Tag Archives: Christians

Religious Chutzpah

I am officially over the self-identified “Christians” whose definition of “liberty” is freedom to pick on and marginalize anyone their crabbed version of God disapproves of. (And yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. So sue me.)

America is deep, deep into indignant, knee-jerk reactions to a legal and social attitude change that these holier-than-thou hypocrites consider heretical: the proposition that other peoples’ life choices and beliefs–or lack thereof– are entitled to equal respect under the law.

So Tennessee makes (a Christian version of) the “holy bible” its state book. North Carolina and Mississippi enshrine ugly anti-LGBTQ bigotry in state law. In Maine, a ballot initiative proposes to strip gay rights out of the state’s Human Rights Act. And don’t get me started on Indiana, where–in addition to keeping gays second-class citizens and women barefoot and pregnant– a state trooper named Brian Hamilton remained in the employ of the Indiana State Police until yesterday.

Hamilton was sued previously for using traffic stops–traffic stops!–as an opportunity to preach about Jesus and “being saved.” Despite losing that suit, he is being sued yet again for the same behavior.

The lawsuit alleges Trooper Brian Hamilton of the ISP Pendleton post pulled the woman over for speeding and gave her a warning. He then asked her what church she went to and if she was saved. Documents said Hamilton invited Pyle to his church and even gave directions.

A Google search will provide you with literally hundreds of additional examples of what I can only call religious chutzpah–the incredibly arrogant and ahistorical belief held by far too many people in and out of government that their beliefs are entitled to primacy, that this is their country, and the rest of us are here on sufferance, and that any law or court ruling that suggests otherwise is unAmerican and illegitimate.

When historians point to evidence of the Founders’ very purposeful separation of Church and State, the David Bartons and Ted Cruz’s of chutzpah world rewrite history.

When Courts apply longstanding First and Fourteenth Amendment precedents, the American Taliban attacks the judges: in states that elect jurists, they elect crackpots like Roy Moore; when the federal courts are the offenders, Senate theocrats stamp their feet and refuse to fill judicial vacancies.

When some poor shopkeeper has the temerity to wish them “happy holidays,” they scream that there is a “war on Christmas.”

When their efforts to retain privileged status are unsuccessful–when they aren’t able to disadvantage gay people or Muslims or atheists or Christians who disagree with them– they can can be counted on to whine about being victims.

Religious believers–all religious believers, whatever their faith– are entitled to equality before the law. No less, and no more.

No matter how convinced these odious folks may be of the superiority of their particular theologies, they are not entitled to dominance. They are definitely not entitled to use the power of the state to  disadvantage people whose beliefs differ.

Unfortunately, they are legally within their rights to annoy the hell out of the rest of us.


Morality and Religion–Not Exactly Connected

A Post/ABC survey taken after the release of the Senate’s torture report has generated results which–displayed in tabular format--have been making the rounds on social media.

The question was whether the torture tactics had been justified. Responses were broken down by religious affiliation; significant majorities of Protestants and Catholics said yes. Only among the “nones”–those claiming no religious affiliation–did a majority of respondents disavow torture.

Apparently, a lot of those pious “Christians” –the ones who whine about the (wholly manufactured) “War on Christmas,” who self-righteously refuse to pay for the “sinful” birth-control of their female employees, who insist on their right to impose their beliefs on others in a multitude of ways–see no conflict between their scripture and the torture of other human beings.

Shades of the Inquisition…

If this survey is accurate, it would seem to rebut the assumption that secular Americans cannot be moral, because they “lack God.” In fact, it raises an interesting question: what sort of God do these torture apologists worship?


Crazy and Scary

Crazy Republicans are making life miserable for the dwindling number of rational party members, and the same phenomenon (often involving the same people) is giving Christians a really bad name.

Loony tunes example number ten zillion:

Several news sites have reported on a rant by Christian Radio Host Rick Wiles, in which he shares his hope that the Ebola epidemic spreads to the US and “wipes out every last atheist and gay person in the country.”

“Now this Ebola epidemic can become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague. It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming… Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

Leave aside the decidedly “unChristian” desire to see people with whom you don’t agree die in agony (what was that thing about “turning the other cheek”?), what leap of “logic” leads this zealot to believe that a horrific disease will be selective, and that its selectivity would be based upon his version of biblical “truth”?

Talk about creating God in one’s own image…

What’s really terrifying is that it is only a small step from this sort of faith-based delusion to a desire to help “God’s work” along, by bringing a pathogen to the U.S. and unleashing it. If you think that possibility is far-fetched, consider what the KKK, skinheads and other True Believers have been willing to do to protect their own racial or religious hegemony.

It’s time for the good Christians–and the good Republicans–to take their religion and their party back from the lunatics who are currently dominating the public face of both.


Fortunately, Most Christians Aren’t Like Micah Clark

The Boy Scouts did (half of) the right thing a couple of weeks ago, and triggered another of Micah Clark’s (tiresome and predicitble) rants.

