Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh, Good Lord, here we go again....

Or should I say, "The stupid, it burns:"

Situations like this demonstrate, however, that while the appeal for many to most ardent believers in a faith is that it gives them power and control, that power is not, in fact, absolute. The church needs people in the pews to survive, and while those people are constantly told their role is to submit and obey, if they just decide they don't want to, the church is shown to be an emperor with no clothes. Thus, religion throughout history has had plenty of takebacks. The churches that used to preach segregation and white supremacy don't do so anymore, at least as openly. A lot of churches, especially more mainstream ones, are giving up on the argument that women are just support staff, and many are even letting them be ministers and priests. Either they get with the times on gay marriage, or they find their ability to exert power diminish. Since churches are about power, most of them will adjust over time. That's why they're freaking out now; they know what's coming.
I do love it when self-professed atheists tell me how churches function, and even more so, tell me the history of ecclesiology in one sentence.  If this post was any stupider I'd suspect it of being parody.  "People are constantly told their role is to submit and obey"?  IN WHAT FREAKING UNIVERSE?  Good Lord, if my only job as a pastor was to tell my congregation to "submit and obey", I'd still have a parish, and they couldn't have fired me!

And of course, there's this:

 In the meantime, every time a situation like this arises, where progressive change is demanded and churches resist mightily before giving in, a chunk of believers walks away, never to return. I think that's great. Good to see people realizing that in a fight between morality and faith, morality should win.
Note this does not apply to the United Church of Christ (which has supported same sex marriages since before I was ordained, and which has included a wedding service for same-sex marriage in its "Book of Worship" since, again, before I was ordained).  Nor does it include most of the mainline Protestant denominations which are not "evangelical" or "fundamentalist."  Which brings me around to this:

Anti-Gay Bigotry Is The Public Face Of American Christianity

It is only because it gets all the attention.  Maybe everybody missed the near dissolution of the Anglican Communion over a gay bishop.  Maybe everybody missed the mainline Protestant denominations which have chosen to honor same-sex marriages.  (Wiki has a convenient list here.)  I can't tell you the number of "press releases" the UCC used to make out of Cleveland (and probably still does) that vanished into a blackhole of "Meh!  Who cares?" created by the press which is supposed to tell us what the "public face" of any institution is.  I have no doubt the same condition persists with all the other mainline Protestant denominations.  Unless it is lurid (gay bishops!) or controversial ("Mormon's ain't Christians!"), it doesn't bleed enough to lead, or even to be reported by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

Or, to let the UCC speak:

  "The issue for all of us should be why one religious viewpoint is continually accommodated by the TV networks when there is a common misunderstanding in this country that all religious people hold a monolithic view on certain issues, such as reproductive choice, such as homosexuality, and this is not the case."

The reality in American politics is that religion is all supposed to be of the brand parodied in "Inherit the Wind" (which is fiction, not history), whether it is or not.*  And those of us who aren't mindless fundamentalists are mindless Catholic drones following orders from the Vatican.

The stupid, it does burn.

*Remember the ad no major network would run?  I'm sure that's the fault of the churches, too.


  1. If you'll indulge me speaking about journalists with the same broad brush-strokes and same amount of actual knowledge (I used to be a columnist for the school paper when I was an undergrad) as atheists speak about religious people --

    One of the goals in journalism is to take a complex situation and make a story out of it, as what we as humans understand best are stories. The occupational hazard of doing this for a living is that you yourself begin to think in simple, easy to understand stories/narratives ("He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you."). Indeed, in my experience, those who are attracted to journalism (and even more so those attracted to journalistic editing) are people who naturally think this way.

    There is a very simple narrative on religion that is the "natural" narrative for the kinds of "skeptical" people attracted to journalism to adopt: that is one of "fundamentalist religious folk vs. enlightened atheists". And what gets reported is what fits in the narrative and what gets left out or buried is what doesn't fit.

    I won't say that "liberal" reporters are intentionally being biased against liberal religion (conservative reporters certainly are, though), but the way they think is biased. And thus far, in spite of the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that many reporters are indeed skeptical, "liberal" people, the right (rather political or religious) has been far more successful at getting themselves at the center of the narrative than liberals have been.


    On a somewhat different note:

    The church needs people in the pews to survive

    For as long as I remember, there has been a constant gnashing of teeth in my own religious stream (Conservative/Masorti Judaism) about our movement's imminent collapse (as well as of the collapse of liberal religious movements in general). Why? Because as more and more people are becoming more secular, fewer and fewer people belong to religious institutions/attend religious services; however, those who are more religiously committed will gravitate away from what they perceive (quite wrongly, IMHO) as the watered down religiosity of liberal denominations and toward Orthodoxy/Fundamentalism.

    To a large degree this analysis is true. Yet the Reform movement in Judaism is doing reasonably well and Reconstructionist and Conservative shuls are surviving. I don't see the UCC disappearing anytime soon. Etc., etc.

    The fact is that liberal religious movements do fill a niche. It may be a smaller niche, but it is still a niche. A movement doesn't need to be growing all the time in order to survive. What's the problem if Conservative/Masorti shuls are not getting bigger and bigger if we are serving the (admittedly smaller) communities we have better and better?

    Does a church really have to fill the pews to survive? I know you have to have a critical mass in order to have a self-sustaining community, but once you have the critical mass, shouldn't the concern be with being a good church rather than being a big one?

    Of course, the obsession with constant growth is an American (if not peculiarly American) one, isn't it?

  2. In the late first century, disloyal cannibalism was the public face of Roman Christianity.

    Sometimes there is very little one can do. Though Justin and Athenagorus made admirable attempts.

  3. I just came here after looking at that second post you linked to, at a blog I used to frequent. I needed relief from the bigotry and I found it. Thank you.

    Amanda Marcotte being taken as credible on the topic of religion is only one of the more risible habits of the "rational community". The woman is a bigot who has a record of lying on the topic. Not that it bothers the "rational community" when someone lies about religion. She's to religion as Tony Perkins is to gay issues.

  4. Having looked at your wiki link, a friend of mine who is trying to talk me into going back to mass recently sent me this link to Catholic priests who will marry gay folk.

    I asked my very, very old Catholic mother what she thought of the Catholic Women Priests and their validity, knowing that she hoped she'd see women ordained in her lifetime. She's a bit uneasy about the irregularity of their ordination but she said she had to conclude that their claim of apostolic succession is valid.

  5. Amanda Marcotte being taken as credible on the topic of religion is only one of the more risible habits of the "rational community".

    I've recently discovered this sad fact. In a flap over Dan Savage's ill-considered words (inviting youth-organized-by-wingnuts to Play Victim, which they did), Marcotte displayed bog standard anti-theist acceptance of ALL that the wingnuts claim re "the Bible Sez about Homosekshuls!!1!"

    This Straw Man then demands 1) Acceptance of Bigotry *OR* 2) Utter Rejection of the Bible. No third option is possible.


  6. In the late first century, disloyal cannibalism was the public face of Roman Christianity.

    I've actually seen this argument made in blog comments re: Christianity.

    'Round and 'round it goes....

  7. That particular post of Amanda's is a wanton display of ignorance of Christianity. She should be ashamed of exposing herself in that manner.

  8. Windhorse3:31 PM

    I guess I was unaware or only dimly aware of the situation where stations refused to run the UCC ad. What an outrage! It really does illustrate how the deck is stacked against liberal and socially progressive Christian voices. The are being redefined out of existence by the media. We are forced to endure the bizarre ramblings of Koran-burner Terry Jones all over prime time news shows and treat him as if he weren't a sad, xenophobic extortionist but heaven forbid we see an ad for a church inviting everyone to come worship regardless of color or sexual orientation. If that is such a taboo issue how come Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins are on television almost every week giving the opposite opinion. Wither the objectivity of the Fourth Estate?!?

  9. Wither the objectivity of the Fourth Estate?!?

    Funny, innit? The ad was controversial, but Graham and Perkins and Donohue, et al., are not. Or at least controversial in an acceptable way.