The Politics of Religion (Alternately, The Religion of Politics)

Any topic that qualifies as a complicated conversation generally contains a lot of heated passion from every side, regardless of the topic being explored. I will of course be talking from my own point of view, so go with the assumption that it’s my opinion. When I give facts, I will also provide the appropriate links so that you know it’s NOT my opinion.
So before I wade into the fray, I remind my gentle readers that regardless of how much of a twist your knickers get into, this is still a POLITE conversation. Anything less than polite (flaming, obscenity directed at the author or the other comments, hate speech, derogatory remarks without real substance for an alternate view, or sheer stupidity) will be deleted and the user will be blocked.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” (Shakespeare, “Henry V”)

“Truth is hate to those that hate the truth, and this is the truth. They don’t like it and they label me a hater, and it isn’t that at all. I love them enough to tell them they are on the wrong path.” ~~Christine Weick, author, avowed Christian and anti-gay demonstrator. (Christine’s bio from the “Explain This!” site)

Wow. Isn’t that nice of her, to go around telling other people that they are wrong? I don’t really remember Jesus Christ ever mentioning anything along those lines. “Go now and point out to the other people around you what they are doing wrong.” Seems to me his message was more along the lines of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “do not speak of the mote in your brother’s eye when you cannot even see the plank in your own.” But hey, she feels strong enough about it that she’s out there, demonstrating against the gay pride parade, got a slushie thrown on her and then threatened the thrower with pepper spray. How’s that for living your beliefs?

Let’s stop for a moment here and take a look at a couple of the words we’re going to use a lot in this blog: religion, spiritual path, beliefs, faith, and Truth.

I reject “religion” as a hierarchical, bureaucratic and manmade system, designed to program its followers into “sheeple” who cannot think for themselves. So when I say religion, believe me, it’s said with disdain. I think organized religion (as opposed to unorganized or disorganized religions?) is a corruption of what might ever have been originally intended, depending on which Holy Book you follow. So the Christians have no monopoly on it–the Muslims are also very adept as using sacred texts to further their own agendas. The Holy Book is cherry-picked to support and validate individuals’ personal concepts of faith, right and wrong, and belonging to the “right” group to gain salvation and/or eternal life. With or without virgins.

To be “saved” seems to be the culmination of interaction between a person and their chosen god/God. There’s nothing left to do but live your life out, waiting for either the Rapture or your own death to be with God. You went to the special building, you listened to The Man in the pulpit tell you how to “save” your soul, to be washed in the Blood of the Lamb, to be contrite and repent your sins, so that you can accept Jesus as your personal savior and live in the glory of His Kingdom forever. Well, what comes between “washed in the Blood/saved” and “His Kingdom forever”? There are OF COURSE, lots and lots of truly devout, truly loving and generous Christians. We’re not talking about those. We’re talking about the ones who seem to think that all they have to do is say, “I’m a Christian” and they will be accepted into their college of choice, they will get the plum job that they wanted, they will meet and marry their perfect partner–which I could live with. What gets me is that there is a vocal contingent of Christianity that seems to think that they can say “I’m a Christian” as if it were a badge of superiority, giving them all kinds of precedence over everyone else.

And it’s being used within the context of our political scene–prayers leading council meetings, Nativity scenes in front of the county courthouse, and so on, all the way up to the national level, with legislation against women’s health choices based on the “Christian” ideas of virginity and conception. And if you mention that they can’t have religion in their government (and other civic, public venues), they whine that they’re being prosecuted. But every religious belief outside of theirs, every other spiritual path, is denied the same rights as Christians on a regular basis. (The Hobby Lobby decision by the SCOTUS as the prime example)

So what is a spiritual path? How is that different from a religion? First off, it’s not a congregational thing. Oh you probably will find that there is more than one person on any particular spiritual path, but there’s no hierarchy. There’s no organized meetings for the purpose of proselytizing and saving more souls for your Big Man (or Woman) in the Sky. There is much personal introspection, reading a variety of things that help you understand what you believe and how to explain it. Most spiritual paths are ongoing, lifelong process of searching and recognizing the sacred, the Truth, within ourselves and within our world. We are ultimately responsible for our behavior and cannot explain it away by blaming bad behavior on exterior factors (like good ol’ Beelzebub). Most spiritual paths include a deep love of Nature and the planet we live on, which in turn helps us cultivate a sense of connection with other people. Connection–not division from others just because of what color our underwear is, so to speak. The term “spiritual path” covers pretty much every known belief system, but particularly when it refers to the concepts of living a sacred life.

