Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Religion Getting In The Way

There have been several news stories recently which I've wanted to comment on. I finally took another look and discovered that they had something in common.

There was a Pentacostal clergyman who handled poisonous snakes as part of the service. He believed his faith would keep him safe even if he was bitten. He had survived bites before this. When a timber rattler bit him recently, parishioners called 911. He and his family declined treatment. Within a couple hours, he was dead.

Now just how do you tell the guy that a stupid snake just told him that by his own definition his faith wasn't good enough? And beyond the simple fact of his death, just what does that kind of message do to somebody?

Apparently, the message is not enough to keep his son from following in his daddy's footsteps. Not only is the son now handling those same snakes, including the timber rattler which killed Daddy, he also states he will refuse medical treatment if and when he gets bit.

I guess the message was a bit too subtle.

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Arizona, lovely as it is, manages to elect some weird ones. The latest law garnering publicity allows those who are holding "sincerely religious beliefs" against homosexuality to refuse to serve them in their businesses. It's a broadly written law, allowing almost any kind of bigot to claim religious reasons to deny service.  If my particular brand of religion finds, say, women showing their hair in public to be grossly sinful, I can demand they cover up or leave. If I think somebody is promiscuous by whatever definition, I can deny service. If I think they fail to, say, honor their parents properly, I can deny service. If I judge them sinners for having the wrong kind of religion, or worshipping on the wrong day of the week, or eating the wrong foods, or using the wrong kind of birth control, or wearing the wrong kind of skin, or not expressing the right kind of humility in my presence... well, you get the picture.

I get to decide how sincerely held my own beliefs are, and use them to abuse others. It's entirely subjective, making it as nonsensical and dangerous as Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. That one says I get to decide how much of a threat that other (brown, doncha know) person is, and thus can justify killing them before they have a chance to... attack me with music? skittles? popcorn? a sidewalk?

The claim in favor of the Arizona law is that it provides religious freedom. Rather, it provides religious bullying. My ancestors came over here, in part, to get away from other folks telling them how to worship, what to believe. Your right to religious freedom stops at trying to coerce or punish me into following the same one. Just like your right to swing your fist ends just before my nose. Nothing about serving another person who wishes to use your business just like everybody else does is any form of denial of your religious beliefs. If you can't tolerate the Jew, gay, brown, Muslim, or whatever person at your lunch counter, go find another line of work. By all means, believe whatever you please. But go find another line of work.

And while you do, ask yourself, "Who would Jesus hate/bomb/shoot?" Or is that one too subtle for you too?

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MPR has been doing a great job of sticking with, uncovering data, and reporting the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal locally, despite the continued obfuscations and downright lies by the archdioces. At every turn, something new has been heaped on the pile.

One offending priest has been "retired", and getting what amounts to extra payoffs each month to support him in a quite comfortable lifestyle. When forced by the courts to reveal a list of "credibly accused" priests, a small list was offered with lots of restrictions on it: they had to be still alive, in the state, etc. And of course there were no current offenders. After rumors surfaced that there was a list of 33 priests, completely denied by the archdioces, investigation revealed that there were multiple lists, totaling 70! One priest's internet searches for child porn has just been revealed.

Yesterday morning my radio alarm story kept me riveted in bed before details finally drove me out of it. (Well, that and my bladder too, but....) A mother who wished to remain anonymous told about what happened to her children. Yes, children. A good Catholic, she has a large family. While she was employed full time in the church office, over the years three of her sons were abused by the priest in a small trailer just outside the office she worked in. Two of her sons, in turn, turned around and abused their younger siblings. Her five-year-old daughters, which she described as "cuddle bugs", suddenly became very clingy. She described a scene where they begged to accompany her when she was just going to the store. She was trying to back the car out of the driveway while they were clinging to the door handles, until their older brother "helpfully" removed them and took them into the house.

Are you feeling sick yet?

Her family is now in therapy. The story became public because those bills are no longer being paid for by the church. The church made a statement that they are merely "behind", partly due to staffing problems.

Oh, did I mention that this employee-mother has had her hours cut to part time?

Her final comment in the report was a lament on how the church was spending more time and effort on protecting the business of the church rather than ministering to the flock. As the reports keep piling up, I have to marvel that there still is a flock to minister to.

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