Friday, October 08, 2010

The Angle of reflection

A significant part of the Republican "message" has been that our secular laws derive from a largely mythical "Judeo-Christian" system of values. Yes, the adage about strange bedfellows is true, but politics and religion, being in bed together, tend to spawn strange offspring and to dress them up as reason and decency.

Of course, it's true that a great number of our laws do reflect religious prohibitions, biases, and attitudes, and those laws often criminalize behavior that involves no harm to people or property and interferes with personal liberty, but those taboos seem to be shared by a great number of cultures which adhere to religions from Animism to Confucianism. There's little that's unique about our alleged Christian values and from the start, many of those values were at odds with our independence and our freedom. Yes, it's hard to think of a religion of any kind that has no rules of behavior but we're talking about Americans -- the people at the center of the universe who don't really think much about thinking or the necessity of reason.

So when we pass laws forbidding dancing on Friday, the observation or rejection of Christmas, the reading of certain books: when we make laws concerning who may live together, have sex together and in what way, we have illustrations of religious law intruding into secular life in America. Such things are slowly eroding and always changing, of course, but the prospect of a group that has always composed a small minority in the US: The Muslims, supporting certain religious rules within their own congregations and amongst their adherents seems to have all the bells in the national belfry ringing in discord.

Islamic religious law, says Sharon Angle, is "taking hold" in some American cities and that's a "militant terrorist situation." No, really. I suppose it's wildly different in a terrorist sort of way for Jews to forbid Pork and Lobster or cheeseburgers or to require prayer at certain times and even to mandate beards or distinctive clothing. I suppose it's not the same thing for Catholics to forbid divorce and require celibacy of certain people and distinctive clothing for the clergy. The special Mormon underwear? Prohibitions against alcohol and coffee? Is the Church of Latter Day Saints "taking over" Utah and the constitution taken to the shredder? No, there's no militant terrorist situation there. Is there really a chance that the constitution will be supplanted by the Amish Ordnung even if an area has a majority of that peaceful faith? So why are we afraid and what are we really afraid of? Why does Sharon Angle say:

"It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States"? 

Well, of course, we wouldn't pay any attention to such a person as she if she weren't outrageous, but if we were a nation that could notice that these religious rules are in no respect taking hold of municipal governments and in fact are optional personal choices in a nation that allows us to make such choices freely, perhaps Sharon Angle would be all alone in some little room raving at the walls and not on national TV farting out her fallacies, misrepresentations and hysterical lies -- and God help us, running for the U.S. Senate. Sure, there would be something fundamentally wrong, but more certainly: it isn't happening here. Religion, say the courts, gives no license to break the law whether that faith demands we strangle a wayward daughter or drag a gay man behind a pickup truck or poison our congregation with cyanide.

The key word here is "foreign." Although virtually all our religions are imported and many religious groups immigrated simply so that they could have communities with their own religious rules, Angle wants to reinforce the chauvinism of a certain kind of self-styled Christian who would be quite happy with a massively powerful government intent on substituting their own 'Christian' restrictions for our secular constitution. She is, most ironically, the best example of what she wants us to fear. Muslims and certain other people will always be "foreign" and most of us will never pause to reflect upon the horrible consequences that xenophobic, nationalistic bit of European bigotry had in the last century.

But we're not a nation of critical thinkers; at least not enough of us to give reason or even common decency a fighting chance. Bigotry, our real national religion, forbids it after all and we make demons out of people who don't want to participate or worst of all, don't want any religion forced on them.

Angle would like to pass on her contagious nightmare and indeed I know too many people who share it and who will refuse to be persuaded that even if we someday have an Ayatollah of Texas, he's not going to be able to use force to punish reprobates and infidels or have any more secular authority than an Archbishop or TV evangelist. They refuse to remember when Roman Catholics were a "foreign" religion to be feared for inquisitions and foreign rule over Americans. Somehow that "hopey-changey" thing did work our fairly well for them and for the many others who have had to contend with the Know-Nothing nativists and the Sharon Angles of their day.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home