We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

God, Reflected In Our Image And Other Examples Of Hubris

Maxed Out Mama has an excellent post, 'Faith-Based Sex Education.' In it, she discusses the Planned Parenthood curriculum (some of which is posted on her site. Go read). Says MOM,

Note the rather religious framework and the lack of any discussion that maybe, just maybe, the "fixed" world view might have a point about bad consequences from careless and promiscuous sex. Frankly, I would say this is an attempt to propagandize adolescents into the right "religious" views about sex, which is a very celebratory, spiritual and communion-like affair with random partners until your genitals start itching.

MOM makes an important point. There is a clear and deliberate attempt to frame the discussion in religious terms- and thereby co-opt religious moral authority for a clearly non religious agenda.

In fact, framing the sex issue in religious terms is a shrewd political ideology. In doing so, Planned Parenthood forces the 'do we answer to God, or does God answer to us? ' question.

By it's very nature, behavior is to a large extent, a political exercise. Politics are meant to respond to the needs of the majority of society, within a given framework. By turning real religious ideology into a matter of politics- that is, subject to debate- it is only appropriate that there are those that demand religion- and God- answer to us.

Of course, religion cannot really be turned into pure political agenda, or fodder for debate. Religion is what it is. One chooses to accept a particular religion and the ground rules that accompanies that religion, or not. One may select another religion, or one may choose no religion.

Rarely do we see an individual that says, 'I am weak. My religion is too demanding on me. It is not the fault of my religion. It is my weakness that keeps me from the demands of my faith.' As an aside, we suspect God would take great pleasure in that person's honesty. Sometimes, it is the struggle that God measures most carefully and gently, not the results.

Instead, we see man's hubris. When religion becomes difficult, we demand that religion change. We now make more demands of religion, than religion demands of us. We have redefined the nature of religious demands. We have reached a point where it has become acceptable to many that we set the benchmarks, not God. No longer do we measure ourselves as a reflection of His image. The demand now is that God reflect our own image. The hubris is so great that we demand that God endorse our agenda, whatever it may be.

The danger of that cannot be overstated, because that is was happened to Islam. That religion has become, for many Muslims, no longer about man serving God, but rather, about God serving the demands of man.

There is a quote on Dust My Broom, by Sir Wilfred Laurier, that caught our attention:

What is hateful is not rebellion but the despotism which induces that rebellion; what is hateful are not rebels but the men who, having the enjoyment of power, do not discharge the duties of power; they are the men who, having the power to redress wrongs, refuse to listen to the petitions that are sent to them; they are the men who, when they are asked for a loaf, give a stone.

Whereas Islam was once a religion that was easily identifiable as one of the three great monotheistic religions, it has become a shell of itself, as God became a tool of those who would use God first as a hammer, rather than as a vehicle for peace and redemption. It was a choice, made by men, to subjugate God to fit an agenda.

It is easy for us to point to texts and passages in Islam that are violent, mercenary and hateful. They are there and they exist- just as there are texts and passages in both the Old and New Testaments that are violent, mercenary and hateful. There is however, one profound difference. Christians and Jews do not skew the importance by those texts. We focus on the Higher calling of man. Those texts are not part of our everyday vernacular. As we have noted earlier in The Dark Side Of God,

That means that biblical admonitions to violence must be viewed in context and not in a vacuum. In stark opposition to biblical violence are those ideals and standards that compromise the guideposts to which we strive. The bible is clear- violence is a small part of the reality our lives. By contrast, the bible is the guidebook to day to day living with each other.We are to help each other, nourish each other and support each other. If we accept that our mission on this earth is not to destroy each other, then we must accept as truth that the principal part of our lives is to be spent living in peace and harmony. We are all connected, each of us. The accumulation of our contributions are what define us as a community. Those that do not contribute, exclude themselves from that community, of course- and that weakens the community in general. It is our collective mission to bring light into this world, not darkness.

This of course, in antithetical to notions of Jihad and Crusade. Implicit in those provocative words, is the reality that in the past, those words were also defined as violence committed in the name of religion...

Christianity has learned the lesson. There are no offensive wars fought for in the name of God. It is true that Christian and other nations are at war- but they do not fight for a specific religion. We, and they, fight for the truth, that all men are free and deserve to be free. We fight for the human dignity that God has bestowed on each of us. At times, we struggle mightily against our adversaries, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. At other times, we do not fight hard enough, as in Darfur.

The wars we fight are not just inequities. They are an impediment to our progress, that part of us that strives to "beat our swords into plowshares." The unabashed and frenzied bigotry belie any lessons we have learned. "Am I my brothers keeper?" is drowned out in cacophony of visceral hatred. There are no brothers, to some. We are kept from our growth, spiritual and moral, by the hate.

The wars we fight are not meant to push a particular agenda. They are meant to address certain universal truths- that all men are created in God's image and that all mean are equal.

When God is used a hammer, or a tool to push an agenda, as it is the case with the Planned Parenthood curriculum, there is a risk that rather than dealing with the issue at hand, a false God is called upon to foster ever expanding agendas that will divide us, rather than bring us together.

We are not against sex education, so let us dispense with the inevitable knee jerk responses. We are discussing context and agenda- no more, no less. Simply put, we believe that the sexuality and full sexual awareness are reached over time. There is no need for every single sexual issue group to foist their political ideologies upon our kids, right from the get go.

Read Maxed Out Mama's post, here

The idea of the 'agenda' over substance has not gone unnoticed in other areas as well. The Anchoress talks about what passes for journalism today:

Maybe it’s time to bring back cub reporters - people who are in the profession because they love to write and they love to tell a story. It seems to me so many of the press’ problems would go away if they would simply get back to reporting news, rather than trying to “frame” it.

There is an elegant truth here, unsaid: Journalism has become a kind of agendized religion, with some journalists believing they are passing on the word and meaning of God's will and intent. We are being asked to accept their word as sacred, as if they, by virtue of their profession, must be heeded and remain unchallenged- and the exercising of free will, to believe otherwise or to question the sanctity of journalists and their agenda, has become an intolerable and defining characteristic of evil men.

And journalists wonder why they are so poorly regarded.

Portions of this post have been previously published.