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LETTERS / God Is Not Up for a Vote, Nor Should He Be

Dear Editor,

So my previous letter raised a question in the comment section. “Jesse are you a Christian?” And I’ve been spending the past few weeks thinking of how to answer this, finally I’ve settled on one. “Why should it matter if I am?”

But what am I when you get right down to it? Two of the most dreaded words in the tea party lexicon. The secular spiritualist. One who does believe in a higher power. Just not Jesus (the myths and miracles) or god as the bible tells it. After all no one has proven he doesn’t exist. But than again no one has proven if god is a he, she, ten people, or just one guy with a lot of different beards. So why should I confine myself to just one? Though in that regard I do share a belief with an often misquoted founding father by the name of Thomas Jefferson. Once you dump the superstitions and magic contained in the bible Jesus (the man) has a lot to teach us about how to live ones life. Notably those qualities of love, even to ones enemies (Matthew 5:43-48 )  Also treating the least among us as one would treat the lord. (Matthew 25:35-40) And how ones belief should be private and not done to be seen, or as I will still call it the exact opposite of junk food for Jesus day. Not to mention many a megachurch across this country. (Matthew 6:5-6)

And it’s because of these personal beliefs I could wake up tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter if I was Pagan, Baptist, Wiccan, Jewish, Buddhist, (gasp!) Muslim, or (double gasp!) Atheist. It wouldn’t matter if I was worshiping Zeus, Loki, or the flying spaghetti monster. I would still do my best to try and treat people with respect, kindness, courtesy, and make the world a better place for everyone. 

That is because who I am and how I should act comes from who I was taught to be by those around me. Such as my aunt who did teach Sunday school when I was younger, and still brags about getting kicked out of three churches in Sparta for the crime of “Having the temerity to question the pastor while being a woman.” I credit her with teaching me that true character doesn’t come from how a book says you should act, and it doesn’t come from just saying you’re part of a religion. I don’t need angelic carrots or brimstone sticks to keep my morality “inside the lines” so to speak. All I need is a spiritual belief best summed up by the golden rule, and the opinion that said belief is no ones business but my own.

But Vice President Biden summed it up well during his debate. To paraphrase a bit, how and more importantly what I belief should not be made your business either. Or forced upon others because I think it’s right.  Doing such a thing violates both sides what I’ve come to call “the real Amendment One” Freedom of religion and freedom from it too. Or that other pesky phrase that drives every right wing evangelical nuts. “Separation of church and state.”

Here’s the part where someone will tell me “But it doesn’t say that in the constitution!” To which I will reply, “You are correct good sir, but the words Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Creator, Divine, and God” are also never mentioned in the Constitution, not even once.” 

“But it says creator in the declaration of independence!” To which I will say, “Which first off is a historical document, not the laws we are governed by. Secondly can you find any reference to Christianity? No you can’t. But you can find the phrase’s Nature’s God and Divine Providence. The language of deists, not Christians. Otherwise known as  John Adams,   Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.”

Speaking of the declaration though, lets look at one other phrase in it. 

“When a long train of abuses and usurpations… evinces a design to reduce (the people) under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”

And compare it with. 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resist authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1)

Or maybe we could just go with the simple and straightforward “For rebellion as is the sin of witchcraft.”  (Samuel, 15:23)

So in that regard if the founders had literally followed blind adherence to the bible would the revolution have even happened? God save the queen?

I can think of no better example to fit another personal saying. “Your beliefs do not make you a better person, your behavior does.” And as the past few years have gone by both my spiritual and civic belief  has found itself repulsed by the behavior of people on the right. Zealots and Hypocrites who claim a monopoly on “morality” on the basis of religious labels alone. And then are making it even more toxic with right wing wrapped in the flag views. Ones that state only they are the true defenders of “Patriotism” and “American Values”

Such as the Christian who wants me to believe “Every life is sacred” And will do everything in their power from the moment of conception to protect that precious little person. Until it’s born of course. But afterwards? That single mother they applauded for making the right choice? What happens when she applies for government assistance so she and that baby don’t starve? Well that’s when the right winger accuses her of suckling off the federal teat! Why doesn’t she get a job! Why should I have to use my money to help her! Or as Mitt Romney put it “Part of the 47% that won’t take responsibility for their lives.” 

