Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Times, They Are A-Changin': Reconstructionist Judaism Selects First Openly Gay Leader (and Southern Baptists Get a Shock)

As Timothy Kincaid reports at Box Turtle Bulletin this morning, this is a really, really big deal: the national Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association has just selected as its leader Jason Klein, an openly gay rabbi. The times, they are a-changin'.

Except, of course, in places like the solid South of the U.S.--solidly bible belt Christian, solidly Republican, solidly opposed to, well, just about anything that smells of progress (except when it's owned by and benefits the super-rich elites who have always controlled things in my neck of the woods, and for whom nothing is too good). As a region, we're determined to march left if progress points right. We're determined to blow up the political and economic wellbeing of the entire nation to halt any movement at all in a direction that would make the whole country a better, more humane place to live--and we're particularly determined to do that if the one leading the nation in a progressive direction happens to be an African-American man.

We are defiantly out of step, and intent on getting more out of step under the leadership of President Obama. As Peter Montgomery reports at Religion Dispatches, the Southern Baptist Convention has just learned how defiantly it is out of step with the rest of the United States on the issue of marriage equality. The polling arm of the SBC, Lifeway, has just done a survey only to discover that "a clear majority of Americans believe that 'homosexuality is a civil rights issue like gender, race and age,' agree that same-sex marriage is 'inevitable' and oppose employment discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In my back yard, in Arkansas, where the current anti-Obama tea-party legislature is determined to do everything in its power to blow up healthcare possibilities for those with no health insurance, to cut taxes for the super-rich, to assure that we have the right to go to church bearing arms, to punish the poor and immigrants, to restrict women's access to birth control and everyone's access to tattoos, our lawmakers have just passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

The law is defiantly anti-constitutional and will almost certainly be struck down by courts. But that's the point of this kind of legislation: it's all about defiance and not about addressing abortion issues in any constructive way at all. It's all about distracting voters who are agitated by racial animosity against the current president far more than they are willing to admit. It's all about distracting voters bedazzled by racism so that they won't understand that their pockets are being picked while they're entertained with fergit-hell bills about gays, guns, bibles, zygotes, and tattoos.

And as Brad Bailey's comment in this recent discussion thread at the Arkansas Times rightly notes, behind the scenes pulling the strings as the cynical political theater is enacted are right-wing religious bodies throughout the state--notably the Southern Baptist Convention:

Don't look now, but the 89th Assembly is being run by the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Southern Baptist Convention, not by the people of Arkansas. I've seen this same scenario played out again and again in every U.S. state legislature that's elected a Republican majority in the last five years. 
The intertwining of religion and government is one of the defining points of fascism. Other descriptors include rampant sexism, an emphasis on crime and punishment, the suppression of labor power and the protection of corporate power, all of which are exemplified by current Arkansas bills and resolutions.  
Ideology used to take a back seat to pragamatism back in the days when conservatives were sane and rational. No more.

Lots of "pro-life" American Catholics are looking at places like Arkansas these days with starry-eyed admiration. As someone who actually lives in and has deep roots in the Southern evangelical bible-belt culture that "pro-life" Catholics idealize, I have to wonder if the bishops leading their flocks to a bible-belt model of government and Catholics who buy into that model really understand what they're idealizing. They're colluding with right-wing evangelicals who want

1. To pass draconian anti-immigrant laws that unfairly target immigrants and try to run them out of the country;

2. To reject billions of dollars in federal aid for healthcare for those too poor to afford health insurance;

3. To benefit the rich while placing tax burdens on the poor;

4. To cut tax support for public education to the bone, while transferring as much money as possible to private faith-based schools;

5. To deny women access to birth control coverage, and to permit hospitals to claim religious warrants as they refuse to provide contraceptive services;

6. To pass laws assuring the "right" of employers to fire people solely because they happen to be gay;

7. To demand that teachers in schools be armed and that all citizens have the "right" to carry guns even to church;

8. To pass stop-and-search laws permitting police armed to the teeth with assault weapons to turn small towns into police states targeting minority groups; 

9. To mandate public school textbooks that prohibit teaching of evolution and tell children that dinosaurs and human beings cavorted around the countryside together, that all the slaves were happy, and that filthy, immoral hippies tore up the nation in the 1960s.

10. Etc.

If this is what American Catholics call "pro-life," then they'd better be prepared to accept all of these items and many more for the whole nation, as they buy the bible-belt states' fiercely restrictive laws against abortion. Because this and more is coming down the pike right along with those anti-abortion laws that aren't even about defending human life in the first place, but about showing absolute antebellum defiance to a mainstream culture that has dared to elect an African-American president and then re-elect him against the wishes of the states of the old Confederacy.

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