Friday, September 14, 2012

From the Blogs: Fred Clark on One-Question Answers to Complex Ethical Questions, Wayne Besen on Dolan Praying as Priests Prey

Congressional Religious Freedom Hearing, Feb. 2012

From the blogs: at Slacktivist, Fred Clark engages the simplistic (and wildly popular) slippery-slope argument many Christians use to keep the gays and the pesky questions they pose at bay: open the door to you sorts, validate you and what you say, and where will the process end?  Question the taboos about homosexuality, and anything will then follow.  

Clark thinks that these panicked arguments reflect the awareness of many Christians that they have no credible sexual ethic at all.  They haven't thought carefully at all about the thorny questions that many sexual matters (e.g., a majority of heterosexual couples now cohabit before marrying, a majority of couples marrying in churches engage in premarital sex, birth-control use is well-nigh universal among Christian couples) pose for the churches and their sexual ethic.  The questions these practices pose at a fundamental level . . . .

And so better, and easier, to draw a line in the sand with one marginalized and despised group of human beings, and turn them into the symbol of all that is wrong with our world, and all that will go wrong if we let these folks inside.  Clark writes,

What they [i.e., Christians panicked at the recognition that they lack a credible sexual ethic] rely on, instead, is a single yes-or-no question. The entirety of their ethical thinking and ethical consideration regarding sex and sexuality consists of asking that one question. Everything else — the entire universe of vitally important ethical concerns — is swept away, dismissed, and replaced by this question: Are the parties involved married to each other? 
If the answer is “Yes,” then any sex between them is moral and righteous because, and only because, it occurs between two people who are married to each other. If the answer is “No,” then any sex between them is immoral and depraved because, and only because, it occurs between two people who are not married to each other.

And speaking of moral credibility (and the lack thereof), and simplistic symbolic solutions to complex moral problems: in the Falls Church [VA] News-PressWayne Besen notes the bizarre incongruity of His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan's prayer last week at the DNC on the very day a judge in Kansas City sentenced a sitting U.S. Catholic bishop on a criminal charge.  Besen's statement is entitled, "While Dolan Prayed, His Church Preyed."

Besen notes,

While he [Dolan] prayed against my family and for the unborn, a Catholic leader in Kansas City, Bishop Robert W. Finn, was convicted of covering up the crimes of a pedophile priest, Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who liked to take nude pictures of the barely born. 

And he concludes,

When it comes to talking about sexual morality, Timothy Dolan is the last person on the planet I'd listen to. Any bishop that places an institution over the welfare of children ought to be institutionalized – and at the very least praying for the church's victims, instead of playing religious liberty victim at political rallies.  

It seems that those who have historically claimed to stand in the place of God for the rest of us are having a run for their money, to say the least, these days, as new groups arise around the world, testifying to their experience of the living God, while the definers and authority-enforcers find their moral credibility shredded and questioned--though this hardly seems to stop them from insisting that they and they alone make the definitions.  And that everyone else should shut up and listen to them.

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