Religion Class Part II

For Thursday’s religion class we needed to read Andrew Sullivan’s column from 2003 about leaving his Church.

There were a lot of emotions in the class, but unfortunately we only really discussed the article for about a half hour. We had 3 presentations and had to do class evaluations as well.   I was not the only one who was shocked, angry or depressed after reading the column. Mr. Sullivan was unable to reconcile being gay and going to Church after his parish asked a gay couple to leave the choir when they went to Canada to get a marriage license and had a newspaper article written about it. This couple had been members of the choir for over 25 years. It brought up the way Vatican has handled gays over the past few years. Pope John Paul II met with the man who tried to kill him, but he wouldn’t meet with openly gay Catholics.

I really sympathized with Andrew because I could feel his anger and pain. I could imagine that going  from attending mass weekly at the same parish for your whole life (Andrew says 40 years…) to being unable to enter a church because of all the anger would be very painful. I wouldn’t be able to handle not going to church because of the strong connections I’ve made.

But the biggest question that reading the column brought up for me was whether you are denying part of yourself when you sit in the pews and are gay. I think your sexuality is between you and God. Period. God knows what you do and who you like, but God loves everyone equally (and probably couldn’t care less about your love life…)  But I’m reminded of what happens with a Bishop finds out when a politician voted Pro-Choice. He’s denied Communion, asked not to participate in mass. I can only imagine what would happen if those same bishops who would deny Communion to people who voted for Pro-Choice politicians found out there were gay Catholics in their diocese.

Gay Catholics are out there. There’s an organization called Dignity USA that celebrates all LGBT Catholics. I looked at the Boston chapter and learned they worship in an Episcopalian church. They don’t receive any support or resources from the Boston Archdiocese.

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49 Comments

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49 responses to “Religion Class Part II

  1. David

    Sorry, I wonder what they’re teaching you in religion class…there can be no such thing as a gay Catholic. Someone who is ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ is practicing a lifestyle which is contrary to the Catholic Church. Practicing that lifestyle is disobedient to God, and that’s what the Catholic Church teaches-obedience to God. There are some Catholics who have same sex attraction, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the Churhc teaches that sex is for marriage, marriage is between one man and one woman in covenant with God. If you sit in the pews as a hetero- or homo-sexual, either way, actually, you are supposed to be denying yourself and worshipping God. If you are in mortal sin, there is a barrier between you and God, and you cannot receive him worthily.
    So, whether you are gay or straight in your sexual life, if you’re not married, you are having illicit sex, and you should not be receiving communion. But that’s something you should be thinking about in your heart. I admire people who deny themselves communion because they know they are in sin. The whole thing about being denied communion, if you’re openly gay (for example you approach the altar of the Lord with your lover next to you), then you should be denied communion, just as the bishops deny communion to openly pro-abortion people.

    • Thank you for your comment. It is nice to read a different point of view since the reaction of my class was a pretty unanimous one of anger. No one voiced opinions similar to yours.

      My class is just intro to Catholicism. It is not a theology class.

      What a meant when I wrote about denying yourself while sitting in the pews was denying your idenitity as someon who is attracted to the same sex, not the homosexual acts themselves. I understand that it’s all about celibacy. Anyone who is unmarried is to remain celibate until marriage, so if you’re gay you have remain celibate your whole life.

      You say there are Catholics who do have same sex atractions. I would say those people are gay, or lesbian.

      • David

        Why do you want to identify yourself by your sexuality? Aren’t you a man or a woman? Gay or lesbian is an indication of the variety of sex you have. It doesn’t have to describe you as a person. I personally don’t care whether someone of my sex finds me attractive until they take action on that attraction.

        But all that aside, if someone is sitting in church ogling the girls as they pass by, hoping to corner them for a date after mass, they’re in church for the wrong reason. Church is a place for a group of humans to focus on God, and to learn what God wants of us from his scriptures.

        You say “Anyone who is unmarried is to remain celebate until marriage, so if you’re gay you have to remain celebate your whole life.” If you live this way, bearing your particular cross with dignity, you are not gay, you have an attraction for people of your own sex…

        God bless you.

  2. Anne the Intern

    David, I disagree with your definition of gay and lesbian. They are words that describe who a person is attracted to, not who they are having sexual relations with, if at all. There have been many, many cases of gay people who, for some reason or another, denied their attractions and engaged in heterosexual relationships – but were still gay.

    I’m not Catholic, though I am a Christian, and at the end of the day I choose to leave judgement up to the One who will judge all of us, and treat my brothers and sisters in Christ with love and respect, not pity.

    • David

      Maybe I should have said ‘would’ have sex with. The point being they are defining their entire being by whou they want to have sex with. Whether you have same or different sex attraction, if you aren’t engaging in sex, you are celibate.

      I’m not judging them either, Anne, but the Bible clearly says that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and defines marriage as a covenant before God between a man and a woman. As a Catholic, we’re supposed to love all people, but we are not to love their (or our) sin. We are to remember that God loves everybody, that we are all God’s creation, and the Bible tells us that everything God made was ‘good’.

      • They are not defining their entire being by who they would like to have sex with, they are defining their identity by who they are attracted to, who they would like to spend their life with.

        Love the sinner, but hate the sin. I’ve heard that numerous times. For the most part it works. But then I learned through Sullivan’s column that Pope John Paul II would meet with his would-be assassin before meeting with openly Gay Catholics. So much for loving the sinner…

  3. David

    My identity is not about who I want to have sex with. It’s not about what color I am. It’s not about who I date or marry. Sorry, I’m David, and I refuse to be identified by my sexuality.
    I can understand JPII. The would be killer repented. The openly gay Catholics have not. I think it showed tons of love that he met with someone who tried to kill him. Just because he didn’t meet publicly with someone doesn’t mean he’s not concerned for their souls.

