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Faith Healing and Neglect March 3, 2009

Posted by caseyww in Faith, Politics, Skepticism.
8 comments

As I’ve said before I’m a bit of a podcast junky.  One of my favorites is called The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe which is, you guessed it, a podcast dedicated to what they brand as scientific skepticism.  A far cry from what many imagine skeptics to be (that is, cynical), these guys do a great job of both explaining current science issues and also debunking a lot of the paranormal claims out there, all with a secure rational basis and a humorous edge.  If you boast an inner nerd, or have ever dreamt of adopting one, this is the podcast for you.  It’s usually an hour long but they also provide short format discussions tackling just one topic at a time.  One of their recent topics has been nagging at me and I’d love to hear what you guys think.


Perhaps it’s my masochistic side which thinks it’s a good idea to poke at the hornet’s nest of faith healing.  Descriptions of children dying slow horrible deaths from neglect are never pretty and I suspect that no matter the diversity of religious convictions represented here at Valence most of us will naturally distance ourselves from such extremism.  I recognize that, for most believers, the kind of anti-medical stance defended by fringe groups like Christian Scientists or the Followers of Christ Church aren’t even an option.  Don’t worry, I’m not here to point fingers and make believers defend a faith healing position they themselves don’t even hold.  However, I also think it’s a mistake to just dismiss non-mainstream faiths as misguided without wrestling with the similarities and implications to our variety of faith.  There is a tough but valuable conversation to be had here which brings up two main questions for me:

One is political: What should the limits on religious freedom be in terms of protecting the innocent?

When the innocent are children and the protection is from wrongful death I think this question is pretty easy to answer but still not without its sticky points. In the clip above Steve Novella stated that:

…when you’re trying to balance the freedom of religion and the rights of a parent over their children with the duty to protect a child and to give at least the basic necessities of life, it’s a very thorny issue.  But I think that there is a general consensus that children should not be neglected to point of permanent harm or death, regardless of what the views of their parents are.

The definition of neglect is where things get sticky for me.  I truly think the parents in question were being as genuine as they knew how.  Allow me to try and put myself in their shoes for a second.  They felt like the most responsible thing to do for their child was to wait on an all powerful God to act.  They viewed a reliance on the human medicine as betrayal to God’s promises for supernatural healings.  To betray God as such would be neglect of a different kind.  They would be neglecting their child’s soul, which would be argued to be more important than this transient life anyways.  Their definition of neglect focuses on the eternal while our political definition of neglect focuses on physical health.  Do we as a society have the right or, even better, a responsibility to impose a secular and physical perspective of neglect on those who prioritize the supernatural?  I’d argue yes, but I’ll admit it does feel intrusive to say so.

Similar to laws barring polygamy and animal sacrifice I think the government does have the responsibility to severely restrict the religious practice of parents when they threaten the health of their children.  However, “protecting the innocent” line of thought isn’t limited to faith healing and wrongful death.  The move to limiting parents’ rights also has a related argument in the choice of parents not to vaccinate their children or an even tougher correlate in whether children have educational rights which should be protected from the misguided notions of their parents.  Who decides what’s misguided?  Well that’s the rub isn’t it?

The other question hits closer to home: What can we glean from the similarities and differences between “mainstream” Christianity and its cultish cousins?

(I don’t mean to be reductionist by too clearly delineating between mainstream and non-mainstream faiths.  I’d actually argue that there is a pretty well graded spectrum from typical evangelical faith all the way to extreme examples like the Followers of Christ Church.  However, I think it’s reasonable to address the majority of those who believe in supernatural healing while still trusting in medical science as a cohesive group.)

When ‘mainstream’ Christians ask for miracles what is the proper commitment to waiting for God to act?  One thing the Followers of Christ do not lack is investment in their faith.  The rest of us often have our cake and eat it too in that we’ll pray for a miracle but still see a doctor just in case.

If your feathers are getting ruffled by that last sentence I imagine you would argue that “God can work through doctors too” and that I shouldn’t “put God in a box” for what kind of miracles count as miraculous.  Why isn’t an elegant heart bypass by a skilled surgeon just as much evidence for God’s healing power as a pure faith healing?  This is a huge topic and a great question but I’ll say briefly now that I have a problem with this stance because it seems to dilute the definition of what is and what is not miraculous to the point of losing almost all meaning.  That is, God working vs God not working becomes a moot point when we fail to arbitrate what either looks like by claiming it all to be divine.

