samedi, juillet 27, 2013

As gay marriage gains support, what's going on with people of faith?

A day or so after the Supreme Courts' momentous decision in the DOMA case, I spoke to a professor of mine who is a lesbian (her partner addressed our class).   The move to allow, if not affirm, gay marriage as the law of the land felt like it had happened fast, I said.

"In less than a generation," she said.  That's remarkably swift for this kind of cultural change.

In an atmosphere of heady optimism for gay marriage supporters, Nate Cohn of the New Republic sounded a cautionary note (you can find a link to his analysis in my commentary). To my mind, he makes some very good points.

While it's hard to predict the course of history, while one is living it, this is a crucial time for Americans, particularly American Christians.

Will increasing support for gay marriage among Catholics and mainline Protestants change minds among conservatives?  Or are we looking at another "wedge" issue, like abortion, that will divide Americans for generations to come?

In this commentary I stick close to the numbers (though statistics are as diverse as the people doing the polling).  In the ones to follow, you'll hear from some scholars and writers as they grapple with the question: what next?

vendredi, juillet 26, 2013

The acceptable bigotry of the anti-religious

When I told someone that I was a religion writer, he asked me if I was "deeply religious."

Let's just say that this online question is resonant of many other such conversations.  I can usually guess at the agenda behind it.

Are you....intolerant? Are you a prude? Are you narrow-minded? Will you try to convert me?

Are you responsible for ALL of the ills that afflict Western civilization?

I paused a minute.  I took a deep breath.  I puzzled over all the possible answers, including - whaddya mean?

Then I answered that I wasn't any of the stereotypical things people might imagine when they think about a "religious person." I valued the topic enough to have the conversation in "real life," I added.

I know the picture -- I'm sure that you do, too.  It's a particular favorite of some doctrinaire liberals.

To be fair, the religious right, with sometimes antiscientific bent, hasn't helped (though, trust me, I don't like it when the religious left gets involved in political machinations, either).

Then, of course, there is radical Islam, and various New Age philosophies constructed mostly of wishful fluff.  Sexual abuse. Racist philosophies.  Anti-Christians who call themselves church members, like Westboro's easy to see why religion, particularly Christians who wield political power, get a bad rap.

Yet why is it so acceptable for anyone with a pretense to an IQ above 100 to re-enact a new Inquisition?

This isn't limited to potential romantic partners. I run into it a fair amount among the intelligentsia in academic institutions, too.

I'm guessing that you do, too.   As Americans, we continue to polarize and splinter every which way.

 The antipathy towards people of faith as a class  is just one more way of saying "I'm different from you -- and proud. " Not to mention more intelligent, more tolerant, and generally higher quality.

On the other hand, I enjoy a chat about faith, and no-faith, when the parties involved can trust each other, and cut each other some slack. Intellectual curiosity, and a discerning ear and heart, are almost always good things.  That take a special sort of person, though --  someone who is flexible, smart, and genuine.

The odds are pretty good that I won't hear from this person again -- and that's o.k.  I don't need to change his mind. If I do hear from him, though, I'll give him a little extra credit for being able to imagine a universe in which not every person of faith is a prejudiced moron.

Because, in general, I'm not. I hope that he's not, either.