A man supported by these same “Defenders of freedom from government intrusion in our lives” who think a forced physical intrusion into a woman (vaginal ultrasound laws) are perfectly fine if it keeps her from having that abortion. 

People who support a man that says about abortion, “There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology,” (Republican Joe Walsh of Illinois)

To have a mini newsroom moment here. The united states currently ranks 50th. That’s FIVE ZERO in maternal deaths globally.

 The United States spends $98 billion annually on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth, but the US maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years.

The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation, with a 1 in 2,100 risk of dying in childbirth; women in the U.S. are seven times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than a woman in Ireland or Italy.

Infant mortality rates in the U.S. aren’t much better. The under-5 mortality rate in the U.S. is 8 per 1,000 births, which puts it behind 40 other countries.

We are also the only developed country, and one of only a handful of countries worldwide that does not guarantee paid leave for working moms. Instead, by law, new mothers get 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Greatest healthcare system in the world? Where’s the outrage over that? Where’s the respect for “Sanctity of life” now? 

Oh right it’s busy attacking planned parenthood. You know that place where women can get HIV tests, cancer screenings (such as the one a friend of the fiancee received) treatment for STD’s, counseling services, sexual education on how to -prevent- unwanted pregnancy that is more than “just don’t have sex”, and basic medical care.

Oh and abortions, you know the part where Federal dollars can’t be spent, unlike the list above. Thanks in part to both Hyde amendment language in the new health care laws despite protests by PP about it’s inclusion. And on top of that Executive Order 13535 by President Obama. Which states flat out no federal money goes to abortion. Any time a Republican tells you that federal dollars are being spent in that regard? I won’t mince words, they are lying, pure and simple. And what’s worse, it’s a pandering lie to drum up culture warrior votes on the backs of women. Yes it’s a war, and yes they are on the wrong side.

Which side is there’s?  The bizzaro world that thinks outlawing abortion and a total lack of any sexual education besides abstinence works. Even though we have proof right here it did. As evidenced by this snip from the Democrat back on 12/29/11 when Watauga had the lowest teen pregnancy rate in the entire state.

Kay Phillips, executive director of the prevention campaign, cited changes in sex education enacted in 2009 as a reason for the decrease. “North Carolina has gotten smarter about investing in comprehensive programs that are proven to help young people avoid sex and be responsible about contraceptive use when they eventually become sexually active,” Phillips said. “Now we’re seeing the payoff, and it’s great news for North Carolina.” The prevention campaign estimated that the major reduction in teen pregnancies during the last two decades has saved more than $7.7 billion to state taxpayers. (http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/Letters/story/Wataugas-teen-pregnancy-rate-NCs-lowest-id-006654)

Can’t have that though, we need to stop the immoral practices of teaching kids about sex, and of course outlaw abortions at the same time. After all women NEVER died in backrooms when it was illegal. They never thought about crossing the border to Mexico for unregulated medications to induce a miscarriage thanks to Texas cutting family planning services and restricting abortions.

Oh wait, that last one is 2012, silly me. 

And if you want to talk “Life of the mother” Is this the world that abortion foes want here? One where the mother is  meaningless so long as that precious little person in her is protected?

Where is the respect for the sanctity of her life?

Just to play guess the quote, tell me which of these is Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution.

“We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

“the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death.”

If you guessed the first? Good job you support language included in the republican party platform. The same platform that does outlaw abortion in every instance. No exceptions. No matter how much moderate Mitt might also lie about it.

And if it’s not abortion it’s birth control too. Where once again the Christian right is crying foul over how the presidents “Secular agenda.” Is destroying their freedom. They’re being forced to violate their beliefs! And yet the “patriot” sees no problem in challenging this. The nerve of the president to think a woman might know more about decisions regarding her own body than her bible thumping boss.  It’s his “right” to say she doesn’t’ get birth control based on “his belief”

But isn’t that the EXACT same thing you’re attacking the president for?

Of course not, it’s freedom of religion! Why should we have to do something that goes against our views! 

