For a while I loved reading anthropological fiction based on information gleaned from artefacts, but peopled with made-up characters – an entire fleshed-out primitive culture based only on tools, pottery shards, bones, cave drawings and other evidence uncovered at sites where ancient people once lived. Jean Auel was one of my favorite authors in this genre. She wrote Clan of the Cave Bear and all the sequels that followed. Kathleen O’Neal Gear was another favorite writing about early “tribes” of people on the American continent.
The caves where early man lived, and the long houses, offered little privacy, although there was also comfort in proximity. Family groups, separated by their fires had no walls between one family and the next. One author suggested that there was a kind of unwritten rule to “mind your own campfire.” I am sure that this rule was sometimes ignored and that even the earliest people liked to “gossip”, but there were social repercussions for serious disregard of familial privacy. We will come back to this.
On another thread, our government is designed the way it is because our forefathers came from England and Western Europe where government leaders and church leaders engaged in a constant series of struggles to determine which group should have the most power. For many years the church was firmly in charge. But strong monarchs who felt they held their thrones by “divine right” did not worry so much about challenging the Pope. The impact of the see-saw squabbles between powerful forces hit the subjects/citizens hard.
In England alone, one day people were safe as Catholics, but the next monarch was a Protestant and hunted down Catholics. Eventually both of these religions were discarded and the Anglican Church was formed, leaving both devout Catholics and Protestants in jeopardy. Today England has made a successful marriage of church and state, but when the colonists came to America that was not the case either in England or on the continent and so our forefathers legislated the separation of church and state and also freedom of religion.
Except in Spain the Muslim religion was not an issue as America was being born but I still don’t believe that our forefathers would ever have said that only Christians should be free to worship as they please. It does seem clear to most of us that our forebears would not require the Federal government of the United States of America to follow the dictates of any particular religion.
Republicans, who hate that women are free to make their own choices about whether to end a pregnancy or carry a fetus to term, want to make us believe that our forefathers did not actually separate church and state, that they were all Christians, and that the freedom they wrote into our founding documents referred only to Christians. They want to deny the separation of church and state because their case against Roe v. Wade is argued on grounds of Christian morality which is at odds with such a separation. In other words, they want to impose a Fundamentalist interpretation of religion on all of us.
The Republicans also want to exclude all Muslims from immigrating to America because they see possible clashes between Christians and Muslims in America. Lately if seems as if the Crusades were simply put on hold and are now in danger of being resurrected. But the freedom of religion our forefathers laid down in our founding documents is not a qualified freedom; it applies to all. In addition to the rights of women we now have Americans who are unhappy that human rights have been extended to same-sex couples. Many Christians believe God would not like this – it is against the Bible – it is an abomination – it is Sodom and Gomorrah. These folks carry hate and anger in their hearts and fear of their God.
Apparently the Muslim religion finds same-sex relationships unnatural also and they are equally anathema; a sign of a decadent culture that is off the rails and therefore a target-rich situation for a militant “hero” who plans to be rewarded in “the next life”. I suppose some American Christians might be horrified if they could really see the connection they have on this issue with radical Muslims. Although the GOP inveighs against Sharia law, the moral judgments of the two groups are very similar.
So here we have this social group – gay people, LGBT+ or any other identifier – that is a focus of hatred for at least two groups of Fundamentalists that are committing vigilante acts in a country that believes that there is a firm separation between the secular and the religious. They are operating outside the laws of the nation but they believe they are operating within a higher law, the law of their God. (Christians Pro Life groups have murdered abortion providers and have vilified same-sex relationships and radical Muslims might kill almost any Christian but also use same-sex relationships to focus their religious rage.)
I guess we are at a moment when it will be decided whether our societies will be ruled by God or by man. Either way we are still dealing with man’s interpretations of religious laws written tens of centuries ago and documents written several centuries ago. Except that today we have a global population of trillions and complex cultures that have resulted from organizing so many humans, so trying to literally follow laws made for sparsely populated somewhat nomadic desert cultures presents many anomalies, not least of which is who gets to decide what is the appropriate literal interpretation of those ancient laws.
How will we resolve this dilemma – this war of ideals between citizens who believe in the separation of church and state and the human rights of all, and citizens who feel that government is treading on the turf of religion? Granting human rights to folks whose sexual orientation is often genetically coded into their DNA seems appropriate. In fact, in a culture that celebrates freedom, insuring the human rights of all who are not criminals should be desirable. However, for some, granting human rights to some folks turns those who have a religious objection not only into losers but into sinners.
So this whole train of thought brings us back to our very earliest forbears and their unwritten rule to “mind their own campfire.” It is certainly overly simplistic but if people only made it their mantra we might take scary hot- button trends that are escalating and calm them down, defuse them, so that our new refrain could be more “live and let live” and less of a personal/sacred affront that must be avenged to insure an afterlife in whatever heaven one subscribes to. These days we say “mind your own business” and it would be great if people practiced this whenever possible, meaning whenever life or safety are not an issue.
Because our Congress refuses to act, this the best idea I have after the terrible events in Orlando this weekend and it isn’t much against bullets, hate, and fear. But the larger implications of Orlando and beyond tell us that until it is decided just how much religion we want in our government and how many guns it will take to satisfy the Second Amendment it may be best to stay as simple as possible.