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Religious Wars

Posted by Rick · October 12th, 2004 · 3 Comments

Today, Americans are busily engaged in a kind of a religious war — although we don’t think of it that way — in Iraq. The war against terrorism — from the perspective of Muslims, anyway — is certainly a religious war. Americans failure to understand this is partly to blame for the ease with which our own administration manipulates us.

But another religious war is looming. And it’s much closer to home.

I write this blog entry with a note of inevitable resignation. Almost certainly someone is going to either comment here, drop me an email or begin whispering at the law school about my “anti-Christian” writing, or, as I’ve already heard it characterized when expressing opinions similar to what I’m going to say here, my “attack upon Christianity.”

The fact is, however, that I intend only to attack a particular way of “doing” Christianity. As proof of my not being anti-Christian, I’ll note that there aren’t many “regular” blogs — that is, non-religious blogs — that quote scripture as frequently as I have. And, although I am a Jew, I haven’t limited myself to quoting the Jewish scriptures; it’s likely that I’ve actually quoted the Christian New Testament more often than I’ve ever quoted the Tanakh. And while it’s true that I don’t believe that either set of writings were “authored by G-d,” I nevertheless find both to be repositories of astute observations of human behavior and occasionally useful guidelines for living an enjoyable life.

Yet, increasingly, America is becoming the land of self-important, self-proclaimed “Christianity.” This would not be so frightening if it were not for the fact that it’s also increasingly a militant Christianity on a par with the militant Islamic faith of “terrorists.” I’m not sure if I should say “more and more Christians” or just “the increasingly vocal Christians” — for let me be clear that by far not all Christians should be slandered for the work of the g-dless few — are pushing their interpretations of Christianity as more important than the example of their theoretical Founder. Increasingly, militant Christianity is supplanting the G-d portrayed in the very Bible upon which they purport to rely with a crusading G-d antithetical to the life their Christ is supposed to have lived.

More importantly, this type of Christian increasingly disrupts the possibility of peaceful life in a pluralistic society. Rather than view themselves — as Jesus supposedly admonished them to view themselves — as lights upon a hill (Matthew 5:14), they set themselves up as social baseball bats, beating their fellow citizens into submission.

Since these folk are now the prime movers of the Republican Party, it should come as no surprise that Alan Keyes, ignorant of the dictates of Matthew 7:1-5, says that Obama is “a liar” and that “Christ would not vote for Barack Obama.” Interestingly, Keyes once criticized Hilary Clinton for moving to New York to run for the Senate. In spite of saying he “certainly wouldn’t imitate her,” he later moved to Illinois so that he could run for Senate. On the other hand, this man who said he would not imitate Clinton and then did represents that he will imitate Christ. Hmmm…dare I put forth this variant on the question so frequently posed on television’s Law & Order: “Were you lying then — and are you lying now?”

Meanwhile, the Republican Senate candidate in Oklahoma implies — although thankfully he doesn’t invoke Christ’s personal endorsement — that godly voters will want to vote for him. According to him, lesbianism is rampant in Oklahoma. In fact,

[L]esbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us? Associated Press, “Coburn Warns of ‘Lesbianism’ in Schools,” (October 12, 2004) via Fox “News” story at ¶ 4.

Indeed, what has happened to us that we’ve become the kind of country where such a bald-faced and outrageous lie can win votes?

As if lesbians in the school weren’t bad enough, the Republican National Committee has been blanketing Arkansas and West Virginia with mass mailings warning that those hateful liberals are trying to get Kerry elected to the White House because — well, isn’t it obvious? “They” want to ban the Bible! Ban it!

The literature shows a Bible with the word “BANNED” across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word “ALLOWED.” The mailing tells West Virginians to “vote Republican to protect our families” and defeat the “liberal agenda.” “GOP: ‘Liberals’ Will Ban Bible” (September 24, 2004) ¶ 2-3, CBSNews.com.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to blogs like mine that periodically quote such banned material. (Note to Christians who actually believe this story: I’m being sarcastic. My blog isn’t in danger of being shut down by liberal bible-haters. And the Bible isn’t in any danger of being banned by “liberals” — although it darn sure is subject to the much greater difficulty of holding a meaningful place in our lives after being twisted by blasphemers who would use it for political gain.)

Besides the demonstrable hypocrisy of Keyes’ lying while invoking Christ’s personal support for his campaign, Coburn’s lying while implying that a vote for him is necessary to save Oklahoma schoolgirls from lesbianism and the Republican National Committee using a lie about the Bible itself to rally the troops, these vignettes are intended to show that Republicans generally — and not just George Bush — increasingly invoke G-d in their war. And not just on terrorism, but on the rest of America.

Their activities are not limited to the empty words of former talk-show-hosts-cum-itinerant-senate-candidates, or the ubiquitous deliberately false campaign literature, either. Their activities more often impact the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness guaranteed under the Constitution for those who do not subscribe to the same beliefs.

