Conservative Christians Could Learn From the Jews.

One theme of far right Christian writers before and since the Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage and federal health care is that they are now “outsiders” instead of “insiders”. The solution to this new uncomfortable status, writers say, is for conservatives do what they have always done on until public sees the light.

There is a U. S. experience of a religious minority living among a majority that disliked them. That is the Jews. So, if Christian conservatives want to learn how to thrive as outsiders, they should look at the Jews’ experience.

A common explanation of how Jews succeeded in the U. S. was that they learned to understand the alien culture in which they were living. Without changing their own beliefs they exploited their position inside this “foreign” culture. They found niches in the commercial world whereever they lived, started businesses and were mostly more successful than those of the cultural majority.

I think the older generation of conservative Christians does not understand the new “foreign” culture and has no interest in learning about it. The majority in this “foreign” culture is preoccupied with equal opportunity, not conservatives’ grievances.

If conservatives had embraced equal opportunity from day one, I believe they could have avoided court decisions requiring both acceptance of gay marriage and national health care. They could have aggressive found sources of equality before gay marriage gained momentum. They should have found private ways of providing insurance for the uninsured before Obama outmaneuvered them.

They should have learned from the Jews.

[A link discussing this is found in comments.]

Lessons From This Past Week’s Supreme Court.

It is easy to pass judgment in hindsight. Many things I’ve done in politics I’ve seen in retrospect differently than I did at the time.

The decisions passed down last week in the Affordable Healthcare Act and on gay marriage carry with them lessons on how far the right can push into the lives of private citizens. That is to say, there are principles people can follow with enthusiasm in their own private lives that they should not try to impose on the general public.

Both of these decisions, while framed in language about love and health for all, involved lots of money. Taking away money from some group, or preventing access to it, is a topic wisely avoided in politics.

In the case of gay marriage there are many other issues. Everyone interested knows, however, gay couples have been blocked from health insurance granted to spouses and inheritance rules easily accessible to straight couples. When the right insisted on keeping these barriers in place it was headed for the collision we saw this past week.

The Affordable Health Care Act made health care more widely available. The right did not embrace the principle of financing health care widely and paid in this decision.

The right is making the same mistake with late term abortion. The argument made in  politics is that stopping late term abortions is about stopping all abortions. That is a political ruse. They are an insignificant number.

Each of these abortion carries a story that ultimately will prevail in court.

[An article discussing this topic is linked in comments.]

The Next Big Thing is Coming.

With the tremendous hoopla over the Supreme Court’s approval of gay marriage, the conservative Christian press and statements by conservative Christian public figures is all about the coming Armageddon. Here are some of the predictions:

1.) Conservative churches and their preachers will continue to hammer on homosexuality, refuse homosexual weddings and close because government will take away their tax exempt status.

2.) Preachers will be put in prison for preaching against homosexuality.

3.) Free speech and freedom of religion will be taken away because businesses, churches and schools will prevented from teaching that homosexuality is sin.

These are just a few of the predictions–I left out that one guy said he would set himself on fire rather than renounce his view that homosexuality is a sin.

So what will happen to conservative churches and people as a result of the Supreme Court ruling requiring the official standing given homosexual marriage. In a word, nothing.

Commentary of gay marriage will dissipate soon. As we speak, Christian money grubbers are searching for a new villain. The gay marriage gravy train is gone.

This evident in an emailed announcement from sleaze bag Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. In the message, Perkins reviews all the “accomplishments” of the FRC.

He wrote FRC will continue the good fight on other fronts. Announcements of FRC’s new efforts will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Perkins is looking for the next cash cow. The naïve await, ready to pay Perkins’ outlandish salary and, as with the gay marriage issue, ultimately accomplish nothing.

[A link discussing this is found in comments.]

Catholics Write the Best Novels.

While fictional literature is not my field, it is fascinating to see how and where it reflects contemporary and religious values. It had never occurred to me how important Christianity, especially Catholicism, is in American novels until I read about it recently.

A famous novel came to mind, The Godfather. In that novel, a member of an Italian mafia family begins his adult life outside the criminal family enterprise. As he is drawn slowly into the dark side, there is tension between his Catholic upbringing and a career in crime. He stays within both.

