Is it just me, or is it long past time for religious fundamentalists to just get the fuck out of modern society?
My first piece of evidence is the whole "Ten Commandments in the courthouse" schtick. Folks, I don't have a problem with Christians advocating the Decalogue. What I do have a problem with is the notion that they should be allowed to post them in government buildings as a function of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Every day, I drive by no less than five churches on my way to work and back home, and while I disagree with some of the messages they post on their signs, I certainly concede that those signs are their property and that they have the right to post whatever they desire on those signs. I also drive by a couple of lawns where people have Ten Commandments lawn signs out by the road. There again, it's their lawn and their sign; have at it. By the same token, government buildings belong to all of us, and therefore divisive religious signs have no place there. Granted, I'd like to be on the sidelines if an atheist (or better yet, a Hindu) got convicted of some crime in a courthouse that has a prominent Decalogue sign, because I think he'd have one hell of a case if he claimed his rights to equal protection under the law were violated because the court opposed his religious convictions.
Next up is that oh-so-important issue of gay marriage. Look, I don't mean to say that this isn't a significant issue, because it is - but should it really be the deciding factor in the 2004 elections when the country's involved in two wars? If you ask me, the whole gay marriage election-year issue is a way for Democrats to attract social liberals and for Republicans to attract social conservatives - which is really rather pointless if you stop and think about it. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that it's a Republican attempt to force Democrats to pit their rich-liberal wing against their poor-union wing and scare some of those union guys into voting for Bush on a social issue instead of for Kerry on economics. (And yes, although the ticket isn't final yet, you heard it here first: I'm predicting the Democratic ticket as Kerry-Clark. When in a war, drag out the military candidates.)
See, this is the problem with a two-party system in a nutshell: if a party is to survive as a major entity, it has to find a way to appeal to a large chunk of the voters. Ground lost to the Opposition must be gained by appealing to another special interest. Fast-forward a few decades, and you have a completely insane mishmash of views in both parties. Ideologically, the Democrats have social liberalism and fiscal liberalism sewn up; they want everyone to get along and are willing to throw tons of money around to make it happen. That's the big LBJ/FDR "New Deal for a Great Society" core, and it plays pretty well to the poor and to minorities. Of course, you can't raise much cash with them, so you toss in some flaky special interests like PETA that attract people who can afford to worry about how well animals are treated, and that gets you pretty well covered. Meanwhile, the Republicans start off with a big dose of fiscal conservatism for the rich and smart, and they top it off with social conservatism for the stuck-up. Naturally, that doesn't do so well on its own, so they added Christian conservatives back around the 1980s so they could get a foothold with the televangelicals in the South. This means, if you've been keeping tabs, that both parties have a lock on their own rich bitches who provide the campaign funds for a war over the white poor, who tend to be gung-ho for both unions and God. Therefore, a conservative religious issue in an election year is an attempt to tilt poor whites out of the Democratic camp and into the Republican tent. See how easy that was?
As for the gay marriage issue itself, frankly, it sounds just like the old miscegenation arguments. If you don't know what miscegenation is, you're either old and stupid or young and ill-educated; considering my audience here, I'll assume the latter. Back during the Civil War (specifically, in 1864 - another election year!), the word "miscegenation" was coined to denote a mixing of races, especially white and black and particularly in terms of marriage. The guy who coined the word was all in favor of mixing races, because he figured the result was a better breed of human. Considering the times, some abolitionist papers took up the argument and it was promptly denounced by the Democrats as the sort of thing the Republicans were all about. (Remember, Lincoln was a Republican. How the times have changed....) A prominent Republican editor replied that he didn't really approve, but it wasn't anyone's business except the couple in question - which is closest to the Libertarian position today on just about any sort of "deviant" relationship. This all wound up being one giant hoax perpetrated by a couple of Democrats as an election-year play for the poor vote, but the issue lived on anyway. In particular, laws against miscegenation were passed in most of the South, making marriage of a white person to a black person a felony in most cases. Those laws got tossed out in 1967 on Fourteenth Amendment grounds based on equal protection under the law. (See Wikipedia's article on the case for more particulars.)
Equal protection under the law, non-discrimination relative to personal relationships, proclamations that such deviant marriages are anti-Biblical (see the trial judge's remarks in the Wikipedia article)...does any of this sound familiar? Right - it's exactly what we're hearing now in the attacks on gay marriage. Personally, I'd like to see a public figure defend Biblical marriage as practiced by King Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines on top of that! (See I Kings 11:3 if you doubt....) I believe marriage should be regarded as a contract like any other contract, subject to whatever terms the consenting parties wish to apply to it. Make no mistake; nobody's trying to force religious monogamists to participate in alternative marriages - we're just saying they shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of those who do want them. Ultimately, I hope that people forty years from now look back at this debate as I look back at the anti-miscegenation laws and wonder what the fuck all the fuss was about.
Next item up, the Super Bowl Flash. So we saw Janet Jackson's pierced boobie for a couple of seconds; what's the big deal? I mean, you've got two dozen men running around the field in skin-tight pants, smashing up against each other in some sadomasochistic wet dream, and that's fine family fare - but a glimpse of one bare black tit is going to bring the nation's morals crashing down? I guess what really gets me about all this is the outcry from all the church groups who were having Super Bowl parties instead of religious services. Does anyone else think there's something backwards there?
The last big item I want to bring up, because it's purely a Christian religious issue and touches on the first two issues, is the idea of female ministers. As you probably know, some sects simply will not ordain women, on the claim that the Bible forbids it. Other denominations have taken a more liberal stance and ordained women, and a few churches are even beginning to ordain gay men. Here's the problem: going by the book, the denominations that ban female ministers are right. Right there in the New Testament, St. Paul instructs churches to prevent women from even speaking in church (I Corinthians 14:34-35), let alone giving sermons! This is the key problem I have with Christians in modern society; while we are struggling on one hand to promote equality, the Bible prohibits it. There is a fork in the road, and eventually a decision has to be made. The current trend of attempting to meld Christian fundamentalism with the U.S. legal system cannot leave both intact - so let's stop pussyfooting around. Christian fundamentalism - just like Islamic fundamentalism - has no place in a civilized world. Just as abolitionists in the 19th century rejected Christian arguments favoring slavery, and just as the country rejected Prohibition in the 20th century, let us now complete their work by throwing off all the shackles of ancient superstitious bullshit and moving forward into the future - black and white, man and woman, gay and straight, religious and nonreligious - together, as equals.