Category Archives: Evangelicals

Conflicting Freedoms

Our culture is moving forward very rapidly in some areas; zip, zip, zip, and especially in the new Supreme ruling on gay marriage. And in many ways most of us feel that it is about time. I think many of us became convinced when someone we knew who was LGBT? had to be treated in a hospital and their partner, no matter how long they had been together, could never have the solace of being considered a family member.

Many same sex couples wanted to raise a child, having worked hard and built a good life and a stable home, and yet the child could not be adopted by both partners regardless of how long they had loved each other. Situations like this also forced us to sympathize with colleagues or friends. If a couple was paired female-female, one or both of the pair could be artificially (or naturally) inseminated. But could the child ever really belong to both parties in the eyes of the law? I think that has been problematic. For couples paired male-male a surrogate probably had to be involved if they decided not to adopt or if the option was not available where they lived. And once again I am guessing there was no legal right to shared parenthood.

So what may seem like it happened zip, zip, zip to some Americans probably feels like it took forever to others. That Supreme Court decision to uphold marriage for all American couples regardless of gender (and also race just in case it ever came up again) took a certain segment of America by surprise, although it is sort of nice to think for once that “love wins”, as the current meme goes.

So, my questions are many. What do we do when granting the rights of one group of Americans seems to curtail the rights of another group, no matter how intolerant and unenlightened that second group appears?

If we separate government and religion, but live in a government that believes people are free to pursue the religion of their choice, does that mean that equal rights to your own religion suddenly do not count because of the court’s decision? How can we tell if someone’s objections truly are religious in nature, or if religion is just being used as an excuse to deny someone else a right because their expression of that right makes you feel uncomfortable? How would a system of exceptions work? Is there a chance that gay couples might be willing to steer clear of enlisting the services of someone with a genuine religious issue to wrestle with?

Obviously public servants should not be able to opt out, but what if every private business in a given state wanted to opt out? That would look an awful lot like that state’s refusal to obey the law of the land. In the case of Roe v Wade, we already know states that try to get away with taking away a legal freedom from everyone in that state simply because they say it is against their religious views. And in the case of abortion we are not forcing anyone to anything but mind their own business. How would this not be the same?

When it came to a celebration like a wedding I would want to hire someone who was enthusiastic about making my day wonderful. I would feel terrible asking someone to perform services they did not want to perform. But, again, suppose you encountered someone who did want to opt out? Will exceptions take the teeth out of the law? Would a business just put a cross (or other religious emblem) in the window so people would never be embarrassed? Would they have to go before some kind of board to get an exemption?

Equality and freedom are great concepts in the abstract, but they are hardly ever absolute in reality. One person’s absolute freedom can often run afoul of another’s. How do we offer the maximum amount of freedom to each party while granting an equal amount to both? We would need a full-time referee. Obviously that is where the courts come in, but we will have some very busy courts and people will have to wait a long time for decisions.

It seems to me that this is a thorny issue that we need some guidance on from our philosophers. I have no problem fighting against the establishment of a theocracy in America, but individual rights are a different matter and are protected by our Constitution. Fundamentalist Christians are unhappy and likely to make the rest of Americans quite unhappy unless we can strike a balance somehow.

Perhaps we have made such a giant cultural leap that some have genuinely not caught up, or maybe there are some who are quite disingenuous and are just using religion as an excuse to prevent changes they don’t personally like. I don’t know how to solve this argument over conflicting freedoms, but I hope everyone will give it some thought and discuss it with respect until we can reach some form of agreement that allows all groups to feel somewhat like they won, or that creates two camps where almost no one feels like a loser. Am I nuts? Well, perhaps that is another question for another time.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

War on Christianity

On Friday, June 5th, there was a report, and I am not sure of the source (was it MSNBC, was it Jon Stewart, perhaps Bill Maher). It was Bill Maher, but Jon Stewart has talked about this also. There was a montage of clips showing one mournful Republican after another, mostly Presidential candidates, claiming that there is a War on Christianity in America.

The story was full of the fine comedic commentary that is best known on the left. It implied that there was some truth to these mostly paranoid remarks offered up by Republicans. Perhaps these Christians, often labelled Evangelicals are trying to garner some sort of cultural sympathy, or perhaps they want to call out Liberals as Godless and therefore unelectable on grounds of immorality. This may all be Evangelical political propaganda, but also may not be totally false.

