The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

Stephen Colbert
(b.1964)

my quotation file is here
Tom
at Safeco Field

Email Tom

What is Tom Reading?

Tom's Homilies 2013

Tom's Homilies 2014

Tom's Homilies 2015

Tom's Homilies 2016

Tom's Homilies 2017

Luke







Give to DonorsChoose

Archive for March, 2015

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 21: Discrimination and Homophobia is Alive and Well in Indiana

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

The latest darling of the 24 hour news cycle today brings us to the state of Indiana. On March 26, 2015 Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In the last 4 days the reaction has been strong on both sides. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who asks this, but what does the law actually do? Glad you asked. You can find the text of the law here. Props to the Legal Information Institute housed at the law school of Cornell University for providing the text of this law.

The law states that if you believe homosexual relationships are sinful on religious grounds you should not be required to do business with homosexuals. Proponents of this law point to a bakery in Indianapolis called 111 Cakery. In 2014 a gay couple asked the bakery to provide the cake for their commitment ceremony (marriage was not legal at the time). The owners refused on the grounds that their religious beliefs prohibited them from participating in what they felt was a sinful act. The bakery has since gone out of business.

The RFRA states that religious freedom is a right granted in the U.S. Constitution. It further states that laws that are neutral toward religion may burden religious exercise and these burdens should not be in place unless there is a compelling justification.

In other words, government can pass a law that does not appear to violate someone’s religious beliefs and may yet nonetheless do so. In those cases there needs to be an exemption that does not compel someone to do something that violates his or her religious beliefs.

That sounds fine in the abstract but not in the execution. I dug into the text of this law and found this definition of “religious exercise”:

The term “religious exercise” includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief. The use, building, or conversion of real property for the purpose of religious exercise shall be considered to be religious exercise of the person or entity that uses or intends to use the property for that purpose.

Individual religious exercise, therefore, does not require the backing of an existing denomination. You can be as racist, misogynist, homophobic or just plain mean as you want and claim religious exercise, even if your faith doesn’t.

Proponents of this law insist this is about religious freedom and not about discrimination. Since I’ve spent virtually all of my adult life in the field of religion I’m sure they take my support for granted.

They shouldn’t. I grew up in the South and witnessed discrimination from an early age. I also witnessed religious people who used faith to justify discrimination and were just as shameless. They argued that God justified segregation by claiming that those of African descent were the children of Ham described in Genesis 9:25.

Today almost nobody will admit to finding this racism acceptable but 50 years ago many did. Hopefully 50 years from now nobody will point to religious beliefs to justify homophobia, but that won’t happen unless we stand up today to condemn the RFRA.

Governor Pence and nearly everyone who is running for the Republican nomination for President swears this isn’t about discrimination but we’re not fooled. Homophobia is rapidly declining in the population but those who hide behind religion still control a disproportionate share of funding for candidates. We need to stand up for the inclusion that all legitimate religions profess.

Let’s all work to make homophobia just as distasteful as racial discrimination.

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 20: Sodomy As a Capital Offense? Really?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Several decades ago I had a conversation with my college roommate Rob Duston. At the time he was a student at the University of Virginia Law School, also known as Mr. Jefferson’s Law School.

For reasons I don’t remember our conversation turned to the topic of sex and what was prohibited in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Half as a joke Rob told me that “everything is illegal in Virginia except with your wife in one position.” I thought he was kidding.

Since then I’ve learned that sexual positions and partners occupy way too much time and energy in the lives of our legislators. In 1986 the Supreme Court found, in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick that states can pass laws that prohibit sex between homosexual, consenting adults. Fortunately it was overruled in 2003 by the case of Lawrence v. Texas.

Most of us believe that sexual orientation is not a choice but a given and that we should all be allowed to marry our soulmate, regardless of whether or not that person is the opposite sex or same sex. I’m blessed that I live in a society where my orientation is socially acceptable (and so is my wife’s) but I recognize, acknowledge, and love those whose orientation calls them to someone of the same sex. Many of these children of God have trusted me enough to share their stories with me and I’m grateful for that trust.

But we also live with the fact that there are those, even those in power, who feed into their own fear and turn it into discrimination. They believe that orientation is a choice and those who choose to be homosexual will be condemned by God.

As if that isn’t enough, they believe that those of us who are heterosexual will be condemned to Hell if we dare to tell homosexuals that they are loved. They believe that we will be condemned because we give them “false hope” that God loves them.

