Saturday, June 30, 2007

Separation of church and state is patriotic

Note: I have once again chosen to participate in the blogswarm against theocracy. The "theme" this time is "separation of church and state is patriotic". Below is my humble attempt to make my case for why I believe it is our patriotic duty to fight for separation of church and state, but from a decidedly different angle than others will probably be coming from: that of a Seething Mom who has a gay son.

Yes, I believe in God. And learning I had a gay son did not shake my belief in God, but it certainly destroyed my faith in organized religion, and (being a Catholic) Catholicism in particular. It made me realize that no matter what a Pope or any charismatic church leader wants to claim with astoundingly arrogant absolutism, they are just as human as I am ---- and just as capable of being wrong. Horribly, sinfully wrong.

As I've mentioned before, there were some serious cracks in my Catholic faith, none of which were big enough that I couldn’t just ignore or treat them as minor irritants, but when I learned my son was gay ---- I could no longer turn a blind eye to the Church’s teachings. Coming face to face with the fact that the only Church I’d ever known considered my son “intrinsically evil” and “objectively disordered” because of who he might choose to love left me no choice but to leave. I could no longer ignore a Church that was all too willing to single out my son as evil and spread that belief in the name of Jesus.

But what happens when religious dogma starts spilling out into politics and government? Should we be alarmed? Should we fight tooth and nail to preserve the separation of Church and State that our forefathers so adamantly believed in and insisted upon? Is it our patriotic duty to fight the melding of Church and State?

In a word:


Let me start by asking a question first posed by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D. in an article in the Atlantic Free Press:

[W]hat is it about the dogma of organized religion that compels so many otherwise sane, humanistic people to abandon reason and common sense and embrace hate and discrimination at the bidding of “religious leaders”?

This is a question that really resonates with me, especially in light of the religious (and political) persecution of gays and lesbians going on today. But as the author points out, there isn’t any one easy answer. Perhaps one reason might be because:

… humanity has not yet evolved beyond the schadenfreude need to hate someone or some group. The dogma of organized religion not only fuels but also justifies that need.

And this is what frightens me most about the hatred and homophobia which has been emanating from many of our churches and oozing into our government like a dreaded disease:

Organized religion and the dogma its spawns are based on “us vs. them” thinking: believers vs. non-believers. Add to that the fact fanatical believers convince themselves that they – and they alone – know “God’s will” and crimes against humanity are sure to follow, ad majorem gloriam Dei. History is replete with examples of how religion in the hands evil men can corrupt governments and justify denying basic human and civil rights. From the Holy Inquisition, through the Third Reich to the Taliban and Nigeria’s supposedly secular parliament, the story remains the same.

Now I am not drawing parallels between the Third Reich and the United States, but I am finding some frightening similarities in how George W. Bush is using religion to deny basic human and civil rights and divide this country for his own political gain. And there is no denying that one of the main platforms upon which he based his 2004 campaign for re-election was the homophobia and hatred he knew was emanating from many of our churches. He counted on that “us vs. them” type of thinking to win the election and he continues to count on that dynamic whenever he needs a political victory. But this strategy has profoundly divided and harmed our country and its standing in the world.

And let us be clear here, it is not just government that is harmed when we allow religion into politics. There is great harm done to both religion and politics by allowing the two to meld:

The partnership of religion and the state is an equation for tragedy not just for enemies of the state but for the religion that is the state's partner.

Domestically, when the federal government funds religious organizations to do social service, they become arms of the state. They give up their independence and compromise their ability to fulfill their specific charitable missions.

When foreign actions are sanctioned, however subtly, on the dubious idea that a liberal democracy is a gift from God and that somehow the United States should be an instrument of that gift, where will our gift-giving end? Who will end it? Religion says that God is in charge; democracies say that the people rule. Who will adjudicate this debate?

Bush proclaimed after 9/11 that it is the U.S.'s calling, led by his sense of moral leadership, to rid the world of evil. How can we decide who and what is evil? Moreover, what makes us think that we can rid the world of evil? This injection of black-white thinking into the international sphere has created more enemies than it has overcome and alienated friends as well.

