Monthly Archives: June 2013
Today the Republican party finds themselves in a difficult circumstance. The GOP has left themselves in a position where they can either try to defend the indefensible, or dissent from party-line bigotry. It is an unenviable choice, but nevertheless, it is what the evangelical influence on the party has left them.
The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) more accurately should have been titled the “Attack on same-sex Marriage Act” since it wasn’t actually defending any heterosexuals rights, or who and how they can marry. It was designed specifically to deny gay Americans the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals have. But more specifically, Section 3 of DOMA codified the non-recognition of same sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns. It was written into legislation that same sex couples had different rules applied to them. In case anyone is wondering what applying a different set of standards to selected segments of society is more commonly referred to, it’s called discrimination.
Hence, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Section 3 of DOMA.
Since then, the evangelical wing of the GOP has come out in force to denounce the SCOTUS decision, allowing for no pretence of Church/State separation while renouncing marriage equality as defying the will of the Judeo/Christian God. Sadly predictable, the evangelical right is forcing the party’s discourse towards rationalizing medieval predispositions, and reciting bigoted platitudes. Congresswoman Michele Bachman, and former Governor of Arkansas and now FOX News pundit Mike Huckabee to name just two were both defiant, and adamant about their disapproval of marriage equality… the former erroneously asserting that “Marriage was created by the hand of God”, while the latter offered the supposition that “Jesus wept.” Ugh.
This is the sociological quandary that the GOP finds themselves in. Do they capitulate to the evangelical base and their less-than-rational assertions, or acknowledge that every American citizen is entitled to equal rights under the constitution? Is it possible for some within the GOP to articulate that denying equal rights is not a right unto itself? Do they allow the bigoted predispositions of their lunatic fringe to dictate policy to the party’s detriment? Or does this become a wedge issue within the Republican party?
Ironically, before it became law in 1996, DOMA was a bi-partisan bill engineered by House Republicans led by then speaker (R) Newt Gingrich, and signed into legislation by none other than (D) President Bill Clinton. Hilariously, the thrice married Gingrich and the convicted marital vow breaker Clinton were the key figures in protecting the cherished institution of matrimony…
An institution, which by all statistical accounts has long ago had its reverence forsaken by heterosexuals like Clinton and Gingrich.
The truth is that despite the rhetoric about the sanctity of marriage needing to be persevered, traditional marriage was always based upon patriarchy . Of course, by “traditional”, the evangelical right means that in biblical terms, a wife is to be obedient to her husband. In a “traditional” marriage, women have a subservient role to play as defined by the scriptures, which is what’s implicated when the Christian right harkens back to “better days”. Cooking, cleaning, and baby making … ” Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” – Ephesians 5:22
The reality is that the Christian right’s assault on same sex marriage has a collaterally negative effect on women as well.
But the hypocrisy from “Traditional Marriage Purists” runs deeper than their bias against women and gays. The denial of how traditional marriage has failed in the post “women should be barefoot and pregnant” world is matched only by the ignorance it takes to defend an institution that boasts a dismal 50% divorce rate as something “wholesome.” An even more alarming fact is that like Gingrich’s and Clinton’s poor excuses for traditional marriages, many hetero-couplings that survive a litigious end are wrought with extra-marital indiscretions. For a more detailed analysis of how and why traditional marriage is obsolescent and an exposition of secular relationship viability, see my book
However since the signing of DOMA into legislation, the Democratic Party has wisely modified its position on same sex unions to coincide with the Zeitgeist , which is what a Govt. by the people and for the people is supposed to do. While their motives may be politically feckless, Democrats have nevertheless acquiesced to reason regarding the lack of constitutionality regarding marital discrimination. Likewise, today Republican voters are faced with a choice. To side with bigots and homophobes, or to defy their party.
As for the acerbic rhetoric that the evangelical right uses to mask their bigotry, none of the anti-equality assertions appeal to anyone with the slightest sense of logic . Each rationalization for wanting to deny same sex couples equal rights under the law is as unconstitutionally lame as the next. For instance, the “change the definition of marriage” argument is utterly inane, as the simple fact that a woman would not be required to marry her rapist, or that a man cannot sell his daughter for a milk cow means that we’ve already changed the “definition” of marriage, and for the better. Just as we have “changed the definition” of “freedom” as it applies to person ownership.
Neither does the “morality” argument make sense to anyone who has the slightest grasp of what actually constitutes morals. By attaching a “moral” implication to the manner in which consenting adults fornicate, let alone who they love, it not only masks one’s bigotry by bastardizing what morals actually are, but changes the premise of the discussion from one that is based on civil rights as it applies to the Constitution, to one that must tether to ethereal, third party oversight. Indeed, if one’s “morals” are dependent upon an intrusion into people’s bedrooms in order to establish that procreation be in accordance with the Judeo/Christian God’s carnal idealism, then their morals are at best questionable.
Yet bigots rarely recognize themselves as such, and thus these rationalizations make sense to them. By comparing consensual adults engaging in same sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality, religious bigots expose themselves as such. But they don’t see it that way. For if one has to be explained why those comparisons are not only invalid, but hateful, then they are beyond reason. Yet these are the types of arguments continually made by members of the Republican Party.
Sadly these were the same retrospectively ignorant arguments made against interracial marriage in 1967. When the Supreme Court ended all race based marital restrictions in the now famous Loving V. the State of Virginia case where Richard Loving, a white man was sentenced to a year in prison for marrying Mildred Loving, a black woman. These same arguments were made by those who hoped to deny interracial marriage. Today we mock those ignorant, racist assertions, just as we will those making the case against same sex marriage years from now.
Still, the GOP is defending the Defense of Marriage Act the way that racists in 1967 defended the Racial Integrity Act. Both sets of arguments against equality operate from the premise that who and how we love is not germane to the precepts of liberty, and moreover, are subject to Christian doctrine. Thankfully, the Supreme Court disagreed on both accounts. Regardless of whatever excuse one uses for wanting to deny certain Americans equal marital rights and privileges due to their sexual orientation, the American consensus no longer allows for such rationalizations constituting a “different opinion”. In 2013, it is generally understood that making such assertions defines one as a bigoted asshole.
But despite everything leading up to, and including the striking down of Section 3 of DOMA, there is a much more important issue, and one that should never have allowed it to get this far.
If we –as a nation– are to operate from the premise that All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, then the self evident truth is that the state can neither determine, nor define any definition of love. The striking down of Section 3 of DOMA is important because how we treat one another is what defines us as a nation. It’s what separates us from the backwards, twelfth century xenophobes we’re at war with. Just as America improved itself when we abolished slavery, gave women the vote, and allowed Richard and Mildred Loving to marry, so we did on June 26th, 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA.
However it is inherent within the nature of humanity to forget the travails from eras past –those who suffered, sacrificed and even died so that their children’s children might lead a better life– and give back to their former oppressors that which they fought so hard to gain. Today is not the end of the struggle for Gay rights just as Loving V. Virginia did not mark the end of the struggle to achieve racial parity. This is still the beginning.
The endeavor for equality is enduring. Bigotry and ignorance are vigilant to their tasks, and we must remain ever steadfast to keep the darker parts of human nature from seeking their expression. However it is a battle worth fighting. For if history can teach us anything, it’s that equality is the hallmark of civilization.
As it was during the sixteenth century European counter-reformation, the forces of anti-intellectualism are attempting a coup here in America today. Never in the history of this country has there been an assault on reason like we are experiencing now. We are enduring an unprecedented disregard for scientific consensus and a denial of peer reviewed evidence to the point where there is a significant portion of our population who truly believe that physics defying impossibilities are legitimate explanations.
There are purposefully self deceptive ideologues who are attempting an appropriation of the United States Government, and they go by the name “Tea-vangelicals”. And they have not just taken over the TEA party, but the GOP as well. Indeed, American Theocracy has found a political symbiant.
This movement is like nothing this country has ever seen before. It’s not just that Fundamentalist Christian Tea Partiers don’t understand science (and they don’t) … but they hate it. This is the difference between one who simply doesn’t possesses the ability to comprehend, and an anti-intellectual. TEA-vangelicals fight against knowledge so that they might preserve a literal interpretation of religious scripture long ago accepted as metaphor. It is a concerted effort at rationalizing willful ignorance so as to retreat from the scientific age of enlightenment –on which this nation was founded– back into the shadows of medieval fundamentalism. A frightened, uneducated proletariat is a Theocrat’s greatest ally.
There is also a peripheral ignorance which transcends science denial. Rarely does one repudiate scientific consensus about the origin of our species or the age of our planet and apply critical thinking in other areas. In accordance with the surrendering of one’s intellect to biblical literalism, deliberate incomprehension invariably allows for a dismissal of facts regarding a variety of socio/economic issues. Forming a political ideology that encourages anti-intellectualism –by its very nature– cannot permit reason to permeate its outer defenses.
Hence, much of the TEA party’s socio/economic policy has abandoned reason so as to coincide with its medieval understanding of science. There are very few Republican candidates that dare defy TEA-vangelical precepts, lest they not make it out of their local primaries. So they, too, surrender intellect for votes. Which brings us to the crux of the issue. Our political discourse is infected with fraud, hyperbole, and purposeful deception.
This is not a problem that will go away if ignored. If America hopes to become the nation it once was –the nation that built giant things, defeated fascists and sent men to the moon– we cannot allow the forces of anti-intellectualism — to exist in a century where diseases have been cured, and science has given people back their limbs– to deny facts derived from the very same peer review process that permitted these advancements. Contemporary fundamentalists do not have the luxury of their sixteenth century predecessors. Sane people can no longer blame demons for diseases, or for that matter, blame homosexuals for their genetic predispositions.
We cannot allow the pseudo-science of Christian fundamentalists to be placed on the same shelf as real science. For it is peer reviewed evidence (which survives the trials of scrutiny) that determines viability, not a collection of suppositions derived from a predetermination brought about by a book of fairy tales. We cannot — must not — allow less-than-sane religious assertions to be placed alongside science and reason in the name political correctness. Giving equal footing to blatant falsehoods spoken in the public square because they are delivered under the guise of religion is not being “tolerant”. It is an asinine, politically correct capitulation to crazy.
However the way to defeat the march back into the sixteenth century (and beyond) is to caricaturize voluntary stupidity for what it is. Although true fundamentalists probably can never be made to understand how a rational mind works, if the forces of reason push back against anti-intellectualism, others will become embarrassed to be a part of what can only be described as a socially regressive movement of crazy people who believe in fairy tales. Before fundamentalists have the opportunity to infect those around them with anti-intellectualism, they must be ridiculed as the bane of society that they are. Political correctness must not protect willful ignorance in the name of religion. For if it is allowed to breed unrestrained — like every fear based ideology– it will flourish in the minds and hearts of the intellectually assailable.
The lack of curiosity that accords magical thinking is an affront to anyone who ever endeavored to make the world a better place through knowledge. Sadly, there is probably no cure for Christian inspired scientific illiteracy. The chances are that those spouting the pseudo-scientific platitudes which disregard the laws of physics, the natural universe, or genetics have already been exposed to the facts. They simply deny them in favor of their psychotic delusion. So they continue to repeat the lies long enough, and loud enough so that others will believe them true. Ignorance loves company.
But anti-intellectualism has gotten to the point where people announce their lack of knowledge proudly. They wear it lack a badge of honor, and shout it to the highest mountaintops. A circular (lack of) logic is employed to undermine scientific truth, and with a cult-like devotion, anti-intellectuals are unable, unwilling, and too fearful to question their fundamentalism.
Where in the past, mentally debilitating cults could easily be written off as socio/politically inconsequential, contemporary, anti-intellectual, cult-like mind numbing is done within the confines of Christianity. As such, it automatically becomes a political force to be reckoned with. So we Americans have an intellectual civil war to fight here at home.
There are truths derived from scientific facts which have been proven beyond any reasonable doubt, and which must be acknowledged. Virgins cannot give birth. The earth is approximately four and a half billion years old. Humans have existed as a species for approximately two hundred thousand years, and we share a common genetic ancestry with other primates.
These are self evident truths, facts, and they are undeniable. To allow our political discourse to be influenced otherwise is to base our policy on a lack of sanity. For if we remain too afraid to confront metaphoric perfidy and allow anti-intellectuals an equal voice in the public square … how can Americans ever hope to find real world solutions to complex problems like we had in the past?
There is a confusion on the part of cultural, more casual Christian Americans as to why it is that Atheists, secularists and humanists even concern themselves with other people’s beliefs. The thing is, it’s not the irrationality of fundamentalist Christianity that anyone cares about per se’, but the way that they manifest themselves upon everyone in America via politics. Those of us with a historical acumen regarding the true nature of a theocracy care because we understand the socio/political implications of Christianity, and how it would affect the American legislative process if allowed to impose itself upon the state. Moreover, without the burden of irrational guilt and fear which religious faith accords, we have the ability to apply history to present day American politics objectively, rather than from the subjective perch of religious self scrutiny.
Which is to say that historically, Christianity and politics have not worked out well.
What most “conservatives” within the GOP fail to realize is that the traditional American values that they hope to propagate will be undermined if Christian Dominionists further erode the wall of separation between church and state. History has shown that if neglected, not only would Christianity –by its very nature– undermine the Constitution and dominate the sociological and legislative landscape, but would also war within itself until a singular Christian entity reigns. Political conservatism and Christianity is an unholy alliance.
