Well-known evangelical figures called for an end to the shame and secrecy that still surrounds mental illness throughout U.S. society and a greater embrace of medical treatment, particularly among evangelicals.
Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
Not is so many words, of course. He specifically advises that we avoid false prophets. Brian Tashman reports at Right-Wing Watch:
On today’s episode of the 700 Club, Pat Robertson urged viewers to avoid false prophets and televangelists caught up in scandal. “By your fruits you shall know them, what’s their track record?” Robertson told cohost Terry Meeuwsen, “You can dominate somebody that way: I’ve heard from the Lord, I have a message for you, do this.”
Funny he should mention this, because just today we stumbled across an interview between Pat Robertson and televangelist Benny Hinn the week before the presidential election where Robertson bluntly informed Hinn that “the Lord told me” that Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama.
Not only did God inform Robertson that “Romney will win” but that he will be a two-term president who presides over a huge economic boom.
Robertson even told Romney to save him a ticket for the inauguration: “I told Mitt a long time ago, I called him and said listen, I’ve been in prayer and number one you’re going to win the nomination and number two you’re going to win the general election, he said ‘well what can I do for you,’ I said give me a seat on the platform during your inauguration, give me a ticket to your inauguration.”
“The Lord said he’s going to have a second term, I told him there will be to be trillions of dollars coming into the economy when you’re elected,” Robertson continued, “the stock market ought to boom, everything ought to boom.”
This all deeply reassured Hinn who said that Robertson was conveying “God’s voice.”
It’s nice as a paradox: a false prophet telling us to avoid false prophets—like “This sentence is false.” Also interesting is the discovery that God will lie to you.
In AlterNet Anna Simonton describes a good application of Christian principles:
Stories involving Christian faith and prisoners usually go something like this: a person commits a terrible crime, goes to prison, finds Jesus, changes his or her ways for the better, the end.
Now United Methodists and United Church of Christ are teaming up to promote a new documentary, produced by the Beyond Barscampaign, that flips the typical redemption story on its head. In Redemption and the Prosecutor , it’s not the prisoner, but the criminal justice system that needs redeeming.
The film tells the story of Preston Shipp, a Tennessee native who had his whole career mapped out from a young age: he would go to law school, work as a prosecutor and eventually become a judge. His plans were right on track when he was hired as an assistant attorney general in 2004. With a happy marriage, three kids and a strong church community, the successful career move solidified his sense of fulfillment.
But Shipp’s assuredness gradually waned as he settled into the job of a state prosecutor. His caseload was enormous. He was rarely in court; more often he made his arguments on paper in what felt like an assembly-line process. The nature of the work fostered a machine-like indifference to the people whose freedom he argued against, a feeling that troubled Shipp.
“When the only information you receive about a person is the worst thing they’ve ever done, it’s very easy to regard them as less than human,” Shipp explains in the film. “How can I reconcile the job I was asked to do as a prosecutor with my faith in Jesus, who came proclaiming release for prisoners?”
His inner conflict came to a head in 2008 when he began teaching a course at Lipscomb University that took students off campus to a women’s prison where they held classes with inmates.
“That’s when I started hearing their stories,” Shipp says. “The more I got to know the women, the more hypocritical I felt.”
Shipp formed a strong friendship with one particularly bright, incarcerated student named Cyntoia Brown. At first, all Shipp knew about her history was that she had murdered a man when she was 16 years old. This fact seemed at odds with the charismatic, inquisitive young woman he knew her to be. As their friendship developed she shared more of her story with him.
Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Brown’s early teen years were marked by instability. By 16 she was working for a small-time pimp. One night in August 2004, a real estate agent picked Brown up and took her to his apartment where he showed off his gun collection and became increasingly belligerent. Shipp doesn’t explain all the details of what happened, and maybe he doesn’t know them, but by the end of their encounter the real estate agent was dead with gunshot wounds to the back of his head, and Brown was on the run.
When the law caught up to Brown it showed her no mercy. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2055, when she is 67 years old.
“She’s more than the worst thing she ever did,” Shipp says of Brown. “She’s as articulate and smart and funny as any student in my class…the system didn’t recognize the enormous potential that she had and threw away this person who has so much to offer.”
Riddled with doubt about the morality of his work, Shipp’s relationship with Brown was the catalyst for his decision to resign from his position with the attorney general’s office in 2009. (Spoiler Alert: if you plan on watching the film and don’t want to know the ironic twist that follows, read no further.)
After stepping down from the job he once coveted, Shipp continued to receive letters alerting him to the results of cases that were pending when he left. One day he opened a letter congratulating him on an appeals case he had won. The case was that of a young woman named Cyntoia Brown.
Devastated, Shipp realized that he had played a decisive role in what he now viewed as an unjust sentence for his young friend. At the time he’d worked on the case, Brown’s name was just one among hundreds. He did not remember it when he met her in person. But now that name was a human being dear to him, whose forgiveness he hoped to earn.
Shipp now tries lawyers charged with ethics violations and advocates for reform in the criminal justice system. . .
Continue reading. Something is clearly amiss when a nation’s prison population is so much greater than any other nation in the world.
Among the seminar readings/discussions in the small college I attended, a handful of sessions were devoted to Søren Kierkegaard. I was fascinated by the ideas, and I think they had a much more profound impact on me than I thought at the time (we were reading a lot of the books). I think I probably should have another go.