The Catholic faith, and some branches of Protestantism, are far outside what most of us would consider practical reality. That is, no birth control, abortion, divorce, gay marriage and confession to another human of sins is an unsustainable enterprise. Add to that clergy who are assigned connections to the divine and you have the ready made internal tensions for great story telling.

A writer who is or was Catholic and experienced these internal tensions can tell us about the internal despair of a fictional character who clings to the faith while drifting into sin. The United Church of Christ, Episcopalian or even Jewish writer without the intense hammer of sin and truth hanging over his/her head experiences no such despair.

It is said the perfect Catholic novel is the Bible. Characters wrestling with temptations and the punishment that awaits then has made it famous.

Let us hope there will always be writers from the Catholic faith to entertain us with great fiction.

[Discussion of Catholic writers can be seen in the link in comments.]

What Will Happen to the Priest/Preacher Business?

I’ve read the demographics of priests is one of a rising average age. More are retiring than are entering. Parishes are being closed so each priest will be responsible for more of the faithful. World wide, there is an increase of priests in China, but that number does not fill the hole, even if some of them were capable of being reassigned to the U. S.

In the Protestant branch of the faith, there is a surplus of seminary trained preachers but fewer churches. Thousands of churches close every year. I have close relatives who are members of a Methodist church in a small town. It’s monthly debt is $2,000.

None of this would matter if it were not for the marketing aspect. A building with a cross on it is a good marketing tool. One the is boarded up is a bad one.

More salesmen, priests/preachers knocking on doors is good for growth. Fewer is bad.

The business model of a church is one with heavy overhead costs and seems destined to be taken down by them. A small group of people with modest incomes are often the source of money to keep both a large, old and little used building standing plus paying for a pastor/priest. Many of these are in rural areas with declining populations.

There are denominations which operate with volunteer preachers and staff. Add to that rented space that has other uses during the week and there is a business model with a brighter future.

[An article discussing the decline in priests is linked in comments]

Criticism of the Pope Dabbling in Science; Anti Abortion Politics Dabbles in Science.

Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, said he thinks the Pope should leave the climate change argument up to scientists. A devout Catholic, he has stepped on, not only the Pope, but on a host of Catholics who argue that their position on abortion is not a religious one, but one based on science.

There are lots of Catholics who don’t like blaming climate change on humans. Most of them probably agree with Santorum. Probably, they also think their anti abortion views are about science and not theology.

Parish Priest and author, George W. Rutler, pointed out this problem goes all the way back to Pope Urban II and Galileo. Urban thought the relationship between the sun, earth and moon was a theological issue, not an observable scientific one. He was wrong, it was scientific not theological.

Author Priest Rutler goes on to point out that in other areas where, unlike climate change, a Pope’s word is infallible. One of those area is abortion.

Priest Rutler writes that abortion is a religious matter and falls clearly within the prerogative of a Pope.  When a human life begins has always been determined by the religions and cultures of humans living in a variety of circumstances. At times when there were too many people for the food supply, additional humans were recognized as a liability and a different rule was adopted than when the opposite circumstances prevailed.

Touting the science of a fetus’s unique DNA does not does make it scientifically a human being. Only theology can do that.

[Click on Priest Rutler’s article in comments.]

Read the Bible, Be on Either Side of the Environmental Debate.

The Pope’s recent Encyclical put religious paint on an old rusty issue, the environment. He spent many pages laying out the moral and religious case for reducing the foot print of humans.

To many of us, Biblical references to stewardship would make the Pope’s Encyclical  self evident. As with so much in Christianity, however, there is another point of view held with equal if not greater tenacity.

This view was stated clearly as recently as a decade ago. In 2004 the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, gave the environmental movement the bird. It said the “extreme” part of the environmental movement rejected God the father in favor of mother earth. When it did this it made environmentalism into a neo pagan religion.

It went on to say environmentalism elevated animal and plant life into a place of equal, or greater than equal, level than human life. Doing business with environmentalists violated a biblical principle set out in 2 Chronicles 19:2. It says we are not to help those who hate Jesus.

