Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Monday, March 30, 2015

Top 10 Things That Have Nothing Whatsoever to Do With Your Religious Freedom

10. Your lawsuit seeking to erect a religious displays at taxpayer expense or on public property.

I get it, I really do. Don't kill! Don't steal! Who could object to the Ten Commandments? Honor thy father and mother! Tell the truth! All foundations of any civilized society, surely? Little problem, though: commandments one through four. All of which have as their subject the One God, called by Jews Ha Shem, "The Name," so as to prevent their uttering the holy name without proper reverence. This is religious expression. Feel free to summon a group of people of many faiths. Let them come up with mutually agreed upon "Ten Rules for Good Neighbors." But unless you leave Ha Shem out of it, you are violating the anti-establishment clause.

9. What I wear in your presence.

Unless I am coming into your place of worship, or into your country with a particular antediluvian, anti-woman bias permeating all its laws, my clothing is of no relevance to your religious expression. Period. 

8.  Writing "Jesus is always the answer" on your trigonometry exam.

(That's just funny.)

7.The fact that your local high school doesn't begin the day with prayer.

You are free to pray. You are free to pray in the church or synagogue or national park or ocean or restaurant of your choice. You are free to pray alone in bed at night or in a mega-church filled with 4000 singing and clapping souls. You are free to pray, or not to pray. What you are not free to do is to force anyone else to pray. You are not free to foist your sincere conviction that prayer is a good thing (and we agree on that!) onto anyone else.

6. The fact that your employee uses birth control.

I realize I'm swimming against the stream here, but the Supremes notwithstanding, the use or nonuse of birth control by someone in your employ is simply none of your business. The fact that the Supreme Court has given its (male Roman Catholic) blessing to this restriction of women's medical insurance coverage is beyond appalling, and I am going to go on record saying: it will not last.

5. The fact that I attend a different church than you, or a synagogue, or a mosque, or the Church of Croissants and the Sunday New York Times.

You are free to worship as you choose, where you choose. Me too. My decision to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster is none of your business. Go home Arizona. You're drunk.

4. The fact that your local public library has the "Harry Potter" books in them. Or "Fun Home." Or "Middlesex."

There are all kinds of books out there. Wondrous things, books. Some of my deepest joy has been found between the pages of a book. By reading the diary of Anne Frank as an adolescent, I learned about both the particularity of Anne's experience as a European Jew in hiding during the second World War, and the universality of the experience of adolescence itself. "David Copperfield" probably saved my life at a certain point, enabling me to escape heartache for the periods of time I was able to immerse myself in Dickens' gorgeous prose and labyrinthine plotting. I held my breath during portions of "Into Thin Air," as the Mount Everest climbers' oxygen was depleted and they started walking into the deadly night and freezing to death. My point being, books take us out of our own little worlds and into those inhabited by others, even if only in their colossal and gorgeous imaginations. You don't need to explore any of those worlds if you don't want to. But you have no right, absolutely none, to prevent others from exploring, even the worlds that frighten you, threaten you, or don't have Jesus as their main character.

3. The fact that I can legally marry my partner, who also happens to be a woman.

Oh marriage. I have already shared many thoughts about the biblical notion of marriage. I happen to dig the bible... for the record, it is #1 of my five desert island books. And as I interpret the bible, God is a lover of people and a lover of covenants. God desires that we love one another (even going so far as to demand it of us). The bible even tells us that love is a gift from God, and that those who love are born of God. The fact that New York state gives me and people like me the right to marry the one I love, even when that person is not of the so-called "opposite" sex, in no way inhibits you from reading the bible as you do, or from marrying the one whom you believe God permits you to marry.

2. The fact that your local public high school teaches Darwin's theory of evolution.

It's science. Your not believing it does not make it untrue. Feel free to indulge in other theories, but until you get your PhD and make a case for your theory that is supported by 99.9% of the scientific community, our schools are going to teach it and our kids are going to need to learn it. It has nothing to do with Jesus.

This has nothing to do with Jesus. This is another instance in which I believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the bible is. The bible is a collection of 66 pieces of writing of many different genres. It contains poetry, and letters, and history, and law. It also contains a unique genre, the gospel-- which is not history, or even biography exactly (compare the four gospels to get a sense of what I mean). The bible also contains poetic liturgical descriptions of the creation of the world that are designed to point to God as the Author of all that is. The bible is, for people of faith, the story of God's relationship with people: God's creating us, covenanting with us, forgiving us, redeeming us.

But there's something that the bible is not, and has never claimed to be. The bible is not a science textbook. To look at the creation accounts in Genesis and call them "science" is to bend scripture to the breaking point. You are asking it to do something it was never designed to do. It's like trying to learn to drive by reading the Kelley Blue Book, or trying to predict the weather by reading "A Perfect Storm." You are not going to find what you are looking for there.

1. My need for a cake. Or a pair of gloves. Or car repair.

Alright. You are going to need to show me the part of the New Testament where Jesus tells you to discriminate against people because of their sexuality. Find me all the things Jesus says about gay people.

No, don't bother quoting me Matthew 19:5. Jesus is talking about divorce there, not about whether LGBT people can marry-- oh, wait,  were you going to discriminate against divorced people?

Ah. I see. Well, I'll wait here. When you find the part where Jesus says, "Love your neighbor, except for the LGBTQ one," come on back, and show it to me. I'm not going anywhere.

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