That said, I find my sickening gut reaction (our gut reaction?) to stories about watching children slowly die in the name of faith to be telling.  I think this reaction is indicative of a moral sense that it is wrong and selfish to prioritize one’s personal faith over the health and happiness of another human being.  I think this reaction is healthy even though it runs against the biblical grain.  That is, I’m not sure the Followers of Christ Church really misinterpreted the implication of stories like Abraham who is applauded for his willingness to sacrifice his son for faith’s sake.  Perhaps they followed the Biblical call to trust in God’s healing or to suffer as Christ suffered to its intended conclusion? That is, what if their interpretation is right and it’s the biblical imperative itself that is wrong, as born out in such stark relief with these children?  Could our innate reaction to distance ourselves from these extremist groups signal that we don’t actually believe such biblical imperatives to be moral in and of themselves?  I don’t think this is an unlikely scenario, but I suspect a few of you may have something to add.  What do you think?

cdesign proponentsists January 29, 2009

Posted by caseyww in Article Review, Politics, science.
Tags: , , , , ,
21 comments

The evolution ‘debate’ is certainly a can of worms but, with Darwin’s 200th birthday coming up next month and recent creationist battles in Louisiana on the news wire, it’s a can that’s due to be opened here at Valence.

Before we go too far, let me just be clear, evolution kicks ass.  Since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 evidence ranging from such diverse disciplines as paleontology to genetics has consistently poured in to show that evolution is a robust natural explanation for the diversity of life on our planet.  I’ve paired the word ‘debate’ with evolution in quotes above because there is actually no scientific controversy over whether evolution is true.  (For a brief further explanation of my position you can read here and for a less brief but considerably more reputable discussion please check this out.)

the-latest-face-of-creationism_1

That being said, there is certainly a debate between religious creationists (lately, thinly veiled as “Intelligent Design, ID, Proponents”) and reputable science.  Unfortunately, because ID proponents have little to contribute to the actual scientific community this debate is often waged over high school and middle school curricula instead of with actual research.  For IDers it’s much easier to slip creationism past the politics of school boards and state legislators than it is to deal honestly with scientific criticism.  A great summary of creationism’s tactics was in the January issue of Scientific American.

The effort to sneak religious overtones into the public school system by barring or seriously skewing the teaching of evolution is nothing new and has, as of yet, been unsuccessful thanks to our handy-dandy Establishment Clause (see Epperson v. Arkansas and Edwards v. Aguillard).  In fact, the entire ID movement was born out of the need to mask the religious overtones of creationism in order to side step the separation of church and state.  Luckily, even efforts as recent as 2005 to provide “alternative textbooks” in schools promoting ID have proven unsuccessful as the promotion of ID was equated with the promotion of religion (see Kitzmiller v. Dover).  After being so soundly thumped at Dover the ID community has been forced to retreat to their fallback strategy of lobbying for schools to simply “teach the controversy” about evolution by couching their arguments in the vocabulary of “academic freedom.”

It is this plea to academic freedom that I am most interested in discussing this week.  The strategy is so interesting because it appeals to an inherent sense of fairplay and debate that Americans go crazy for.  As soon as any argument seeks to silence its critics in order to remain valid all of our alarm bells go ringing.  One could ask, “If evolution is so secure than why try to shield our students from learning its pitfalls?  Why not teach the controversy and let the students decide?”  On the surface these appear to be strong and valid questions but ultimately I think they’re misrepresenting the science and twisting the purpose of education.

Here’s an example.  Louisiana took a small but important step back towards the dark ages last year with the unfortunate passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

On its face, the law looks innocuous: it directs the state board of education to “allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied,” which includes providing “support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied.” What’s not to like? Aren’t critical thinking, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion exactly what science education aims to promote? (SciAm Jan 09)

The bill is aimed at supporting and protecting teachers who want to teach ‘supplemental’ material about ‘controversial’ subjects.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Wrong. Tellingly, the only ‘controversial’ subjects highlighted by the bill are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”.  Also, “…the bill was introduced at the behest of the Louisiana Family Forum, which seeks to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking.” (SciAm Jan 09)”

Further, shouldn’t science teachers already be fostering critical thinking skills and logical analysis?  Is there really a need for the Louisiana legislature to suddenly step in and encourage them to continue do so?  I don’t think so.  This bill is simply seeking a loophole to sneak creationism back into schools.

