Michael Hamar

Christianists, the Bible and Tyranny of the Majority

Filed By Michael Hamar | June 28, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Barack Obama, gay marriage, Maggie Gallagher, segregation, states rights

Maggie Gallagher.jpegSince the historic vote in New York State last Friday night, the whining and ranting of opponents of same sex marriage boil down to basically two arguments: (i) only a majority of voters should be allowed to determine the rights of minorities - especially unpopular minorities in the eyes of Christianists and (ii) the Christianist reading of the Bible condemns homosexuality and, therefore, all citizens must be forced to live their lives in accordance with Christianist religious beliefs.

Maggie Gallagher and the bigots at the National Organization for Marriage have been chanting the first refrain while self-enriching religious extremists like Pat Robertson have been ranting and proffering the second. Both arguments are disingenuous and brazenly ignore the U.S. Constitution's protections afforded to minorities.

Worse yet, these arguments against same sex marriage ignore what history teaches us about the misdeeds of majorities towards minorities not to mention the horrors done over the centuries based upon supposed justifications from the Bible.

In the context of the will of the majority and horrific mistreatment of minorities, examples of the dangers attendant to this line of reasoning are abundant. Some come from this nation's own treatment of African-Americans. Nazi Germany and what was done to over six million Jews and many others, including gays targeted by the Nazi regime. On his blog at The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan has a stark example of what the majority did to Blacks in the southern states - a situation that would have continued for who knows how long but for action by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congress: (Video clip here)

Today's link to The Onion, and the bile from Kathryn Jean Lopez and George Weigel [against same sex marriage], bring to mind this 1968 Firing Line broadcast where Buckley debates Judge Leander Perez, an ardent segregationist and, at the time, one of the most powerful Dixiecrats in the South. Here's one choice moment, in an argument that Weigel is repurposing:

Perez: "I am not a racist. I might mention I am against the Federal Government using its coercive power to force racial integration upon an unwilling free people..."

And later:

WFB: "Well, ... have you been widely misquoted? For instance, you're quoted as having said, 'Yes, the Negro is inherently immoral--yes, I think it's the brain capacity.' Is that a misquotation?"

Perez: "It's not a misquotation. It's the truth."

Four decades later, we are shocked to imagine that the likes of Perez were ever tolerated outside of a Klan meeting. History will look similarly on Lopez and Weigel, if they're ever remembered at all.

As a 1960 Time article notes, to Leander Henry Perez, 68, there are just two kinds of Negroes: "Bad ones are niggers and good ones are darkies." This example of leaving civil rights issues to be decided by the states shows the utter disingenuousness of not only the Maggie Gallaghers of the world, but also the current occupant of the White House who just last Thursday stated that he believes that marriage should be left to the states.

As for those who cite the Bible as justification for their bigotry, have we so soon forgotten the Crusades, the Inquisition, opposition to the abolition of slavery, support for bans on interracial marriage, and the subordination of women? And then there are the countless wars of religion where men, women, and children died needlessly simply because they subscribed to a different interpretation of the Bible or a different faith. As a column in The Huffington Post notes, the real issue that has the professional Christian set and the Catholic Church hierarchy with their panties in such a knot is the issue of power and control:

The reason for all the bluster should be made plain: old-time religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, is authoritarian, and its authority derives from a simple claim: "We have God's Word, and we'll tell you exactly how to obey it, or else." To accept same-sex marriage is to reject that claim. It's not society that's undermined, but these ancient, authoritarian structures.

Both of these arguments need to be refuted and the case made against them literally daily.

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Perhaps one should make a distinction between those who stood in the halls of Albany last week using their Bibles to preach hate and those many Christian clergy members who came last week and used their Bibles to preach love? I was there all week and advocated for same sex marriage everyday. Don't say I'm the same as the Christians who teach hate.

I *always* try to distinguish between Christians (like you, Rev. Emily), and ChristianISTS (like Archbishop Dolan, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher, Chuck Colson, Robbie George, and all their legions). I use a simple litmus test, pretty much based on the one used by Francis Bernardone on himself - those who pass get to be referred to as Christian, because they actually get the Good News, and those who don't, get the "ist" appended.

This way I can be critical of the bad ones without scattering the verbal birdshot over my friends and allies.

Emily, I'm sure I didn't read him saying that you were.

He has a major point, which is even further reaching and encompasses more evil than he wrote; should you immediately undermine it?

I saw no effort to differentiate between Christians in the piece. And, frankly, there was nothing new here. Everyone knows that the Bible has been used to justify all manner of things. I'm a queer, woman in the church who grew up in a racially divided South. You don't think I've had it quoted to me on more than one issue? The real issue here is how we engage religious leaders who support us so that we can counter these fallacious religious arguments.

Real progress won't be made until the influence of religion decreases in society in general - not just in politics. The hyper-religiosity of the US is an embarrassment for a first-world country. It needs to become a more secular country. That doesn't mean religion needs to be eradicated. Unfortunately that's an impossibility. But relegating it to a cultural backdrop is realistic in the long run. People simply need to stop taking it so damn seriously.

