Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pizza Chain Declares a Time to Kill

     In a homily that I heard years ago, the priest quipped that if Jesus held the last supper today instead of the ancient staples unleavened bread and wine, he would use pizza and beer.  If left up to the Catholic church and the conservative Christians behind a federal lawsuit that was just filed, Jesus would have to use Domino's Pizza.

      According to the Center's website:
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.
     What version of the Jesus Christ of the gospels promotes "a strong national defense"?  How is hate a "time-honored family" value?  Oh yes, this is the Bible we're using as a source, and there are plenty of accounts of genocide, hatred, rape, pillaging, stoning, child sacrifice, slavery, and racism carried out  in the name of the Judeo-Christian god, a brilliant foundation for one's "moral values."

     As usual, the lawsuit is being filed on behalf of a group of pastors, including  Levon Yuille of The Bible Church in Ypsilanti, Ren矇 B. Ouellette of the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport, and James Combs, pastor of four different churches.  I hope their loving Jesus is proud of them.  Also listed among the plaintiffs is Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association which professes:
     We believe that God has communicated absolute truth to man through nature and the Bible, and that all men everywhere and at all times are subject to His authority. Therefore, a culture based on Biblical truth best serves the well-being of our country as evidenced by the vision of our forefathers as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
    Absolute truth!  And through nature?  Does that mean they believe in evolution? 

    The lawsuit is founded upon nothing new: fear and ignorance.
    In an article posted on the Law Center's site, Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, states of the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act:
      “This is part of the list of political payoffs to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Barack Obama in the last presidential election.  The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblical-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.  It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”

    Once again, the equating of homosexual persons with deviants and pedophiles.  They even dubbed the hate crimes law as the "Pedophile Protection Act."  Time and again this ignorant, bigoted view has been dismissed by science and psychology, but still the fundamentalist Christians turn to this damaging and untrue myth for their arguments against homosexual's rights.  

    Once again, our country is founded on religious freedom and separation of church and state, but the fundamentalist Christians claim that is not the case.  If we were erase the church/state boundary, whose religious tradition and interpretation of their particular scriptures would be used? Which of the hundreds of offshoots of Christianity in the U.S.A. would be the ultimate truth?  Which person or theological "tradition" or "school" of "thought" within those individual churches and denominations would be the ultimate truth?  Which version and disputed books of the Bible are included in this truth?  Which translation?  Religious "truth" and "knowledge" of god is not absolute!  It's relative even within the walls of individual churches and families, and it's relative even within the lifespan of an individual.

     Here are some results of an extensive survey of U.S. religious belief (or non-belief) and praxis by the Pew Forum:
     More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all.
     If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.
     The number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children.
      Even smaller religions in the U.S. reflect considerable internal diversity. For instance, most Jews (1.7% of the overall adult population) identify with one of three major groups: Reform, Conservative or Orthodox Judaism. Similarly, more than half of Buddhists (0.7% of the overall adult population) belong to one of three major groups within Buddhism: Zen, Theravada or Tibetan Buddhism. Muslims (0.6% of the overall adult population) divide primarily into two major groups: Sunni and Shia.
      So of the thousands of variations of belief in god, whose should be the one that determines the laws of the state?  And what of people who switch churches or belief systems in their lifetime, should they remain bound to the systems of their former churches?  All arguments from the U.S. Christian religious right about our nation being a Christian nation that should be bound by one sect's interpretation of biblical law are ludicrous.

     Once again, the argument against LGBT rights and protections under the law are attacked by using lies to invoke fear in good Christians that they will be prosecuted for their religious beliefs, saying that  their free-speech rights are being violated and that pastors and priests will be prosecuted under the hate crimes act for preaching about their scripture based condemnations of homosexuality.  This is absolute bullshit.  

     There is no question that the expression of anti-gay views, whether religiously based or not, is protected by the First Amendment (as it should be). And in reality, the provisions of the hate crimes law only applies to the investigation and prosecution of actual physical crimes against individuals, not against speech. Unless the plaintiffs intend to actually assault someone, their anti-gay beliefs are irrelevant; if they chose to assault someone, then those expressed views could be used to establish that they committed such a crime out of hatred or bigotry and that might then trigger the provisions of the hate crimes bill. But the mere expression of anti-gay views cannot be punished under the hate crimes law unless the person expressing those views actually commits a violent crime of some sort.
     Once again, to quote the anti-human rights, biblical-based bigots own Ecclesiastes' Qoheleth: "There is nothing new under the sun."  Except for Domino's pizza, but even that tastes as stale as a communion wafer.

      "A time to kill... a time of hate... a time of war..."