This year, as I have in the past, I helped serve a Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. I am not sharing this with you in search of praise for a good deed done--because the truth about good deeds is that they enrich the do-er far more than the receiver and praise for them would be redundant. Rather I want you to know that the people volunteering with me included a gay couple, a cross-dressing "showgirl", the divorced, the self-confessed "adulterous"spouses and other men and women estranged from their families. As is often the case in the various cities where I have found myself on holidays in the company of the broke and dispossessed, the lonely and the sad, the mentally ill and the rejected--I counted the devout church-going true believers in the minority of the volunteers.
And I ask myself: Where are these pious people who express their religiosity primarily by raging against the sexual behavior of others but are not where one presumes their Jesus would be, bringing comfort to those in need? (Answer: Home, surrounded by loved ones, indulging in great feasts of bland foods and offering up self-congratulatory prayers.)
So it was with a degree of perhaps smug erudite amusement that I read two articles, one in the U.K. Guardiannewspaper on the debate in Toronto between author Christopher Hitchens and former British Prime Minister and new Catholic convert Tony Blair on whether or not religion is a force for good in the world--and the second, "How Palen Flunks Feminism"by Michelle Goldberg in a review of Palen's new book, on The Daily Beast. Sarah Palin, of course, is the political candidate of the Christiam right, the Tea Party's ultimate babe, the Presidential candidate of the mentally toothless--who also fails to make an argument for Religion-As-A-Force-For-Good.
While Blair was reduced to repeating several times that many devout people are inspired to good works, Hitchens took him down in the kind of debate that would go unnoticed in America but drew a paying audience of over 2500 people in Toronto and coverage in the British press. Citing the historical records of the horrors perpetrated in the name of God, Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, called religion "an unadulterated poison." Indeed history does not show organized religion as largely a benign force for good. Peace, love and understanding were, in modern history, Hippie concepts--not embraced by the church-going other side of the cultural wars.
Yet in a tour de force of historical revisionism, Palin paints early feminists from the 1800s as Christian conservatives and Evangelicals. She disparages women like Hillary Clinton as part of the "bra-burning liberal Feminist" movement of the 70s. Neither the early feminists nor the later ones are recognizable in Palin's recreations.
Goldberg retorts to Palin's distorted view of Elizabeth Cady Stanton:
"Stanton was a famous freethinker, eventually shunned by more conservative elements of the women’s movement for her attacks on religion. In one 1885 speech, she declared, 'You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women.' Ten years later, she published the first volume of The Woman’s Bible, her mammoth dissection of biblical misogyny. Stanton was particularly scathing on the notion of the virgin birth: 'Out of this doctrine, and that which is akin to it, have sprung all the monasteries and nunneries of the world, which have disgraced and distorted and demoralized manhood and womanhood for a thousand years.'”
Clearly Palin and her ghostwriter didn't even check out Wikipedia or they would have known better than to cast Stanton as the precursor of the new religious right. If you are looking for god in politics, you are looking in one of the wrong places. And you are even more misguided if you expect to find charity there. If there is a god, s/he is likely reflected in the faces of the downtrodden--and most people look away from them.
Tell me what you think about religion and sex. I want to start a new conversation.
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