Religion has always been a part of American history; it has worked at the forefront at times, and in the background in others,but never has religion been such a catalyst in this country until now. The Supreme Court's decision regarding DOMA has ignited an all out religious war in this country that no one will emerge unscathed from, whether they be left, center or on the right. It is such an important conversation, and for years we have been having that conversation to those who were curious enough to see the way religion has been interacting with our government, our policies, and even down to the individual level. The Religious Right has worked hard to force their religious convictions on public policy, from relentless attempts to put school sponsored prayer in the classroom, to printing thousands of copies of Christianized textbooks, to the Dover v. Kitzmiller decision over the teaching of creationism in the schools, to attempts to reverse Roe v. Wade, attacks on birth control, and even on women themselves with personhood bills that value the fetus over the mother, the attempt to enact laws that would make women criminals if they miscarried, even naturally, the continual waging of the so-called War on Christmas. And they've done well, raising billions to put their candidate on the ballots from the most local political office on up to the President of the United States; they've worked in the background for over 30 years to get this far, all while the American people and those who are of a mainstream faith were looking the other way, a slow burn, making itself slowly, patently obvious over the years.
The DOMA decision has fanned this slow burn into a wildfire. I was looking on the Internet immediately after the decision and for the last two days following, and religion is exploding in this country this very minute. Headline after headline is shouting religion from every point of view in a way that wasn't happening just a few short years ago. Those on the right are convinced that God is going to firestorm this country into hell because gay people can marry. The left is shouting for religion to get the hell out of politics. Those in the middle who don't hate religion, who go to church themselves, but who see Jesus differently from either the left or the right are caught in the middle. This article will be a poor attempt, possibly, to put in one place a sampling all of the stories that make up the new American revolution, at least, the way I see it, where religion is no longer able to be used as a weapon to make people feel small, or frightened into obedience, where freedom means freedom for all people, not just a select few who get to make the rules for everybody else, whether the perception is from the left or the right, that democracy is always evolving and changing, and that change is, in the end, inevitable. Whether that change is called "progress" is another thing entirely, subject to debate from every political point of view.
So I'm going to start with a sampling of the headlines that have been following the DOMA decision to show the immediate response to the DOMA decision–flaming vitriol from Christian fundamentalists like Franklin Graham, and Rick Santorum, among others, against those who don't subscribe to evangelical fundamentalism, and also show the vitriol hurled against those who just plain don't like religion, as well as those who are somewhere in between. Religious wars are not a thing of the past. They are here, and now, and the Colorado wildfires are nothing compared to the fire raging in America's soul over religion. It seems to me that the DOMA decision, by deciding to include those who have been historically perceived as the Other in society, the thing that religion says is "bad," that now the door is open for–everyone. And one thing is clear. The politicians lost this one. Big time. One thing is sure–how we handle this crossroads of acceptance will determine who we are as a people, how we perceive ourselves, in an increasingly secular society. Religion will survive. It always has. It is fear that destroys a society, not religion itself–it's how it's used– or the lack thereof.
I'm going to let the headlines speak for themselves. These are the headlines of the last 8 hours or so from Google. They come from the far right, the left, and everywhere in between.
Despite deeply held religious convictions regarding circumcision and dietary restrictions, he led the way in opening the doors of the church to all who would enter, regardless of ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or religious background. We can …
(RNS) The Obama administration on Friday (June 28) issued final rules for religious groups for its controversial contraception mandate, maintaining its position on who qualifies for religious exemption and allowing no carve-outs for private business …
CALLER: I want to talk with you about what I think is the strategy behind the left's assault on religion. What I was thinking is that it's an assault on the Constitution, because the underpinnings of the Constitution are natural law and inalienable …
The Myanmar government awarded major telecommunications contracts to two foreign companies on Thursday, a milestone in the country's opening up to the world that was immediately tainted by religious hatred.
Americans are more respectful now than ever before when it comes to the religious traditions of their peers, according to findings from the longitudinal Rice University Portraits of American Life Study (PALS).
When asked to comment on the establishment of the first atheist memorial on public property, Tom Flynn, Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, expressed concern that establishing an atheist monument alongside areligious one might give …
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., Mardel Inc. and their owners, the Green family, argue for-profit businesses – not justreligious groups – should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs. The owners approve of most forms of …
In the popular secular imagination, religion is seen as a source of conflict – particularly conflict between competingreligious truth claims. So when leaders from various religious traditions speak with a common voice, something significant is happening.
So what have we got? Doom. Gloom. The End of The World. We have other nations looking at us and then looking back at themselves, and thinking that mixing religion and politics as America has isn't such a great idea. We've got atheists coming out of the closet and erecting public monuments to atheism, as if to say, "Hey, we're here and we deserve a voice!" And they do. So does every religious faith in this nation, including Native American faiths. We are not a "Christian nation," and anyone who ignores that reality is simply–ignorant. Look around. Everyone you see has a different faith, or no faith. We all live together jammed on this huge continent and we've got to live together, instead of having a "Look my God's got a bigger penis than your God!" contest like we've been having with Pat Robertson and his ilk for the last 35 years. We have to live to learn with religion itself, in all of its forms—and we've got to learn to live with secularism too. The way people are leaving religion, secularism isn't going away any time too soon.
We've got religion influencing climate change policy. We've got religion saying they don't have to follow the laws laid down by men even though Christ said to "render to Caesar what is Caesar's" (meaning one should follow the law. Christ could have zapped everybody instantly and made them do his will but he chose to work within the laws set up by humans). We've got religion influencing women through laws that seek to subjugate them. GodDiscussion has been covering these things before it was cool to cover them and now–religion is everywhere, every news source.
It's like America woke up 2 days ago and discovered that contrary to what the right believes, religion doesn't get to dictate everything. And even maybe, that God doesn't think like they do. Because the "Other" among us are not going away. They are Americans, and they are finding their voice, and as our republic changes, and our ideas about what America means changes, as it will, will we find there is a place at the table for everyone, or will we find ourselves standing alone on the world stage in a state of irrelevance?
I leave you with this headline from the Huffington Post:
Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news.
Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.