Okay, take a breather. That’s a lot to absorb in one go. Have a sip of your coffee, or whatever is at your elbow. As they say in the military, “smoke’em if you got’em!”

Feeling better? Then let’s go on.

So a religion is a manmade hierarchy of fear and division, with certain individuals holding the power of disseminating the Truth for that belief system. A spiritual path is a Natural progression of seeking the Truth as you understand it (not as you’re told it is) while acting with loving kindness towards all beings.
A belief system is just that, an organized and structured set of beliefs that correspond to your life, your ideas about life after death and if it exists, what is it like, and the requirements for interactions with your fellow humans, as well as with the other animals and life forms that occupy this planet.

What is faith? Faith is believing in that which you cannot see, in the hope of “something better”, either in this life or the next. I have no faith. Everything I believe in, I can see and experience in the world around me. That does not make me a bad person, or someone who, no matter how well my life was lived, is going to Hell because I do not regurgitate the rules and regulations passed down to me (the “thou shalt nots) by another fallible human being.

And that last word we’re gonna use: Truth. “What is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?’ Pontius Pilate asked Jesus before sentencing him to death. I challenge you with my understanding of the word “truth” and the difference between “truth” and “Truth”: truth is a dynamic, ever-changing thing. I was a wife, that was true. Then I was not a wife, and that was also true. Now, I am a wife again, so it is true once more. There are many, many aspects of everyone’s life that exist for some amount of time and are, absolutely, true AT THAT TIME. But it can change, and it’s not the truth any more.

Truth, with that all important capital T, is about the Universal Truths of love, life, pain and suffering, how we treat those who can do nothing for us, what we do with our lives to be productive, caring and a beneficial part of the complex web of life. We are all connected, whether we acknowledge that connection or not. What we do affects those around us–sometimes in a profound way, other times it’s just a ripple. But even a ripple can cross the ocean.

I would never suggest that I know the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, so help me, whichever god that’s listening. Or maybe there is no god at all. Why should your behavior here depend on whether someone “up there” is keeping track or not? I do not live a moral life because I fear hellfire and eternal damnation. I live a moral life, I do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, a natural response to the acknowledged sacredness of another being. Or as the meme goes, “You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong then you lack empathy, not religion.”

I believe in the opportunity for each person to have a private, holy, even mystical, spiritual path which leads to introspection and contemplation to find the sacred in all things, ourselves included.

AINO – pronounced “ay-no”. Use: AINO way I’ma gonna toe da line of someone else’s reelij-gee-ous ideas. I ain’t got none of dat reelij-gee-on no ways. What I got is a SPIRITUAL path, a set of beliefs and the strong conviction that I do NOT know the only way to the top of the mountain. I will respect any other path, I will defend their right to walk that path…but to use a manmade, hierarchical, bureaucratic and corrupted system to force others to your way of thinking…doesn’t matter if that system is awash in religious symbols and rituals, if it’s got one god’s name or a thousand gods’ names all over it. It’s not a sacred path.

And let me go on record as saying that my previous statement relates only to those Christians who would be the first thrown out of the temple, would be considered “goats”* at the Judgement Day…These people are NOT followers of Christ, they don’t believe nor obey His words. It’s just a convenient shell to hold their bigotry, ignorance and blind obedience to those who feed their bigotry and ignorance by appealing to their overweening sense of superiority to everyone else.

*Refer to Matthew 25:31-46:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (My own emphasis, because it seems that this is particularly ignored by the people who insist on their religious expression within non-religious areas like laws and corporate policy.)
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Again,  my emphasis. If you read your Bible and call yourself a Christian, you are expected to live by the words of the Carpenter from Nazareth. These, my friends, are His words.)
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I used to be Christian; I know a great many Christians who are trying to do what their own book and belief system tell them will lead to a sacred life and the eventual admittance into the presence of their God. I know a great many Christians who are everything the minority is not: caring, nonjudgmental, inclusive, helping–doing the work of the sacred. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the ill and visiting those in prison.

The major difference between these two groups is not so much in their different application of the same system–it’s in their focus. Those who use Christianity to further their own ends, who use it as an excuse to divide the country into “us” and them” are FOCUSED on themselves and what they want. It’s all about them. Remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees and the other Church leaders during his lifetime? Matthew 23: 1-3 “Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.” (my emphasis and a good way to check which type of Christian we’re looking at–and it goes on, hereThen there are those Christians who follow the carpenter’s words and are focused on others, on doing FOR others, rather than TO others.

