I often criticize the Christianists and far right Christians who claim that the Bible is inerrant and engage in a form of idolatry that makes a mockery of their supposed self-professed beliefs in the Gospel message. Likewise, I often attribute the fear and hatred of others to their weak faith and fear of the unknown that pushes them to attack and denigrate anyone who is perceived to threaten their house of cards religious belief construct.
Interestingly enough, two different columns at Religion Dispatches look at the issue. One is in the form of an interview with retired Episcopal Bishop and author, John Shelby Spong, and the other is a column that looks at Rick Santorum's religiously twisted psyche and why he cannot accept that LGBT individuals are entitled to full equality under the nations (and states') civil laws.
I believe that these issues and criticisms of the Christianist mindset need to be pounded home over and over to undecided members of the public so that they will realize that it is the so-called "family values" crowd, not LGBT Americans, who are a threat to the principles of religious freedom upon which this nation was founded.
First highlights from the interview with Bishop Spong:
Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is used to being a lightning rod for religious debate. Known affectionately as "Jack" to his friends, Spong has been taking religious literalists to task for over 40 years.
Spong's new book Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World . . . on page 15, Spong writes: "I do not think for one moment that Bible is any literal sense the 'Word of God.'" This book is Spong's way of putting the Bible back in its right perspective--as a collection of "tribal" stories that sprang from "the experience of human beings seeking to make sense out of the life they are living and the things they are experiencing."
RD: Erstwhile candidate Michele Bachmann was even asked in one debate whether she believed the Bible required her to be "submissive" to her husband. Politicians are trying to enforce that aura around the Bible and competing to be seen as taking it the most literally. What do you make of that?
SPONG: I think it's sick, though I think there is less of it now than during the Bush years--we're making progress, as strange as it sounds. . . . . I think it's a reality show. I think it's the strangest group of candidates I've ever watched run for office and I would be embarrassed at almost any one of them being the president of the United States.
It seems to me that what the Christian faith says is that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called and empowered to be all that it can be. That's not what you hear. Christianity has been a religion of victimization if you look at its history. We victimized Jews during the Crusades. We victimized Muslims in the 14th century. We victimized heretics. We victimized people of color. We victimized women. We victimized homosexuals. We victimized the environment. We're currently victimizing immigrants. It's all the same mentality.
What is it about Christianity that makes us constantly be a victimizer? I think it's because we've adopted victimizing theology. We spend all our time in church talking about how sinful and evil human beings are. The only way you can tolerate listening to that is to pass it on. We have to pass on this hostility that we have. The idea that God killed Jesus because you were a sinner is a really strange idea. It makes God an ogre. It makes Jesus a sadomasochistic victim and it makes you and me guilt-laden.
Guilt never produces life. If guilt is your message, the best you can produce is a hidden righteousness. You repress your negative feelings in public and you pass this guilt on because it's intolerable. I think what we've turned Christianity into is a sick religion and it comes out politically.
Exceptionalism is in every religious system. Religion is a human social invention to keep insecurity in check because being human is a very insecure thing to be. We're self-conscious. We know we're going to die and we have to relate to that. Animals don't have to relate to that, they just live until they die. Human beings are the only animal that commits suicide or uses drugs. Religion is part of our defense system against the radical insecurity of life.
In order for religion to make you secure you have to make excessive claims. You have to say that, "We are the chosen people," or "The Pope is infallible," or "Our way is the only way," or "the Bible is inerrant." You have to make a claim that locks security up tightly.
Christianity is not supposed to make you secure. . . . If you've got to spend your time proving that you're better than someone else--males are better than females, whites are better than blacks, heterosexuals are better than homosexuals -- you're always building yourself up by pushing somebody else down. But, you shouldn't need to build yourself up unless you're radically insecure. Religion feeds into that radical insecurity with triumphalism--ours is the only religious route you can take to get to God. That's a really strange idea.