    • Anne the Intern

      David, you seem to come from a majority background. It’s easy for you to say you don’t define yourself based on your sexuality because that’s a part of yourself you don’t have to guard. No one will insult you, hurt you, or discriminate against you because you are a straight man. You have the luxury of being able to define yourself without your sexuality because your sexuality is not something other people think of when defining you. Gay people don’t have that luxury because they are a minority group, and people define identity based on relation to the group.

      I can understand what you mean about the Pope, but Jesus said that he was a physician for the ill, not the healthy. If the Pope was truly concerned about the souls of gay Catholics, and truly believes that homosexuality is against the will of God, his responsibility is not to alienate these individuals but to try to help them, as he sees it. I disagree with that standpoint, but his actions and words have a major logical gap.

      • Anne the Intern

        The passage I was looking for (was away from my desk without my Bible) is Luke 5:27-32, the story of the calling of Levi the tax collector, specifically 30-32. “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

      • David

        I do come from a majority background, but do you really think that we aren’t being persecuted? We get insulted and discriminated, whether for sexuality or skin color, or sex. I don’t pay attention to any of it because that’s not what’s important. Others get their feelings hurt pretty easily because they dwell on it. I also get persecuted as a Catholic, whether by Protestants, or non-religious. But believe me, I do not care what color, sex, religion or sexuality you are. Even if I know that information, it’s not important to me. Preserving the sactitity of marriage as is was instituted is definitely important. JPII was concerned about the souls of gay Catholics-he defined what their role should be, to be celibate and bear their cross patiently. He cared so much about sexuality that he spoke about it at every papal audience for about 3 years. If gay Catholics, as a group don’t choose to accept the help he offered, and that the Church offers in the way of counseling and spiritual guidance, so be it. But if I’m a Mafioso, and proud of it, and I go to meet the pope, and he knows I’m a killer and drug dealer and don’t want to be changed, what good is such a meeting? If I am a Mafioso and I’m sorry for what I’ve done in dealing drugs and killing people, and want help to atone for those actions, then a meeting with any clergy might be beneficient. You see the difference in attitude? The point of Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners was that they were sorry for what they had been. The first step is realizing you’re wrong. Or a sinner. Once you recognize your sins, and seek help for them, you’re ready to be on the road to wellness…
        Bless you, Anne, I hope I can help you see the other side. I have seen the other side, and I’m all for helping those who need help.

  4. Anne the Intern

    Yes, I really believe we aren’t being persecuted. I don’t know anything about your background other than that you are straight and Catholic, but I’m not sure to what persecution you refer. I have never once felt persecuted for being white, straight, female, or Christian.

    I respectfully disagree with you. I, too, have seen the other side, and in fact, as a Presbyterian I have seen the other side expressed in my own church’s doctrine which, like yours, is opposed to homosexuality. On the other hand, I have seen two members of my church, gay men, as a couple for my entire life. The two of them have easily the most caring, stable, and Christian unions I have ever seen, and I hope the I can be as lucky with my future husband. When the best Christians I know are gay, and the least Christian people I know want to protect marriage from loving couples instead of divorce, I find it impossible to think that God would deny the good, loving people salvation but give it to those who hate rather than forgive.

    • David

      I’m sorry, then. We’re persecuted because we’re against abortion, because we’re against premarital sex, we’re ridiculed for so many things. You must be very sheltered if you don’t see that. And if you believe that the best Christians you know are the gay Christians, I’m sad for you because one of the first tenents of Christianity was fidelity to God. That little commandment against adultery…I might believe caring, and maybe stable, but a gay lifestyle usually doens’t involve monogamy. People can love each other (and do a lot) without marrying each other. But when they can’t even try to live the 10 commandments, the first one being to love God…I don’t know what to say. If you don’t make your best effort to abide by all 10 commandments every day, however imperfect you are, you’re breaking the first commandment. I can forgive someone, but I’m not the one who’s forgiveness they need. I can love someone and hate some aspect of things they do. I detest the President of the United States for the way he governs, but I pray for him every day, and I don’t hate him personally. So I think you need to learn what it means to be Christian, what it means to forgive, what it means to be persecuted (actually, if you’re Christian and not being persecuted, maybe you’re not Christian enough!). A good definition of marriage, and love would help you out as well.

      • Anne the Intern

        I see people who disagree with you but I certainly have never seen anyone persecuted for opposing abortion, premarital sex, or homosexuality. I don’t think it’s my job as a Christian to try to be persecuted for my beliefs, because that requires antagonism and the way of my God is the way of peace.

        I know what it means to be Christian, to forgive, to be persecuted, to marry, and to love. It’s very clear that your definitions all hinge on a drastically different picture of Christianity. I say now, as I said before, that for me, Christianity means leaving judgement up to God, and treating all people with respect and love as Jesus taught. I love you as my brother in Christ and respect you for striving to be faithful as you understand it, but that does not mean I agree with you.

  5. David

    You don’t think getting thrown in jail for praying in front of an abortion clinic is persecution? How about getting expelled from school for praying before a meal? How about getting your car window broken because you have a sign on your car saying “Vote yes on prop 8”? I don’t believe any of those examples is antagonistic in any way, and yet they are examples of persecution.

    You obvioualy don’t know early Christian history (before Christianity was legal), otherwise you would know that we Christians have always been persecuted, and it is a badge of honor. In fact, Jesus told us we would be persecuted for following him. Many died for doing this. Jesus died for his beliefs, and was severely brutalized, and not just hung on a cross. This self sacrifice is the purest definition of love, because God is love. Marriage is now and always has been a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. The man and the woman promise God to be faithful to each other, fruitful, and to worship Him and follow his words. Anything else is a civil union, not a marriage. You are right that it is not our place to judge people’s hearts, but it is our place to judge actions and people do that all the time.

    • David, I wonder where you are posting right now. I am from Boston where it has, up until recently, been predominantly Catholic. I don’t think I’ve ever been prosecuted because of my faith. People may look at me strangely when they find out I’m a Catholic but that’s about it.

      I actually agree with you that there is a sharp distinction between a marriage that takes place in a church and a marriage that takes place in city hall or presided by a justice of the peace. However I believe gays should have the same rights that the government grants to all couples they recognize as being married. Call it whatever you like, but they should still have the same rights.

