Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Fundamentalists Must Exclude Gays (and Other "Sinners")

My latest on Huffington Post....

Click on this title to read...

Understanding the "Reason" Why Fundamentalists Must Exclude Gays (and Other "Sinners")

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Latest Re Fundamentalism (on Huff Post)

The next great task for the human race is to wean ourselves off literal interpretations of religion. We need to eradicate fundamentalism in all its forms.

Atheism is no help. Human beings are spiritual and look for meaning. Science holds answers but not "THE" answer we look for and long for. Family life and love -- continuity of relationships -- come closest for fulfilling our longing for purpose.

As I argue in my book Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism) the answer to fundamentalism, literal-minded religion and all the horror and absurdity they create is to work on the evolution of religion: reject false certainties rooted in myth and embrace myth as a window into the unknowable.

Clearly the issue for any sane Christian believer (or any believer in not just religion but any human construct, including science) is how to decide what parts of the moral teaching of the Bible (or Koran, or scientific theory) to edit or discard and what to live by.

Those of us who have no problem with celebrating the fact that some people are created gay, or that other people live with a girlfriend or boyfriend because marriage isn't always the best way to relate to a lover, have drawn an admittedly arbitrary circle of what is acceptable to them a bit wider than other believers have.

But the truth is no one (not even the dourest Reconstructionist Christian or Orthodox Jew) takes everything any religion teaches completely seriously, let alone practices it faithfully.

The truth is that interpreting religion is just that: interpreting. All that means is that common sense and compassion are the filters through which we look at religion, as we do with all of life. There is such a thing as freedom of conscience and the right to think!

In that sense everyone is a "liberal" and those who pretend they are consistent to their stated creeds are liars.

The big "Moral Teachings" fundamentalists love so much because they provide a stick with which religious bullies may beat their fellow human beings into submission, are meaningless. If these same anti-gay or anti-abortion advocates actually took their Bibles literally they would be weighing people at their church door to check for gluttony and excommunicating half the parish for being overweight. As it says in Philippians (3:18-19); "For many... walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

Well, there goes the whole of American God-is-their-belly porkers-for-Jesus evangelicalism with its consumer-oriented free enterprise "ethic" and overeating!

Or what of Romans 13:13: "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy." In this verse orgies and quarreling are denounced as equally evil.

So that's it folks: since the very existence of competing seminaries is in its essence a quarrel about theology, therefore all theologians that oppose the views of other theologians have been dismissed by Paul as working against God's will in the same way that participants in orgies are denounced. So let's pick on quarreling theologians and not on gays!

Or maybe the best thing is to not single out anyone. How many fundamentalist Southern Baptists strive to apply this verse literally to their daily lives? "If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."

Admit it: the Bible is nuts in many places. Who follows this stuff? No one! So why stick it to people for choosing to not follow homophobic nonsense?

So why do do fundamentalist take verses on gay love any more seriously than on cutting off that woman's hand? I never met an Orthodox Jew who did that either, for all their talk about strict adherence to the Scriptures.

And here's a verse you don't hear preached on much these days: "Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet, and she said, "You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.'" (Exodus 4:24-25)

Now THAT'S a wedding gift worthy of some real "family values!"

We're morally evolving as a species and each new stage is always in tension with the prior stage. For instance, how would even the strictest of churches apply this teaching to one of their parishioners who had just had a bad car accident? "No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 23:1)

My proposal is this: To be true to the heart of the gospel message -- redemption through selflessness, hope, justice and love -- necessitates a new and fearless repudiation of parts of the same book (and tradition) that also bring us a message of hate.

To find the spiritual truth that is hidden within the Bible it must be mentally "edited" by people of goodwill who are informed by the spiritual truth we carry within our evolving ethical selves.

The loyalty of those who wish to live as Christians (as opposed to those who wish to force others to be like them by using Christianity as a weapon), must shift from fidelity to the Bible (or any other text) to seeking the life-affirming message of transcendence buried within the madness, ignorance and fear that we discover not just in the darker portions of all "sacred" texts, but in every human heart.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Christians" to Impose Theology on American Courts

To change the way things are we need to understand why at any given moment about a third of our population doesn't care about what is true -- or even fact-based -- but instead live life informed by self-reinforcing beliefs which are proudly non fact-based and rooted in deep-seated resentment that can't be cured because what is resented never actually happened.

