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Friday, July 4, 2014

While God is Marching On


It intrigues me that, eleven-score and eighteen years ago, we thought the unfettering of church and state was important enough to start a war over*, and yet we're still arguing about it.

This week's Supreme Court ruling that gives corporations the right to (as near as I can figure it) choose a religious denomination and govern themselves according to its tenets feels completely counter to my understanding of what the Founding Grown-Ups had in mind.  Despite the fact that those holding the pen were all white (presumably hetero and cisgender) males of privilege, I have preferred to believe that they envisioned a place where one person's beliefs would not be imposed upon another, even if it would take far beyond their lifetimes to get there.

Flags inside All Saints: Worcester
Thus the idea that we are now enshrining  a corporate entity with the trappings of a church, and allowing even one opportunity to envelop all its employees under the beliefs of its leadership is troubling.  Precedent is like a leaky roof; you will have quite a mess by the time you find all the unexpected places the proverbial rain water has traveled.  I am waiting for the first time a Jehovah's Witness boss tells an employee (s)he can't have a blood transfusion.  How do you think mandatory Hijab Fridays would sit with those who are celebrating this ruling?

And America yawned. All this is playing out even as an unprecedented number of Americans claim no religious affiliation at all, particularly among young people.  The reality that someone's very real health care needs are conceivably now under the control  of a belief system to which they don't even subscribe should be causing a much greater ruckus than it is.

My only hope is that this ruling can be exploited in positive ways as well.  For those of us whose faith mandates generosity, kindness, fairness and justice, are we now free to impose these values on our employees?

Earlier this week was the feast of Harriet Beecher Stowe. As we celebrate Independence Day under not only the clouds of Hurricane Arthur but this troubling ruling, I strongly encourage anybody whom I have not already badgered into it to watch this sermon, given on that feast in 2012 by the Right Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, on the floor of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church as it met in Indianapolis.

In the face of rising disengagement (brought on in no small part by the extremist rantings that unfortunately manage to dominate the public's perception of what it means to be a person of faith), Curry encourages us all to similarly push the limits, but in a positive way.  All of us putting up a hand and politely interjecting "I'm a Christian, too, and I don't agree with that at all!" is the only way we can respond to those who view the church (and the synagogue and the mosque) as a monolithic entity who believes it can and should be imposing its values on even those who have no association with it.  We can and should be refocusing the message back on charity, compassion and community, particularly for those who society deems "the other" or "not good enough" and with the strong underscore that we don't expect you to subscribe to a restrictive dogma to be worthy of those gifts.

NOTE: Yes I am aware that is not all the Revolutionary War was about.

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