God’s Last Gasps for Air

The premise of this post has been on my mind for some time, as I have thinking about how to frame the ideas I’m about to set out there for all to read. A number of different ideas have resided in my mind, but none have appeared to offer the desired frame. Even this one may seem a stretch, but I’d rather start my dialogue on it, than continue the inner discussion within my mind. A letter to the editor and book review are linked below, that I believe spell out “the case” superbly. So, I wish to label them as exhibit A, B, and C, and request you read them before continuing. Since you may not, these excerpts may help set the stage:

Exhibit A, Book Review by Nicolas Wade:

Dawkins invites the reader to share the frustration of an imaginary history teacher, some of whose students refuse to accept that the Roman Empire ever existed, or that Latin is the mother tongue from which the Romance languages evolved. Instead of concentrating on how Western culture emerged from the institutions of the Roman state, the teacher must spend time combating a school board that insists he give equal time to their alternative view that French has been spoken from time immemorial and that Caesar never came or saw or conquered. This is exactly analogous to the plight of the biology teacher trying to acquaint students with the richness of modern biology in states where fundamentalist opponents of evolution hold sway.

From exhibit B, letter by Daniel Dennett:

What is going on at The New York Times? Why is it so bizarrely respectful of those who doubt evolution? In recent years The Times has published three preposterous Op-Ed articles by evolution-doubters (Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Michael J. Behe and Senator Sam Brownback). These no more deserved space in The Times than the opinions of flat-earthers or trance- channelers. In the wake of Judge John E. Jones III’s decision in the Dover, Pa., case that intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that may not be taught in public schools, one would think The Times would finally recognize that the intelligent design campaign is a hoax and dishonest to the core, and stop giving it respectability in its pages.

from Exhibit C, Letter by Alex Rosenberg:

Evolution is a fact, natural selection is a process and Darwin’s theory is that the fact is explained by the process. The facts of evolution are as evident as any facts about the past can be. So is the fact that blind variation and natural selection can produce a lot of adaptational change. Darwin’s theory about how it does so is indeed a work in progress, but one whose basic correctness is no more open to doubt that General Relativity. In “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and in a couple of other books, including “The Ancestor’s Tale” and “The Blind Watchmaker,” Dawkins has shown us how this process, which is entirely free from purpose, goal, intention or design, results in the overwhelming appearance of all four. Processes, of course, are facts. No twist in Dawkins’s knickers.

from Exhibit C, Letter by Eric Delson:

In his otherwise excellent review, Nicholas Wade draws a distinction among theory, law and fact in science. He notes that Dawkins, in reaction to “creationists, who like to dismiss evolution as ‘just a theory,’ ” insists that evolution is a fact. Wade correctly recognizes that in science a theory is more than a supposition, as does Dawkins, but while criticizing Dawkins for calling evolution a fact, Wade falls back on using the term “theory,” which surely connotes uncertainty to the nonscientist. Both authors ignore the third option, to refer to evolution as a “law” in the same sense that most people speak of the “law of gravity.”

Yes, this may appear to be simply all about evolution and creationism, but my purposes are different, so bear with me. This debate about evolution, is simply an illustration of the line drawn in the sand. And, if I’m honest from the start, my premise and ideas have nothing to do with God, except I thought the title sounded catchy. God is not gasping for air, or dying, or fading from relevancy. However, I believe it true to say that those humans who refuse to accept Science and the fact of Evolution are afraid that this is the case. To them, Science is an attempt to kill God. Their insistence to hold so tightly to a disproved myth, and develop ideas like Intelligent Design, at all costs, suggests that without it, they have no ability to believe in God.

How else can you explain the construction of a Museum of Creationism, where robotronic dinosaurs frolic with humans, in a way that scientifically could never exist, but must be constructed and sold as undeniably true so that the myth of the great flood can be aligned with scientific fact? Why else work so hard to hold the Bible as ultimate history, except that without it, they are afraid that God will cease to exist, or more accurately, never had existed in the first place. Personally, I don’t think the existence of God is up for grabs, and any discussion of it, is a red herring, designed to shift focus away from the bigger question: what is the validity of Religion, or more specifically- what is the validity of seeing a Judeo-Christian perspective as the only accurate and true expression of Religion. The Christian religion (lower-case “r”) is what is at stake of being disproved.

My intentional splitting of Christianity from the whole Judeo-Christian branch of history should not be minimized. Philosophers and theologians within the Hebrew tradition have, since the dawn of their faith tradition and ancestral beginnings, seen the value of interpretation. Volumes upon volumes exist as different individuals have chosen to explore sometimes subtle, and sometimes drastic explanations for scripture, practice, and belief. It has only been the comparatively recent Christians who seek to mold an understanding of fact into something that might fit within their locked-down scriptural words. In other words, only the Christian Church works so to declare the fact of the Holy Bible as more important and above all other fact, and even above the importance of Faith.

So, what the heck does this have to do with anything Queer, or Gay, or whatever words you choose? Can you believe I just wrote 1000 words as a set up to what I really want to say? Yes, I guess I did.

Virtually all of the backlash and opposition to full equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgenders, is rooted in a religious objection to homosexuality. While Christianity isn’t the only faith tradition to oppose homosexuality, it does hold a singular spot as the predominant religion of the advanced Western Culture. The attack on homosexuality from the Christian extremists is completely an effort to support their fallacy of the Holy Bible as Fact, and plays the same role in the perpetuation of this fallacious fact, as the attack on evolution. While in practical terms, the opposition to full equality for LGBT’s is the oppression of actual people, the goal of any of the Christian Far Right isn’t to harm people, but rather to defend their stronghold on the Fact of the Holy Bible, and thus, their own sole connection to God. This is partly how these Christians can claim to love the sinner but hate the sin, because to them, it isn’t about real people, but about actions and behaviors. They don’t set out to cause harm, even if for them, the ends justify the means. Not all Christians operate that way. Even some denominations articulate that Faith and Experience play key roles in understanding God’s plan. But in moments of fear, even the most moderate Christians can fall into the trap of the Bible as Fact.

The issues of the Fact of Evolution and the Fact of Homosexuality are both, at the core, issues of biology and science. The war raging between the Christian extremists and Science concerning evolution has been going on for some time, so it is easier to see and analyze a history for that struggle. It follows other similar battles with Science such as the struggle of the Church to condemn Galileo because his astrologic observations did not match their literal Biblical reading. The Battle against the science of homosexuality is relatively new. Previously the Church used only a moral argument against homosexuality, but in reality, it didn’t care if homosexuality was going on, as long as it was secret and hidden. However, as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people have become more visible, and want the rights that everyone else has, as out visible and happy people, this acceptance of secrets no longer functions, and the Church has lost most if not all of it’s moral authority.

So, The Christian extremists have nowhere else to turn except to their Holy Bible as fact.

The Holy Bible’s Last Gasps for Air

Therefore, the battle against Homosexuality is really the battle to save the authority of the Holy Bible. If they give in on this one, they have nothing left that they can see to justify the need for their religion. The rest of the things that they could possibly grab hold of as justification for Christianity have long since passed away. Greed and Coveting rule- look at how the Banking industry or the Health Care industry work to shore up their profits over the well being of our society as a whole. Gambling is everywhere; Divorce is prevalent; Lying almost the default behavior. The Golden Rule is tarnished and appears to look more like plastic that a precious gem.

Unlike the fact of evolution, the Science of Homosexuality isn’t as well understood. Not yet. Still so much that we don’t understand about genes, and proteins and hormones, and all of the various things that play into the biology of it. And we understand far more of the Biology, than we do of the sociology of Homosexuality- how culture and environment affect the Biology as well. In time these too will be well understood. But for now, we must accept that there is still much that we do not yet know as fact in the same way as we know about the fact of evolution.  This isn’t really any different than the process by which the fact of Astronomy and the solar system came about. It just takes time.

If I am right however, that this is the last big stand that the Far Right Christians have to support their Holy Bible as fact, then, the fact of homosexuality is likely to be even more dismissed than the fact of evolution. This last attack on the fallacy will be fought with greater blindness and zeal. So we have a real battle to look forward to.

Letters – The Fact of Evolution – NYTimes.com.

Sunday, July 12, 2009 Bible Reading

Welcome to a Queer Look at the Bible!

