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Is the Religious Right Positioned to Play Moral Police?

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Knowing that others love and accept us is important for the overall health and well-being of our society. I recently chimed in on a political discussion regarding the Prop 8 ruling that struck down its validity. The appeals court upheld the 2010 decision of a federal court judge, who said the measure violated constitutional, equal protection rights of same-sex couples. I made two comments: that a majority should not be allowed to vote on the civil rights of a minority, and that those who profess that the Bible ordains marriage between only a man and a woman are overlooking the fact that the Bible also condemns having sex outside marriage, eating shellfish, and wearing garments of two or more fabrics -- though those things are all perfectly legal. Although Christians vary greatly in their doctrines, it seems paradoxical that there are those who preach a gospel that they don't practice. Many have rebuked and condemned others for so long that they no longer feel a sense of guilt, shame, or hypocrisy when they routinely "sin" against their own beliefs.

Needless to say, I got a tremendous pushback from religious conservatives and self-righteous commenters for my pro-equality comments. What's going on here? One possibility is that we live in a hostile environment of moral fear of perceived threats that really don't exist. Granted, no human being is "good enough" to earn righteousness in God's sight. Surely the super-religious are aware of their own faults and shortcomings and perhaps don't feel that God accepts them, let alone anyone else. Those feelings of guilt and shame are lessened by rebuking others as immoral. Unfortunately, those feelings of guilt are what perpetuates this cycle of hypocritical condemnation. It's a faulty ideology that warped opinions passed down to us should remain our own.

I can accept religious conservatives having this as their argument, providing that they live by all the same dogmatic rules they espouse for others. While many like me assert that the Bible is imperfect and wholly inconceivable, a lot of Christians still wrestle with what they've been taught, positioned against what they inherently feel inside. I've been there, too. We are all 2,000 years late to the pious party, and the best we can do is accept handed-down versions of what others supposedly said. This ambivalence is evident in the religious right's difficulty coalescing around a conservative candidate for the Republican nomination. They initially supported and then denied four staunch religious zealots frontrunner status: Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum, and Cain. It became more palatable to support the more center-left candidate, Mitt Romney, who has so far received significantly greater support from born-again evangelicals than he did in 2008. This may suggest that religious conservatives are either fewer in number than they are letting on, or that they only half-heartedly embrace the radicals' stances on the social issues.

I don't profess any religion, but like most Christians, I feel that love, honesty, integrity, and human equality are virtues that we should all strive to uphold. Every person wants to feel accepted and loved for who they are as opposed to who they are not. The extreme religious right would be better served to concentrate their efforts on being "righteous" and living up to their own demands instead of badgering others to accept dogmas that they themselves aren't willing to conform to outside a hypocritical context. From one Bible came literally thousands of differing interpretations of "righteousness." It was passed down by word of mouth for generations even before it was written with the subjective interpretations of many. That makes it no more or less sacrosanct than many other great words of wisdom that came long before or long after it. We can't continue to counter that we each have a superior source to rely on -- our ability to reason and make common-sense discernment for oneself based on the wisdom and love in our own heart.

So how do we get beyond prejudiced dogmas and beliefs sold to us by others? It is foolish for either side to think this issue will go away, regardless of any court ruling. The religious conservatives are no more than fellow primates and no more endowed than the rest of us to moral supremacy. This myth needs to be dispelled, and growing numbers of people are finally waking up to that reality. Common ground will not be found in the opinions of judges. It will ultimately come from the hearts of humans, when we love and respect the rights of others to live in pursuit of their own happiness. Whether or not we extol the Bible is our individual choice, and others should be free to exalt their own truth as well and no one should have to apologize for that.