Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Your Religion Shouldn't Be My Problem

My cousin Arlene was a devout Catholic, so deeply involved with her church the priest at her funeral service told us he was nervous that he wouldn't do right by her last wishes, worried that she would be wagging her finger at him from somewhere up there, showing her disappointment if he somehow messed up. She planned her last rites down to her choice of music, of scripture, and even of altar cloths. It was a tribute to her service to her church that they worked so hard to honor her.

She was a good person who died too soon, having so much more to give. Her devotion to her God was a prominent part of her life, but she did not and would not demand that someone like me should have to follow her lead.

I, too, do not demand that anyone follow my choices about religion. The fact that I don't believe in a god or feel the need to belong to a religion doesn't mean I want to diminish anyone else's devotion or beliefs.  Forms of religion have been with us for thousands of years, the idea of a supreme being and an afterlife so firmly entrenched I am considered the odd one for not going along.

I'm okay with that, as long as everyone else is.  But there's the problem. I try to be a good person--I don't cheat or steal, I haven't hit anyone since I was a kid, I keep my lies to little white ones--but I'm a pro-choice liberal feminist who votes with the Democrats and I don't go to church.  I'm one of them.

I'm all for religious freedom, but I believe even more in freedom from religion.  I'm thankful that I live in a country wise enough to build into our constitution the requirement that church and state must not mix. I'm grateful that there are enough citizens--many of them devout believers in their own forms of religion--who fervently agree with the founders.  But there are forces working now to change that, and I admit they're starting to worry me.

The opposition to same-sex marriage has less to do with legality and more to do with intolerance masked as religious belief.  The political attacks on Planned Parenthood, abortion, and contraception share the Old Testament tactic of blaming and shaming women. The made-up war on Christmas has morphed into a made-up war on Christianity, with no signs whatsoever of widespread or even close-up persecution.  And lately we're seeing citizens, politicians, and religious leaders alike praising God for the likes of Donald Trump, as if he were the coming Messiah.

Their beliefs, baffling as they may be to many of us, are their own until they're not. When it builds to a point where politicians attempt to make laws based on biblical beliefs, boldly seeing it as their right now, we draw the line. Our resistance, it should be clear, is not meant to undermine anyone's religious liberties. We do it to protect our unalienable rights--theirs and ours.

The freedom to worship does not translate into the freedom to rule.  Our laws, our rights, are based on constitution and common sense, and if they intersect with certain agreeable biblical teachings, it's not just coincidental. The idea of fairness and tolerance is, or should be, universal.

But lately religious tolerance has had to take a back seat in favor of  Old Testament meanness. The religious right is neither religious nor right. It's a usurpation, a corruption of centuries-old Christian philosophy, used and abused as a means to gain access to power.  The connection to a religion based on Jesus' teachings is in name only, yet their numbers are growing.

They are gaining power in the halls of congress and in local politics. Donald Trump courts them, promising to help them in their quest to insert their beliefs into our justice system. In turn, they praise Trump, claiming God called him to service, conveniently overlooking his long public history of egregious transgressions in hopes that he might do what he promised.

I mean. . .

Worship in your churches, sing your hymns of praise, pray, and, by all means, comfort the sick and the sad.  But don't bash and hate and call it God's work. When you demand respect for and subservience to your religion, you force our hand. We will resist. We must resist. 

This is not your America. It belongs to all of us. Even those whose faith, color, lifestyle, gender, or country of origin might not fit your idea of acceptance. That's the beauty of constitutional rights; they trump everything else.

They've even been known to save us from ourselves.