Wednesday, October 31, 2007


From the Archives (August 2005)

If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for us—1920s Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, barring the teaching of foreign languages in public schools

What the Bible purportedly says is often the grounds upon which political battles are decided in our country and, these days, some Bible factoid that a slick preacher can encapsulate in a rhyming soundbite often passes as knowledge and is used to try to sledgehammer bias and superstition into policy.

The New York Times reports that an overwhelming majority of US citizens want both creationism and evolution to be taught in public schools. And many are under the erroneous assumption that none of the tenets of evolution are proveable. The fact that we are carbon life-forms, that our ancestors were carbon life-forms that can be traced to a certain era is not theory, but that's missing from this debate.

Meanwhile, the science backing creationism or so-called Intelligent Design remains nonexistent.

The bigger question, of course, is WHY is manipulated public opinion dictating what people are taught in science classes?

When I was a child, a primary tenet of Southern Baptist faith was the absolute separation of church and state. Baptists perceive of themselves as hard-working, good-hearted minorities who would be protected by the rule of law, but they eschewed politics (and carved furniture and fancy make-up, and...) as worldly and unclean.

That’s all changed now, almost as radically as the Baptist version of Jesus has changed.

Jesus, back when I was creating tinfoil lakes and burning bushes in my Vacation Bible School diorama projects, was the supreme authority—the all-knowing, all-loving savior who made everyone equal before the eyes of God. Fundamentalists have replaced this authority with Old Testament fire and brimstone now and assert that the Bible is not open to interpretation.

Nosireebobtail, it’s not a human translation of original Hebrew or Greek written by a host of fallible people, but is instead the literal word of God. And this Old Testament God's wrath, not Jesus’s inclusion, is the authority now.

As the bumpersticker I see too often says God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

Interesting how the Baptists exclude some chapters of the Bible found in the same caves as chapters that are included too. Are these texts somehow less the word of God? Or are they less easily manipulated for social control or insufficiently patriarchal or a little too sexy? (Or too Catholic, as a Sundahy School teacher once told me.)

Baptist ministers are also “called,” which means that some never attend seminaries or receive formal education. Do these religious um leaders even know that these other chapters exist? Or that they were written in the original Greek and Hebrew?

You and I can bring the rule and reign of the cross to America. That’s what Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the 2,000-member Hope Christian Church in Bowie MD said on so-called Justice Sunday II (8.14.2005). And that’s what the fundamentalists want to do: enforce their brand of faith onto this nation.

I guess they’ve overlooked the fact that our Constitution calls for three co-equal branches of government, since they are determined to undermine the independent judiciary and thus undermine the separation of powers.

One of their strategies is court-stripping, but “despite the Christian Coalition’s best efforts, those pesky federal courts keep upholding the Bill of Rights and the separation of church and state. But not to worry, the group has a plan to fix that: take away the right of the courts to hear those cases in the first place. This bold gambit, called ‘court stripping,’ is all the rage among the Religious Right these days.” (Rob Boston, AUSCS’s Church and State, Nov. 2004)

Jesse Helms worked hard to deny the courts the right to hear school prayer cases too. In fact, for years now, the Christianists have insisted that Congress has the power to remove some “issues” from the purview of the federal court system.

Our separation of powers was designed to maintain balance while keeping the will of the majority from trampling on the rights of the minority. If lawmakers infringe on constitutional rights, then the courts pull them back from the fringe and protect citizens from cultural whims and biases and the sometimes boneheaded will of the majority.

You don’t have to go very far back in history to realize why we need this division of power either. Remember when the federal courts stepped in after local and state governments ruled by bias and failed to protect African Americans? They overturned the oppressive Jim Crow statutes that denied a portion of our citizenry the right to vote and imposed segregation(...and many a white southerner has stoked a simmering rage against the federal court system ever since).

Court-stripping was not a strategy back then, but think about it in the context of the present, with the Christianists who are now in Congress running things. With our theocractic-leaning president running things. If a federal court overturned the Jim Crow laws today, a court-stripping amendment could be pushed through to uphold them before lunch.

Now let’s step back to the days of ducktails again. In 1964, George Wallace attacked the passage of civil-rights legislation this way: “Today, this tyranny is imposed by the central government which claims the right to rule over our lives under sanction of the omnipotent black-robed despots who sit on the bench of the US Supreme Court.” Not surprisingly, Wallace insisted that legislation be passed to “curb the powers of this body of judicial tyrants.”

Judicial tyrants.

(Hey. Here’s an idea: if someone enforces a law that you don’t believe in, then don't step back to question your own biases. Instead, insist that you’re being vicitimized by tyrants. They don’t like me becawz I’m a Chwistian! Waaa!)

(Aww. Would you cry me a fucking river?)

James Dobson sounds like George Wallace these days. “Stop Judicial Tyranny,” he says on his Focus on The Family website, as he promotes court-stripping bills and attacks the federal judiciary for any ruling that displeases his quest for power.

And he gets tax breaks for doing this. Amazing!

Meanwhile, I’m reading What The Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say—About Homosexuality and A Response to Southern Baptists: A Gay Christian Answers to Fundamentalist Southern Baptists right now in an attempt to decide how to respond to my rabid aunt. This is from the latter title:

The conservative political takeover of Southern Baptist seminaries and other institutions has undermined the objective academic credibility of once great schools and boards and has made Baptists the object of scorn and ridicule in the scholastic world.... Baptists deny the Bible in their attacks on homosexuals. Baptist Greek scholars know, like all others do, that the Bible has no word for ‘homosexual’ in the Old Testament Hebrew or the New Testament Greek. Yet the same incorrect translations and out-of-context use of only six verses to attack and condemn gay people continues in this so-called ‘Bible believing’ denomination.”

Katherine Yurica transcribed Pat Robertson's television show The 700 Club in the early 1980s and points out that he was outlining his strategy to strip the federal judiciary of its constitutional powers 25 years ago:

Robertson wanted to reduce or eliminate the power of the judiciary. He denied that the Constitution provides a system of checks and balances between three separate and equal branches of government...

In fact, Robertson went further: he denied that the judiciary is a co-equal branch of the government. Instead, he saw the judiciary as a department of the legislative branch, which he believed was the dominant center of power in the nation. His reasoning went like this: Since Congress has complete authority to establish the lower federal courts and to establish "the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court," the court system is necessarily subordinate to the legislative. Robertson's idea was that congress could control the court by using its power to intimidate. For example, he said, ‘Congress could say “There's a whole class of cases you can't hear” and there's nobody can do anything about it!’

Now let’s shift our gaze to Rep. John Hostetler (R-IN). He said, at a recent Christian Coalition gathering, "When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them. Federal courts have no army or navy. The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We're not saying they can't do that. At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions."

Yes, he’s THAT Hostettler, the author of two recent court-stripping bills. (One was an amendment barring the use of federal funds to enforce the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals decision to remove the 10 Commandments from a Montgomery courthouse; it also restricts the court’s ability to hear cases involving other religious symbols. Hostettler drafted the so-called Marriage Protection Act too. This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction over legal challenges to the DOMA.

Then there’s the so-called Constitution Restoration Act of 2004, which bans challenges to state-sponsored acknowledgments of “God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government” and retroactively overturns all existing rulings even as it sets up a mechanism for impeaching federal judges who uphold church-state separation. And this was written by a judge!

Maybe he never had to take Civics. Or maybe most current Congresspeople these days didn’t. Or maybe the Christianists went to Christian schools and were only taught what would make them complacent believers. Or maybe the Christianists haven’t yet realized that they can’t buy courts the way they can buy elections.

Whatever the case, our nation’s separation of powers means that Congress does not have the power to decimate the authority of the courts through legislation that deals with issues surrounding our Bill of Rights, even if some citizens would like to turn the courts into rubberstamps for Congress and the Christianists.

There’s much more to rant about in this arena and researching the Bible in my efforts to draft an overdue letter to my Aunt Becky is pushing me up onto my soapbox, but I gotta go for now so ciao bella.

No comments: