Don’t Do Unto Others As They May Decide to Do Unto You

American Christians are quite vocal in the belief they’re oppressed, but it’s hard to feel their pain. They’re the overwhelming majority in this country. Virtually every member of every legislative body and every elected representative is Christian. Their lobbies are as potent as any on K St. The government funds them by not taxing them. They routinely work to defeat bills clear majorities want and that deprive citizens – sometimes other Christians – of their civil rights.

If that’s oppression, sign me up. It sounds like a sweet deal.

However, there are persecuted and oppressed Christians. For example, many countries with real zero tolerance for anything other than their God and prophet. They sometimes force Christians from their homes, turn them into refugees, or kill them.

Meanwhile, American Christians busy themselves with important issues like the proper etymology of Christmas v. Holiday. Living in their secure homes and working in their secure jobs they feel it’s their God-given right to rewrite history books, let pedophiles escape unpunished, or denigrate science because it doesn’t completely jibe with their Bible.

There’s no doubt the intolerance against Christians in countries like Iraq is awful. It’s the tyranny of the majority directed against the few. But except for the degree of modern persecution (the Christians don’t exactly have a bloodless history either), how is that any different from the tyranny of the American majority against the minority here?

I’m not a Christian and I’m sure there are many Christians who’d argue I have no right to an opinion about their religion. However, I’d point out that by the same logic, Christians have no right to an opinion about Islam or me or Druids. But, they never seem shy about exercising the same freedoms they seem unwilling to share with anyone other than themselves.

It is the Christian Sabbath, the last one before the holiest of Christian holy days. Whether you call it Christmas, the holidays, or Festivus, it seems like a good time for Christians, indeed everyone, regardless of religion or the lack thereof, to borrow the concepts of peace and harmony espoused in the Bible, the Quran, and most other religious texts in the world.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Outbreak of Wikis is a Homo Plot

Everyone knows The Gays are the root of all evil because the Bible tells us so. God compels Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals that have nothing to do with gayosity. In California, God commanded a DMV clerk to access private records to mail anti-gay literature to a transgendered citizen. And Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s head of issues analysis ties Bradley Manning – the soldier who may be responsible for the world’s largest leak of wikis – to smite-worthy gaydom.

Of course Fischer’s take is nothing unusual. In the past, he’s equated gay sex with domestic terrorism (apparently foreign terrorists are only heathen Muslims, but never gay ones), called for the euthanization of grizzly bears, and advocated criminalization of homo sex with mandatory reparative therapy and if that fails, execution.

Way to hate the sin, love the sinner there Bry.

It’s not that it’s scary this ass cake says such loathsome and offensive things, it’s that many people actually side with the nut. It’s not that conservative politicians sometimes support him, but that their Prop. 8 marriages of convenience tie them to the crackpot thereby forcing independents and more liberal Republicans to either desert the party or go along for the sake of the party and enable a swing farther toward the lunatic fringe and away from common sense conservative ideals.

It’s tempting to say Christians who think he’s a crapweasel denounce him, just as Christians think Muslims should denounce their crackpots too.  Just writing off the addle-brained ninny is tempting too. After all, he calls enough attention to his bigotry without any help, regularly reminding the rest of the public just what a  jughead he is. But, it is tempting to hunt the bastard and his ilk down and give them a taste of their own savage medicine.

However, the rest of us are sentient beings who’d never dream of doing unto others what Fischer does to them.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

When Should Bible Quotes Bother Us From Politicians?

In making the case for his recovery plan today, Barack Obama quoted the lesson of the Sermon on the Mount that a storm can destroy a house build on sand, but not a house built on a rock.  The way Obama used the quote reminded me of a debate a few years ago between Sojourners' Jim Wallis and Americans United's Barry Lynn where Lynn said the problem with politicians quoting the Bible is that unlike quotes from other literature, quotes from the Bible are appeals to the author's inherent authority rather than to the author's particular insight.  In other words, biblical quotes are used to support your argument based on who said it (God says don't oppress strangers) rather than why they said it (because you yourself have experienced slavery).  I think Lynn is making an insightful distinction, but it cuts against his argument.

In a multireligious democracy, we should be concerned when politicians' arguments rely on appeal to the authority of their particular religious texts (especially if theirs are shared by a religious majority).  But contra Lynn, not all Bible quotes are appeals to divine authority.  "The Bible says not to steal wages from your employees" is an appeal to biblical authority.  "Let's not copy Moses' mistake when he hit the rock instead of talking to it" is an appeal to biblical wisdom.

I bring this up because I think it explains why, as a non-Christian (in a democracy with a Christian majority), I'm not bothered on a gut level when a Christian President quotes the New Testament parable about building your house on sand or on a rock to make a point about our economic recovery.  The plain meaning of Obama's speech is not that the Bible commands us to make new rules for wall street, investments in education, etc... His plain meaning is that this metaphor from his tradition, which may be familiar to many listeners, illustrates well why it's urgent and worthwhile to do so.

This is not always a clear-cut distinction.  But I think it's a useful one.  Maybe a useful thought experiment in assessing what kind of appeal to religious text we're dealing with is to consider: Would using this quote in this way still make sense if the speaker's religion were different from the quotation's?

There's more...

Scripture on the Budget: What the Bible Says About National Priorities

by Eric Sapp

Back in 2006, the budget debate followed immediately on the heels of Congressional consideration of the Marriage Amendment. As a result, there was a desire by a number of Democratic leaders for a reference guide that would more easily allow Democrats to authentically speak out against the extreme and selective use of scripture by the Republicans and their allies on the Right. The first "Guide to Scripture and the Budget" that included scriptural references and simple talking points to help equip Christian Democrats in their response to Republican budget arguments was distributed shortly before the 2006 budget debate.

My underlying assumption in writing and continuing to
update this document is that Democrats should not cede the prophetic language of scripture and its ability to inspire and frame issues in a moral context to the other side. Many traditional Democratic positions are rooted in the teachings of scripture, and it is time Democrats stopped losing on the Bible.

There's more...

Obama To Use Lincoln's Bible At Swearing-In

I agree with Josh Marshall, this is a nice touch:

On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.

What's more significant for me, though, than the choice of the Bible is that the transition team, with this press release, has decided to reveal the merely ceremonial nature of the Bible in the swearing-in. I liked this section in particular:

Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony...

The point they're making here is that there is absolutely no substantive reason that a Bible is used during a president's swearing-in ceremony, it's merely a ritual with hundreds of years of precedent, a reassuring separation of church and state message to those of us on the secular left.

And speaking of things that shouldn't be at the swearing-in but probably will be for reasons of tradition, is Bush really going to be there looking on as President-elect Obama becomes President Obama? Clinton was at Bush's in 2001 and I assume precedent dictates that Bush be there on Jan. 20th but it would sure be nice if his presence didn't mar the day...

There's more...

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