…it is clear why the Louisiana Science Education Act is pernicious: it tacitly encourages teachers and local school districts to miseducate students about evolution, whether by teaching creationism as a scientifically credible alternative or merely by misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial… Telling students that evolution is a theory in crisis is-to be blunt-a lie. (SciAm Jan 09)

But what of academic freedom?  Yes, teaching is about equipping your students with critical thinking skills but it’s also about pointing them to the best and most reliable sources of information available. Helping them up onto the proverbial shoulders of those giants they are supposed to be seeing from, if you will.

The simple fact is that evolution is not contested in any reputable scientific circles.  All of modern biology is built upon the stoutness of evolutionary theory.  Does academic freedom extend to lying to our students about the validity of scientific theories in order to be ‘fair’ to opposing views?  I think not, especially when those views are largely contrived and long ago debunked.  Why handicap our students with this kind of garbage?  ID’s request to teach creationism, or at least cast doubt on evolution, is tantamount to giving equal time to the Flat Earth Society in the physics classroom because they disagree with Newton.

Additionally, the appeal to ‘teach the controversy’ betrays a serious misunderstanding on the side of creationists as to how science actually works.  Science thrives on argument.  The strength of evolutionary theory (and any other well established scientific theory for that matter) is the tangible ways that it meets and answers questioners with actual evidence.  It’s the controversy and skeptical questions which keep us looking for evidence and which have ultimately strengthened evolution over the years.

The problem with the ID movement is not that they contest the validity of evolution but instead that once their theories have been refuted by evidence they consistently refuse to revise their ideas.  Dishonesty.  When they are no longer able to proffer their arguments in scientific circles they decide to take their case directly to high school students.  Talk about preying on the vulnerable.  A plea to academic freedom is used to excuse a lack of academic integrity.  Is this the educational standard we should be holding to?

Faithful Inauguration January 22, 2009

Posted by caseyww in Faith, Politics.
Tags: , ,
11 comments

Candidates ReligionNestled comfortably, if not ironically, this week between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration of President Barack Obama, your heart would have to be frozen solid with the tears of unicorns to not pause and take stock of our nation.  Hope is in the air after all.  I’ve even been reading A Testament of Hope – The Essential Writings and Speeches of MLK this week.

Come on; grant me a moment of sentiment, it won’t take too long.  Truth be told, despite the overblown media blitz, there’s a resonance at this moment in history that I think is worth pausing for.

The peaceful transfer of power that occurred on Tuesday still strikes me as deeply meaningful.  In many corners of the world, regime change isn’t even an option.  When it is, tyranny is often traded for tyranny and the oppressed poor who bleed to see change find themselves all the more abused.  To watch President Obama stand and address our nation without fear of a genocidal reprisal or violent riots is certainly a testament to the endurance of our Constitution and character.  Look at me, shedding a patriotic tear, and before even mentioning the fact that we just inaugurated our first black president!  Dang!

Don’t worry, despite every temptation, I’m not going to just wax poetic this week in ever rising chorus that crescendos with the droning masses O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma!  And aside from humming America the Beautiful incessantly (Ray Charles’ cover by the way… is there any other?) I have been doing some actual thinking.

What struck me as I read MLK and watched the inauguration ceremony is the undeniably important position granted to faith in America’s public discourse.  We offer invocations, benedictions, swear on bibles, plea for national blessing and even justify civil change by a personal God’s decrees.  The Judeo-Christian God is treated as a kind of grand marshal over seeing our public events and dialogues.

These events are so normal that they often go unnoticed or at least as a believer they had always seemed normal and fitting from my perspective.  But are they really fitting?  Why, as a secular government, do we reference faith so publicly?  Now, I’m not asking why any individual might have a personal belief or not.  I’m interested in exploring why we as a secular pluralistic society continue to reference one specific faith as almost a mascot.

These public gestures seem to be an outgrowth of the fact that Americans love faith for faith’s sake.  If not adequately evidenced by the way we positively fawn over belief, this is certainly shown by the outright hatred we reserve for unbelief.  Atheists are the most despised minority in our country.  Gallup poll after Gallup poll shows that American’s would be more likely to elect a believing homosexual or Muslim to the presidency before an atheist.