All brought to mind by reading Jeffrey Franks’s op-ed in the NY Times. It’s well worth reading, and it begins:
For years, visitors to the Copenhagen City Museum wandered into a modest room that contains a few artifacts from the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s life: portraits, meerschaum pipes, first editions and, best of all, the desk where he stood and produced with preternatural speed a series of original and difficult works, many of them written pseudonymously and published in editions that numbered in the hundreds — among them “Either-Or,” “Fear and Trembling,” “The Concept of Dread” and “Repetition.” The exhibit has been refreshed to mark Kierkegaard’s 200th birthday on May 5th. His belongings — a large library, furniture, paintings, and knickknacks —were pretty well dispersed after his death in 1855, but the expanded version will add an “outer circle” of relevant material. Manuscripts and papers from the Kierkegaard archives will be on display at the Royal Library.
ilosopher’s grave is fairly close by, in Assistens Kirkegaard—his forbidding name is a variation of the Danish word for cemetery — in the Norrebro district, which is also the burial ground of many other notable figures, including Hans Christian Andersen, Niels Bohr and the American tenor saxophonist Ben Webster.
Though in death he rests in this distinguished company, Kierkegaard was markedly less revered in life. His contemporaries saw him as a troublesome, quarrelsome figure. He was a familiar sight, strolling about the Old City, where he created the illusion that he was merely an underemployed gentleman. The satirical weekly Corsair published nasty caricatures of him and mocked his writing and pseudonymous disguises. He was gossiped about when he broke his engagement to the 18-year-old Regine Olsen, and was feared by his targets, among them, Hans Christian Andersen, whose early novels Kierkegaard eviscerated in his 1838 debut, “From the Papers of One Still Living.” Shortly before he died at age 42, he began a bitter ground war with the state Lutheran church. For his biographers and interpreters, his private life remains a nest of secrets.
For all his well-known existential explorations — his fascination with life’s dreadful uncertainties and his belief, set forth in “The Sickness Unto Death,” that despair is central to the human condition — Kierkegaard will forever be associated with the “leap,” an exertion of faith that helped him accept the absurd idea that Jesus was simultaneously divine and yet much like other young men of his time; the question obsessed and perplexed him. As he put it in his major 1846 book “Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophic Fragments,” “The Absurd is that the eternal truth has come to exist, that God has come to exist, is born, has grown up and so on, and has become just like a person, impossible to tell apart from another person.” Kierkegaard called this “the Absolute Paradox.”
These were awkward questions for discussion in a public forum — particularly in a small 19th-century monarchy with a dominant church. . .
Continue reading. Continue reading: his solution was ingenious.
Religion is often viewed as a response to suffering and source of solace, but it is not unusual for some religions to have adherents who seem to seek suffering, considering it as a good rather than an evil. In AlterNet Valerie Tarico has an interesting interview with a former member of Mother Theresa’s order:
With a new Pope at the helm, the Catholic hierarchy has set about to polish its tarnished image. Can an increased focus on the poor make up for the Church’s opposition to contraception and marriage equality or its sordid  financial and sexual affairs? The Bishops can only hope. And pray. And perhaps accelerate the sainthood of Agnes Gonxha, better known as Mother Teresa.
In the last century, no one icon has improved the Catholic brand as much as the small woman who founded the Missionaries of Charity, whose image aligns beautifully with that of the new pope. In March a team of Canadian researchers noted  the opportunity: “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of [Mother Teresa] to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful, especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?”
The question, however, was more than a little ironic. The team of academics  from the Universities of Montreal and Ottawa set out to do research on altruism. In the process, they reviewed over 500 documents about Mother Teresa’s life and compiled an array of disturbing details about the soon-to-be saint, including dubious political connections and questionable management of funds—and, in particular, an attitude toward suffering that could give pause to even her biggest fans.
Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance ofavoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it , “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.” Or consider thisanecdote  from her life:
One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”
Mother Teresa’s outlook on suffering played out in her order’s homes for the sick and dying, which doctors havedescribed  as deficient in hygiene, care, nutrition, and painkillers. Miami resident Hemley Gonzalez was so shocked  by his volunteer experience that he has founded an accountable charity  to provide better care. “Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care,” . . . “I have decided to go back to Kolkata to start a charity that will be called ‘Responsible Charity.’ Each donation will be made public and professional medical help will be given,” Gonzalez said after returning to the U.S. He also launched a Facebook page  called, “Stop the Missionaries of Charity.”
Even her critics mostly believe that Mother Teresa was devoted to God as she understood him and that she was devoted to serving the poor. And yet, it would appear that her institutions have offered a standard of care that would provoke international outrage if it were provided by, say the United Nations rather than an affiliate of the Vatican. How are we to understand this paradox?
Mary Johnson is a former nun who joined Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, at age 19. For the next twenty years, she lived a life of service and austerity among the sisters, which she has described in her memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst . But beneath the stark simplicity of her daily routine stirred a host of emotional, interpersonal and spiritual complexities, including the order’s tangled view of love and pain. Johnson’s thoughtful observations offer a window into the woman who inspired her spiritual vows and who ran her order of women religious.
Mother Teresa has inspired millions to acts of sacrifice or service, much as she inspired you. But even as the Catholic Church moves toward making her a saint, others are saying she was a fraud. Your book suggests something more complicated.
