Religious Remainders

I don’t often to “remainders” posts. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done one. But there were a lot items on my radar and in my news reader today that were religiously related in one way or another. So many, in fact, that when I tried to tie them all together in a single post, I found myself tripping over countless contextual links.

So, chickened out and figured if I just posted them all together people would recognize the contexts they all share in common.

We’ll start with something I blogged about just last week.

A Washington Post columnist took on Bishop Alfred A. Owens in an open letter to D.C Mayor Anthony Williams, and borrowed from the D.C. Coalition of Black, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Men and Women to effectively summarize the “sermon.”

This is the way the coalition characterized Owens’s remarks: “The sermon’s essential message was if you are openly gay, then you are worthless; if you are gay and in the closet, then do not come out.”

Sir, they made another good point, noting that the sermon was “particularly reproachable because it was delivered in a place of worship, a place that many people go to cope from the discrimination that society inflicts on them.” Their contention that “the sermon attempted to erode and minimize the faith that gay men have in God” can’t be ignored either.

Meanwhile, over at Gay Spirituality & Culture, Colleen points out that the inherent misogyny in Owen’s words can’t be ignored either.

What is going unnoticed (and often does) is the mysogynism in his tirade. As I’ve argued here before, part of the problem with homophobia is how often it accompanies a fear of the feminine.

…We need to do a better job of pointing out that homophobia is quite often a package deal, with hatred of females and bad theology (even on a conservative hermeneutic) thrown in for free.

Speaking of “bad theology” and its outcomes, Sam Harris was interviewed on AlterNet about the dangers of using religion to run the world, while over at In These Times Michelle Goldberg — author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism — writes about an American political faction that seeks to use their religion to run the world as they see fit.

The mass movement I’ve described aims to supplant Enlightenment rationalism with what it calls the “Christian worldview.” The phrase is based on the conviction that true Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that all—government, science, history and culture—must be understood according to the dictates of scripture. There are biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income tax rates, and only those with the right worldview can discern them. This is Christianity as a total ideology—I call it Christian nationalism. It’s an ideology adhered to by millions of Americans, some of whom are very powerful. It’s what drives a great many of the fights over religion, science, sex and pluralism now dividing communities all over the country.

I am not suggesting that religious tyranny is imminent in the United States. Our democracy is eroding and some of our rights are disappearing, but for most people, including those most opposed to the Christian nationalist agenda, life will most likely go on pretty much as normal for the foreseeable future. Thus for those who value secular society, apprehending the threat of Christian nationalism is tricky. It’s like being a lobster in a pot, with the water heating up so slowly that you don’t notice the moment at which it starts to kill you.

Meanwhile, in Africa

It is easy to see how Aids is responsible for creating a missing generation across Africa, devastating economies, and crippling health sectors as it strikes. Across the continent, 6,500 Africans are dying every day, the equivalent of a village being wiped from the map every 24 hours. A further 9,000 are infected each day by HIV/Aids, which is the leading cause of death in Africa. …

… But it is not just a lack of appropriate medicine that is preventing Africa from saving a generation. Other major obstacles are preventing the Aids pandemic from being conquered. One of these is ignorance of how the virus spreads.

… A second obstacle holding up progress is the issue of abstinence, with programmes in Africa promoted by the Christian right wing in America and advocated by such prominent politicians as Colin Powell, the former secretary of state.

Back in the U.S., a group of gay men ran into Pat Robertson having Easter brunch, and had their picture taken with him. Afterwards, they sent him a copy of the picture along with a letter carrying a message that some leaders who’ve sought face time with Robertson hadn’t the courage to deliver.

RobertsongroupCertainly, we could discuss for hours what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality, slavery, the role of women, and other pertinent issues. I’m sure we could also have exhaustive talks about the definition of what the Bible is and the veracity of what its contents. What we, as a group, would like for you to consider this spring, however, is your own relationship to Christ’s words.

For example, didn’t Christ–who was put to death by the government working with the religious leaders of his time, in part because of his inclusive teachings–basically say in Luke, chapters 12 and 14: “No one of you can be my disciple unless he sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and come follow me?” This is just one of the scores of lessons that Jesus, who said nothing of homosexuality, preached in praise of poverty and against wealth. Respectfully, how do you square these verses with the multimillion-dollar enterprise that you have created and the personal fortune that you have amassed for yourself? The hypocrisy of using his name to marginalize men like us–at times making our lives excruciatingly difficult–while directly and blatantly contradicting his very clear teachings is both bold and unfathomable.

Perhaps the universe or God brought us together that day before Easter so that you might be prompted to really deeply consider the fact that your rhetoric and your actions have very real consequence. We know. Although we have no doubt of your sincerity and well-meaning nature, we represent those who are victims, in one way or another, of the shaded truth you and others tell perhaps to further your own ends. Perhaps it’s just that you don’t know any better.

It’s doubtful that letter will change Pat any. But who knows? A recent survey shows that even reading The DaVinci Code can change religious beliefs. So, something written by and about actual people might stand a chance with some people, if not Pat.

Finally, a harrowing article about the abuses suffered by Buddhists in Tibet ends with this Tibetan phrase I found comforting when thinking about how my own experiences with religion have affected my life.

Wherever you feel most comfortable, that is your home. Whoever shows you greatest kindness and comfort, they are your family.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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