Thursday, February 12, 2015

The GOP, Muslims, Marriage and Bigotry

As noted in a post yesterday, three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were murdered by a neighbor who reportedly had a problem with Muslims among others.  Meanwhile, in Alabama we see state court judges refusing to follow federal court rulings that have struck down that state's bans on same sex marriage.  What do these events have in common?  So-called "conservatives" or more specifically, the Republican Party which has made pandering to racists and religious extremists a core part of the GOP platform.  Indeed, in 2012, Tony Perkins, a hate group leader with KKK ties, was allowed to draft a portion of the GOP national platform.  Demonizing others and depicting them as "other" has become a GOP staple.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the dangers of extremist bigotry.  Here are excerpts:

In North Carolina, three young Muslims who were active in charity work were murdered, allegedly by a man who identified as atheist and expressed hostility to Islam and other faiths. Police are exploring whether it was a hate crime, and it spurred a #MuslimLivesMatter campaign on Twitter.

And, in Alabama, we see judges refusing to approve marriages of any kind because then they would also have to approve same-sex marriages. In one poll conducted last year, some 59 percent of people in Alabama opposed gay marriage. Somehow a loving God is cited to bar loving couples from committing to each other.

These are very different news stories. But I wonder if a common lesson from both may be the importance of resisting bigotry, of combating the intolerance that can infect people of any faith — or of no faith.

[I]t does seem useful for everyone to reflect on our capacity to “otherize” people of a different faith, race, nationality or sexuality — and to turn that other-ness into a threat. That’s what the Islamic State does to us. And sometimes that’s what we do, too.

There has been a pugnacious defensiveness among conservative Christians to any parallels between Christian overreach and Islamic overreach, as seen in the outraged reaction to President Obama’s acknowledgment at the National Prayer Breakfast this month that the West has plenty to regret as well. But Obama was exactly right: How can we ask Islamic leaders to confront extremism in their faith if we don’t acknowledge Christian extremism, from the Crusades to Srebrenica?

[O]ne message of the New Testament is the value of focusing on one’s own mistakes rather than those of others. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says in Matthew 7:5. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  We could do with a little more of that spirit these days, at a time when everybody wants to practice ophthalmology on everyone else.

It seems odd to me that so many conservative Christians are obsessed with homosexuality, which Jesus never mentions, yet seem unworried about issues Jesus did emphasize like poverty and suffering. Jesus explicitly advised a wealthy man, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), so maybe that’s the Scripture that Judge Moore should follow to demonstrate his piety.

Among Americans aged 18 to 24, a 2012 survey found that half or more describe present-day Christianity as “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “anti-gay.” And more regarded it as immoral to view pornography than to have sex with a person of the same gender. Alabama is, once again, on the wrong side of history.

Yet it is precisely the poisonous, hypocritical form of Christianity with which the GOP has wrapped itself - along with white susupremacy and a  contempt for the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants to others.

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