      • David

        California. Catholics and others are different here. But I hear all the time, all over the country of Christians (not just Catholics) getting jailed for simply praying outside an abortion clinic. And yes, in California, kids have been expelled for praying in school, and I personally had my car keyed for having a bumper sticker promoting Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage proposition. I am more against calling it marriage than I am against anti-gay. If you get married in a courthouse, no matter who you are, or not in front of an ordained minister, it should not be called a marriage, it should be called a civil union. But I think they already do (here, anyway) have the same rights as married. I certainly don’t think they are oppressed in any way here. And it’s not ever right to treat anyone in an undignified manner.

      • David

        Irish Catholics are much more Catholic than the ones out here, btw. My dad was from Worchester.

  6. Anne the Intern

    David, can you link me to some of the stories you’re talking about? I’ve never heard of students who were expelled for praying in school, and in fact I know there are laws on the books that explicitly allow student-lead prayer as long as it is not disruptive to other students. I’d also like more information about the people you say were arrested for praying in front of an abortion clinic, because again, it’s not a story I’ve heard about and I would need more information to discuss it.

    As for the keying of your car, while it is wrong, upsetting, and punishable, I don’t think it counts as persecution. I know that emotions run very high on both sides of Prop 8 and while such an action is in no way defensible, it sounds more like an emotional, gut response rather than one designed to make you feel afraid to express your views. Still, I’m sorry that anyone would stoop that low to express his or her opinion, and that your property and peace of mind were damaged in the process.

    • David

      http://www.njfpc.org/html/pressRelease.asp?PRID=61 Students expelled for praying in school (not even in class!). http://www.prayeralert.org/alertarchives/alert12-1-99.html Arrested for praying outside a women’s clinic.

      While the anecdotal info on my own is not evidence of persecution, there is systematic violence on the part of pro-gay activists which is. I honestly believe that the only way to get people to see your side is to sit down and show your point of view, and dialog. I’m against abortion but I know that changing laws will not matter, the way changing discrimination laws didn’t end discrimination. You must change hearts. I know that, if you have an opportunity to show a woman the humanity of that life growing in her body, most would not have the abortion. But when you consider it a blob, it’s as easy as stepping on a snail.
      Anyway, thank you for listening, thanks for respectful dialog. Keep an open mind about your faith. Study. There’s reasons women can’t be priests, there’s reasons, good reasons, for everything the church stands for today. If you’re interested in exploring them, come to my blog http://www.rootofjesse2.wordpress.com.

    • David

      I thought I had answered you, but I guess it didn’t stick…Expulsion for praying in school: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/mar/07030609.html , http://answersforthefaith.com/2008/10/16/college-students-face-expulsion-for-praying/

      Jailed for praying at an abortion clinic: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/20/BAGO16KF9J.DTL

      OK, maybe my incident is not persecution by its formal definition, but at any rate, I’ve seen real persecution in California, both aimed at Christians and Catholics, including trying to get “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

      Thank you for listening, and being thoughtful, but I’d encourage you to stand by our Church. If you have issues, come over to my blog and let’s chat about them…www.rootofjesse2.wordpress.com. Happy Advent Season and Merry Christmas to you.

      • Sorry David, the first time you commented it went straight to my spam folder so I didn’t even get an email.

        I noticed you found different sites for the same stories though.

  7. Anne the Intern

    I think you may have misread the article about the high school students from Washington. They were suspended, not expelled, and they were suspended because they were meeting in a common area and blocking the way of other students, not because they were praying. I understand that they wanted to be visible but the problem is that all other clubs meet in discrete spaces, and when groups of students gather in the halls teachers break them up.

    The other story you cite is another issue of suspension rather than expulsion, and the students in question are going through with a lawsuit to fight having the disciplinary action on their records. I will cede that this is a form of discrimination but from the other articles I’ve read it appears to be coming from a single, very noisy faculty member who shared an office with the teacher for whom the students were praying. However since a judge has ruled that they have grounds for a lawsuit and they are thus far successfully fighting that discrimination, it is not persecution.

    In the case of the pastor arrested outside an abortion clinic, he was not praying at all. He was protesting abortion and he violated an existing ordinance designed to protect women’s rights to safety and privacy. That ordinance does not violate First Amendment rights because it doesn’t say what the protestors must be saying to count – it could be people protesting the Iraq war and they would still be in violation. The law has no issue with what he said, but how close he was standing to the people he was saying it to. This law is similar to laws on the books in 28 states that prohibit protesting within a certain distance of funerals, which the despicable protestors from Westboro Baptist Church have repeatedly challenged in court, never once winning a case. This would only be a case of persecution if the law specifically targeted anti-abortion messages, which it doesn’t.

    Personally, I don’t believe “under God” belongs in the pledge of allegiance. I do hope that he will protect us, but “under God” was added during the McCarthy era as an anti-communist fear tactic, and keeping it in is one more way to divide the world between “us” and “them.” “They” changes every few years, but it’s a way or saying God is on “our” side and “they” are evil, which is wrong. I can’t believe that my God would turn away any of his children, and I certainly would never hope he would.

    I also thank you for remaining thoughtful throughout this. There is an unfortunate stereotype that the “other side” (no matter which side you’re on) is loud and unreasonable, and it is refreshing to see that stereotype substantively broken. I appreciate very little more than a thought-provoking debate, which this certainly has been. Merry Christmas to you too.

    • David

      I think you don’t understand what “praying” means. I pray thee (meaning “ask”) you to understand from this example. I believe, in the first example (I don’t have evidence of this, but I recall hearing it when it broke), the student group asked for space to hold their meeting and were denied. In the second case, I believe that even having to go through the motion they’re going through represents persecution. In the case of the pastor, can you measure 8 feet accurately every time? And would you like the pastor to have a pole with the pamphlets dangling in front of the people as they enter? The guy was simply offering pamphlets in a last ditch effort to help the women decide otherwise. But the very rules constitute government persecuting one group in favor of another group.

      I disagree about “under God” (obviously) because of the Christian roots on which the nation was founded. One thing I know about Christianity, it’s always about trying to show “them” why “us” is the Church of Jesus. Granted we’ve done this poorly through history, but Christ said to go out to all nations and proclaim the Good News.

      • Anne the Intern

        There are two kinds of prayer, prayer to God, and the use of prayer as a synonym for asking. I understand that very well. Prayer to God is protected as freedom of religion. Praying that another would adopt your beliefs is also protected, but limited so as not to infringe on another’s rights to freedom of religion.

        The students who were suspended for public prayer were an official student club and they were not denied a space to meet. They refused the space the school provided for them and chose to meet in common space against school regulations for clubs.

        The rules regarding protesters outside abortion clinics are not persecution. The law treats all protestors, regardless of content, the same, therefore it is by definition not persecuting any belief set.

      • David

        Well, you’re wrong about the law protecting all prtesters or their targets. If you want real equality for all, you need to treat all the same way. There is seldom any confrontation at an abortion clinic (I know, there are exceptions, like Randle Terry), usually it’s a group of people praying, or offering counseling. But having participated in the Walk for Life, and having been physically and verbally abused in concerted effort, I don’t see any equity.
        I may be thinking of a different incident with the high schoolers, but I hear and read about persecution of Christians all the time in the misguided effort to rip God out of government. The Constitution says that there shall be no state-sponsored religion. Having the 10 commandments in a classroom or in a court building is not the same thing.

  8. Anne the Intern :

    The passage I was looking for (was away from my desk without my Bible) is Luke 5:27-32, the story of the calling of Levi the tax collector, specifically 30-32. “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

    I know you posted this on Friday, Anne, but I just wanted to ask, wouldn’t someone use the same quote as evidence that homosexuality (acts, identity, everything) is a sin and Jesus/God would only love those who would want to ‘confess’ their homosexuality and be straight?
    I just don’t think it’s possible to repent for attraction.

    • Anne the Intern

      Simply put: a tax collector might be defined by his profession, but it’s a job he can quit. No matter what you repent, if you’re gay, you’re gay.

  9. Anne the Intern

    David, if the state must treat all religions equally, then a school or government building with the Ten Commandments posted should also have a picture of scene from the Bhagavad Gita, poetry from the Qu’ran, and other symbols representing the diverse religions practiced by Americans. Removing religious symbols from public space isn’t an attempt to remove religion, but to recognize that equality means representing all equally in that space, or not representing them at all.

    • David

      Where do you get the idea that the state must treat all religions equally? Nowhere does the Constitution say that. This country was founded on Christianity. The Constitution prohibits the state from creating its own religion, such as Henry VIII did or later, Stalin.

      • Anne the Intern

        Courts through the years have interpreted the First Amendment as meaning that the state cannot endorse one religion over another because if the state gives preference to one religion it impedes the free practice of religion by all people who don’t follow it.

        The men who wrote the Constitution and founded this country had feet of clay like you and I. They had good ideas but they weren’t perfect. Some supported slavery, some hated Jews, some wouldn’t have spoken to a Catholic. Just because the men who founded this country were Christian does mean that this is a Christian country. We share it with people of diverse backgrounds and that diversity demands equal handling of religions by the government.

  10. David

    The courts interpretation of the First Amendment is sorta like people who think that women can be priests. It’s just wrong. While it’s true that the framers were human, they didn’t legislate slavery in the Constitution, the didn’t legislate anti-Semitism or anti-Catholicism. In fact one or more of the framers were Catholic. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution both point to a primarily Christian viewpoint. They didn’t say that any would not be welcome, in fact, they extended open arms to all.

    • PaleoRaptor

      The constitution does not promote a primarily Christian viewpoint. The philosophy behind the writing of the constitution was based on the failure of the Articles of Confederation. Originally the founders believed that when given freedom people will willingly work for the ‘greater good’ and that it was monarchy that inspired selfishness. They were completely wrong.
      Only 1% of able men volunteered for the Continental Army. Congress was only able to give as many resources as the states volunteered and the states gave very little if anything at all.
      The inspiration for the constitution was that people were primarily selfish but highly motivated. The model for the government channels that motivation to make sure not everyone gets what they want.
      The constitution is not a Christian document, it’s based on the founder’s experience with society and not their faith in God.

      Sorry I know this is off-topic. I’m in a class on Civic Literacy and had to get that out there. While the founders (mostly deists) and earliest immigrants to America were Christian, that does not make the U.S. a Christian nation either.

      • David

        Sorry, that’s wrong. The Declaration of Independence was the founding document of our nation and the very first article says that we were created by our Creator. Mono-theistic. God. Doesn’t suggest that we only welcome Christians here (even though Catholics were given a really rough time trying to become Americans…) Christian, nonetheless.

  11. Anne the Intern

    David, the Declaration of Independence was not the founding document of our nation, it was an explanation to the world of our reasons for fighting for independance from England. While it might provide commentary on the character of our founders it has no legal bearing. Our founding document is the Constitution of the United States of America.

  12. chris whitney

    paleoraptor has a good point, a large chunk of our founders were deists and one of the main reasons for founding the nation was to avoid persecution for any belief regardless of whether you are christian or not.

  13. David :

    Sorry, that’s wrong. The Declaration of Independence was the founding document of our nation and the very first article says that we were created by our Creator. Mono-theistic. God. Doesn’t suggest that we only welcome Christians here (even though Catholics were given a really rough time trying to become Americans…) Christian, nonetheless.

    PaleoRaptor is just contributing some info learned during the semester. I bet we could ask paleoraptor to get their professor to weigh in on the matter.

    Where is your information coming from that these documents were founded on Christianity? Could you please give us some sources like you did before?

