Nel's New Day

March 3, 2019

Religion, GOP’s Desperate Hypocrisy for Control

Yesterday, I wrote about the values of Republicans who attacked Michael Cohen, former fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing. Walter Einenkel, social media editor and writer on Daily Kos, has produced a compilation of their specific values. The following are all GOP committee members who attacked Cohen’s character. Their behavior reflects their personal values:

  • Jim Jordan (R-OH): He denies the allegation of complicity in multiple sexual assaults against athletes while he was assistant coach, but the accusations are credible. The other congressional Republicans protected him.
  • Clay Higgins (R-LA): He resigned his job as an Opelousas (LA) police officer to avoid disciplinary action for using “unnecessary force on a subject during the execution of a warrant and later lied during an internal investigation.”
  • Virginia Foxx (R-NC): She claimed that she didn’t know that “tar baby” is a racial slur and that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime, but instead “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing [hate crimes] bills.”
  • Jody Hice (R-GA): He wants to remove Muslims from any First Amendment protections with the claim that Islam is not a religion.
  • Mark Green (R-TN): He said that people should get their health care from God, not Medicaid, and his disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBTQ people are so extreme that he had to withdraw his nomination for DDT’s Secretary of the Army.
  • Paul Gosar (R-AZ): His seven siblings opposed his election and supported his opponent, perhaps because he subscribes to conspiracy theories such as Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros funded and organized the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S., including the violent rallies in Charlottesville (VA) and most recently said that climate change doesn’t exist because of “photosynthesis.” He’s the one who said, in his adult fashion, “liar, liar, pants on fire” to Cohen during the hearing.
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY): He met with Maria Butina, arrested for being a Russian spy.
  • Mark Meadows (R-NC): He lied about having a college degree and claimed that he wasn’t a racist during the hearing although he campaigned as a “birther” while President Obama was running for a second term.
  • Ralph Norman (R-SC): He pulled out a gun at a townhall meeting and left it lying on the table in front of him in violation of state law, but high-level friendly officials exonerated his actions.
  • Bob Gibbs (R-OH): He compared serving in Congress to serving in the military to wipe out his veteran opponent and sent fliers to influence the Democratic primary.
  • Glenn Grothman (R-WI): He has a long history of saying crazy things such as marriage equality should be illegal because it does a disservice to men who fought in the Civil War and college Pell Grants “discourage marriage.”
  • James Comer (R-KY): He was sued for threatening a senior state legislative staffer who reported allegations of sexual harassment to his superiors while they were both in state legislature.
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-ND): He has a history of driving infractions—a DUI conviction in 2001 that he tried to get out of and more recent citations for using a wireless communication device while driving and speeding in North Dakota.

That’s over two-thirds of the GOP members of the Oversight Committee who failed to defend DDT’s actions in exchange for smearing Cohen throughout his testimony. The other five members are new—first or second term—and standard far-right, Christianity only, gun-loving, climate deniers.

Christian Republicans elsewhere are standing up for their religion.

Some of them celebrated West Virginia GOP Day with a poster connecting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the terrorism of 9/11 because she is a Muslim. The arguments about the image in the capitol rotunda became so heated that the state House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned after her anti-Muslim remark and another person was injured. Last month, a West Virginia legislator was called on to resign after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” It’s the state that believes in freedom of religion—if the religion is Christianity.

In December 2018, a girl was bullied after her mother sued the Mercer County School District for teaching the Bible as fact.

Fundamentalist Christians have become so rigid that they think even Catholics don’t deserve religious freedom. DDT’s waiver permitting a South Carolina foster care agency to discriminate kept same-gender parents from becoming caregivers for children; now the agency is discriminating against a Catholic because of her faith. The Catholic woman was not only rejected as a foster parent but also told that she could not volunteer with the agency because it wanted only the “right type of Protestant church.” The biggest foster care agency in the state, Miracle Hill Ministries refused to work with a Jewish family in 2017. The governor rescued them with an executive order allowing the government-supported agency to discriminate, and Miracle got its federal waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services in January. This sentence in Miracle’s foster care manual may need revision:

 “In accordance with Federal and State laws and South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) policy, this agency and contracted providers for foster care and adoption services are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability.”