“Christian” pharmacists in Indiana, in Wisconsin, in Texas, and elsewhere (that last link mentions that it’s happening in California, Alabama and Ohio, as well) are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that pharmacists are licensed and that you cannot buy birth control pills without a prescription. In the Wisconsin case, the pharmacist even refused to allow the prescription to be filled by a different pharmacy that was willing to do it! In other words, once G-d had spoken through him, that was it. That woman was either going to stop having sex, or she was going to have a baby! (No word on whether she was married; not all Christians oppose consensual sex between people married to each other.)

Finally, the United States Supreme Court is prepared to jump into the religious fray. The Court announced today that it will take up the controversial problem of displays of the Ten Commandments on government land and buildings.

My expectation is that the Court will more likely coat the baseball bat with stainless steel than endorse a pluralistic view of the United States. Scalia’s version of G-d — like that of the rest of the mob battering at the church-state boundary — bears a closer resemblance to Zeus than to Jesus. And while it’s possible the Court will hold that government may not endorse religious beliefs, this is the same group that had no problem helping G-d’s candidate secure the Presidency in the first place. (Check out SCOTUSBlog — SCOTUS is an acronym for “Supreme Court of the United States” — to read the “inside” story of how Bush’s “victory” was guaranteed by the five conservative Supreme Court Justices.)

Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians just lived their example, instead of forcing others to do it for them?

Special thanks to my wife, Denise Chaffee, for pointing me to several of the links used in this article.

Categories: Religion


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark King // Oct 12, 2004 at 4:17 pm

    Easy now, Rick. Remember that bumper sticker that we have all seen so often:

    “Christians aren?t perfect, they just want you to be.”

  • 2 Bob // Oct 13, 2004 at 10:17 am

    Making a vast generalization does make the world easier to understand but really doesn’t describe the real world accurately.

    To equate every “Muslim” with “terrorism” draws a very clear line in the sand to stand behind, but does not begin to describe or understand the struggle going on within the Islamic world in regards to the slaughter of innocent people for purely political gain. There are comparatively so few Muslims involved with this yet an entire religion is branded as “terrorist”. This simplicity makes war that much easier and more likely.

    The same applies to Christianity. For example, the great state of California is often regarded as voting Democratic but the Central Valley portion is adamantly conservative Republican.

    Many of the headlines we read about politically active Christians are written about this Conservative sect. It pervades the Mid West and portions of the South. It was mobilized by the Republican Party partly as a backlash to Clinton?s ?morality issues?.

    I will not dispute the points of your article, however, I would ask that you do not paint with the broadest of brushes when you write of ?Christians?. If you are truly interested in proving that you?re ?not being anti-Christian? then I would suggest that you describe the group of Christians you are referring to. Perhaps the best description would be ?Conservative Christian Republican?.

    If that?s too long just write ?Republican?.

    There are just too many Christians out there with their collective hands full fighting for many of the same issues that you often discuss on this blog. One of those issues is counter balancing the agenda and the attention given to this high profile Republican noise machine. It?s tricky though since you run the risk of being thought of as ?Un-Christian? much as a politician has to concern himself / herself with being branded as ?Un-Patriotic?.

    ?for let me be clear that by far not all Christians should be slandered for the work of the g-dless few?

    A laudable thought. Just finish it by defining which Christians you?re talking about.

  • 3 Rick Horowitz // Oct 13, 2004 at 10:57 am

    Well, I believe I addressed the same point you did. You appear to believe I just didn’t clearly pin the tail on the donkey, so to speak. (Of course, you might say that’s because it belongs on the elefink.)

    Clearly I was also being prescient when I said,

    I write this blog entry with a note of inevitable resignation. Almost certainly someone is going to either comment here, drop me an email or begin whispering at the law school about my “anti-Christian” writing . . .

    I just didn’t think it was going to be you who posted the comment! 😉

    I did not say “Christian Conservative Republicans” because — though I think they’re misguided anyway — it’s possible to be one of those and not be one of the people I was talking about. And in addition to my explicit indications that we’re talking about a sub-group of people who call themselves Christians, I repeatedly used “scare quotes” around the word when it wasn’t clear that I wasn’t talking about Christians who do not do these things.

    scare quote, noun

    Either of a pair of quotation marks used to emphasize a word or phrase or to indicate its special status, especially to express doubt about its validity or to criticize its use.

    It’s been my understanding that, in fact, you agree with these comments. I believe you’ve written at least one article here talking about the damage this type of “Christian” brings upon all Christians. No offense towards Christians who do not do the things I discussed in the article was intended and, in fact, I attempted to go out of my way to avoid that.

    So, just to clarify:

    • No intent to tar and feather all who call themselves Christians
    • No desire to extend the label to Conservative Christian Republicans who do not follow the strain of Christian behavior I was castigating
    • Intent only to suggest that no sect should be allowed to appropriate the reins of government for the purpose of forcing the rest of us to observe their approved behavioral codes and that a sect calling itself “Christian” is doing just that

    And then, impliedly, I was indicating that supporting the Republican party, which is almost wholly-controlled by that sect, by voting for George Bush, would be to concur in this mistake.

    That’s the reason for the scare quotes; that’s the reason for not saying I was talking about “Conservative Christian Republicans”; that’s the reason you (Bob Marcotte) have my apology for any offense you suffered.

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