Perhaps, you’re thinking that Christian infighting could, and would never happen in America. Or that Christian Americans are above such petty disputes. Well, if history is any barometer, it would be all but guaranteed. The tenets of the faith demand it.
Christian infighting within our borders is hardly unprecedented. In fact, in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists where the phrase “Separation of Church and State” was coined, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that a religious majority might “reproach their chief Magistrate… because he will not, dare not assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ,” thus establishing a state religion at the cost of the liberties of religious minorities. Jefferson’s letter was a response to a particular group of Christian Baptists being concerned that other Christian churches were becoming too politically influential. And it is the very thing that Christian fundamentalists hope to impose unto the American populace today in the form of Dominionism.
Moreover, the sixteenth century Protestant reformation led by Martin Luther (no K) and John Calvin were a direct response to church-state oppression. The ensuing Roman Catholic counter-reformation was the equal and opposite reaction of any ruling organization having their authority challenged. It was violent, bloody, and it all happened because different groups of Christians differed in their opinions as to the interpretation of the scriptures. It tore Europe apart, and we have seen this conflict play out in Northern Ireland (among other places) until this very day.
What are perceived as subtle differences in faith now, surely will manifest into a full scale conflict.
The principles are the same with what is occurring in the Middle East, with warring factions of Sunni and Shiite Muslims killing one another over whose side Allah is on. I have to be honest, I still don’t understand what the hell it is that they are killing one another over. I’ve heard reporters refer to either side as “extremists”, and “moderates”, depending on which way the political winds were blowing. But the reality is, it doesn’t matter if we Americans can understand the subtleties of Islamic interpretation. It’s only important that they do.
They do, and their killing one another over it.
So sure, Christian Americans all feel comfortable uniting under the same political banner now, but how long would it be after one particular Christian sect acquires too much political power before socio/political strife erupts within Christian Americana? How long will it be Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, and the rest of the Christian mosaic go to war with one another over discrepancies in scripture interpretation? Do Mormons really believe that they will be tolerated within the Republican party forever?
The Christian market share will only allow for short term political alliances. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But make no mistake, this will end just as every other marriage of convenience does… loveless and destitute.
Just as the present day GOP is constantly trying to “out-conservative” one another over gun control and global warming, they are already starting to jockey for position at the right hand of Jesus. Already there are elected officials who not only want to teach the biblical story of creation in science class, but who have made overtures at writing laws based upon Mosaic principles. For instance, there is no constitutional basis for not allowing same sex marriage, but the Dominionist mindset won’t stop until homosexuality is criminalized. The justification for doing so is in the bible. As it has been with every other conservative issue, the candidate who make the most extreme proclamation will become the standard bearer for the Republican party.
Whenever a Republican primary is dependent upon Christian extremism, the crazy gets amped up.
To the objective observer, it all seems irrational. Christians vying against one another over political influence is like watching two nerds fight over whether Star Trek, or Star Wars was the superior franchise. To us it makes little sense. They’re both space shows, right? Yet the religious reflecting pool infrequently allows for similar objectivity. Christians rarely have the capacity to see themselves in either Muslims, or Science Fiction geeks.
But unlike Christians and Muslims, nerds don’t kill one another over their passion.
Which brings us to the main point behind Christian Dominionism within our political system. As it is with corporatist profiteers who exude a “hoarder-like” obsession with acquiring money –rather than collect a house full of old newspapers and pizza boxes, or even an amount of wealth that could never be spent in the lifetimes of several successive generations– The Dominionist psychosis demands that they gather unto themselves the unrestricted ability to impose their sense of self-righteous indignation, and their will upon the rest of us. And that is even more mentally deranged than your average hoarder.
Although power in itself is a corrupting force of nature, power achieved through god is never shared. It is the absolute power that corrupts absolutely. However throughout the first two hundred and fifty years of this nation’s history, we’ve been spared the oppression of church brutality. The civilizing component to Christianity in America has been church/state separation.
But here’s the thing about Christian Dominionism within our legislative process. As they push for Mosaic law to be imposed on the United States –much as Sharia has been imposed in the middle east– the larger umbrella of Christianity will surely give way to intra-faith war. Much as the Shiite and Sunni are in constant bloody battles over –what seems to outside observers to be– minor discrepancies within Islamic tenets and interpretations of the Koran, could it be long after Christian Dominionism becomes the major political influence in America before like-minded blood is shed between Catholic and Protestant? Does anyone with the slightest sense of history believe that the “Born Again” American evangelical lobby will ever capitulate to the will of the Vatican?
And as long as the axiom holds true that he who holds the keys to heaven controls the world, there will be violence committed in Christ’s name, and the keys to heaven will be coated with blood.