Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The clerk goes to court and Christianity loses

The Rowan KY county clerk, Kim Davis, believes that her religiously-founded disdain for same sex marriage entitles her to refuse to do her job.  Her office is refusing to provide marriage licenses to any couple, straight or gay.  Religious freedom, you know.

Think about that.  She is saying that her religious beliefs entitle her, a public servant, to deny her fellow citizens legal civil rights.

Susan Russell writes, 
What if I'm a Muslim and my understanding of my religion is that women shouldn't drive? Can I refuse to issue drivers' licenses to women? Or if I'm a Hindu and a vegetarian -- can I refuse to issue fishing licenses because killing/eating fish is against my religion? Of course not. Likewise, your personal opinions and beliefs about who should or should not be getting married has absolutely no bearing on who you issue marriage licenses to as a county clerk. Period.
Exactly.  And just to make it sweeter, Ms Davis has been divorced three times.  But wait, there's more!
She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second.
Did you catch that?  so she divorces #1 because #3 impregnated her but she married #2.

She has since found JAYSUS and has been absolved of sin.  Wiped clean.  Like it never happened.  Of course it doesn't work that way for the Roman Catholics, who consider a couple married following divorce to be living in adultery.  Good thing she's not Catholic, then.

Ah, the smell of hypocrisy.

She has lost in federal court.  While her appeal is pending, she asked for an extended stay of the decision so that she didn't have to sign the licenses.  The 6th circuit said, no, no stay.  The Supreme Court said no, no stay.  You have to start giving out the licenses while your appeal is pending.

GOD! cries Davis and won't do it.  Clerk Davis is facing contempt charges, fines, maybe jail.

Even anti-gay Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation thinks she's nuts.  Quoted in Think Progress, 
“The citizens of Rowan County have a right to receive in a timely and efficient manner the various government provisions—including licenses—to which they are entitled,” Anderson writes for one of Heritage’s websites. 
He adds.... that “[s]aying your religion requires your entire office to stop issuing marriage licenses to everyone . . . cannot be reasonably accommodated without placing undue hardships on the citizens unable to receive their licenses in their county and forced to drive to another.” 
.... the fact that as prominent an anti-gay luminary as Anderson believes that Davis has gone too far is a sign of just how thin a limb the Kentucky clerk now finds herself upon.
Joe Childers makes the constitutional point:
Religiously neutral civil mechanisms are the only possible way for true religious freedom to exist for multiple religions simultaneously. Civil servants who are religious ought therefore to be even more scrupulous about preserving religious neutrality in their duties than non-religious servants, for they are more directly enjoying religious freedom in their own lives and have more to lose from threats to that freedom.
 So what's up?  Everyone agrees that this is wrong at many levels.

Is she merely a puppet of the lawyers who are fundraising wildly? Mark Stern in Slate:
I’m growing a bit concerned about Davis’ lawyers. Davis is being represented by the Liberty Counsel, a far-right fringe group that specializes in anti-gay litigation. (Naturally, it is also a Christian ministry and a tax-exempt nonprofit.) Founder and Chairman Mathew D. Staver has used Davis’ case to raise money and boost publicity for his group, going so far as to hold a rally for Davis..... 
When a federal judge ordered Davis to issue licenses or be held in contempt of court, the Liberty Counsel advised her to disobey the ruling. Good lawyers don’t usually tell their clients to defy lawful court orders, especially when jail time is a real possibility. Yet the Liberty Counsel didn’t mind putting their client at risk—perhaps because the idea of a middle-aged woman being hauled off to jail for purportedly following her conscience would send thousands of anti-gay Americans reaching for their pitchforks (and checkbooks).
Liberty Counsel, which gallingly is funded by tax-deductable donations and grants, stands to gain.  The  Lexington KY Herald-Leader agrees:
So, why is Liberty Counsel marching alongside Davis in this losing cause? It takes a lot to keep that marketing machine humming and those executives paid, and the only way to keep those donations coming is to stay in the news. For that purpose a losing cause is just as good as, perhaps better than, a winning one.