Because I will say it again, freedom FROM religion!  No one is forcing you to take the pills, no one is forcing you to buy a health care plan that allows it. But what we are forcing you to accept is not everyone shares the same belief as you. And to claim that the only way you can protect your freedom is by denying that very same freedom to others is again pure utter do as I say not as I do hypocrisy. 

So what is the moral plan being suggested? Well if you believe this August letter from the National Catholic Bioethics Center. (http://www.ncbcenter.org/document.doc?id=450&erid=0) “Dropping all coverage appears to be the most morally sound approach,” 

The saying cut the nose to spite the face comes to mind as well. Or maybe Matthew 7:1-3. And one of these days someone will have to explain to me how denying people possibly vital health insurance is either moral or Christian.  Because I don’t see it. 

Though what I do see is an ongoing campaign by right wing Christian fundamentalists trying to shape America in their image, and return us to “morality” and “Traditional Christian American Values” seen through their warped prism. Then pairing that with the pathological republican hatred of all things Obama and liberal. And adding on top a dangerous belief that the bible trumps the constitution. As evidenced by another passage in said letter.
“Most importantly, we are impelled to recall the distinct moral obligation of all persons of conscience, and especially Catholics, to resist unjust laws. This duty was outlined explicitly by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Evangelium vitae: “There is no obligation in
Conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. . . . In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, . . . it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.”

And to think, it was only a few decades back when some were worried that John Kennedy would be a pope puppet. My how things have changed.

But someone remind me, what is the name of that system of government where we obey a supreme religious figure over an elected president? I don’t think we practice it here, but I know there’s someplace that does…starts with an I…on the tip of my tongue…

And this is not anti religion, it’s anti hypocrisy. Such as the continued Hypocrisy where people here in Watauga county were perfectly fine with a man like Jerry Boykin coming to give a speech. A man whose anti Islam tendencies are quite well known. A man who said.

“Today is the day that you need to make up your mind that you need to be a warrior in God’s kingdom”

“Stand strong and use the weapons that God has given us to be a spiritual army.”

And if I had said those very same sentences had been uttered by an Inman in a mosque? How fast would those cheering Gen Boykin have called that imaginary Muslim a terrorist? If I said those words were uttered in the United States how many would have accused him of the Christian’s right’s newest bogeyman du jour. The exact same way Boykin is on record doing.

“More recently, Boykin said in a short online video for The Oak Initiative that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and to replace it with Sharia law.” (http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/News/story/Lt-Gen-calls-for-spiritual-warriors-id-008826)

Which of course is nothing like when Gen Boykin also said during his speech.  “We need to turn back to trusting in the Lord, and not in the government.” So Christian values subverting the government is fine because it’s the “good guy” religion? We can ignore the first amendment when it suits us because we’re the moral ones? This is the behavior of a freedom loving patriot?

Do as I say, not as I do…

Such as the continued hypocrisy by those freedom lovers who will tell us how we need to “Support the troops!”  and we need a strong military to defend our values. Ones such as “Traditional marriage.”

Traditional marriage like when daughters were traded for three cows and a goat?

Traditional marriage like when daughters had no say in who they were married off too? And love was a secondary concern if one at all?

Oh you meant traditional marriage between one man and one woman?

Guess that rules out Esau (3) Jacob (2 + concubine) Gideon (many + concubine) 

Same goes for Deuteronomy 21:15-17 Which details how a man with two wives (beloved and hated) must acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn.

Though I guess if we narrow it to one man and one woman there is Deuteronomy 21:10-14 Which says how women in war can be forced to marry their captors.

Or of course Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Where Rapists were forced to pay fifty shekels of silver and marry the woman they took. Though these days another question comes to mind, does he still have to if it wasn’t a “legitimate” rape?

But none of those little details matter in the quest to defend marriage. Same with the many Biblical passages regarding things like adultery that the Christian is strangely silent on. Even as the right wing republican pulls his selective scripture out to tell us why the LGBT community doesn’t deserve the same rights as the rest of us. Even as Pastors tell us how “Immoral” such a thing is. Like this fellow here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdGs_rA-DUA (make sure to watch till the very end)

Oops, or not. Maybe when I hear people say we have to take our country back is the time they were referring too?

