Nel's New Day

July 7, 2013

Religion: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Conservatives want religion taught in school–but just their own. California has a state law prohibiting the teaching of religion in public schools, and a San Diego couple decided that teaching yoga is religious indoctrination. Judge John Meyer in the San Diego Superior Court decided differently, and the Encinitas Union School District can continue to provide yoga as part of its health and exercise curriculum. Yoga, the judge said, is similar to other exercise programs like dodgeball. Encinitas Supt. Tim Baird hopes that teaching yoga to students will decrease instances of fighting and bullying.

At the same time, religious indoctrination is prevalent in Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, New Hampshire, Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, and several other states. Those opposing this can sign a petition calling for a federal ban on teaching creationism in school. Congress would have to pass any law against this, but the White House could cut federal funding from states that teach creationism in schools.

Many religious groups object to teaching creationism. According to the National Center for Science Education, at least 77 percent of people in the country who belong to the twelve largest Christian denominations belong to churches that support evolution education. A 2009 Pew Poll found that 87 percent of scientists support evolution and 97 percent say all living things on earth have evolved over time. Of a total of nearly half a million U.S. earth and life scientists, only a mere 700, or 0.15 percent, give any credence to creationism.

Federal courts are specific about creationism being theology, grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, not science. Creationists try to slip it into the schools by pretending that it teaches kids “critical thinking” skills, lumping it with other controversies, calling it academic freedom, and calling creationism something else but using the work “science.” Some public teachers ignore the curriculum and skip over evolution for creationism, telling their students that the Bible is more accurate than science.

On another front, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) lambasted the GOP after the last election for being the party of stupid, saying that they could not win elections if they kept the party tent small. Since then, Jindal figured that he had to assimilate the stupidity in order to be a viable GOP presidential candidate. His refusal to accept federal funding denies health care coverage to about 400,000 low-income Louisiana adults. As Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out,  the state’s overall national health ranking is 49th. Women in the state have lower-than-average cases of breast cancer, but the state also ranks 49th in breast cancer deaths.

When the federal government denied Louisiana funding for a program, however, Jindal got mad. The Young Marine Program, run by the Bossier County sheriff’s office, has a “special emphasis on the love of God” and requires that participants attend church. After Sheriff Julian Whittington refused to make the program open to all, he lost federal funding and believes that his rights are being violated. He said he doesn’t need money for the program; he just thinks that the federal government should give funding to religious programs.

After Whittington sent a letter of protest to the governor, Jindal spoke at the July Fourth “In God We Trust Rally” about how the government overreaches, prayer is not contagious, and freedom of religion doesn’t equal freedom from religion. Jindal, raised Hindu, should understand the unconstitutionality of oaths mandating obligations to “God” and requirements to attend “church.” Maybe conservatives just want a Christian mandate to receive federal aid for anything.

Hobby Lobby will continue its argument that corporations can be religious with the permission of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said that the arts and crafts company can proceed with its lawsuit against Obamacare because it requires that they offer birth control to their employees. The company will not be required to pay fines while the case is pending.

The judges wrote:

“Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable. The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity.”

Hobby Lobby and other companies challenging the contraception mandate claim that the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb. In fact, the medication keeps the ovary from releasing an egg before it can become fertilized, thus avoiding pregnancy. The company wants to impose its religious–and non-scientific–beliefs on its employees.

The Family Research Council is working with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and other anti-LGBT lawmakers to legislate an Ex-Gay Pride Month “to recognize former homosexuals.” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), the lead sponsor of the House bill to implement a constitutional ban on gay marriage, has been invited as speaker at the inaugural dinner for the project on July 31. The initiative comes on the heels of the closing of Exodus International, shutting down after over 30 years of “curing” gays and lesbians after its leader, Alan Chambers, realized that there is no “cure.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the man who refused to allow LGBT people into his Catholic Church until they washed their hands, is back in the media again. Documents released last week show that he protected pedophile priests while investigating charges against other priests. Six thousand pages of documents show how the Milwaukee archdiocese regularly reassigned priests to new parishes or paid them as much as $20,000 to leave the church after they were accused of sexual molestation. In addition to the payoff, priests were given a $1,250 monthly pension benefit and health and dental insurance, according to the released documents.

While Archbishop of Milwaukee, Dolan also asked the Vatican for permission to transfer $57 million to a trust fund so that it could be protected against court action. The Milwaukee archdiocese then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming that they lacked the finances to settle claims with the victims. Dolan denied these actions, calling the payoff accusation “false, preposterous and unjust.” This information may explain why Dolan wasn’t chosen Pope last spring.

Things are getting ugly in the world of Southern conservative religion. During his sermon, preacher Jim Standridge, 76, of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook (OK) called out a congregant for falling asleep. Then he attacked another one: “Where have you been? You’re one of the sorriest church members I have! You’re not worth 15 cents.”  Immediately following that statement, Standridge told the man to stand up, said he loved him, and gave him a hug. The rest of the sermon was peppered with other comments directed at churchgoers. To the man operating the church camera, he said, “If you loved me and submitted to me, you wouldn’t go about establishing your own kingdom in the video room!”

