Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Monday Sermon: Is Freedom Of Religion A Blessing ...Or A Curse?

The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government."
- Mitt Romney, speaking at the commencement exercises of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University

Social conservatives (aka the Christian Right) have been vocal about Freedom of Religion within political circles - freedom to practice the Christian religion as the One True religion and the freedom to participate in politics. For without their involvement in government, they think they might lose their freedom of religion. In order to participate in politics, they argue, there must be no separation of church and state. One article of the First Amendment must, in essence, negate the other. Yes, it's rather confusing, but we're dealing with an entity that deals with ill reasoning and confusion on a daily basis.

Which Religion Should Have The Right?

Freedom of Religion sounds like a right. It is. So is the freedom NOT to have any particular spiritual belief. But freedom of religion, like everything else involved in the socio-political sphere depends upon which religion is the dominant one. If that religion is truly tolerant of other religions, then everyone will have both freedom to believe in any moral/spiritual code they wish and the freedom to PRACTICE that code. The latter may be called Free Exercise. 

It can be safely said, therefore, that while the Christian Right says they are for freedom of religion, they are, in fact, for freedom to believe and practice Christianity only. Yes, we see the religious intolerance everywhere: 

- "Ex-Homosexual" DL Forster has stated flatly that there is no such thing as a gay Christian. His ministry Witness Ministries, maintains a website that considers itself a watchdog against any churches or organizations that accept gays.

- C. Peter Wagner, founder of New Apostolic Reformation movement, warns about "heathen" idols. Hence, he goes about smashing Native American artifacts and statues of Catholic saints.

- Pastor John Benefiel posits that the Statue of Liberty is an idol and some of his adherents have called for its demolition.

- Pastor Dennis Terry received a modicum of fame for his introduction of Rick Santorum: in it he vehemently bloviated that American was "Christian Nation" and not beholding to any other religion whereupon he told the "naysayers and liberals" to "Get Out!" His later non-apology and insistence that as a Christian he really loved everyone was criticized as disingenuous... at best.

The Bully Pulpit

Yes, it's ironic that the very people who focus on freedom of religion do not believe in freedom for religion. It's ironic that a religion based on love and tolerance has sects and denominations that are not tolerant in the least, whether to other religions or other facets of Christianity. Far more Christians have persecuted other Christians than Christianity as a whole has been persecuted. The dizzying array of "sects" "cults" and "heretics" ostracized by organized segments of Christianity magnifies the fact that certain Christians are incapable of freedom of religion with their own let alone other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism or Islam. 

One wonders that if certain evangelicals (read: Dominionists) get their way, just how many Mormons and Catholics will be persecuted, let alone Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Scientologists, and Moonies.

"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense, I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist." -- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991
Belief vs Exercise

When the Founding Father drafted the First Amendment, Freedom of Religion was actually more like Freedom FROM Religion in that it was a distinct reaction to hold the Church of England (Anglican) held on the colonies: 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." So the Christian Right hates the first part, but takes advantage of the second part: in it, "belief" is only assumed, while "exercise" is more explicit. Any "Belief" can be castigated, while the act of bludgeoning anyone over the head with a Bible cannot. Had the Amendment said that every man had the freedom to believe what he wanted, but not the freedom to proselytize to the the detriment of another's beliefs, then it might have served Americans much better throughout it's freedom-loving history.

For it is with the exercise of beliefs that the Christian Right has gained the upper hand politically and has gained power over all other sects, denominations and religions: its organizations (like the Family Research Council) and media (Christian Broadcasting Network and Glenn Beck) and promotions (OpEd letters and billboards) trumpet "values" that instill fear of any other belief or creed.

In other words, the second part of the Amendment has unleashed a monster against the first part and against religious tolerance. And only by strengthening the first part, can we ever hope to achieve true freedom of religion. 

Sunday Sermons Blast Obama Over Gay Marriage - But Not At The Fever Pitch Social Conservatives Want!

While President Obama has often considered the passage of health care reform his defining moment as President, people are now saying that it is his endorsement of same-sex marriage that has portrayed him and his Presidency in the most illuminating way.

The new cover for the New Yorker magazine, with the South Portico columns of the White House colored in rainbow hues is no doubt the rallying point for Right Wing pulpits across the nation. Certainly the cries of "homosexual lobby" and "homosexual agenda" have echoed throughout a great many churches.

And the cover of Newsweek certainly stokes the fires:

Of course, we knew it was coming: judging from this Sunday's sermons, The Washington Post got it right:

Pastors in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and other swing states are readying Sunday sermons inveighing against same-sex unions, while activist groups have begun laying plans for social media campaigns, leaflet drives and other get-out-the-vote efforts centered on the same-sex marriage issue.

The primary focus has been on black churches, and although other black ministers think differently, the question of "Wedge" - the strategy of NOM (National Organization for Marrige) - rears its ugly head:

Dwight McKissic, senior pastor at the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said last week he would not speak on gay marriage Sunday because it was Mother's Day and his wife would lead the church. However, he planned to focus directly on the topic in next week's sermon. "President Obama has betrayed the Bible and the black church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage," McKissic said.

And a key religious supporter of Obama, Pastor Emmet Burns who is also a Maryland State delegate, has states his withdrawal of support for Obama on the issue (see below), but some of his congregation and community don't feel the same way. Many people feel that it is a relatively small, single point in Obama's term that does not define his Presidency.

It is this kind of reaction, however, that will drive the Christian Right to new heights of denegration of Obama on all issues.

Not All The Polls Are In, But...

A May, 2011 Gallup poll shows that over 53% of Americans favor same-sex marriage: a 6-point rise in one year. In fact, the sharp change in attitude since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell suggests that is voted upon today by voters in California, Proposition 8 would not pass (it passed with 52%). At that rate, an updated Gallup poll might show a higher percentage of up to 56%. And in a sense, the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote may have helped to steer the country in that direction:

North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue:

"People around the country are watching us, and they're really confused to have been such a progressive forward thinking economically driven state that invested in education and that stood up for the civil rights people including the civil rights marches back in the 50s and 60s and 70s," said Perdue. "People are saying what in the world is going on with North Carolina, we look like Mississippi."
The governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, was not pleased. But then, no one wants to look like Mississippi.

"I support my president and love my president, but I think he is wrong. He is not God, and he doesn’t speak for all black folk because he is African-American.”

Reverend Keith Ogden of Asheville, North Carolina spoke words in line with the Christian Right, but also ones which they did not want to hear: "I support my president and love my president."

The "Wedge" is not working as well as it could. Look forward to the rhetoric being ramped up past the pulpits.

A Weekend Break - Going To A Garden Party

Actually, My Own...

I live in a world of hypocritical evil: the righteously arrogant among us are always battering at my faith in humanity. So sometimes it's necessary to get away from it all. The last day has been such a break, with planting things at my Community Garden (Park Merced, San Francisco, CA). You couldn't possibly enjoy it as much as I did, but I still want to share:

(feel  free to click on the pic to enlarge).

First, a trip to the nursery        Then on to the community Garden               

 Planted Diaschia in the 4 
corners of my 4x4 plot  thes rest are pics of neighboring plots                                                                                                                                             

This is A Relief! We Can Buy Christmas Presents This Year!

The world will NOT end on Dec. 12th as thought. And that movie was made for naught.