What about differentiating between "religion" and "faith"? I'll be the first to say that civil marriage has nothing to do with religious marriage, but the reality is this issue is being fought along religious lines. We need people of faith who speak that language too.

As long as we have to put up with religion, I certainly agree that personal faith or spirituality is preferable to organized religion. If people just kept their beliefs to themselves (like in much of Europe) and maybe in their churches, we wouldn't have these problems - and not just about homosexuality.

Generally speaking though, reason trumps faith. Faith, per definition, is belief without evidence. And that's an incredibly dangerous thing for human progress.

Using your reasoning, apparently there were no radio waves in the universe until the mid-17th Century, when scientists such as Faraday and Marconi began experimenting with electromagnetic flux and first noticed evidence of radio waves.

Previous to that, there was no "evidence" that radio waves existed. Apparently you would assert this despite all the principles of physics that cause scientists to "believe" that the Big Bang produced radio waves.

In other words: The lack of scientific evidence does not prove that something does not exist. If you relied totally on reasoning as you claim you do, you would be an agnostic, not an atheist. Thus, your belief in atheism is a form of "faith".

Not this again. The burden of proof is always on the one making the assertion. And religion makes such extraordinary claims with such wide ranging consequences that believers better have some very convincing evidence.

Prior to the discovery of electromagnetism, people didn't believe in its existence. There were several ideas to explain natural phenomena and electromagnetism is the one that was borne out in experiments. But there were no real applications of it that required to take something on faith in order for them to function.

It's also possible to have faith in material things. For example you can have faith that a friend will be there for you when you need him because you trust him so much. But at least you know that the friend exists.

I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't know whether gods exist or not for sure (though we can be pretty certain that they don't), but I don't believe in any of them. The two terms aren't mutually exclusive. One refers to knowledge, one to belief.

The burden of proof is always on the one making the assertion.

This is pure pseudo-logical bullshit.

End of discussion.

Ok, maybe it's not "end of discussion" but all I can do is repeat what I said in comment at 1:07 PM.

You say "One (agnosticism) refers to knowledge, one (atheism) to belief."

And I said, "Thus, your belief in atheism is a form of 'faith'."

Although "faith" and "belief" do not always mean exactly the same thing, in this instance I fail to see any significant difference.

I should not have said "bullshit" -- but your stance which I put in italics above is arbitrary, and ultimately a mere semantic ploy. "There is no god" is just as much an assertion as is "There is a god." Inserting a negative does not, in any logical sense, transfer the "burden of proof" from one side to the other, nor do I accept the notion that there is any natural "default" position.

Let's be gentlemen and just agree to disagree -- I don't want to bore the other readers, nor do I want to get TOS'ed.

Yeah, there is really no point as we disagree about some fundamental starting points, though we may ultimately after a long-winded detour end up at roughly the same conclusion. For example, "no gods" is definitely the null hypothesis as far as I'm concerned.

It's also quite off topic. This has been discussed at length in various atheist forums already.

Without any animus toward Steve's secularist views, some of which I share, I add that faith is often the motivation for campaigns of social justice, the obvious 20th Century examples being MLK and Gandhi.

It is unfair to badmouth religion in general without also mentioning all the good it evokes, in individuals and in the world itself.

Rev. Heath,

With all due respect I am not saying that all Christians preach hate. But unfortunately, far too many do and all too often their voices seem to be the only ones heard. Due to copyright issues, this photo was not used in my post - to me it speaks volumes: http://www.newsweek.com/content/newsweek/photo/2008/01/16/photos-segregation-in-america/_jcr_content/body/photogallery/image19.ratio.window.false.jpg

The photo demonstrates that how the Bible is being used by some to defend hate towards gays is not a new thing. We are merely the latest preferred target. All of us need to speak out against the false Christians like Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Archbishop Dolan, et. al., who have made Christ's message into something truly ugly.

So, why not add a simple line about how not all Christians are like this? Trust me, I know what has been done in the name of Scripture. I'm from the South and am very well aware of how the Bible was misquoted in the fight for racial equality. I also know that a lot of good Christians stood up in that fight and fought against those interpretations. The same thing is happening now. On Friday night, after being in the Capitol all week long, I went out to the after party at a local gay bar. There a DJ I had never seen in the Capitol all week starts spouting off about "Christians". We don't like it as LGBT folks when we get painted with a broad brush. We shouldn't do it to other groups.

I very much agree with Rev. Emily and I think that the use of the term "Christianists" should be encouraged as the appropriate reference to those who claim to be Christian but do not understand the social justice message of the gospels. Those Christianists whose faith excludes us, and who do not understand that we are all children of God, will - if there is any truth to the Gospel - find themselves on their day of judgment numbered among the goats, because what they have done to us, they have done to their own God.

Myself, I'm technically no longer Christian, having shaken the dust of Roman Catholicism off my feet after they threw me out. I have come to embrace Unitarian/Universalism after finding that in my unraveling of the faith side of my equation (I had already kown the RCC is wrong on so many aspects of the moral side), I was doing pretty much the same thing that Thomas Jefferson did many years ago - eliminating the miracles, the resurrection, etc., and still being left with some awesome teachings.