Religion is not about truth, it's about security. The sort of thing I'm presenting is never going to be the majority view but it's going to be the minority point of view for those who are bold enough to look at life as it really is and not to need a narcotic to get through it but as something that gives them the strength to embrace the radical insecurity of life, and I think that's worth doing.
Christianity is not about saving people from their sins. It's about expanding the sense of what it means to be human. That's a very big difference. I'm tired of being saved from my sins.
The column on Rick Santorum is equally damning although more focused on Santorum's own very damaged mental state that likely arises from his tradition Roman Catholic upbringing. Here are some highlights:
It's been widely observed that religious foes of LGBT equality frequently make arguments of convenience. These arguments are usually guised in the language of rhetorics other than that of religion. Thus homosexuality is pathological (medical), destructive of society (sociological), narcissistic (psychological)--anything, really, as long as it's bad, which is what opponents of equality really mean.
Last week, for example,Rick Santorum argued that same-sex marriage would be a slippery slope, because "in terms of pleasure," polygamous marriages offered as much pleasure as gay marriages do. This strange new line of thinking presupposes that the only reason for same-sex marriage is pleasure, just as the only reasons for a homosexual "lifestyle" are pleasure, lust, and so on.
This is, of course, absurd. Gay couples get married for the same reasons that straight couples do, with pleasure being pretty far down the list -- behind, say, love, companionship, taking care of one another, societal recognition, raising children, and so on. Santorum's ignorant comment (one of many, of course) assumes, incorrectly, that homosexuality is a (changeable, optional) predilection of the gonads, rather than an orientation of the heart. Lust, not love.
If we assume that Santorum is being sincere in his bigotry rather than purely opportunistic, what he's really interested in is religion, not social policy. If it were social policy that motivated him, he'd read the studies of same-sex couples in Massachusetts and in other countries, which show that they raise children as well as opposite-sex couples, form stable families, and the rest. But what Santorum is motivated by is actually religion: a fear of sexuality and of women souped-up by a misreading of Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians.
But he can't really say that on television. If he were honest, he'd just come out and say something like: "I'm sorry, but God just cannot abide any homosexual behavior." But he isn't.
Santorum and other homophobes cannot speak frankly because their real motivations are private, emotional, and incoherent. It's not as though Santorum dispassionately selected Catholicism from a menu of religious ideologies. He believes because he feels. Even before his wife's miscarriage (in 1996), before his political career, some concatenation of circumstances installed what some have called religious "software" in his brain. Things are good when religion is dominant, bad when it is not. This is the truth of his experience.
They [Santorum and anti-gay Christianists] have wedded their fundamental sense of okay-ness to the truthfulness of a set of doctrines. Not only is sociology not at issue for Rick Santorum, Romans isn't either. What is at stake is his very sense that the world is a good place, that things are basically okay, and that he himself is okay as a result. That may be expressed in a theological framework, but it is a psychological reality. If I marry my partner, therefore, Rick Santorum is not okay.
The fake secularism, the fake science, the bogus constructions of homosexuality -- all of these are so transparently false because they are mere props. As one after another of them collapse, anti-gays will eventually be left only with their convictions, and the reasons why they have them. Perhaps only then, echoing Portnoy's therapist, might we say "Now we may perhaps to begin."
Be it due to religious brainwashing, limited intelligence or some sort of psychological malady, Santorum and those like him who claim the Bible is inerrant are motivated primarily by fear. Fear of who they really are. Fear of the future or fear of life after death. Fear of anything that rattles their sense of safety and security.
Unfortunately, that fear quickly transforms itself into hatred of anything and anyone who threatens that artificial sense of safety and security that stems from mindlessly checking off the boxes on the Christianist list of rules to live by. Since LGBT people challenge the Bible materialists we are rewarded with a special level of hate and animus by the Santorums of the world.
The ones who are damaged goods are not LGBT individuals but rather the Christianists, Rick Santorums and Pope Benedict XVI of the world.