Tuesday, June 18, 2002

So Many Right Wing Christians, So Few Lions...

In the few times I've been tempted to buy a t-shirt bearing a slogan from one of the several overpriced shops in the Castro specializing in such things, the above slogan was perhaps the most tempting (followed by "You say 'bitch' as if it were a bad thing!" and "I can only be nice to one person per day, and today is not your day...tomorrow doesn't look good, either.").

The Christian Right, the Moral Majority, and all these Family Values dickwads get right up my nose. The nerve of people who believe they have the right to dictate how other people live their lives...not to protect the rights of others or of society, but merely to force everyone to follow their own religious strictures...it just galls me. It all makes me so mad I could spit! Ptui!

Now, most everyone who knows me is aware of my head-in-the-sand approach to this sort of thing. I mean, you can't reason with such people, and you can't kill them, so all that's left to do is ignore them...for that reason, I do not read newspapers or news magazines, I don't watch the news on television, I do not have headlines in my personalized start pages, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, you can't keep all the information filtered out, and every now and again I'll follow a link from a blog or an email and get a faceful of infuriating info.

Just such a thing happened when I was visiting JF to participate in the "Tuesday Too." I followed a link to an article in the Washington Post about right-wing Christian groups allying themselves with conservative Muslim groups in order to lobby the UN for a cessation of rights to gays, women, and children. And now I'm good and incensed. So incensed, in fact, that I feel it necessary to write about it (after answering the to other, rather benign questions in the survey).

The Tuesday Too (#17)

1.) What's your favorite browser? Why do you hate "the other one"? Huh? I use Internet Explorer because it came installed in the computer. I've worked with Netscape on other people's computers, but not enough to note any differences besides the placement of buttons. Now I hear of all these other browsers, Opera and Mozilla and whatever, but I don't really get it. I prefer to stick to Microsoft products because they always work together...but more to the point, I don't like to change anything that comes installed. The machine worked when I got it, and I'm not gonna screw around with that.

2.) Are you fascinated by technology and the internet, or is it just a handy tool for you? How did you get involved in blogging?

No, I'm actually sort of baffled by technology. The only way I can deal with technology is to accept it without trying to understand it. For me, all technology is just tools, and trying to understand how they work just messes me up. But I am fascinated by the way the internet has grown over the years. I got started blogging when Rula Planet launched the Galaxy Girls website. I have always loved writing, but this brought me to a much bigger audience. Now with my own blog site, I find that it works very well to keep my writing skills honed, but also to keep a journal of sorts...I have never been able to keep a personal diary because there was no audience...but with an audience, even only an implied audience, I have the motivation to record my thoughts and my doings and my states of mind.

3.) What do you think about the alliance of conservative U.S. Christian organizations with Islamic governments (Iran, Libya, Iraq) "to halt the expansion of sexual political protections and rights of gays, women and children at United Nations conferences" (Washington Post article by Colum Lynch, June 17, 2002)? Well, let me tell you what I think (note...if you're going to read that article, eat a banana or some kiwi fruit first...you'll need the potassium to keep your blood pressure down):

If this doesn't prove that the Christian Right is evil, nothing will. For these people to ally themselves with their own religion's enemies...not to mention enemies of our nation...in order to further their oppressive political agendas, shows the depths of their depravity, ignorance, and lust for power.

This makes me so angry that I'm having difficulty organizing my thoughts...and that is exactly why such groups choose such hot-button issues as gay rights, abortion, censorship, and "family" to build their platforms around. These are topics that people will react to in a visceral rather than an intellectual way.

There are certain facets of life that the average person will instinctively lash out to protect...especially their children and their family or tribe. Gay rights is never presented by these right-wing types as ensuring adults who happen to be homosexual the same rights that all other adult citizens enjoy: they are presented as "special," "extra," "unearned" rights for a tiny and perverted segment of the population who are out to seduce and destroy their children. Abortion legislation is never presented by Pro-Lifers as a woman's right to choose what happens to her body, or even as an intellectual question of when individual life begins, but rather as "killing babies." Whenever these right-wing crusaders get started, they never claim to be promoting Christianity or promoting conservative agendas—they are always "protecting the children" and "protecting the family."

Everybody wants to protect their own children. Everybody wants to protect their own homes and families and communities. And if you can convince people that their children or their homes are in danger, you can get them to do almost anything. And religious leaders know that...as do advertisers and politicians. They know where the buttons are, and they push those buttons to gain support. This is called "demagogy." And for those of us who don't remember our Ancient History, demagogy destroyed democracy in Greece and Rome. Demagogy is the enemy of democracy because it appeals to prejudice and instinct instead of fairness and intelligence. It promotes fascism and dictatorship by encouraging ignorance in the general populace. That's all there is to it.