Thus, these Baptists said, environmentalism is simply a branch of paganism. That is the case the Pope must overcome to put a Christian face on practicing stewardship in global warming.

One thing missing from the statement by the Southern Baptist Conventions “Encyclical” was any mention of the moral questions addressed by the Pope. It reiterated two of  George W Bush’s favorite words, “bad science”.

Thus, the faith proceeds as it always has, without agreement as to what it is.

[A link discussing this topic is linked in comments]

Why Did the U. S. Government Hate Gays?

A gay man, Charles Francis, who was an insider in George W Bush’s first campaign stuck with him until the reelection campaign. When “W” began using anti gay tricks to gain votes this Francis left. He became interested in the history of gays in the  U. S. government and in U. S, politics. He has released a documentary about what he found.

During several decades of our history, gays were referred to as “sexual deviates” and considered not suitable for government employment. Much of this was traced back to the administration of the FBI by its long standing Director, J. Edgar Hoover. He was reinforced by an attorney in the Civil Service Commission, John Steel. This period also included the work of anti Communist crazy, Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

During these decades, gay were shadowed relentlessly. They were blackmailed and some prominent show business and political figures committed suicide. It goes without saying there was no record to justify any of this. To this day, it has all the markings of simple prejudice and ignorance in the same vein as incarceration of patriotic citizens of Japanese origin.

While today we attribute anti gay activism to religious zealots, this kind of prejudice was present in our government for a very long time. All of this is not without irony.

One irony is that it appears our government’s Supreme Court may deliver a major victory for gays soon. Another is that there has been for a long time suspicion that J. Edgar Hoover was himself gay.


Is “Civil War” Coming?

Nothing makes politicians look more like hot air buffoons than making threats that are hollow on their face. Recently some have warned of the terrible consequences from a Supreme Court decision affirming gay marriage.

Mentioned have been civil war, violent protests, civil unrest and a breakup of our society to name a few.

I’m curious as to what form these “protests” would take. We have seen protests where people simply take to the streets, throw stones at police and break into and rob stores. Perhaps 80 something Pat Robertson could throw a small stone at a police officer but I doubt it would hurt anyone.

I could see some denominations and/or preachers refusing to perform gay marriages. There will be photographers who will not take pictures, bakers who will not sell cakes. These are not “civil war” or a break down in society.

To be noticed, a protest needs to block large numbers of people from getting or doing something they want. During the civil rights period, black students filled the seats at a lunch counter. Anti abortion protestors blocked access to clinics.

Are anti gay marriage protestors going to block count houses so that no marriage licenses can be issued? In the 99 counties where I live licenses for gay couples have been issued for years and no one seems to care. Protests would be futile here.

Maybe some anti gay marriage Republican buffoons will go on strike, refuse to run for office until the Supreme Court rules against gay marriage. I’m going to suggest that.

[A link discussion such threats can be found in comments.]


Telemed Abortions Approved by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The entire U. S. has been waiting for this ruling. Telemed abortions are so practical, safe and inexpensive that in several states anti abortion zealots have passed laws against them before they even arrived.

Many medical services can be delivered via telemedicine. As I understand these abortions, a Doctor and patient see each other on TV screens. The doctor collects vital signs as he/she would do in an office. In the case of medicine induced abortion, the doctor remotely unlocks a drawer, the patient swallows the medicine while the doctor watches.

In Iowa, anti abortion Governor Branstead fired the Board of Medicine members who approved telemed abortions and installed his own hand picked replacements. They quickly disapproved them and said, (wink, wink) “We’re concerned for the mother’s safety.”

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously overruled the politicized Board of Medicine. In the understatement of the year the Court said, It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the board’s medical concerns about telemedicine are selectively limited to abortion.

Governor Bransted claimed the Supreme court should have been more concerned with the safety of woman. This concern is laughable because there have been over 7,000 abortions using telemedicine with a very good safety record. Use of evidence does not seem to be one of Governor Branstead’s strengths.

Other states are considering are considering telemed abortions. They can now use the Iowa court decision and its good safety record to bolster their cases.

For religious and political junkies that want to control women, telemedicine presents a problem.

[A Des Moines Register article is linked in comments.]