Thursday, May 10, 2007

Iowa, Intolerance and Intent

Intolerance by the Dominionist or Reconstructionist of those who do not adhere to their beliefs can be a source of major confusion if you believe in freedom of conscience. Intolerance

In a most recent example; U.S. Navy veteran David Miller writing the Daily Kos as the Iowa City Akiva details his struggles as an Orthodox Jew receiving treatment at a Veterans Hospital that was a hotbed of Dominionism.
    When a veteran moves to the area or in any way begins to access services at the Iowa City VA they are required to attend an orientation class – this class is held in the Christian Chapel, decorated with the Stations of the Cross ...I am a disabled veteran who served...in the US Navy. I am also an Orthodox Jew.
    When I moved back to Iowa and notified the Iowa City VA that I would be accessing their services, they directed me to attend the orientation class. When I refused to enter the chapel...the staff attempted to pressure me; however, I held my ground and in the end the staff told me that I would just miss out on the information provided in the class (and threw the hand-outs at me.) At that point I dutifully lodged a formal complaint with the patient advocate. This has been about two years ago now, but orientation classes are still only held in the Christian Chapel. Could it be that the Iowa City VA is really trying to establish their underlying Christian intent with every orientation class?
Yes my Jewish brother, that is their intent:
    Regarding proselytizing, Assembly of God Chaplain David Brown expressed that he couldn’t imagine why I would have a problem with his visits. He asserted that he had regularly visited many Jewish patients at the Iowa City VA over the years without a complaint; although he did admit that he continued to visit one patient after he had specifically requested a Rabbi visit him instead – according to Chaplain Brown, the patient didn’t seem to mind too much, at least he hadn’t protested strenuously like me. Chaplain Brown made it clear that he was absolutely confounded by my objections since he found no basis for them. Clearly this guy just doesn’t get it!
It took the threat of a lawsuit to get the Iowa VA to back off. Why can't Dominionist accept the right of others to live as they choose as long as they don't break the law? Until I read the following article by Mr. Doug Muder even I did not understand:
    Who's afraid of freedom and tolerance?
    Why are fundamentalists so frightened by liberal family values? A look at competing worldviews.
    By Doug Muder
    Fall 2005 8.15.05

    Like most religious liberals, we Unitarian Universalists imagine ourselves to be nice people. It is those in the Christian Right, we believe, who want to force their moral code on everyone else and use public resources to proselytize for their faith. We, on the other hand, believe in tolerance, free choice, and letting people be what they have to be. What’s so scary about that? If the rank-and-file of organizations like Focus on the Family or the Christian Coalition feel threatened by us, we think, it can only be because they have been duped by their unscrupulous leaders.

    Not necessarily.

    True, preachers of the Christian Right have said a lot of unfair things about liberals, both religious and political. But conservative Christian fears have not been created ex nihilo. As overstated as those fears may at times become, they have a basis, and we would do well to understand it.
Your Commander was skeptical at this point; I mean what legitimate reason could these Religious Fascist have to justify their attempts to run my life. But as I kept reading, Mr Muder was making sense:
    Fundamentalists themselves would claim that the Bible is the center of their worldview, but scriptural support for their more controversial positions is often scant ... [James]Ault notes that members of the pseudonymous Shawmut River Baptist Church “generally held such views before they were ‘saved’ and became born-again Christians. Their pro-family conservatism could not be explained, then, by doctrines or practices found in any particular religion.” Instead, Ault attributes Shawmut River’s conservatism to a “village like” web of multi-generational family ties very different from what he observed among his academic acquaintances.
And thus was the idea of congenital obligations, in a society in which “relationships were seen and acted on as given rather than chosen” to use Mr. Muders own words. We Libs on the "Left Coast" inhabit a world where we can choose our own destiny. Again quoting Muder:
    By contrast, the liberal worldview puts a much greater emphasis on commitments undertaken by choice, rather than obligations imposed from birth. Naturally, this is a difference of degree rather than kind. Unitarian Universalists have obligations and Baptists make choices, but choice plays a far greater role in the liberal worldview than in the conservative. Choice is entirely a good thing in the liberal worldview, whereas it is ambiguous to the Christian Right.

