Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Culture of Death - It's Not Who You Think!

Below is a quote by Andrew Sullivan from a March 9 post on his Daily Dish blog
"The Party of Death

In the latest New Yorker, Michael Specter has a positively chilling story on how theoconservatives and Christianists have waged a quiet war against some critical vaccines, especially against Human papillomavirus or HPV. A vaccine exists against this virus that would drastically reduce the numbers of cervix cancer cases. The religious right opposes it as a mandatory childhood vaccination, because it removes a disincentive to having sex:

'Religious conservatives are unapologetic; not only do they believe that mass use of an HPV vaccine or the availability of emergency contraception will encourage adolescents to engage in unacceptable sexual behavior; some have even stated that they would feel similarly about an H.I.V. vaccine, if one became available. 'We would have to look at that closely,' Reginald Finger, an evangelical Christian and a former medical adviser to the conservative political organization Focus on the Family, said. 'With any vaccine for H.I.V., disinhibition' - a medical term for the absence of fear - 'would certainly be a factor, and it is something we will have to pay attention to with a great deal of care.' Finger sits on the Centers for Disease Control's Immunization Committee, which makes those recommendations.'

Specter has a Q and A about the article here. These people would rather people die of AIDS and cancer than do anything to "encourage" sexuality. And they have the cojones to call the Democrats the "party of death."

The more you read and hear about the religious right and the Republican Party, the harder it is to believe that Sullivan is wrong.

To be sure, as a gay, HIV positive male, he has a dog in this race. However for me, as a female of, shall we say, "a certain age," I have no dogs or ponies in any of the major "culture war" races. You can stop research into an HIV or human papillomavirus vaccine or ban abortion and it probably wouldn't affect me personally. But that still wouldn't make it moral or right or decent.

The New York Times, today, has two pieces, here and here, on South Dakota's abortion ban. In the editorial, the Times points out that South Dakota's argument that it is in favor of banning all abortion except to save the life of the mother is a lot of bunk. South Dakota shows no such admirable concern for the life, safety or human dignity of the fetus once it is born and is a fully viable infant. Indeed, the state ranks as fourth worst in its care for poor babies, and one county with a large Lakota Native American population is dead last.

The only thing you can actually say about the Christianists, like militant Islamists, is that they are anti-sex. Always were. Always are. And always will be. It's not about saving lives, it's about telling people who don't share their beliefs how to live theirs. And then forcing them to do it.

I sincerely hope that Sullivan is right and that the U.S., at least, is waking up and that there will be blowback for nonsense like this. If the Supreme Court upholds this law, as the Times points out, other states will follow and abortion will no longer be legal, safe and accessible in most of the country. At that point, it will no longer be possible for moderates of either party to weave and bob around the issue. Once the right to a safe abortion is lost, I think it will take center stage again in a way it hasn't for most moderates and independents for a very long time.

The truth is, abortion has only been important to the most partisan and ideological on both sides of the political spectrum. The vast middle has tuned out and concentrated on issues of security, foreign policy, and the economy. They didn't need to refight the cultural wars and were interested in national security and bread and butter issues. As the Times also points out, there was a lot of complacency here. I had one person who has been blithely voting conservative for years because he's a free trader tell me that he didn't think Ronald Reagan (and others) really meant it about outlawing abortion. This person insisted that he just said it to get elected but would never really let it happen.

Might have been true of Reagan. But not so true of our current president, George Bush. Once that right is gone, so will the complacency be. And with his failing record on national security, his one trump card, there may indeed be a backlash against Republicans in general, including the moderates who let this happen. It was their watch too.


2e said...

I've never heard the term "Christianist" before. Thanks for broadening my horizons. I am a follower of Jesus, so I guess that makes me your enemy. But, he told me to love my enemies, but I don't really know if me being your enemy makes you my enemy.

In any case, I think it is too bad that my kind are pushing for anti-sex legislation. I mean, I don't agree with sex outside of marriage, and I think that removing the consequences of promiscuity will increase the likelihood that individuals will more readily engage in something I disagree with.

But, I guess, I'm not looking to be vengeful against people who are living according to values very different from mine. I don't think they'll respect me for being this big political power throwing its weight around.

Besides, I think all the relational chaos caused by promiscuity will wreak more havoc than HPV. And I don't think there's a vaccine for that.

Of course, I don't wish that upon them either. But, as I see it, the only way around it is to avoid the cause in the first place.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Sorry that I did not respond sooner but I've been out of pocket with computer issues.

My friend, you are not my enemy. And the term Christianist does not mean Christian anymore than Islamist means devout Muslim

Both Christianist and Islamist refer to political movements. Specifically, Christianists are self-proclaimed Christians who would like to overthrow the Constitution's separation of state and church in order to set up a theocracy.

You would be surprised at how much we might agree on. Separation of church and state does not mean that people can no longer pray. It just means that specifically Christian prayers, or Muslim prayers or Native American prayers, for that matter, should not be said at public gatherings out of respect for religious differences. That could protect Christians should they be the minority in a community too.

But wasn't it Jesus, himself, who criticized those who make a pious show of praying publicly? And didn't he recommend that we go into our room to say our prayers privately to God?

Obviously, he wasnt' saying that religious people should hide their beliefs. He was cautioning against hypocrisy and intolerance. His warnings were directed at those who make a great showing of their religiosity but lack compassion and respect for others. Those are what many in the blogosphere refer to as Christianist.

2e said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I understand your perspective. I certainly agree that we should take care to honor one another, to "love our neighbor" in Jesus' terms. Does this mean taking every precaution to avoid offending them? I don't have a dogmatic answer. I think it's somewhat situational. If, out of every situation that arises in which someone is offended, we keep limiting religious expression, how many situations will be left where we can express it? I'm afraid the only place will be "in our rooms, privately." I think of Daniel, the Jewish slave in Babylon, who prayed in his room in front of the window; we all know how that went down.

On Church/State Separation: There are two views on what the Founding Fathers meant. (1) The State should not impose on the Church. (2)The Church should not impose on the State.

Some argue from T Jefferson's personal letter some years later that #1 is right. Others point to quotes from Washington and others to support #2.

On Jesus, regarding Prayer: You are right that Jesus was cautioning against hypocrisy when he told his audience to pray in private. But he was saying those things to those who were proud to "make a great showing of their religiosity" but had no actual love for God. They were seeking the honor of men by appearing so pious instead of the honor of God. And Jesus said, "love the Lord your God...this is the greatest commandment."