I got to witness a truly bemusing spectacle today, that of my theology teacher turning into a ranting right-wing ideologue. I knew he thought separation of church and state was “silly” (I’ve covered this in an earlier post), but today he spent all 50 minutes on a tangent about religious integration in Europe and America.
The choice bits are largely this: firstly, the Christian Right is largely apocryphal, or “bullshit.” In his mind, the small but vocal liberal group that is much of academia and determined intellectuals is a driving force in secularizing America. Whereas the small but vocal conservative Christian group (Moral Majority, Christian Coalition) apparently doesn’t exist, or doesn’t exist as the force he wants it to. He sounds like Ann Coulter; I thought he was smarter than that. He noted the Hobbesian (and later Jeffersonian) notion of the separation of church and state, but obviously he thinks that such is either impossible or unwise.
The best part came when he veered into a comparison of Europe and America. He said that Europe, despite still having state religions and a heavy cultural dependence on religion, is relatively faithless, with a churchgoing population of about 10%. I checked the figures, which seem to vary, although the general gist of his point I accept with a caveat. He said that less than a third of Americans attend regularly (which the survey proves untrue). Then, as he segued into a discussion about values, he uttered one of the dumbest things I have heard in a while.
The gay agenda used to be mostly about rights. Now it’s about things like marriage.
That’s not quite verbatim, but it’s close. Let’s deconstruct this, shall we? Firstly, saying “gay agenda” makes it sound perfidious, the way people like Pat Robertson try to characterise homosexuals: nasty, slimy pædophiles who sneak into little children’s bedrooms and teach them that being gay is the best thing in the world, and then sodomize little Billy all night. Secondly, and this is the only time I spoke up in class (I was good at biting my tongue), marriage is a right. Or, that is to say, legal protections for two consenting adults in a sexual relationship is a right, insofar as we extend it to everybody else. This is another argument entirely, but I suggested that the problem was semantic, to which he responded that Vermont had tried giving them “all the protections” as civil unions and “they didn’t want it.” But, of course, they didn’t, because the civil unions suggested by several states don’t offer the same legal protections as marriage. Even still, haven’t we already decided as a nation that “separate but equal” is a load of manure? Wouldn’t it simply make more sense for churches to sanctify “marriages” and the government to issue “legal unions” or what have you? But again, I digress.
Hoping to dispell his notions that America isn’t overtly religious, at least in relative terms, a student pointed out that in much of Europe and Canada, gay marriage and abortion and stem cell research isn’t even an issue. The professor then posed a rhetorical question along the lines of “Do you want to follow the same direction that Europe took?” implying of course that we don’t want America to become a country full of godless commies, now do we? The net population growth in Europe is “virtually nil” (He’s a Catholic with 5 kids. He’s also against contraception, just like the pope. Go figure.), and the influx of Muslims will turn Europe into an Islamist state. At that point, he sort of leapt into the realm of conspiratorial rambling, the basic gist of which was that we certainly don’t want to have euthanasia and gay marriage and legalized abortions, because then we’d turn into another godless country just like Euroislam (he used that phrase) with a small population growth.
Maybe he hasn’t quite got this whole “demographics” thing figured out yet, or maybe the whole “condoms are sinful” thing is interfering with his more basic cognitive ability, but low population growth is normal for established countries. A high fertility rate is a mechanism only needed in developing countries of subsistence farming with a low infant survival rate. That Europe’s net population growth is between -2 and 2 points is a testament to its age, not its vitality. The United States had about a population growth index of 6 in 2004, probably because we’re a relatively young country with a lot of space. I imagine the sin in my professor’s mind is that we’re not producing enough little Catholics to go pater nostering across the globe.
Sorry, but there is a dedicated and fairly influential (see: 2004 presidential election) group of conservative Christians out to integrate religion into government. I’d say the country is fairly divided not upon religion, but upon religion’s role in the democratic process. The knee-jerk reactions to moral issues like gay marriage are more than evidence of this (and of homophobia). I’m surprised: I actually respected this guy until now.