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An Excuse to Pontificate

6 June 2007

First, some things to disclose: I was raised Catholic (many evangelical people in the US [at least] don’t consider Catholics to be Christians, to which I always respond, WTF??????). In fact, my entire elementary and secondary education was in private Catholic schools. Then I went to college at Georgetown University (where I met Jesuits – now that is one cool set of priests [and they’ve been excommunicated as a group, what?, three times throughout history? Like I said, cool dudes]), so, depending on your point of view, my college education was either religious or not (or the work of Satan). I no longer consider myself a Christian of any variety.

Anna asked what I thought Clinton meant when she talked about “People who wear their religion on their sleeve.” When I was younger, religion had nothing to do with politics. We would read about how flustered a portion of the population was when John F. Kennedy ran for president in the sixties. He was Catholic, and some people wondered whether the Pope would be pulling the strings in a Kennedy administration, or—worse yet—if the US would be sending tax money to the Vatican! Neither of these things came to pass, of course.

But now, it seems that many Americans equate being a believer (i.e., being a Christian, for the most part) with being a moral person. And that’s just hogwash.* Consider George W. Bush (my “wear-your-religion-on-your-sleeve” example). He is born-again. He instituted bible study sessions at the White House. He firmly believes (and has stated more than once) that his god speaks to him. Personally.

Now, if someone says that their god approves of what they are doing, then how on earth can there be discourse about whatever issue is currently facing the nation (or your family / community / state)? You can’t argue with god, and this person can’t give you any proof other than their fervent belief that a deity—human conversation is going on.

“Listen to me.” Why? “Because God is on my side.”

Who says this? George Bush does. Al Qaeda does. The Taliban does. The crusaders did. The Christian European explorers did. Hmmm. Not very good company, in my opinion.

This brings us to something else I see in people I’d say wear their religion on their sleeve. They know, with their whole being, what god likes, and what god dislikes. How audacious is that? Yesterday I came across the following bumper sticker text (it wasn’t clear if this is an actual bumper sticker or simply a message this person wishes they could find on a bumper sticker):

Are we talking about the same god here, because yours sounds like kind of a dick

Where would this sort of sentiment come from? Well, I’m certainly not a biblical scholar, but where in the New Testament does Jesus support war? I thought he was all about turning the other cheek. Where is it recorded that he would hang with the Pharisees and other town big-shots (did you know that god wants you to be rich? Yep.) I thought his ministry was all for the poor and marginalized (Would Jesus really not support universal health care? Or financial support for single mothers? Or quality education for poor children? Or drug programs for HIV/AIDS patients?**).

Imagine an endless, omnipotent essence. Do we really think it gives a flying feck how people have sex? Do humans get all in a bother about how birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it? Of course not. And we at least share DNA with birds, bees, and fleas (educated or not).

And I truly would like someone to explain to me how the god of love (no, we’re not talking Eros here) would deliberately send some of its creations to a place like Hell. Really. I just cannot wrap my mind around that one.

Now, if someone asked me what an omnipotent essence would desire in its creations (because I can be audacious that way, too), I’d say that it wouldn’t want us to do anything that crushed the human spirit. Female circumcision? Out. Sexual discrimination? Out. Manipulation of the poor for material gain? Double out. Destruction of the environment? Triple out (because let’s not forget that the same essence that would have created humans would also have created the rest of the planet; and a real omnipotence wouldn’t play favorites with humans—that’s just wrong).

Did I answer your question? I think so. But I did ramble on a bit. In any event, this is just some of the stuff that freaks me out when I realize how religious our politics has gotten.

*The NPR story I linked to yesterday mentions that one reason Democrats are embracing the “faith” issue is that some feel Kerry lost the 2004 election because he refused to talk about his faith [I think he lost because he seemed to want to be president more than he wanted to stand for anything in particular. But that’s a story for another day.].

**I have a tremendous amount of respect for Christian groups that do work to make a positive difference in the world. Groups like the Catholic Workers Movement and proponents of Liberation Theology (just because I found the title so evocative, I want to add the link to this Web page: Liberation Theology: A Cancer in our Clergy. A cancer. What a hoot!)

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