I suppose that it should be no surprise then that we demand proof of purchase at our inaugurations.  ‘We’ve elected you assuming you believe in our God so you better get your hand on that bible!’

I don’t mean to be trite here; I actually do see this as an important role of religion in the public sphere.  Like I argued in How We Believe, part of the role of religion at its origins may have been as a complex signaling mechanism that showed your community that ‘I am trustworthy.’  Reciprocal altruism may have been too hard to determine for each individual in large societies so we relied on a ‘higher power’ to parse out punishment and reward for us.  Religious traditions and customs give us an effective shortcut for determining who is trustworthy.

Additionaly, the advantage of having a common mythology that faith brings seems to be closely linked to the proof of purchase example.  For the majority of Americans religion is a culture we have been seeped in.  Whether we believe or not, most of us are fluent in biblical stories and values.  Their recitation at public events immediately links us by our common tradition.  As Rick Warren reads The Lord’s Prayer, we are called to focus on a familiar reference point together.  Even if the prayer is ineffectual the focus itself seems valuable.

Another benefit of faith displayed in public settings is the enduring hope that accompanies often irrational belief.  This may be faith’s strongest argument.  Time and again the causes most worth fighting for, whether they are civil rights in the 60’s or the abolition of child sex trafficking today, are the causes that seem most impossible. People of faith are often committed to pressing through the impossible even when every logical argument implores them to turn back.  Further, as a nation in crisis we are comforted by the thought that perhaps our destiny is not our own and that God will rescue us against all odds.  We try when it seems senseless to do so and by trying at all we improve our chances for success.

Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord.” Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.  (Obama – Call to Renewal Keynote Address)

That being said, the issue faith in the public sphere does have a down side.  Even subtle nods to faith like a simple invocation strangely color the way we approach leadership, social debate and civil responsibility.

If these gestures are a ‘proof of purchase’ that our public figures are to be trusted because their faith resembles our own we can get into serious trouble by subconsciously demanding ritual instead of actual performance.  Even worse, if we believe that God is keeping an eye on our government than we as citizens are apt not to.  President Obama is accountable to one boss only, the American people.  We must be vigilant in holding him to the highest standards of performance no matter what God he trusts in or submits to.  I would argue that we the people failed miserably in this responsibility over the past eight years with the Bush administration.  Too many of us gave Bush ‘the benefit of the doubt’ because of his devotion to Jesus and I think we are suffering mightily for his poor decisions now.

I’m also concerned with the certainty that accompanies faith.  For too many, faith equates to an unwavering confidence that their personal beliefs are “the Truth”, and can validate unjust action unto their fellow citizens in an effort to establish the ‘Kingdom of God’.  Yet the strength of our society is built on debate and compromise.  Rick Warren’s invocation may have given us a common tradition to focus on, but at what cost?  Warren is on the record as comparing homosexuals to pedophiles.  He fought hard to deny homosexuals the right to marry this past November.  His uncompromising convictions lead him to deny his fellow citizens rights.  Faith of this manner, publicly endorsed at an inauguration, can only weaken our government’s important claim to a secular plurality.

Lastly, while faith in a higher power can provide the motivation to endure in the face of staggering odds I’m not sure that it is faith that actually solves our problems.  It’s the difference between motivation and inspiration. Faith may motivate you to press ahead but it’s the inspiration of human ideas, action, protest and compromise that actually get the job done.  It may take faith to ride out our economic crisis but it’s going to take smart peoples’ hard work and ingenuity to actually fix it.  I fear that peppering our public ceremonies with grand declarations of faith can muddle this fact.

All in all I’m left seeing both positive and negative aspects to government sponsored acts of faith like invocations but I think the costs of such gestures are starting to outweigh their benefits.  What do you think?

Of Rights and Morality November 3, 2008

Posted by caseyww in Politics.
Tags: , ,
56 comments

Election week!  For those of you getting into the groove of how Valence is working you’ve seen that we’ve been posting usually on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  The trouble this week is that whatever I write is guaranteed to be old news come Tuesday night as it is certain to be swamped by election news.

So, instead of fighting it, I’ll embrace the election again this week.  However, I’m going to keep this post a bit short and just expand briefly on one of the ideas that seemed to draw a distinct divide in the comments section on the previous post concerning Prop 8.  Namely, the question of: How should our morality inform the way we vote?  Or, should we legislate our conscience?

