Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ten Questions I Might Ask Centrist Religion Journalists Defending Anti-Gay "Religious Freedom" Bills

With a nod to Mary Oliver and her poem "Some Questions You Might Ask," some questions I'd like to ask the centrist religion commentators who keep finding every reason in the world to defend bogus "religious freedom" legislation attacking LGBT people, while they rule those being so attacked out of their centrist conversation and declare them the opposite of what it means to be religious:

1. Why the need always to put your thumb on the scales as you discuss issues of religious freedom in the U.S., with the implication that people are attacking religious freedom itself when what they are doing is, quite clearly, deploring the abuse of that concept as a justification for discrimination against a targeted minority group?

2. Why the need to keep pretending that when people talk about this abuse of religious freedom as "religious freedom" — a corruption, an aberration, of a valuable idea — they're attacking religious freedom itself, and not its corruption? Its use as a sword when it is meant to be a shield . . . .

3. Why the need to pretend that religious freedom needs defense in an American culture whose legal system, institutions, and cultural norms bend over backwards to accomodate religion and to give people wide latitude to exercise their faith?

4. Why the need to build your understanding of what it means to be Christian around the assertion of your "right" to attack and demean a minority group? What kind of Christianity do you imagine you're building when you assert such a thing?

5. Why the need to pretend that the state-level bills popping up all over the nation just as same-sex couples appear poised to gain the right to civil marriage are not about asserting the "right" of "religious" people to continue the immiseration of a minority group as it gains rights you have resisted in the name of Christ?

6. Why the need to pretend that state-level bills are coextensive with the federal RFRA, when, by the bald admission of their authors and of legislators and governors promoting these bills, they're all about extending the federal RFRA act to permit private businesses to discriminate against LGBT people as they attain the right to civil marriage?

7. Why the need to pretend such a thing when you yourselves, in writing about these state-level "religious freedom" bills, constantly write about photographers and bakers and gay weddings?

8. When not a few or you have roots in the very same Southern Baptist church in which I was raised, why do you conspicuously avoid noting that the Southern Baptist church (and several evangelical sister churches) were born out of the assertion of a religious right to continue the practice of slavery, when the non-Southern portions of those churches rejected that right?

9. Why the refusal to talk about the way in which the concept of "religious freedom" was used by the descendants of those same slaveholding Christians who split evangelical churches in the 19th century to combat the rights of people of color in the 20th century?

10. Why the inability to see and admit that your own privilege as straight white heterosexual Christian males is bound up in your assertion of a religion-based "right" to demean those God has made gay? Why your total silence about the fact that your brothers and sisters who happen to be made gay already do not enjoy protection from discrimination in much of the U.S., as you clamor for "religious freedom" protections for those who want to continue discriminating? 

In conclusion, when are you going to stop debasing the currency of Christian faith and Christian discourse in the public square by behaving this way? And when are you going to permit a group you've long marginalized, kept out of your conversations defining Christian identity, into your conversations defining Christian identity?

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