One of the reasons I wrote An Unquenchable Thirst was that none of the images of Mother Teresa in the media corresponded with the person I knew. The mainstream media created an image of Mother Teresa that reflected our desire for a perfect mother more than it reflected who Mother Teresa really was. On the other hand, those who called her a fraud often seemed determined to discredit her because they want to discredit religious faith. I very much admire the fact that Christopher Hitchens, who had been one of Mother Teresa’s most adamant critics, eventually revised  his assessment of her.
The Mother Teresa I knew was a remarkably dedicated, self-sacrificing person, but not one of the wisest women I’ve known. Both empowered and shackled by religious faith, Mother Teresa was generous and unreasonable, cheerful and never content, one of the world’s most recognized women and one of its loneliest and most secretive.
As a postulant in the Missionaries of Charity, one of your superiors, Sister Dolorosa, told you, “Mother always says, love, to be real, has to hurt.” Did you believe that? . . .
Very interesting post (and graph) by Juan Cole at Informed Comment:
Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.
As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.
I don’t figure that Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire twentieth century, and that mainly in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and the Soviet and post-Soviet wars in Afghanistan, for which Europeans bear some blame.
Compare that to the Christian European tally of, oh, lets say 100 million (16 million in WW I, 60 million in WW II– though some of those were attributable to Buddhists in Asia– and millions more in colonial wars.)
Very interesting interview at Religion Dispatches of Peter Rollins and Candace Chellew-Hodge regarding Rollins’s book The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction:
For Peter Rollins, Belfast native and leading writer and thinker in the Emergent Christian movement, “God” has fallen prey to our grasping, market-driven existence—just another shiny thing we acquire to make ourselves feel OK.
Alfred Hitchcock called this (in another context entirely) the “MacGuffin,” or as Rollins explains it: “that X for which some or all of the main characters are willing to sacrifice everything, something that people want in some excessive way—the object that seems to promise fulfillment, satisfaction and lasting pleasure.”
And yet when we get our hands on the longed-for MacGuffin, it doesn’t do away with our feelings of emptiness or brokenness, and may well deepen them. Instead, Rollins argues, there is no cure for our brokenness, other than the full and complete acceptance of it.
Rollins talked with RD’s Candace Chellew-Hodge about his new book and his radical ideas of what church looks like when Christians give up Christianity.
The title of this book, “The Idolatry of God,” is immediately provocative. What do you mean by it?
I’m very interested in taking on theological concepts like “idolatry” and “sin,” “original sin” and “salvation”—these terms that in some liberal circles are brushed under the carpet. I think there’s a real depth to these words and we just have to rob them of the religious jargon they’ve become.
The word I’m most interested in is “idol.” I describe an idol in the book as any object that we treat as if it will make us whole and complete and satisfy us and rob the sense of loss in the core of our being. It could be money, going out with a certain person, looking a certain way or having a certain job or worshiping a certain God. It plays to something very deep in our psychology. We all want something that will make everything okay. Everywhere we turn, advertisements tell us “consume this,” or “buy this product,” or “look this way and you’ll be happy.”
The world is like a huge vending machine and it’s filled with these idols.
My argument is that when we reduce God to that object that will make us complete and whole and happy, we just put our own product in the vending machine. The church becomes the shop front, the clergy become the salespeople and the worship becomes the jingles.
But what about certainty and satisfaction (which you call ‘addictions’ in the subtitle of the book)? We Americans are told that we can have both, especially in church. If we pray the right way, believe the right way, we can have all these things. Are we not entitled to them? . . .
UPDATE: I kept trying to recall Roger Bacon’s Idols of the Mind to see whether they are relevant—and thanks to Wikipedia, here they are:
Bacon also listed what he called the Idols (false images) of the mind – some are similar to what is now called cognitive bias. He described these as things which obstructed the path of correct scientific reasoning.
- Idols of the Tribe (Idola tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
- Idols of the Cave (Idola specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
- Idols of the Marketplace (Idola fori): This is due to confusions in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
- Idols of the Theatre (Idola theatri): This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.
- Idols of the School (Idola schola): This is due to a belief in a blind rule reasoning.
Very interesting piece in the NY Times on the daily experience of religion and the results of that by T.M. Luhrmann:
ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life. The reason for this is not entirely clear.
Social support is no doubt part of the story. At the evangelical churches I’ve studied as an anthropologist, people really did seem to look out for one another. They showed up with dinner when friends were sick and sat to talk with them when they were unhappy. The help was sometimes surprisingly concrete. Perhaps a third of the church members belonged to small groups that met weekly to talk about the Bible and their lives. One evening, a young woman in a group I joined began to cry. Her dentist had told her that she needed a $1,500 procedure, and she didn’t have the money. To my amazement, our small group — most of them students — simply covered the cost, by anonymous donation. A study conducted in North Carolina found that frequent churchgoers had larger social networks, with more contact with, more affection for, and more kinds of social support from those people than their unchurched counterparts. And we know that social support is directly tied to better health.
Healthy behavior is no doubt another part. Certainly many churchgoers struggle with behaviors they would like to change, but on average, regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others.
That tallies with my own observations. At a church I studied in Southern California, the standard conversion story seemed to tell of finding God and never taking methamphetamine again. (One woman told me that while cooking her dose, she set off an explosion in her father’s apartment and blew out his sliding glass doors. She said to me, “I knew that God was trying to tell me I was going the wrong way.”) In my next church, I remember sitting in a house group listening to a woman talk about an addiction she could not break. I assumed that she was talking about her own struggle with methamphetamine. It turned out that she thought she read too many novels.
Yet I think there may be another factor. . .
Juan Cole points out good Muslims do not stoop to terrorism, just as good Christians are not terrorists. This, of course, implies that the terrorist of the IRA and the Progressive Unionist Party (the Protestant equivalent) were not good Christians. (Jesus, you recall, did not advocate terrorist acts against the Roman occupiers.) Here’s his list:
Erik Rush and others who hastened to scapegoat Muslims for the Boston Marathon bombing are ignorant of the religion. I can’t understand why people who have never so much as read a book about a subject appoint themselves experts on it. (Try this book, e.g.). We don’t yet know who carried out the attack, but we know they either aren’t Muslims at all or they aren’t real Muslims, in the nature of the case.
For the TLDR crowd, here are the top ten ways that Islamic law and tradition forbid terrorism (some of these points are reworked from previous postings):
1. Terrorism is above all murder. Murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). 5:53 says, “… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”
2. If the motive for terrorism is religious, it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina in 622 AD or after and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.
3. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”
4. In the Islamic law of war, . . .
What does the trial of a Philadelphia doctor who is accused of performing illegal late-term abortions by inducing labor and then killing the fetuses have to do with the debate over legal abortion?
Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said today that the Kermit Gosnell trial proves that federal funds should not be used for abortions — an especially odd conclusion to draw given that riders attached to appropriation bills already prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest.
Writing in The Washington Post, Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark of the American Center for Law and Justice said the trial put the “horror of abortion” in perspective. “How can killing a newborn infant be illegal and shocking to the collective conscience, yet ending that same life moments, days or weeks before be perfectly legal and socially acceptable as long as the baby is still in the womb? There is no logical answer.”
Now, for the record: If Kermit Gosnell is found guilty of the appalling crimeswith which he is charged, he should go to jail for the rest of his life.
But the effort to use this case to “prove” that abortion is wrong, is wrongheaded. If anything, the case highlights the need for safe, affordable and available women’s reproductive health care.
Dr. Gosnell preyed on poor women, who — due to the above-mentioned riders — could not use Medicaid money to pay for abortions and did not have easy access to better care. The abortions he is charged with performing were illegal in Pennsylvania — after the 24-week point at which a fetus is considered to have a chance to survive outside the womb. And he is charged with performing abortions in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, as well as using unqualified assistants. A Times report in 2011 described the way state officials for years ignored women’s complaints about the nightmarish clinic that Dr. Gosnell ran.
Lately, the right-wing has used the Gosnell trial not only to attack abortion rights generally, but to attack the media. They claim that journalists have ignored the trial, and that the “media blackout” is proof of persistent bias.
Over the weekend, we were attacked on Twitter for running an editorial about the re-opening of a women’s health clinic in Wichita — four years after the clinic doctor, George Tiller, was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist — but not one about the Philadelphia case.
Again for the record, The Times has run six articles on the Gosnell case, including a long one in 2011 (which of course is well before this weekend’s silliness about coverage). The most recent article, on March 19, reported on the opening of the trial and the charges against Dr. Gosnell.
But last I checked, there’s no rule that an editorial page has to run one piece about a bad clinic for every piece celebrating a good one.
Dr. Tiller was performing safe and legal abortions when he was gunned down in the foyer of his own church. The reopening of his clinic, which does not perform late-term abortions, is an act of courage on the part of Julie Burkhart, a former colleague of Dr. Tiller, and others. She is already receiving death threats from people who believe that murder is an acceptable way of protesting legal, constitutionally protected abortions.
Through this sort of intimidation and through legitimate political action, anti-abortion forces have been alarmingly successful in restricting women’s access to reproductive health services, including birth control, cancer screening and other services. That is the real issue.
I think this piece in AlterNet by Amanda Marcotte is on target. I do not understand the compulsion believers in a religion have to force non-believers to follow the dictates of the religion even though they don’t belong to or participate in the religion. Marcotte lists some examples of tactics some religious have used:
Bill O’Reilly recently got into a little hot water with the religious right. The abrasive talk show host dared to suggest  on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” that the anti-gay movement would be better off using secular arguments against same-sex marriage than resorting endlessly to biblical ones. “The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals,” O’Reilly argued, adding, “And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
The outcry was swift, and in true Christian right fashion, thoroughly disingenuous, with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Laura Ingraham trying to cast O’Reilly’s statements as some kind of attack on people’s religious beliefs. Not that they didn’t have cause for hurt feelings. After all, the religious right has already tried the strategy O’Reilly suggested. The lawyer arguing against same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court didn’t reference God or the Bible, but instead came up with a bunch of unconvincing but definitely secular claims. The real reason to be mad at O’Reilly is that he’s condescending, telling the religious right something it already knows, that in order to push its religious views on the public, it needs to dress them up in secular packaging.
Since the beginning, the Christian right has been aware that the First Amendment makes it impossible for them to use “God said so” to justify legislation. They’ve spent decades grafting secular reasons onto what are fundamentally attempts to foist their views on the rest of the country, often going out of their way to conceal the religious origins of their policy ideas. In response, I created this list of what the religious right wants; what nonsense secular reason they give for wanting it; and the actual, true reason, usually down to chapter and verse.
1) What they want: A rollback on environmental protections. This is but one of many ways the religious right has merged its interests with that of corporate America.
The secular reasons they give: Many on the Christian right scoff  at the science of global warming. Sadly, Americans in general are resistant to the science of global warming, but white evangelical Christians  are even worse than the general public. Pew Forum found in 2009 that 47% of Americans accept the science of climate change, but only 34% of white evangelicals . The objections the religious right offers are fed to them by oil industry lobbyists, such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council  calling global warming theory “speculative.”
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: They justify this to themselves religiously coming and going. The fundamentalist Cornwall Alliance claims  that belief in climate change is anti-Christian, because it “rests on and promotes a view of human beings as threats to Earth’s flourishing rather than the bearers of God’s image” and implies that God’s creation is “the fragile product of chance, not the robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting product of God’s wise design and powerful sustaining.” On the other side of it, as Ben Jervey of GOOD argued , 41% of Americans believe Jesus Christ  will usher in Armageddon before 2050. If you believe the world is about to end, it seems pointless to make huge sacrifices to preserve its health into the future.
2) What they want: For the government to take money from the public school system and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers. They’ve had remarkable success at this by hijacking the larger, secular debate over education.
The secular reasons they give: The claim is that “school choice” creates competition among schools that improves educational outcomes. Public school charter systems are seen as an inadequate alternative, because they are supposedly not flexible enough .
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: They want the government to pay for the religious indoctrination of children. Even though the vouchers can, in theory, be spent on private secular schools, the way the program works in places like Louisiana makes it clear that this is about government-sponsored religious education.
3) What they want: No Equal Rights Amendment. While this battle to prevent the Constitution from being amended to give women equal rights, which the right won, was mostly fought in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Christian right-controlled legislatures occasionally take time to vote against it today .
The secular reasons they gave: . . .
I have bought a lot of stuff from Eden Foods, particular their brown-rice vinegar and their organic shoyu sauce, both of which are excellent. I doubt that I’ll buy again, based on this Salon article by Irin Carmon:
The slogan for Eden Foods, which describes itself as the “oldest natural and organic food company in North America,” is “creation and maintenance of purity in food.” Its CEO and founder, Michael Potter, has been prominent in debates over labeling of organic food and GMOs. But the company has been quietly seeking in court another form of purity — to Catholic doctrine about sex being solely for procreation. That goes not just for Potter, but for all 128 of his employees.
That is, Eden Foods — an organic food company with no shortage of liberal customers — has quietly pursued a decidedly right-wing agenda, suing the Obama administration for exemption from the mandate to cover contraception for its employees under the Affordable Care Act. In court filings, Eden Foods, represented by the conservative Thomas More Law Center, alleges that its rights have been violated under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Eden Foods, which did not respond to a request for comment, says in its filing that the company believes of birth control that “these procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” The complaint also says that “Plaintiffs believe that Plan B and ‘ella’ can cause the death of the embryo, which is a person.” (Studies show that neither Plan B nor Ella interfere with fertilization, which is the Catholic definition of the beginning of life, if not the medical one. In other words, not the death of an embryo. Also, at that stage, it’s a zygote, not an embryo — let alone a “person.”) The filing also said that “Plaintiff Eden Foods’ products, methods, and accomplishments are described by critics as: tasteful, nutritious, wholesome, principled, unrivaled, nurturing, pure.”
Until now, Eden Foods’ conservative advocacy litigation has remained mostly under the radar, even as their marketing seems designed to appeal to liberals, from the slogan ”Organic agriculture is society’s brightest hope for positive change” to the ’60s imagery and the use of the word “revolution” in some of its print marketing. The company’s mission statement includes its goal to “contribute to peaceful evolution on earth,” “to maintain a healthy, respectful, challenging, and rewarding environment for employees,” and to “cultivate sound relationships with other organizations and individuals who are like minded and involved in like pursuits.”
It’s not the first time a company with a nebulously progressive image has actually been led by someone whose politics would horrify many of its customers. . .
The Washington Post has an interesting article by Michelle Boorstein on how the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s son has encouraged a reappraisal of how to approach and treat mental illness in the context of religious beliefs.
n the days after the suicide of California megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s son, evangelical Christian leaders have begun a national conversation about how their beliefs might sometimes stigmatize those who struggle with mental illness. “Part of our belief system is that God changes everything, and that because Christ lives in us, everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed,” said Ed Stetzer, a prominent pastor and writer who advises evangelical churches. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need medical help and community help to do those things.”
The death of Matthew Warren, 27, who shot himself Friday, stunned evangelical Christians. Most were unaware that Rick Warren, the best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and a pastor known for frank talk on subjects including politics, marriage and sex, was struggling with such a serious family problem. Rick Warren wrote to his congregation at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., that “only those closest” knew that his son had long been suicidal, despite receiving the best of spiritual and medical care.
Rebekah Lyons, a blogger and wife of the popular pastor Gabe Lyons, wrote this week that “anxiety and panic are my nemesis” and urged Christians not to link mental illness with spiritual weakness.
“As Christians, we believe this side of heaven all disease, sickness and pain is rooted in a world broken by sin. But there are real consequences to living amidst the mess. To oversimplify these complexities would be naive at best, negligent at worst,” she wrote.
The revelation has spurred discussion within church communities about how a fervent belief among evangelicals in the power of prayer and dependence on God and Jesus for healing might stifle congregants from talking about mental illness or seeking help for themselves or family members.
For Christians who believe in turning to a divine source for emotional help, even defining a prayerful request can be fraught, some leaders and congregants pointed out. For example, is depression the result of sinful behavior for which one should seek forgiveness? And if prayer does not bring relief, what might God be saying?
