August 4, 2000

Politics, Religion, and Sex
   by stacy <>

What do these three things have in common? For one, they are very divisive topics, and they bring out passionate arguments among any group of people. I don't think most people even know where they stand on all three of these things, themselves. I certainly have questions about how I feel about politics, religion, and sex.

Some of you are probably not familiar with Pat Robertson, so I'll give a little background info. He's a conservative fundamentalist Christian leader who was heavily involved in the Christian Coalition political group a few years ago, and I think he even ran for President as a Republican back in the 80s (not making it to the general election). Nowadays he seems content to stay more or less out of the spotlight, only offering his opinions in newsletters or on his TV show, the 700 Club, which is a cross between a newsmagazine show like Dateline and the Old Time Gospel Hour.

Now, to tie Pat Robertson into the original topic of this editorial, let me explain about an article that I read yesterday. Mr. Robertson has a lot to say about the upcoming Presidential election, and he really wants to see the Bush/Cheney Republican ticket win. I guess he thinks that they are somehow the most righteous people, simply because they are Republicans. It also has something to do with a few of the items on the Republican platform, such as uncompromising opposition to abortion and gay rights. People associated with the Christian Coalition are usually a lot more concerned with those kinds of issues (the kind that are either obviously resolved in the US or unstoppably heading toward a resolution that has nothing to do with a political party platform) than more traditional issues like taxes, health care, the economy, or foreign policy.

So you see, we have a religious leader and his flock involved with politics if only because it gives them an opportunity to govern sex-related issues. The conservative Republican stance on abortion and gay rights is not news, however. It's been that way since before I was born, and although moderates are gaining numbers and influence in the party, it will probably take a few more years before it realizes abortion will almost certainly never be illegal in this country again and that Vermont's law allowing gay civil unions is only the starting point for a variety of rights that will be available to gay people that have always been there for those who are heterosexual.

What really caught my attention in that article was a mention of a 1954 Supreme Court case that ruled it was unconstitutional for states to have laws banning the sale of contraceptives. I don't know the specifics of that case, but I can't imagine returning to a time when a state might say it's illegal for me to buy condoms or even birth control pills! We're talking about a 1954 case here, way before the turmoil of the 60s, with Woodstock and Vietnam protests, hit. The 50s are considered a very stable and conservative decade when women were still happy to stay at home and divorce was rare. If the Supreme Court of the 50s thought contraceptives should be legal, that should tell Mr. Robertson something.

I hesitate to group all fundamentalist Christians together. Many of them are fundamentalist only in their faith, in that they want to return to what they think are the basics of Christianity in their own lives. They don't feel called upon to try to make society conform to those same values, only to live their lives by them. I totally respect that position. It's hard to maintain faith in much of anything these days, and for those who can, it shows a lot of commitment and strength of character. However, people like Mr. Robertson who insist that the US was founded on Christian principles like illegal birth control and abstinence-only "sex" education in high schools are deluding themselves. Maybe it's true that the founders of the US believed in things like that (as if there were even high schools then, let alone formal sex education), but they refuse to see that times change and society has to change too.

Mr. Robertson wants to place the blame on all the things he thinks are the high-priority wrongs (e.g. high divorce rate, gays who are out of the closet and in the military, abortions, teen pregnancy) on these sex-related issues. Apparently, if sex had to go back in the closet and everybody be ignorant, these things would go away. I don't know how he feels about other wrongs, like violence, mass-murders, poverty, and things that can't be explained away by saying that sex should be illegal unless it's the missionary position between husband and wife who are trying to conceive a child. Maybe those are next on the agenda, I couldn't say.

I won't say that politics, religion, and sex should never go together. If a religion wants to place limits on how politically involved its members should be, or what kind of sex its members are allowed to have, that's its business, and in the US, people are allowed to join and leave religions as they please. It's none of my business what they do on Saturday night or Sunday night. It's also OK with me if religious people want to organize and promote a particular political cause. However, I have to draw the line when they move beyond legitimate political causes and start saying all these long-decided issues should be raised again. Going on with this abortion business is ridiculous, too.

Published: August 4, 2000
Editor: stacy

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