The Name of the Beast
As I’ve acknowledged, my attention in this space is perhaps too often drawn back to the subject of how our ongoing struggle for equality finds it’s major opponent in religiously driven Traditionalist worldviews. This past week has provided us w2ith yet another classic example of how this plays out in the real world and on the largest stages.
The last week in June is of course when the Supreme Court hands down their final set of decisions for the term. One of the cases was a crucial gay rights case that builds directly on the foundation laid by the historic Obergefell decision of two years ago. To be clear, it’s not an expansion of that decision but an affirmation of the already stated implications of the earlier ruling. The case involved an effort by the state of Arkansas to treat same-sex couples differently in regards to the official birth certificate of their child and the court was firm that Obergefell included the “constellation of benefits” that jurisdictions attributed to married couples. Despite the objection of the newest justice, living down already to his “Scalia clone” advance notice, and two similarly blinded conservative allies, a 6-3 vote is pretty decisive on the point.
Days later, in a decision that can only be regarded as blatantly, nakedly, political (and why not, given that the state of Texas unwisely elects their Supreme Court judges as do several other mostly red states) the Supreme Court of Texas completely ignored the clear message of that decision and ruled in the opposite fashion. At issue in Texas was whether or not local jurisdictions were obliged to offer employees benefits to same sex couples on the same basis as they do for opposite sex couples. In a question that a moot court of middle schoolers would get right, the SCOTX completely bungled it – or did they? SCOTX remanded the case back to the lower court for reconsideration even though the decision in question was in line with the decision in the Arkansas case just announced. There is, in the most literal sense, zero legal justification for the TX supremes to remand the case. In the light of the SCOTUS decision there is absolutely no room for confusion about the implications of Obergefell in this case.
So. Why did they remand the case? There can be only one possible explanation for the decision: politically motivated judges here are playing for time. Legal processes move slowly and sending the case back, that case being heard again and considered and a decision being rendered will take months, and bringing it back to SCOTX even more months. In that time, the judges hope, another Supreme Court Justice will retire (or die) allowing the president to further pack the court with Dominionists who’ll rule the way the Pharisees prefer.
Naturally, you would not want to think that state supreme courts would be so given to such political machinations in the face of a clearly articulated SCOTUS decision but, when you’re elected (by the way, the Texas Supreme Court is made up of nine Republicans and zero Democrats as you might expect) you have to pander to the voters and THAT reality is what brings me to my point. Even when the courts decide for equality, a significant minority of voters in at least half of our states, and an overwhelming majority of Republican voters in every state, have no interest at all in equality. Their worldview holds as it’s first principle that their worldview is entitled to dominate law and government, even when it represses contrary views. That’s where the road to true equality encounters it’s basic difficulty – those people around you that you see and move among every day who WANT you to be a second class citizen.
Human nature in all of us has the ugly tendency to sort people into those folks you have to respect and those you get to look down on. All of the bigotry of human history is rooted in this temptation to identify those who are different, ethnically, religiously, appearance wise, or whatever – and mark them out as less worthy than you are. It has been ever thus. And most of the time such temptation has been enabled and empowered by religious traditions. Whether God didn’t want you to mingle with other races, or other religions, or dirty sinners, or…you get the idea…he always conveniently (so you think) gives you an excuse to deride the “other.”
While we must be diligent to work in political arenas to overcome the influence of religious Dominionists, that battle will never be ultimately won until – as in the last civil rights era – we find a way to separate people from the bigotry that disguises itself as “God said.” That’s why when I debate with a believer I do NOT attack their entire religious system. When you do that they immediately go into a defensive posture in which nothing you say will matter, because you hate God or whatever (so they have been trained to think). No, I discuss the subject of equality within the context of their beliefs, gently trying to point towards the reality that there’s a big difference between Scripturally defined “God said” and what the traditions of men CLAIM that he said. I know many of my readers will quickly say “But God is a myth” – but even if that is objectively true, you will never change the mind of someone who believes in him with that argument and in the mean time they will see you as their enemy.
Frankly, I’m not in this world to put a stop to religion, I just want religious people to accurately reflect the scriptures they claim to revere. As you read the things I write going forward, when I touch on religion, know that I write in that context. It is not necessary for God to be a lie, for these folks to have been lied to. The beast which we struggle against is not the government, or the GOP per se. It’s not the legislature or the courts, nor is it even religion as, truth or myth, much good has come of religion as has much evil. Rather, the name of the beast is bigotry – he just simply chooses to disguise himself in the robes of religious tradition.
Photo by: Ted Eyton