Saturday, February 14, 2009

Should Religious Faith Be Regulated on the Net?

The SF Chronicle has an article today that deals with this issue, asking several questions of our emerging and consolidating net culture. "Cal Web site draws anti-evolution lawsuit" A Conservative/Literalist/Fundamentalist Christian who works as a teach in Roseville is suing the University of California and the Goverenment over issues of separation of Church and State because of one page [Misconceptions: Evolution and religion are incompatible] of the website on Understanding Evolution for Teachers. The teacher isn't suing because the govt. funded site promotes the scientific theory of evolution, rather she's upset and suing because this page asserts that religious faith and scientific support of evolution are not mutually exclusive, that they're not in a force either/or relationship of polarization but might actually be in a both/and relationship of symmetry. The teacher says this violates her fundamentalist Christian view and thus causes her personal damage; hence the suit claiming that the governmental suport of the site violates her rights (and by extension ours) of separation of church and state. I find this problematic. This teacher is a reflection of our larger problems in terms of faith and social practice of religion (in particular of the Christian persuasion) in our country.

This person (perspective) is the one that is quick to sue and attack anyone that asserts something going against Christian doctrine, claiming that we live in a "Christian" nation. Yet this is the opposite. It's quite possibly a scientific perspective seeking/pondering rapprochement with the faith/religious perspective. Actually it's just 1 page of 480 on the site! I think the page is great. Of course I disagreee with the Roseville Teacher over what and how to approach following Jesus as a faith and world-view existential choice. What gets me even more is the sense of entitlement: we deserve special protection because Christians and Christianity are under attack in our country. I disagree. Maybe I'm in the hoardes of Satan seeking to subvert Christian practice in the USA as a member of the Democratic party....or maybe I'm not. Personally I think much of our problems as Christians and members of the church is that we've forgotten what it's all about (Jacques Ellul calls this X - the pure state of birth that we can't get back to because of historical contexualization) - we've forgotten what it means to follow Jesus - in particular in terms of entitlement and what we claims to deserve. Our problem has systematically become hypocrisy, crying "foul" when something unfair happens to us, and then often legitimizing it when it happens to someone else we disagree with. Where is Jesus' foundational "love your neighbor as yourself" in that?

I don't think that Evolution and the Christian foundational story of Creation are/have to be mutually exclusive. I'm not a literalist. I like the idea of 7 days, and yet I think that the Creation story is talking more metaphorically and poetically about who we are and how we're meant to live with God, each other and creation as opposed to a scientific explanation theorizing on how things came to be and explicating the differences we see in the natural world around us. Why is Christian faith (in the way we practice it today) so often more about polarizing positions of either/or as opposed to dialectical ones of both/and? Is that worldview situation, (the western church has thoroughly embraced a polarizing and hierarchizing modernist view in my opinion)? Or it is a cultural one, how Christianity is interpreted and practiced in 20th/21st century America? Or is it inherent to the Christian faith from its birth? I think it's the first and second.

Should we extend more regulation over censuring what is said on the internet? This suit argues that we have to protect the separation of Church and State - this site is bad because it's federally funded, as opposed to mine - which talks freely about religion and state (of course I'm a nobody!) and is personally funded. And do we need that sort of protection as: one) Americans?; two) Christians?; three) non-Christians? I think it's a slippery slope.

1 comment:

Dave said...

It's important to remember that "separation of church and state" is only a metaphor that Jefferson used to describe one aspect of the First Amendment. There are a couple ways to know more about what Jefferson meant by his "separation" phrase.

1) His actions. He attended Christian worship services in the U.S. Capitol Building. He declared a state day of fasting and prayer as governor of Virginia. On three separate occasions President Jefferson signed into law extensions of the land grant the federal government had given especially to promote education and proselytism among the Indians. See

2) His other words. Jefferson spoke many times on the need for a Bill of Rights. The University of Virginia compiled quotes from Jefferson about the reason for the Bill of Rights. In that collection you find six references to "freedom of religion" and not even one to "separation of church and state."

Those are not things we typically hear about in the news today (or even in history books)

And let's not forget that the First Amendment also protects freedom of speech. So I think it's clear that a person is free to base opinions on religious views or not and is free to hold a stupid opinion or not.