The thing I always have to ask myself is "What does this group seek to accomplish?" Beyond what they ask for or demand on the surface, I mean:

Q: What does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ("the Mormons"), or the Catholic Church, or the various and numerous right-wing Protestant religious groups in the U.S. want that isn't already guaranteed them by the Constitution?

A: I believe they (or rather powerful groups within them) want to recreate the world in their own images, to inflict their own value systems on the nation and then the world.

Q: What do Pro-Life groups seek to accomplish beyond illegalizing abortion? What do they think should be done with all those "little lives" they want saved?

A: I believe you'll find, if you interview any of the key players of the movement, that they don't have any ideas beyond the simple power of preventing people from doing something that they (the Pro-Lifers) believe is wrong...not for any intellectual reason, but because their religion says so and they personally believe so.

Q: What are conservative politicians really seeking when they crusade against gay rights or integration or Affirmative Action or welfare?

A: I believe they are seeking to divert the attentions of their constituents away from their own corruption and power-seeking and focusing that attention on scapegoat minorities.

What it all boils down to is power and the quest for power. Why does the Vatican hold so closely to its doctrine that all forms of birth-control are sinful? Because once you cease to control people's sexuality, considering that sex is one of the most powerful motivators in the human organism, you lose a very important hold on them; furthermore, people with children are more tractable than people without children because you can always threaten their children, directly or indirectly, appeal to their most animal instincts to preserve their offspring, and thereby bend them to your will. That, my friends, is serious power. All the power held by the Vatican stems from weilding a threat, usually in the form of a scapegoat group, to your offspring, family, and tribe...and if that doesn't work, they scare you with threats of eternal flames in the afterlife (another pretty good motivator for those who believe in such things).

It's very easy to scapegoat gays...we are very few, to begin with, and our dissappearance or suppression won't effect most people. The average straight person doesn't understand what being gay is like (any more than gay people really understand what it's like to be straight), because sexuality is really one of those things that you have to experience to understand—so there's an absolutely invaluable wall of antipathy a demagogue can tap into. There's also a kind of jealousy involved, particularly as concerns freedom from family responsibility and a tendency toward promiscuity...no matter how much one loves one's family and one's mate, you're bound to be jealous of a group that seems to be having more fun than you.

It's also very easy to scapegoat abortion. Most women could never bring themselves to have an abortion; most men would be highly insulted and hurt to know that their seed was disposed of. Even the Pro-Choice women with whom I have discussed this issue would never have an abortion themselves. The very idea of abortion (particularly if you can frame the idea retroactively to apply to children one already has) is so loathesome to most people that the reaction to any mention of it is severe and emotional. So any leader or politician who wants to distract the majority of constituents from looking too closely into his or her private life or voting record can always bring up abortion and get a lot of support and a lot of talk and a lot of confusion. It's a cheap sleight-of-hand trick, a sort of "Look behind you!" while they pocket the coins on the table.

"But what about the rights of Christians?" I hear whenever someone uses the Constitution and Bill of Rights to slap down these Bible-thumping demagogues. That's where the real money is: tell your constituents that their religion, their spritual and cultural practices, their very salvation and their right to worship their God is in danger. Even the most level-headed and liberal-minded live-and-let-live Christians will get their panties in a wad if you can convince them that God Himself is being threatened.

This is what made prayer in schools such a hot-button issue: those who were defending prayer in schools focused all their attention on the implied suppression of Christianity, not on the liberation of non-Christian students. Illegalizing school prayers does not prevent Christians from praying whenever and wherever they want...it prevents them from forcing their beliefs and practices on others. But many religious people of all sorts, Christians and Jews and Muslims and what-have-you, are so accustomed to being told what to think by their church's doctrines or leaders that they tend to become indiscriminate in their beliefs...they believe whatever they are told by their leaders without question, bequeathing to their leaders, ministers and elders and priests, the Perfect Faith that should be reserved for God alone.

The thing is this: One person's rights end where the next person's nose begins. That is a very simple way of dealing with and understanding civil rights. Christians have the right to worship as they choose...they even have the right to attempt conversion and missionary themselves all over the place as they choose. But they do not have the right to dictate other people's behavior on the grounds of their own religious convictions. If I am an atheist or agnostic (or, in my case, a casual neoplatonist), then I have the right to conduct my affairs without the guidance of the Judeo-Christian Bible. I am bound by the law, but the law must conform to the US Constitution and Bill of Rights...and the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion...not Freedom of Christianity, but Freedom of Religion. That means freedom to not follow religion, as well as the freedom to follow any religion one chooses. Any law that rests on a Biblical basis, even if it is passed and enacted on majority feeling, is an unconstitutional law and is inherently illegal and un-American.

Anyway, I think I'd better stop there. I was about to launch into a theme of "the Constitution was drafted to protect the Majority from itself," but I'm getting tired and need to go get a snack of some kind. Thanks for hearing me out, and I'd love to hear anything you have to share on the subject down in the comment window.

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