Sunday, June 17, 2012

World Congress of Families Seeks a New Dark Ages

It's no secret that conservative - might we better say ultra-reactionary - "family values" want to turn back time.  But the question really isn't turning the clock back to the 1950's.  No, they truly would prefer a period more akin tot he Middle Ages when religion trump almost everything and when dictatorial Popes could intimidate and threaten kings and rulers.  And that's not counting when they sent their own armies to invade noncomplying countries. A worldwide display of this deeply reactionary thinking recently took place at the World Congress of Families (WCF) gathering in Madrid where the purported goal was to to share tactics in defense of the “natural family.” In reality, the gathering was a planning session on how to usurp the civil rights of other citizens and inflict far right Christianist views on all.  Their version of the "natural family" not surprisingly is modeled on a 13th century model and relies on scientific and sociological knowledge from that ignorant and backward era.  And not surprisingly, they claim that they are being persecuted if the rights of others are recognized.  And as for gays?  We are clearly viewed as enemy number one.  Religion Dispatches looks at the gathering and the messages is that these people need to be stopped if civil liberties for those other than Christofascists are to be protected.  Here are highlights:

Last month the World Congress of Families (WCF), an international conservative network, met at the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid to share tactics in defense of the “natural family.” For its participants the natural family is a standard for social values that harkens back to a mythical era when men headed the household, women tended the kitchen and children, and sex was for procreation only.

[I]t’s tempting to dismiss the WCF as a gathering of out-of-touch extremists. Scratch the surface, though, and what you find are well-connected and well-funded groups hard at work codifying their “traditional values” through national and regional legislatures and judiciaries

While drolly retrograde panels like “Authentic Women and Rediscovering Homemaking” and “Solutions to Homosexual Behavior” featured prominently, embedded in these and most other panels were serious themes articulating a conservative worldview and strategies for protecting and promoting them in the public sphere.

What emerged after three days was a clear tension between agitating against governments, courts, and international human rights bodies that had “corrupted the meaning and dignity of marriage, devalued parenting, encouraged easy divorce and births outside of marriage, confused sexual identities, promoted promiscuity, created conditions that increased child abuse, isolated the elderly, and fostered depopulation,” and figuring out how to best manipulate those same systems into defending their particular religious values.

One concern undergirding the varied topics covered by the speakers was that the protection of individual rights (youth rights, gay rights, reproductive rights) was taking place at the expense of “fundamental” religious, cultural, and parental rights. .  .  .  .  Human rights were oppressive when they protected reproductive and gender rights (or “new” rights), whereas, when it came to protecting “traditional” rights to freedom of religion and speech, they were suddenly fundamental. New rights, they argued, cannot supersede traditional human rights. 

Stand Up For Religious Freedom, one of the lead networks agitating against health care reform, explicitly states that: “the American ideal of religious liberty is at stake. This isn’t really about contraception—it’s about the First Amendment.”

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of four World Congress of Families co-conveners, has been extremely active in “defending religious organizations and businesses that refuse to comply with the mandate and abandon their faith.” .   .   .   .    The ADF is also actively litigating religious freedom cases overseas. Because U.S. justices are increasingly citing progressive international jurisprudence in their opinions and decisions, much of the ADF’s international litigation is aimed at ensuring that foreign rulings serve its domestic objectives.

“How to Fight Back against International Law,” included a four-point strategy that, while not revealing too many trade secrets, was notable for its venomous tone toward “humanists” and others who, he says, accuse Christians of demanding preferential treatment.

While WCF participants make the case that they’re being denied their fundamental rights, they are in fact using “religious freedom” as a cover to deny women, children, sexual minorities, and others access to basic needs and protections. The WCF may want to take us back to the Dark Ages, but they’re not afraid to use modern human rights systems to get there.

On the final day of the conference Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, the Belgian president of the right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family and Property, summarized it best: “our great aim, our great ideal, is to build a Christian civilization from the ruins of the modern world just as the medieval world arose from the ruins of the Roman world.”

These people are frighteningly self-centered and do in fact want preferential rights - rights that trump the rights of everyone else.  As for the comparison of the Christian Middle Ages versus the Roman Empire, the former was based on ignorance and superstition while the latter despite its many flaws was a period of knowledge and creativity.

It may sound mean, but I truly believe that these ultra-far right Christianists suffer from a form of mental illness.  Life is short and all too fragile.  It should be lived and enjoyed while doing good by others.  In contrast, the Christianists dwell in a world of guilt, hate and condemnation of others.  Moreover, they are terrified of anything that challenge their childish beliefs and superstitions, or worse yet, requires that they have to think and make their own moral decisions.  I truly cannot fathom how one becomes so delusional.

No comments: