Is Christianity Confusing Religion and American Exceptionalism?

In this new Pew Forum poll, they take a look at the relationship between the Tea Party and Religious ideology. I encourage you to go and take a look at the findings. While I wasn’t surprised with the results in the least, there are too many factors to go into here. The poll as a whole got me thinking about the Tea Party’s seeming confusion of American Exceptionalism and Christianity. In reality, I’ve begun labeling (even if only in my own mind) the Tea Party as the “Christian Party.” I know that’s painting with a broad brush, and I know that not all Tea partiers are Christians, and I know that the official tenants of the Tea Party has nothing to do with Christianity…but let’s face reality and for once own up to it.

I came across another article while I was looking in to this subject which takes a different approach to this issue, but well worth the read.

Firstly, as for American Exceptionalism, I am among the first to see real specialty in the United States. Our growing diversity, the formation and rich history of the United States, and our continued growth as a society (traditional marriage just being one example).

However, I also am one of those who place our status as human beings over our status as Americans. I do not hold that the United States is perfect and always acts out of the best intentions. If we did always act out of highest regard for humanity, we would not still be a country today. I believe every country has to act out of self-interest while trying to behave itself at the same time.  I do not pledge allegiance to the flag (and haven’t for quite some time), not because I don’t love the United States, but because of a number of reasons having absolutely nothing to do with being an American.

In the summer of 2008, the rhetoric of the Tea Party became poisonous. We were all witness, if not in person then over the news, to the angry mob and groupthink mentality of hate spewing Americans who were fed up over what they view as high taxes (which means they haven’t seen this) and what they deem (from their religious views) as immoral. We also witnessed the genesis of the embarrassingly prominent Birthers movement, which was like putting a cherry on a dog turd.

Somehow, we’ve come to this place where America is viewed by many to be a Christian nation (thank goodness it’s not), and the way to show your Christianity in the political sphere is to be: pro-gun, pro-corporation, anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-social security, anti-government (in essence), laissez-faire, and treat the concepts of Communism and Socialism as issues of morality (along with carelessly interchanging them at will). Oh, and by the way, you also have to try to instill unfounded fear in the population and make sure to make ad hominem attacks on those who disagree. How is it that these ideas became entwined with what it means to be a Christian? I know there are plenty of Christians out there who are actually pretty socially progressive, and I appreciate that. However, they are either in the minority, don’t speak up, or are just completely overlooked.

Having everybody agree is not what has made America the nation it is today. Diversity of race, ideas, religious views, and politics is what makes America work. It’s messy, contentious, and often flat out ugly. I am the first to recognize that the majority of U.S. citizens fashion themselves Christian in some form or another. The real issue comes when we consider the rights of those not in the majority. Majority rule is a very, very scary thing.

Any politician is going to be dodgy when it comes to acknowledging that his or her religious views, or the religious views of his or her constituents play a part in the decision making. But once again, can we be honest? We all know that religion is the primary reason homosexuals are still unequal in regards to marriage. I don’t think there can be any argument that religion doesn’t play a role in the Tea Party or the Birthers, whether or not they own up to it. Religious views and outdated concepts of morality are consistently holding back the people in this country and getting in the way of the “freedom” of the individual that these same people are constantly espousing.

I find it troubling that the Christian Party is so active and powerful in this country. The thought that this majority is willing to step all over progress and individual rights while chanting “hate the sin, not the sinner” is sickening. Someday, perhaps, there could be an actual reasonable and constructive dialogue. Want to find a way to positively influence homosexuals and atheists and any other non-Christian that doesn’t live up to your outdated code??? Then take the plank out of your own eye first!

Atheist Marriage and Fidelity Litany

Okay, for the second time in one day I am referring you to Tristan over at Advocatus Atheist. Tristan has rapidly become one of my favorite bloggers out there discussing all things Atheist. A recent deconvert from Christianity, he shows a wonderful and mature insight into many areas.

Tristan has recently answered some very good questions from Wide as the Waters regarding atheist views on marriage, fidelity, and even Buddhism (Tristan’s wife is from a Buddhist background).

Enjoy…I’ve nothing to add.

Obama No DOMA!

While this news isn’t new (a couple of days old by now), I am so heartened by President Obama’s stand on the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder “has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.” But besides my happiness at the decision, I think I am even more impressed with the reasoning behind it. Obama noted that the congressional debate during passage of DOMA “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” I am so in to that reasoning, I think I’ll post it again:

[Congressional debate during passage of DOMA] contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.

