A Contrast in Values

I could not ask for a better contrast to yesterday’s post on Pagan values than this tweet from Southern Baptist leader Rev. Al Mohler:

“Dear Congressman Weiner: There is no effective ‘treatment’ for sin. Only atonement, found only in Jesus Christ.”

Pagan values flow from our experiences of Nature, of the gods and goddesses, and of life itself. Mohler’s values flow from a literal interpretation of the Bible. That interpretation might have been understandable even a few hundred years ago, but in the era of Galileo, Newton and Darwin, it requires willful denial of demonstrable facts.

Where Pagans see multiplicity Mohler sees singularity: one god, one religion, one way of life. Where Pagans see freedom, Mohler sees one set of permissible choices. Where Pagans see respect for other gods and their followers, Mohler sees at best pity and at worst a call for aggressive proselytization.

Where Pagans see unity Mohler sees separation: the “saved” who know God and the “unsaved” who do not and who will be eternally separated from God.

I read Rev. Mohler’s blog for insight into fundamentalism. I like to see how someone who is obviously intelligent and well-educated can hold fast to beliefs I could not accept once I began to study them. Normally, Mohler simply states what he believes and doesn’t get into personal attacks. While this tweet wasn’t exactly a personal attack, it is arrogant, rude and potentially harmful.

I haven’t said anything about Anthony Weiner yet. The sexual antics of politicians amuse me, but for the most part I don’t find them comment-worthy. I make an exception for hypocrisy: people like Newt Gingrich who preach “family values” for others while behaving quite differently themselves.

Let me be clear – what Rep. Weiner did was both wrong and stupid. But he didn’t do it because he’s tainted with “original sin” due to Adam and Eve’s rule-breaking. He did it because he – and all of us – has genetic “memories” of a long-gone pre-human society where an alpha male was allowed to mate with any female who would have him. At some point in our evolutionary process, human society changed and couples mated for life. This arrangement has proved to be beneficial for both individuals and for society – it’s one of the reasons why civilization became possible. But millions of years of evolutionary urges to mate with as many females as possible didn’t go away overnight. Dealing with these and other urges is one of the primary purposes of religion, philosophy and ethics.

Weiner’s sexting is wrong because it breaks a promise he made to his wife. It is stupid because it’s behavior more typical of immature teenagers, and because (like Bill Clinton’s escapades) it’s keeping him from the serious work of governing with which the people entrusted him. There is a movement – especially strong in the House, where Weiner serves – to radically remake America, to do away with our social contract and return us to a Wild West society. We need Weiner working for us, not obsessed with porn stars and not leaving his seat open because he can’t do his job any more.

Mohler’s suggestion that Weiner, a Jew, can only be healed through Jesus is arrogant and rude. It is arrogant because Mohler assumes his way is the only way. Even if he truly believes that, it is still rude to proselytize so bluntly and so personally to someone of another faith. Weiner is far more likely to be healed by drawing on a heritage with which he has a strong connection than by converting to a new and unfamiliar tradition.

And his suggestion that a physical and emotional problem with strong roots in evolutionary biology and psychology can be solved by “atonement” is dangerous. Like many fundamentalists, Mohler has a low regard for psychology and therapy. I’ve seen other ministers make similar recommendations with tragic results.

As a devoted practitioner of magic, I realize I live in a glass house. I have no doubt religious cures can be effective – I have seen them and I have experienced them. But I would no more tell a person with a sex addiction to work a spell and say a prayer and do nothing else than I would tell a cancer patient to do chants and visualizations and skip the medical treatments. Do both!

Rev. Mohler, I respect your beliefs even though I do not share them. And though it is difficult, I respect the obligation you feel to preach your exclusivist theology. But this tweet was arrogant, rude, and potentially harmful. You claim it was intended for a Christian audience, but it was addressed to Rep. Weiner and it was posted in public. Do not imply that you are a victim of those who don’t understand your flavor of Christianity. It is not your beliefs that are offensive – it is your method of expressing them.

But thank you for providing an excellent contrast of values.

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.


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