The Pennsylvania state house recently passed a resolution, PA HR 535, declaring 2012 "the year of the Bible," and affirming the Christian bible as the "word of God." As an queer person of non-Christian faith, it is a concerning, if empty, gesture.
Particularly concerning to me is:
The history of our country clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the scriptures in the lives of individuals, families and societies...
Perhaps it is politically astute of the PA representatives to include "voluntarily" in their resolution, but it's hard to see how anyone who has read the Bible, particularly the so-called Old Testament (I say "so-called" because it is only referred thusly in Christianity, not in Judaism), would want to apply biblical family values to our modern life. Do they mean Abraham, who banished his concubine and child to die in the desert? Jacob, with his two wives, one partnered with him through her father's deceit? David with his myriad concubines?
There is a great deal of value to be found in the figures and myths cycles of Judeo-Christianity, but portrays of what we would call a healthy family life are vanishingly rare.
Rather, PA House Resolution 535, instituted as a "noncontroversial" bill, and passed unanimously without any debate, is a deliberate statement of exclusion directed at those who do not share the values and practices of the dominant faith in this country.
It is easy to say, "Why care about a non-binding resolution when there are serious issues facing our country?" However, that is precisely why it matters. Pennsylvania, and the United States themselves, to again quote PA HR 535, are facing "great challenges that will test it as it has never been tested before..."
This resolution is a perfect example of how many people see politics of exclusion rather than inclusion as the solution to the political and economic morass we find ourselves in. In the past few days alone, we have seen one presidential candidate disregard the history and contributions to equality and social justice of world faiths outside of Christianity and Judaism, while another used paganism as a club with which to attack the concept of same-sex marriage.
Rather than arguing passionately for all Americans to come together and solve the problems facing our nation, there are powerful voices in the national dialog putting forth the idea that returning to some nebulous, nostalgic and fundamentally imaginary, "purer" sociopolitical paradigm is the solution to this nation's ills. Beyond even that disturbing concept, we find the belief that there are specific elements within our social fabric, LGBT people, people of non-Christian faith, atheists, socialists, etc, who are responsible for the loss of the "shining city upon a hill" that many conservatives mourn for.
In that sense PA HR 535 is two political entities wrapped into one. On the one hand, it is an empty gesture. A waste of tax-payers' time and money that beautifully illustrates the "do-nothing" ethic that seems to pervade current politics. On the other hand, however, HR 535 is a message, saying to biblical followers, "This is your nation," while to everyone else saying, "This is what it means to be an American, anything else and you can never be more than a stranger in a strange land." Those are both important messages. Ones at their core are intended to serve a clear political aim: to encourage participation in the political process by the conservative base, while simultaneously discouraging it among those of use who don't fit within their model of who are Americans, or their constituent base for that matter.
Many of my religious and cultural cohorts already feel disenfranchised by the sociopolitical system that drives this country. I believe that if we are to hold on to the tenuous social beachhead that we have carved out, it is vital that we remember that this country belongs to us all (well technically to the Native Americans, but that's another essay), and the only way to keep a place in the fabric of American life is to remain involved and engaged, even when the government itself seems to be saying there's no point.