During the past ten years, the number of South Carolina home placements has been flat while the number of children in foster care has spiked. In addition, South Carolina law requires that foster children receive religious education “in accordance with the expressed wishes of the child’s natural parents.” The exemptions for Miracle permits it to “effectively terminate biological parents’ rights to direct their children’s religious upbringing while those children are in the care of the child-placement agency or a foster family,” according to a lawsuit. Another lawsuit is challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” law for adoption agencies.

The evangelical legal service Alliance Defending Freedom is suing on the behalf of homeless shelter Hope Center in Anchorage (AK) for the “right” to deny assistance to transgender people. The shelter wants an exemption from the city to discriminate in violation of its law and say that charities should be able to deny access if they want. Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart said that the suit has not proceeded because Hope Center refused to cooperate with the investigation. Rather than being threats, transgender people are the most likely targets of physical and sexual abuse.

In his speech at last week’s conservative CPAC conference, VP Mike Pence said that “freedom of religion” is under attack, and the above examples prove that he’s right. What he wants, however, is freedom of evangelical religion to oppress all others. Pence’s religion is attacking LGBTQ rights, denying health care to people, limiting medical providers to communicating only his own non-medical beliefs, keeping children from finding good homes, rejecting scientific education for young people, in short, complete control of all people in the United States with his far-right Christian sexist, racist, homophobic beliefs.

Many times, I’m proud to live in Oregon, and this week is one of those times. The City Council for the state’s largest city, Portland, unanimously approved a measure giving civil rights protections for atheist, agnostic, and other nonreligious residents in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Madison (WI) may be the only other city in the United states with similar protections.

What a strange country where people have rights–or no rights–based on where they live.

 

June 4, 2017

Is This the Direction for People in the United States?

 

On his visit to the Middle East, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told the world that the United States shared values with Saudi Arabia. Now its King Abdullah will define atheists as terrorists to continue the nation’s repressive laws on political dissent and protests that it claims can “harm public order.” Royal Decree 44 criminalizes “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom” with prison sentences of between three and 20 years. Article One of the new provisions defines terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Saudi money is being sent to Europe to create its fanatical version of Islam throughout Germany. Instead of moderate Islamism, the push is toward the Wahhabi supremacy of Sharia law and use of violent jihad and takfirism to kill Muslims not following the Saudi interpretation of Islam. Almost all terrorist attacks in the West are connected to Saudi Arabia with almost none to Iran, excoriated by DDT.

Those who think that this idea can never move to the United States need to realize that DDT will do anything to pander to his base of evangelicals and VP Mike Pence is a “Christian” first. One of his leaders, Pat Robertson, has called for parents to beat non-Christian children if they don’t respect Christian beliefs. On his television program he told a woman upset because her grandchildren don’t follow her beliefs to “take that kid to the woodshed and let him understand the blessings of discipline.” He further told the women that the grandson would go to prison if a “strong male figure” doesn’t give him that “discipline.”  Robertson advised before predicting that the kid would end up in prison if a strong male figure didn’t start beating him right away.

Robertson’s form of child abuse follows Glenn Beck’s call four years ago to physically abuse children until they believe in God. Two years before that, fundamentalist Christian parents beat their nine children in the name of God and killed one of them. Across the country “Christians” are following the advice of Robertson and Beck. Robertson’s solution of child abuse is against the law if it results in physical harm or death–at least for now.

Religious Right activist “Coach” Dave Daubenmire (right) is calling for “a more violent Christianity” and gave DDT and Greg Gianforte as examples of men who are properly “walking in authority.” Gianforte is the new Montana U.S. representative who threw a reporter to the floor and continued to attack him the night before his successful election. Daubenmire played a clip of DDT shoving another world leader aside at the NATO summit to show that DDT “is large and in charge.” He added about DDT, “He just spanked them all.” Daubenmire said, “That should be the heart cry of Christian men. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and violent men take it by force.”

Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin thinks he can solve the problem of community violence in Louisville through prayer. His plan is to send roaming prayer groups to needy areas that will walk around and pray with people two or three times a week for the next year. Bevin thinks that prayer can take away the need for investment in housing, education, and health care.

In Michigan, Rep. Tim Walberg told his constituents that God would “take care of” the climate crisis.

In late May, Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate and father of White House communication staffer Sarah Sanders, joined 5,000 Israeli settlers with an armed guard to perform religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb in Palestine’s West Bank. With him was Israeli Parliament member Bezalel Smotrich who wants to murder all Palestinians who refuse to admit their inferior status. Later Huckabee met with parliament member Yehudah Glick, called “the most dangerous man in the Middle East” by Israeli police. Glick’s goal is to bulldoze an Islamic holy site and build a Jewish temple in its place before creating a theocracy over all residents in the Holy Land.

According to Calvinist evangelicals, wealth is a sign of God’s approval, a reason that they consider DDT to be God’s anointed. Some people are just destined to accumulate material things, at the expense of others, while others are simply relegated to a far lower place. Combined with fundamentalist reverence for authoritarianism, DDT had the characteristics for the evangelical leader.

In his campaigning, DDT promised Christians that they would not be persecuted if he became president. The GOP has used the persecution myth for decades, but DDT sold it to them to get elected. Now women are being persecuted with the Christian law of the United States. DDT appointed Charmaine Yoest, the former president of an anti-abortion group, to lead public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. He followed that egrigious choice a few weeks later by naming another anti-abortion advocate to oversee the Title X program with the responsibility of allocating $300 million a year in family planning funds for low-income people. Teresa Manning is also in charge of shaping policy and regulation about contraception and teen pregnancy. Her philosophy that family planning is only among “a husband and a wife and God.” She also thinks that contraception doesn’t prevent pregnancy but instead increases the number of abortions. She said, “The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous.”

The past decade has seen increasingly abusive laws for women seeking abortions, and DDT has moved on to controlling contraception for women. DDT’s executive order about eliminating the health care birth control mandate hasn’t appeared yet, but leaks have provided an idea of its direction. If he signs the existing draft, any employee can declare a “belief” reason to stop providing free contraception through their insurance plans. Because of “Obamacare,” teen pregnancy has hit an historic low.

DDT claims that women can get contraceptives from a family member’s health plan, buy separate insurance for them, or use “multiple other federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives.” He didn’t specify which ones because he also wants to close down Planned Parenthood in exchange for “crisis pregnancy centers” that don’t provide contraceptives. Losing Planned Parenthood will leave almost 1.6 million low-income patients with no family planning care—and maybe no insurance if employees deny them. DDT also wants to largely defund Medicaid, another source for contraception for low-income women. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief.

Before the removal of contraception came DDT’s executive order protection of “religious liberty,” removing constitutional rights of others. An example is hospitals which can deny services, fire people on a Christian basis, and refuse federally-mandated retirement regulations and disclosures through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. An example of religious firing was an employee at a faith-based addition center in Missoula (MT) because she didn’t pray hard enough.

The U.S. is already one of the most extreme fundamentalist religious countries in the world, according to scholar Noam Chomsky. Over 42 percent of the people in this country think that the world was created 10,000 years ago by the hand of God, and these people are a political force, controlling others with their beliefs and fear-mongering. The problems of the nation come from income inequality inculcated by huge corporations, but the DDT supporters blame anyone who isn’t white. Yes, the United States shares values with Saudi Arabia, basing its laws on religion and calling for physical punishment. The question is how far the pendulum will swing to the right before it returns—if it ever does.

January 12, 2014

Entitled Christians Need to Adapt

Flying SpaghettiAlmost 50 years ago, religious conservatives started taking over the nation by stealth, getting elected to school boards and town councils before moving into higher office. Progressives may be taking a page out of their plan book. This week, Christopher Schaeffer, a Pastafarian minister, was sworn into office and joined the Pomfret (NY) town council. Those familiar with his “religion” know that he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster with a spaghetti strainer as its symbol.

