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November
Isn’t Seeking Government Support for Your Religion an Act of Unbelief?


The religious right-wing will continue to seek government enforcement of their religious views as long as they can. Church/State separation means little or nothing to them because they’re convinced that the U.S. was always meant to be a “Christian” (by their definition) nation.

Historical argument doesn’t get through to them. They have their own pseudo historians to do just plain bad history in their favor and sectarian publishers to publish that pseudo history. They ignore fact-based historians.

When we respond that such attempts are unconstitutional, we fail to recognize that they’ve intentionally packed the Supreme Court, and lower courts, with those who agree with them, and that it’s these very human justices that define what’s constitutional, not some nice ideal we have in our heads.

Only if a majority of voters stand up, take responsibility, and vote, will this trend change since there’s big money behind right-wing sectarianism. But it will also require politicians with guts who aren’t afraid of the highly vocal, sectarian religious right-wing, its well-funded media spin machine, and its absolutist bluster.

What makes calls for government enforcement of their religion so dangerous is that they are actually fear-based reactions of unbelief, not comfortable faith in some effective divinity they tout.

Of course, those who see government as the solution to their unbelief will deny that it’s unbelief and interpret those things they adore as their authorities (scriptures, etc.) to justify their trust in governments. Picking and choosing from their book and history, is how that works.

They’ll continue to talk a lot about how their god is actually an active player in national and world events. They’ll blather on about how all is under their god’s control.

And yet, they’ll show how fearful and uncertain they are about all that they claim to base their lives on by their political activities. Political engagement functions to keep what amounts to an unhealthy religious addiction alive.

The message they promote is based on fear. Purporting to be victims, they claim a full victim role for all who believe like them.

Society, culture, liberals, everyone is out to get them. They’re like rats trapped in a corner and frightened. And such a well-worn persecution complex has worked well to scare the addicted throughout history.

The recent construction of “religious liberty” arguments is firmly based in such a victim role. This argument, which they hope will be effective among their newly-seated right-wing justices, is that they need government protection from persecution.

Turning to government is thus a concession that their god is too small and ineffective. And then, taking the further step: seeking government funding for their schools, charities, and churches is more evidence of their scared faithlessness.

If there’s any meaning to "By their fruits ye shall no them," as I argued in When Religion Is an Addiction, seeking government funding of so-called faith-based initiatives is evidence that the seekers have lost faith in their avowed higher power and substituted government commitments for their own.

They don’t believe that sacrifice of their own funds for their faith works - another symptom of fear of religious failure. They want every taxpayer to pay for what are supposed to be their “good works.”

The right-wing victory in this matter came to fruition in 2001 with George W. Bush’s “White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.” Then, though they had to picture Barack Obama as a devil, Obama ratified Bush’s idea by actually continuing funding of their “good works” under a new name: “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”

In his usual way of doing nothing new but acting as if he alone invented it, Donald Trump in May 2018 courted right-wing believers with the announcement of the “Faith and Opportunity Initiative,” a “new” White House office to help faith-based organizations get equal access to government funding.

These government programs to fund faith-based programs enable the decline of faith in the Divine and in the Spirit's work within the religious organizations. Their existence is just further proof that those who purport to believe are afraid that their god can't get this done on His own.

It's as if those who trumpet the bumper sticker "WWJD" believe that Jesus said: "Sorry gang. We won't be able to feed the 5,000 effectively until we get that grant from the Roman Emperor.”

John Leland, a famous 18th century Baptist minister, understood that this was unbelief: "Persecution, like a lion, tears the saints to death, but leaves Christianity pure; state establishment of religion, like a bear, hugs the saints, but corrupts Christianity."

Leland hit the nail on the head. When the government enables religious people to do their good works better, when it embraces them “as a bear,” it saves religious people from having to sacrifice more of their own treasure for their faith.

It saves them from their fear that their god is too weak to do things himself.

The good works that included making financial sacrifices both for spreading their faith and helping the needy, the sacrifice that proved the deep level of their conviction and even kept some believers from “piling up riches unto themselves,” are now replaced by government funding.

The good works being done are now not their good works but everyone’s -- yours and mine. We’re paying for it.

They can give less money so their lifestyles won't suffer too much. They can spend it on bigger homes, gas-guzzling tanks, and the pleasures of life. They can again prove Jesus wrong by showing: You really can "serve God and mammon."

They are saved from facing a most difficult challenge to the level of their faith, the increasingly harder task of successful proselytizing -- getting people to come to them in the first place. The government-funded program can bring the unbelievers in where the law says they don't have to "remove religious art, icons, scripture, or other symbols."

So, if we’re looking for a sign of growing unbelief in our culture, this is a big one. Unfortunately for us, their response to such fear of failure is usually that reflected in the marginal notes a pastor once added to his sermon: "Weak point here. Pound the pulpit harder."

© 2020 Robert N. Minor

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org

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