Prop 8 seems to be a unique case for discussing morality and politics because it draws in such sharp contrast a religious opinion vs the state constitution on marriage.  I doubt we as voters often have the opportunity to so directly affect the rights of our fellow citizens.

I think much of the divide that has occurred in discussing Prop 8 stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of these civil rights and as such I’d like to widen the discussion to include rights in general (especially since Prop 8 will have been decided by the time most of us get around to commenting).

First a couple of quotes:

“It seems to me that the governing principle, especially in a plural community, cannot be moral rightness because the substance of what’s “morally right” is not shared by everyone in the community; and politics is about sharing the world with others – living together. In that case, what is “politically right” must use a different measure than one particular sense of morality.” -Antony (Comment #16, Calling out The Call)

“The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.” –Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy, “Political Economy,” 1816. ME 14:465

(By the way, I don’t mean to flatter Antony by quoting him in the same breath as Jefferson.  I just think the ideas work well together.)

Here is how I understand rights and I’m certainly open to correction or expansion if I’m being too simplistic.  Rights at their simplest are protections against the infringement of each of our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness.  As long as our actions are not causing suffering or themselves limiting others’ “pursuit” than our actions are ideally protected.

Our constitution, however imperfectly formed or poorly executed in the past, has been built around the value that above all personal moral concerns there are rights that are inalienable and should be equitably distributed.  Our country is beautiful because we as a secular pluralistic society have chosen to value each others’ rights over our own conscience.

This act is radical in its implications because it essentially limits how far our personal sense of morality can affect change.  By drafting constitutions we’ve fenced in our individual power to let any one perspective of morality determine the laws we all must abide by.

Now, because of this value for rights our society has chosen to protect some actions that are distasteful and disgusting.  An example brought up in the comments is the free speech protection afforded to white supremacist groups.  I personally find these groups repugnant but I can’t argue that we should lower our collective value for free speech in order to silence them.

An interesting turn that has occurred in discussing Prop 8 is that some of those who feel that homosexuality is immoral assert that they would be betraying their personal sense of right and wrong (or even betraying God) by protecting gay rights.  I personally think this is a bit unfair because it adds far more weight to the issue on a personal level than necessary.  Let me explain.

My advocacy for the free speech rights of the KKK does not in any way mean that I condone their behavior.  All it means is that I value equal rights being extended to all of our citizens above and beyond what my conscience tells me about how wrong they are.  At the foundation of this argument is an admittedly selfish premise:

I value my rights.  If we weaken our commitment to the personal liberty of a few of our citizens we weaken the foundation of rights for all.

Extending the example, if I opposed free speech rights for the KKK then I really wouldn’t have much ground to stand on if someone else asserted that Valence needs to be censored because it incites doubt and offends their personal moral bearings.  It’s not too hard to insert whatever right is most important to each of us here.

By protecting the rights of the least or most eccentric or even the morally worst among us we protect all of our rights.

One last word on Prop 8.  Prop 8 is revoking a current right to marriage afforded to the gay community in order to define marriage by Judeo-Christian principles.  A no vote on Prop 8 does not indicate you condone homosexual behavior but instead a no vote on Prop 8 simply indicates that you value your personal rights enough to want to protect all of our rights.

That’s it for this week!  I hope everyone has a great election day.

Calling out The Call – [Prop 8] October 28, 2008

Posted by caseyww in Politics.
Tags: , , ,
149 comments

First, I want to ask a favor.  Please take a minute and read the page A Note on Comments.  Even if you’ve never commented here at Valence before and don’t plan on ever commenting I’d still appreciate if everyone checked it out.  Go ahead…click it and meet me back here in 94.7 seconds..

Back?  Great.  As I write this post we are about eight days out from what I consider to be a monumental election day.  As such, I can’t resist taking a small break from our philosophically inclined discussion on skepticism, truth and evidence to talk about politics.  But don’t you worry Valencers, we’ll be back to probing the outer limits of faith and science soon.

I toyed with the idea of providing a comprehensive “Valence Voting Guide” for everyone to print out and take to the ballot box but thought better of it.  I may be a headstrong voter but I know this kind of conceit would probably only invite a strong right hook from everyone.  Instead I’d like to confine my discussion to one particular divisive proposition here in California:  Prop 8.

