27 March 2007

Viewing Anti-Christian Anger Through an Anti-Oppression Lens -- Greta Christina's Defense of the "Blasphemy Challenge"

Greta Christina is a San Francisco area writer who blogs about sexuality, atheism, politics and many other subjects.

She has written a defense of the "Blasphemy Challenge" on her blog after she took the challenge herself.

Part of her defense mentions the anger in the Blasphemy Challenge video clips. Greta touches on anti-oppression issues surrounding the unearned power and privilege that Christianity has in our society:
"And you know what? I'm proud and happy to stand up with the angry, pissy, juvenile ones, too. I see them, and my heart just breaks. I know that when you hear someone say something like "The Holy Spirit rapes children," what you hear is a terrible thing being said about your faith. But what I hear (although to be fair, I haven't seen that particular video and am just going on your description of it) is someone who, I'm betting, had an appalling religious upbringing, one in which they were taught cruel, traumatic, bigoted, and flat-out untrue things, and told that to even question them would send them to be burned and tortured in Hell… and who's only now coming to realize just how fucked up that was, and just how full of rage they are about it. (Or if they didn't go through that themselves, they know and love someone who did.) You see the insult -- I see the anger, the frustration, the trauma, the feeling of helplessness. And while I wish those people would express their rage in a better way than namecalling and insults, and while I hope they can move on from that eventually, my heart goes out to them. I get that this is where they need to be right now, and I want to stand with them and tell them that they're not alone.

Now, maybe that's not fair. Maybe it's not fair to be sympathetic with atheists who are angry about religion, and yet expect religious believers to get over their anger about atheists. But I feel the same way about women's anger towards men versus men's anger towards women; queer folks' anger towards straight people versus straight peoples' anger towards queers. The difference is in which group has the power. And in this case, it's not atheists."
This is very close to an article on my blog from March 2005 titled "Christian and Non-Christian Unitarian Universalists -- Anti-Oppression Implications."

I wrote about the negative attitudes expressed towards Unitarian Universalist (UU) Christians who belong to predominantly non-Christian UU congregations:
"UU [Unitarian Universalist] Christians need to remember that they are walking in the door of a church wearing a garment of 'power and privilege' that was not freely accepted but rather forced on them by our wider North American culture. UU Christians joining a predominantly non-Christian UU congregation are (unknowingly?) engaging in anti-oppression work by giving up unearned power and privilege granted to them by the wider culture. This is the theological equivalent of an adult advisor working with youth where the advisor gives up some of the unearned privilege that comes with being an adult."
Using this anti-oppression perspective allows us to understand why some Unitarian Universalists are strongly critical of Jesus, the Bible, and God but seem to be OK with non-Christian religious expression in their UU congregations.

26 March 2007

Asking Senators to Co-sponsor the REAL Act

Today, youth and young adult members of Unitarian Universalist churches, United Church of Christ churches, and other religious liberal groups were lobbying congress today in support of the REAL Act (Responsible Education about Life Act -- S. 368). The UUA and UCC were also sponsoring a REAL Act call-in day for lobbying our Senators for folks around the country to participate in this lobbying by phone.

The REAL Act would give states and communities the option to freely choose between abstinence-only sexuality education and comprehensive sexuality education by providing funding for both options.

After calling my Senators, I visited the Advocates for Youth web site. Here's my modified version of the sample letter provided on the Advocates for Youth web site that I sent to my Senators:
I am writing to ask you to cosponsor the REAL Act (Responsible Education about Life Act -- S. 368).

This legislation, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would provide federal support for comprehensive sex education programs.

The United States has the highest rate of unintended teen pregnancies among all industrialized nations and American teens acquire an estimated 9.1 million sexually transmitted diseases a year. An average of two young people in the U.S. are infected with HIV every hour of every day.

Clearly, young people's health and lives are at risk, yet the federal government has spent over $1.4 billion over the past 10 years on abstinence-only programs that censor information about the health benefits of contraceptives and condoms.

Research indicates that teenagers who receive information about both abstinence and contraception are more likely to delay sexual activity and to have fewer partners and use condoms and contraception when they do become sexually active.

The most trusted medical and scientific institutions in our nation, such as the American Medical Association, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Public Health Association, all recommend comprehensive sex education as well.

For the past 10 years, the federal government has invested money into abstinence-only programs, which do not give teens the resources they need.

It's time for a change.

The REAL Act authorizes much-needed funding for programs that give teens the information and skills they need to make responsible decisions.

As a religious person who is active in my church and a parent of two teens, I'm outraged with our government's immoral and ineffective abstinence-only funding policies that fail to protect the health of young people. The abstinence-only programs are based in flawed ideology -- not reality -- and do harm our young people.

I urge you to become a cosponsor of the REAL Act.

Asking Senators and Representatives to Co-sponsor Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act

Today, I sent a letter from the Advocates for Youth web page to my Senators and my Congressman asking them to co-sponsor the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (H.R. 1652 / S. 809). Here's my modification to the pre-written Advocates for Youth letter:
I am outraged that young women across America are being denied safe and legal pharmaceutical products based on the ideological views of a few. Pharmacists have a responsibility to provide medications without judgment or fear.

The Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (H.R. 1652 / S. 809) is designed to preserve the right to safe, legal, pharmaceuticals prescribed by a medical professional.

Decisions about whether to use safe and legal birth control should be made by a woman and her doctor, without restrictions by pharmacists.

98% of women use birth control at some point in their childbearing years and experts predict that access to emergency contraceptives alone could prevent as many as fifty percent of the 841,000 unplanned teen pregnancies every year.

However, because of barriers, only thirty seven percent of young women seeking contraceptive services ever receive them.

Young women are uniquely affected when a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription because, as they may have limited access to transportation and funds, they can't afford to track down a pharmacist who will.

These young women, who are making the responsible decision to access birth control methods, should not be faced with a hassle or a judgment at the pharmacy. Pharmacists have a right to their personal beliefs about dispensing birth control, but cannot be allowed to impose those beliefs on women.

As a father of a teen daughter who is attending college and as a religious churchgoing person, I'm outraged that my daughter's reproductive freedoms could be harmed through a pharmacist who refuses to perform his or her professional duties.

I urge you to support the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act and protect the right of responsible young women to receive safe, legally prescribed pharmaceuticals.

A Radically Nonsensical Literal Reading of Leviticus 18:22

Here is a radically literal but tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 that popped into my head this afternoon.

This verse is often cited as a scriptural condemnation of homosexuality.

However -- when one reads the text literally, it doesn't prohibit all male-male sexual intercourse.

Here's the verse as translated in the Revised Standard Version:

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."

The literal text only addresses male-male intercourse when the participants are prone.

It doesn't ban anal sex when both men are standing nor does it ban oral sex when one man is standing and the other man is kneeling. And -- for the incredibly gymnastic -- it doesn't ban the standing "69" position either. And it certainly doesn't ban mutual masturbation as long as the two men are not prone.

I suppose we can now legalize same-sex marriage as long as we require the use of twin beds by male-male couples. We would also need to ban double beds, queen-sized beds, king-sized beds, etc for male-male couples as well.

I'm pretty sure that bunk beds would be OK.

And male-male sex in hot tubs (which involves "floating" instead of "lying") would be acceptable within this Leviticus 18:22 framework.

This example shows the absurdity of trying to read the Bible as a literal sex manual in modern times.

The Bible (like many other ancient scriptures) works best when viewed holistic sense that provides us example of how to live ethically with each other.