Friday, September 15, 2006

Religious War Mongers

Looks like somebody's planning to escalate the war against Christianity, and it ain’t the atheists (emphasis added):

"There are a number of pastors that said, 'Look, we don't get involved in politics, I'm not going to get involved in this issue, I just want to preach the gospel,'" said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "When they realize their ability to preach the gospel may very well be at stake, they may reconsider their involvement."

Now this is just bulldooky.  More scare tactics by the people who can’t get votes legitimately.  Because if their religion was under assault, they’d already know it and wouldn’t need Tony Perkins to collect incomplete anecdotes and half-truths to demonstrate it.  I mean, he’s trying to show pastors that their ability to preach might be at stake, so you’d think he’d have evidence of that kind of thing, right?  Apparently, maybe not so much.

Perkins and others are building a case file of anecdotes where they say religious people have spoken out against gay marriage only to be punished. Perkins specifically cited the decision by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich in June to fire his appointee to the Washington area transit board after the board member referred to homosexuals as "persons of sexual deviancy."

The board member, Robert J. Smith, said he was expressing his personal beliefs as a Roman Catholic.

Right.  A pastor’s ability to preach might be at stake because public officials are being held accountable for insulting people on television and wanting to discriminate against those they disagree with.  Can you imagine the flipside of this?  Had Mr. Smith been a gay man suggesting that Catholics were persons of logical deviancy, he most surely would have been sent packing; and probably for his own good.

And that’s the thing: These people might actually have a case, were the supposed anti-Christians behaving towards Christians as these anti-gay Christians are doing towards the gays.  If gay people tried to attack and disgrace and discriminate against Christians simply for being Christian, Perkins might actually have an argument.  But instead, he’s whining because people are being denied the right to treat others shabbily.  

And that’s the whole point.  This isn’t an attack on Christians.  This is about keeping them within the same bounds that are expected of everyone else.  And while Tony Perkins might call that persecution, everyone else knows of it as equality.  Overall, the rule is that people are allowed to have their beliefs, but they shouldn’t expect a free pass when they say offensive things publicly.  Religious freedom isn’t an excuse for rudeness.  

If Robert J. Smith wants to preach his “gospel”, that’s fine.  There’s even a job title for people who do that kind of thing.  They’re called “Preachers”.  But nobody’s stopping him from preaching in his free time, and there are plenty of employers who expect that kind of thing.  Unfortunately for him, transit boards aren’t one of them.  Perhaps Mr. Perkins has an opening he’d like Mr. Smith to fill.  I’ll leave that to them.

Private Bigots

And frankly, I don’t have any real problem with Robert J. Smith being a bigot privately.  I’d rather he not be, but he can have his personal beliefs.  But when he, a public official, says things publicly, that’s another issue.  Here’s the line in question, which he said on television:

"That doesn't mean that government should proffer a special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of sexual deviancy," Smith said in the conversation about the rights of gays and lesbians.

Afterwards, he was asked to apologize and would not.  And this just isn’t acceptable behavior and religion is absolutely no defense.  Especially as he’s just using his religion as cover for his bigotry.  But in the end, they’re still his beliefs.  And that goes for everyone else.  People can hide behind books, myths, teachers, and priests if they want to, but in the end, you are responsible for your own beliefs and your own actions.

Now, if Mr. Smith believes that the bible is forcing him to agree to this against his better judgment, let him say so.  It would go a long way to defending him if he were to say that he personally approves of homosexuality, and was merely following what he thought his god wanted.  But that’s not the case.  The bible may say it, in his opinion, but that doesn’t force him to agree.  And it certainly doesn’t force him to say it on television repeatedly.  And if that’s what he wants to do, then he’s got no one to blame but himself.

I’ve actually read the bible, and I don’t have any real problem with it.  If it helps people make sense of their life and gives them guidance, then great.  Books can be good for that kind of thing.  But it is entirely wrong for people to abuse the bible by acting as if it fully represents and justifies their own personal beliefs.  There are millions of Christians out there, and no two are alike in their beliefs.  They may share the basic premise, but the details are certainly different, as it is with all people.  So how can anyone have the gall to pretend as if each one of their own personal beliefs are dictated from the bible?  Impossible, and probably blasphemous.

And just to make things clear, the bible’s rules are intended to be about what you do personally, not about forcing others to follow beliefs they don’t hold.  The bible may ban Mr. Smith from engaging in his homosexual fantasies, but that right does not translate to him banning people of other beliefs.  And I’ve never heard a bible passage that forbids the government from allowing gay marriage by non-Christians.  Or one which defends bigoted speech on television.  And while evangelism might be considered a religious duty, it’s fairly obvious that this sort of bigotry only preaches to a very small choir.  I doubt Mr. Smith won over many converts that day.

Anti-Mexican Christians Under Attack?

And this is even more clear when we read this from the same article:
In May of last year, the governor fired the head of an Eastern Shore judicial nominating committee after the official used a derogatory term for Mexicans in his personal Web log.

Now perhaps Tony Perkins might want to couch this in terms of persecution too.  But of whom?  Racists.  Bigots.  That’s who.  This isn’t an anti-Christian bias.  This is about bigotry.  And whether you’re publicly anti-gay or anti-Mexican, it doesn’t matter.  Both types were shown the door, and rightly so.  But I doubt Mr. Perkins will highlight this other story with equal fervor.

And I don’t want public officials who are anti-Christian bigots either.  I don’t like any bigots.  If you’ve got bigoted beliefs, fine.  But don’t expect the taxpayers to support you when you express them publicly.  And the same goes for businesses, who shouldn’t expect customers to support bigoted companies.  Similarly, if some gay public official goes on television in leather ass-less chaps and starts humping people, I’d expect him to get dismissed too.  That’s just how this works.  Some things are inappropriate, and ass-less chaps and bigotry are two of those things (unless, of course, you happen to work at a bigoted gaybar, in which case that might be a job duty).  

And beyond that, Tony Perkins’ actions have nothing to do with bigotry, religion, or offensiveness, and everything to do with elections, money, and power.  Because it is fairly obvious to see that Christianity isn’t under assault here, but bigotry.  Unless, of course, you’re looking for bias in order to trick people into voting against their better judgment.  Tony Perkins might be trying to draw attention to an imagined assault, but his cynical ploy to woo power by dividing people is perhaps the biggest offense.  If there is a god, I’m sure he’s got some special punishment for those who misappropriate his name to stoke religious divisions for personal gain.

1 comment:

whig said...

It's called taking God's name in vain.

This is pretty often misunderstood to mean you can't say things like goddamn or whatever. That's bullshit, because while it might be profane it is not vanity.

Tony Perkins is so vain, he probably thinks this song is about him.