Read more here:
It's always about money.  Dan Savage sees a method to Kim's madness: t he greed of martyrdom:
....this isn't about Kim Davis standing up for her supposed principles—proof of that in a moment—it's about Kim Davis cashing in. There's a big pile of sweet, sweet bigot money out there waiting for her. If the owners of a pizza parlor could rake in a million dollars just by threatening not to cater the gay wedding no one asked them to cater... just imagine how much of that sweet, sweet bigot money Kim Davis is going to rake in. I'm sure Kim Davis is already imagining it.
Regardless of who is using whom, money and martyrdom go hand in hand.  But Dan goes on,
.... This pathetic bullshit is what passes for Christianity in America today. Thanks to the efforts of hate groups like the American Family Association, the Family Research Council ....,, the 700 Club, the Moral Majority, the National Organization for Marriage, the National Association of Evangelicals, etc., and the mousy, near-complicit silence of left-wing and progressive Christians, "Christian" is now synonymous with "anti-gay bigot."
"Mousy, near complicit silence of left-wing and progressive Christians".  Yup.  Because if you don't defend the brand, the brand becomes Kim Davis.  Dan continues,
To be a good American Christian like Kim Davis—or a good Alaskan Christian like Bristol Palin—you don't have to stay in your first marriage, don't have to deny marriage licenses to straight people who are remarrying or marrying outside the faith or obtaining marriage licenses for Godless secular marriages. Nope. You just have to hate the homos. ....You don't have to feed the sick, clothe the naked, house the homeless—you don't have to do any of that shit Jesus actually talked about—you just have to hate the homos hard enough to go to jail for for your beliefs cash in on your bigotry.
That, my friends, is Christianity in America today.  And all the gay friendly mainlines, the ELCA, UCC, PCUSA, TEC, you all are being so NICE about it, while your brand is going down the drain.   You quietly wring your hands or comment on Facebook, so politely, "you know, we're Not All Like That (NALT)."  Oh, but remember, you pretty much don't have any friends on Facebook who don't already agree with you.

Why isn't anyone saying assertively and publicly, "this woman DOESN'T SPEAK for Christianity"?  Why isn't anyone speaking out?  Why are you letting this once more be cast as the mediatainment narrative likes it, as a battle between Teh Gayz  and the Christians?

Can anyone wonder why the Nones are the fastest growing religious group in the country?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A twist in the latest Catholic school purges

Well, another month, more purges of Roman Catholic school teachers.  There was the married lesbian in Philadelphia who had worked for 8 years (married the whole time, to the knowledge of her school) but fired when a disgruntled parent reported her to the Archbishop.   The usual outcome;  the teacher was fired, there is bad press for the school, some parents and children are angry, the principal wrings her hands and says "we had no choice".

The in Portland, Oregon, St Mary's Academy found out that their new hire is lesbian and although not married, might some day like to marry as we often do.  They rescinded her contract and offered her six month's salary as hush money which she did not take.  It hits the press. Predictable outrage ensues.  Except, Portland being Portland, a lot of the students, alumni, and particularly big donors are pro-LGBT rights.

Interestingly the school reversed itself, and its Board unanimously put sexual orientation into its non-discrimination policy.   The position in question has been filled but they have reached out to the would-be employee.

"Conversations" with the Archdiocese are ongoing, but both the school and the Archdiocese warn that the school may lose its Catholic association over this.

Well well well.  This is one of the first Catholic schools to stand up to the purge of married LGBT people (and note, this would-be employee wasn't even married yet!)  although some of the colleges have accepted same sex marrieds (e.g., Fordham, Notre Dame).   We'll have to see what happens to St Mary's Academy.  And all this in the context of an impending visit from Pope Francis to the US.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Christian Right: now all about Right and not about Christian

Sarah Posner:
Give Trump credit for one thing: exposing, in plain view, that much of the religious right is driven more by politics than by religion; that is, more by mythology than theology. The usual demands that candidates pledge their fealty to the Bible, to the Christian nation, to the idea that America is in decline because of secularism have been suspended for Trump. That’s befuddling many observers. But the Trump phenomenon exposes how the piety test is often a proxy for other, irreligious motives.

So we have "religious leaders"  championing Trump for his racist, exclusionary language.  Just like Jesus?

Frank Bruni:
Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I’m at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I’ve amassed?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The death of media and the rise of Trump

Most media in the US is no longer occupied by journalists, who make an effort to find facts and inform the public.  Rather, it is personalities who are driven to entertain to get ratings and advertising dollars.  This info-tainment industry has narratives that it wants to tell us, rather than simply reporting on the facts.  Hence, we hear little about Bernie Sanders, a relentless drum beat of negativity about non-existent Hilary Clinton scandals, and an effort to create a Presidential race between Clinton and Jeb! even though Jeb! has generated no enthusiasm and puts his silver foot in his mouth  regularly. 

But now there's the Donald. The media loves a circus, so Trump is sucking up all the energy in the Republican race, and has torn off the polite pretense that the  tea partiers are something other than fearful white racists. 

