BY DON NELSON
The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately. – Bertrand Russell
Russell’s quote sets the stage for what I am thinking. Today we see all manner of conservative evangelical pronouncements as to the “correct way to live.” When challenged, the usual and to be expected response is “It’s the Word of God.”
This is such a defenseless position. It precludes any discussion and it presumes to be the final answer. Neither are possible.
Those who continue to dwell in the land of Biblical literalism are living in a world that simply does not exist. The “God” that they insist speaks on such matters is simply a creation of their own. It is a cosmic security blanket which they throw over themselves when the way they believe the world to be is challenged.
The insistence to assert that some anthropomorphic entity exists somewhere out in the cosmos – and that this entity is somehow mysteriously connected to only the cosmically sensitive few that can filter or interpret the noise they understand as “God speech” – is patently absurd and completely middle ages.
The current arguments against a woman’s right to chose and the rampant homophobia and arguments against equal rights is ludicrous, at best, and bigoted in intent.
The argument always boils down to a statement contending that all of these issues are addressed in the Bible. One cannot entertain a discussion with a conservative evangelical without being aware that they have nothing to fall back on except “It’s the Word of God.”
I want to suggest that neither issue is a matter of faith. These are Civil Rights issues. This is a nation founded on the principle of freedom and liberty for every citizen. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, when we deny freedom to one of us we deny freedom to all of us.
In spite of what Tony Perkins and others of his ilk want to assert, it is not a “Christian” value to deny women their right to decide about their personal health issues. It is not a “Christian” value to deny gays and lesbians the right to join together in meaningful relationship that are life affirming and thereby deny them complete participation in the system of social support that heterosexual couples enjoy.
For the bigoted and biased position that is currently being presented as “Christian” to go unchallenged is shameful.
The carpenter named Jesus spent his life, short as it was, challenging the “religious” zealots of his day.
The conservative position is always – in lieu of having a reasonable and rational foundation – to fall back on some external code of behavior which they are comfortable with and find security in.
The Jesus event was and is a life-affirming, life-compelling, life-encouraging experience.
What these bigots offer is none of that. They offer judgmental, self-,righteous bigotry.
“The kind of man who always thinks that he is right, that his opinions, his pronouncements, are the final word, when once exposed shows nothing there. But a wise man has much to learn without a loss of dignity.” Sophocles made that statement, and its wisdom rings pure today.
Another great and wise individual, Thomas Jefferson, said, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
Jefferson understood the mindless, confining nature of dogmatic belief.
It may be that those who must have a cosmic security blanket under which to hide from the realities of life will continue to live among us. That, however, does not mean they have the right to determine the quality of life for others. Let them believe what they will and dwindle away as the tide of history and civilization moves on.
A modern man of great talent and business acumen said, “Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Whether you were a fan of Steve Jobs or not really does not take away from that insight.
Those who believe that life is more than trying to fulfill some ancient doctrine or a desire to be told how to be a whole and productive human being must not allow negativism to stand in the way of those who can and are willing to think for themselves and act in humane and compassionate ways toward one another – yes, even to those who will deny that we have a place in “their” society.
This is not a matter of “God Speak” or any other so-called “religious” imperative. It is a matter of human compassion, justice and mercy, which one might argue are the real essence of the Jesus Event.
Franklin Graham is in no way comparable to his father. Billy Graham rode the wave of revivalism that swept the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. It was driven by the fear-mongering of certain politicians of the Joe McCarthy-type.
That world is in the past. Granted we have our own issues and concerns. The point is, the issues of security and survival have moved beyond the need for some sort of cosmic super hero that will save the day and then dictate the conditions for continued protection.
To restate a previous point: When we deny a freedom to anyone, any group or any gender, we have denied that freedom to everyone.
Dr. King said it best when he said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and again “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
– Don Nelson lives in Lawton, OK and is an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer