Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Watching My Language... Though Not in That Way

I try to do my best to help raise consciousness with the words that I choose to use when I speak or write, whether it's substituting "humanity" for "mankind" or "child of Christian parents" for "Christian child". Recently, I was emailed by a Jewish individual who politely pointed out an interesting presumption behind the word "Judeo-Christian". Christianity may claim to share some things in common with Judaism, but the difference between the Christian god and the Hebrew god is the difference between polytheism and monotheism. Even in other areas where Judeo-Christian is often used, such as 'Judeo-Christian values', Christians seem to actually reject the Judeo portion.

For example, the ten commandments are argued by many evangelical Christians to be the Judeo-Christian foundation of our American legal system. But how many of these same believers will observe the Sabbath? The ten commandments are treated like a historical relic, and Christians will freely admit they are no longer under the old law, because of Jesus' sacrifice. Thus, the "Judeo" prefix seems more like an attempt to either be politically correct after centuries of Christian oppression of Jews or it's intended to give the illusion of something being generic, as opposed to strictly Christian.

In the case of the latter, it is especially relevant that "Judeo-Christian" has been almost exclusively invoked in the United States. Perhaps the reason for this may be the separation of church and state in our country. Many on the Religious Right seem to think that if something can be generally applied to all religions, it somehow does not violate the Establishment Clause. Hence, "Judeo-Christian" might be used to mask the truth of some issue being sectarian, or strictly Christian.

Of course, not all usages of "Judeo-Christian" are problematic. Referring to the emergence of Christianity, it may be well suited to consider some things as "Judeo-Christian" in the sense that they actually do have elements common to both religions. Early Christians who abstained from certain foods and still observed the Hebrew law can rightfully be called "Judeo-Christian", I think, as they were partially Jewish in their views. You'd be hard-pressed to find such types among Christians today, though.

While there are some appropriate uses for the term, I believe "Judeo-Christian" should be used more carefully. This probably isn't an issue for most people, but as a former Christian and ex-apologist, the word has lingered in my vocabulary. It does seem harmless too, which is all the more reason to bring these things to consideration.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Huckabee: Natalie Portman 'Glorifies' Unwed Pregnancy

Mike Huckabee has been an interesting person for me to watch since he announced his candidacy for the 2008 election. Unlike Romney, McCain, or most Republican politicians, he seems relatable, like someone you could go out and have a beer with. I'm also not alone in thinking this, as polls taken among conservatives show that Huckabee is overwhelmingly liked as a possible choice for the 2012 election. I've even heard some liberals say that he seems more 'level-headed' than most other Republicans. But remembering Huck's speech about amending the Constitution to fit with the bible [1], I know that he's just as far right and crazy as most other GOP candidates.

And now he's showing that side of himself again, by criticizing Natalie Portman for 'glamorizing' unwed pregnancy [2]. Huckabee told Michael Medved, a conservative radio host...

"She got up, she was very visibly pregnant, and it's really it's a problem because she's about seven months pregnant, it's her first pregnancy, and she and the baby's father aren't married, and before two billion people, Natalie Portman says, 'Oh I want to thank my love and he's given me the most wonderful gift.' He didn't give her the most wonderful gift, which would be a wedding ring! And it just seems to me that sending that kind of message is problematic."

Portman is engaged to Benjamin Millepied, a choreographer she met while filming The Black Swan. The two have been engaged since at least December of last year, when the announcement was made to the press. Typically an engagement ring is a big part of a couple getting engaged, so Huckabee may be dead wrong about Millepied not giving Portman the 'most wonderful gift.' However, I'd still have to take issue with his statements, even if Portman and her beau were not already engaged.

What would be the benefit of having a child in wedlock as opposed to having one out of wedlock? Child support may become an issue for some unwed parents later down the road, if they part ways, but even married couples may divorce and have to face child support. Huckabee brings up the expenses involved in having a child and notes that, "Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care." And marriage, which isn't exactly cheap, will resolve this how?

It cracks me up that these 'small government' types - even though they may not advocate government intervention in areas like this - still so often act like they know what is best for you better than you do. If a loving and financially stable couple wants to have a child without getting married, what's the harm, and who is Mike Huckabee to tell them it's wrong? He has no business telling a celebrity couple to set an example for poor single mothers. Perhaps he'd like it if they undid their evil unwed pregnancy by having an abortion? Maybe not.

If Huckabee is truly concerned about the financial burden of children on unmarried parents, the solution is simple: let's educate more men and women about the costs of pregnancy and childcare. Telling them to get married before having kids won't do a damn thing, nor will telling rich couples to be better role models. But Huck's focus is not on the financial burden of single parents, because, if it were, he wouldn't care about the parents who are stable enough to make it work. His focus is on the sinfulness of sex outside of wedlock.

Portman did not glorify or glamorize unmarried pregnancy, she is only happy to be a mother, which seems like it should be something that the 'family values' crowd would appreciate. The 'most wonderful gift' to her was not a baby outside of marriage, it was just a baby, and the odds are good that she would've said the exact same thing if she'd already been married for years. Huckabee can't be happy for Portman because what he sees is a sin: a child born outside the 'sanctity' of marriage.

Huckabee is a very skilled rhetorician. He knows just what to say and how to say it to make himself come across like a good and sensible guy, but his underlying beliefs are much more fundamentalist than he's letting on. I've watched interviews with Huck on Bill Maher and the Colbert Report, and it's been fascinating to me to observe how centrist he acts on liberal shows, while his appearances on conservative shows, like this one with Michael Medved, usually seem to produce a quite different and controversial side of him that is a lot more far right leaning.