When people suffer despite prayer and consider therapy, “people think: ‘Is this a knock against my faith? Am I not believing in God enough? Now I have to resort to this?’ ”said Henry Davis, leader of the evangelical First Baptist Church of Highland Park. “I believe God is in therapy. I believe God can be in medicine. If someone says, ‘I’m just going to pray,’ you have to do more.” . . .
The USPS seems to be infested with religious bigots. Take a look.
Good article by George Monbiot, originally published in The Guardian:
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” So said the Brazilian archbishop Dom Hélder Câmara. His adage exposes one of the great fissures in the Catholic Church, and the emptiness of the new Pope’s claim to be on the side of the poor.
The bravest people I have met are all Catholic priests. Working first in West Papua(1), then in Brazil, I met men who were prepared repeatedly to risk death for the sake of others. When I first knocked on the door of the friary in Bacabal, in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, the priest who opened it thought I had been sent to kill him. That morning he had received the latest in a series of death threats from the local ranchers’ union. Yet still he opened the door.
Inside the friary was a group of peasants, some crying and trembling, whose bodies were covered in bruises made by rifle butts, and whose wrists bore the marks of rope burns. They were among thousands of people the priests were trying to protect, as expansionist landlords, supported by the police, local politicians and a corrupt judiciary, burnt their houses, drove them off their land and tortured or killed those who resisted.
I learnt something of the fear in which the priests lived, when I was first beaten then nearly shot by the military police(2). But unlike them, I could move on. They stayed to defend people whose struggles to keep their land were often a matter of life or death: expulsion meant malnutrition, disease and murder in the slums or the goldmines.
The priests belonged to a movement that had swept across Latin America, after the publication of A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez in 1971. Liberation theologists not only put themselves between the poor and the killers, they also mobilised their flocks to resist dispossession, learn their rights and see their struggle as part of a long history of resistance, beginning with the flight of the Israelites from Egypt.
By the time I joined them, in 1989, seven Brazilian priests had been murdered. Óscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, had been shot dead; many others across the continent had been arrested, tortured and killed.
But the dictators, landlords, police and gunmen were not their only enemies. Seven years after I first worked there, I returned to Bacabal and met the priest who had opened the door(3). He couldn’t talk to me. He had been silenced, as part of the Church’s great purge of dissenting voices. The lions of God were led by donkeys. The peasants had lost their protection.
The assault began in 1984 with the publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the body formerly known as the Inquisition) of a document written by the man who ran it: Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict. It denounced “the deviations, and risks of deviation” of liberation theology(4). He did not deny what he called “the seizure of the vast majority of the wealth by an oligarchy of owners … military dictators making a mockery of elementary human rights [and] the savage practices of some foreign capital interests” in Latin America. But he insisted that “it is from God alone that one can expect salvation and healing. God, and not man, has the power to change the situations of suffering.”
The only solution he offered was that priests should seek to convert the dictators and hired killers to love their neighbours and exercise self-control. “It is only by making an appeal to the ‘moral potential’ of the person and to the constant need for interior conversion, that social change will be brought about …”(5). I’m sure the generals and their death squads were quaking in their boots.
But at least Ratzinger has the possible defence that, being cloistered in the Vatican,
he had little notion of what he was destroying. During the inquisition in Rome of one of the leading liberationists, Father Leonardo Boff, Ratzinger was invited by the archbishop of São Paulo to see the situation of Brazil’s poor for himself. He refused -then stripped the archbishop of much of his diocese(6). He was wilfully ignorant. But the current Pope does not possess even this excuse.
Pope Francis knew what poverty and oppression looked like: several times a year he celebrated mass in Buenos Aires’s 21-24 slum(7). Yet, as leader of the Jesuits in Argentina, he denounced liberation theology, and insisted that the priests seeking to defend and mobilise the poor remove themselves from the slums, shutting down their political activity(8,9,10,11). . . .
In my view, the most damaging aspect of any organization, religious or not, is an insistence that certain ideas must never be questioned. This (in my view) damages the spirit of inquiry by crippling (sometimes permanently) curiosity, speculation, investigation, experimentation, and, in general, the ability to learn and grow. Organizations that encourage open inquiry and open debate are, in general, much more healthy (and much more cognizant of reality) than those that cordon off certain areas of thought as never to be investigated or questioned. These authoritarian organizations may or may not be religious: some religions certainly are authoritarian, others not so much—same with businesses, political parties, governments, hospitals, colleges, and any other human organization. The problems that any organization typically encounters are human problems, and these crop up in all contexts. Not all religions are authoritarian, and not all authoritarian organizations are religions. This entire article, though interested, could stand to be generalized to be an article about authoritarian organizations, with this situation as an example.
Valerie Tarico writes for AlterNet:
At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia. When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister. “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said. “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting  the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers. But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia. I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.
Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author ofLeaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion , written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.
Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write  and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested  what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter  said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.”
Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?
Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.
But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will , Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.
But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.
Can you give me an example of RTS from your consulting practice? . . .
Barbara King reviews The Bonobo and the Atheist, by Frans de Waal:
In a book coming out next week called The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that morality is built into our species. Rather than coming to us top-down from God, or any other external source, morality for de Waal springs bottom-up from our emotions and our day-to-day social interactions, which themselves evolved from foundations in animal societies.
For 30 years, de Waal has authored books about apes and monkey that open our eyes to the bottom-up origins of our human behaviors, ranging from politics to empathy. In this, his 10th volume, he extends that perspective by writing, “It wasn’t God who introduced us to morality; rather, it was the other way around. God was put into place to help us live the way we felt we ought to.”
“The way we felt we ought to” has a long evolutionary history, so that de Waal’s thesis depends crucially on numerous and convincing examples from our closest living relatives.
Azalea, a trisomic rhesus macaque (trisomic = born with three copies of a certain chromosome), had abnormal motor and social skills, in ways somewhat akin to humans with Down syndrome. Instead of punishing her “incomprehensible blunders,” such as threatening the alpha male, the other macaques were accepting and forgiving of her until Azalea’s death at age three. Female chimpanzees may confront and shut down an overly aggressive male, sometimes even pulling two adversaries close together for reconciliation, or prying rocks from an aroused males’ hands.
In cases like these, animals are feeling empathy, then acting on that feeling with displays of kindness or help, behavior that de Waal callssympathy. The empathy is purely embodied — literally felt in the body — and part of our evolved biology. “Our brains have been designed to blur the line between self and other,” he writes. “It is an ancient neural circuitry that marks every mammal, from mouse to elephant.”
Despite the sweeping nature of this last statement, what’s great about the book are de Waal’s careful distinctions. He’s never naïve about animal goodness, as if it were hard-wired: how could he be when he has worked so closely for decades with chimpanzees, a species known for outbursts of brutal violence? De Waal sees the bonobo (of the book’s title) as more empathetic than the chimpanzee. Bonobos share food, and even across different groups, enjoy sexy, peaceful and playful relationships. But nowhere is it a gentle natural world that he describes. His focus instead is the utter wrongness of Veneer Theory, the historically popular idea that our morality is “a thin veneer over a cauldron of nasty tendencies.”
Further, de Waal doesn’t go so far as to equate animal goodness with morality. “I am reluctant to call a chimpanzee a ‘moral being’,” he writes. “There is little evidence that other animals judge the appropriateness of actions that do not directly affect themselves.”
What sets human morality apart, he believes, depends on . . .
The NY Times has an article by Ashley Parker on the state of opposition to same-sex marriage in the younger generation. The thinking revealed is difficult to understand. For example,
Opponents of same-sex marriage say they must argue in favor of traditional marriage, not against gay people or gay rights.
The problem in the thinking is the idea that they must argue in favor of traditional marriage, by which they mean the historically recent innovation in some cultures that limits a marriage to one man and one woman. (This is hardly “traditional”: King David had seven wives, for example, and the Old Testament is pretty traditional. Other cultures allow polygamy, some with a limit on the number of wives (four, for example), others (as the Mormons formerly held) with no limit on the number of wives—still only one husband, though.
At any rate, they probably have not noticed that no one is arguing against traditional (one-man, one-woman) marriages. People who wish to marry in that format are welcome to, and there is no opposition that I know of. So they are vigorously defending an institution that is not under attack. I find that weird.
I think they believe if two men or two women are allowed to marry, it would (in some unspecified way) “harm” traditional marriage, but I have seen no details at all regarding how the harm would manifest itself or how it would be done.
Basically, so far as I can tell, the movement is a bunch of bigots who claim to be part of a “pro-marriage movement” doing all they can to prevent some people from marrying: a very peculiar position for a pro-marriage movement to take. I would think a pro-marriage movement would want as many people as possible to marry.
I think I don’t understand the opposition. It looks for all the world as though they are simply trying to get secular laws to fit with their religious convictions, thus forcing people who don’t share those religious beliefs to obey them anyway. That is not a good idea, as has been amply demonstrated throughout human history. Religion and the state should be separate.
Robert Parry has an interesting story at ConsortiumNews.com:
In the 1970s, Father Jorge Bergoglio faced a moment of truth: Would he stand up to Argentina’s military neo-Nazis “disappearing” thousands including priests, or keep his mouth shut and his career on track? Like many other Church leaders, Pope Francis took the safe route, Robert Parry reports.
By Robert Parry
The election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis brings back into focus the troubling role of the Catholic hierarchy in blessing much of the brutal repression that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, killing and torturing tens of thousands of people including priests and nuns accused of sympathizing with leftists.
The Vatican’s fiercely defensive reaction to the reemergence of these questions as they relate to the new Pope also is reminiscent of the pattern of deceptive denials that became another hallmark of that era when propaganda was viewed as an integral part of the “anticommunist” struggles, which were often supported financially and militarily by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
It appears that Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s grim “dirty war,” mostly tended to his bureaucratic rise within the Church as Argentine security forces “disappeared” some 30,000 people for torture and murder from 1976 to 1983, including 150 Catholic priests suspected of believing in “liberation theology.”Much as Pope Pius XII didn’t challenge the Nazis during the Holocaust, Father Bergoglio avoided any direct confrontation with the neo-Nazis who were terrorizing Argentina. Pope Francis’s defenders today, like apologists for Pope Pius, claim he did intervene quietly to save some individuals.
But no one asserts that Bergoglio stood up publicly against the “anticommunist” terror, as some other Church leaders did in Latin America, most notably El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero who then became a victim of right-wing assassins in 1980.
Indeed, the predominant role of the Church hierarchy – from the Vatican to the bishops in the individual countries – was to give political cover to the slaughter and to offer little protection to the priests and nuns who advocated “liberation theology,” i.e. the belief that Jesus did not just favor charity to the poor but wanted a just society that shared wealth and power with the poor.
