It’s the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It is the ultimate of high morality in our culture. There are other morals, but this one embodies our most cherished value, we should treat people as we would like to be treated. It is taught to us from our childhood, from our parents and from school. But if you are a Christian, then more than any other place, it is taught in the church. Found in Matthew, chapter 7 verse 12, the Beatitudes, it comes from what has been credited by theologians as the very words of Christ.
Of course, nobody is perfect and sometimes we hurt others. Consequently, some of life’s hardest lessons are reminders that we have strayed from this ideal. But there are some among us who believe themselves to be a part of an elite group that spend a great deal of their time “helping” to enforce it. These people see themselves as guardians of our culture, and constantly remind us that we should live by a “higher standard”. They are vocal, political, and committed. They are known collectively as the Religious Right and commonly function under a variety of organizations such as The Christian Coalition, Operation Rescue, The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Southern Baptist Convention, and scores of others. Though they function as separate entities, they are loosely united in their role as cultural overseers, bound by the common goal of imposing Christian morality on our society.
Now, as evidenced by the endless stream of bad press regarding the church, pastors and other misbehaving Christians that we are barraged with every day, many of these people are not following the Golden Rule themselves. In fact, they are using tactics that are decidedly antithetical to it. Based on the belief that the Religious Right see themselves as defenders of the Golden Rule, as well as Christian morality on the whole, it is not inappropriate to make the following suggestions as to what action those of us who are categorized as skeptics should be taking.
The Religious Right have taken the position that verbal and sometimes physical confrontation is an acceptable method of enforcing morals. They picket abortion clinics, often getting physically in the way of women entering and leaving, and emotionally batter the women exercising their constitutional right to control their body and their reproductive systems. This does not even take into account those who believe God wants them to inflict bodily harm on these women, as well as on the workers inside the clinics. They reconcile this violence by claiming a little-discussed but widely held belief called “Justifiable Homicide”. This has all to often resulted in the destruction of abortion clinics and the murder of women and doctors in an attempt to defend their “morals”, in the name of a “moral” God. There are several other means that they use in their attempts to enforce their morality, such as it is, upon us, so I say we hold them to their belief in the Golden Rule by treating them as they have treated us. Here are some suggestions:
Picket Their Churches
Although we know that blowing up churches and killing preachers would be a horrific violation of our morals, it should be perfectly acceptable for us to picket and confront members of fundamentalist churches as they enter and leave their buildings. So, how about we go to their churches on Sunday morning and bring along big signs with horrible pictures of people who have committed suicide because of the torment caused them by the Religious Right. For good measure, you can pick out a nice family with kids in their Sunday best, and confront them with the damage their kids will suffer by being raised in such an intolerant institution. Wave your gruesome signs in front of little old ladies, and tell them how their donations are being used to cause such carnage to young women at abortion clinics, and to women who wish to get equal pay for equal work, and to young Gays seeking answers.
Disrupt Their Meetings
The Religious Right have been known to engage in or support public outbursts at gatherings of the “morally challenged” as a justifiable method of spreading the word. They have disrupted rallies that support equal rights for Homosexuals and have gotten into shouting matches at meetings of Liberal politicians. They have heckled leaders of Planned Parenthood when they give speeches. So, here’s an idea… In your Sunday best, go into their sanctuaries and wait for the service to begin. Plant yourselves in different places interspersed between the regular members. Then, in five or ten minute intervals, take turns standing up and yelling at the preacher and the congregation. Heckle them about their support of oppressive legislation. Shout out against their opposition to equal rights for women. Disrupt their services with arguments against their stance on homosexuality.
By spreading out and waiting between outbursts, you can avoid the possibility of all of you being escorted out of the building after the first disruption. The church leaders won’t be able to pick you out of the crowd until you are already standing and shouting. With enough people, you can effectively disrupt the entire hour-long meeting, making it impossible for the church’s members to ignore your protest.
Picket Their Schools
The Religious Right have been active in our education system for decades, but now they are hanging out en masse at public schools in order to picket against the teaching of evolution or to hand out anti-abortion pamphlets. They are preying on our children in a covert attempt to infuse certain values regardless of whether or not their parents approve, or to rally students against values being taught in their schools. They meet kids as they get off the bus, pushing flyers with pictures of aborted fetuses into their faces or handing out pamphlets on creationism and anti-gay materials. They march back and forth in front of the curb, where students are trying to enter the school, chanting against sex education and condoms. They rally at school board meetings, trying to force a curriculum that is more in line with their moral ideals.
Thus, I say we meet their students at their buses, or at the curb as parents drop them off, and give them flyers on safe sex, or better yet, hand out free condoms. March back and forth in front of the curb, so kids walking to school have to pass between you, and chant against their anti-gay or anti-abortion rights teachings. Be loud and forceful. Go to their board meetings (if you can, since a lot of them are private) and proclaim your desire that they promote a more diverse curriculum.