Again, where does Bush get his calling? It seems he gains it from his own prophetic sense of authority. This kind of religious charisma trumps normal political debate and veers toward the very mixture of state and religious power our Founding Fathers tried to prevent.

It is our patriotic duty to fight to maintain the separation of state and religious power. It is a toxic combination which only succeeds in making a mockery of both, while giving religious leaders and political leaders a convenient way to “…feed into and exploit the dark side of the human condition for their own self-interests.”

Today it is my son who has an exclusive membership in the “them” part of the “us vs. them” dynamic, tomorrow it could be someone else’s child. This is just the kind of thing our founding fathers wanted to prevent when they insisted upon a very clear Separation of Church and State.

One more note: If you are as concerned as I am about the infiltration of religion into politics and visa versa, please go to First Freedom First and sign the petition. They are also a central clearinghouse of information on Separation of Church and State issues. Just click on "resources" to find articles, book recommendations, and other useful information on this very important subject.



Coffee Messiah said...

I enjoyed reading your views and Thanks for sharing them!

michelbrault said...

I enjoyed reading your blog very much. I am also a Catholic, baptised and the whole nine yards in the pre-Novus Order rights. And, I soon found as I grew to adulthood, that I have been gay as far back as I can remember. For years I fought accepting it and thought of myself all the hateful and horrible things constantly said about gays. I lay dying of liver failure 10 years ago, because I had drank for 28 years trying to deal with myself and forget for a while how much I hated myself.
Now Bush and his cohorts, along with the religious right fanatics are going all out to undermine what Jefferson and Madison worked to hard to establish. One look at the historic mess of Europe told them and all the founders of our great nation what religion can do to destroy mens freedom.
Sorry for being so wordy. You hit a raw nerve and I appreciate it.

Jarred said...

Well said! I don't think I could add a single thought. In fact, every time I thought of something to say, you covered it in the very next paragraph. ;)

Jan said...

Well done. Thank you. You certainly voiced what I believe. I finally left the United Methodist Church partly because of its stance, and most specifically that of my former local church, towards homosexuals. (This church's fundamentalism also drove me away.) My 25 year old daughter is gay, and I am grateful to the Episcopal Church for ordaining a gay bishop in the USA.

Rose said...

This is one of the best posts I've ever read on this issue and is spot on. The Bush Administration has dangerously crossed the line between church and state. There is no way an office of "faith-based initiatives" should be in our White House and so many other things, such as pushing idealogy over science when the facts tell us otherwise.

Additionally, I have three first-cousins who all happen to be gay. The first-cousins weren't raised together--all have different parents. Two of them do not know each other at all. The one thing they have in common is they share a grandfather, which the rest of us cousins do not. I know how they were raised, their parents, family life, etc. I babysat for one of them while he was growing up and know him the best of the 3; and he is a kind, thoughtful, caring, decent, and extremely intelligent person. In fact, all three of them are outstanding human beings. I believe wholeheartedly that this is not a choice but is something to do with genetics.

Therefore, for a church to block and condemn an entire group of people simply because God made them a little differently, it is nothing more than hate; the same hate that was directed towards people of a different color, a different faith, or different heritage, etc. And, instead of our government protecting all of its citizens under the Constitution, religious idealogy has been ushered in, pushed by the right wing of the GOP. It's horrifying and unnacceptable.

Midwestern Gent said...

Great post! Best I've read yet on Blog Against Theocracy.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is right on. As far as I can see, you covered every point in a compelling manner.Our founding fathers had the foresight to emphasize the importance of church/state separation so that the balance of power would not be jeopardized. It is indeed patriotic to protect this crucial part of our country's basic foundation. My sister is gay and waited for years to come out because of our Catholic upbringing. How dare a select group covet the power to determine a human being's pursuit of happiness.

Chimera said...

What a powerful and eloquent blog you have! This post is only one of a few of yours I've read so far (thanks to Blog Against Theocracy), and I'll be making time to read your earlier ones, as well.

Thorne said...

Oh, my!!! Thank BAT ll for bringing me to your blog! An excellent, heartfelt and well written post!

Batocchio said...

Thanks for sharing a personal perspective. Obviously there should be separation of church and state, but you present a very compelling reason for why it's so necessary. No institution, religious or otherwise, is infallible.