Sheila S. Kennedy

My Pal, God

Filed By Sheila S. Kennedy | February 04, 2006 12:10 PM | comments

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At this point, I'm beginning to feel left out, sort of the way you felt in school when everyone else in your class was invited to a party but you. Evidently, there are all these people who are on a first-name basis with God--who hang out with Him on a regular basis (actually, I'd always thought of God as a "She" but I guess I was wrong about that, too), getting the real scoop on what He wants, who He likes and dislikes...who He intends to invite to the Ultimate Party in Heaven, and who won't get to come.

I am reminded daily what an outsider I am when I read what God told Pat Robertson or Ray Nagin, I read letters to the editor defending statehouse prayer or laws against abortion or rants about "deviant homosexuals," and the constant insistence that this country was intended to be a Christian Nation. Those making a stab at ecumenism phrase it a bit differently, of course. They talk about the Judeo-Christian ethic that comes from the Bible. Not your bible, of course, and certainly not the Koran or Talmud. I hate to be cynical about folks given to these statements, but as a person of the "Judeo" heritage, I can tell you that our addition to this formula is pure political correctness. Scratch one of these public pietists, and you'll find as much anti-Semitism as homophobia. But I digress.

Now, I am perfectly content to let folks believe anything they want. If they're happy believing they know the mind and heart of God, I'm not inclined to argue with them; hell, I'm not inclined to ever socialize with them. But that really isn't the point.

If a free and democratic society is to continue to exist, the rules have to be seen as fair by everyone. And that is the problem. Our constitutional system requires that government be neutral on matters of religious belief. Government is supposed to handle such mundane communal responsibilities as paving streets, defending against foreign aggressors, delivering the mail, assigning air lanes, checking chicken for salmonella...Government really has plenty to do without mediating religious wars. But the zealots don't see First Amendment neutrality as neutral. In their view, if the state isn't imposing their religious values on the rest of us, government is discriminating against them. If gays are treated by government as civic equals, for example, that is evidence that government is favoring the forces of evil. It does no good to point out that the same system that prevents them from disenfranchising gays prevents those of us who find their beliefs odious from disenfranchising them.

It also does no good, unfortunately, to remind these folks that there are many deeply religious people whose vision of Godliness differs mightily from theirs; people whose approach to deity is, shall we say, a bit more complex and nuanced. People who would feel it unspeakably arrogant to claim that they knew the mind of God, but who nevertheless harbor a conviction that no God worth worshipping would demand that Her followers hurt and despise their fellow-beings.

Every once in a while, after one of these diatribes by a member of the self-identified elect, I think about the fanatics who flew into the World Trade Center, convinced that in the next life they would enjoy honey and dates and 70 sloe-eyed virgins. If there really is an afterlife, I think they may all be in for a surprise.


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Way to go Sheila! I agree with you - if the political zealots would expend their misguided energy into something positive, think how much better off this country would be! I've been spending a lot of time reading about King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, etc. The hatred between the Catholics and Protestants was unbelievable - burnings, hangings, drawing and quartering - are we to go back to those Dark Ages? I wonder if these people have ever read World History????

Annette-- you assume they can read. I doubt they would even follow Sheila's very clear logic--- or see themselves in it-- unless the Homeland Security office declares her an enemy of the state--- religion, that is.

Yeah, I guess you're right Randy. These people reside in narrow little boxes and can't see outside of their own spheres. I was giving them too much credit.

No matter how difficult it is, continuing to "other" conservative Christians is not going to solve the problem. It is just playing into the good/bad, right/wrong dichotomy.

I think Melissa is really on to something... Just castigating conservative Christians, while an easy feel-good experience, solves none of our problems. And no LGBT folk have ever came to Christ through a Fred Phelps picket... We have to be able to reach out and explain to those who are unwilling to learn and experience.

Ellen Andersen | February 6, 2006 11:29 PM

I completely agree with the argument that demonizing the "Christian" Right doesn't get LGBT folks very far (but note that I'm using quotes around Christian, which is a deliberate choice on my part, one intended to raise questions about the values espoused by the CR.)

At the same time, I do think that there are folks in the US who are simply unreachable by us, and that no amount of explaining is going to make a difference. So I think we shouldn't waste our breath. Instead, I think we should focus on the majority of Americans who *are* reachable: the ones who are really uncomfortable with extending marriage rights but who also think that same-sex couples ought to be allowed to make medical decisions for one another. That's where the battles will be won or lost. IMO.

I think many times we use the wrong tactic when trying to educate or advocate to evangelical conservatives. Most believe because of faith, NOT REASON. You shouldn't be surprised when your reasoned argument is shot down, or ignored. The best thing to do in these cases is to know their theology better than they do. Many people that aren't swayed with reason, will hear scripture.