Monthly Archives: December 2017

Your God or My God?

The Supreme Court is hearing the case of the Colorado bakery artist who refused to create one of his masterpiece wedding cakes for a gay couple because doing so would violate his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. His refusal was a slap in the face to the gay couple; their love was unworthy. Here’s the problem: does the baker’s religion also condone demeaning other people? Or is this a question we forget to ask when sticking up for our religious beliefs?

The baker argues that the Constitution guarantees the right to freely exercise his religion. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” He exercised his belief. Were the gay couple able to exercise their belief that their marriage was valid?

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are major monotheistic religions. We all have one God, but we evidently don’t share the same rules about how God wants us to behave. So when we stick up for our religious beliefs, we’re like children on a playground taunting, “My God is righter than your God.” I picture God, the Father, looking down and shaking his head in dismay, “Oh dear, the children are fighting again.”

We sing hymns: “With God on our side.” But do we really want God to takes sides? Religious beliefs pit Shiite against Sunni, Evangelical against Episcopalian, but it’s hard to picture God cheering, “Go Sunnis! Get those Shiites!” Or “Homosexuality’s here to stay, Evangelicals go away!” If, as we say we believe, God created heaven and earth and all its creatures, would He take sides among His own children?

The problem with justifying a position based on religion is similar to that of the Supreme Court when deciding how to interpret the Constitution. Some Justices look to the Founding Fathers for their interpretation; other Justices take into account today’s reality. Who is more right? Thankfully, the Constitution is a paper document. God, however, is supposed to be God.

Perhaps instead of concentrating on what religions tell us not to do, we should rely on what they tell us to do. Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The same words appear in Judaism, Leviticus 19:18, and are sometimes called the central commandment of the Torah. I’m no expert on Islam, but I’ve read a quotation from the Prophet Muhammad, “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

I have to give the bakery artist credit for fairness because he stopped making signature wedding cakes, even though he lost money. But what if, instead, he had whispered to God, “I’m sure You don’t approve of this marriage, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings and, after all, it’s up to You to deal with homosexuality,” and then had smiled at the gay couple and asked what decorations they wanted on their cake?

Righteousnesssticking up for one’s beliefsfeels good, but it doesn’t lead to peace. And with conflicts raging almost everywherefor power, property, and profitI want peace. “Peace” is stenciled on my Christmas cards and extolled in the carols I’ve sung since childhood. So for this Christmas season, I’ll stick to the Golden Rule and try to respect rather than demean other people.


I’ve blogged only once since Trump became presidenta blog about white supremacy. Helplessness and fear do not inspire blogging, yet may I share my despair?

Recently I went to a rally in support of DACA. Before the rally even got underway, we were told that the previous night ICE had taken away four Princetonians. I imagine men in black bullet-proof vests, ICE stenciled on the back, pulling up to a house in the Witherspoon/Jackson neighborhood. The house is dark and peaceful, its occupants sleeping. Suddenly the door bursts open and four people are dragged outto detention camps, to deportation. ICE is not the nice Princeton cops who obey Princeton Council’s resolution to protect immigrants and who trust me with the key to the Suzanne Patterson Building, no questions asked nor ID needed. ICE is strangers who invade my town against my wishes.

Can I help? I march and chant with 200 others. I choke up when a Dreamer takes the mic and asks “Couldn’t you have given up part of your Thanksgiving for me?” She’d been on a four-day hunger strike before Thanksgiving to call attention to her imminent deportation. She’d sat, hungry, outside a Congressman’s office and been ignored. She and others had tried to interrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade to state their case. They were removed. Now she’s crying. She knows no country other than the United States. In coming here her father had wished only to give his children opportunity. Is that a crime? Time is running out and she is desperate. With the others I cheer my support. But what clout do I have with the five New Jersey Republican Congressmen who don’t support a clean Dream Act?

Thanksgivingand the Girl Scouts publishes an essay arguing that little girls should not be forced to hug relatives they may see over the holidays. I’m shocked at this attack on family. My granddaughter not hug her grandpa, my husband? And then I remember hearing from friends about sexual abuseabuse committed by inebriated fathers or by that dear old friend of the family whom they’re told to call “Uncle Jimmy.” My skin crawls. How can men do this to little girls? The Girl Scouts are right. But what do we do about those fathers?

During Thanksgiving grace, I give silent thanks that North Korea has not yet fired a nuclear warhead at the United States. If it hit Seattle, I’d lose my daughter and granddaughters. If it hit Manhattan, my son would be vaporized, never saying good-bye to his children. No matter. They and I would have little time to mourn him as radiation drifts across New Jersey. Is it worth treating my melanoma when Kim Jong Un may rain cancer down on all of us?

And then there’s the tax reform bill. Medicare and Medicaid slashed. Deductions for property tax, income tax, and student loans gone. “Personhood” inserted as part of the attack on abortion. Little tax relief for those earning under $70,000which is everyone earning minimum wageand a huge tax break for the 1%. Any attempt at fairness is obliterated.

And so I write the nine Republican senators who haven’t yet agreed to support the bill and beg them, in individualized emails, to vote against it. Beyond signing thirty online petitions per day, it’s all I can think to do. Then on NPR I hear that Senator McCain, the one I counted on, the one who saved Obamacare, has thrown his support behind the bill. And before I can post this blog, the Senate has approved the bill.

The world as I knew it, the world as I wanted it, is being destroyed and I feel helpless to prevent it. Are words enough?