Friday, November 20, 2009

What moral standing do they have?

That's the question that's not asked; it's never asked when one sees an article entitled "Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues."

Now although this is a blog of a Buddhist, this Buddhist has significant experience in the religion in the dominant culture, and especially its moral pretensions. And no, that's not slanderous; it's reality: the largest group within this dominant religious tradition is the Catholic Church. This Church claims for itself a primacy and supremacy of moral standing flowing from its asserted relationship with a deity and to those of us with a more democratic understanding, and especially those for whom Buddha-nature pervades the whole universe, that primacy and supremacy is a pretension. It is not reality. Keep that in mind in what follows.

Back to the story.

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation...

The document was written by [convicted Watergate felon] Colson; Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, who is Catholic; and the Rev. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, an evangelical interdenominational school on the campus of Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala.

The Times article goes on to rightly quote some other guy noting that it's "fear mongering" to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to participate in abortions, perform same-sex marriages etc. (but they want to make sure laws remain in place prohibiting the law from recognizing other religious bodies performance of same sex marriages.)

To which I return to my original question:

What moral standing do they have?

Robert P. George is a member of an organization that gave the green light to Spain and Portugal to enslave and colonize the Americas. This organization to this day continues to shield Bernard Law from prosecution for his part in the child molestation scandal. And to this day, this organization's members conflates human life with crackers, with no apparent censuring of their zealots.

Chuck Colson? I don't want to go into detail here; but suffice it to say that the man has contempt for those who do not share his religious beliefs, and to this day is less than accurate - to the point that he appears to display willfulness in misrepresentation of views of those who do not share his religious beliefs.

And the Rev. Timothy George? He's an apologist for John Calvin, murderer of Michael Servetus.

I would no more rely on these men for moral guidance than I would Charles Manson.

Your mileage may vary, and I could write several books as to why the religious right's position on many of their hot button issues are intrinsically morally disordered. (I made up that last characterization from a bit some Catholics like to call gays; it underscores their projection in these matters.)

Most seriously, by asserting the moral supremacy they do, they have the effect of one who declares: "Look at the shiny toy over there!!!! Look!!!" to those who, left to their own devices, might discover the sick, the hurting, the hungry, the impoverished, the exploited, right in their own midst. Colson and his ilk know precisely what they're doing here, and that's why their cries of "Abortion! Gay marriage! Stem cells!!" rings hollow, especially when these hot button topics are deeply considered, there are moral cases to be made which are deeply at variance to the intrinsically morally disordered positions of the conservative religious.

As a Buddhist it is absurd to remain silent about that. While I understand the brouhaha about the recent Thai forest sexism, the issue of the disparity in voices between those who advocate for an ersatz morality and those why try harder is more astounding and important and immediate to me, as an American.

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