    I did find a quote that is often mis-attributed to George Washington. I found it at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Washington.
    “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
    The line comes from the Treaty of Tripoli, article 11. It was approved by Congress in 1797 and signed by John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

  14. David

    Judeo-Christianity was the first religion to recognize a single creator. All other faiths were polytheistic. So the reference to a single creator is, by definition, the monotheistic God. The audience of the writings were certainly not Muslims, and there weren’t many, if any Jews in 1776 in our population. By elimination, that makes it Christian.

    Anne the intern, revisionist history. We celebrate our independence from Europe on July 4, the year was 1776. The Declaration of Independence was signed that day. The Constitution came later-11 years later. July 4 1776 is the birth of our nation.

    • Anne the Intern

      Actually, at least three signers of the Declaration of Independence were Jewish.

      I am not revising history in any way. The Declaration of Independence was a document in which the colonies *declared* their *independence.* It has no legal bearing. It does nothing to establish a system of government or laws. The United States became a nation first under the Articles of Confederation, and then, when those failed, under the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution is the legal document upon which the US is founded. We may celebrate our independence but that is by no means the date upon which our nation became a nation. I suggest you read up on your history. My father is a historian and he has suggested that you read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, which discuss the issues facing our founders as they formed a nation out of states. Religious views aside you are sorely mistaken about the founding of our nation.

      • David

        Jewish = monotheist. The Declaration speaks not of Jesus.

        You’re speaking very legalistically. Our country was born on July 4 1776 with the Declaration of Independence which recogizes a single creator and we as created. The legal document the Constitution neither affirms nor denies anything the Declaration says. At one point in the Bill of Rights, it states that the government shall not establish any religion, or declare any religion to be the state religion by law. The Constitution does not say anything about preventing public displays of faith, whether it be a manger scene on the lawn in front of a courthouse or a cross on the side of a mountain (or a Star of David or any other religious symbol).

      • David

        No, three signers were not Jewish…
        Episcopalian/Anglican 32 57.1%
        Congregationalist 13 23.2%
        Presbyterian 12 21.4%
        Quaker 2 3.6%
        Unitarian or Universalist 2 3.6%
        Catholic 1 1.8%
        TOTAL 56 100%

  15. Anne the Intern

    I’m being legalistic because right now we are discussing a legal issue. Some of the men who founded this country might have identified as Christian but that does not make America a Christian nation, nor does it permit our laws to favor Christianity.

  16. David’s stats (which come from http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html) do not mention Deists at all. By the time Benjamin Franklin was an adult, he was a Deist. Same with Thomas Jefferson.

    http://www.usconstitution.net/declarsigndata.html
    A site with a table of the religious backgrounds of the signers. Many have ? marks in their religion.

  17. David

    Thank you, Caitlin. I should have listed my source. That site does list Franklin as an Episcopalian (Deist), and the same for Thomas Jefferson.

    Ann, first, I have totally agreed with you about religious favoritism (yet I see favoritism of religions other than Christianity a lot). But the founding of this country, even the very laws which started our country have a foundation. That foundation is the Declaration of Independence, which cites a Creator, and us created. This means that our laws are based on the 10 Commandments, because all of the signers of that Declaration identified as Christian. While these same laws can be found in other religions, because of who the Founding Fathers were, we are, like it or not, a fundamentally Christian nation which welcomes all others, regardless of what their faith is, as long as they follow our laws. For example, someone coming into the country that believes in infant sacrifice would not be given the right to sacrifice infants because our Judeo-Christian laws say that murder is a punishable offense. Are we trying to change that person’s belief? No, because our government cannot take away a person’s faith. Let’s go to a more normal example. Mormons left the US east of the Mississippi to go to then-unincorporated and unnamed Utah because part of their religious practice was not lawful in the United States. When Utah became a state, it was decided that the laws of the majority precluded polygamy, and Mormons were not allowed to marry legally more than one woman. Why? Because our laws, based on Judeo-Christian ethics, say otherwise.

  18. Lianna

    After reading everything that was written, I have a few words to say on multiple subjects.

    First point:
    The Declaration of Independence is not a form of government and does not create any type of rules for which the government of the then rebelling colonies to work under. It is a list of complaints, signed by the representatives, sent to the King of England in order to explain exactly why they are rebelling. It is a letter. Not a base for any type of government. That said, then by logic the colonies were being ran by local governments and by the Second Continental Congress. At this moment I’m looking the actual wording of the document.
    Does it reference God? Yes it does. Do some of the men who signed believed in an all-powerful being? Yes. But that does not mean that it was based off of religious background. It was based off the feelings of people of the time. They were upset someone that was far away was trying to force them into a situation they did not want to be in, so they fought back.
    People were upset, they complained, wrote a letter, started a war, started a new country that was NOT based off that letter, but what they felt the government should be like. And yes, it failed the first time around.

    Second Point:
    Yes, a majority of the nation is monotheistic. But also the Constitution and the Amendments were written to keep religion out of government. Why? Because the Founding Fathers feared that mixing government with religion would lead to serious conflict. And in todays age, where clashes happen, it does in fact cause problems.

    Third Point:
    If we are going to talk about the persecution of any type of group in the United States, what about those non-Christians? What about the people who are labeled as outcasts and deviants fore refusing to believe in the Christian God? What about how we stereotype Muslims as terrorists, see pagans as devil worshipers (when in reality they are doing nothing of the sort), those who identify as “witches”, those who believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, those who believe aliens started the human race and as such worship beings that come from other worlds, and those who believe religion is a waste of time.
    Our laws are based upon morals, those of decency, those that make society “civilized” and yes, some of them are based upon Judeo-Christian teachings. But I highly doubt not paying taxes, littering, abuse of any kind, credit card scams, and other types of criminal offenses are found in the Torah or New Testament.

    Fourth Point:
    The government cannot take away faith and the right to religious freedom, to believe in your own values and morals, you are correct about that. But at the same time, who are you to tell someone who is a member of LGBT community that they cannot be Catholic and gay? Yes, you have the right to your opinions and a right to voice them and be protected for that. But you do not have the right to force someone else to conform to your standards. They are members and hopefully citizens of this nation, and as such, they are entitled to every right you are. Do not tell me how to live my life and I certainly won’t tell you how to live yours.

