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God and Country

God and Country

The Christian right these days is fond of proclaiming that here in America there is a War on Christianity. Isn’t it bizarre how the media likes to portray everything as a war – a War on Drugs, a War on Women, a War on Christmas…can we please just have a War on Media Wars? Anyway that aside, the Christian right is fighting back against what they perceive are assaults on their liberty to worship as they choose by left-leaning progressives and the Obama Administration.

Some of these have taken the form of laws meant to allow merchants or businessmen with certain religious principles (which are meant to be Christian – God help a Muslim who wants to run his business by Sharia law) to not be forced to do things against those principles by law. That’s all well and good, at least on paper, but the practice of it is more insidious.

The brouhaha in Indiana over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the surface sounds like overreaction; after all, 16 states have laws like it (including my own home state of Florida) and there is a national policy in place as well, signed into law by former President Clinton. However, the way that the RFRA was worded seemed to permit discrimination against LGBT citizens of the Hoosier state. Suddenly there was a ruckus as businesses in Indiana, concerned that they would have trouble attracting LGBT employees, began to complain and threaten to scale back their operations in Indiana as well as outright remove them.

The outcry was so loud and so deafening that governor Mike Pence hurriedly signed into law a revision of the legislation that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT citizens on April 2nd. However, there are similar bills similarly worded being discussed in state legislatures around the country, as well as an onerous bill in California (which to be fair is not going to receive any serious legislative attention) that would require all LGBT citizens to be put to death.

The right has been more successful in pushing through legislation that makes it harder for clinics that offer abortion to be viable. Texas has now fewer than five clinics serving an entire state of millions of women and there are states that are essentially putting restrictions on clinics that make it impossible for them to operate. The religious right is trying – and succeeding – in legislating abortion out of existence. This isn’t because there’s a glaring medical or legal need to do so; it’s because it’s against their religious principles. That brings up the question that our founding fathers wrestled with when framing our constitution; when do the rights of religious practice become more important than the rights of others whose values differ?

The answer that our founding fathers came up with was “never” and for 200 plus years our government has operated on that principle. However, the religious right now feels it necessary to force their values onto the nation as a whole. My values are that a woman’s body is her own and that decisions regarding whether she should carry a child to term is also her own, that workers have a right to organize and negotiate with the management of businesses on their own behalf and that LGBT citizens are entitled to the same rights and protections as straight people. So why are the values of Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Rick Scott more important than mine?

Well, because people continue to elect them and to elect state legislatures that believe as they do. But do the people get to trample the rights of others just because they believe it is okay to do so, or because their religion tells them that they should? Our constitution says no. Our founding fathers, many of whom were deists and not evangelical Christians, also said no.

The problem I have with the RFRA and the religious right dictating anti-abortion laws is that it emboldens wackos like the guy in Michigan whose auto repair business now gives discounts to open carriers and refuses service to the LGBT community. I don’t live in the area but I would choose not to take my car into his place of business in any case because not only do I not agree with his views, I’m pretty sure that people who do what he has done cannot be trusted to be competent at their jobs. I have a right to believe that way, after all.

But the guy certainly has a right to believe however he chooses. I would never threaten him with anything other than taking my business elsewhere; he claims he is getting death threats (which I find somewhat unlikely; the LGBT activist community has been notably non-violent) which is extreme. Nobody should die because they believe differently than you; that’s ISIS-like.

However, I do call on him to be consistent. If you’re going to deny service to those who the Bible says you should shun, then you need to deny service to those with tattoos; it’s forbidden in the Bible (Leviticus 19:28). Also, he should deny service to divorcees; forbidden (Malachi 2:16, Matthew 19:6). Those convicted of stealing (Exodus 20:15), or adultery (Exodus 20:14); also forbidden. And I’d check your customers breath for ham; that’s forbidden too (Leviticus 11:7-8). Usury is forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:19-20), so that would exclude most in the financial industry. And actually, those who carry guns should probably not get the discount either; after all, the commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and what other use is there for a gun other than killing? And if you say “It isn’t for killing, it’s a deterrent” than you should be able to carry a replica of a gun that doesn’t actually fire. After all, it’s a deterrent, right? Not something you’re actually going to use to murder somebody?

The point is that it is unlikely that most people who are Christian believe that a pork-eating tattooed divorced bank manager is someone that should be discriminated against. So if that’s the case, if we don’t accept that everything in the Bible is (no pun intended) gospel, then maybe the LGBT and abortion things shouldn’t be either?

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A Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s never the same way twice, even for the same couple. It evolves and changes as we evolve and change. But we still pursue it and when we find that special someone, the one we know we want to be with forever and ever, taking the next step can still be tricky. There are always doubts, there’s always fear. But, usually in the end, there’s always that feeling that while you’re life may be changing, it’s changing for the better.

