Interfaith discussion raises controversial issues

The Center for the Study of Religious Freedom recently hosted a discussion on religious law vs. secular law.  The panel could best be characterized as an interfaith dialogue, in consideration of political uprisings and, more accurately, common misconceptions in regards to tenets of Abrahamic faiths. This interdisciplinary approach to understanding certain hot button issues pertaining to the discussion panel was the strength of said event.

This panel included Father Curran, a Catholic priest; Ms. Stanley, who was raised Catholic; Ms. Tsai, a convert to Islam; and Dr. Abdul, a Muslim. The general question presented to the panelists was, “Is practicing faith compatible with the U.S. Constitution?”

According to Curran, the secular law  is the bare minimum, or standard, to be followed by the people. Curran upheld that such a standard falls short of the purpose of the divine. The purpose of the divine, conveniently enough, was to meet the standard of Roman, or Roman Catholic law, which is representative of a greater ideal to strive for

Rhetoric of an indirect nature was then pointed toward issues relating to birth control and the ordination of women within the church. Curran made the suggestion that the allowing of birth control to be widely distributed was on par with this lower standard or ideal, as opposed to God’s will. This proves problematic for a couple of reasons. Without a doubt, birth control seems to be practical on many fronts. People are bound to have unprotected sex regardless; one could argue it is even biblical, such as in the story of Judah and Tamar.

Therefore, it makes no sense to condemn such sensible action to prevent unwarranted pregnancies. Should this, after all, really be the concern of a church plagued with scandal of sexual abuse of minors? Or a church that veils misogyny in the form of heavenly sacrament? Further pertaining to the ordination of women as leaders of the church, is such a stance at the very least unbiblical, if not outright nonsensical?

In the non-interpolated letters of Paul, it is noted that women host worship gatherings of followers and hold leadership positions just as prominent as male disciples. In fact, women such as Mary Magdalene, whom the Catholic church has unfairly equated with the repentant prostitute in the Synoptic gospels, helped to fund the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the Gospel of Luke. It is no secret that the church, nearly a century after the crucifixion of Jesus, became a church of patriarchy and adopted misogynistic undertones in its anointment of deacons and suppression of non-canonical gospels that highlight the prominence of female disciples. Such biblical writings also highlighted the androgynous nature of the spirit of the Christ.

Furthermore, the explanation for the male-only ordination of the church was a straw man argument and full of fallacy, the argument being that the sacraments are symbolic of Christ, who was a male. Such rationale is dangerous in its literalism, and is what has led to such misogyny and interdenominational conflict for millennia.  

Nevertheless, let us give credit where credit is due. While articulate in his rationale, and explicit in his acceptance of the church’s need to further evolve, the lumping in of such practices with the “lower” standard felt a bit excessive and in poor taste.

Nathan Amanuel