But heaven forbid gay people think they could have equality in America right? The fact it is 2012 yet we have people who are willing to let LGBT members of the armed forces fight and die for us. But then they come home to a country where we tell them you don’t deserve equality. And where an openly gay serviceman is booed by the audience for admitting who he is and what he had to hide till now? (Republican Primary debate 09/22/11) This is ok with you America?

Even though Don’t ask Don’t Tell repeal is now over a year old, and guess what? Not a thing happened. Funny how all that right wing doom didn’t show.

In that regard I’m still waiting for one of my favorite threats to come true too. Remember this one from the Liquor by the drink debate Boone?

“Vilas resident Jimmy Galgano said he had once been an alcoholic and drug addict, and the purpose of his presence at the hearing was to preserve the safety and welfare of not only the community, but of America. He said the country was founded on “good, godly morals, but somewhere along the lines, politics took over.” “How many kids have to die because we want to make more money for our town?” he Galgano said. “If you vote ‘yes’ for this, I tell you, you’re going to have the blood of little babies on your hands.” (http://www.wataugademocrat.com/2008/0421/0425MixedDrink.php)

Still waiting. Though one other part of that hearing is worth noting too, specifically this line.

But the boardroom capacity could hardly contain the droves of concerned community members that congregated on the sidewalks of downtown Boone. Many of them donned yellow T-shirts, bearing a crossed-out cocktail glass and the words “No liquor by the drink in Boone.” The shirts were reportedly distributed by an area church, and congregational members from many were on hand to voice opposition to liquor by the drink.

So if the bible wasn’t involved, and we saw a group of people dressing alike, talking alike, thinking alike, and accepting without question the words of a man who claimed a connection to a higher power. Would we be calling that a cult? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it brings to mind another quote from Jefferson.

“Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.” (Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822)

Unthinking, unquestioning, adherence to dogma, literalistic interpretations of scripture on one hand, or outright twisting on the other (wine was just grape juice anybody?) It was wrong then, it was still wrong when the same close minded justifications on top of selective scripture were used to pass Amendment one, and twenty years from now it will still be wrong to wrap ones prejudice in the flag or the bible.

But I guess if you fast forward to today it fits right in with religious extremism letting  someone like Jonathan Jordan get away with his newest anti Cullie Tarleton ad in the mountain times. An ad where one of Cullie’s endorsements is listed as equality NC (a group that supports LGBT rights), and this can be considered a reason to vote against him?! 

The fact that shameless no brow bigotry like this can be considered mainstream political discourse is summed up in one word. Reprehensible. And I agree with Cullie, enough is enough.

It’s time to say enough to people who can’t understand that giving someone equal rights takes nothing from you.

It’s time to say enough to those who preach hate from a pulpit and call it “Morality.”

It’s time to say enough to those would use the bible to try and enforce their own twisted values and political agendas upon us, But than have the nerve to try and call it “Religious freedom.”

It’s time to say enough to those who think freedom only belongs to those of us that are white, straight, male, and part of the narrowest of the narrow minded sects of what passes for Christianity.

It’s time to say enough to people (and you know who you are) who wear their “faith family freedom” hats. And your “Tree of liberty” Jefferson shirts. The ones who spout those three words like a children’s nursery rhyme and yet have no clue about their true meaning.

When your faith is so weak and so easily shaken it needs a chicken sandwich a day to keep the scary gays away. When prayer in schools becomes “Sharia!” the second a Muslim child rolls out the prayer mat. Or devil worship when Pagans want to offer a different brand of prayer before the football game. Or you let charlatans like Mike Huckabee put out an ad that basically says voting for Obama means you’re going to hell without question. Or you are perfectly fine with a Huckster like Franklin Graham hijacking the words of his father, and try to convince you that the only thing god cares about is abortion and gays. When you seem more interested if not obsessed with an eternal reward above to the point where you don’t care about the damage you cause on a earth below. And what does that sound like? Exactly what you think I’m implying.

When you are fine with talking to me about how important your religious freedom is. Yet are fine with despicable behavior like this at a rally in Jomeokee Park. “It’s not just Islam that’s taking over,” Kevin Shinault, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, told the crowd. “It’s socialism creeping in.” (Winston Salem Journal 9/23/12) 

So freedom for only your religion, and freedom to force it upon others at a whim?

