Indiana welcomes you to the holy wars

T.A. Barnhart

Indiana welcomes you to the holy wars

A matter of degree & nothing more.

A Facebook friend listed a long list of issues that have outraged him – education, the banksters, cops gunning down black kids – and wondered why so many liberals were getting het up over the discrimination of gay couples trying to buy wedding cakes and the like. Aside from the fact that many liberals are angry about those issues and not just the bakeries, the new law passed in Indiana deserves our outrage and immediate, and unconditional, national attention.

The root of the Indiana “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (a big tip o’ the hat to Prof Orwell for that name) is the desire of christianists in the United States to replace civil law with their version of biblical fundamentalism. As we know from observing any nation that allows hardcore religionists to implement their absolute views as law, disaster will follow for those who do not bow their knees and heads to the god the zealots declare to be the almighty. In Indiana, the RFRA is the next, and most extreme, step in that project in our country.

The RFRA doesn’t simply allow discrimination for no reason other than “my beliefs”; it sanctions the demolition of civic law in the name of a god worshipped by a powerful minority. The RFRA underminds the United States Constitution in exactly the way James Madison and other Founders feared: a minority “faction” imposing its ideology over the majority. This goes way beyond bakeries and other businesses refusing to serve certain folks they don’t much care for.

This is about our country surviving as a society based on laws, politics, and a shared pluralistic society.

I find that many liberals, living their lives based on a measure of rationality and open-mindedness, simply cannot fathom the true nature of fundamentalism. A term I hear often is “crazy”, as in “those religous fanatics are crazy”. For christianists of this ilk, they take being called crazy by non-believers as a badge of honor and proof they are doing the right thing.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:18-29 (NASB)

For Christians who take the Bible as God’s true word, the “things of man” are corrupt, temporary, and subject to God’s law. Fair enough; that’s the nature of religious belief. As an atheist, I believe that the “things of man” – our knowledge, our practices, etc – are subject to the laws of nature. I have no proof there is no god behind that, so the most I can do is point to what science has proven and remain open to learning more.

Religionists, as opposed to people of faith who are willing to take Jesus’ advice and “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”, refuse to accept the beliefs of others. Religionists create god in their own image, and woe betide those who oppose them. In northern Syria and Iraq, that means ISIL will slaughter you and your family; in Indiana, it means you are relegated to being a second-class citizen. It may be just a cake from a bakery, but Rosa Parks “just” wanted to rest her feet on her way home.

Indiana’s RFRA is more than just a law sanctioning discrimination. If it were that and nothing more, then it would not be a big deal. Such blatant attacks on basic civil rights, so broadly applied, cannot survive a legal challenge, Hobby Lobby notwithstanding. We speak now and then of “culture wars” but this goes far beyond that. This is truly on a par with ISIL, the Taliban, and other hardcore, uber-zealot religionist attacks on civil society and differing beliefs around the world. No, Indiana christianists are not taking prisoners and beheading them. But the difference is a matter of degree and nothing more. Those backing this law in Indiana and elsewhere believe, fully and with all their being, that their god has called them to take all necessary steps against those who would bring the kind of evil to their cities and states that caused God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is not hyperbole. I have sat in similar congregations and heard these words. Thankfully, the message I heard (in the late 70s) was limited to opposing the sinners through religious and civic means. More and more congregations are hearing messages that slide ever closer to declaring an actual religious war. The christianists in Indiana are willing to pass this law because they do not consider glbtq Americans to be decent human beings any more than they believe women have the right to make personal health care choices. Declaring glbtq people to be second-class citizens is a godly thing for them to do. A thing their god commands them to do.

Just imagine what might come next if they get away with this.

Indiana’s RFRA is a big effing deal, and more so than you probably realize. It’s not merely legalized discrimination. It’s a declaration of war.

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