Standridge, a preacher for 50 years, said that he models his discipline of church members on the way that parents should discipline a child. He claims that these members “love and esteem” him.”

Disasters are usually blamed on LGBT people, this time the forest fires in Colorado. On Generations Radio, Colorado pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner added the state’s liberal abortion laws to the recent SCOTUS rulings legalizing some same-sex marriages as reasons for these tragedies. Their hypothesis is a bit off because the highly conservative city of Colorado Springs was hardest hit. Their belief in the punishment of God would therefore need to arrive at the conclusion that God is punishing the conservatives for their narrowness.

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.

June 21, 2012

Nuns Tour to Help Poor

The nuns are still on their tour although people who read only the mainstream media wouldn’t know it. There’s much more coverage on the bishops’ protesting birth control than the nuns’ protesting economic injustice for the poor. If nuns were men ….

The best coverage for the nuns’ activity on Tuesday, the second day of the tour, comes from Barbara Miner’s blog View from the Heartland, called “The Nuns Are Here! The Nuns Are Here!” She tops the story with a photo of 81-year-old Sister Diane Donoghue, as she snaps a photograph from a freeway pedestrian overpass in Milwaukee’s central city. Each week a group of people use well-lit placards to send messages to freeway travelers. Last night Overpass Light Brigade’s message was “Question Authority,” and the nuns marched with Overpass Light Brigade.

The energy of these women is phenemonal! Their walk across the overpass to highlight the anti-poor essence of the Ryan budget proposal culminated a 14-hour day. To quote Miner, “The nuns began with a 9 a.m. press conference at a food pantry in Iowa, got on the bus to Wisconsin, visited Ryan’s office in Janesville to deliver their budget critique, headed up to Milwaukee where they ate dinner at the St. Ben’s meal program in downtown, followed by a “Friend Raiser” at St. John’s on the Lake.” (I was tired by the time that they got to dinner!)

The Nuns on the Bus tour is organized by Network, a social justice lobby in Washington, D.C., that was founded more than 40 years ago by group of Catholic nuns inspired by the Vatican II reforms and religious involvement in civil rights, antiwar and feminist movements.

Some of the Catholic men in the United States are irritated by nuns believing in their support of the poor rather than the male opposition to birth control. In the New York Times, Bill Keller quoted Bob Donohue, president of Catholic League, as saying that Catholics who don’t want to follow the current Vatican should “shut up or go.”

Instead of helping the poor, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now president of the U.S. bishops organization that opposes the nuns, established a policy almost ten years ago to pay off pedophile priests to that they would go away and not be an embarrassment to the Catholic Church. The initial payoff was a $20,000 bonus followed by a $1,250 month pension and, until they found a job, health insurance. That may be why men in the Catholic Church don’t worry about the Ryan budget: pedophiles are rewarded with $15,000 a year plus health insurance. That’s more than 50 percent above the poverty level and more than 25 percent of the people with a job make annually in this country.

The nuns know about the need for a safety network in this country to keep people from being “food insecure,” but the Senate refused to keep an amendment that would keep $4.5 billion in food stamps funding. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NW) proposed that the money for food stamps would come from trimming the guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies from 14 to 12 percent and by lowering payments for crop insurers from $1.3 billion to $825 million. The Senate vote down the amendment by 66-33. The loss of this $4.5 billion for people in poverty means families will each get $90 less per month, about one-fourth of its food budget.

According to Gillibrand, “Half of the food stamp beneficiaries are children, 17 percent are seniors, and unfortunately now 1.5 million households are veteran households.” About 26 million people in the United States received this aid in 2007, while more than 44 million got it last year, at a total cost of $76 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that demand will continue to grow through 2014 because of the recession. At least the Senate doesn’t go as far as the House; their budget calls for $134 billion in cuts over 10 years.

Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said it was critical that Congress pass a farm bill soon “to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers.” There doesn’t seems to be a concern about “certainty” for people who cannot afford to buy food.

Bill Moyers is one journalist who is following the nuns’ tour. His website has  videos and a great interactive map of their 15-day journey. Thus far the bus has stopped at the state offices of Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Joe Walsh (R-IL), all who voted for Ryan’s budget and none of whom were available. Tomorrow they’re scheduled for Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Justin Amash (R-MI), both of whom voted against Ryan’s budget.

Monday they head to the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who supported the Ryan budget. In just Ohio, the Ryan budget would eliminate $72.6 million from the Head Start budget, more than $110.8 million in special education spending which affects nearly 63,937 students, and 177 million meals for families needing food stamps as well as ending a tax credit that would help 107,210 Ohio small businesses provide insurance to their employees.

Tony Vanacoro, a commenter on an article from Think Progress, said it best: “I am a complete and avowed atheist, but even I know it’s bad karma to piss off Nuns!”

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