Writing in the Washington Monthly, Nancy Tourneau points out that this is the triumph of "epistemic closure", which is the cross-linked echo chamber of conservative media that tells them what they want to hear.
The entire basis for the existence of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is the belief that the “mainstream media” cannot be trusted to tell the truth because they are all “liberals.” This fed something that we as human beings already tend to do anyway - reject information that doesn’t conform to our already-established beliefs. ...

The disastrous results of epistemic closure for conservatives have been on display for some time now. It explains how they continue to deny the science of climate change, assume that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is “cooking the books” on unemployment data and led to a whole movement during the 2012 election to unskew the polls. But for everyone from Murdoch to GOP leaders, it worked to keep the base angry and engaged.
The problem is, now, that "they" can't control it.  A focus group with Trump supporters shows that all they can express is an anger at the system and Trump's ramblings perfectly express it. He says what they are thinking, and isn't that a horrible thought.
For these participants, the Republican establishment (and perhaps even Fox News itself) have now joined the liberal New York Times in peddling a politically motivated conspiracy when they challenge Donald Trump. That should come as no surprise when these same people have been told for years that they can pick and chose their facts based on how they make you feel. Stephen Colbert was positively prophetic when he coined the term “truthiness.” And now it’s all coming back to haunt the GOP.
And the rest of us too.  A few days ago:
Police in Boston say that one of two brothers who allegedly beat a homeless Hispanic man cited Trump’s message on immigration as a motivation for their attack. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader, 38, told officers, according to a police report cited by The Boston Globe.
 God help us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Drop the persecution complex--for the Gospel.

Rachel Held Evans takes on the persecution complex  (Emphasis in original)
Facing disagreement is not the same as facing persecution. Conservative Christians are right about one thing: public opinion has shifted on same-sex marriage (particularly within the Church), and this means they are more likely to encounter pushback when they insist same-sex marriage ought to be illegal. Facebook friends may argue with them. Comedians may satirize them. Bloggers may write posts like these disagreeing with them. But to conflate such disagreement with the sort of persecution Jesus warned his disciples about is not only myopic, but also a slap in the face to those Christians who face very real persecution around the world. Living in a pluralistic society that also grants freedom and civil rights protection to those with whom one disagrees is not the same as religious persecution. And crying persecution every time one doesn’t get one’s way is an insult to the very real religious persecution happening in the world today. It's no way to be a good citizen and certainly no way to advance the gospel in the world.
If conservative Christians continue to treat LGBT people as second-class citizens and cry persecution every time they don’t get their way, they will lose far more than the culture wars. They will lose the Christian identity. We’ve obscured the gospel when the “right to refuse” service has become a more widely-known Christian value than the impulse to give it.

Lord, have mercy on us and show us a new way.
Read the whole thing!   For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

THe religious right is not leaving (and it's not religious)

Great article:
There is a miscalculation spreading among my liberal friends and some of my fellow commentators that the demographic decline of organized religion in America augurs the end of the religious right as a dominant political force. This is a massive miscalculation, because the religious right has nothing whatsoever to do with faith, dogma, Jesus, or the afterlife. Instead, large sections of American Christendom exist solely to support reductive conservative politics as a hedge against progress. They are tools used by cynical politicians and bloviating television pundits to transform rage and tribalism into viewers and a compliant voting public. There’s no reason to think those who benefit will abandon such a calculated and successful effort just because gay people can now (thankfully) get married. If anything, the rhetoric on “religious freedom” and attacks on issues like women’s health has only gotten more outlandish over time.
And this one is a keeper:
I could fill a dozen essays with examples of Bible verses that contradict the core ideas and statements of conservative candidates, politicians and talking heads, but it’s a waste of time. No matter what the politicians and pundits claim to believe, they are only using faith to exploit an angry and ignorant populace with a collective Bible literacy that wouldn’t fill a shot glass.
As the Republican base becomes both grayer and whiter, more homogenous and religious, fake Christianity will become an even more important wedge for conservatives to drive between people and their self-interest. We don’t care if a Republican politician throws grandma out of the nursing home or takes food stamps from poor people, so long as he weeps during Sunday service. ....

Friday, August 7, 2015

The politics of "religious liberty"

In short, the term “religious liberty” has been bastardized. It simply does not mean the same thing in the constitutional and statutory contexts. It should come as no surprise that when Congress spawned religious liberty, it was a political tool, politically motivated, and sure to invite political discord without reference to constitutional principles that would otherwise wrap religious liberty into our republican form of government. When religious liberty became political tinder, it was debased and divorced from a balance between liberty and licentiousness and transformed into a ticket for courts to be super legislators and the believer to do whatever the believer wants. ....

