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Garden of the Church

A recent Newsweek article made a point about separation of church and state that often goes unnoticed by the religious among us: that religion flourishes in the minds of the people when it avoids trying to influence their government.

While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called “the garden of the church” from “the wilderness of the world.” As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America’s unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right’s notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.

Coercing people to follow your religious tenants by force of law makes them push back. Given the explicit mingling of church and state under the latest Bush administration (one of our most disastrous presidencies), is there any wonder that people are turned off by religion. The religiously motivated attacks on September 11 also changed some minds about religion. Many churchs’ involvement in the fight against same-sex marriage turns even more people off. For many, religion became the public face of hatred, violence, and fear.

At the same time, many of us are seeking out even more fundamentalist religion. I guess these are polarizing times. Let’s hope for their sake that they learn from recent history. It would be better for religion observance in America if they took a live-and-let-live attitude toward other people’s behavior.

(via Mind on Fire)

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You go, Maine!

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Gaythering Storm

The producers of that same-sex marriage storm commercial had to know that they were going to be mocked, right? Satire is a beautiful thing. (via Dancing with Crazy)

A Gaythering Storm from Jane Lynch

Oh! and then there’s this.

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We do not need to choose between torture and terror

The American public has a right to know that they do not have to choose between torture and terror. There is a better way to conduct interrogations that works more efficiently, keeps Americans safe, and doesn’t sacrifice our integrity. Our greatest victory to date in this war, the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi (which saved thousands of lives and helped pave the way to the Sunni Awakening), was achieved using interrogation methods that had nothing to do with torture. The American people deserve to know that. (Interview of Major Matthew Alexander, Air Force interrogator and author of How to Break a Terrorist)

Also see the article in the Washington Post.

(via Schneier on Security)

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If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

In response to the protests of the passing of Proposition 8, the LDS church made a press release asking for civility:

Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues. People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. Efforts to force citizens out of public discussion should be deplored by people of goodwill everywhere.

Methinks the irony is thick. They ask that for us to protect their right to free speech (so far, so good) by silencing the free speech of others (Danger, Will Robinson!). I agree that no one should be threatened with physical violence for speaking their mind in a liberal democracy. Every person has a right to speak out in the public square. Other people who think that person is full of shit are free to disagree, free to have their criticism heard, free to try to drown out voices of hatred and division. The LDS church’s attempt to silence opposition through playing the victim card has me worked up.

It seems like many Mormons feel threatened by people like me who recognize the right of homosexual couples to choose their marriage partners. They imagine me plotting the destruction of their Mormon lifestyle, meeting in dark rooms to discuss dark thoughts whispered seductively in my ears by demonic voices. To them, I am a foot soldier in Satan’s army, mustered against them in the Mormon version of Ragnarök. What those frightened Mormons don’t understand is that I would be one of the first to fight for their right to party Mormon-style no matter how much I disagree with their lifestyle. Believe me when I say that I would love to leave them alone in their corner of the room, if only they would leave the rest of us alone.

I confess to feeling a certain amount of schadenfreude at the perplexed distress of those pusillanimous, bigoted souls among the Mormons. They live in fear of freedom and an open horizon. They prefer the squalid security of their chthonic burrows. Their desire to exert control over a scary world where people disagree with each other has led them to betray the memory of their Mormon ancestors who fought for their own right to choose their spouses. These modern Mormon mobsters have become the persecutors who want to define marriage for other people. They deserve to twist in the wind a bit, to have their not-so-secret hatreds and fears exposed to the razor of public scrutiny and derision.

To the Mormons who didn’t support the suppression of the right of same-sex couples to marry and who now feel unfairly targeted, didn’t your mother warn you about hanging out with a bad crowd? What happened to avoiding even the appearance of evil? :)

Democracy can be an unforgiving place. I hope we never forget the LDS church’s consistent foot dragging on equal rights for people of all races and all sexes. Today’s support of Proposition 8 and other similar measures is just part of a pattern. I am willing to forgive if they are willing to renounce the bigotry of the past and actively work for the freedom of all (a freedom they seem to want to reserve only to themselves).

New York Times: Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage (via Main Street Plaza)

Jodi Mardesich at Salon: “I have been a Mormon my whole life. But after the church’s campaign of hatred to ban gay marriage, I finally renounced my membership.” (Proposition 8 made me quit the Mormon church, via Main Street Plaza)

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