My dad is a devout Roman Catholic. He went to parochial grammar school (St. Brendan’s in the Midwood section of Brooklyn), graduated from a parochial high school (St. Augustine’s in Park Slope) and still won’t eat fish on Friday.
Imagine the Catholic Church being the law of the land. Imagine if, instead of a Constitution, we had the Bible. Instead of a president and congress and supreme court, there would be a pope. Imagine it was illegal to eat meat on Fridays.
Back in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running for president, my parents sparred over the wisdom of putting a Catholic in the White House.
I distinctly remember my mother, a Protestant, shivering over the prospect of what she thought was “moving the Pope in Washington.” Dad, the Catholic, was silent. He’d had enough trouble marrying outside of his religion in the early 1950s. His parents still didn’t recognize his marriage.
As it turned out, JFK was able to separate church and state, just like the forefathers planned. He and the Kennedy clan were immersed in Catholicism, baptizing all their children – and there were dozens of them, going to Mass on Sundays, being married by priests. And we know that in their darkest hours, they prayed.
Much has changed since JFK. Abortion has been legalized.
The pill was invented and covered by insurance.
Divorce, which you could only get in Mexico or Canada in the 1960s (when Mom had finally had it with Dad), is now almost as easy as buying a house. It is no longer against the law to be gay or lesbian. In some states, gays can even get married.
Children of unwed mothers are no longer “bastards.” Their single mothers – I count myself among them – can sue, for free, for child support.
And – hallelujah! – stem cell research is no longer against the law.
Most people take these things for granted today. But the religious right seeks to take them back in a morality fueled drive for “Christian” values. Let’s look at their wish list:
1. Abortion. No surprises here. Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion in 1967. At first, it was allowed only for cases of rape, incest or if it was too dangerous for the pregnancy to continue. New York legalized abortion in 1970. Roe v. Wade came along in 1973, and abortion became a legal option in every state in the union. The Religious Right’s most high profile problem is how to make this procedure illegal, again.
2. Prayer. I can’t say I don’t miss sitting at the cute little tables we had in kindergarten to say grace before lunch. And this was a public school: “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food, Amen.” They don’t do that anymore. Personally, I object. I like religious freedom. But if they were in charge – and they sometimes are – you’d have to pray before lunch. Probably in English, but you know there are the pushy lunatics who will want you to do that in Latin.
3. Blue Laws. Think back on the days not long ago when you couldn’t go shopping on a Sunday. This way, you can pray, instead. You still can’t shop Sundays in Bergen County, NJ, and lots of other places where everybody observes the Christian Sabbath, even if they’re Jewish, or Hindu, or Moslem… or Christians who want to shop on Sunday. I made the mistake of pulling up to Neiman Marcus one Sunday afternoon at the Paramus Mall. Turned out it is closed by law. Who knew?
4. Health Insurance? Pray Instead. Look at all the brainwashing they’ve managed to inject into the debate with their campaign against “Obamacare.” This is a law that protects middle class sick people. The Religious Right says it will bankrupt the country. Like they care. Sometimes they’ll throw in “un-Constitutional” terms in the law. But they really care about (1) stopping you from using birth control and (2) ending all abortions. Sex is sinful enough without adding to the immoral destruction of a fetus or embryo. If you get MS, or Cancer, or you have a heart attack, it’s not my problem, and I’m not going to pay for it. Take my work ethic, not my paycheck.
5. Back to Homophobia. Imagine turning back the clock so homosexuals are arrested and put in jail. You laugh? “Homosexual conduct” is still a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. I have a problem with that. And it’s not because my brother’s gay, or my sister-in-law is married (yay Andy Cuomo!) to a woman, or some of my colleagues and friends and enemies are gay. I believe Jesus would embrace every one of them. Because Jesus preached tolerance. That’s Christian.
6. Divorce Laws. The Bible says you don’t. For better or for worse, you’re married. Ask the Pope. Maybe this is why so many prominent evangelical preachers seem to be suffering from sexual deviance. Repression is unhealthy. If the Christian Right starts legislating everything, plant on ’til death do you part.
7. Marriage Laws. All weddings must take place before God — i.e., in a church, with a priest or preacher. You’re Jewish? No problem. Just consider yourself warned: Your wedding at Temple doesn’t count. Moslem? Ditto. Buddhist? Hindu? Tao? Atheist? Ditto. Hey, they’re doing a favor. You can’t go to Heaven unless you at least act like a Christian. And you’d better be baptised.
8. Banning Stem cell research. These people aren’t ultra-moral. They’re nuts who want to shove their version of religion down America’s throat. They did a pretty good job during the Bush era. For a while, all stem cell research came to a dead halt in this country. Thanks to these high-profile right wingers, stem cells were discarded with the trash, instead of used for desperately needed research. Fortunately, their nutty system was stopped two days after their dim witted President left office. And now we have the first trial success with stem cells and a possible cure for blindness. Thank God.
9. Corporal Punishment for Kids. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Some of these people get so abusive the children die — yes, they kill their own kids! Millions of parochial school grads can tell their own stories of being slapped, shaken or beaten – and worse – by teachers in school as punishment. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Remember, some of these nutty people see nothing wrong with beating up children. To them, that’s how you discipline a child. Otherwise, they grow up to be potheads and drug users. America would be a better place if we only hit our children more. And more. And more.
10. Separation of Church and State. America is a “Christian” nation, they argue, so we should all practice Christian holidays and holy days. They just don’t get it. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franlin and most of their colleages were not Christian. They were Deists. Jefferson actually considered the Trinity “Abracadabra.” In one letter, he believed that “there is not a young man now living in the U.S. who willl not die a Unitarian.”
Don’t think we’re out of the woods. Medicaid won’t cover abortions in 35 states. Poor women who live there must foot the bill or move to a state that covers it.
The religious right, which already succeeded in gutting the original Obama bill, nearly halted funding for Planned Parenthood with its Susan B. Komen board just a few months ago. Remember, Planned Parenthood is where low income girls and women go for health care – and contraceptives.
These people are not moral servants of God. They’re fervant fanatics who want policies and procedures that are mean and hurtful and sometimes lethal. The gospel of the religious right has done some terrible things to this country. How un-Christian is that?
I have to wonder, do these people read the The Commandments? Ever hear of “Thou shalt not kill”? Are these really the same people who preach the death penalty?
Were she alive today to hear them do their dirty work, Mom would find their impact disturbing. This isn’t over. Not even close. And that sends chills up my spine.