This week’s lectionary readings:

This week’s QP:

  • Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19:1Rainbow (A very little bit Gay)
  • Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 24 or Psalm 85:8-13 1Rainbow
  • Reading from the Epistles: Ephesians 1:3-14: 1Rainbow (Not Gay at all!)
  • Reading from the Gospels: Mark 6:14-29: 21Rainbows (Not Gay at all!)

Overall QP: 1Rainbow. Not very Gay overall

Notes or References:

Book: Jonathan Loved David, by Thomas Horner

Book: What the bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Daniel Helminiak

? Both of these books have been around for a while and are good resources. I have met Daniel Helminiak and he is a great guy.

Next Week’s Readings:

Queer Look Podcast to Return Soon!

It’s a long story why I stopped producing the queer Look at the Bible Podcast, but the short answer is that it is about to return! Each week, I’ll look at the week’s lectionary readings from the QP (the queer Perspective, and assign each a QP ranking. That is, just how “queer” is the scripture on a scale of 1 bible (not at all queer) to 5 bibles (way way queer!). Most consider that the Bible is condemning of homosexuality, but I think what we are going to find is that the vast majority of it has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, and will score a 1bible ranking. The passages that appear to be about homosexuality will be few and score a 5bible ranking. There is just the question about what to do with the issue of passages that appear pro-homosexual, and those which appear as anti-homosexual. In terms of my QP ranking, I won’t make any distinction/ for or against, it is still queer. but I will talk about each to see what we can learn about how pro- or anti the passages might actually be.

A Queer Look at the Bible isn’t intended only for the religious, but for everyone, even those who see themselves as atheists or agnostics. But I’m not trying to convert you. You are welcome here, no matter what your faith (or lack of faith) tradition. and here is why. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or transgendered person, the Bible impact your life today, here in 2009. Doesn’t matter if you are a believer or not. The Bible serves as the foundation of all of the opposition to GLBTQ rights, as well as many of the conservative movements, such as to deny a woman’s right to choice. The growing battle cry of this radical right movement, is Religious Liberties, as if they own the Bible, and everything in it is on their side. but they don’t, and it isn’t. and the more everyone knows about that the easier it is to see through the fallacious arguments that they put forth.

Let me say, as straight (ha ha) forwardly as I can. I am not anti-God. I am not anti-Bible. I am not anti-Faith. I just think that the Bible has been co-opted by the radical right, and t is time to take it back and put it out there for anyone to pick up and consider. And the best way to do that it to take a new look at it- a Queer Look. If I can rightfully be accused of anything, it may be that I can come across as anti-religious. Like many theologians since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story, I ask that rather than simply wearing “religious” as an adjective to describe oneself, consider it a journey to be traveled. Consider it a puzzle to be pondered. consider it a question to be asked rather than answered. I am fairly anti- those who self-righteously think they have all the answers. I certainly don’t have them. But I have and can ask and explore questions. I think that when we are willing to ask, and see where the question takes us, we can find things we never anticipated. That for me, is about hearing God.

I’m going to start by producing an audio podcast in the iTunes enhanced podcast format, but there will also be an MP# file to download for other brands of players. Each week’s podcast will be a part of a blog post that has notes and stuff I want to share. Feel free to comment here, but please be warned. I have no patience for folks who can;’t do any more than tell me I’m going to hell, or can’t say anything except to quote scripture, or issue some blanket generalized statement with out anything backing it up. I will only accept comments from real people (no anonymous postings) who register for the site. If you don’t have the guts to have a name and an email, I don’t have the time for you. But feel free to disagree with me- just be man or woman enough to represent yourself authentically.

So you ready for a Queer Look! Great! Glad to have you along!

Lectionary Reading for March 5, 2009

Waiting for the California Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 8

Gospel
Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

How Religion Fails us- Covenant Marriage

This post may seem politicaly based, but I decided to post it here due to the religious motivations behind the law being discussed in this linked blog.

This is a story about something called Covenant Marriage, a type of legal marriage began as an attempt to stem divorce rates, begun in Lousiana, but now available in several states. My purpose in writing about it is to illustrate the ways in which conservatives apply a double standard when it suits them.

