Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Derrick Jackson on Mitt, the Church and South Africa

Derrick Jackson proves just why the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

ALL IN THE same week, Governor Mitt Romney, the US Catholic bishops, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and the Presbyterian Church USA drove themselves nuts over homosexuality.

Here in Massachusetts, despite ample evidence that two years of same-sex marriage have not destroyed straight life in the Commonwealth, Romney is helping plan a rally tomorrow for a statewide referendum to ban it. A month ago, in one of his sky-is-falling speeches, Romney said "activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization, the family." He went so far as to say, "The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children."

In Washington, the bishops passed a bizarre set of guidelines called, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination." In the same breath, they claim to be "welcoming" to gay and lesbian people, then tell them to be chaste and stay in the closet about their sexual orientation. The bishops remain resolute that being gay or lesbian is "disordered."

Well, we know where Mitt Romney's priorities lay, with himself. And, Mr. Jackson, let's not forget Cardinal O'Malley. He's too busy writing letters to the editors on marriage equality to focus on what's really hurting our country (and what he could do to fix it). It's sad, as Derrick puts it, that our civic and religious leaders couldn't be like South Africa's.

While all this nuttiness was going on here, the South African parliament this week voted 230-41 to legalize same-sex marriage. This vote came after South Africa's highest court ruled that existing marriage laws discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. The post-apartheid South African Constitution passed about a decade ago was noteworthy for being the first in the world to explicitly outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

South African Defense Minister Mosuia Lekota was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle. . . . This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us."

The tone of affirmation in South Africa had been set years before by the likes of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who lost a son to AIDS, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who has repeatedly criticized homophobia in the church. "This is crazy," the retired archbishop said eight years ago.

So, come on Mitt. Don't you have better things to do? Besides, gay marriage isn't quite working for Republicans like it used to. Just ask Senator George Allen. If anything, it only hurt Allen's chances on election day as several high-ranking campaign members from Virginia, Wisconsin and elsewhere have suggested. Heck, the amendment failed to pass in Arizona!

Come on Cardinal O'Malley. Let's work on issues we supposedly agree on. The church still believes in matters of social justice and poverty, right? The church still believes that unnecessary wars are wrong, right? While I may no longer consider myself a Catholic, that doesn't mean the Church and Ryan's Take doesn't share many of the same beliefs. There's a huge health care bill in the works; there's a prescription drug benefit with donut holes the elderly can fall through. Children are being left behind every day. Yet, the Catholic Church is busy writing letters to the editor on civil marriage - which has nothing to do with the Church.

Focus on issues that matter to hundreds of millions of people. Focus on issues that are actually killing people in America. Focus on issues that are killing tens of thousands in Iraq and destroying any chance of peace. Focus on issues that a broad coalition of people, including gays, will work together on to accomplish (only then will it be successful).

The national meeting of the Catholic Church in D.C. proclaimed that the Church wanted to be "welcoming" to gays. Currently, that's no possible - not when the Church is reaching beyond the Church/State line. However, if the Church ever really wants to welcome anyone, they should do it by focusing on what we all agree with - not what will force everyone to tear each other down. As Derrick Jackson would probably hope - be a little more Desmond Tutu and a little less Mitt Romney.


Joe said...

The Church does a lot more than just write letters about same-sex marriage. They're still the leaders of worldwide philanthropy, some of the schools that closed after the molestation suits are re-opening..heck, the church is doing good. It seems more like you want the Church to keep doing what its doing but forgoe (spelling?) any further opinion-expressing regarding same-sex marriage, which from your perspective is understandable. Don't make it sound like the Catholic Church is sittin around with it's thumb up it's ass and writing editorials, it's not.

And in regards to Mitt...
Huckabee '08!

Anonymous said...

The Church is responsible for its own PR.

If they don't want to be seen as being exclusively focused on gay marriage and abortion, that's on them.

Any newspaper would give O'malley a forum to write about anything he wants. He chose this.

If the Church is doing good things, they need to start talking about it. Talk about philanthropy. talk about the war. Do something. What the average person associates with O'Malley is arrogance, not liking gays too much, not liking women too much, and church closings.

If there's more to it, let's hear it from him.

Ryan Adams said...

Joe, I'm pretty astute when it comes to paying attention to the news. You really wouldn't have gotten the kind of critiques coming from my direction regarding Pope John Paul as you've seen with Benedict. It's not that they're all that far apart on the issues, it's what they were focusing on.

I think the Catholic church has become way too focused on hotbutton issues - at the expense of other core, traditional issues that few - if any - would be arguing about. Of course, I am biased and probably do see things through a certain lense. However, I'm also somewhat open minded.

I don't see O'Malley writing about poverty or organizing rallies on the health care legislation. I didn't see him outraged when the amendment to make healthcare a civil right in this state was shelved in the summer.

Maybe he was and I just didn't see it. If so, feel free to enlighten me. Point me to the rally. Show me the Boston Globe OP-ED. I'll admit I was wrong or look pretty stupid and closed minded if I don't.

However, I really think he - along with a lot of others - have fallen too hard for the social, hotbutton issues trap. It's not that they don't care about the other issues, it's just that the others seem to have taken a back seat, at least in PR land.

Joe said...

You're right, it is a trap. It's easier to gripe about gay marriage than to help cure poverty. Sad state of affairs...but they're still trying. And I know that the Church does more than that, because I participated in it when I lived in Whitman. I don't need an op-ed because I saw the nuns do bake sales to raise money for impovershed families, I went to all the CYO basketball games that gave kids something to do after school, I met the missionaries that went to Central America to build schools and educate. But the Globe sucks, they don't care about any of that, it's not good hotbutton issues, that sells newspapers. And you know what, I'm going to write to O'Malley to try and compel him to explain better the social causes the church is fighting for. All those missionaries, nuns, and local fighters for the impovershed should be praised for their hard work.

Ryan Adams said...

You're right - the missionaries, nuns, sisters and a lot of priests are working very hard on these issues, not to mention tens of thousands of lay folk. I used to do a lot of those things. When I was in my Church's religious ed, I was also a very involved member of the Youth Ministry - and we raised thousands of dollars that went to our sister church in Hiati, not to mention other causes. So there are still a LOT of people, maybe even most, doing the right thing.

Perhaps I could be unfair calling it a Catholic Church problem when it's largely the leadership - especially the local leadership - that's pissed me off. In the future, I'll try to make that distinction clear.

joe said...

Holy crap, once again Joe and Ryan came to a point of mutual agreement. When's Washington going to follow our lead?

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