By Clementine Ford
According to the adage, one should never discuss religion or politics when in polite company. But this is print media, and that means we can take the liberty of discussing both. Both the machinations and implications of politics are inseparable from all of the world’s major religions, with Christianity being equally as culpable in the state-sanctioned oppression of citizens as its more vocally condemned sibling, Islam. A nation that strives for equality and self-determination for all its citizens cannot collude with the revered figures of organised religion – so how can we reconcile its influence in a society that should be striving to be both secular and progressive?
We may have moved past the days when it was frowned upon to discuss religion and politics, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them as a package deal.
The simple answer, as former United States president Jimmy Carter famously concluded in a stirring polemic, is that it can’t. In a 2009 op-ed, Carter wrote about his decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention after more than six decades. His exit was prompted after it became impossible for him to ignore the continued oppression and marginalisation of women in the church. A stalwart supporter of equal rights, Carter’s faith remained intact but he could no longer support a structure of intolerance that prioritised the leadership and moral superiority of men over that of women.
The first amendment to the United States constitution calls for a separation of church and state. It’s a nice theory but the essential liberty of it seems to be rarely enforced in a country whose invocation of the constitution is selective at best. A recent sketch by American stand-up comic Amy Schumer highlighted this hypocrisy while parodying an advertisement for birth-control medication. An increasingly frustrated Schumer is advised to ask her doctor about birth control – and then her employer, a man on the street, her stepfather, a small boy playing chess, and finally the Supreme Court. When she eventually files the script, she’s told that she’ll have to go through the same rigmarole each month. Meanwhile, a small boy asks the chemist for a gun. The chemist hands it to him with a grin, saying, “It’s your right!”
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