You can follow te link at the bottom to the full story. I have pulled out some stuff, and it is displayed as quoted text, and the rest are my comments/text.

The Definition of Marriage may not be re-defined!

The first line of attack towards same-sex marriage is that it would be redefining marriage, as if the definition of marriage has never been re-defined. Covenant Marriage is one example of a redefinition of marriage. While it remains a marriage between a man and a woman, it is still a different definition and type of marraige. If there can already be 2 types of marriage with 2 different sets of rules or qualities how would adding another destroy the definition of marriage?

The definition of marriage is biblical and may not be altered!

There are 2 sets of scripture often used to justify marriage as between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve as the original husband and wife (even though I’m not sure the Bible ever says they were married), and the words of Jesus. Jesus was actually talking abot divorce, and the passage ends with te idea that who God has joined no one may tear apart. Interestingly, even though the Bible says there can be no divorce, Covenant Marriage allows for divorce.

Ending a marriage is still possible, though no-fault divorce is eliminated, and grounds for divorce are limited. They include physical or sexual abuse (of either a spouse or child), infidelity, a felony conviction or abandonment.

Note, that sexual abuse is an acceptable reason for divorce, and yet rape is not an acceptable reason for abortion (according to some such as Governor Jindal of Louisiana). where conservatives draw the lines varies even where the Bibler does not. Why must the Bible be followed literally at times and at others it can be modified?

Don’t use the government to advance social change!

When legislation is advanced that gives GLBT people more rights, it is attacked as an attempt to force social change upon people- or blamed on activist judges. Covenant Marriage was developed by a professor at a law school and a congress person. The purpose? To advance a social agenda.

…an attempt to strengthen the family and protect children.

Critics called it a potentially dangerous injection of religious belief into a civil commitment…

The sky will fall!

Conservatives have a very hard time predicting the results. They are sure that if same-sex couples can marry, that all hell will break loose. They were also sure that Covenant Marriage would take off big time, and it has totally not happened. It hasn’t done what it set out to do, and has not been embraced by the american people, even in some of the most religious states.

Then-Rep. Tony Perkins, R-Baker, predicted, “I think in about a year a majority of couples will make it [covenancy] part of their marriage plans.” Today, nearly 12 years later, the total has edged closer to 2 percent. Nor has covenant marriage reduced general divorce rates. In 1997, when covenant marriage became law, 13,836 divorces were granted in Louisiana. In 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the divorce total was 15,230.

Gays want special rights!

“Louisiana has elected to confer special benefits on covenant marriages, such as a 10 percent cut in auto insurance rates,” wrote Pat Buchanan…

So it is OK to provide special benefits to some but not others. How hyocritical is that?

Being gay is a choice!

If gays can marry, then there will be no limits, anything goes!

According to our opponents, being gay is a choice and therefor, we do not deserve to be a protected class. But the truth is, choice makes a difference. Straight couples who chose Covenant Marriage, had a lower divorce rate. These are couples who actively chose to define their relationship as special and more than just being together.

Though covenant marriage has had little effect on divorce as a whole, those who opt for it do have lower divorce rates.

But so many of the gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage are already in a committed relationship. They are chosing to define their relationship as more than just being together.

For gay and lesbians don’t mean it! They are only doing it for the show!

…then-Gov. Mike Huckabee ­— who, though he was an ordained Baptist minister, did not “upgrade” his own marriage at the time. And Bush and his wife Laura chose not to upgrade their own. Later, Huckabee did in a very public way. Columnist Margaret Carlson saw the $65,000 spectacle as a political ploy: “If moral values helped President Bush win the White House, why not Gov. Huckabee?

Don’t force tour ways on the American people!

Though the 2008 Republican Party platform made no mention of covenant marriage, the Texas GOP platform called for it, along with the complete abolishment of no-fault divorce, as well as making it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple ­— this despite the fact that during the 2007 Texas legislative session, a proposed covenant marriage bill failed to clear the state house.

Covenant Marriage is an idea that some want to push on the American people, who have shown that it is not their choice. And even though it has been shown not to create the desired results, andhas not been embraced, even in religious states, conservatives don’t give up.