When family should only be one man one woman. Even if it’s a family where dad spouts the N word on a daily basis and mom is a good little subservient housewife. Even if it’s a family on par with the Phelps clan teaching their child everything about the bible and nothing about civics. Oh and go ahead and hate those gay kids because of their immoral hurricane causing lifestyle. God is on your side!  How bout even if it’s a family where the parents are crooks, con artists and liars, and have zero morals whatsoever?

But yet any of those would be more preferable than a gay couple teaching a child to practice kindness and courtesy. To teach him respect for others. To tell him he shouldn’t bully others because how would he feel if someone did it to him. To teach him to think for himself and not blindly question what those in power (be it the preacher or the president) say. Well that’s the gay agenda, he’s being corrupted to accept the differences we all have! HORROR! 

And when you practice a brand of lazy freedom. The sound bite society of cheap shots and self insulated media bubbles. Snake oil simplicity that promises a return to the good old days when we didn’t have to deal with these messy issues of equality. When the only freedom you had to worry about is the freedom of those who agree with you. When you don’t lift one finger to defend someone who can do nothing for you. When a dissenting view is just the “liberal media” a “skewed poll” or they should be run out of town for insulting someone you like. When you wear the costume but have no respect for the values those people died for. When you claim to love America seem to hate Americans.

To quote one of my favorite movies again. 

 America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
(The American President)

But when you fail to do that, and you then decide to wrap that flag around your bible and claim all you do is in the name of religion. Well lets stick with Sorkin, but let Jeff Daniels and “the newsroom” do the talking. Full clip here for those who never saw it. And the tea party hate is there for all to see. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGAvwSp86hY

[Will McAvoy]
What’s more frightening than the perversion of our great history is that sensible strong smart Republicans, the very men and women who should be standing up to radical fundamentalism, are so frightened in losing primary battles to religious zealots that they’ve thrown in the towel on sanity. So we get this:

[Video Of John Sidney McCain]
Yes, that the constitution established the United States as a Christian nation.

[Will McAvoy]
It’s ironic because the biggest enemy of the phony Republican isn’t Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama. It’s this man. [image of Jesus Christ displays]. He said ‘Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Care for the weakest among us. And always pray in private. ‘

Ideological purity
Compromise as weakness (see the attacks on Chris Christie for daring to compliment Obama)
A fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism
Denying science
Unmoved by facts
Undeterred by new information
A hostile fear of progress
A demonetization of education (NC general assembly anyone?)
A need to control women’s bodies
Severe xenophobia
Tribal mentality
Intolerance of dissent 
A pathological hatred of the US government

They can call themselves the Tea Party. They can call themselves Conservatives. And they can even call themselves Republicans. Though Republican’s certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are: The American Taliban.

A parting thought from me as well. The original motto of this country was “Out of many, one.” Not “In god we trust” which was adopted in 1956. Same way we added “under god” to the pledge in 1954. Back when “Godless Commies” were still the bogeymen of the day. 

Or those who wanted equal rights for all were described as “The Worcester Fanatics- -Progress of Socialism, Abolition, and Infidelity.” 

Oh…got my own notes mixed up, that headline was from the New York Herald, Tuesday, October 29, 1850. And was an article attacking those who wanted suffrage for women. 

Seriously Christian right? I think you need some new material.

And to those who I hope are sufficiently outraged now, let me tell you this. I may think Deborah Greene and her bible should be nowhere near a school board. I may think A Watauga Conservative is a cesspit of hate and parroting of every right  wing tinfoil hat lie out there. I may think the republican party is wrong on every issue and a disaster for this country should they win. But I’m still enough of an American to say that if it came right down to it I would lay my life on the line to defend their rights to say what they do. Because that’s true patriotism, that’s what America really is. Can you say the same? Or is telling me to shut up, running me out of town, and just hiding in your 53% of the country easier?

Something to think about when you do go to vote on the 6th. And when you do I hope you vote what you truly believe in, not what someone else thinks you should, not how a religion says you should, not how some talking head on TV says you should, not blind allegiance to one side or the other. They aren’t in that voting booth, you are.

We now return you to your sugar coated media bubble,

Jesse Steele