Freedom to Agree

by on November 20th, 2005

George Bush went to church today in Beijing. As usual, he had an agenda. The Washington Post reports that Bush spoke to reporters after the service, saying, “My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths.”

It is interesting that Bush was silent when the Chinese government was cracking down on the Falun Gong. As neo-conservatives mis-label themselves pro-life when they are actually pro-birth, when Bush campaigns for religious freedom, it is only the freedom to agree with him. I’ve been accused of Bush-bashing in the past, so I want to make it clear that my disdain for his actions have little or nothing to do with my disdain for the man.

For the leader of the United States, whose party is doing its level best to abolish the first amendment, to lecture another country on the importance of freedom of religious expression is hypocrisy at its most bald-faced. The religious right have decided that it is time to take over the United States of America, and give it some morals.

Several years ago, a family of our acquaintance decided to “live the Christian values” they held. They home schooled their children, dressed their daughters exclusively in frumpy dresses, never allowed them to cut their hair, and attended church. They also swore off birth control. The mother of the family worked at taking care of the family, which grew by one member each year.

The children were not allowed to watch TV, go to movies that did not have a “G” rating or even look at Pokemon cards. That’s right: they were not allowed to look at or touch Pokemon trading cards. Naturally, nothing was more inviting than those forbidden playthings, which the parents continually derided as the ruination of the soul, as “pocket devils.” The crowning rejection of secular society was when the family (read: parents) decided not to exchange presents at Christmas.

The family,never rich by any standards, descended deeper into poverty with each passing year, as they continued to tithe their stagnant income to their church and add a member to its ranks. The older children, products of previous marriages, quickly bailed out of the family as their lives became more and more constricted.

The parents expressed sadness that their children did not embrace their Christian values, and continued on the path. Their son began to rebel in subtle ways. At eight, he could fearlessly tell me that my buying a single lottery ticket was gambling, then walk into my house and steal Pokemon cards, that soul-scourge of the devil.

The point is that this brand of Christian values has more to do with bondage to a system that preys on the weakest than with freedom. Those on whom it is imposed from above will inevitably rebel. Bush encourages the Chinese to be tolerant of religion, but only the brand of religion endorsed by the neo-conservatives.

When an Episcopal priest preached that the war in Iraq was at root sinful, the church where he preached was promptly (for the government) investigated by the IRS. Religion that encourages people to think about things in the light of their own consciences has not earned the neo-con seal of approval.

Religion is a wonderful tool for keeping people in line. The fear of eternal damnation is a powerful incentive to follow the rules. The founders were well aware of the tyrannical uses of religion, and attempted to short-circuit their implementation by forbidding the establishment of a state religion. Arguments that separation of church and state is an invention of the Supreme Court, rather than a tenet of the U.S. Constitution are not difficult to find these days. Unfortunately, although they are easy to refute logically, those advancing such arguments are not susceptible to logic.

&copy 2005

Ann Weaver Hart