I too had a gut full of the hipocrasy of the church and how the Bible was used to condem some people. I have been a Pagan for 30 years and joined the UU a few years ago. I always thought the Bible was a good book and Jesus is on my list of people whom I would love to have dinner with. Faith is personal and ones interaction with God/Goddess is to fulfill our spiritual needs and guide us to be better humans. To be told what to how and what to believe based on a collection of writings edited down to one book gives the church power over the sheeple. That power has lead to destruction on many levels. I don't think that God/Goddess wants us to destroy ourselves or others. Jesus would be pissed off to see and hear how his name and teachings are abused.

I used the term Christianist bioth in the caption of the post and in the body of the post. If you've followed my writings here and on my own blog - http://michael-in-norfolk.blogspot.com/ - when I use the terms "Christianists" or "professional Christian set", I am not referring to what I view as good and true Christians. I'm talking instead about the Tony Perkis, Maggie Gallaghers, Peter LaBarbera, Pat Robertsons, etc.

On a personal level, I'm like Joann. I've also left the Roman Catholic Church because of its morally bankrupt hierarchy which attackes LGBT citizens while protecting child rapists and adopted a Jeffersonian approach to religion.

What I really would like to see both in print and in the news media coverage is for good and true Christians to start calling out the Christianists and condemning their perversion of Christianity. Too many seem more worried about denominational "unity" than challenging the haters directly.

I'm neither Christian nor Christianists, but I agree with Michael that there is an important difference. I also think that he made that distinction pretty clearly in his post.

Admittedly, this is all "old news" ...

But as long as the Christianist Right re-launches argument (i) again and again, we need to point out that one major purpose of the Constitution, and the principle of law and order in general, is to protect the rights of an unpopular minority against the bigotry of the majority. (However, we need to be wary here, because so far, no same-sex marraige rights have been declared based on the federal Constitution -- although a few state constitutions, such as Iowa, have been ruled in such way.)

Ironically, when fundamentalist Christians find themselves in the minority, as they are in many foreign countries, listen to them stand up and champion the rights of religious minorities and how the local government should protect them!

Argument (ii) comes from what I call the Christianist Taliban -- the subset of evangelicals who explicitly or implicitly assert that the United States is an official Christian nation (conveniently, this is unofficially "official") and the government should be based on Christian principles.

Here, we need to be gallant defenders of the First Amendment, every word of it, and point out to them as many times as necessary that Freedom of Religion does not include the guarantee that they can live in a society where the majority, or the government itself, sees things just as they do. Christians thinking they can live in a world ruled by Christianity are no different from white racists who claim they have a right to live in a society free of non-whites. So let's perfect our own message so that it sketches out their bigotry in as clear a picture as we possibly can.

The quote by Clay Farris Naff from HuffPo hits the nail on the head -- this is not about morality as much as it is about maintaining the politics of religious authoritarian power -- and the quickest way to eliminate such authoritarianism is to openly defy it.

> ...all citizens must be forced to live their lives in accordance
> with Christianist religious beliefs.

Its hardly just minorities, or marriage they use their man-in-the-sky to justify outrageous megalomaniac tendencies over others with no connection to their faith. The list stretches from before the cradle to the grave. Birth control, abortion, through education, to how we die.

We had an amazing TV documentary by terminally-ill author Terry Pratchett recently, where he was with someone as they died, peacefully, on camera, at the Dignitas establishment in Switzerland, which was incredibly moving. On the BBC that was immediately followed by a supposed debate in which advocates of reform to the laws in the UK against assisted suicide were faced with religious fanatics. One woman, with multiple sclerosis, who has taken a court case to try to ensure that her husband is not imprisoned if her accompanies her to Dignitias, and so achieved new guidelines from the Crown Prosecution Service, made the very acute point that those opposite were using exactly the same arguments as they had used against human rights for homosexual people, and they made no more sense now.

The point is that certain believers in a single god think that gives them the right to control how everyone else lives and dies, and will use any tactic to ensure that. Say anything in the process, because they are "doing God's will". In fact they are just control freaks.

In a mature society one must just nod in polite acknowledgement of their right to say and believe what they will, then move on to discuss the practical realities, problems and necessary safeguards. Anything else is to submit to tyranny.

JerrySloan | June 29, 2011 3:00 AM

Speaking of people of faith speaking, we keep hearing from our side and many of our friends "the writing is on the wall."

We should start carrying signs to NOM and other opponets which say:

Mene Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

Thou are weighed in the balances and found wanting

Daniel 5:25-28

Christine | June 30, 2011 7:41 PM

As long as moderate (reasonable) Christians remain silent and allow their rabid brethren to continue painting their religion as a vicious gang of mean-spirited busybodies intent on forcing their lifestyle on everyone, they will have nobody but themselves to blame for the decline of their churches.

Even if they were to step forward to say something along the lines of, "Personally I believe homosexuality is a sin but that is between other people and God, and it is not my place to take their free will away from them," that would be far more honest and respectable and CHRISTIAN than what the likes of Maggie Gallagher, Rick Santorum and the rest of those pandering opportunists and whackjobs are doing.