Friday, May 20, 2005

Religious Civil War, Part II

Well, the ante has been upped since my last post. It is becoming clearer and clearer that if you are a Christian, you are expected to vote Republican.

Last October, the now-former-minister of East Waynesville (NC) Baptist Church, 'Chan' Chandler, told his congregation, "If you vote for John Kerry, you need to repent or resign." Afterwords, nine disobedient members were expelled, and another 40 members left the church in protest. After the story became very public, and watchdog groups began pushing for the IRS to revoke the church's tax-exempt status, Chandler resigned. He claimed that Kerry's stand on abortion was the central cause of his vehemence.

The Catholic Church has also been tightening its fist in an effort to control its adherents. Last year, bishops were urging that communion be denied to Catholic political candidates who supported abortion or gay rights. This year, the worshippers have been targeted as well. On Pentecost Sunday, gay-supportive Catholics were denied communion in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Rainbow Sash Alliance has made itself visible every Pentecost Sunday since 2001, but this is the first year they were offered a blessing only instead communion. Of course, in previous years, conservatives within the church knelt in the aisle to block the sash-wearers from access to communion, so this may be a step up.

On the one hand, it is sad to see how very vicious the battle over political issues has become. On the other hand, after many years of issue advocacy in various legislatures, the war is finally being waged in the proper battleground - the churches. Because, when one gets down to it, all these religious PACs are saying is that their imaginary friend, who happens to be the Ultimate Authority On Everything, has declared that public policy should enable them to treat other people badly.

I'm just amazed that so many people buy this argument. Then again, we do all love to take a superior attitude, don't we? And isn't it nice that the UAOE gives insecure people a license to throw their weight around and put others down?

So, I say, hooray for the battles taking place where they should! Maybe now the churches will spend their time squabbling about who knows their imaginary friend the best; it would make their PACs far less effective.

Some of you out there may be offended at the term 'imaginary friend'. But, the facts are, everyone has an internal picture of the Divine, not external experience (outside of The Existence of Everything, I suppose). We have no taped interviews, or phone calls, or public appearances. We each simply experience the Divine according to our own natures.

Some people may argue that the Bible is God's literal word, and provides its own 'evidence'. No, it isn't, and it doesn't. A group of people got together, on more than one occasion in its history, to review accounts of different people's stories about God. The accounts they, or at least the most influential members of the committee, could agree on became the Bible. The followers of other gods were just as convinced that their testaments, hymns, sagas, etc. came from a divine source. Many of them also relate the history of a people and its experience with the Divine. Many of them also reflect the biases and lack of scientific knowledge of their human authors.

My point? It's time 'people of faith' discussed church doctrine in the light of their faith, not the worth of their fellow human beings. The emphasis is finally where it belongs.

Sarah G