Sacred Paths -When Liberals Enable Religious Addiction

Is there anyone who better understands the full measure of continuing discrimination against LGBT people ? from the family to the workplace ? and who writes about it with such passion as Dr. Robert Minor?
His earlier books, Scared Straight: Why It?s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It?s So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society, have helped readers understand the origins of prejudice, how all forms of oppression share a common root and how everyone, whatever his or her sexual identification, is demeaned by having to play a role in our society, rather than encouraged to discover the richness of one?s own being.
Through his books Minor furthers insights of the late international human liberation leader Charlie Kreiner, who was unable to publish much during his short lifetime but affected many of us in Kansas City during six or eight workshops when we brought him here or when we went to his workshops on the coasts.
In his new book, When Religion is an Addiction, Minor, professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas, tackles the religious right by questioning a typical strategy of the religious left to seek common ground. Minor quotes Robert Frost: ?A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.?
Minor says liberals eschew the sound-bite type of communication he associates with ?right-wingers,? and doubts that liberal attempts at nuance often succeed in such religious contests.
As an example, Minor opens Chapter 7 by citing a certain religious ?liberal? who writes ?a popular column for a mainstream daily newspaper.? That?s me, writing each Wednesday in _The Kansas City Star._ He says I was ?no . . .match? on a local public TV station against a ?right-wing minister of a suburban mega-church [who> had grabbed the [local and national"> spotlight by pushing a successful amendment to his state?s constitution to ban marriage equality for gay citizens.? That?s the Rev. Jerry Johnston with me on KCPT.
Minor says ?the columnist? had his facts straight, his arguments were cogent and his preparation included biblical material. The columnist ?was polite, reasoned and inoffensive to everyone. And, as a progressive friend of mine commented, the right-winger ate him alive,? Minor reports.
I?m not sure I have the objectivity to judge whether what Minor calls Johnston?s ?arrogant and condescending? authoritarian tone was more appealing to the viewers than the ?nice? tone of yours truly.
What I do know is that Minor rightly raises questions that trouble many of us. When you are called a fag, does it make sense to tolerate the person hurling that epithet hatefully or even threateningly? How can a tolerant person accept intolerance? How do we respond to those who want to use government to enforce their own religious views on everyone else? Or perhaps more important, how do we not respond to the right-wingers and instead focus our attention on those who are actually open to hearing about marriage equality or whatever our issues might be?
Minor intensifies his criticism of liberals by calling them ?enablers? of those addicted to the high that comes from thinking one is absolutely right in matters of faith.
He draws a parallel to family and friends of alcoholics who cover up or excuse the problem, enabling the alcoholic to deny the addiction. A liberal who declines to point out religious addiction because of respect for all religious perspectives is an ?enabler.?
Many serious studies support Minor?s analysis that religion can be addictive and destructive not only to the fanatic but also to those who fail to challenge toxic faith.
As for that columnist, well, would it be too liberal for him to write that while he respects Minor?s viewpoint, the columnist wonders if it is possible to build upon a sense of the sacred even with right-wingers?
Part of me says no, part says yes.
On one hand, you often cannot reason with an addict or sustain a relationship of mutuality. Rather than feeding the addict with attention, your energy can be more constructive elsewhere.
On the other hand, the goal is not just to win an argument but to win a friend and move civilization forward. Otherwise we become addicted ourselves.
Minor?s book prepares us to make the right interventions.

The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn., does consulting, teaching and writing for religious and educational organizations here. His Kansas City Star column appears
each Wednesday.

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