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Cross-Posted to Show Me Progress

Ever notice how certain religious types think that their faith is a get-out-of-jail card that excuses just about any kind of nastiness? The most obvious recent example is the conservative braying about religious freedom that was occasioned by the A&E television channel's half-hearted effort to censure Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, a reality "star" who gifted the public with a few vulgar homophobic, Islamophobic and racist bon mots. According to the conservative commentariat, the statements were A-OK since Robertson claimed that the general nastiness just reflected his faith tradition, and, you know, freedom of speech and religion must surely come into play here. Of course, mired as we are in the culture wars, using God to deflect attention from various types of bigotry has become so commonplace that we hardly notice it anymore - this particular incident only got some play because of the pseudo-celebrity status of Robertson.

If one were, however, to exercise one's right to freedom of thought and speech and ask what it means about Robertson's religion that he can use it to justify his bigoted world-view, we might find out that the right-wing concern with freedom of belief and expression is a one-sided proposition. The owner of a British blog, Futile Democracy, aptly summarizes the situation:

The use of the phrase “free expression” – which to the Christian-right means; freedom from any sort of repercussion or challenge – is only ever invoked when the views expressed confirm Christian prejudices. The same people then demand repercussions for anyone, or any business whose expression doesn’t confirm Christian-right prejudices. It’s a terribly hypocritical state of affairs, all in the hope of retaining the get out of bigotry free card for that which they call “faith”.
The same blogger also noted that the intellectual dishonesty involved in playing the God card can have consequences that go even deeper than simple hypocrisy; he notes that conservative evangelicals "are not happy unless their faith dictates the operation of the state, the media, private businesses, the womb of every woman on the planet, and whom individuals are allowed to marry. The arrogance is astounding, and the religious supremacy that promotes and perpetuates homophobia is cancerous." Amen, brother.

We can see this religious triumphalism at work in Missouri where four representatives of such fundamentalist Christian-centric organizations as the Missouri Baptist Convention, the Missouri Family Network, and the Missouri Family Policy Council have filed a lawsuit to reverse Governor Nixon's decision that a Missouri law tying state and federal income tax returns mandates allowing same-sex couples married in states other than Missouri to file joint tax returns, which would be in line with federal policy since the overthrow of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

The excuse for the lawsuit is provided by a Missouri constitutional amendment approved in 2004 that bans same-sex marriage. The amendment itself was in large part the work of the very folks who are today citing it in their lawsuit. These people are secure in the free practice and expression of their religion and its tenets. Nobody is forcing them to engage in same sex marriage or associate with such  couples, nor is government suppressing their freedom to express hateful sentiments about such people - although you should please note that expressions of distaste directed at bigoted speech are no more than the exercise of freedom of speech from the other side of the street. Nevertheless, they're trying to use government to make the precepts of their specific religion the norm for the rest of society, including those of us who not only don't share their beliefs, but often find them repugnant.  

We see the same dynamic at work in the anti-Obamacare lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor. These religious are so preoccupied with the sin of contraception that they believe signing a piece of paper stating that they seek a religious exemption from providing birth control coverage to employees who might desire it would be akin to, as one of their apologists put it, hiring a hit man to kill your neighbor. You see, if they sign that paper, their employees could, theoretically, get birth control coverage from the insurance company free of charge - which process the Little Sisters would be putting into motion by seeking an exemption from doing the same. Of course, since the Little Sisters are insured by a company run by the Christian Brothers which, in turn, qualifies for the exemption, this is not really the case, but, hey, who cares - it's the principle of the thing, right?

This leads one to ask if perhaps the sensibilities of such folks are so delicate that they are unfit to play certain roles in a diverse society like ours - an important question given the continuing consolidation of hospitals and the growing dominance of Catholic health organizations. The Guardian's Jill Filipovic very aptly describes attempts on the part of religious organizations to play the God card:

Their claim that even this accommodation violates their religious liberty is telling. These ACA-related "religious liberty" arguments aren't actually about the freedom to exercise your own religion, or the right to be free of doing something that violates your conscience. These assertions are about an overwhelming sense of entitlement on behalf of religious organizations to force anyone within their reach to adhere to their beliefs.
Those playing the God card, be they religious organizations, their affiliates or followers are acting as if their religious liberty and freedom of expresion is contingent upon denying the same rights to others as well as to defend and perpetuate bigotry. This can't be what the Founders, sons of the Enlightenment that they were, had in mind when they dealt with the vexing issues of religious liberty. As historian Kenneth Davis notes, George Washington wrote that:
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. ...For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.
Get that bigots? So much for your frayed God card.

