic...which I hate...stating there are no absolutes is in and of itself an absolute.

Is there a god? there can be no...sort is a yes or absolute.

Does Mandy think we are losing our mind? *chuckles* ABSOLUTELY yes!

Unfortunately...absolutes do exist. There is a lot of gray...which I am learning and trying to adapt to...but...unfortunately...there are still black and whites out there too...without them..there would be no grays.

Will Shealy said...

Please, Mandy always thinks I've lost my mind, and maybe she's right - but she's catching up.

Absolutes are determined by the observer. Perspective is everything. Then perhaps the only absolute is its absence.

As Mom just said as we debate this here, why would we consider ourselves less capable of interpretation of God's word than those who later wrote books of the Bible? Who determined what books go in and out? The King James Bible - the Council of Nicea - the Apocrypha - all topics worth considering when one decides to close enclose faith in the confines of a book.

The Bible is important - but it is not everything, and as an Agnostic who is quickly falling off the wagon, I can chose what to call myself. If it's Christian or what-not, it's my decision. And I have every respect for Christians who define their religion by nothing but their faith. It is their choice and no one else's.

Faith and spirituality are far, far more immense than one interpretation of one religion. Can one pick and choose what in the Bible they believe? What not? In the history of Christianity it is simply what has been done.

So are those who do it now less Christian? Of course not. No one can define their religion but them. It does not make them wrong, just a human being seeing life from a different angle than ours.

Darkwulfe said...

First..I will is not my place to determine what a person calls them self. And if I seem to presume that I can I would definitely retract that. I guess I present the argument because of how I see the big picture personally.

I definitely say we should continue this discussion...because it could definitely get about over a couple of beers (or a bottle of wine) tomorrow night? lol

Mom is invited too!

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