Sunday, October 29, 2006

Christianity and culture wars

There are a good many people who believe that Christianity is in a "culture war", and that Christians are being driven back, and must fight back.

Now, me, personally, I'm cynical. I think that's just a hell of a good line to use to whip up support, and to allow Christians to become braggarts, seeking their reward from man, not God. After all, you can be as pious as you want in public if it's part of fighting a culture war; sure, Jesus wouldn't approve, but Jesus didn't have people trying to fight a war on Christmas!

(Please tell me that some people are laughing at the joke... or, at least, recognizing it.)

But let's pretend, just for a bit, that there is an honest-to-goodness culture war, with Christianity fighting for its survival. Why?

What is it that's getting people so riled up about Christianity?

Is it that you can't talk to a Christian without getting an earful about how important it is to help the poor and the sick, and to seek justice in all ways for all people?

Is it because there was going to be this big, glorious war to liberate Iraq and find the WMDs, but the Christians stood up and said that without stronger proof of a real danger, it would be immoral to put so many people's lives at risk? After all, Jesus said that one must love one's enemies, so even if the Iraqis were our enemies, they deserved mercy, unless we had no other choice!

Is it because no one wants gay marriage, but the Christians said "well, we should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's... secular marriage is a matter for the government, and has nothing to do with religion, and we shouldn't be concerned about it"?

Is it because you never know if a person is a Christian, until you hear them spouting off some long winded speech about how important it is to love all people, at all times? And then, they don't actually admit that they're Christians, they just look embarrassed, and say "well, you know, it just seems to make sense to me"?

What is Christianity fighting for?

A lot of Christians are fighting for displays of the Ten Commandments. Now, the Ten Commandments include commands that are purely religious, and never intended to apply to gentiles (graven images, the sabbath, taking the Lord's name in vain, honoring one's parents, covetousness). As such, displays of the Ten Commandments are an attempt to establish one religion's beliefs as better and more important than others.

A lot of Christians are fighting to continue to allow discrimination against gays, and trying to prevent, then ban, then make unconstitutional, gay marriage. What's doubly infuriating about this is that the battle has already been lost. Gay folks aren't going back in the closet. Eventually, society will realize this and discrimination against gay folks will be outlawed, and gay folks will be allowed to marry the people they love.

They're fighting against abortion, which most folks can't fault too terribly much, but they're also fighting against teaching birth control, and fighting against emergency contraception.

In some cases, they're arguing for teacher-led prayer in public schools, despite Jesus' teachings against public prayer.

Why are many people opposed to Christianity? It's not because of Christians who are doing what Jesus commanded, quietly doing their best to love one another, and help those who need help, without seeking attention or praise.

It's something else. And, as I said above, I'm cynical.

I see the money-loving, fame-loving high powered preachers doing their best to make themselves look good, and I cynically feel that they've manufactured claims of a war against Christianity, while pushing Christians in a direction that seemed likely to cause such a war. By pushing Christians to be loud and angry about symbols (or should I say "idols"?), they've increased whatever ill will there might be towards Christianity as a whole.

Am I right? I don't know... I can only refer to the words of Jesus, who advised his followers to look to the fruits of those who spoke in his name.

Do these men bring food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless, help for the sick and disabled and the poor?

Or do they bring anger and divisiveness, with little of Jesus's love on display?

It's a question people can only answer for themselves. But I'm sure you can guess how I've answered it.

Marriage, a sacred institution

The concept of gay marriage has been back in the news understandably because of the recent political campaigns that we have as citizens been barraged with. Fortunately the elections are over but the issue about gay marriage is not going to gay away because it is our right as American citizens. The republicans seem to use it as a divisive tool to undermine any impression of democrats having a sense of a moral compass. We are all once again hearing the term used about marriage as being a sacred or religious institution and therefore gay unions are not worthy of being legally sanctioned by any institutions, whether it is in a church chapel or otherwise. If marriage were indeed a sacred or religious institution, which seems to be the major argument presented by the religious right against the legalization of gay marriages, why then can atheist be married legally? One therefore does not have to be religious. Heterosexuals are also allowed to be married by the justice of the peace, at a drive up window in Las Vegas or by a cruise ship captain to receive Gods blessing on their “holy” union of matrimony. Do they want to further blur the lines between separation of church and state by making an amendment against these forms of “non traditional” styles of union since they don’t necessarily have any religious affiliation. Since such unions can be performed by anyone that wants to attain that piece of paper that allows for one to marry heterosexual couples under nearly any circumstance imaginable. Heterosexuals can be married while sky-diving, scuba diving or on a mountaintop. The circumstances or styles one chooses to become legally married are endless. Many of the unions may have no religious overtones whatsoever yet still be considered legal. Since these unions are inarguably legal it would then seem me to blow a big whole in that same tired argument that the religious right continues to endlessly purport that marriage is a “holy” union whether one is a “believer” or not. Another one of their overused arguments is that allowing gay marriages would also help destroy the heterosexual marriages by making a mockery of it. I don’t think heterosexuals need our help in destroying “holy” matrimony. According to all statistics on the success of “traditional” heterosexual marriages, they seem to be doing a fine job of that on their own. I would truly like to hear a rational discussion on this issue and some rational reasons that would suggest that their fears are well founded. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver.
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