Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Black Baptist Minister Takes on the Theocrats

Much has happened in the wake of the first Justice Sunday, a national rally for theocracy led by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and James Dobson of Focus on the Family in April. The showdown over the nuclear option came and went. Several judges the theocrats liked were confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. Religious progressives have begun to organize. And now, with more federal judgeships up for consideration, including at least one opening on the Supreme Court, Justice Sunday II is planned for August 14th in Nashville.

I wrote a bit about all this yesterday. And today I found an analysis of the first Justice Sunday, titled "On the Brink of Theocracy," written by Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The Religious Coalition "is an alliance of national organizations from major faiths, affiliates throughout the country, and the national Clergy for Choice Network, Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, and The Black Church Initiative. While our members are religiously and theologically diverse, they are unified in the commitment to preserve reproductive choice as a basic part of religious liberty."

Here are a few excerpts from Veazy's analysis, but it is worth reading the whole thing -- and spreading it widely. This is a time when some democrats are making noises about abandoning Roe vs. Wade. It is a view not shared by thousands of mainstream religious leaders who are prochoice, prosexuality education, and certain theocratic demagogues not withstanding, obviously pro-faith.

"Progressives who think warnings about 'theocracy' are an exaggeration should take a closer look at 'Justice Sunday: Filibustering People of Faith,' Veazy wrote. The event was "beamed into conservative churches across the country: a political rally from a large, comfortable mega-church in Louisville, with a middle-class audience listening with rapt attention to political operatives who self-identify as religious leaders-and at the bottom of the screen, streaming video with the photos, names and phone numbers of targeted U.S. senators. The visual message was clear: the church is dominant over the state and senators should toe the line on eliminating the filibuster and confirming Bush judges or pay the price."

"There is a right way and a wrong way to engage religious voices in the public square. I believe "Justice Sunday" reflects the latter and highlights several disturbing trends... As a Baptist minister for more than 40 years with a profound respect for religious freedom and pluralism, I fear it will get worse. In fact, I think we are teetering on the brink of theocracy and the Christian Right could conceivably use the battle over the judiciary and weakening support for reproductive rights to push us over the edge...."

"One of the "Justice Sunday" speakers, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary... believes there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible -- his -- and he equated the inerrancy of his interpretation of the Bible with the inerrancy of the Constitution, based on his biblical beliefs. In bringing the Bible and the Constitution together, fundamentalists like Mohler are moving toward mainstreaming their biblically based interpretation of the Constitution. Judges would be held to the standard of biblical teachings, as interpreted by fundamentalists. I don't doubt the sincerity of Mohler and other fundamentalist ministers who share this view that the Bible is literally true and they alone know what it means, but they are on dangerous ground when they then suggest that they alone also know what the Constitution means-and that anyone who thinks differently is anti-Christian. Christians have strong differences of opinion on the meaning of scriptures and most of us don't want to see a particular brand of Christianity held up as the only real Christianity. We certainly don't want a particular brand of Christianity enacted as the law of the land."

"Reproductive justice is an issue on which they hope to divide and conquer progressives."

"In my view, the intensifying battle over the courts has brought progressives face-to-face with the need to take a firm stand on the morality of reproductive rights. Not only must we overcome the polarization generated by the Christian Right, we also must find a way to come together in compassionate concern for women and families. Speaking as a minister, I believe that the realities of women's lives must be included in any vision of a moral society that honors individual dignity and worth. I believe that women, and men, cannot live in dignity and equality if they cannot render for themselves their most intimate family decisions. "

[Crossposted from]


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