Friday, April 29, 2005

Here's a post I had to copy because it'll be replaced with other topics shortly on his site at
The Schwartzreport

Genital Theology and the Quest for Pelvic Orthodoxy
Stephan A. Schwartz, Editor

Unless you live in some very remote portion of the earth over these past weeks the death of one Pope and the coronation of another, has exposed you to a seemingly endless discussion about the Roman Catholic Church and what is likely to happen with Benedict XVI at the helm. At the same time the American Religious Right, which seems to have taken control of the Republican Party has, itself, been focusing intensely on many of these same issues, and making a politician's position on them a litmus test for their support, which has skewed the national political process in profound ways. Based on what we view and read the inner spiritual experience once considered the well-spring of Judaeo-Christian thought has been replaced by Genital Theology.

A preponderant number of the public statements made in the name of religion actually deal with sexuality: Adultery, pre-marital sex, abortion, homosexuality, priestly chastity; this is the stuff of the religion pages of almost any newspaper. Conclaves of American bishops, rabbis or pastors routinely discuss masturbation and pre-martial sex, but it is almost inconceivable to imagine them discussing angels or individual transcendental experiences such as those that created their religions in the first place. Issues of the groin dominate almost all so-called religious discussions, and taken together they comprise a quest for pelvic orthodoxy.

The use of religion to regulate sexuality is not new. What is different is the self-righteous linkage of fundamentalist Christianity and patriotism. During the administration of John Adams, the second President of the United States, the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tripoli which had been negotiated by American diplomat Joel Barlow during Washington's administration. Article XI of the treaty said, "The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

James Madison, the fourth President, and the father of the Constitution is on record saying, "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise. He wrote, "During almost 15 centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride, indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both superstition, bigotry and persecution."

It would be correct to say that the founders were Deists. They believed in a "guiding intelligence or principle." Like the third President, Thomas Jefferson, they felt, "The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained." America's Christianity, then, as now, when the Religious Right frames everything in terms of Jesus and Christian faith, when their arguments are carefully considered are actually arguing about culture not spirit.

This failure to address spiritual needs and the placement of tribalizing judgments, above all other considerations, is having an effect on democracy in America. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago's, National Opinion Research Center as long ago as 1984, 43 per cent, or 101 million men and women have had an "unusual spiritual experience." This is a much larger group than the "born agains" alone. It is even larger than the entire church going population. And of that more than 100 million, 68 million men and women, 29 per cent of the total population, believe they have received a "spiritual vision." It is one reason the Consciousness (New Age) Movement, that often underground river that has flowed through American culture from Revolutionary Masonic presidents, to the 19th Century's Transcendentalists, to today's public shamans such as Deepok Chopra or Mary Ann Williamson has become so prominent in recent years. This dereliction from addressing spiritual experience has divided the country and is, I believe, at the core of the Red/Blue split. This abdication by religious leaders of their traditional role, has made psychiatrists, psychologists, mediums, and astrologers, the true priests of our culture, while our theologians and clergy have increasingly become political operatives.