For those of you outside California here is the skinny on Prop 8.  Currently gay marriage is legal in California under the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution upheld by the State Supreme Court.  Titled “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry”, Prop 8 will amend the California Constitution to recognize marriage as strictly between a man and woman.  For more history you’ll have to read on at the link.

First, I’ll state that I unequivocally oppose Prop 8.  I hold that marriage is a civil right that should not be withheld from consenting partners in this country.  This is not a matter of whether homosexuality is in itself moral but instead a question of whether we should be denying equal treatment under the law based on sexual preference.   We should not.

Now, I know the following question is inevitable: “But do you think homosexuality is immoral and what about the biblical judgment on the subject?”

I’m not planning on spending much time on this but in anticipation of the question I do want to preemptively answer.  I do not consider homosexuality to be immoral and I think the biblical treatment of the subject is inconsistent at best and at worst is heavily biased by a homophobic cultural context that we should be striving to move beyond.

That being said, with this post I’m not particularly interested in addressing the morality of homosexuality itself (even though I anticipate this will be a hot topic in the comments section).  Instead I would like to question the morality of the current religious outcry in support of Prop 8 and ergo against the homosexual community itself.  Below is a promo video for “The Call” which is holding a rally here in San Diego on Nov. 1st.

Let me ask:

Is it moral to frame such a complex issue like gay marriage as the ultimate title bout between the very forces of Light vs. Darkness?  No.  Do I really need to remind us that these are people’s lives we are talking about?  Committed and loving lives which are strikingly similar in character to yours saving they are gay.  They are not the forces of darkness, they are not evil, they are not responsible for society’s decline and they are certainly not our enemies.  To paint this issue as one of light and darkness is insultingly simpleminded.  If we want to talk about darkness then let’s talk about slavery, torture, bigotry or poverty.  How is it that none of these genuine moral causes is significant enough to mobilize Christians “this November” to fill an entire stadium in protest?

Is it honest to assert that the sanctity of marriage is threatened by allowing homosexuals to participate?  No.  First, if the very fabric of our marriages stays intact only by excluding gay relationships then this is more an indictment of the security upon which our marriages are built than it is an accurate measure of a threat.  Second, the sanctity of my marriage is built on the love my wife and I have for each other and the commitment we have personally made, neither of which could ever be diminished by someone else’s relationship, gay or straight.  To assert otherwise is to claim that the very existence of gay marriage itself literally has the power to steal away our ability to be fulfilled in marriage.  It is misleading and dishonest to charge homosexuals with such a serious and yet unsubstantiated crime.

Is it right to characterize gay relationships as a flood from which God must protect us in his infinite mercy so much so that the very soul of our nation hangs in the balance?  No.  In fact this claim is startling in its hypocrisy.  The soul of our nation is one that thrives on equitable rights and religious freedom.  We have a secular state that is beautiful exactly because it seeks to provide rights to the least among us regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.  The Call pretty clearly states that Prop 8 is a religious law at its heart which is meant to levy back the dangerous floodwaters of homosexuality.  The real flood I see here is a tide of religious fundamentalism which is trying to overwhelm our nation’s Establishment Clause and return us to a medieval theocratic state.

In conclusion, let me be clear that I’m not arguing that the Christians among us must revise their doctrine on homosexuality (even though I think they should).  I understand that I probably haven’t changed anybody’s mind on whether homosexuality is a sin.  Nevertheless, no matter what your personal verdict is on the morality of homosexuality, the Christian community’s response to gay marriage through The Call is inexcusable.

The response is unapologetically hateful, misleading, alienating, condemning and arrogant.  Where is the emulation of Jesus?  Where is the loving your neighbors, or removing the plank from your own eye, or feasting with those whom the religious elite label as sinners?  Are we this unaffected by the teachings of our own savior?  When asserting that this is an issue of light vs. darkness it is astounding to me with what stunning irony the majority of the Christian community has chosen the darkest of all positions.

For those Christians here at Valence I would like to add a special note.  You may be reading this and thinking, “Well that’s not me. I’m not going be at The Call. Don’t make the mistake of lumping all Christians together.”

Let me say this simply: silence on this issue indicts every one of us as complicit.  The gay community whom you claim to want to reach and love will only hear those speaking the loudest.  From every pulpit, street corner and water cooler available we should be denouncing the kind of homophobic reaction The Call represents.  Most of all we should be voting NO on Prop 8.