Men and Women of (Liberal!) Faith

I’m not sure this counts as yet another post in the whole Burwell v. Hobby Lobby series. Perhaps it’s a tangentially related work living in the same universe — think, for example, of the relationship between The Animatrix and the Wachowski’s original Matrix trilogy. Because my train of thought is prompted by a couple articles in the ongoing cultural unfolding about the SCOTUS decision, but I think I’m going somewhere a bit more generalizable.

At least, I hope I am.

The articles separately depict attempts by progressive Christian/religious groups to protest the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, its messages about women’s reproductive rights, and the way it has been so quickly seized to justify anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

First, the protest against the newly-established limits on women’s reproductive freedoms:

A group of clergy handed out condoms to customers in front of an Illinois Hobby Lobby store on Wednesday, staging a creative, faith-based protest against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant the craft store giant religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The action, which was reportedly initiated by a local United Church of Christ (UCC) minister in Aurora, Illinois, included representatives from the UCC, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Planned Parenthood. . . . “I’m just hoping that (people who see the demonstration) realize that this opinion (of Hobby Lobby’s owners) is not the opinion of religious people as a broad spectrum, but that religious people have many different opinions,” Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, a UUA minister who was at the protest, told the Daily Herald.

Religious leaders also said they hoped the move would draw attention to the danger of allowing employers to privilege their own religious beliefs over those of their employees.

“You can make the religious freedom argument, you can make the argument about contraception, but ultimately, for me, this is about power,” said Rev. Mark Winters, a UCC minister. “Jesus had a lot of issue with powerful people using power over the powerless.”

And now, an excerpt from an article detailing similar advocacy against the faith-based orbs trying to seize Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as a way to justify anti-LGBTQ prejudice:

Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, published an Op-Ed over at Time.com this afternoon saying that she was “devastated” by the letter, and argued that the proposed exemption should be left out of the executive order.

“I was saddened, I was embarrassed, I was appalled, [by the letter]” Jones wrote. “The faith that fought for justice for so many is now being used to justify injustice. The faith community that taught me to never throw stones was asking that Christians have a special permission to throw stones if they wanted. It’s simply theologically indefensible … I do not support a religious exemption that permits Christians to behave worse than their fellow citizens, and the president should not include it.”

Sources close to several progressive faith groups have also informed ThinkProgress that a coalition of denominations, faith-based advocacy organizations, and seminaries are crafting their own letter to President Obama asking him not to include the exemption. In fact, several other faith-based groups have publicly opposed the idea of a religious exemption ever since the Obama administration first announced their intention to issue the executive order a few weeks ago. As Sarah Posner points out over at Religion Dispatches, pro-LGBT faith groups such as Equally Blessed, a Catholic organization, have been vocal opponents of any stipulation that would allow for the discrimination of LGBT people, a sentiment echoed by Rev. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance, who voiced his organization’s opposition to the exemption by saying, “The tenet that religion should never be legitimated as a license to discriminate remains our core belief.”

“The tenet that religion should never be legitimated as a license to discriminate remains our core belief.” I love this.

“Jesus had a lot of issue with powerful people using power over the powerless.” Preach it!

———-

jesus-facepalmThere’s lots of times where public discourse about religion and spirituality — and especially about Christianity — show a disproportionate representation of individuals using their faith as the foundation for conservative/”right-wing” values.* So, given the over-representation of conservative Christians viewpoints in the public/media landscape of American religion, it could be easy to fall into stereotypes about the negativity of organized religion in general, and perhaps about the problematics of Christianity in specific.

I’m glad that in the midst of this week’s events, where a very specific strand of Christianity has been used as the justification for a morally repugnant court decision, I have so quickly been reminded of all the ways that Hobby Lobby’s strand of Christianity is part of a much larger and more expansive tapestry.

And I even have hopes that the public discourse about being a person of faith might start shifting, bit by bit.

[A]ccording to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with the Brookings Institution, the religious balance of power is shifting in ways that could make the religious left the new “Moral Majority,” figuratively speaking. If current trends persist, religious progressives will soon outnumber religious conservatives, a group that is shrinking with each successive generation, the data show.

PRRI reports that 23 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are nonreligious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66- to 88-year-olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives. The survey used a religious-orientation scale that “combines theological, economic, and social outlooks.”

I know from my own personal, lived experience about the deep traditions of social activism and liberal faith the run in the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists. I know that similar streams of social justice and activism run in the rivers of other faith traditions — even if I am too ill-informed to be able to provide much in the way of detail.

I hope that, as the world spins forward, that every time Christian conservativism is used to justify some miscarriage of justice, as it was in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, that there will swiftly and surely be a chorus of voices rising, just like Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, Rev. Mark Winters, Serene Jones and Rev. Welton Gaddy. Rising to proclaim: “We are men and women of faith. We are connected to God, we strive to walk a path of soul and virtue, and this (fill-in-the-blank-for-whatever-new-atrocity-has-arisen) does not represent our understanding of God’s will for humanity!” Let their words be broadcast and shared widely, let the media catch up to understanding that Christianity /= conservatism, and that many Christians believe that Jesus was a liberal.

Let the Good News be spread.

So mote it be.

* Such as the curtailing of women’s reproductive freedom, the perpetuation of marriage inequality, science denial around evolution and climate change, and just a whole bunch of different angle trying to impose a Christian theocracy instead maintaining the USA’s cultural religious pluralism and the political separation of church and state. Y’know, those kinds of things that make me feel so ranty and rave-y.

———-

Image credit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/08/the-distinctive-characteristic-of-liberal-christians.html

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3 Responses to Men and Women of (Liberal!) Faith

  1. This is great to hear. I can relate. I was raised in a very conservative religious environment, but as I listened to the message in my Catholic school religion classes, I couldn’t escape how progressive it was. Caring for the poor, compassion for all, peace and understanding. There was “give to to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” but nothing nearly as intolerant as we hear from the far right.

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  2. revgerry says:

    I do love this post and thanks for spreading the good news. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians,” I don’t think Jesus would have liked them very much either. I agree the decision is about power and it saddens me that our country has stooped this low. I have to remember that if it bleeds it leads, and the Christian Pharisees as I think of them, know how to make everything ugly enough that they are over-represented as far as power goes as compared to numbers.

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  3. Pingback: Breadcrumbs 3 | Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

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