SCOTUS’s Big FU to JC

SupremeandSupremeIt’s not every day that the US Supreme Court gets an amicus brief from their Lord and Savior. Even more surprising is that conservative Christian justices would ignore Jesus’ opinion so completely, as was the case in their Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway decision of May 2014.

My strong suspicion is that Jesus has no immediate plans of coming back to Earth, otherwise he couldn’t have picked a better time to appear as a surprise witness at the Supreme Court reminding the “Christians” that Christian public prayer is an oxymoron, the very definition of “UN-Christian.”

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. —Matthew 6:5

But wait, Jesus isn’t done yet:

But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. —Matthew 6:6

Pretty clearly the Son of God and King of Kings says only pray in “your private room” where you’re not “seen by men.”

But if Jesus says you can’t pray at your city council meeting, where else could you possibly pray? This time Jesus leads by example:

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. —Luke 5:16

In every gospel, Jesus heads off to the desert or the mountain to pray. That’s fine for him, but he never quite imagined his followers would eventually number in the billions. It really is impractical to start your governmental meeting with a quick trip to the desert.

The “Ceremonial” Argument

The 5-4 decision, by and for conservative Christians, claims that these prayers are acceptable since they are “ceremonial” and “part of the Nation’s heritage and tradition.”

As is often the case, these religious prayers or governmental references to God are claimed to be harmlessly “ceremonial” or “patriotic.” But yet at the same time the prayers are fiercely defended by the religious majority. So which is it? Are they negligibly religious or deeply meaningful and important to the believers?

It is just way too convenient that on this one issue these prayers and phrases are decreed to perfectly straddle the line between meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful enough to continue, but not meaningful enough for non-believers to complain about.

To get a sense of how “ceremonial” the Greece, NY prayers were, here are a few quotes from the prayers that were featured in Justice Kagan’s dissent:

Prayers evoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross,” “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ,” “the life and death, resurrection and ascension of the Savior Jesus Christ,” the workings of the Holy Spirit, the events of Pentecost, and the belief that God “has raised up the Lord Jesus” and “will raise us, in our turn, and put us by His side.”

The amicus brief from the Freedom from Religion Foundation reminds us that the American “traditions” of miscegenation and sodomy laws had been on the books for a ling time, but that “a longstanding practice can simply be a longstanding violation.”

“We do it that way because we’ve always done it that way” leads to this reasoning from Warren Burger’s 1986 (!) Bowers v. Hardwick opinion:

[H]omosexual conduct ha[s] been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western civilization. Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian moral and ethical standards. . . . To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.

Religious Lack of Empathy

Why then are so many (though definitely not all!) Christians unwilling or unable to imagine how it would feel to be a religious outsider when public prayers are being said?

With any religion, just like with any sports team, there is an in-group who shares your core beliefs, and an out-group who doesn’t. What always amazes me is the callous attitude some believers have about the effect of their public prayers on their fellow citizens who don’t share their religious beliefs. What kind of religion does not teach and foster empathy, the ability and willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective? Either that message just does not get through to some congregants, or some churches don’t see it as a priority.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled this month that the phrase “under God” could stay in the Pledge of Allegiance when public school students are told to recite it. Again, their attitude toward these children is fairly callous: “Participation is entirely voluntary,” as if to assume there is no downside for a child who sits out the Pledge of Allegiance on religious or constitutional grounds.

Which brings us to Bible Funmentionables’ Core Principle #3: If your religion makes you a better person—more empathetic, understanding and accepting of others—then great! If your religion allows or encourages you to be hateful, self-righteous, and intolerant of your fellow human beings who are just trying to get along on this planet, you may have missed the point of your religion entirely.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

God and SCOTUS v. Ministers: Discrimination Is Divine

The U.S. Supreme Court’s pro-discrimination decision in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC finally brings U.S. law in line with the millennia-old opinion of Yahweh regarding the hiring and firing of church ministers.

As a quick summary, Cheryl Perich took an extended medical leave from her primarily secular teaching position at a religious school due to her narcolepsy. The Supreme Court determined that she fit the definition of a “minister,” and as such, granted the church license to fire her regardless of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections.

So did they fire her for teaching bad theology? Corrupting the youth? Giving poison to the faithful as Jesus recommended in Mark 16:18? No, they admitted that they fired her because she threatened to sue them under the ADA.

The idea that ministers are a special class of people with fewer workplace rights is as old as Yahweh himself. The God of the Hebrew Bible understood, like a Hooters manager, that it pays to be selective about whom you bring in to act as the face (etc.) of your organization. God himself made his preferences sparklingly clear in his own holy scriptures:

Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘Whoever he be of your seed throughout their generations that has a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatever man he be that has a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that has a flat nose, or any deformity, or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed, or crook-backed, or a dwarf, or that has a blemish in his eye, or is scurvy, or scabbed, or has his stones broken. No man of the seed of Aaron the priest, that has a blemish, shall come near to offer the offerings of Yahweh made by fire. He has a blemish. He shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.’” —Leviticus 21:16-21

The Supreme Court’s ruling was too timid and politically correct to come out as explicitly anti-flat noser and anti-dwarf as God so boldly does.

It is helpful to be informed about God’s longstanding prohibition against ministers who are less than ideal physical specimens. It just may explain, for example, why in all my years in the congregation, I never saw one single scurvy, crook-backed, blind, dwarf preacher whose stones were broken.

So go out and do your duty as an American and a supporter of Yahweh, and discriminate against a minister today! Here’s a handy checklist to print out and take with you. Be sure to bring along a medical professional to check for all of the following conditions.

Indications your minister is unqualified:

• Blemished

• Blind

• Lame

• Flat-nosed

• Deformed

• Broken-footed

• Broken-handed

• Crook-backed

• Dwarfed

• Eye-blemished

• Scurvied

• Scabbed

• Broken stones

Of course, turnabout is fair play. You should know that it’s not just ministers that God holds to very high standards. He has rules about the congregation as well:

No man whose private parts have been wounded or cut off may come into the meeting of the Lord’s people. One whose father and mother are not married may not come into the meeting of the Lord’s people, or any of his family to the tenth generation. —Deuteronomy 23:1-2   

I don’t foresee the day when churches across the country excommunicate every person whose parents aren’t married, but the ensuing outrage would prove the point that we all need to relearn from time to time: Discrimination is usually just not that big of a deal . . . until it happens to me.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.