Monday, February 25, 2008

Church & state, Islam, feminism, und so weiter

Boston Betty said in response to one of my earlier posts...

don't have a problem with Islam--per say--because I don't live with it...thank Christ on a pogo stick! I resent it coming to places like England, Germany, Holland and even the United States and then its adherents complaining about us not being readily embracing of it. Likewise, I object to Christians going to developing countries and saying, "We'll build this well for you and give you a bowl of rice if you accept Jesus as your Personal Savior," too! Europe's just getting over its infection of Christianity (something we have yet to do here) so I'm a little less tolerant of people running away from their own countries where this shit is embraced like morning cereal and then complaining its not received with open arms by countries where women are allowed to drive, show their legs and actually date and marry outside of arranged deals. Sorry, Rug, but until Weesterners start flocking to Saudi Arabia and demand to be served alcoholic beverages in cafes, while men kiss women in the streets and start establishing churches of their choice freely, then I'm not embracing of Islam. Infact, I think all this religious hogwash needs to be tossed out of everyday life. Keep your churches, your synagogues, your mosques, your temples, etc. etc., etc., out of public life. I think it's time religion be treated as a pastime and not a way of life...for the betterment of us all and the survival of our planet!

Emphasis added by yours truly.

First off... there's a HUGE difference between embracing something and respecting it and being tolerant of it.

What someone else does of their own free will is none of my or anyone else's place to approve or disapprove of.

Yes, with women in certain Islamic countries, this raises the problem that they really don't have the opportunity to give consent any more than a rape victim does. This troubles me deeply, and I don't know what the answer is, but I know for certain it won't be coming from us!

We put on a good show, but we still get our knickers in a knot when a woman acts too "manly" (see Hillary) or a man too "womanly" (I think "hen pecked" and "sissy" are about the NICEST terms applied to such sad souls.)

Its only recently that women in our country could wear "men's" clothing or work "men's" jobs without serious approbation... and in some sectors of our country, these Neanderthal attitudes persist. Men by no means have anywhere near such freedom- those who dress or act in traditionally female ways are subject to almost universal derision and often physical violence. Feminism will not have run its full course until the negative attitudes towards traditionally female ways of acting, dressing, and living have been eliminated. Just look at all the vulgar terms for women and their reproductive parts... they're ALL insults, all deeply derogatory, especially when applied to a man. "She's got balls" is a compliment, while "He's a p-ssy" is an insult.

The very rural congregations I first served in the upper midwest still had men and women sitting on different sides of the congregation, women had only been granted the right to vote on... say... the color of the carpet months before I arrived, and they didn't have this right in many other neighboring congregations.

So when it comes to gender freedom and equality... we've gone from living in a house made of panes of glass to one made of glass blocks. We still have a LOT of work to do on matters of sexual and gender freedom!

The changes which need to happen in the more repressive parts of the Islamic world need to come from INSIDE. The best we can do is keep our clumsy hands out of it, and do our best to encourage and facilitate the efforts of those people inside those countries and cultures who want to bring about change. In this regard, I think Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia & its neighboring S.E. Asian/Oceanic countries are our best bet, along with MAYBE Turkey and the Islamic peoples indigenous to Europe in the Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, etc.) These countries have a well educated populace, have shown some signs of respecting women a little more than the Arabian nations, etc.

Next- another A-Men, Betty.
If people want to leave their homeland and take on a new one, they take upon themselves the obligation to conform to certain basic standards of their new nation. These usually include (or should)... speaking the national language, not mutilating the genitals of women, and so forth. Freedom of religion does not abrogate the law of the land!

And my last A-men for you Betty...
As a student of church history and former ordained operative, I think the Christian church started going to hell figuratively and literally when Constantine legalized and made it the state religion.

It is counterproductive, ill informed, and arrogant of us to pass judgment on entire nations and faiths. Islam is not a singular entity any more than Christianity is. Consider this news story from the AP

BAGHDAD (AP) — A roadside bomb killed three Shiite pilgrims Monday in the outskirts of Baghdad, while the death toll from a suicide bombing targeting pilgrims resting in a tent the day before rose to 56, authorities said. In all, extremists have attacked pilgrims headed to the holy city of Karbala three times in the past two days.

Guess what boys and girls... this is Muslims killing Muslims. They ain't all the same any more than we are!

The SHIITE Holy City of Karbala, click for full size, click link in news story to read about the city and the pilgrimage.


Boston_Betty said...

Goth, I never said America was the standard by which treatment of women, homosexuals or many other groups should be judged. We lost that honor to the Scandanavian countries a long time ago. I'm simply saying that until we can post a picture of Mohammed without there being riots in the street, then Islam cannot be taken seriously. If your God or prophet can't withstand a comic strip, then that says more about a people, than their Gods or prophets.

Also, as a gay man, I repeatedly hear people tell others that they don't have to embrace homosexuality, but merely respect its right to be what it is...I have yet to hear of any sect in Islam following this advice, so likewise, I neither feel compelled, nor obligated to respect a religion--including Christianity--that dismisses me as a person by virtue of what I do with my genetalia. I believe I am a pretty decent person, as people go these days, and do try to do for others when I can. As far as any religion that says I'm a sinner because of what I do behind closed doors, I'm quite happy is dismissing it for its hypocrisy and pitying those that believe they're superior to me because they observe these quaint rituals and dogmas without actually living the good intent of that religion.