    Fifth Point:
    Mormons think of themselves as a branch of Christianity. And the majority of them are not polygamists. There are also polygamists who are not Mormons.

    Wrap up:
    I’m not saying you don’t have a right to protest abortion or support proposition eight, you certainly do. But what you need to remember is that we are a nation formed on ethics and the rights of human beings as a whole, some of which that were denied in the beginning to certain groups (women, men under a certain age, blacks, ect.) and were later given through the process of the Amendments. And as such, everyone has those rights, the right to choose what he or she wants to do, believe, think, act, ect.

    Thank you.

  19. David

    A declaration is a statement of intent. In this case, a statement of intent to separate from Great Britain. It was signed by someone from each of the territories. A signature, at that time, meant that that person agreed to everything in that document. This is proven by the fact that some people did not sign the Constitution, for whatever reason. Granted the Declaration is not an establishment of government, but it is an establishment of ideals, the first that all men are CREATED equal by our CREATOR. One of the things they were upset with was that Great Britain had a state-based religion-Anglicanism, and that they used that faith to discriminate against people. People were put to death because they disagreed with the religion of the state. People fled to America to escape that. So in the Constitution, they prohibited the government from establishing any religion, or from discouraging any religion.

    On your third point, I have to say that I don’t see persecution of other non-Christian religions, in fact I see full-on embracing. We have Indians in our culture that practice their faith freely, Muslims that practice their faith freely, in fact, other religions are even taught in our schools. I can show you a school in Marin County California that took it so far as to have students take Muslim names and read from the Koran as part of their curriculum, but try to do this with the Bible? Heaven forbid! I don’t see any state-sponsored labeling of people as outcast or deviant. It’s our right to formulate an opinion personally, if we wish. It is not our right to act out on our opinion.
    On your fourth point, I agree, except that the government is trying to force Catholic physicians, nurses, hospitals and pharmacists to perform actions that are morally against their religion. Who am I? I am no one. But the Catholic Church says that we who call ourselves Catholics are to believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches. And the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Sex is to be reserved for inside the marriage bond, and that is between a man and a woman. So by logical deduction, you cannot be gay and Catholic. Being gay implies that you are living a gay lifestyle, that you are having sex with someone who is not your spouse. If you find yourself attracted physically to someone of the same sex, and obey the church (by not having sex with someone outside of the marriage bond), then you are a Catholic. This is the stand of the Catholic Church, and there is no room for negotiation. So it’s not MY opinion, just so you know, not MY standards. Also, for your information, the state is not entitled to perform marriages. State marriage is not the same as religious marriage.
    Fifth point, Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians don’t consider Mormons Christian. The majority today are not polygamist, but this wasn’t the case when they fled the US for Utah.
    Wrap up: You’re right, we are a nation formed on ethics. The Declaration of Independence shows us where those ethics come from-a monotheistic Creator. Having rights doesn’t mean that you have the right to choose what you want to do. You cannot run a red light without consequences, you cannot kill a person, well, I take that back, you can-think of aborted babies and euthanized seniors, and Terri Schiavo, without consequences. You have the freedom to think whatever you want, but you most certainly don’t have the freedom to do whatever you want.

  20. Lianna

    Actually, it was the belief in the Enlightenment that all men were born equal and as such had rights., and even then it was limited to well-educated men of higher station. I digress though, and the fact is that when you look at the Declaration you’re looking at a letter stating “Yo, King, we’re rebelling because we don’t like your taxes and the way you think you can control us.”

    As for the attack of minority groups, look at the history of the Jewish people. They have endured just as much suffering as early Christians did, and suffered for much longer. In America, they are still a minority group that is attacked/bashed/hated. Neo-Nazis. Skinheads. All present in modern day America.

    When you say Indians, you mean Native Americans, correct? Because Indian means that individual is from India, and Native Americans get offended when you refer to them as such. Unless however you mean Indians, as in those who practice Hinduism, Sikhism, and other religions not commonly found within the United States.

    Getting back to Native Americans and the tribes they live in, the settles stole their land, forced them to move their homes, and basically uprooted a group of people who have done nothing wrong to them in the first place. When they fight back and try to take what is theirs, they are persecuted. And those who hurt the Native Americans were those God-fearing Christians. Even today, by refusing to give back tribal land, it is seen as punishment for a crime never committed.

    As for the acceptance of Muslims in American society, we are still at a point where I fear for the safety of my friends who are Muslim. Can you honestly say that without a doubt when you see someone who is Muslim or of Middle Easter descent or origin that you would not take a few moments to wonder “Is this person going to attack me?” or “Is this person a terrorist?” As for that school, parents have a choice as to where they send their students for their education, from home schooling to public school to private school (religious or non religious) and have a choice as to what their students are educated with. If parents did not want their children to be educated then they should have taken their children somewhere else to be educated. As for the Bible in school as a teaching tool and looking at it strictly as a literary source, I’m for that too. In fact, my English teacher for my junior and senior year of high school suggest we do so, if we had the time, in order to understand the literary works we were doing. And we did in fact study the formation of religions, the rise of Christianity and the rise of Islam, specifically in my AP World History Class and covered religious rights in my AP Government class. Even in college, my music history class taught us that without Gregorian Chant within the Roman Catholic Church there is no way that music could have evolved over time.

    But the moment the school says “This is the religion we are studying and it is what you all should be converted to” or “These are the beliefs that you should have” or “This is what you should believe in” is the moment when the school takes it too far.

    I’m going to take a step back now after that tangent. What also about Jehovah Witnesses? What about their rights and how they are isolated and shunning for their beliefs? I got to school with a lovely girl who happens to be one, but I know that people might persecute her because she refuses to believe in holidays, birthdays, and the such.

    As for Mormons, I was talking about present-day members.

    “Love thy neighbor” is what is taught. But if you look at history, the ones who do most of the persecution are member of the Christian faith. English and Salem Witch Trials? Spanish Inquisition? Lynch mobs? The KKK?

