Sex and Sectarian Strife

It is hard to keep track of the many current crises, both domestic and international. You can’t tell the combatants without a scorecard. But it is clear that quite a number of them are rooted in the hatreds cherished by one religious group against another. Yes, I know it is possible that these sectarian tags are merely masks for other issues, but generally I think that explanation is an error made by secular-minded analysts who just cannot imagine that religion could mean enough to religious believers that they would actually shed blood over it. But they would, and they do.

The Sunni Jihadists hate Christians and Jews, but not as much as they despise Shi’ites, who are fellow Muslims. Among the Sunnis, the Wahabi faction (whose name inexplicably adorns the pseudo-Islamic crest of the ridiculous Shriners) deems all non-Wahabis as non-human! Needless to say Shi’ite are pretty ornery, too. And there are other religious wars, notoriously between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and even Buddhists versus Hindus in Sri Lanka. Muslims attack Hindus, too. And the too-tender sensibilities of Hindus in India and Muslims all over the globe are successfully censoring public discourse.

I could go on about this for several pages. It is nearly enough to make me accept the argument of Sam Harris (who is certainly right about the dangers of Islam) that all religion is dangerous and should end. He says that the legions of moderate religious believers serve as a kind of human shield preventing us from leveling the blame where it belongs. But I know of too many positive religious believers whose faith is what impels them to selfless good on behalf of others. I do take his sweeping generalization seriously in the case of Islam, where it is more clear to me that even the much-invoked “moderate” Muslims are part of the problem, not the solution, insofar as they stand by silently.

But I raise the spectre of religious hatred and its disruptive ramifications in order to place a recent and ongoing American controversy in what I perceive to be its proper context. I have in mind the proposed Arizona law (vetoed but about to be repeated in several other states) that, as a safeguard to religious freedom, allows fundamentalists to refuse to serve homosexuals in restaurants and other businesses. “This train don’t carry no sinners.”

There are other reasons this law is ill-conceived and ludicrous. For one, does the pious opponent of homosexuality give a litmus test to, require a no-homosexuality pledge of, all potential customers at the door? And why stop there? Why not turn away suspected adulterers? Dishonest businessmen? Liars? The door is opened to the colonial-era absurdity whereby congregations would allow to receive Holy Communion only those whose spiritual worthiness they could be sure of. Eventually Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist movement in America, realized the foolishness of this procedure when he had decided he could be sure of only his wife’s spiritual worthiness and refused to share the communion table with anyone else. It was a self-imposed reductio ad absurdum, and he snapped out of it, instituting open communion to any and all comers. That’s basically what Christians need to do in their restaurants. If they don’t, they might as well go the whole way and post signs reading NO UNSAVED ALLOWED.

Second, have these restaurateurs, bakers, wedding photographers, etc., forgotten who started their religion? Historical Jesus versus Christ Myth debate aside, what sort of character is depicted in the gospels? He, uh, dined with tax-collectors and sinners, right? He preached against sin but embraced sinners. Please tell me how so-called Christians can decide, as a matter of policy, for Pete’s sake, to tell homosexuals to get lost and take their offending penises with them! Blessed are the peacemakers.

But here’s my biggest gripe. For a religious group to claim the right and the freedom to exclude outsiders because of ethical and religious differences of opinion is to start down the path to a religion-versus-religion no man’s land. No violence to speak of yet, but the poisonous seed has nonetheless been planted. We already have plenty of cause to bemoan the “identity politics” slicing and dicing of America into competing pressure groups. Don’t make it worse! In fact, who has noticed that the proposed Christian shunning of Gays is exactly parallel to the recent liberal call to boycott Chick-Fil-A because the owner of the chain said he disapproved of same-sex marriage? I opposed that boycott every bit as much as I supported same-sex marriage. Similarly, I oppose abortion, but I decry the assassination of abortion doctors. We have to have a civil society. “Let’s hang on to what we’ve got. Don’t let go, girl; we got a lot.”

So says Zarathustra

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4 Responses to Sex and Sectarian Strife

  1. JimWorkman says:

    Very well stated. However, the statement “I oppose abortion” looks informative, except I can’t determine the information.

  2. Charles Ensminger says:

    Thank you, Bob.
    I will say, though, that by the end of your first paragraph, I was feeling the hairs stand up on my neck. Your observations frighten me – as I think they do you as well.

    As a member of the Christian faith, I find that those in this faith seem to increasingly be more interested in our differences than our basic commonalities. Of course, part of the problem might be in that we can’t agree on what we have in common in the first place. As I see what seems to be an increase in sectarian bloodshed in other parts of the world, I worry greatly that the polarized regions of Christianity are going to catch on and take the rhetoric to the next level and start opting to do away with those who don’t espouse a particular dogmatism.

    While I wouldn’t concede that Sam Harris’ comments are 100%, I get where he is coming from and do feel that the moderates of many of the world’s religions could do far more to decry the lunacy that is often justified in the name of a religion or faith.

    I am deeply saddened by the fact that it seems to be Christian automatically means anti-homosexual, anti-intellectual, or narrow minded. Why homosexuality in particular has become the issue around which we fight is puzzling to many Christians for whom a contemplative observation of genetics, science, and the character of Jesus brings us to far different conclusions than to ostracize, hate, or segregate.

    I find that the path towards which these kinds of representations of hostile religion lead is exactly what you postulate. A religion-verses-religion no man’s land. As you say, “the violence isn’t there, but the seeds exist.” This kind of Christian ‘witness’ is so opposed to the idea of being peacemakers, though, that I shudder to think of the twisted (and easy) justification it will manufacture to further disenfranchise and dehumanize those with whom they do not agree.

    I do also agree that we do have to have a civil society. It saddens me to think that many in my religious tradition seem determined to fail in promoting, sustaining, or proclaiming such a society.

  3. thepowerofmeow says:

    I mostly agree, Bob. But there is nothing wrong with a boycott when funds from the business itself are going towards ant-gay propaganda. But I can understand taking it too far. Will conservatives and liberals eventually have their own parallel companies they can do business with?

    Probably not, as business trumps politics. Every business will try to stick to the middle to widen their customer base. And perhaps that is why boycotts are important. If they are effective, they will show us where the new middle lies. And the days for those opposed to equal status for homosexual marriage are numbered.

  4. TimoDDonahue says:

    I’ve noticed the nominally Christian pro-homosexual people like to mention Jesus, but they must shy away from Paul, who said clearly this behavior was sin and to be avoided. They also ignore clear statements in the Mosaic Law, and the discourse on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Christians are told to judge with righteous judgement, not to ignore sin around them.

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