By now it's a famous tweet: "Inequality is the root of social evil." And Sister Simone Campbell was so radical Sean Hannity labeled her a "Communist." And the UCC has decided to stand athwart the conservative effort in North Carolina and say "Hey, how about us?
In what is believed to the first-ever lawsuit by a national Christian denomination challenging a state's marriage laws, the United Church of Christ hosted a press conference this morning at one of its local North Carolina churches shortly after filing the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C.I should just stop to praise this, because it makes an excellent point. The UCC Book of Worship has had a service to solemnize marriage for same-sex couples since before I entered seminary. Back then, no state authorized same-sex marriages, yet the UCC allowed pastors to celebrate them the same as any other marriage, anyway. It was a religious service, no more a violation of state law than the "healing services" I conducted more than once meant I was practicing medicine without legal authority (No, they weren't "faith-healing" services; it was spiritual reconciliation). But now North Carolina has made the practice of religion in the state a criminal act.
The State of North Carolina makes it a misdemeanor crime for clergy to officiate a marriage ceremony without determining whether the couple involved has a valid marriage license from the State. For those United Church of Christ clergy interested in conducting a religious marriage ceremony for same-gender couples, these clergy could be subjected to up to 120 days of jail and/or probation and community service if found guilty, since North Carolina marriage laws define and regulate marriage as being between only a man and a woman. As lead plaintiff in this lawsuit, the United Church of Christ asserts that these laws are unconstitutional and violate a minister's First Amendment rights.
Amendment One and other marriage laws in North Carolina are the only laws in the country that not only limit a domestic legal union to a covenant between a man and woman, but also make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn't obtained a license. The UCC believes that this prohibition and penalties also apply to a minister performing a religious ceremony not intended to result in a legal marriage.
This limitation on rights of ministers and others is in conflict with the UCC General Synod's "Equal Marriage Rights for All" resolution adopted in 2005. This resolution affirms "equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage."
But I bring it up because it makes this seem even more ridiculous:
Religion relies on social consent to perpetuate itself. It’s a bad idea, and can’t stand up on its own. But it can, and does, perpetuate itself through social consent. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that asking questions about religion is sinful, and that trusting religion without evidence is virtuous. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that joy and meaning and morality can only be found in religion, and that leaving religion will automatically result in a desperate, amoral, pointless life. It perpetuates itself through religious communities and support systems that make believing in religion — or pretending to believe in religion — a necessity to function and indeed survive. It perpetuates itself through parents and other authority figures teaching it to children, whose brains are hard-wired to believe what they’re told.
Religion relies on social consent to perpetuate itself. But the simple act of coming out as an atheist denies it this consent. Even if atheists never debate believers or try to persuade them out of their beliefs; even if all we ever do is say out loud, “Actually, I’m an atheist,” we’re still denying our consent. And that throws a monkey wrench into religion’s engine.This is so sad it almost provokes my pity. Religion depends on social consent? I will allow that Protestantism got along for a long time on the basis simply of social consent, but that consent started to be withdrawn in the 18th century in America, and tales of our adherence to Christianity as a nation have been grossly exaggerated (and mostly stem from Reagan's Presidency, not from Washington's). But what this article is actually about is personal identity: the author (and some of the comments at Salon) clearly indicate a wounded person looking for healing, and able to find it only by setting up an "other" which the individual can vanquish.
But building up your identity by creating an opposition you can constantly compare yourself favorably to (are atheists really throwing "a monkey wrench into religion's engine"? Has the Pope gotten this message? Or the UCC?) is just pathetic.
Religion bashing is undoubtedly popular; this post at Salon garnered over 700 comments in one day, many of them reflecting the same brokenness as the author. On the other hand, a Salon post about the UCC lawsuit today has so far gathered 20 comments as of the time I write, and will probably fade into oblivion by early afternoon.
Which is why I bring up the Pope, Sister Campbell, and the UCC in North Carolina. Religion bashing is becoming tedious (there's even some pushback in the comments at Slate. The atheist shtick is beginning to wear out its welcome.). I'm even tired of arguing with it.
I just want to put it in context.