    If anything, it is the Jewish people who are persecute the most through out, not the Christians. I could go into an entire argument at this point, from the shunning throughout the ancient land, to the demolishing of the Temple in Israel, done twice, to the Holocaust of WWII, even now in present day. There’s too much to be said for that argument.

    If doctors, nurses, and heath care professionals do not wish to partake in abortions, birth control, or any form of medicine they do believe is morally correct, then they should get a job where that does not happen. Have them before a children’s physician or in a space where their practices do not interfere with their beliefs.

    As for marriage, marriage licenses are given by the state and requirements vary from state to state. So legally, in the eyes of the government, you are not married unless you have one, and in order to get one you need to pay a fee. Legally you cannot claim rights and benefits till you get that done. For the actual ceremony those, it’s a personal choice. I myself plan on when I meet that special someone hope for that person to understand my choice in a civil ceremony. You, based on what I’ve read, would prefer a Catholic ceremony.

    As for sex before marriage, that’s an iffy area. Again, it’s individuals beliefs verses what the Church says. I’m not Catholic. I don’t pretend to be and because of that the Catholic Church has no power over me. But my parents raised me to think about my choices in life. I’m not having sex with random people on the streets and who knows if I’ll ever get married. But that does not mean I will never have sex. I’m waiting, personally for the right person, and when it happens, I plan on safe sex because I do not want to end up pregnant or with an STD. But I’m not having sex right now just because some book tells me I’m going to be living in sin if do.

    In addition, what about before the Bible? What about before the rise Christianity? What about the polytheistic beliefs of ancient Rome and Greece, even in Egypt? Yes, there was Judism there, but it was a hardly a major force. Were those people living in sin? Was there even sin, because the concept of sin was a Christian concept.

    I don’t believe that someone up the sky, a Creator, gave us ethics. We’re getting into philosophy right now, not one of my strong suits as I’m a music education major and not a philosophy major. Morality and Ethics is something that individuals come up with on their own. Everyone is different, in varying degrees. Those who believe in honor killings, do they have morals? What about a killer who claims to justify murder as an act for his faith? Does he have a sense of ethics and morals? What about those who we deem without morals and ethics? Why were they not granted them while others were? It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I like to think of myself as a well-educated individual.

    I respect your beliefs and your ability to argue and debate with a polite tone. It would be easy for insults to go flying and for all parties involved throughout this process to start name-calling and replying in a rather nasty manner. It was certainly enlightening and interesting to partake in such a discussion. I also would like to thank Caitlin for providing such an opportunity to exist, to everyone who provided arguments, opinions, viewpoints, and information about all subjects covered. But now I must sadly say this is my final post for this topic.

    Thank you.

    • David

      Having studied Christian history, you’re wrong about equality being ‘discovered’ during the Enlightenment (which was anything but enlightening) The Bible says that everything that God created was ‘good’, and man was ‘very good’. The Catholic Church has always taught that, be you King or peasant, you are equal in God’s sight. Which is just what the Declaration acknowledges.

      Jews in this country are not persecuted by government. Christians are being persecuted by government. Jews (actually Hebrews-there’s a distinction) have a long history of persecution starting with Pharaoh in Egypt, I know, if that’s where you’re going. But modern Jews are not in any way persecuted by government, at least in this country.
      No, when I said Indians, I meant Indians. But Native Americans are also free to practice much of their faith. Smoking drugs being excluded…And those Indians aren’t persecuted as a faith, they’re persecuted as a race. Big difference, even if same result.
      As for Muslims, for the most part, I don’t think any such thing about individuals. And individual opinion is not what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about government persecution. What one individual believes, we have no ability to control or regulate (which is why it took so long for civil rights law to have any effect-you have to change hearts, otherwise you become a Pharisee). Regarding public schools, the government guarantees everyone an adequate education, does it not? Do we not all pay taxes which operate out public schools? Well, that’s another topic, but if you’re going to separate church and state, then separate it! However, giving a religion it’s due regarding where things (like Gregorian Chant or the alphabet or mathematics) come from is fine-you’re not promoting the faith itself, just the by-products. But can I ask you-how is a copy of the 10 Commandments in any way promoting a religion or attempting to convert someone? All religions have some form of this law. As for Jehovah’s Witnesses, it seems to me that they segregate themselves, not the other way around. I have a house full of them next door to me, and they seldom say a word unless they’re trying to convert you. From the beginning I was talking about when Mormons migrated to the west.
      If you look on history, the most deadly periods of time have been in the 20th century, and those wars were not fought over faith. Salem witch trials were by Protestants, not Catholics. The Spanish Inquisition actually caused very few people to be killed, and besides the church conducted the trials, and if someone was found guilty of heresy, they were turned over to the secular government in the interests of national security. The Spanish Inquisition was, more than anything, an attempt to keep Christianity pure, because people had converted even though they didn’t believe in Christ, and to rid Spain of the Muslim invaders (which was a function of the state, not the religion).

      Regarding the medical profession, doctors take an oath where they swear to protect human lives. This is a medical ethic. Why is it the government’s concern (as long as the government isn’t paying that doctor or nurse)? If I’m a hospital director of a private hospital, why should I not treat the problems I wish to treat? Can’t a clinic be operated that only performs facial plastic surgery? Is that clinic required to perform abortions? If not, why should any medical entity be required to do any such thing? And why should a pharmacy, privately owned and operated, be forced to dispense abortifacient medications or birth control devices? Grant you, they should say so in big signage, so people know what they are getting, but just as a person can join the military and conscientiously object to being in battle, so should a medical professional be able to decide on ethical grounds that he will not perform x type of procedure.