In Latin America with its calcified class structure of a few oligarchs at one end and many peasants at the other, that meant reforms, such as land redistribution, literacy programs, health clinics, union rights, etc. But those changes were fiercely opposed by the local oligarchs and the multinational corporations that profited from the cheap labor and inequitable land distribution.
So, any reformers of any stripe were readily labeled “communists” and were made the targets of vicious security forces, often trained and indoctrinated by “anticommunist” military officers at the U.S.-run School of the Americas. The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system. . . .
Daniel Politi, Vinod Sreeharsha and Kevin G. Hall report for McClatchy:
The elevation Wednesday of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the Roman Catholic Church’s 266th pope and the first from Latin America brought cheers across South America but also served as a reminder of the church’s role during the region’s dark days of dictatorship in the latter half of the 20th century.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1936, Bergoglio, 76, was 40 when Argentina’s military overthrew the government of Isabel Peron and instigated what became known as the “Dirty War,” during which as many as 30,000 people, most of them accused of being leftists, “disappeared.” Like many priests his age, he has been accused of not doing enough to protest the carnage.
In 2005, Argentine author Horacio Verbitzsky, whose books have detailed what he said was the church’s involvement in the Dirty War, accused Bergoglio of failing to protect two fellow Jesuits who’d opposed the military junta. The two Jesuits vanished and were presumed to have been killed by security forces. Bergoglio was never charged in subsequent years, nor has any hard evidence emerged of his involvement. But the charge has lingered largely because of Verbitzsky’s prominence in Argentina.
More recently, Bergoglio has been known for his confrontations with Argentina’s last two presidents, the husband and wife team of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner.
“He was always very kind to the poor and the drug addicts, I hope he can keep those qualities in the Vatican,” said Roberto D’Abbraccio Varela, 63, a Buenos Aires security guard and Roman Catholic. “There are some doubts with him about what he did during the military dictatorship but you can never know the truth and since he was never judged we have to presume he’s innocent.”
Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010, famously accused then-Cardinal Bergoglio of being “the true leader of the opposition.” During Argentina’s financial meltdown in 2001 and 2002, Bergoglio was a constant voice for the poor. He later famously lamented the rising poverty in Buenos Aires, noting that residents there “take better care of a dog than a brother.”
Bergoglio also was cool to Kirchner’s efforts to annul amnesty laws that protected those accused of crimes during the Dirty War. Among the first people to be tried after the laws were abolished was a Catholic police chaplain. Christian von Wernich was convicted and sentenced in 2007 by a federal court for participating in a series of crimes it said were “akin to genocide.” At the time of the trial, Bergoglio headed Argentina’s Conference of Bishops.
A common theme during the trial was the church’s inaction. One witness during the trial, the Rev. Ruben Capitanio, told the courtroom, “I say this with pain. Until the church recognizes its errors, we will be an unfaithful church.”
He closed his testimony by telling family members of the victims that “I apologize for still not being the church that we must be, on the side of the crucified and not the crucifiers.”
In a cable to Washington dated Oct. 11, 2007, Tony Wayne, then the U.S. ambassador to Argentina, noted the heavy political content of the case and the possible impact on Cardinal Bergoglio’s ability to oppose Kirchner’s policies.
“Many on the political left allege the church was complicit with atrocities committed by the state and believe the church has failed to account or atone for its actions,” the cable said. “The church has not yet disciplined nor defrocked Von Wernich but has sought to distance itself from the unauthorized, maverick operations of rogue priests. Nonetheless, at a time when some observers consider Roman Catholic primate Cardinal Bergoglio to be a leader of the opposition to the Kirchner administration . . . the Von Wernich case could also have the effect, some believe, of undermining the church’s (and, by extension, Cardinal Bergoglio’s) moral authority.”
In an earlier cable, dated May 10, 2007, the embassy noted that Bergoglio had actively opposed Kirchner initiatives despite having said “that the church would not get involved in politics.”
“The government appears irritated at the cardinal’s apparent preference for the opposition in this electoral year,” the cable said.
Relations with Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who succeeded her husband, remain tense, largely over Fernandez’s championing of same-sex marriage, which Bergoglio vehemently opposes. . . .
See also this interview of an Argentine journalist on Democracy Now!. Scroll down at link for transcript, or watch video.
This seems a switch: Religious groups band together to demand legislature improve access to contraceptives
Then if the religious groups are in favor of reproductive rights and women’s groups are in favor as well, who exactly is opposing them? State legislators, for one. Katie McDonough writes in Salon:
Clergy from across Texas have gathered at the Capitol building in Austin to publicly call on legislators to stop their ongoing attacks on reproductive rights and abortion access. Representatives from Christian and Jewish denominations, non-denominational gospel and Bible churches, Catholic organizations and Unitarian Universalist groups gathered to pray together for a “beloved community” that requires that “all women have access to safe, affordable healthcare,” prayed the Rev. Valda Jean Combs of St. James United Methodist Church in Waco.
The presence of progressive religious leaders at the Capitol stands in stark contrast to a years-long attack on women’s reproductive rights in the state. During the 2011 legislative session, Texas lawmakers cut $73 million from family planning programs, followed by a 2012 decision by Gov. Rick Perry to dissolve the state’s partnership with the federal Women’s Health Program, forfeiting millions in Medicaid funding for low-income women’s healthcare.
As Andrea Grimes reports for RH Reality Check: . . .