Boycott Their Companies
I am not real big fan of boycotting, but if this is your thing, then you already know that the Religious Right have taken to boycotting companies that promote a lifestyle that exists in opposition to their moral code. The Southern Baptists still have an active boycott of Walt Disney, its parks, its movies, and its products, because of it’s support of the LGBT community. Focus on the Family puts out a fact sheet naming companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples just as they do married couples, and ask members to boycott them. Some of those companies also host homosexual-oriented events, so they are particularly targeted. Other Religious Right organizations are now calling for their members to abide by these ongoing boycotts. Their goal is to apply pressure in order to defend morality by making it a financial hardship for those who don’t comply.
What we need to do is get a copy of the “Christian Yellow Pages.” Most large cities have one, and they can usually be found in the local Christian book store. In smaller towns you need only talk to the locals to discover which businesses are owned by members of the Religious Right. Find them, and print up a list of the best targets and hand it out on street corners, as well as send it to the local media. Picket in front of the targeted businesses if you must. The important thing is to let it be known that you are boycotting these businesses because they are owned by people who promote an agenda that discriminates against a person’s right to choose whom they love. Use your purchase power to make it a financial hardship to those who wish to control your love life.
Put Up Candidates In Small, Local Elections
I don’t need to expound on how the Religious get their agenda recognized by major political players. Back In 1988, Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network, ran for president and although he was defeated early, he managed to garner a lot of votes. Even before the Tea Party, the Religious Right had seeded the ranks of the Republican Party. With the advent of the Tea Party, the Religious Right has even more power to pull support from Republican candidates who don’t bend to their moral demands. As of yet, they have failed to gain a large enough foothold to change things on a big scale, but it won’t take much of a push for them to realize their goals.
They are doing this on a grassroots level by targeting small but important local elections and work to put their people in those positions. They have placed their supporters on school boards. They have placed their supporters on health boards. They have placed their supporters on city councils. They have done it by picking fights that won’t draw much attention to their ultimate goal and that generally have a low voter turn out. All they need do is convince their members, in the protected confines of their churches, to turn out in large enough numbers and their sheer presence will usually assure a victory.
The end effect has been the gradual filling of key city and county administrative positions by people with enough power to affect educational curriculum, health services and local laws. It is actually a brilliant, if subversive, strategy. We can learn a lesson on how we should be doing the same in order to protect our civil liberties. We should band together and put forth our own candidates for these positions. Churches have a ready-made avenue for doing this. We do not. It will be more difficult for us because we must first create an environment where we can work together as well as local churches already can. But we must do it, and we must then put forth candidates who can be voted into office without disclosing their objectives. And then we can assure them victory simply by voting en masse at these low-turnout elections.
Mislead Their Youth
This may raise a few neck hairs on some of my fellow Atheists, but consider the fact that the Religious Right have been doing this for years because it’s simple, subtle, and effective. They create a social or cultural event they know kids like and then force their message as a part of the event. A popular venue is the “Free Concert.” Kids love music, and, when this event is held in a poor community, a free concert is a luxury that is uncommon and welcomed. Usually, a local church that does not have the space available on their own campus will rent a local school auditorium and hire a Christian band. They will advertise on the local media and hand out flyers inviting young people to the concert. This brings in lots of unsuspecting teens. Then, either during or at the end of the show, the band will stop and the preaching will begin. Kids who would not normally go to a church suddenly find that the church has come to them. And parents who don’t want their kids to be proselytized are nowhere around to protect them. Some groups even block the exits to keep people from leaving during the sermon.
The preacher, sometimes a band member, then does what is called an “altar call.” This is where they ask these kids, now in the spotlight and under pressure from the other Christian kids, to come forward and choose a new lifestyle, one replete with the church’s morals and values. The pressure is enormous, and many kids who would otherwise reject such beliefs find themselves going forward to proclaim something they don’t fully understand. Without their parents to intervene, kids are pulled aside and told they will go to hell unless they are saved. Many kids, out of fear, comply.
Our response to this should be to hire a band from out-of-town that supports the LGBT community, preferably one with LGBT musicians, and set up a free concert. Bill it as a free Christian music event, and print up flyers to be passed around at all the local churches. Just as unsuspecting teens are attracted by a “free concert,” indoctrinated kids will be attracted to an event that appears genuinely Christian. Use the word “Christian” a lot. Also put in words like “Born Again” and “Family Values.” These are buzz words used by the Religious Right to test whether an event is truly to their liking. Create a name for your concert promotion entity that also serves this purpose. Use titles like, “Family Values Crusade” or “Born Again Entertainment.”
At the event, place a large number of “helpers” near the back of the auditorium to “encourage” kids not to get up and leave. Then, toward the end of the concert, stop the music and start preaching about the need for kids to practice good safe sex. Use examples of both Gay and Lesbian sexual encounters, and even have a Gay band member give a testimonial of how a condom saved his life. At the end of the speech, ask those kids not currently practicing safe sex to come forward and receive free condoms. Use persuasive language. Make them feel guilty if they don’t come forward.
Indeed, all of the aforementioned suggestions might seem over the top, but we must remember that in doing these things we are merely doing unto the Religious Right as they have done unto us. So break out the signs and look through the papers. There are churches everywhere waiting for us to show them we love them just as they have shown that they love us.