Christianity, A Gentlemen’s Only Club.

It is commonly repeated that the Christian faith contributes to the good of all.  All the downsides are in the past.

Most days, there are articles on conservative sites extolling the virtues of male dominance.  The man of the house is to be the main decision maker and interpret scripture to the rest of the family.

This ancient thinking must surely be the source of some divorces and abuse.  If a child is taught this by his/her father and mother,  we can expect it to prevail.

Let’s imagine a young married man who loses his job and sits at home bummed out.  He starts thinking a new bass boat would cheer him up.  His wife disagrees.  They have an argument.

The husband plays the trump card.  He is the only one in the house authorized to determine what God wants for them.  God wants him to have the boat.

No matter what is said by the church on behalf of women, if only the man is given power to channel God, nothing else matters.

Ground zero of literal interpretation of the Bible is the Bible Belt.  It has a much higher rate of domestic abuse than elsewhere.

While more enlightened parts of the faith can say portions of the Bible proclaiming male dominance should be ignored, it doesn’t stop the damage.  It’s not possible to teach a hundred million people Biblical nuances.

Proclaiming any part of the Bible to be the ultimate truth opens the door to spousal abuse.

Blasphemy For Beginners.

When scanning the news on most days, one comes across an article about someone in a Muslim country charged by authorities with blasphemy.

Blashphemy is defined as “irreverence toward religious or holy persons or things.”  If you think the Christian faith is about “love and forgiveness,”  forgetaboutit.  There is no forgiveness if you are an unbeliever and commit blasphemy.

Thomas Acquinas said, “It is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one’s neighbor.”

Acquinas must have taken his conclusions from various passages in the Bible that affirm, and reaffirm, the view of the Bible’s authors about blasphemy.  That is, Jesus might forgive you, but God and the “Holy Spirit” will not.

While it is legal to commit blasphemy in the Western World, it is not without its consequences.  It would be impossible, for example, for a candidate for public office in the U. S.  to do it and be elected.

Blasphemy is the ultimate “political correctness.” The coded message  in the Bible’s passages against blasphemy is, control the people.

Blasphemy is not a crime in this country.  Christians often ridicule countries with Muslim governments where it is a crime.  But, so far as I know, there is nothing indigenous to the Christian faith that precludes making it a crime.  I think there are branches of the Christian faith who would make it a crime if they could.

Fortunately, political conditions have not been right for that to happen, so far.

Come, Let Us Worship Alone.

The Christian faith is not so much one based on old documents as it is a meandering faith based on whims of the marketplace.  Interpretations change as those in the pews change their perspectives on sin and hell. This meandering of “the faith”seems about to go in ever more directions.

An article in the Journal of Religion and Society entitled, “The Virtual Pilgramage…”, by Sarah MacMillion discusses worshipping on the computer.

She mentions a couple of worship sites one of which I looked at, www.sacredspace.ie .  The site is a virtual church experience.  It claims 5 million visitors a year.  MacMillion’s article says there are one million of these worship sites.

MacMillion writes that worship on the computer removes the concept of  place from the worship experience.  Gone is both the church and the alter in the church.  They are replaced with what she calls “congnitive space.”

The “fellowship” aspect of this worship experience is fascinating.  On this site, there isn’t any.

There is no physical encounter with the faith, no incense, wine, greetings, hugs or music.  The experience is abstract.

Unlike the previous technology that brought religion first on the radio and then television, the computer is different in that the worshipper controls the content. He shops among sites until he finds content he likes.

Like virtual college classes, virtual worship is far less expensive.  The popularity of this worship must be affecting church attendance.

And, each person gets to hear the message he chooses.

 

If You Pray, Pray You Don’t Send Any Kids to An Early Grave.

There are two facts about kids we know.  I think it worth while to ponder the relationship between the two.

One is that gay adults who look back on their childhood often realize they saw the world differently than their playmates.  They saw children of the same gender differently, even though they did not then think of themselves as gay.