330px-Touched_by_His_Noodly_AppendageThe group was founded in 2005 to highlight the absurdities of religious fundamentalism in a protest to the Kansas State Board of Education permitting instruction of “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution. According to Wiki, Bobby Henderson’s letter to the board stated that “whenever a scientist carbon dates an object, a supernatural creator that closely resembles spaghetti and meatballs is there ‘changing the results with His Noodly Appendage.’” Henderson asked for equal time with intelligent design for his theory in public science classrooms .

Local Pastafarians added a Flying Spaghetti Monster display in Florida’s state capitol. Pomfret is the first municipality to elect a Pastafarian.

The overwhelming sense of Christian entitlement in the United States has been described by a man who is “coming out” as an atheist. After Ryan J. Bell, adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary, fell out with his life-long church, he was fired. The former pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist church criticized the way his faith treated women and LGBT members. Since last March, he stopped regular church attendance and took up the company of skeptics. Then he decided to become an atheist for a year. It’s reminiscent of John Howard Griffin’s Black like Me when he masqueraded as an African American in the South for six weeks.

Bell said:

“I will read atheist sacred texts—from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new ‘religious atheists’ (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible—scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers—to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.”

Within four days of his experiment, Bell had lost two teaching jobs and a consulting position with a California Seventh-day Adventist church. He learned more in that four days than through all his reading—how open atheists are marginalized in this country where Christians are privileged and others are considered deviants.

South Carolina wants to marginalize all school children and teachers who would prefer not to pray at schools—even public school. Last year a bill for mandatory silence didn’t make it through legislature so this year a lawmaker strengthened the bill to add the option of a teacher delivering a prayer if students are allowed to leave the classroom. That’s two kinds of pressure: peer pressure if teachers don’t want to deliver prayers; and ostracism if students don’t want to declare themselves “different” but don’t want to take part in a religious activity. “The important part is putting prayer back in school,” said a sponsor and Democrat, Rep. Wendell Gilliard. Next door, North Carolina allows public funding in private religious schools that discriminate according to religion.

Catholic schools involved with public funding are firing teachers who marry their same-sex partners. The most recent case to gain notoriety is that of Mark Zamuda, fired from his position as vice-principal of Eastside Catholic School (Bellevue, WA) last month after the administration learned he had married his same-sex partner in July. In his lawsuit, Zamuda said that he was told he could keep his job if he got divorced and then have a commitment ceremony. His firing was followed by student rallies and protests.

MerrowJennyAlthough Eastside doesn’t directly receive public funding, it is part of a religious system that benefits annually from $71 billion in tax exemptions. Last week, Eastside’s dance instructor/drama teacher, Stephanie Merrow (right), got engaged to her female partner of three years, Jenny Frazier.  The school is offering Merrow a contract as an “independent contractor” so that she can continue to work at the school. The school’s website claims it does not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation and marital status on their career page.

Catholics are also wielding their power on Capitol Hill again. Last week, another all-male committee hearing met to decide the fate of women’s reproductive rights with Catholic bishops front and center. The anti-choice bill adds tax penalties for women who exercise their constitutional right to end pregnancies. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the man who thinks that the rate of pregnancy is quite low among raped women, selected two witnesses for the H.R. 7, No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act–Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, and Helen M. Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University, and former spokesperson for the same USCCB secretariat.

When the Democrat’s one witness, Susan Wood, addressed the high cost of abortions,  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) snidely wondered how many abortions a woman needed a month. The religiously-inspired bill is obviously designed to discourage private insurance companies from even offering policies for abortions as well as preventing women from using pre-tax dollars in their health savings accounts for abortions. Lott explained that he “chose those witnesses because of their knowledge on the issue.” He evidently thinks that the celibate bishops know the most about women’s reproductive rights.

Is there a need for religion to adapt? Valerie Talrico writes:

“Christians see themselves as a light shining on a hill—a moral beacon to the world—and the faithful love to say that they have taken the lead in humanity’s moral growth, in the abolition of slavery, for example. Indeed many great abolitionists were inspired in part by their faith. But the darker reality was that Christian texts and teachings had been used for centuries to justify slavery and less extreme forms of economic servitude, and the Christian abolition movement emerged only in concert with broader cultural and economic changes. A close look at history suggests that moral and spiritual changes occur independent of religion, and then religion gives voice, organizational structure and moral authority to those changes—and often claims the credit.