Perhaps it’s time for these Christians to stand up, united across the country–and the world–and reclaim the word “Christian” for its right and proper use. It is possible to be a follower of Jesus and be a militant Christian for the good…Onward, Christian Soldiers! Do your good works, live your good life–and use every opportunity given to you to distance yourself from the false Christians who pervert the meaning of the word!

Are Christians the only people who use their religion as a weapon (yes, I said it!) within the public forums of business and government? Of course not. Check the Middle East. You’ve got handfuls of various sects (of the mostly same religion) who are trying their best to kill each other. You see, that’s the main problem with *KNOWING* you are right–there is absolutely NO wiggle room for anyone else’s point of view. And that’s true beyond just religion–once you are sure that you know about something is the exact same moment you lose the ability to change that idea because of your surety in knowing what you know. We’re back to the concept of “truth” and “TRUTH” and a lot of people do not differentiate. They assign the same value to “truth”, even though it’s dynamic and often can be, even should be, changed as they assign to “TRUTH”, which as I understand it, is pretty immutable. There are constants within our Universe, things that maintain their truthfulness each time we check. And we should check on a regular basis.

Let’s take a look at things here in the USofA, which means talking about Christians. I reiterate my caveat: not ALL Christians are the ones of which we speak. I want you to understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am talking about those who talk the talk but do NOT walk the walk. We good on this? Hope so, because here we go.

First, Jesus Christ was not only a religious figure, he was a political figure as well. His death was not carried out because he was trying to get people to be good–but he was a threat to the Pharisees and their supreme position as the arbiter of religion to the Jews. They convinced the Romans that he was also a threat to Roman rule–which could not be tolerated or allowed to remain. There is a thought-provoking article here that addresses this topic, so I suggest you read that and then we’ll continue our discussion.

Okay? Good. Two things I thought were particularly interesting from the article that most of the vocal “Christians” who thunk us non-Christians over the head miss completely:

1. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). …the text is “a call to involvement in the social arena — in the struggle of blacks for true equality, the plight of underpaid workers, pollution of our natural resources, education, ethical problems in politics, medicine, and business, and other contemporary problems — just as Christians were formerly active in the war against slavery, child labor, lack of freedom of the press, and immorality. We should mourn for such things. And we should mourn deeply enough to do something about them.”

It’s obvious to anyone who watches the news (or is on the Internet) that this call to “involvement in the social arena” is pretty well ignored by the very folks it was meant for. They are standing with the crowd that wants to dismantle any and all social safety nets; destroy Social Security; maintain and increase protection for the corporations and their greed in the form of GMO foods or fracking rather than protecting the population from the effects of this corporate greed, and so on. They want to deny equality for anyone who is not like them–which pretty much covers the rest of the population except for old white men and the women they have brainwashed, dominated, or in some other manner gotten to go along with their plans–probably in the form of religious law and quoting Scripture. One of their favorites is this passage from Ephesians, chapter 5:
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Seems straight forward, right? Women are supposed to submit to their husbands (or fathers, or whatever male is in charge of her…) because the Bible says so, (pointing finger at text) RIGHT THERE. Hold on to your hat, gentle reader. Let’s look at the next part of that passage:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Three verses for the woman and NINE for the man. But it all boils down to this: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church…” And no one seems to add that portion nor live it. Imagine a husband who loves his wife as much as he loves himself, cares for her with the same attention he gives himself. The result of a man loving his wife so dearly is that she will love him–it’s almost a biological instinct for the female. And in turn, her love for him will nourish and strengthen his love for her. It’s a happy happy joy joy cycle. And it’s one that is sorely missing in many of the Christian households that were established only on verse 22.

It seems especially lacking in the very public lives of the tele-evangelists and activist religious leaders. We see a lot of headlines about adultery in what should have been a holy marriage, a sacred bond between two people who love each other and share the common religious beliefs of Christianity. We also see a lot of discovered homosexual behavior among people who condemn the LGBT community for being “unnatural”, “a sin against God” and so on. Hypocrite much?

So the very obvious failure to live the words of being socially involved, to seek out and work for social justice begins at the very hearth of those who have been directed to that social justice. Small wonder that being racist comes easily; the idea that women are walking incubators without rights as people because they aren’t really people–only men are–is a religiously mandated concept; and that anyone who is not like you does not deserve the extraordinary and superior position of privilege you hold just because “you’re a God-fearing, flag waving, loves dogs and small children Christian.”

And as a direct corollary to that, point number 2. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). … “righteousness is more than that …. In the Hebrew culture, people thought far more about the community than they did about the individual. Righteousness was not primarily about one’s personal relationship with God; it was the standard for right relationships between people … this passion for a righteous society was a part of Jesus’ meaning when He pronounced His blessing on those who hunger and thirst to see righteousness dominate the affairs of mankind.

When you know that you are right, that you alone know the Truth as contained within a book that you pick and choose the parts to support this mindset…righteousness goes right out the window. You have absolutely NO motive for social justice and no desire to be a part of the rest of the community. You separate yourself (and the others like you) from the greater population and in doing so, manage to create the exact opposite of what this verse is teaching. Our country is SO divided: men versus women, blacks versus whites, rich versus poor (a topic for another day, trust me!), “straight” versus “gay”, and on and on. We’re so busy making and maintaining these divisions that we miss out on the fact that the corporations are buying our politicians (we’ve been manipulated into not voting by media propaganda); they are destroying the environment at a rate that is mind staggering; they are poisoning our water, our soil and our air–even with the Clean Air act–and they’d like to remove all regulation from their activities so that they can make even more egregious amounts of money, to hell with the rest of us.
We’ve become a Third World country (see here for just 6 reasons why this is so) and a lot of that has to do with the people who use Christianity to dictate public policy and laws. We can’t teach evolution in our science classes because, well….God made the Earth 6 million years ago and Jesus rode on a dinosaur. We don’t need food stamps or welfare because the poor are just too lazy. If they don’t have food, let them get a job and buy it. Oh, but we’ve sent many of the jobs overseas. (here) And so it goes.

It is easier to control someone who is poorly educated, who has very limited career options, who will carry staggering debt just to get the college degree that is a necessity to get any job beyond “would you like fries with that?” and who turns to religion to try and make sense of this dismal and grinding life. It is easier to control someone by telling them that they are the chosen one, part of an elite group, having the deep knowledge that they are right in all that they believe. It is easier to control the population by fomenting division and encouraging splintering into lots of little groups–none of which has any real ability to create change by itself. It takes a village, so the saying goes. But our “villages” (lives, homes, communities) are being destroyed from external forces (here) or (here) as well as the continuing propaganda against “those not like us” — usually described as “sinners” or worse. How about a “Christian” group whose website page is “Godhatesfags. Really? (here) Yes, really. I cannot find Scriptural verification that God (or Jesus) doesn’t like the LGBT community.

They say that there are three topics one does not discuss at a dinner party: religion, politics or sex. The reason for that is pretty clear: they are all very emotionally loaded subjects, people hold very strong opinions about them and as history has proven, people are willing to die (or to kill) to prove their devotion to their opinion. And when you mix any one of them with another, it’s not just a powder keg– you’ve added an already lit fuse to that explosion waiting to happen. Using your religion to control the politics of our society is a very bad idea for so many reasons–but to me, the main reason you shouldn’t put a private (individual) religion into the rules (laws and policies, state and federal levels) of our society is that you are countering the injunctions given to you by the very man whose words you use to prove you’re right.

By the way, you also are totally ignoring the First Amendment to the Constitution. Once again, it seems like these so-called Christians are using the parts that they like and disregarding the rest. The First Amendment provides for the ‘freedom OF religion”, in that each person shall be responsible for their own religious beliefs and they cannot be punished for them–but it also explicitly states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” which means that while you are allowed to practice your religion, you are NOT to make it a state mandated (or Federally mandated) requirement for the citizens. Politics and religion are not a match made in Heaven (excuse the pun) and should not be the guiding force for any public arena.

If you want to know how your religion fits into having a position within the local, state or Federal government, consider Jimmy Carter. A deeply religious man, he did NOT make his beliefs the law of the land. (here) and (here) If you’re interested in the overall religious beliefs of our Presidents, check the Wiki (here). Is it possible to be both a devoutly religious person AND a political figure? Yes. It just requires a good balance between your own opinions/beliefs and the requirements of the job you hold. This is true of any job–not just politics. Your religious beliefs and the required behaviors of those beliefs are intensely personal (even if an entire congregation practices exactly the same beliefs) and have a very specific place in secular life. Your beliefs should be the guide for your life, to uphold the sanctity of each person, acting in a moral and compassionate manner and to consistently behave in a way that exemplifies those beliefs. Whether you’re the head potato fryer at the local hamburger joint, a cashier in retail, an engineer, a CEO, a city council member or the President of the United States, your religion shows in your actions and not in your words–and is never used as a threat against your fellow man. Or woman.

And that, dear reader, is the politics of religion: live your religion, don’t talk it. Or as the kids say, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk.” “For I was hungry and you fed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you healed me, I was in prison and you visited me…For as you do this unto the least of these brothers (or sisters), you have done it unto me.”
And now we open up for discussion!