    Shawmut River’s members value their ability to choose how to fulfill their obligations (without, say, interference from the government), but they condemn people who choose to slough off their obligations entirely. If “freedom” means the ability to take the easy way out without suffering the consequences (as they might describe the freedom to choose an abortion), then they’re against it.
Okay Commander, what is your point. We get to choose our lives. Why does it matter?

It matters because our life free of congenital obligations works, and it works well. And this threatens the very existence of those who see family obligations as not subject to choice:
    In popular mythology, the Christian Right comes from the morally upright heartland of America and liberalism from its corrupt and decaying cities. Strangely, both sides have reasons to promote these stereotypes. Fundamentalist communities like to see themselves as embattled citadels, islands of eternal values in the storm-tossed sea of Anything Goes.
Both sides of this argument fall apart when we recognize that the Christian Right is experiencing its own moral breakdown. In Ronald J. Sider’s recent book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience a wide variety of polls, studies, and conservative Christian experts support the following points:
  • Conservative Protestants are more likely to divorce than the national average.
  • Conservative Christian men are as likely as non-Christians to view pornography.
  • Evangelical teens are “only a little less” sexually promiscuous than non-evangelicals.
  • Those who make abstinence pledges are, on average, as likely as non-pledgers to contract sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Wives in traditional marriages “where the husband was dominant” are three times more likely to be beaten than wives in egalitarian marriages.
In addition to these rather grim statistics, it is also true that the "dens of iniquity" on the East and West coast have the greatest concentrations of wealth, the highest standard of living, and the lowest welfare roles then in comparison to the South (bible belt):


It is this damnable fact, that those who choose to live by a set of obligations freely chosen rather then by requirement seem to have a much richer, more satisfying lifestyle. Mr. Muder sums it up thus:
    Choice is the serpent in this Garden of Obligation. As soon as choice exists, I have to look at all the people in my life and wonder what they’re going to do—and they have to wonder about me as well. If other people have choices, then maybe fulfilling my timeless obligations just makes me a sucker. Maybe everyone who does his or her duty is a sucker.

    One of the best-kept secrets in American society, however, is that religious liberal families are holding together at least as well as any other kind of family. Unitarian Universalists not only raise children, we do a pretty good job of it. I am consistently impressed by the quality of the young people I meet in my church and in the other churches I visit. Somebody is doing something right.

    If there is one basic thing conservatives do not understand about religious liberals, it is this sense of commitment. They see us champion choice over obligation, but misunderstand our reasons. They understand us to be advocating a superficial and nihilistic way of life. They think we want to choose our own moral codes so that we can pick easy ones that rationalize our every whim. They believe that we want the freedom to define our relationships so that we can walk away from anything that looks difficult.
This is not the case. We liberals have a moral code, but we do not insist that our norms and standards are universal, ex specially in the era of Earth as a Global Village.

Most people do not want to believe they are suckers. They fight against the free thinker because they can not deal, can not accept that their system of obligation is going to fall, and to use a familiar saying among the fans of Star Trek: Resistance is futile.

Mr. Muder ends the article with the plea that those of us who believe that the liberal or progressive lifestyle must not "roll back history":
    It is tempting, human, and (to an extent) inevitable for religious liberals to respond with our own feelings of persecution, helplessness, and anger. But in doing so, we fall into the vicious cycle of polarization: Our anger feeds their sense of persecution just as theirs feeds ours.

    We have a way out of this cycle: a message of hope that the Right cannot match. Our way of life works in this new world and does not demand that we roll history back. We need to broadcast this Liberal Good News loud and clear.
The Commander agrees, anger is not the answer, education is. The net, the blog, the entire realm of cyberspace is the new frontier, and it can not be blocked. If we believe that we are the future (I do) we must avoid a tit for tat cycle of revenge.

    1 comment:

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