Religion and Politics…
A toxic combination if there ever was one
- by David Matthews 2
If you’ve never heard of Dr. Demento, he’s a zany DJ who does parody and humorous songs for a nationwide audience. He gave comic entertainers like Weird Al Yankovic and Barnes & Barnes and Spike Jones plenty of air time. On his "Dementia Royale" cassette (Rhino Records, available at certain music stores) there is a track called "Religion and Politics" by Scott Beach. It’s not a song but rather a fast-talking story about the guy’s experience in a bar and a "debate" with a patron who kept saying they were all full of sh** but he wouldn’t say why. (Please note that while we all know he meant "shit" he never explicitly said it.. after all, this was being broadcast nationwide and you know how the FCC just hates people exercising their right to free speech.) It’s a rather lengthy diatribe, which Beach does in one breath, and to try and reproduce it even in text would do it a disservice.
Anyways, that song often comes to mind when the religious "wrong" pop up their smug little noses. I know you’re probably wondering why I constantly refer to them as the religious "wrong." Simply put, I consider these groups so conceited and self-righteous in their actions that I don’t even give them the benefit of referring to them by their position in the outdated one-dimensional political spectrum. These people consider themselves to be THE definitive standard of right and wrong for the world and feel that the world should be following THEIR dictates above those of anyone else.
Case in point - the proposed so-called "religious freedom" amendment to the Constitution. No, I’m not talking about the First Amendment. This is a NEW amendment that would supposedly strengthen the freedom of religion from what the Christian Coalition refers to as the "systematic persecution of Christians in America."
Excuse me? PERSECUTION?
Yes, according to sponsors of this Amendment, who say that Christians are being "persecuted" for their religious beliefs because they can’t express them in certain public places such as schools.
Let’s be brutally honest here folks, if this is the length, breadth, width, depth, and extent of the complaints of the Christian Coalition, then they TRULY deserve to be referred to as the "religious wrong." Listening to religious crusaders whine because of their perceived limitations reminds me of spoiled brats who throw temper tantrums because they didn’t get the right amount of sprinkles on their triple-scoop banana sundae supreme. These people lack CLUE ONE as to what religious persecution REALLY is!
The joke about this issue is that Christians have had a long tradition of being the persecutors, not the persecuted. Who were the inquisitors in the Spanish Inquisition? Who led the witch trials in Europe and the colonies? Who led thousands of men and even children to their deaths in crusades trying to "save Jerusalem from the heathen?" Who supported slavery in the US, and then supported institutionalized discrimination in the South after slavery was abolished? Huh? Did you say "Christians?" You’re learning!
But as former chairman Ralph Reed and his ilk would whine and pout "But.. but.. that was then and this is now! You can’t judge us for what happened in the past!" OK, let’s look at more recent times:
- In Louisiana one family challenged the public school’s policy of saying prayers at the start of the school day. The family was Lutheran, the majority of the community was Baptist. This family was subjected to harassment, social ostracization, and anonymous death threats. Who would the Christian Coalition say were the persecuted party? The Baptist community who wanted to impose their beliefs to everyone through the school system whether they were of the same religion or not? Or the Lutheran family who didn’t want to be exposed to that pressure and got harassed when trying to bring change?
- Fast forward to Alabama. This past year a lone judge who demanded everyone in his court to participate in Christian prayer and had a copy of the Ten Commandments looming over the bench was taken to federal court. The federal judges told him to stop the mandated prayers in the court and to take down the Commandments. He complied with the first part, but refused to take down the Commandments. Worse yet, the governor not only objected but also threatened to call out the state police and the National Guard to prevent federal agents from carrying out that decision. The Christian Coalition also managed to get Congress to support the governor’s decision, claiming the judge was being "persecuted." The same judge who had an unapologetic bias against all non-Christians and would force THEM to participate in HIS prayers while refusing to allow them to follow suit because, in the judge’s own words, "they don’t follow God!"
- How about one county in South Carolina where the local school board wanted to have a copy of the ten commandments in every classroom? When asked if such a measure would offend Buddhists or Muslims, one member of the school board said "screw the Buddhists, and kill the Muslims, and you can put that in the minutes!" The following meeting he apologized for his statements causing such a stir and clarified that he doesn’t believe Buddhism or Islam are really religions, but rather cults. He may be free to vent his opinions, and he’s welcome to them, but if his definition of a cult is any religion that doesn’t follow his particular religion, then he apparently is not qualified to serve in any government body where you take an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States! Now if South Carolina wants to secede from the Union all over again and form their own little theocratic country, I’m sure he’ll be in hog heaven, and they’ll be welcome to it!
That is not to say, however, that there aren’t REAL acts of persecution against Christians. However, you have to go outside of America to see such instances. Countries where there are no guarantees of religious freedom and certainly no separation of church and state. You would think that these would serve as a lesson to the religious wrong, but that little fact just can’t get thought the lead-lined stained colored glasses they constantly wear to protect their fragile mentalities from reality.
The real problem with this amendment is it would give the freedom of religion the one thing no constitutional right has - absolute freedom! In a larger context, absolute freedom might be a lofty goal, but to single out only one of our constitutional guarantees and say that freedom is absolute without question nullifies all other constitutional rights. Freedom of speech would be the first right to fall thanks to this proposed amendment. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech go together like gasoline and matches. Religion has traditionally been AGAINST free speech, so you know if the religious wrong get their way you will see that freedom go up in smoke! But it wouldn’t be alone. Soon other freedoms will fall by the wayside - all in the name of absolute freedom of religion!
So what would be the message for those who come to America if this proposed amendment is passed? "Welcome to America, where you’re free to pray to whatever God you choose, but only as long as you remember that this is a CHRISTIAN country, with laws enacted by CHRISTIANS, and honor only CHRISTIAN holidays. Your children are welcome to attend our schools, but only as long as you remember that its curriculum will follow that of the dominant religion - which is CHRISTIANITY! Oh, and if you do have to pray it had better follow our prayer schedules, or else you’ll disrupt our activities and end up in prison! God bless y’all!"
Look, there’s a reason why the founding fathers set up something called the separation of church and state. And the Christian Coalition and like-minded religious groups are living examples why it is.
When the First Amendment says Congress shall not "establish" a religion, it goes more than just a title basis. The establishment of religion goes deep in society, and is more than just a cosmetic title but also reflected in how government acts in accordance to the people it governs. American currency did not say "In God We Trust" until after the 1950’s, when religious crusaders used patriotism and fear of communism as an excuse to push their theocratic beliefs down everyone’s throats. The Pledge of Allegiance did not have the words "Under God" until then either, for just the same reasons. The fact that Congress still convenes each session with a prayer is further proof as to how religious crusaders have already established their religion in society.
I know this seems strange, to have a man who was raised Catholic and studied theology with Benedictine monks to bash religious crusaders, but you have to realize I am not bashing anyone’s religion, simply how they use that religion. I believe that religion is much like a shield, designed to reflect your personal beliefs and to protect you from things you would otherwise consider to be harmful. Instead, many crusaders use their religion as a sword to strike down that which they disagree with, which is certainly not the way of those who claim to be Christians.
Religion by legislation is nothing more than theocratic laziness at best, and tyrannical bullying at worst. Instead of swaying people by the power of their arguments, the religious crusaders use the power of government to compel others to follow their convictions. And neither religion nor government can find it within themselves to admit they are ever wrong. After all, it took the Catholic Church centuries to say that PERHAPS they were wrong in threatening Galileo and Copernicus with excommunication for even suggesting the Earth rotated around the sun.
Separation of church and state is a must in order to have true religious freedom. The ink wasn’t even dry on the Bill of Rights when many states violated religious freedom by passing laws that either banned or expelled Quakers, whose only crime was having religious beliefs different from the dominant religion of the area. (Ironically, its the Quakers that eventually created our correctional system.) The mentality of the religious wrong hasn’t changed since then, because they still believe themselves to be absolutely and unquestionably right.
Religion by legislation is an arrogant and bloody legacy for ALL Christians from the days of the Roman Empire, and will continue to haunt and stain them until the day comes when they realize that religion that works best does not come from government force, but rather freely from the hearts of individuals.
It’s easy to see how religious leaders are drawn to politics. After all, both involve wielding power over groups of people. That kind of power is subtly seductive to the wielder. Many a leader, both religious and political, have fallen prey to it’s lure. Lord Acton said it best when he said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We need the mechanisms in place to ensure that neither group get absolute power.