The other is the suicide rate for gay teens is much higher than that of straight kids.  Some of the suicide decisions must have been influenced by religion.

We all know adults never consider that the small child in the room with us may be gay.  It is always assumed a child is heterosexual.

The other day, evangelist Joel Osteen was on Oprah’s show.  According to what I read, Oprah approached the subject of sin and gay more than once.  Each time Osteen reaffirmed his belief that gay is sin.

Imagine a child seeing this, or, his parents discussing it.  Would not the child think, “That I find Billy more interesting than Mary is a sin?  Will I go to hell? Why am I so terrible?  I can’t seem to stop thinking in this sinful way.”

Talking about the gay religious taboo in front of kids seems just as harmful to me as telling nasty gay jokes.  They both have the potential for bad ends.

Whatever your religious aversion to gay people might be, talking it up in front of small children is not something to be proud of.

Where Do Your Rights End and Mine Begin?

An important court case was handed down today by a Federal Court of Appeals in Texas.

About three years ago, a graduate student in counseling doing supervised work  was assigned a gay client.  She declined to counsel the client because her religion viewed homosexuality a moral issue.

There was a protocal counseling students were taught to follow which did not include refusing a client for moral reasons.   The student was dismissed from the program.  A lower court unheld the University.  The Court of Appeals reversed that and admonished the University to make accomdations for moral aversions such as that of the student.

This is a new form of protest by religious conservatives who want to make life as miserable as possible for some.  What one has to wonder what the future holds.

New religions are born everyday, someone estimated three a day around the world.  All manner of moral standards are included.  As readers know, they involve food taboos, daily prayer rituals and who knows what else.

If employees in restaurants will not serve certain foods, hospital employees certain patients and landlords will not rent to certain people because of some moral hang up, we’re right back to the pre civil rights era.  It just does not seem right for there to be a priveledged class that can make up its own rules.

Justice Scalia wondered about all of this himself, “Are we to become a country where every man is a law unto himself?”

Here’s a Really Big Question.

If God appeared,  how many people would agree that, yes, that was really God?  Conversely, how many would say, no,  it really was not God?  Unless we know what God is, we will never be able to determine whether or not he has appeared.

This dilemma, not being able to express what God is in a way others can agree on, is an on-going problem.  Joeseph Smith said he heard from God and started the Mormon church.  Pat Robertson recently said God told him who the Republican nominee is going to be.  Because there is no agreed upon definition as to how God speaks to people, these claims can be neither comfirmed nor denied.

Some might scoff, “Anyone can claim they heard God speak.  It’s only when we see God we will know.”  But, there is no agreement as to what we will see when we see God.

There will be as many disagreements on whether or not someone has seen God as there are about hearing God speak.  Will the God appear like it does in the movies, with choirs singing and special effects lighting?  Or, will God be in a rabbit that runs across the road?

The Christian says he knows God and will know when he comes. The Hindu says exactly the same thing.

Neither of these people will recognize the god of the other.  The concept of a god will remain an arbitrary one until someone can come up with a definition all can agree on.

The, “Where Did We Come From?” Story.

There are behavioral traits we can observe in ourselves that are useful in understanding things about us.  One trait is the need to know where we came from.

The small child asks, “Mommy, where did I come from?”  The need stays with us.

Evidence of this is the gazillions spent every year on archeology.  The money for these digs does not help us  produce  food, health or housing.  If all the digs stopped tomorrow, little would change.  But, they will not stop because of our, perhaps irrational, desire to know where we came from.

Sitting around camp fires or huddled in caves, the first humans must have asked the same question.  The shamans gave answers, “The god made us, the crow dropped us here…” We don’t know all the stories that were told.

At a certain point in the campfire stories, a historical accident happened.  They were written down.  There was crude ink and paper and enough prosperity so a few people had time to write down the myths.

The written stories were no more sophisticated than the ones of the previous thousands  of years, they just happened to be there at the point in time when they could be preserved.   That’s were the Bible, Adam and Eve,  Moses and the life of Jesus came from.