Enter Matt McLaughlin. He is a lawyer from Huntington Beach, California and an alleged Christian. He is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would make sodomy a capital offense. He even states that they should be put to death by “bullets to the head or any other convenient method.”

OK, I’m a Christian and believe that my life works best when I live in harmony with God’s plan for me. But I don’t believe that my salvation depends on my hating the people Matt McLaughlin hates. If salvation is based on love and inclusion (as Jesus believed) I don’t believe that I have to choose sides on marriage equality. I have dozens of gay friends who I expect to see in Heaven. I pray they will be there because of love.

And I pray they love their husbands and wives as much as I love my wife.

Ted Cruz Throws His Hat Into the Ring: Let the Campaign Begin

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

On November 14, 2016 we will all go to the polls to elect our next president. Nineteenth months before that day we have our first confirmed candidate. Today Ted Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University, the college founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Ted is well known by anyone who follows politics. He is currently the junior Senator from Texas. His conservative credentials are legendary: he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. He argues against same sex marriage and ending the embargo with Cuba. Among Christian conservatives (who largely populate Liberty University) he brings strong credentials.

But he also brings some challenges. First and foremost his popularity is an inch wide and a mile deep. Those who like Ted Cruz like him a lot. But while they may be wealthy, there aren’t many of them. I’m sure this troubles them, but every voter in this country gets the same number of votes: 1. The wealthy Christians in this country may be able to generously fund his campaign but can only vote for him once.

The irony of this keeps me warm at night but there’s no way around this: Ted wasn’t born in the United States. I wrote about this in a previous post. In 2008 there was (and still is) a vocal and stupid minority that claims President Obama isn’t a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya. Nobody questioned that his mother was born in Kansas but the “fact” that he was born in Kenya prevents him from being our president.

You have to know where I’m going with this: how can the birthers claim that Barack Obama can’t be a legitimate president because they allege he was born in Kenya, and yet support Ted Cruz when everyone knows he was born in Canada?

In any case, the 2016 campaign has begun. In years past I’ve listed presidential candidates on the left side of this page. I’ve attempted (at great sacrifice) to list everyone who is running for president, not just the major candidates. I’ll do this again for the 2016 campaign but not yet. Ted is the only major candidate to announce, and I’ll wait for a larger field to announce.

Keep looking for more candidates. And let’s celebrate that we live in a country that allows us to choose our leaders.

The Justice Chronciles, Volume 19: 50 Years After Selma and We’re Still Not Done

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Today is the 50 anniversary of the day most Americans heard about Selma, Alabama. March 7, 1965 was a rough day.

The events actually began on February 18th when a 26 year old black man named Jimmie Lee Jackson (1938-1965) was shot to death by an Alabama state trooper. Mr. Jackson, a deacon in his church, was trying to protect his mother from being beaten up. This incident, combined with the institution of segregation and roadblocks placed to make sure people of color could not register to vote, boiled over. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) and his organization the Souther Christian Leadership Conference, together with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the state capital 50 miles away.

But on their way out of town they were stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and attacked by law enforcement. It’s worth noting that the bridge was named for a real person. Edmund Pettus (1821-1907) was a Confederate General and U.S. Senator, but is most well known for his time as a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. The bridge was completed in 1940.

National reporting of the that event, often called “Blood Sunday” shocked the nation and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that legislated equal rights for people of all races.

So 50 years later how are we doing? On one hand very well. Nowhere in this country can you deny someone the ability to register to vote because of his or her race. Neither can you refuse to do business with someone on this basis. Our schools and neighborhoods can’t refuse admission to anyone and we even have an African American President.

But there is still work to do. A poll taken in January shows that 34% of Republicans believe our President isn’t really an American.

An article in today’s Los Angeles Times describes how two police officers and a court clerk lost their jobs over emails. This takes place in Ferguson, Missouri, a town that doesn’t need any more bad news. One email compared President Obama to a chimpanzee; another stated that he wouldn’t be in office for very long because a black man can’t hold a job. Finally one email reported that a black woman was paid to have an abortion as an anti crime measure.

In Selma the famous bridge is still named after the Grand Dragon of the KKK. And if that weren’t enough, in 2000 the city paid for a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877), one of the founders of the KKK.

My thoughts and prayers are still for Mr. Jackson. You can see a tribute to him here.