Some of his bizarre assertions: the Indianapolis Star is “one of the largest homosexual advocacy organizations.” The Boy Scouts “decided to abandon their moral principles in favor of keeping pro-homosexual corporate donors’ money.” The Greenwood Church that withdrew from sponsorship of a cub scout pack is “one of the finest churches in the Greenwood area.” Gays make up “only 3% of the US population but are responsible for a third of all child molestations.” The Scouts’ decision is yet more evidence that “true manhood is under attack.”

Needless to say, Clark plucks his “facts” from thin air–or perhaps from the same “researchers” who broke the news that Sponge Bob Squarepants is recruiting for the armies of homosexual activists that Clark sees everywhere. (Which does lead me to wonder how a mere 3% of the population can be everywhere Clark sees them…)

I would ignore this latest roar of wounded indignation, but a friend sent it to me not an hour after I had spoken to a sizable group of Christian senior citizens about same-sex marriage. The average age of the audience was probably 80+. They all belonged to Christian denominations. All but one of them was white. (The common stereotype of such older white Christians, of course, is that they are the bulk of the nation’s culture warriors.)

Since Micah clearly believes that he speaks for all “true” Christians, this gathering must have been composed of “fake” Christians. Not only did they reject the sort of hateful homophobic characterizations and falsehoods that Micah and his ilk constantly spew, not only did they applaud the Boy Scouts’ decision, they were strongly supportive of marriage equality.

In fact, these senior-citizen Christians must be Micah’s worst nightmare.

Micah Clark and those like him can turn blue insisting that neutral reporting turns the daily newspaper into an advocacy organization. They can excoriate “liberals” like yours truly, and dismiss our positions out of hand. They can invent statistics and “facts” and insist that theirs is the proper “moral” standard. But all of that is window dressing. Their position rests, ultimately, on their conviction that they speak for the angry God of their version of Christianity.

But just as they stereotype GLBT folks, they stereotype their fellow Christians.

For every literalist, fundamentalist church that defines itself in contrast to sinful “others,” there is a Christian denomination that takes seriously the obligation to love one’s fellow-man.

For every angry, judgmental, morally-constipated “Christian” I’ve met, I can point to three or four others who see their faith as a prescription for love and understanding and who shrink from the very real transgressions of arrogance and self-righteousness.

I am neither a Christian nor a theologian, but I know the difference between people who are at peace with themselves and people who–for whatever reason–need to blame someone else for the demons that beset them.

Reflecting Badly

When I was growing up in Anderson, Indiana, fewer than 30 Jewish families lived there, and there was a fair amount of anti-Semitism. The attitudes displayed by my schoolmates ranged from benign bemusement (“So you don’t go to church on Sundays?”) to suspicious curiosity (“Do Jews live in houses like real people?”) to outright bigotry (“My mom says you’re a dirty Jew.”) (For the record, each of these is a real statement made to me while I was growing up.)

Now, when you are a member of a marginalized group, and you know people will evaluate that group based in part upon your behavior, you tend to be sensitive to the consequences of your public actions and careful not to act in ways that might confirm stereotypes. I can still remember cringing at restaurants if a group of people who “looked Jewish” were being loud, or excessively demanding of the wait staff. I didn’t want their boorish behavior to reflect badly on other Jews. Many of my gay friends have reported similar reactions to inappropriate GLBT behaviors.

Obviously, a lot of Christians don’t have those kinds of concerns. Probably because Christians are in the majority in this country, Christian “bad actors” don’t seem to consider that appalling behavior in the name of Christianity necessarily reflects upon their co-religionists. And more well-behaved Christians usually give their fellow believers a pass–they rarely speak out to distance themselves from nastiness masquerading as Christian piety . Evidently, they don’t worry about being lumped into the same category with their more outrageous brethren. But really–shouldn’t they disclaim at least some of the folks who claim to speak for their faith?

For example, there’s a religious right activist named Gary Cass, who is a former Republican Party official in San Diego. He currently heads up a group called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, and spends most of his time attacking the usual suspects–President Obama, Muslims,gays, and (interestingly) Mormons. I recently came across a clip of him delivering a long rant in which he accused Americans of having a “broken moral compass.” The evidence of our moral decline? We have been electing politicians who support things like reproductive choice and marriage equality.

Cass says the nation’s colleges and universities are “perverted factories of unfaithfulness,” especially Harvard which is now “animated by the spirit of Antichrist.”

My favorite, though, was this:  “you can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun.” Cass evidently believes that gun ownership and Christianity are inextricably entwined.

Perhaps my Christian friends don’t consider Cass and his ilk worth cringing over, or disavowing. (As a Jew, I want to make it clear that– if Jesus really requires that his followers be armed–he was reflecting badly on the rest of us Jews.) But criticism from members of other religions or none simply aren’t going to stop the “Christians” (note quotation marks) who are turning policy debates into religious wars.

Some good Christians need to tell the Florida pastor who burned the Korans that he is not speaking for them. Good Christians need to speak up when Mike Pence wraps himself in the mantle of faith in order to justify denying poor women access to medical services, or when Richard Mourdock defends his “God intended that pregnancy” remarks by claiming critics are “attacking his faith.”

We need more Christians willing to join the Nuns on the Bus.