Cultural Christians and Bigotry in Tennessee

Cultural Christians Lie in TennesseeLast Wednesday, the Tennessee House voted 68-22 for a bill that would allow mental health professionals to refuse to treat patients on the grounds of the counselors’ religious beliefs. It’s just another “hate the fags” law and a big sign that on this issue at least, the cultural Christians are not only losing, they are terrified. This vote reminds me of the comment from yesterday’s anniversary post where an explicitly racist judge ranted from the bench.

Let’s think about this for a moment. This law is designed to make it harder for LGBT people to get counseling services. In what way is this Christian? In the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t have a problem going around and ministering to anyone at all. But apparently, these Christian counselors have to be protected from the rules of their profession, the American Counseling Association, that they can’t tell LGBT people that they are wrong or sinful. You have to ask: why didn’t such counselors go into the church instead?

Two days before the House voted on its ridiculous bill, the Tennessee Senate voted on an even more ridiculous bill, SB1108, which “designates the Holy Bible as the official state book.”

Think of a lawyer who is defending a murderer. I would assume that the lawyer would be against murder; pretty much everyone is; the truth is that the vast majority of murderers are against murder. But the purpose of the lawyer is not to judge the murderer but to provide them legal services as dictated by the ABA. Yet where are the laws being passed to protect Christian defense attorneys from having to defend people who have sinned in God’s eyes? I’ve never heard of any such thing, and I have no doubt that such a law would go down in flames in the Tennessee House.

Cultural Christians and Bigotry

So this really isn’t about Christianity. This is just about attacking one minority group that a certain section of cultural Christians have decided is more important than everything else. And shame on them for using the cover of their religious freedom to justify it. These are not just bad Christians and bad Americans, these are anti-Christians and anti-Americans. These are people for whom their bigotry is more important than both their religion and their country.

Meanwhile, we had the Catholic Church release, The Joy of Love. And yes, it isn’t radical. I actually get rather cross at people who think that the Catholic Church is suddenly going to accept same sex marriage or allow priests to marry. But the document is about acceptance. And based upon where the document started two years ago, we know that Francis himself would like to go a good deal further on these matters. But my point is that even the sclerotic Catholic Church is trying to reach out, but these American cultural Christians just want to segregate.

Two days before the House voted on its ridiculous bill, the Tennessee Senate voted on an even more ridiculous bill, SB1108, which “designates the Holy Bible as the official state book.” The House approved the same thing last year by a vote of 55-38. The Senate passed SB1108 by a vote of 16-8.

I’d like to say that it is obviously unconstitutional, but it is hard to say anything is obvious in the federal courts anymore. But most opponents are making that argument. Happily, some Christians are making the argument that making the Bible the state book “trivializes something they hold sacred.” Yes! If you actually care about your religion, you treat your holy texts as something more than a cultural symbol of how “everyone ’round here believes it!”

The world of religion is wild and wacky. And I’m always interested to hear what serious people think about religion. But what I come upon in this country is mostly a bunch of people who believe it because it is in that book that their parents told them was the truth. Cultural Christians have absolutely nothing to add to any theological discussion. They use their religion as a cultural signifier to tell the world that they are the right kind of people and the rest of us aren’t.

Morning Music: Merle Haggard

Strangers - Merle HaggardSince Merle Haggard died last week, I figured we’d spend some time listening to his music. He’s always been a struggle for me because on the one hand, he was one of the most talented songwriters ever. On the other hand, he wrote “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me” — two of the most vile and reactionary songs ever. And they weren’t the only ones.

The thing is, I think Haggard was a smart and thoughtful guy. But that kind of working class bigotry toward anyone considered an outsider came all too easy for him. It’s weird and it also explains why he was all over the board when he discussed these songs. Mostly, I don’t think he much knew what he was doing. He just wrote the songs and how ever they turned out was okay. Analysis was not really what he did. But he should have. Anyone with his background and good fortune should have embraced the outsider to the core of his being.

Five years after his release from San Quentin Prison, Merle Haggard released his first album, Strangers. It’s not a great album. Over half of it is other people’s material, and I’ve never been so much taken with him as a performer. And it doesn’t include his best material. But much of it is quite fine indeed. It isn’t very distinctive, however. In particular, today’s song, “If I Had Left It Up To You” sounds like George Jones wrote it. And that’s true of most of the tunes on the album, they sound like someone else wrote them. But that doesn’t make them any less good. And for a first album, well, wow.

Anniversary Post: Halley’s Comet’s Very Close Approach

Halley's CometOn this day in 837, Halley’s Comet came the closest to the Earth in the entirety of human history. It came within almost three million miles (0.03 AU), which, by astronomical standards, is nothing. It is estimated that its tail spanned 60° across the sky. To see it today would be awe inspiring. To most of the people at that time, it was probably terrifying.

I’ve written before about going out to the beach in the early morning in 1986 to see it. The comet was at a distance of 0.42 AU and nothing but a smudge on the sky. It was the worst observational opportunity for at least 2,000 years. I remember seeing Carl Sagan speak on his book tour for Comet and he said that if anyone was alive in 2061, it would be a much greater show. And in 2134, it would be spectacular.

What did he mean? In 2061, we will at least be on the same side of the sun when Halley’s comet reaches perihelion. Unfortunately, I can’t find any data on just how close we will come. But in 2134, we will come within 0.09 AU. That should be quite a show. Of course, as time goes on, the comet gets smaller and smaller, so if we really want to dream, we should imagine being around in 837.

It’s these kinds of things that make me regret our short lifetimes. Usually, the changes of the human body, the degradation of the mind, make me welcome death — at least eventually. Not that one can reasonably complain. I mean, did we not just get to see the unmasking of Pluto in real time? And I still thrill to see the occasional shooting star. Every time has its advantages. And I’ve lived during the most exciting time in the history of astronomy.