Friday, March 4, 2011

Must always define 'the other' as deviant

Michigan Radio had a brief segment on Randy Hekman, the first GOP candidate to declare he is running against US Senator Debbie Stabenow. The usual stuff -- Hekman is executive pastor of a church in Grand Rapids (though the church website doesn't say how conservative it is, it is in Grand Rapids), CEO of a consulting company, founder of Michigan Family Forum (yup, a core belief is gays can't marry), and an attorney -- made me think he is just another Fundie/GOP candidate wanting to impose his morals on me.

But there was something else in the Michigan Radio that caught my eye.

He says it’s critical the size of government be drastically reduced. He says “the resulting human needs” should be addressed “with significant growth in the non-profit sector.”

That leads to some important questions:

* Given the current state of funding of non-profits (I volunteer for one and donate to several others) where is the money going to come from? The pockets of the same rich people who are demanding tax cuts from the government and who aren't supporting non-profits now?

* What happens to all those poor people if the non-profits can't raise enough money to meet the need?

* Is Hekman's desire for a greater role for non-profits because that frequently means church-affiliated organizations and is a way for him to impose his religion and morals on the rest of us? "Sorry, we can't give you food because you're gay."

Thank you, but no.

While on the subject of fundamentalism…

Peter Gomes, chaplain of Harvard University and gay, recently died. This prompted Andrew Sullivan to post a few quotes from Gomes. This one is worth repeating. Several times.

"Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert. It is dangerous, especially in America, because it is anti-democratic and is suspicious of 'the other,' in whatever form that 'other' might appear. To maintain itself, fundamentalism must always define 'the other' as deviant."

Last spring I wrote about the book Saving Paradise by Brock and Parker. The book describes how the Christian message had been subverted by various kings and popes. The Protestant Reformation reset the message through Sola Scriptura, the claim that the true message was found only through the scriptures. Human interpretation was not necessary. That was a good idea at the time because human interpretation had replaced the message of Jesus and that interpretation had become so corrupted.

According to essayist Terrence Heath there is more to the story. As part of the claim that the Bible was a sufficient description of faith and papal interpretation and authority wasn't necessary the reformers had to claim the Bible itself was a greater authority. And the way to do that is to claim the Bible was divinely dictated to the humans who wrote it down.

And that is the birth of Protestant Fundamentalism.

We get crazy slogans such as, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." There are a whole host of contradictions and inconsistencies when trying to make the Bible do something it wasn't written to do. Then there is the problem that one can prove the Bible supports whatever one wants it to.

I'm pleased that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, recognized that Scripture isn't enough and developed his quadrilateral. The Bible must be tempered with reason, experience, and tradition.

For the record, I believe the Bible contains the stories of people and their encounters with God. Through the pages they struggle to explain and interpret what can't be limited to words. Even if it wasn't dictated by God it is sill a fabulous resource for living.

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