Also, you may want to rethink using green type for emphasis...even though I wrote that quote, it was hard on these old eyes to read that.

val said...

Muslims killing Muslims, Christians killing Christians. We lived with the latter in the British Isles for years; and let's not forget the Spanish Inquisition and Bloody Mary.

Religions are myths we humans constructed to explain what we didn't understand. As far as I'm concerned, religion condemns us to remain in the dark ages. The adherence of Americans to religious faith is as alien and inexplicable to most people in Britain as the mysteries of science were to our ancestors.

Boston_Betty said...

The inability of God to intervene when His followers are killing in His name says all I need to know about this if war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and cancer in children didn't say enough!

The Rug Goth said...

Yeh, I didn't like the look of the green type either.

I didn't say YOU said America was the standard, but Americans tend to act that way about... everything.

I see your point... any belief system which does not treat people ethically is not worthy of your respect. Its logically congruent and compelling.

I can't argue with that, and won't try. Its why I have such a hard time with the Dobson/Huckabee crowd. It comes down to can you be tolerant of the intolerant?

Your answer is clear, and its the way of human beings to react that way.

None the less, I continue to believe that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" and that the broader your brush, the worse the painting.

I'd like to see America and Americans know a little more about the peoples and parts of the world whose lives and lands we're mucking around with before we go in with guns blazing or money flowing.

For my own part, I look at each person I meet as a gem and a gift. There is beauty to be seen in and things to be learned from everyone. OK, with some... it takes more work... but its there. ... So I don't really think in terms of whether I respect the person's faith, hobbies, etc. I respect people based on whether or not they are basically honest and decent and genuine- and what they do with their own lives is irrelevant to me and mine. I try to not see groups and labels but PEOPLE.


Val- its simple and shocking: We've never REALLY had separation of church & state, not in practice. It might be de jure the law of the land, but its not been de facto until very recently, and even there... not everywhere.

When I was a pastor in the rural upper midwest, the mixture of the two was readily apparent. We had an American flag in the sanctuary, and the buildings were used as much for civil as religious purposes. On the other, I was often summonsed to political events as a sort of mascot. This whole nonsense of starting a high school or college game or other secular event with a prayer reflects that.

As a pastor, I was deeply troubled and offended by the practice, and I'm even more so now that I've broken free of the Bigoted Borg Biblicists. What does God have to do with who wins a given sporting game? Does He have a fiver riding on it perhaps?

I didn't even like the school prayers we had when I went to RELIGIOUS schools. They were very demeaning... along the lines of (and I exaggerate only very slightly) "Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to shut up & sit still, learn & listen to our teachers, whom You have put hear for our own good."

This is why BoR has one thing right- there is a culture war. Are we FINALLY going to have true religious freedom and respect individual liberties... or not?

The Rug Goth said...

There Betty, changed the lime green to a maroon... better? I meant to make a South Park related comment in response to that excellent point of yours, but I forgot then, and Tess is way too sick for me to do 5 edits on a post like I did on the xenophobia one.

(She should be in the hospital, but she'd rather be in my arms... ¡mi querida, mi esposa bella!)

So I'll save it for a "Lessons learned from South Park" series some day.

Boston_Betty said...

Yes. much better...that green made me long for a nice glass of absinthe!

SnarkAngel said...

Val, you might appreciate this. Today, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released data based on a 35,000 person survey of U.S. residents. The forum's director states: Americans "not only change jobs, change where they live, and change spouses, but they change religions too. We knew it was happening, but this survey enabled us to document it clearly."

According to Pew, 28% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another one. And that does not even include those who switched from one Protestant denomination to another; if it did, the number would jump to 44%.

Of all those raised Catholic, a third have left the church. But their numbers remain static, largely due to an influx of Catholic immigrants.

I found this particularly interesting: The single biggest "winner," in terms of number gained versus number lost, was not a religious group at all, but the "unaffiliated" category. About 16% of those polled defined their religious affiliation that way (including people who regarded themselves as religious, along with atheists and agnostics); only 7% had been brought up that way. That's an impressive gain, but the director points out that churn is everywhere: even the unaffiliated group lost 50% of its original membership to one church or another.

Americans apparently "shop" for "religion" the way they shop for shoes. Go figure . . .

The Rug Goth said...

BB- oh, you tease you! I've never had it, and I eschew the stuff today. Between a wife who flails in pain daily, my flailings in Spanish, the continued presence on the air of Billy Mays... I don't need any CNS depressants... life provides enough downers.

Snark- bang on, great comment! My erstwhile "mainline protestant denomination" was struggling with this issue, has been since the 60s. They actually DISBANDED their youth group because Pete Seeger sang at one of their gatherings (he was a member of said church body at the time) because they were afraid of commie/hippy influence.

In high school in the mid 80s, the way they "dealt" with the challenges of modern culture was by banning blue jeans (because... I'm soooooo not making this up... they were the "uniform of rebellion and satanic influences") and having us go to goofy seminars on backmasking.

Churches are trying to "compete" in the marketplace, but almost none of them are doing a good job of it. Some totally gut themselves of their core and become sanctified social service organizations. Others try to mix raz-ma-taz with their traditional way of doing things, which is rather like putting cake and broccoli together into a salad. Others have dug in their heels and tried to stay in the 18th century. I saw all three approaches tried in my erstwhile denomination, but none of them really worked for them, because they were still operating with the best interests of the human institution of that denomination as their prime directive, rather than the needs of humans or the Mission of God.