But Perkins says he has not given up. “When the Jindal administration gets through some of these challenging times,” he says, “I hope they’ll focus on some of these family laws.”

The Independent – I Don’t

Do Family Values Lead to Family Violence?

Wanted to post think link here, as so much of the arguments raised or discussed are biblical.  A long article well worth the time to read it.

Matthew Herbst : Do Family Values Lead to Family Violence?: A consideration of the idea of family – Quodlibet Journal.

GOD.LOVES.GAYS.COM

Came across this link today as gays.com began to follow me on Twitter. I certainly no fan of Westboro Baptist Church, but I’m wondering.. what will this accomplish? Fred Phelps and his loonies are a fringe element- very fringe even for most conservative evangelicals. So we have a very real and very big battle looming those who seek to oppress us with the Bible.  What do we need to accomplish more: this interaction with a fringe cult or real dialogue and discourse addressed towards the majority of Christians?

GOD.LOVES.GAYS.COM.

Are the Religious Obsessed with Sex?

The Year of Living Biblically

I’m reading a new book, and it seems that within the Judeo-Christian traditions, people have always been obsessed with sex. I began reading, “The Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs, and thought I would blog about it as I move through the book.  So, far it is pretty good, but I’m barely half-way through the first chapter, and I’m a slow reader. So bear with me.

Got Religion?

So, Jacobs decided to begin a journey of living as biblically litterally as he could for a year.  Jewish, but raised fairly secular, his life hadn’t had much of a place for religion.  But following his previous book, which involved reading the entire Britannica  encyclopedia from cover to cover, he was looking for a new book idea, and thus embarked on this project. Jacobs, like myself, sees how influential the Bible is in today’s culture, and that played a role in his decision.  He starts with a premise that many religious people today, even those who claim to take the Bible literally, pick and choose which passages they want to observe and which they don’t. So he isn’t going to do that, or so is his plan.  He is going to jump in with both feet, and be as 100% literal as he can be. He writes:

If I had a God-shaped hole in my heart, this quest would allow me to fill it.

That’s a very cool notion, but there lies a problem.  For a number of biblical admonitions are now illegal, and/or require other people (like his wife’s) full acceptance and participation. but I’m a big fan of spiritual quests, and setting out upon a journey to find something that you are not sure is there or isn’t!  I was hooked a few pages into the introduction. I think Religion would “work” for more people, and play a role in making the world a better place, if more people took that approach- that of choosing to go on a journey open-minded enough to see what one might find along the way. Too often, a person embarks upon, or holds fast to their beliefs out of fear.  They don’t want to see what they find- they want to know and confirm that they are right so that they do not have to explore and come to new understandings.

Be fruitful and Multiply!

Jacobs writes:

Conception was a huge preoccupation of the ancients. … Bible’s most famous stories center on the quest to get pregnant.

He doesn’t say much (yet?) about why that might be, but I think it is is a really significant note.  It explains much about why homosexuality and abortion are probably the two hottest controversial issues that seem to divide us today.  I’ll write more about my thoughts on that later. Interestingly, the few stories he decides to consider at first (Sarah and Abraham, and Rachel/Leah and Jacob, don’t seem to be a positive image for the notion of “true marriage” as a marriage between 1 man and 1 woman for procreation!  In both cases (my interpretation) the focus is not upon the family unit of man, woman and child.  But rather, the focus is on women, who can not bear children who try anything to create a baby (let’s get real- they wanted a son and not a daughter), and who in the end could only get what they wanted though God’s action.  Human procreation meant nothing/ was not possible in these stories. This is worth thinking more about.

Prayer

I’ve just passed page 20, and Jabobs is talking about beginning a prayer practice.  These few pages have been wonderful reading, and I think I am really going to love this book. His honesty and openness about what he is doing is refreshng and touching.  He writes roughly a page about what he is doing and then says:

I glance at the clock. I’ve been praying for only a minute.  I’ve promised myself I’d try to pray for at least ten minutes three times a day. 

Reminds me of when I started to meditate! How much can happen/ go through your mind and your body in a minute!

Off to work now, looking forward to reading more and will post again!  Have you read the book?  Anyone interested in getting it and reading along?  We can have a dialogue as we go?