Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mid-Week Short Takes: "Religious Freedom" and Gay Discrimination, Advice for Pope Francis, Evangelicals and Birth Control, Fred Phelps, and Tony Kushner

Sister Joan Chittister hits the ball out of the park with an impassioned plea to us to remember that, when we allow "religious" people to claim a "right" to hate any targeted group in the name of God, we might well remember that we ourselves may be the next group targeted: 

The important thing to remember is that it doesn't really matter how the transgressions were defined. What matters is that the arguments in defense of doing it were always the same: God didn't want mixed races, or God wanted women to obey men, or God wanted Jews punished because the Romans crucified Jesus. Go figure.

Same drearily predictable dynamics, same drearily predictable main players in the drama: the only thing that shifts over the course of history is who those same drearily predictable main players choose to target next. In the name of "God."

Joan Walsh looks at the "gay bully" nonsense the right peddles to justify beating up on and excluding gay folks--as with some recent St. Patrick's day parades, which, as she says, evoke annual angst and ambivalence for her as she looks at how some of her fellow Irish-Americans behave:

I like the way Malachy McCourt puts it: "My attitude is, St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland and they all came here and they became conservatives."

Journalist-cum-Presbyterian elder Bill Tammeus offers Pope Francis some critical feedback on the occasion of his first year as pope--especially about the need to address the magisterial teaching that characterizes gay human beings as "intrinsically disordered":

There is, of course, still some debate even among scientists about the causes of homosexuality, but there's now almost no doubt -- save among some people who distort the Bible -- that being gay is not a choice. The church should be in the forefront of welcoming all people into the embrace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- and "all" is a pretty inclusive term. Calling someone's sexual orientation "objectively disordered" fails that test. 

Fred Clark points to Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux's stellar analysis of how American evangelicals used to be for the right to choose an abortion--until evangelicals became solidly opposed to abortion, as they're now promising to do with contraception (of which they had also previously approved):

It has happened before and, as Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux shows, it is happening again. History will, again, be rewritten. The Bible will, again, be rewritten.

But an about-face on contraception isn’t unprecedented; in fact, evangelicals’ growing doubt about birth control echoes their theological U-turn on abortion four decades ago.

As she also notes, citing Randall Balmer, this volte face and alliance with the Catholic bishops is all about politics:

"This is naked politics," he says. "It’s jumping on the Catholic bandwagon to score points against Obama."

As Facebook lights up with comments about how people should picket Fred Phelps's funeral, after Phelps's son Nathan announced there that his father's death is imminent, Mark Silk sagely notes

Rather than picket Fred Phelps’ funeral, which now seems imminent, we should give thanks for his gift to American society. So what’s the gift? It’s that he made religious hostility to homosexuality repulsive.

And George Takei says with his typical deep-souled compassion and wisdom, 

I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding "God Hates Freds" signs, tempting as it may be. 
He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.

Finally, a beautiful meditation point from playwright Tony Kushner (whose work I adore) by way of the Facebook page of Charter for Compassion:

The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of souls societies, the social world, human life springs.

Contrary to what many people want to think, many of them citing "God" as their authority, when loving, committed same-sex couples are permitted to form stable, lasting relationships, all of society benefits, since, as Kushner puts the point beautifully, out of the nets of souls, the social world, human life springs.

The graphic: the New York Times newsroom in 1942, from the Library of Congress by way of Wikimedia Commons.

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