Monday, May 14, 2012

Political Application of the Bible in American Culture: Gay Rights Discussion Keeps Conversation Going

Two more valuable pieces at Religion Dispatches catch my eye today:  

First, Peter Laarman writes about how NPR (and, implicitly, the mainstream media in general) keep giving a free pass to biblical literalists who press the absurd claim that they're only being faithful to "what the bible says" in condemning gay folks.  As Laarman notes, the bible actually says nothing at all about what we understand as homosexuality today.

It couldn't have done so, since that term was not even coined until the latter half of the 19th century, and neither the term itself nor the psychological concept of innate erotic attraction to members of one's own sex to which it points was a part of the intellectual universe of the biblical writers.

But even as the mainstream media permit one biblical literalist after another to press the ludicrous point that they're only insisting on literal fidelity to the literal word of God in opposing homosexuality and attacking gay folks, the media collude with these literalists in marginalizing the testimony of inclusive and affirming faith communities to what the bible actually does say: namely, that we're all called to live according to norms of justice and love in everything we do.  And to shape the societies in which we live according to those norms.

As the recent fierce attacks on Dan Savage (and see Alan McCornick at Hepzibah) for making many of these obvious (and obviously true) points about how biblical interpretation functions in the political discourse of the United States--about how select groups, always of the political and religious right, tout themselves as the sole interpreters of the scriptures and the sole owners of biblical meaning--demonstrate, we still have a long, long way to go in American culture, to understand how false religion and pseudo-scripture are still used to distort political conversations. 

And one of the primary reasons we have such a long way to go towards honesty about these issues is that the mainstream media have long colluded with the religious and political right to present toxic political ideas as biblical truth in American culture.  The right imagines it owns the bible, and it has very wealthy interest groups assisting it in propagating that meme.  And those interest groups have a very strong influence on what the media report about religion--to the harm of the whole culture.

And as Sarah Posner notes in another Religion Dispatches article today, in doing this dirty work, the religious and political right are also aided and abetted by "centrist" Democrats who claim to be saving the Democratic party for faith-based religious groups, bring it back to the "altar" it has ostensibly "left."  But whose primary purpose within beltway media circles is to act as a constant brake on the political decision-making process in the Democratic party, in order to keep that process moving in a right-wing direction renamed as "the center," particularly in the areas of women's rights and gay rights.

Posner notes in particular Jim Wallis's constant work in this regard--especially vis-a-vis in gay rights.  As I've stated repeatedly in postings here (e.g., here), I've given up on Wallis and his Sojourners group--which I used to support very strongly--because of Wallis's refusal to support gay rights.  I have come to the conclusion that, like not a few male church leaders in the U.S., Wallis simply has problems with gay people because he does not intend to think about and critique his own privilege as a heteroexeal male, and he doesn't intend, therefore, to rethink his positions about gay rights, no matter how much his opposition to gay rights undermines his claims to stand for human rights in general.

And as a result, when I see his face at a Huffington Post article he's authored, I read the headline, raise my eyebrows, and read no more.  Just as I do when I see a Catholic bishop or one of the Catholic centrists at America or Commonweal publishing articles about how the bishops are the best friends and advocates the poor and vulnerable have going for them.  

Because, as we all know, nobody stands for human rights like the USCCB . . . . 

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