“Why do churches so often have to be forced to admit what has become obvious on the outside—that slavery is wrong, that no skin color or bloodline is spiritually superior, that love can grow between two people of any gender, that women and children are fully persons and not possessions of men, that the pleasure and pain of other species matter profoundly, or that bringing babies into the world with thoughtful intention helps families to flourish?

“Religion, by its very nature, is change-averse. Each religion explains and sanctifies a specific set of cultural agreements—a worldview that is a snapshot of human history. Most of today’s largest religions emerged during what is called the Axial Age—a time in which male superiority was assumed, the wheelbarrow had yet to be invented, and nobody knew that the other side of the planet existed. People at the time were doing the best they could to understand what was real and what was good, what caused what, and, especially, why there was so much suffering and death. They fused what they knew about the way things worked with their understanding of human power hierarchies, and they made gods in the image of men, both literally and psychologically. They turned rules into Rules.

“At the time the original agreements emerged, many of them served human wellbeing. But what is adaptive in one context can be maladaptive in another—and what is moral in one context can become immoral in another. When rules become Rules, when they become sacred, people forget why they existed in the first place.”

The French Cardinal Panafieu said that Islam must adapt to secularity. The Christians of the United States need to follow the cardinal’s advice. U.S. Christian fundamentalists need to heed his warning.

 

May 12, 2013

Extreme Christian Beliefs Parallel Sexual Urges?

Tebow-JesusA classic behavior that men have with female prostitutes is to force them to their knees in an act of submission. The man must be totally in charge and tell the woman that she has been very, very bad and therefore must be punished. Or a woman fantasizes about totally helpless man, who is tied up. Think of Tim Tebow posing for GQ. Thus comes a parallel between extreme Christianity and kinky sex.

In religion, fundamentalism is used to describe a rigid adherence to existing doctrine without any flexibility. Although the term is frequently used to describe evangelical Protestantism, the Catholics have the same adherence. They both subscribe to the belief that the Bible should be taken as a literal document from God.

About the the similarities between sex and extremist religion, Valerie Tarico wrote:

“I am not suggesting that Christianity is all about sexual arousal, even sublimated or redirected sexual arousal, though that most certainly is a part of the picture. I am suggesting that kink and Christianity appear to tap an overlapping array of social and psychological impulses that include sexual arousal, moral emotions like shame and disgust, our tendency to seek hierarchy, our desire to escape rationality, our heightened sensory acuity in the presence of emotional arousal, and our tendency to take every pleasure to its extreme. In all of these, the themes of dominance and submission, inflicting pain, and receiving pain, have parts to play.”

Pleasure and Pain: Think of the writings of St. Teresa of Avila in her sixteenth-century vision of mystical union with God:

“In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by the intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.”

Mother Theresa said that love isn’t real unless it hurts and told a suffering woman that her pain is the kiss of Jesus. Her order, the Missionaries of Charity, practice self-mortification techniques such as wearing a spiked chain called a cilice. Other real Opus Dei mortifications are described in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.

Self-inflicted pain may produce a release of endorphins similar to that in runners when they push past a pain threshold. Although penance and self-mortification may not always be erotic, but, like kink, it is used as sensory enhancers.

Bondage and slavery:  Master-slave relations are frequently found in the Bible, beginning with Adam who sleeps with his female clone and Abraham who has sex with his half-sister/wife Sarah as well as her slave. Lot’s daughters, after being offered to a mob, get their father drunk so that they can conceive by him. The temptress Delilah ties up Samson and finishes her time with him by sapping his strength through cutting off his hair. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines—sex slaves. Unlike biblical stories, however, current BDSM sex must be consensual by all parties in order to be legal.