Thus, there is constitutional religious liberty that was in place until 1990 and which yielded remarkable peace and responsibility between believers and their society. And there is the statutory religious liberty post-1990 that tells believers to run over any law contrary to their belief.

Monday, August 3, 2015

WIld Yeast and progressive Christianity

Another cool essay, drawing analogies with yeast and beer (which immediately caught my eye, being a craft beer enthusiast!)-- worth reading the whole thing. My emphasis.
Instead, progressive Christianity seems to be fermenting with wild yeast, in open containers that get cross-seeded with other batches in other places. Progressive Christianity is not simply made up of the liberals from each denomination, the way every brewery has an IPA. Instead, it’s something different—something I’m not sure we’ve seen in a long time. This seems to be a matter of different makeup, with different values and processes and even different stories. This movement seems to be organic and vital in a way that denominational bodies haven’t usually been (at least in my lifetime), and it seems to be wild in a way that augurs well for its survival. Progressive Christianity has no creed or hymnal, and it certainly has no pope or moderator, but progressive Christianity has a style and an ethos—a wildness and an openness that has historically signaled the onset of a lasting movement. Some progressive Christian communities meet in houses, and others nest in the buildings of other congregations. Some have a pastor, and others do not. Some progressive Christians fall into the category of emerging/emergent, and others belong to traditional denominations, and some are both at the same time. Some live by ancient practices, and others innovate their liturgies and music. No one thing characterizes them all–not even theology.

The defining trait seems to be a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a recognition that the life is draining out of the old cultivars with every passing generation. Progressive Christianity is propelled forward by the notion found in its name–progress–but also by a restlessness that is born of seeking Truth, whatever (in the words of the famous quote) that may turn out to be.
 Progressive Christianity, then , seems to transcend labels and denominations.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fundamentalist violence in all faiths

We already know that there is a vicious strain of fundamentalist Islam that turns to violence in an effort to impose its views.

In India, fundamentalist Hindus have attacked those of other faiths, including Christians.

In the last few days, we have seen violence from fundamentalist Jews, for example in one case an orthodox man stabbing people at the gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, and in another, burning to death a Palastinian child in a protest over illegal settlements.

Christian fundamentalists are also violent.  In this country, abortion-related murders of and bombings are associated with explicitly Christian extremists.  Some Christian pastors have called for death for LGBT people. And a  recent article in Salon points out that Christian reconstructionism is inherently violent, anti-woman, and pro-slavery.  Recently, Christian conservatives have advocated calling in the national guard against legal processes they don't like, like abortion or same sex marriage (and if that's not government tyranny, what is?)

What is it about fundamentalists of all flavors, who see violence against others as justifiable?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Are the Progressives Christians changing the faith?

Two essays, worth your attention. 

 Brian McLaren writes on the conversion to progressive Christianity:
I believe that progressive Christians are not merely proposing superficial and incremental changes. I believe we are proposing profound and even epochal changes. In my current writing project (Converting Christianity), I refer to them as conversions.

First is the conversion to centering Christian faith in a way of life rather than a system of beliefs.... 
If the first conversion is ecclesial (having to do with congregational and denominational life), the second is theological: a conversion from a violent, exclusive, Supreme Being to a Loving, Inclusive Spirit of Justice, Joy, and Peace.....
The third conversion incorporates the ecclesial and theological conversions into a missional conversion: from an "organized religion" to an "organizing religion."...
This third conversion will be manifest as progressive Christians stop complaining about how their conservative counterparts are so well organized for bad purposes, and instead get organized themselves — for good purposes and with a good spirit.
IS this a battle between conservative and liberal wings? Are they really different?  McLaren again:
Conservative wings believe that we're sliding down a slippery slope into a dark and dangerous future, so we should hold on to what remains from better days in the past and resist change.

Progressive wings believe that we slid down a slippery slope long ago and are in the process of climbing to a better place, so we should develop prophetic imagination that gives us a vision for desirable change that we pursue creatively.
 Drew Downs sees Progressive Christians as a sleeping giant.
The mainline has played the sleeping giant, refusing to be roused,.....

Or perhaps it is that the sleeping giant is slow to wake, roused decades ago and much slower to get to its feet, harder to rein in, and impossible to stop.

And maybe, just maybe, they are right to name the giant, the true giant of transformation; that it isn’t the mainline churches themselves, but the progressive ethic and theological awakening many in the mainline have embraced. For it is the giant itself, rather than its churches that conservative Christians fear.
He finishes by considering the politics
Conservative evangelicals are right: a more powerful and transformative faith is being born. A faith that is eager to include us all. But it won’t. Because I suspect that many hate the thought of losing more than they like the thought of sharing in winning.