With all this talk of "moral values," I wonder if we have any sort of future. The surge of intolerance of late is quite daunting, especially when you have religious leaders thumping the Bible as their authority for marginalizing or incarcerating entire groups of people (much like the mullas who thump on the Q'uran to incite boys to murder-suicide rampages). There seems to be no reasoning with them.
Make the suggestion that gay marriage does not affect their own marriages in any way, and they thump on the Bible and call you anti-Christian. Make the suggestion that the best way to reduce abortion is to empower women over their own reproductive systems, and they thump on the Bible and call you an inciter of promiscuity. Make the suggestion that a woman should have as much control over her own body as a man does over his, and they thump on the Bible and call you a murderer. And they will append to these and anything else that rolls off their tongues the ultimate accusation: "Liberal!"
Is the Bible a valid authority for civic decisions in this country? If so, which Bible? Old Testament or New? King James version or a more accurate translation from the Greek? With the Apocrypha? What about the Book of Mormon? What about the Torah or the Q'uran? No? What about the Book of J? The Dead Sea Scrolls? Is Luther the authoritative voice, or would it be John? What about Hinduism or Buddhism or Taoism? What about Wicca? Should we also count Scientology? The Hare Krishnas? What about the religions of the aboriginal peoples here?
Isn't turning to the Bible just asking for trouble? This country was founded upon dissent by people who did not want government telling them how to live. We've come a long way from those days of slavery and lack of suffrage â€” but I submit that is not because of the Bible but because this country has a secular government.
I turn to the Constitution of the United States of America:
Amendment XIV - Citizenship rights. Ratified 7/9/1868.
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
It's a slippery slope to start setting entire demographic classes of citizens into separate categories, and try to bend this Amendment to suit the intolerances of various majorities. It was a long haul to get away from those codified bigotries, and it's been a long haul since then for the people to catch up to the spirit and justice codified in the Constitution.
But now we have a very vocal, brazen, shameless effort to drag the country back to the 18th Century, when some citizens were more equal than others. The various laws against homosexual unions passed in the eleven states this past November are certain to come up for judicial review, and almost certainly will be found wanting in terms of equal protection (though nothing is certain given the partisanship of many of the Supreme Court Justices).
So now the advocates of intolerance are seeking to change the Constitution, so that their attitudes, based largely on religious doctrine, if we're to take them at their word, can be enforced by all the power of the government.
Already we're seeing challenges to another fundamental tenet of our republic:
Article IV. - The States
Section 1 - Each State to Honor all others
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
This is what the "marraige amendment" folks want to change in the Constitution. (There's a strange blindness about this issue in many quarters, including the African American churches. Maybe they don't see that the same logic could be applied to miscegenation, too. I'm sure some of the might very well be delighted at that prospect, but it's a rather slippery slope. Are we to open up the Constitution to amendment to appease the fears and intolerances of every majority class? I wonder of the "good white folk" would like that when Latinos become the largest ethnic group in this nation?)
Of course, there's one minor detail that those "moral values" folks out there fail to respect:
Article VI. - The United States
...This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
That means the Constitution, not the Bible, is the law of the land. But if that's not literal enough, Article VI continues:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. [emphasis mine]
Not only was the United States not conceived as a "Christian nation," the Founders in fact were very suspcious of any attempts to make any religion a part of the government. Of course, to make things even more clear, they passed Amendment I:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The deal is: the government won't make you worship in any particular way for any particular faith, but you in turn cannot make the government make anyone else worship in any particular way for any particular faith, either.
That is why religious justifications for civic matters of concern are inappropriate in our wonderful republic.
Why cannot we find common ground upon which we can agree? I submit that it's because evangelical leaders have made humanist values â€” "liberal" values â€” out to be evil. We cannot even agree upon reducing teen pregnancy because unless we embrace Jesus Christ, we are labeled as immoral and unfit to even engage in discussion. This pose is exacerbated by clowns like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, who make comfortable livings off of vilifying fellow citizens. Are they likely to sneeze at the nipple that feeds them? Not likely. (Wonkette holds out hope for Tucker Carlson. I remain skeptical.)
Case in point: I came across this little graphic shortly after the election (forgive me, I've completely forgotten whose blog alerted me to this):
Note where the "red states" fall in comparison with the "blue states." If results talk, it seems that it's the more Bible-oriented, "moral values"-based approach to teen pregnancy that is leading to more abortions, while the secular approaches of the "blue states" (with such "radical" approaches as providing sex education and access to condoms) seem to be much more effective in actually reducing teen pregnancy and abortion.
In light of this, how can the evangelical radical right blame "liberalism" for all the abortions in this country? Easy. Just thump on the Bible.