Originally posted to Thisbe on Sat Jan 11, 2014 at 06:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Progressive Atheists.

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Comment Preferences

  •  good one: (10+ / 0-)
    These assertions are about an overwhelming sense of entitlement on behalf of religious organizations to force anyone within their reach to adhere to their beliefs.
  •  Republished to Street Prophets. nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yo Bubba, NancyWH, Galtisalie
  •  Religions rely on the fact that if people.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    confess their sins, they can still go to heaven.  It strikes me as absurd that you can be an absolute horror, do terrible things and say, "my, bad" and off you go again, no fuss, no muss.....

    "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by Yo Bubba on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:11:27 AM PST

    •  You are expecting religion to be an extension of (0+ / 0-)

      the legal system. In fact, Christianity starts with the premise that all people are sinners and in need of salvation. (Look up "original sin.")
         In Christianity, Jesus was both the son of God and God incarnate, sent to earth as a blood sacrifice to redeem the sins of the world. So, yes, in the Christian belief system, if you repent of your sins and believe in Christ your sins are washed away and you are redeemed.
         IOW, you get to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
         Likewise, believers are to forgive sinners who repent, just as God does. Because believers are just redeemed sinners.

      My problem with the Duck Dynasty feeding frenzy is that Robertson's statements re the Bible were grossly misrepresented. Statements that he quoted or paraphrased from the Bible were taken out of context and attributed to him as though he invented them. In fact, what he said in the GQ interview and on the video (in which he was reading from the Book of Romans) were standard Christian doctrine.

      Likewise, his statements re African Americans, while clueless, were based on his personal experience. HE IS TOO YOUNG TO HAVE WORKED WITH African Americans during the Jim Crow era. The claim that he said that African Americans were better off during Jim Crow goes beyond distortion and is a flat out lie.

      Although I'm not particularly sympathetic to either Robertson (I've never seen Duck Dynasty) or to fundamentalist Christianity, I think that the bashing of both Robertson and Christianity that I've seen on this site is, itself, bigotry.

      •  You have got to be kidding. Bigotry to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unca Joseph, JayRaye

        call out a bigot? Your reductionist view of Christianity loses sight of one thing: Jesus Christ. Why would you think Jesus Christ who supposedly said many good things like "Judge not ..." would want that jerk speaking in his name or on his behalf. The reason jerks like him deal in bigotry is that it is most of what their religion reduces too. Ever distinguishing themselves by casting out others from God's kingdom to which they don't hold the keys. As far as the point about cheap grace, perhaps read James. I would not want to be in any club that would have a repentant Hitler. This Duck Duffus shows no sign of repentance. If you want to debate Leviticus or Paul's intent there are others better than me, but I do know that either "God is love" or she is not worth worshiping.

        I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

        by Galtisalie on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:09:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  OR, he/she doesn't exist. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
        •  What did Roberson say? (0+ / 0-)

          “We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

          And: " As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?” "

          Compare to the "who am I to judge" spiel by Pope Francis.

          And you exemplify my point by your statement that Mr. Robertson deals in bigotry because "...that's what his religion reduces to(o.)"

          For some reason, Robertson has aroused a more hate filled reaction than other Christians, including clergy, who say pretty much the same thing. Is suspect that much of the reaction is due not to what he REALLY said, but to a prejudice against the role he plays - that of a stereotype rural Southerner.

          •  Let he who has been without typos (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            cast the first stone.

            I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

            by Galtisalie on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:39:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I agree with you that the outrage excited by (0+ / 0-)

            Robertson may has aspects of classism - it's easy to go after the "ignorant redneck" stereotype. But that does not make his remarks less bigoted - nor by extension, his version of faith. It is, of course, only version of faith.

            Nor do I dispute that these beliefs are similar to those expressed in a less barefaced fashion by others, including Pope Francis -  who has so far failed to condemn legislation in Uganda that would not only criminalize homosexual behavior but could result in the death of those sinners whom he professes to love despite their acts. The folks in the Missouri lawsuit are going after homosexuals, but only ever talk about the constitution - the fact that it's a constitution jiggered by religious arguments is not at issue in their presentation of the case.

            Christians also defended slavery on biblical grounds. None of this means that Christianity per se or any religion is bad. Using it to justify harmful behavior is bad and those who do so need to be challenged - whether redneck or prelate - or a member, as I note above, of the Little Sisters of the Poor., whenever they attempt to speak for the country as a whole.

        •  Hirsute bigotry . . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Galtisalie, JayRaye

            Some Christians are dominionists who place their faith in a form of totalitarian theology which maintains that Christians must govern and assert their own biblical beliefs over the entire earth until the second coming of Christ.
             They deny the "Enlightenment" roots of American Democracy.
             Other Christians adhere to the tenets and precepts of their
             great socialist leader, Jesus.
                           Were I a believer, I would opt for the latter . . .

          "It is not your Christ, that I do not like, it is your Christians." - Mohandas Gandhi

      •  The problem here is that the concepts of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "original sin" and "salvation" are immoral.  Most good people would never come up with such a cosmic explanation for how the universe workd.

        Robertson just reflects the texts, and fairly accurately too.  Let him speak. But also let him be criticized for it. And that goes for Christianity too. It's not bigotry to point out the immoralities of the bible, or the actions of the gods reflected within.  It's called reason.

    •  Most religions don't, actually. (0+ / 0-)

      Even most branches of Christianity don't, as I understand it.

  •  Why yes, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tuesdayschilde, Galtisalie

    I have noticed that.  When you get right down to it, what else have they got?  No facts, no scientific data, no long term studies.  It's always because....God!  Neil Degrasse Tyson has a great comeback for the ID people.  Basically he says, if you can't figure it out, it doesn't mean no one else ever can or will.  So saying "God must have done it" is not the end of the conversation!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:58:23 AM PST

    •  The "scientific data" stuff isn't relevant. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Christians start with the belief that there is a God and that God is personal and can directly communicate with individuals.
         So, if God communicated the contents of the Bible to the individuals who wrote it down, doesn't that trump "data?"
         And many believers think that God speaks directly to them, which also trumps "data."
         It is only when there is a conflict between belief and actual science that you can trot out papers and studies.
         But except for creationism - to which most Christian denominations do not subscribe - there aren't any scientific/theological arguments out there.

  •  It is not just religious conservatives (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrfrog, Galtisalie

    and/or fundamentalists that play the god card.  Good old middle of the road and even liberal Christians have been playing it for years.  Just think about how we got "God's" name inserted in the pledge and put on money and used to change our national motto.  Obama and a whole range of liberal Christians continue to defend what I see as huge violations of the concept of separation of church and state.  And of course, we have the illustrious record of the Supreme Court basically rubber stamping this stuff by claiming that it's all OK (prayers in government and legislatures) because "God" after all is just a deistic civil figure.

    Churches of all kinds all over this country take huge advantage of being propped up by taxpayer money because they play the god card all the time.

    It is no wonder this goes on. Look at the history of both the Catholic and Protestant movements and the incredible amount of crime and corruption that the world let pass because they played the god card BIG time.
    And most of all, look at the founding texts of the major faiths in our country.  One can find totally abhorent actions and beliefs in those texts, and yet the bible is still offered as a book to affirm one's honesty in a court of law.  

    Many of the founders had very good intentions on this subject.  Some held them and some fell weakened by public pressures waving the god card at them.  Madison wrote about this and his own moment of weakness with Thanksgiving Proclamations.  It seems that playing the god card has been a national hobby even before the ink dried on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.   The only thing I see that may remedy this is if the rise of non-believers in the country becomes very significant politically and culturally, and alot of this stuff in law gets undone.  

    •  I'm a Christian, in my own way, and I have (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01, JayRaye, VirginiaJeff

      to agree with you, with the caveat that religion can be a good thing in people's lives and my praxis does not require opposing religious symbolism forced on the public sphere as my highest priority. The common good and the constitution respects people's right to make their own decisions about religion. Too bad the U.S. Supreme Court has often caved in and allowed Christianist domination. Likewise if we were in another country with another dominant religion it could impose itself.

      "Under God" was added to the pledge for political reasons. I'm against it. But why pressure kids to pledge allegiance to any flag. We should be pledging our allegiance to being good species-beings IMHO.

      I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

      by Galtisalie on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:34:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not fond of the overall exercise of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        coercing kids into pledging any kind of allegiances to a country or a god either. I used to work in elementary education and none of the younger kids had any idea what they were reciting.   And I would rather see people place their hand on a copy of the Constitution in court or in a Presidential swearing in ceremony.

        I feel like Christians and religionists in general are often their own worse enemies. They are so anxious to have the governmental seal of approval on their faith that they allow government to downgrade their god (and savior in the case of Christianity).  They want god's name on money and license plates. They don't even peep when people like Antonin Scalia defend crosses on public lands because the cross is just a "secular" grave marker, or as in a Utah case, a cross is just a generic roadside safety marker.  

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