Musings of a Recovering Lutheran: Not my ox
O LORD, God of my salvation,
         I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
         Incline Your ear to my cry. 

Psalm 88:1-2 (NKJV)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Not my ox

I grew up in Texas in the late 1960s. Jim Crow laws had been abolished, and black Americans living in the South were winning political offices and calling for the end of the remnants of official racial discrimination.

I remember older Texans who were astonished at the upheaval in their world brought about by these changes. Some were angry and confused. Why did blacks complain so much about the old social order? Don't those people know what is good for them? It's not like slavery is still around. What is wrong with those people?

I thought about those old-line Southerners I had known in my childhood when I read this column by William McKenzie today. McKenzie's column is about what he believes is a misunderstanding by both conservatives and liberals about the nature and scope of religious liberty in the USA. Specifically, McKenzie feels that liberals are wrong when they fail to understand opposition to the Obama Administration's HHS mandate on reproductive services, and conservatives are wrong by trying to assert what he refers to as "religious privilege". I think McKenzie was trying to suggest that deep down the two are one and the same.

Sorry, no. The HHS mandate is a specific issue about a specific set of laws, and whatever your opinion you can point to specific evidence to support it. But McKenzie's vague, blanket statement that conservative evangelicals are trying to assert religious privilege - well, he paints with a pretty broad brush while citing no specific evidence to back it up. I cannot buy into his thesis that the two must be connected.

In fact, the only attempt by McKenzie to prove what he says is accurate is this statement by William Lawrence, dean of SMU's Perkins School of Theology:

“Crusades have been launched in support of a child who wanted to distribute candy canes in the Christmas season and a teenage high school valedictorian who wanted to offer a prayer rather than a speech. The crusades raise attention and money on the pretext that the freedom of religion in America is under attack.

”Actually, what these crusaders have recognized – but will not admit – is that religious privilege is under attack. The Constitution of the United States protects religious freedom, but it also prohibits religious privilege.“

Really? Complaints about encroachments on religious freedom constitute a crusade (Lawrence's word) to establish religious privilege? It is true that America has more religious freedom that (say) Pakistan, but if you are the one who is targeted by the anti-Christian zealots it is not a minor affair after all.

I don't expect to be able to convince Mr. McKenzie or Dr. Lawrence that conservative evangelicals might conceivably have a valid point. It is not their ox which is being gored. Why should Mr. McKenzie or Dr. Lawrence sympathize with those people like Julea Ward, who was dismissed from a graduate counseling program because of her religious objection to homosexuality? Or Ken Howell, who was fired from his position as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois for stating the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality? Or any of the growing number of Americans who have been harassed, dismissed, or fired for remain true to the Christian faith?

Sadly, I suspect that until Mr. McKenzie or Dr. Lawrence find themselves discriminated against, they will continue to wonder what is wrong with those people.

No comments: