The Big Chill | Will God Govern America?

Today’s Sander Hicks essay The Devil in The Vatican caught my eye.

Hicks writes that having left the Catholic Church for 10 years, he was astounded when he returned, to see just how conservative the Catholic Church is under Pope Benedict.

Last night the Vatican heatedly defended Pope Benedict XVI claiming accusations against his handling of the actions of pedophile priests are part of an anti-Catholic “hate” campaign targeting the pope for his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. via AP

A shiver went up my spine, reading that any attempt to criticize the Vatican is not permitted, is irreligious and against family values.

The NYT weighs in this morning with Abuse Crisis Strains Vatican’s Ancient Ways of Management, saying:

 … Benedict’s papacy has gone from crisis to crisis points to its difficulties as an ancient institution still struggling with modernity, even though the liberalizing Second Vatican Council in the 1960s was supposed to update the church’s relation to the world. Instead, it is facing the growing pains of a bureaucracy created in the 16th century to contend with the Protestant Reformation and the discovery of the New World. By some lights, it is still grappling with both.

In fact, Pope Benedict and the Cardinals generally intend to roll back Vatican II.

Simply stated, secularism is considered a great threat to the Vatican. Whether the subject is women’s rights, homosexuality or a globally harmonious religious world, the current Catholic leadership is totally opposed to Vatican II.

My vision of the Catholic Church is out of date, and the Catholic Church has changed in ways that I cannot imagine.

The Texas School Board Textbooks

In the recent Texas rewrite of school book curriculum — decisions that will affect all America kids in the classroom — conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly who led the fight to defeat the equal rights amendment in America and the Heritage Foundation are challenging the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted to separate church and state in America.

Schlafly and I don’t share a common perspective on women rights. While Schlafly, who is a Catholic, has succeeded enormously well as a wife and mother, her devoted opposition to kill the ERA, one vote short of national verification by the 36th state in the late 70s, puts her in opposition to me.

Previously, I’ve admired Mrs. Schlafly’s get out the vote skills. Like Sarah Palin, Schlafly’s a formidable force.

In rewriting American history for school children, seeking ‘balance’ in the words of the Heritage Foundation and the NRA, I don’t mind adding news of Schlafly and the recent growth of Conservativism in America to textbooks, but I do agree with the Columbia University Spectator’s analysis:

McLeroy, the board’s chair, claimed that the board was “adding balance” while hearkening to the purported liberal skew of academics. Yet, adding pillars of the conservative movement while removing Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to American ideology is not the bartering of parallel truths. It is disregarding historical facts that shaped this country and replacing them with biased dogma. Among other things, the board also decided to entirely remove the word “democratic,” terming the American government instead a “constitutional republic.”  via Columbia Spectator

To be truly blunt with readers, I don’t know what the heck is going on. I’ll say no more until I understand the particulars of the assertion that ‘democratic’ is not an appropriate word for America’s school children.

Wiki gets us started with a distinction between constitutional republic and a democracy. On a first read, the words of Emma Lazarus emblazened on the Statue of Liberty seem not to fit well with the definition of a constitutional republic.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The above words represent democratic sentiments that run against the grain of a constitutional republic that embraces immigration and ‘huddled masses’ when it suits its larger national purposes. It’s a more democratic idea to believe that the state has any obligations to take care of its citizens.

In a constitutional republic, you’re on your own, if the governing body chooses.

Listening to the Vatican’s accusations that my concerns about how the Catholic Church operates are ‘petty gossip’, I recognize the strategy of demonizing your opponent.

Only a slut girl would question the Catholic Church, therefore I’m the problem, threatening the moral fabric of American life. It’s a familiar tagline.

All reports of changes in the Texas curriculum say that the importance of Thomas Jefferson has been lessened, in terms of his importance in history. Most important, Conservatives seek an end to a separation of church and state in America.

Is it the Conservative belief that America was founded as a theocracy? Is that correct?

Via Wiki: Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state’s supreme civil ruler,[1] or in a higher sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.[2] In Common Greek, “theocracy” means a rule [kra′tos] by God [the.os′]. For believers, theocracy is a form of government in which divine power governs an earthly human state, either in a personal incarnation or, more often, via religious institutional representatives (i.e., a church), replacing or dominating civil government.[3] Theocratic governments enact theonomic laws.

Theocracy should be distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held “By the Grace of God”.

I believe that constitutional monarchy implies the latter, that America has a state religion or is governed by the Grace of God. I suspect that even Karl Rove rejects the official designation of ‘theocracy’ for America, as in emblazoning the worlds on Oval Office letterhead.

Whatever the official political latte blend, this conservative vision suggests that God rules in America. Therefore, I want to understand just where the Vatican is going with my life and that of my family, the young people who are live in America long after I’m dead.

Religion’s influence in American life is front and center in our political agendas on multiple fronts.

Watching The Mormons on PBS last night, I was reminded that Mormons joined Phyllis Schlafly in defeating the ERA. In what I trust Mormons would say was a very balanced show on the religion and its growing influence in America, I was reminded that Mormons got on buses and traveled to last states ratifying the ERA, determined to defeat its passage.