That’s what marriage gives us – the arena to declare our commitment to each other, the means of joining two lives into one life together. It’s something of a miracle – considering the percentage of marriages that end up in divorce. Even so, when a marriage works it is the closest we humans get to heaven on Earth.

Marriage isn’t for everybody. Some people are just fine without it, but I believe that anyone who chooses to live together, join their lives and fortunes together are married whether any institution recognizes it or not.

Which is why I get so angry at all the so-called ‘Good Christians’ who seem hell-bent on preventing gay marriage. “It’s an abomination. Marriage is between a man and a woman period. The purpose of marriage is for procreation period. It shouldn’t be permitted because the Bible says it’s a sin.”

The Bible says lots of things are sins. Some of them are very much sinful, but others are kind of ridiculous and nobody really pays attention to them anymore. Apparently, sodomy is a sin – but most married couples (and plenty of unmarried ones) practice it every day. I don’t hear anybody moaning to make a law about that.

The fact of the matter is that there are no practical reasons to prevent it. If marriage exists solely for the procreation aspect, then should childless couples be forced to divorce? Should those who state from the beginning they don’t want children then not be allowed to marry? Of course not – and nobody says that those things should come to pass.

In fact the only reason that most people can truly give for gay marriage to be prevented is the belief that marriage should exist only between a man and a woman and that belief stems from only one source – the Bible. Now, I’m no expert on the Bible and I’m not here to bash it – there are a lot of valuable lessons in it that apply now three millennia after it was written, and that’s impressive. But I am one of those heathens who believe that the Bible shouldn’t be a source for civil codes of law.

I’m also one of those hopeless romantics who believes that love is a good thing no matter what form it takes and it should be celebrated as the precious commodity that it is. Yes, I’m a pansy and I admit it – love is more important to me than hate. Kissing is better to me than killing. I’d rather spend my day screwing the one I love rather than screwing people out of their cash, if you’ll forgive some bluntness.

I like to think I have a pretty decent moral compass. I like to think also that I’m fairly ethical. So it ticks me off when people say “If you believe that gay marriage is all right than you’re immoral.” That kind of thing is a crock. Morality has to do with what’s right and not following a 3,000 year old book (or more to the point, how people interpret that 3,000 year old book) lockstep.

Where I have to diverge from the Biblical aspects of the debate is solely the human terms. I’ve known a number of gay people in my life and I’m honored to call some of them close friends. I’ve also known a number of gay people in my life who are utter assholes.

The thing is, they are people. Just like you, just like me. You may not approve of who they are attracted to – but then again, I don’t approve of some of the people straight people are attracted to. But it’s none of my business to tell someone who to love. It’s not my place to even join that conversation. All I know is I found someone to love and that’s all I really need. If that makes me an expert, okay but quite frankly, given my romantic track record, I’m probably not the person to advise anybody on their love lives.

To me, the state shouldn’t be sticking its nose into anybody’s love life. Most conservatives believe that the state shouldn’t be regulating anyone’s personal life or at least as little as possible. However they seem to be okay about it when it comes to gay men and lesbians. In fact, they go out of their way to enact legislation or author ballot propositions that abrogate the right to marry for gay people.

Disallowing gay marriage marginalizes gay people. It trivializes them. It makes them second class citizens, social slaves. They can work, they can contribute to the economy but let them get married and enjoy life with their partners? No way Jose! And while we’re at it, Jose get your ass back over the border to Mexico where you belong! I don’t care if you have a green card. Skeedaddle. But don’t forget to pick the cotton we hired you to do boy!

Okay, the last might be a bit extreme but the mentality is the same in my book, or at least springs from the same source. It’s the kind of thinking that I find repulsive, that someone is less important than you because of something about them, be it their skin color, their religion or their sexual orientation. If you voted to make gay marriage illegal, it is exactly the same as voting to ban African-Americans from voting or for Jews to be sent to ghettos. Yes, I’m calling you a Nazi and a Klansman. Sorry if it’s painful, but the shoe fits you like Cinderella and her glass slipper.

I’m sure that’s going to make some people angry and maybe even strain or break a few friendships and I’m truly sorry for that. But I also hope it makes some people think about what they’re doing. Think about what the source of this all is. It’s not coming from a place of love, but from a place of hate and fear. As I said, I’m no expert on the Bible but I do know that it was meant to be a document generated out of love. Most of what Christ preached was about looking out for one another, caring for one another and loving one another. Is denying people the rights and privileges of marriage an act of love? Or an act of hate? You tell me.