“I love the Bible,” Barry C. Black has said. As a private individual, he has a right to that opinion.
This last week, however, Black took that personal opinion, and made it official U.S. federal government religious doctrine.
Barry C. Black is the congressionally-endorsed, officially established high priest of the U.S. Senate. In flagrant violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which begins with the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, Congress has established the position of Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, a position which has been exclusively held for Christians.
This last week, Barry C. Black used that position to deliver a sermonizing prayer that opened with this declaration: “Eternal Spirit, Your ways are right.”
Always right? Was the “eternal spirit” of Barry C. Black’s religion right when the instruction, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” was written into Barry C. Black’s holy book? That instruction is contained in the first book of Timothy in the Christian Bible.
Will Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black acknowledge the wrongness of prohibiting women from holding positions of professional authority over male employees, and admit that, sometimes, the spirit of Christianity is very, very wrong? Or, will he continue to use his governmentally-established religious power to promote the political agenda of those who push for a reactionary, Bible-based subjugation of women?
I know that to many Americans it sounds like a banal, unoffensive thing for a preacher to declare that the spirit of the Christian religion is “always right”. That’s the attitude taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up in declaring that government-established “civic religion” centered around Christian religious rituals does not violate the First Amendment’s promise to prevent the establishment of religion through government.
Such an assessment can only hold for those who have never matured beyond the religious practice of a small child who recites the prayer “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food” without ever even bothering to ask exactly who this God character is.
Behind the superficially bland goodness of Civic Religion’s God is the God of the Christian Bible, very specific document that has very specific teachings, many of which are not good at all, by the standards of a progressive democratic society.
The teachings of Barry C. Black’s “eternal spirit” include:
- Religious intolerance
- Submission to totalitarian governments
- Subjugation of women
- Violence against children
There is a long history of brutality at the hands of governments in the name of the “eternal spirit” of Civic Religion. Barry C. Black and the Supreme Court expect us to pretend that these atrocities of blended church and state never took place. To accept that the ways of the Christian “eternal spirit” of Civic Religion are “always right”, however, requires willful ignorance and the religious illiteracy.
It is a theocratic doctrine with sinister consequences that has no legitimate place on the floor of the United States Senate.
Here's the full passage from the first Book of Timothy, chapter 2, the self-proclaimed "Standard American Version":
Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection.
But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve;
and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression:
but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.
The “eternal spirit” of Barry C. Black has even been taken to instruct women that they committing an unacceptable sin when they braid their hair.
Does Barry C. Black really think that such restrictions are “always right”?