Friday, February 11, 2011

The Irish could teach us a thing or two

Listening to the Legislature’s debate on social issues, I am reminded of my Irish heritage. Long ago, when the English attempted to “convert” Irish Catholics, they first sent in the priests. But the priests didn’t speak the language of the Irish. Though the Irish spoke Gaelic, they nonetheless loved God. They simply couldn’t understand the words spoken by the Protestants. The priests were not able to make their case.
When preaching and proselytizing failed, the English resorted to politics. The politicians sought favor by promoting the passage of laws imposing the religious views of those they perceived as the majority on all of the people.
Under penalty of law, the Irish were given a choice to either accept the views of the religious majority or face the consequences. Laws were enacted making it unlawful to do otherwise. If you withstood, your rights were taken, your views derided, your life devalued. You’d either believe what the religionists believed or lose your legal rights to own property, hold public office or to have the relationships sustained by your views of God.
And, when that didn’t work, the English sent Cromwell and his armies.
Wyoming is witnessing a 21st century effort of some to impose their beliefs on others. Their “priests” have failed to persuade us of the substance of their argument. We haven’t agreed that government should make decisions belonging in the confidences we have with God. They have construed scripture to inflict a narrow view of God on the rest of us. But those who would use scripture to divide God’s people have failed to speak the same language as their parishioners. Tolstoy said these people have elevated the myths of the Old Testament and Paul’s letters to the same sacred level as the words and teachings of Jesus in order to support their prejudices. Even so, they have not succeeded in making a theological case for treating some of God’s children differently than others.
And so they too have resorted to the politicians. When the “priests” failed, they hired lobbyists and formed political action committees. Like the old English, they want the politicians to enact laws imposing religious doctrine found unpersuasive when delivered from the pulpit.
Politics being what it is, they may succeed temporarily. Theology being what it is their successes will be short-lived. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once observed the arc of history is bent inevitably toward justice. That seems to be true…not because of politics, but because the love of God inevitably determines history.
Rev. Rodger McDaniel is the pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church at 2390 Pattison Avenue in Cheyenne.

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