Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thumpin It and Civil Rights

Several weeks ago I listened to Jacques Berlinerblau’s lecture concerning his book Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics. For me, the lecture clarified a lot of issues about the separation of church and state in America. Though the idea of separation between the church and the state is nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence (as most people believe), many “secularists” are fighting religion’s inclusion in American politics.

Unfortunately, secularism is becoming increasingly unpopular in the political field. While the left-wing has been known to champion separation of church and state in the past, the secularist movement within the Democratic Party was conspicuously absent in the 2008 presidential election. Why? Because Christian evangelicals make up too large a percentage of the vote in America for politicians to overtly oppose Christian values.

While the Bible hasn’t been referenced to justify slavery in the U.S.A. in some time, it has been used to deny civil rights to certain groups in more recent history: ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals. As recently as the 1990’s there were American states in which a woman could not legally prosecute her husband for rape. The idea that all sex (even violent, forced sex) between a man and his wife is not rape stems back to the cultural belief throughout history that women are inferior to or the property of men; this idea has all too often been backed up by religion – Christianity in Europe and America, Islam in the Middle East, Thai Buddhism in Thailand. The U.S. has a lengthy history of violations against ethnic minorities and immigrants, from Old South slavery to the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century. Again, justification was often rooted in religion, specifically Christianity. Today the big issue is same-sex marriage. Just as the case with women and ethnic minorities within America, giving human rights to a group is denied, based mostly upon the religious views of the majority.


lynn s said...

I believe that there are a lot of misinterpreted things in the Bible (like homosexuality) and I also believe that there are a lot of things that are wrong in the Bible (like justifying slavery and superiority of men). And I also believe that religion and the Bible have caused a lot of bad things in history like the Crusades and anti-Semitism (the Holocaust). However, we should not just look at the bad things that religion has caused. We should also look at the good things that it has brought to the table. After all, religion is basically a set of values, and everyone agrees that values are important to live a respectable and good life. We love our country and what it stands for, right? Well, the people who founded the United States were religious and a lot of the ideas they had for our country came from their religious morals. So, we should not be so ready to condemn religion and its connection to politics.

Cal said...

I think the relation between Americans and religion are heavily influenced on the phenomenon known as pragmatism. It is a movement intended to reconcile empirical knowledge that is cohesive with religion, in order to show that they are not necessarily in competition. One point of pragmatism is that we often do not realize something until something is dysfunctional in it (ex. a car's engine). We seem to pay little attention when things are going great, but when they are wrong, that is when we are most alert of existence (which can also be said of the economy). I think this is analogous with religion because while there are negative aspects of it (like causation of the Crusades, etc), we seem to focus less on its positive aspects, like values and ethics that are (arguably) fair and mostly inherent with a concept of decency.

leecbryant said...

Many times the Bible is referenced out of context in order to justify a point. For example, the verse stating that women should be submissive to men is closely followed by another verse stating men should also be submissive to women. But no one ever reads far enough to catch the second part...or they just ignore it. The Bible is very much a product of it's time and culture and we cannot forget that when using it as justificaiton today.