These people resist facts in particular and have a loathing of education in general. They act within their own reality proudly maintained within an impenetrable Right Wing Echo Chamber. Here's the latest example:

According to the AP news reports out June 4 June 4, 2010
"Christian Conservatives Target Seated Judges"

SAN DIEGO -- A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts.

Vowing to be God's ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages."We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values," said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group's candidates. "Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary."

The challenge is unheard of in California, one of 33 states to directly elect judges....Opponents fear the June 8 race is a strategy that could transform courtroom benches just like some school boards, which have seen an increasing number of Christian conservatives win seats in cities across the country and push for such issues as prayer in classrooms.

"Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary," San Diego County's District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said....

Called "Better Courts Now," the movement was the brainchild of Don Hamer, San Diego County's late Zion Christian Fellowship pastor who campaigned locally for California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, and vetted the candidates before he died of a heart attack in March. His fellow Pastor Brian Hendry and other supporters have carried on his legacy, launching the mostly online campaign to replace the incumbent judges -- all Democrats -- with Christian conservatives.

Backers include El Cajon Gun Exchange, a store that encourages customers to fight for California's gun owners and visit the "Better Courts Now" website before voting. Pastors have vowed to spread the word. Hendry said the group had raised about $2,000 last month...

Candelore said a victory would mark only the beginning: "If we can take our judiciary, we can take our legislature and our executive branch."

The culture wars were (and are) really all about sex.

To understand our present we have to "get" the root cause of the sexual, political and social dysfunction created by fundamentalist religion. Those roots aren't just political--they're personal.

It's the little experiences of millions of children growing up in millions of religious homes that add up to the politics of hate and exclusion. My way of telling the story of what the Religious Right did to America is to fold it into the individual story of my own life in my books like Crazy For God.

It so happens that my father (Francis Schaeffer) and I became leaders in the Religious Right. Then I quit. Judging by the (literally) many thousands of emails I've been sent in the last couple of years in response to my examination of religion and politics (in books like Crazy For God and Patience With God and in my Huffington Post blogs) there are lots of bewildered individuals who, like me, were also raised believing that Every Single Word Of The Bible Is True.

These folks are now staggering through life in the grip of a paranoid nightmare. And many people who aren't religious ask:

1) How did the Religious Loony Tunes get to be this way?

2) How can they be stopped from taking us all with them to La La Land?

The real issue is theocracy verses democracy. Everything else is a footnote. That includes issues such as women's rights and the environment. It was (and is) dumb religion that is the root cause of the rape of the earth and the subjugation of women. Put fundamentalist religion in its place -- in other words in the dustbin of history -- and replace it with humanism, tolerant spirituality and science and we will have gone a long way to solving many other problems.

Since all religious fundamentalists share one thing in common -- intolerance of others because they are sure of being correct -- being a religious fundamentalist of any kind should automatically disqualify a person from political office in the same way that anyone who believes that "Natural Law" supersedes our constitution of Bill of Rights has no place in American law.

What today's fundamentalists share is a literal interpretation of their various scriptures. And all the major (theistic) scriptures -- when taken literally -- sanction barbarity and are fundamentally anti-democratic as well as anti-truth policies. They all demand an allegiance to a "jealous God" (in the Bible's words) to whom fundamentalists owe allegiance over and above their country's constitutions or the rule of law or even common decency.

And that is why everything that came from Dad's and my anti-abortion efforts in the 1970s eventually fed into a movement that no longer believes in the legitimacy of our government and threatens violence not to mention tries to impose awful leadership be that from "Christian" judges to someone like George Bush, elected because he passed the Evangelical's moralistic litmus tests.

This latest round of an attack on our judiciary is just another shot fired in our culture war. If we want an American version of Iran: here's the "blueprint"-- just let the folks at "Better Courts Now," impost their "values."

Those values aren't democratic. They aren't patriotic. They are revolutionary and seek to impose a theocracy.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)