Tarico explains that “the most common stimulus in the Christian tradition is the crucifixion itself, with its glorified, beatific images of Jesus hanging and swooning, eyes half lidded.” The actual Jesus was have been a short, ordinary-looking Semite, but our culture has created him in a well-muscled, fairly tall image with perfect skin and a face of beauty, according to the artists’s perception. Sort of like Tim Tebow.

coffee_spankingDiscipline: Wife-spanking, like child-spanking, maintains God’s hierarchy, as defined by fundamentalist Christian leaders, “with the husband as the head of the household, and the wife as his helpmeet.” Spanking is used for the “four D’s” (Disobedience, Disrespect, Dishonesty, or Dangerous [as in dangerous choices… reckless driving, disobeying doctor’s orders, etc]). Some CDD marriages also use non-corporal disciplines, such as writing lines, or the temporary forfeiture of a favorite privilege.” The website justifies spanking by popular culture such as a coffee advertisement. [photo]

But spanking is done in the bedroom on a bare bottom in an erotic fashion. The preacher doesn’t spank anyone, man or woman.

Dominance and Submission:One BDSM website for Christians states, “A BDSM relationship between a dominant husband and submissive wife is actually the ideal of marriage set out in Ephesians 5:22-26 taken to its logical conclusion.” The author of Ephesians had this to say:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

The New Testament states, “It is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord. Women are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate” (I Corinthians 14:33-35). This theology of “male headship” teaches that a woman’s greatest glory lies in bearing children and serving her husband. Protestant reformer Martin Luther put it bluntly: “If a woman dies from childbearing, it matters not; she is there to do it.”

In the Bible, the policy of submission includes men housing concubines, claiming war captives, and giving away daughters in marriage. The Bible also sanctioned sex without the woman’s consent.  Tarico asks, “Do Christian teachings and practice simply draw on the same aspects of human psychology and physiology as kink or do they actually lay groundwork for BDSM sexuality?”

Those interested in pursuing sex in the Bible can find further information in Jennifer Wright Knust’s Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire and Michael Coogan’s God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says.

Coogan maintains that “there is sex in the Bible on every page, if you just know where to look.” Talking about “hands” or “feet” could be a reference to genitals, as in the Song of Solomon. In one passage, the prophet Isaiah threatens that God will shave hair from the Israelites’ heads, chins, and “feet.” In the Old Testament, Ruth lies down after dark next to Boaz and “uncovers his feet.” She then spends the night “at his feet.”

Knurst points out that the judgmentalism on sex in the Bible always has exceptions. The Old Testament permits divorce, but the New Testament does not—except in “Matthew” when he says that Jesus said he will allow a man to divorce an unfaithful wife. Divorce is permitted in the Old Testament—but it’s forbidden in the Gospels. Knurst also states that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about the danger of having sex with angels.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wants people to read the text only when they have someone to explain it to them. “[Not] everyone’s equally qualified to read it,” according to Mohler. “All kinds of heresies come from people who read the Bible and recklessly believe that they’ve understood it correctly.” (Back to the hierarchy!)

Control is also obvious in a letter from Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin after Rhode Island became the tenth state to legalize marriage equality. Among other offensive statements, Tobin cautioned that even attending a same-sex marriage would be spiritually damaging:

“Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.”

(I’m still trying to figure out what “cause significant scandal to others” means.)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is helping to lead the charge to drive LGBT people away from the Catholic Church. After an offensive column telling them that they will be “welcome” in his church if they “wash their hands,” a group of ten Catholics went to Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral after they had rubbed ash on their hands. 

Gay-Catholics-with-Dirty-Hands

The door was locked, and the police were called. Kevin Donohue, who identified himself as being in charge of operations for the cathedral, told the group that they could come inside after they “washed their hands.” The church must have been in great fear: they were surrounded by four police cars, eight uniformed officers, a police captain, and a detective from the Police Commissioner’s LGBT liaison unit.

Like the evangelicals, the Catholics have a policy of excluding LGBT Christians, their families, and their straight allies. Religious leaders are fond of the term “hate the sin; love the sinner.” Every time they repeat this phrase, they condemn people to life without love.

The Catholic Church puts masturbation on the same level as homosexuality, in that it “constitutes a grave moral disorder” and that it “is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act.” Yet I have yet to see a letter from a bishop about not masturbating or a column from a cardinal telling masturbators to wash their hands.

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