Senator Barack Obama gave a speech at the national meeting of the United Church of Christ on June 23. He talked about the role of religion in politics, and you’ve probably heard something about it via popular news sources.
The Associated Press reported that Obama told the church crowd, “right-wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division.”
Obama’s message was that the religious right was using its faith to divide America. This is a true statement, but I’ll take it even further: religion fundamentally divides people. As hard as you may try to unite people under religion, it never happens.
(From this point forward, I will try to write only about the Obama/religion issue.)
All religions are similar to an exclusive club: in order to be a member, you must be “good” enough. That “goodness” is determined by meeting some criteria. It may mean prohibition, sexual restraint, or (in the Falungong’s case) cutting your stomach open. Those who adhere to the rules of the game are deemed the best and consequently revered the most. But in order to determine the “good”, there must also be a category for the “bad”. Bad behavior could include abortion, divorce, or MTV-watching (arguably a universal standard for being bad).
But the problem is that religion lacks tolerance. The religions right, for one reason or another, cannot tolerate the existence of whatever it determines to be blasphemous. Evangelicals have a need to dictate good behavior and punish bad behavior. Need proof? Prohibition. The War on Drugs. “Pro-Life” (a misleading term anyway). The Global Gag Rule (you might need to look this one up). Abstinence. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just how it seems to work.
Now, let’s say that you are a devout God-fearing Christian living a “good” life. Your nudist neighbor, on the other hand, owns an abortion clinic, publishes a pornography magazine, and blasts Islamic rock music from the windows on weekends (she’s quite a hobbyist). Does this somehow decrease you and your family’s chances of getting into heaven? Seriously. Move away or something.
Most of the rights protected under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights deal with personal agency, your ability to do what you want. Sure, some of your rights are taken away (the right to murder your nudist neighbor), but most of your personal agency (speech, assembly, press, religion, whatever) is protected. The religious right denies personal agency, because they have a need to regulate other people’s behavior.
“Against gay marriage? Then don’t get one and shut the f*ck up.” “Against abortion? Then don’t abort a fetus.” (Facebook) No, it apparently doesn’t work that way.
So was Obama wrong when he gave his speech the other day? Certainly not. And even if you miraculously prove that religion is a unifying force, tolerance will always be a comparatively more unifying force.
So back to the Obama story: of course, every genuine right-wing blog and publication jumped on this story, drooling with excitement over the opportunity to bash a Democrat. What could be more delicious (other than maybe a baptism)? I naturally found the need to counter-bash. Sorry, Grant Swank, but your article got picked.
“The truth is that United Church of Christ member Obama is true to his theologically liberal Protestant denomination but he is abhorrent in the sight of God.
God does not permit practicing homosexuality. God does not condone killing womb babies. God champions the bond of marriage, the latter uniting male and female. God champions life, not murder; therefore, God’s heart grieves at every abortion.”
Let me add another one: God does not have a weekly radio show where he informs the general public of his most recent political and social stances. Your time-honored traditions aren’t that time-honored; these beliefs have evolved over thousands of years, thanks to numerous instances of censorship, erasure, and coercion. You actually think that what’s in the Bible is, word-for-word, what appeared two thousand years ago?
Oh, and don’t give me this bullshit about God being pro-life and anti-murder. If you’ve actually read the Bible, you’d know that God loves killing off enemies. God was the Quentin Tarantino of his day, and the biblical world was his version of Kill Bill, vol. 1 and 2. The only heart I know of that literally grieves is Dick Cheney’s, and it happens whenever he eats a cheeseburger.
“Obama knew he was ‘preaching to the choir.’ Those seated in front of him endorse the sin which he supports. These persons have no regard for divine revelation. They instead write their own religion and then call it ‘Christian truth.’
It is not biblical truth. It is man-made fabrication which permits disobeying God conveniently. Obama is at the front of the line when it comes to undercutting God’s revealed ethic and he knows it.”
Mr. Swank, do you stone your children (if you have any) for disobeying you? If yes, let’s hope you don’t have any kids. Do you kill people who work on Sundays? Not a very good neighbor if you do. But hey, that’s all in the Bible. Don’t selectively pick what you want to follow. (Thanks to Penn and Teller for that one.)
“Mr. Obama, may I ask you a serious question: What version do you have which you yourself name ‘the Bible’ for it certainly has no liking to what the rest of us biblical believers are reading for doctrinal insight.”
May I ask you a serious question, Mr. Swank? Was there even a question mark anywhere in the last paragraph? I believe the answer is “no”. But is this not another example of the need for the religious right to draw a line in the sand and divide America? Apparently Swank’s version of the Bible and Obama’s are at odds. I say the winner should be determined by a dance-off.
(OK, so I lied: I’m going to write about some other shenanigans, namely this punk Swank’s take on Blair’s conversion to Catholicism. I’m a liar and I’m going to hell.)
“In the meantime, Tony informs media that he reads both the Bible and Koran daily. Now that is truly chaotic if not idiotic. The Bible does not mesh with the Koran. They are on two separate poles. Honestly, if Tony is genuinely confessing his daily devotional regime, he is either stupid or a liar.
The Bible has no category likeness unto the Koran. The Koran is laden with murder and maiming verses binding to the zealot Muslim. That is the underlying reason for today’s carnage worldwide. The Koran is a cultic, demonic writ from a crazed mortal named Mohammed.”
HA! Swank, have you even read the Koran? Because this is what’s referred to as a double-bind: either you’re babbling about a subject you know literally nothing about (other than what you’ve been told by some child-molesting priest since the age of 3), or you’ve personally read the blasphemous piece of text that you’re using to implicate Mr. Blair. Can’t have it both ways, buddy.
Seriously, lay off the former Prime Minister a bit. I’d be questioning my religion if I were a Newcastle United fan.
And finally, let’s head back to the top of the article, because I want to discredit the source. Not that it needs any more discrediting. I mean, the website is called “News By Us, Not News Bias”. A phrase on the page reads: “Commentary, News Analysis and Opinion without a hidden agenda”. See, at least I will label myself as a frothing-at-the-mouth liberal with an explicit agenda. There’s no need to hide your political affiliation…well, unless you’re a bit ashamed of it, right?