While this decision will of course raise the ire once again against Obama, to me this represents the beauty of our system of government. We cannot base a system of laws strictly on moral grounds. While it’s an important place to consider, we cannot place the religious/moral values of the many on a level that infringes the rights of a minority. Before you take me to task on that statement, that is not a blanket statement for every situation. When it comes to marriage between consenting adults then it absolutely rings true.

We make a big issue out of the “sanctity of marriage,” and “traditional family values.” The problem is that the people who spout these phrases either don’t consider the consequences to other people, or don’t care. Consider the rights you have as a married couple…spousal rights, property rights, hospital rights, end of life decisions, beneficiary rights, etc…These are established in law. And the fact is, when we deny marriage to other consenting adults, we deny them these protections as well.

If there were actual reasoning behind this country’s refusal to recognize gay marriage, I’d be open to listening. The problem is that the only reasoning anyone ever talks about is moral…which let’s face it, is code for religious beliefs.

So yes, I am very proud of our President for making a tough stand, and even more so for having reasoning behind it.

 

Note: Quotes retrieved from article Obama: DOMA Unconstitutional, DOJ Should Stop Defending in Court

 

 

 

Okay, So I’m Angry Over a Movie Review

Really, I try hard not to get worked up over what I perceive to be ignorant comments, viewpoints, etc…But I can’t help it with this. I didn’t even want to link to it, however, my rant will make no sense if I don’t show on what I’m ranting.

Disclaimer: the reviewer who is being reviewed here will henceforth be known as Tool. I will always capitalize Tool out of respect for this Tool.

I watched the movie “The Kids Are All Right” a couple of weeks ago. So enough time has passed now that I have likely forgotten much of the movie. However, I can tell you that I was truly engaged in this movie from the start. While it isn’t fast-paced, I found it gripping. The character development was deeper than we get on most movies today, seemingly. While the family is a brother, sister, and two lesbian mom’s, this story wasn’t about lesbian parenting.

This movie did a fantastic job at showing the family as a typical American family in the 21st century. This is a family, while not necessarily among the status quo, who is dealing with the same day-to-day issues. The moms are dealing with the same challenges most all married people deal with after having been married for many years. The kids are dealing with sex and identity just as the majority of teenagers deal with in real life. The characters are deep, complicated, and human. I highly encourage anyone of age to see this film.

The purpose of this post is not to expound the virtues of the movie. I don’t need to do that, the movie speaks for itself. Instead, I came across this movie review and it really, really upset me. I get that this review is coming from a Christian perspective, however, I think Christians themselves should be angry over these people. This post would be way too long for me to go into everything I would like, but here’s one example that really raised my eyebrows:

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a despicable, crude, obscene example of the moral perversion running rampant in today’s godless secular humanist society and in the homosexual “community.”

Really? The homosexual “community”??? I cannot tell you how irritated I am at the patronizing effect of those simple quotes around the word. I am not homosexual, I have been married to a woman for over 14 years now. However I am woefully aware of the terrible way our country treats those in the GLBT communities. While Tools like the person that wrote this review will argue that gay marriage trivializes marriage…they seem perfectly content in trivializing people when they write with this attitude. Do you want to have a Christian attitude and spread the love of Jesus, then don’t cheapen other people.

Next line: As such, it also shows the complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists, especially among those who promote homosexual and “transgender” behavior, including the approval and promotion of such evil perversion among the world’s children.

Already dealt with the quotes above, so I’ll let them go on this one. Instead, let’s look at this:

“Complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists…” Just curious, was Jesus a Republican? Oh, what I meant was “was Jesus a conservative?” I’ve known a good many pastors and teachers in my lifetime that would argue that Jesus quite revolutionary. I think what really irks me about this line is that the Tool just makes this blanket statement, as if he or she (let’s face it, it has to be a he) just has a personal axe to grind. The “breakdown of morality” is a pretty big claim, especially to pin it on one group of people. Just what is the “breakdown of morality” anyway? I get tired of the same old accusations leveled at me or others like me because I am fairly liberal (formerly conservative) and an atheist (formerly Christian). I won’t go into detail on liberals and atheist reasons to be angry when it has already been done so powerfully.

The main message of this movie, which includes very strong explicit sex scenes and abundant obscene language and doesn’t make much sense, is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems. This is probably what a licentious, lamebrain, loony leftist will see. A media-wise person, however, will discover an obnoxious, obscene movie with unappealing, confused characters. He or she also probably will note that this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.