Viewers also met tales of Sonia Johnson in The Mormons, one of twenty ERA supporters who were briefly jailed for chaining themselves to the gate of a Mormon temple in Bellevue, Washington.

The Mormon church began disciplinary proceedings against Johnson after she delivered a scathing speech entitled “Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church” at a meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) in New York City in September, 1979. Johnson denounced allegedly immoral and illegal nationwide lobbying efforts by the LDS Church to prevent passage of the ERA.  

Because the speech drew national media attention, leaders in Johnson’s local Virginia congregation immediately began excommunication proceedings. A December, 1979 ex-communication letter confirmed that Sonia Johnson was charged with a variety of misdeeds including hindering the worldwide missionary program, damaging internal Mormon social programs, and teaching false doctrine.[4]

The process of excommunication in the Mormon Church is a private affair, but Margaret Toscano shared the details of hers on PBS — sitting alone on a chair in front of 16 men who would decide her Mormon fate. Toscano was excommunicated for her research into the history of women in the Mormon priesthood and also the concept of a Heavenly Mother, which she argues is deeply embedded in Mormon history.

Toscano was excommunicated for her arguments that historically women had a much more relevant role in the church than now permitted. This is the story of almost religion since the time of Jesus. Scholars point to evidence that women had much more influence and hands-on ministering, working with Jesus.

Watching details of the required two years of missionary work of each Mormon, I thought of Laura Silsby still sitting in jail in Haiti, with her colleagues released.

Reading the Southern Baptist Press — nine of the 10 missionaries were SB — Laura is quoted as saying: “God will release me. I’m confident that God will overcome all of this and ultimately enable me to be released,” Silsby said during the interview that was taped several days before Easter.

Like the Mormons, the Southern Baptists are committed to converting us to their religion, because it is God’s will. If I’m not mistaken, each believes that they are the chosen people.

Rejecting the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II, Pope Benedict argues that Catholics are the chosen people and the goal is to convert the world to Catholicism.

In 2007 Pope Benedict reissued a 2000 document from his old office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians.

“Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” the document said. The other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles. via MSNBC

Pope Benedict believes in ecumenical dialogue with other Christians, but only with the understanding that the Catholic church is the only true church in the eyes of God.

Religious|Secular Crossroads

Vatican watchers talk about the need for a Vatican III. The women’s research organization Catalyst and the Harvard Business Review confirm that the pipeline concept for women’s rights in America is bogus. Women are losing ground in America, compared to the rest of the world.

Thirty years after the ERA was defeated, I now understand clearly that America’s religious patriarchy, which often intersects with at least half of its intellectual patriarchy and nearly all of its political patriarchy has no intention of liberating American women.

American women won the power and rights we now have in a time of great economic expansion and America’s rise to power and influence in the world.

As America’s star dims and conservatives seek to raise the star of Phyllis Schlafly and dim that of Thomas Jefferson; when the religious right is on a multiple-front mission to officially recognize the primacy of religion in America’s constitution and laws; when Pope Benedict regards secularism as the great evil and seeks to turn the altar away from the congregation at the same time conservatives want the word democracy removed to textbooks, I sense a profound change in America.

This is not the country of the 60s and 70s any more. The change is proufound and an understandable outcome of more liberal ‘wins’ from those decades.

In our Gossip Girl world of America, tracking these changes requires keen observation. Today’s big news is that Sandra Bullock denies there’s a sex tape and Tiger Woods seeks redemption on the golf course.

Ironically, he’s playing at The Masters.

Do we have any doubt that the boys club will take him back? I think the Tiger will be fine. The boys club takes care of their own.

Looking into the next decade, I sense the women of America will be marching to a new set of rules. I envision perhaps 2-3 women senators and 97 men determining women’s lives. We’ll be right there with Iran, because where religion rules today, women do not progress.

As God takes to running America, women will be expected to take their rightful place. There will always be strong women like Phylis Schlafly or Sarah Palin to confuse the issue. One of the great traditions among American women is the desire to be the only girl in the boardroom — the chosen girl, the one basking in male admiration.

Men aren’t stupid. There’s always room for a brainiac woman or two. Personally, I’ve always identified with Ayn Rand’s Dagny Taggert. When all the entrepreneurial good guys walked away from American life, Dagny walked, too.

As an entrepreneurial, self-reliant, free-spirited woman, I totally identify with Dagny.

Yet I’ve also come to understand the forces at play in America and they are not committed to equal rights for women. As Gloria Steinem and other feminists pointed out, Morman women and Schlafly’s, too, found self-worth and relevancy in the eyes of Mormon and other conservative men by working to defeat the ERA.

A win is a win in America, and we’re a country who likes winners.

Most recently in Utah, the politicians passed a bill that would make miscarriage a crime. The governor refused to sign the bill. Between this fact and the Vatican’s attempt to take over American health care legislation, I know that I’m not the only woman with a chill going down my spine.

The question is whether America’s moderate middle feels a chill, and do they even care. America’s priority is getting back to work, not worrying about eroding women’s rights or God governing America.

Whoever can do the job will be just fine with voters.

Depending on the victors, it could be all over for women in America. Religion may be on the decline in America, but the believers are better at influencing voters. We will be governed by a religious patriarchy not vastly different from the one in Iran. They just sound like better guys.  Anne