I am a liberal who has no patience with the Christianity of these Evangelicals. They are, for one thing, way too self-righteous, as if they speak regularly and directly with God and they know what will please him, something those without “faith” cannot know. Not only do they have a monopoly on Patriotism, but, clearly, also on Faith. And yet these folks are not perfect; they are still as flawed as any of us. We are constantly learning about their human failings.

Evangelicals are citizens in a democracy which has always read our founding documents to say that our government is a secular one and that freedom of religion is a key aspect of our Democracy. In order to insure these two things the importance of the separation of church and state was certainly at least implied by our forefathers. Lately though, it is clear that behavior in American is being judged by those on the right through the screen of their Evangelical faith.

The Evangelical Church seems to have taught some very distasteful and self-serving messages to our public servants. Their religious study seems to support the central position of the white male in the universe. Their studies have led them to believe that the Bible admonishes women to be submissive. These two points of doctrine convince them that America was intended to be a nation of Christian white couples paired up male/female and bent on procreation, not fornication.

Since men are appointed to guide women then women will agree, if they are good Christians, as all Americans should be, that abortion and contraception are against the natural order of things. Since white males rule and they claim that evolution is wrong, and humans can never harm the earth since it was given to us by God for our use, then these things are true and “beyond contestation”. Next we will be having witch hunts. I certainly never believed we would reincarnate our Puritan past but if could very well happen if we let Evangelicals get their hands on our government.

What I loved about movies like Star Trek and Star Wars was the operational equality between men and women. There was banter between sexes and there was still some abuse of women in some cultures, but when it came to winning and losing the men and women pitched in and got the job done. (Even in the Harry Potter books this equality between the sexes holds.) I was hoping for a future with more tolerance for our differences, with more cooperation and less competition.

Evangelicals represent a sort of “super” Christianity which I think we do reject. That does not mean we reject Christianity or that we are at war with Christianity. I am and I’m guessing many others are dead set against turning America into a Theocracy lead by Evangelicals, Christians, or any other religious group. And, more childishly, they started the war, we are just defending America from an Evangelical takeover.

It is certainly interesting that Evangelical Christians believe exactly the things that keep “good old boys” where they think they belong – in charge. I cannot like this emphasis on white male domination and this dismissal of science even if it means I am a terrible sinner and that I will never make it to the Rapture.

By Nancy Brisson

Shaking in My Boots

Evangelical Christians seem to have an effect on our national dialogue that is out of proportion with their actual numbers. These days we are told almost every day about the agenda the Evangelicals have in store for Americans when their candidate is elected. The odds are greater than ever that this will eventually happen because, it seems, in order to be a Republican these days, you must pass muster with the Evangelical Christians. I am a Christian, although with a sort of “universalist” bent, but I have difficulty with the issues the Evangelicals have on their agenda. They want to use Congress to impose morality through the rule of law. They have a certain arrogance that is at odds with the humility that Christians usually embrace. Their dialogue suggests that they are the self-appointed quintessential American Patriots and that all of the rest of us are not. They imply or declare outright that non-Evangelicals are ruining America. They speak as if they have a direct line to the forefathers and to God, that they are the moral high ground, and that they intend to pull America “up” to their level of Fundamentalist behavior as dictated in the Bible.
Yet our forefathers did not choose to found a Theocracy, in fact, they deliberately argued for the separation of the church and the state. Many had been persecuted for their religious beliefs in the countries they fled. We object to Muslim Fundamentalists because many of the ways they interpret their religion are incompatible with the human rights that Democracy believes in and protects. Christian Fundamentalism, if it has its way with our laws, will interfere with human rights in many of the same ways as Muslim Fundamentalism. Government that is moderate allows for the greatest respect for human rights and the greatest freedom for human endeavor. Government should always strive to stay away from extremes.
In fact, this very insistence on an Evangelical Christian “takeover” of America is one of my greatest problems with the most recent incarnation of the Republican Party (although, as you probably already know, it is not my only problem with the GOP). I also reject their assessment of how to stimulate the economy and I reject their insistence that laziness and poverty are caused by reliance on social programs. Republicans cannot really speak to these matters because their current position as the party of the affluent represents a conflict of interest when it comes to decisions about the economy.
I do tend to “shake in my boots” whenever I contemplate an Evangelical Christian takeover of our American government. I hope there are lots of other Americans who feel the same way.