      Regarding marriage, all I am saying is that civil marriage is a contract, religious marriage is a covenant. Religious marriage was instituted by God to be between a man and a woman. Civil law can do whatever it wants to, but it should not be confused with what is meant by marriage. Regarding sex outside of marriage, that’s between you and your maker, but God says you shall not commit adultery, which he then defines as sex outside the marriage bond. What about before Judaism? Yes, they were living in sin. The 10 Commandments are based on natural law, the law that resides inside every person. And actually, taken at its word, there was nothing before the Bible, which begins “In the beginning…” Sin is a Hebraic concept, long before Christianity. Ethically, murder is never justified, sometimes, killing is. But natural law, which is the basis of ethics, is aimed at preservation of humanity-don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t sleep around, don’t want what belongs to others…There is only one truth. there is no ‘your truth’ and ‘my truth’. God is the only truth. Man’s understanding of that truth is often in error, my own included, at times, but God is, by definition, truth, because he is everything.
      It’s not my style to call names and hurl insults. Usually, when that starts happening in a discussion, I just shake the dust from my sandals and walk away.
      God bless.

      • Anne the Intern

        The Enlightenment was hardly enlightening? That’s a pretty descriptive stance. If you remove that period from history, and all the advances that stem from it, you are left with the Dark Ages. That might be a period of great religious devotion but very little else speaks to it as good.

        David you have done nothing to prove the grounds to your claim that Christians are being persecuted by the government in America. Quite the opposite, every example you have offered has either been of incidents of complaint between individuals or equal prosectution under the law. Based on those examples, either your claim has been disproven, or you believe “persecution” is anything that does not give preferential treatment to Christianity, by either disallowing complaints against Christians, or making exceptions for them in laws.

        I find your defense of the Spanish Inquisition contemptible. The Inquisitors were seeking out, as you put it, people who had converted despite nonbelief. Probe deeper, David. Why did nonbelievers pretend to convert? Because of a series of bloody pogroms that made them feel unsafe as long as they were unbaptized. The Spanish Inquisition was a case of the frying pan or the fire. And frankly, I’m wary of anything lauded as protecting the “purity” of a group. That language was used to defend the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and countless other genocides.

        The issue of whether or not doctors should be required to perform abortions or pharmacists distribute abortofacients and birth control is a very thorny one, and one I am not prepared to debate because I am still untangling my own feelings on. I do believe, however, that fully private practices and pharmacies have the right to decide, while doctors and pharmacists who are in public hospitals or working for large chains should seek other employment that better suits their ethics. In the mean time, I do agree that full and open disclosure that they do not offer such services is neccessary.

        About the Ten Commandments as “natural law,” this I find interesting. The Commandments were given to Moses by God after the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The date is unknown but archeologists place it anywhere between 1450 and 1150 BC. Humans had been around for quite some time by then. If they were “natural law,” we would have had them much sooner. A parent doesn’t say “no hitting your brother” to a child who has never struck his brother. The Ten Commandments were God’s rules given to His people because they were misbehaving, and they are difficult for everyone to follow perfectly for that precise reason – they are not naturally programmed behaviors, they are learned cultural norms. That most cultures reached similar norms is not proof that they are “natural laws.” Cultures developed writing, language, paper, and the printing press independently because they were solutions to common problems. Cultures developed taboos against adultery and murder because they were also common problems, but those taboos came sooner because in a very logical sense it would not be possible to have a society in which murder was acceptable. It’s not natural, it is a law that can only be reached through logic, and was reinforced by divinity so God could keep His people from falling apart.

        You may not call names or hurl insults but you certainly have been condescending. When engaged in a debate I find it is only polite to examine your opponent’s viewpoint with critical analysis. Your analysis has been inadequite and backed by emotional rather than logical claims throughout, while you cried foul (or rather, “legalistic”) at my analysis of your arguments. You haven’t even obeyed one of the conventions of debate: when a claim is disproven, you stop using it. You have given no direct insult but I still walk away from this conversation feeling more and more insulted each time, because you don’t have the respect to treat it seriously. I haven’t posted for days because you have made it clear that this isn’t a debate. You’ve already decided that you are right, and even though I have entertained all your points, thought deeply and critically about the implications of what you said, and reached the conclusions based on my own analysis, you have refused to do the same. Please note that I am not taking issue with who you are, but with the carelessness of your actions.

  21. David

    You mean that the Dark ages lasted until the 1800’s? I don’t think so Anne! And the Dark Ages were not as dark as you think. Humanism of the 14th and 15th century was purely Catholic, and resulted in the Renaissance, which was well out of the Dark Ages. And if you think that a shift toward relativism is enlightening, I’m sorry for you.
    My anecdotal examples of persecution asside (I understand that these are somewhat individual, and not state sponsored), the example of medical professionals being forced to perform procedures that they are ethically opposed to is persecution, as is the entity of the Democratic Party telling a senator that if he doesn’t jump on the bandwagon of the health care bill (he’s opposed to abortion), they’ll take his military base away.
    You find my defense of the Spanish Inquisition contemptible because you don’t know much about it. I wonder what you think the effects of the Spanish Inquisition were, Anne? Tell me what you find contemptible and we can take that aside. But come to my blog so we don’t overstay our welcome here. http://www.rootofjesse2.wordpress.com. My characterization is a summary and does not do justice to the subject. But the Inquisition is not what you think it was.

    Anne, regarding natural law, do you think there was some law against murder before God gave the commandments? How about cave men, do you think there was something inside them that prohibited murder? I know you and I weren’t there, but if murder was common, our species would not survive. Also, do you think that when Ogg took Shep’s club, that there wasn’t some idea that this was wrong?

    Anne, my actions are not careless, and my ideas (which aren’t mine, really, but God’s) are critically thought. I spent a long, long time coming to my conclusions because of the grace of God. I’m sorry if you find that offensive. I’ve often said you’re entitled to your viewpoint (that’s your enlightened ‘freedom’ to hold on to). The biggest problem is that the definitions have changed on many many things of importance, and the Enlightenment and Protestantism are part of the problem. The freedom promoted by Enlightenment isn’t freedom at all, it’s license. You can do whatever you want to, because you feel like it. When you choose to do things God’s way, you find out what true freedom is.

    Thanks, everyone, for the opportunity to try and educate you. I can see that it doesn’t sink in, so I’ll leave.

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