What the Bible stories mean has changed with the culture. But, the need for someone to tell us a myth about where we came from has not.

Why Do We Insist on, “In God We Trust?”

If you look at the phrase rationally, it doesn’t make sense.  If it said, “We Worship the Christian God,” you could understand it.  Actually, nobody “trusts” God.

To begin with, we don’t know which “god” the phrase is referring to.  Sure, most people think it’s the Christian god, but that’s just their opinion.  There’s no proof.

Then, there’s the famous phrase “Act of God”  written  int0 insurance policies.  That clause could be paraphrased, “We don’t trust God.”

I’m indebted to one of my favorite columnists, Donald Kaul, for this.  “The quintessential act of God is the tornado.  It comes swooping down, destroying one man’s house, leaving his neighbor’s untouched.  It tears off the wall of a house without disturbing the furnature.

“What makes God such an unlikely candidate for trust…is his sense of humor. He’s always playing jokes.

“…he’ll end a drought with a series of floods.  He’ll give people an earthquake and follow it with a tsunami.”

I’d like to ask the people in Congress, who recently reaffirmed the motto,  what is it we trust God to do?  Surely it’s not to improve the weather or the economy.

When you get right down to it, churches, ministers and members of Congress all buy insurance because they don’t trust God.  There is only one reason to put this phrase on our money and toss it about at every opportunity.

Congress trusts “In God We Trust” to get them reelected.

Not to Worry. Gingrich’s Affairs Are in the National Interest.

Some folks are wringing their hands over the possibility of philanderer, Newt Gingich, being the Republican nominee.  A commentator on Fox News has put these concerns to rest.  The dumping of wives for new ones will make Newt a stronger President.

Dr. Keith Albow is a psychiatrist on Fox.  He basis’ his conclusions on the need for a President to deliver bad news.  Gingrich told two wives he no longer loved them.  Dr. Albow says this means he has the wherewithall to deliver bad news to Congress and the  public.

Albow goes on the point out Gingrich was able to persuade three women to pledge their lives to him.  This means he will be able to persuade the public to do things his way.  Such is positive evidence he is the kind of person needed as President.

Why did Albow stop here when he was on such a roll?  He could have pointed out how good times were under the philandering, President Clinton.  We payed off the national debt and the economy was strong.  He could also have noted things were not so good under the straight arrow, President Bush.

Now, I don’t happen to agree with Dr. Albow that Ginrich’s cheating on women will make him a better President.  I do think, however, the religious right has done us all a disfavor by making Presidential politics is a referendom on religious dogma.

Making religion the center piece for selecting a Republican candidate brought forward weak candidates and left us with Newt.

Newt Sets a Bad Example for Gay Couples.

Think of it this way.  The million or so gay couples are trying to carry on their domestic lives in ways that are meaningful to themselves and set a high standard for the moral conduct of gays.

Then someone, somewhere, strays.  The other gay person is hurt and confronts the adulteror.  The adulteror says, “Look, straight society sets the standard for marriage.  The standard set by the former Speaker of the House, is simple.  It’s one man, one woman, and a girlfriend.  Why would that not be our stardard?”

When I issued Gay and Lesbian Awareness Proclamations, I was asked over and over, “What kind of an example are you setting for young people?  We all know gays are immoral.”

I know the social conservative community so well, I know how it will reason through its suppport for Newt.  It will say, “Liberals are immoral.  Obama is a liberal.  It is moral for us to support Newt to defeat this immoral liberal President.  Issues about Newt’s marriages have nothing to do with our quest to create a moral society.”

The gay citizens who have so far risen to the top in their professions, in general, have conducted their personal lives on a higher moral plane than Gingrich. These include people like baseball player, Billy Bean, and the Prime Minister of Iceland, Johanna Sigurdardottir.

The passion for a Constitutional Ammendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman seems to have abated somewhat.  Adding, “and a girlfriend” might revive support.