Okay, what appear to be the standard ad hominem attacks notwithstanding, I feel like the Tool is getting somewhat close to seeing past his own hate colored glasses when he says that the main message is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems.” What I took from the movie is that it didn’t focus on the homosexual part at all. It focused on the family and their situation. The fact that the Tool can’t get over the homosexual part is really his problem. This movie was so much more than that.

Here’s a great line from Tool: “this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.” By this point, I am just laughing. It does help to write my way through sometimes. Look at the first three words in the above quote…”THIS MOVIE PROVES.” Anyone else see a problem with that? *crickets chirping*

Look, here’s the deal. No religion, Christianity or other, has a corner on the market of morality. As the Tool in our study shows, beliefs don’t equal morals. In fact, I personally think morality to be a load of hogwash anyway, but that’s a topic for another day. Just look at that quote above. If you were a non-believer, how would you feel about the Tool saying that he and the people like him have a higher moral sense through Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, how do you think the non-believer feels when reading this sort of message. I don’t care whether or not the Tool liked the movie, but I would rather he write an honest review treatise on what he sees as wrong in society.

Self-Interest

The first in a series of “Why I won’t raise my children in religion” is based on the subject of self-interest.  I ask that you stick with me here as the will take some explanation.

I have a personal philosophy that every significant action we as humans take is based out of self-interest.  When I say self-interest, I don’t mean it negatively.  In fact, it is self-interest that drives us to act humanely.  When driving down the road, I know that it is in my self-interest to obey the law in order to stay alive.  Likewise, it is also in my interest to make sure that I am not the cause of injury to another so as not to violate my values.  Our very foundation of laws and ethics are centered around each of us living as well and as long as possible.  I don’t believe that we obey authority strictly because we don’t want to suffer the consequences of not obeying, but that the reasonable person will obey because he or she knows subconsciously that the laws are there to preserve.  This is why civilization works.

The first issue I have with religion of any stripe is that it is perhaps the only activity in which we:

  1. Invent a figurehead (God) who is infinite, perfect, and conveniently inexplicable;
  2. Worship this figurehead for *his* infiniteness, perfection, and inexplicability;
  3. Decide to love this God and commit ourselves to a lifetime of devotion; all so we can
  4. ATTAIN SOME SORT OF PARADISE AFTER OUR DEATH.

My question is this, if there were no salvation, would all Christians love Jesus and devote their lives to him?  I think not. (Think Pascal’s Wager)  Religion is a way to try to pursue our own self-interest and gain a sense of belonging all while espousing the altruistic nature of it.  We can feel good about ourselves because we are part of a group that is devoted to “something greater than ourselves.”  In short, we love God because of what we can get out of it.

The problem is that this is not a true love relationship. It is far too one-sided to be any true relationship.  Trying to love an invisible, infinite, defineless being is pretty difficult.  Religion loses the relationship focus and becomes susceptible to political and ideological competition.  It also becomes less about the virtue of the core beliefs and more about knowing that my worldview is superior to yours because of all the other people that agree with me.  Indeed, religion and faith are tools to classify and divide, not to pursue the altruistic values in which they are shrouded.

Recognizing the inherent self-interest with which we all live our daily lives, we can see and appreciate the unique qualities and independent nature of every person.  We are all different; we look at the world from different perspectives.    We can think for ourselves, come to our own conclusions, and with the exception of our selfish behavior, be ethical in our dealings with other because we inherently see how that behavior benefits us in the long run.

The problem with this worldview is that we are also selfish. There are plenty of examples of how we act in selfish ways every day as opposed to acting in our self-interest.  I view selfishness as the “I want what I want” complex.  Damn the consequences.  Selfishness is different than self-interest.  Self-interest is acting in a way that agrees with our values and the values of society in order to be a productive and respected person in the long-run.  Selfishness is the short term interest that tends to go against our values and the values of society, and consequently, somebody loses.

When it comes to parenting my children, I think the trick is helping them to live according to self-interest, not selfishness.  If my son acts in self-interest, he will be ethical, helpful, loving, and good because he will inherently understand that living according to these values will be good for him in the long run.  However, he does not need the Church to set the rules for him and tell him how to act so he can earn his great reward after he’s dead.  No, living in the present, enjoying life now, and getting the daily reward of feeling good about himself for living according to his values is so much more pleasurable.