Go tell it to the chickens

Update
Jennifer Morse emailed me and corrected some of the information in this post. We’ve been having a conversation over her TownHall challenge (more on that later). Here is an excerpt from her email, dated July 2, 2008 6:44 PM. The “article you mentioned” in her note refers to this post.

“I took a look at the article you mentioned. As it happens, my daughter was not an ART baby. We did not do any artificial reproductive technology. We went through all the diagnostic procedures, and corrected what could be corrected. We had completely given up on having any children when we applied for adoption. Ten days after we agreed to adopt our son, I went to the doctor with a head cold and found out I was pregnant. Our daughter was a completely natural miracle (if that makes any theological sense!)

For the record, I am completely opposed to ART, for a variety of reasons. But I am most concerned about the cases involving donor eggs or sperm. These procedures create genetic orphans. This practice would be almost unheard of without the state enforcing the separation between the donor and the child.

Anyhow, thanks again for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Morse”

I’m proud of my Jewish heritage and the effect it’s had on my world view. At a relatively young age (well before Bar Mitzvah), I was taught the kosher origins of my meat-centered diet. I learned that rabbis slaughter chickens with one slash to the throat and cows with two. In both cases, the animals are hung upside down before they are killed. They die (we are told) instantly and painlessly.

chickenWhen I was growing up, Friday night was “chicken night”. Mom and dad and the four kids would pile into the car and drive to grandma’s house where she would prepare chopped chicken liver, chicken soup, boiled chicken, and fixings. If we arrived early, we could watch grandma nibble on the the meaty palms of the chicken feet she boiled to make the stock of the rich gelatinous soup. There was no room for misunderstanding and no intent to hide the fate of the chicken on our plates. We knew what we were eating. It was chicken through and through.

Dr. J at the FRCI don’t know why, but when I read Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s email article titled “Gay marriage is not about gay people…It is about Marriage!” I started to laugh at how ridiculous it would be to claim that “Chopped liver is not about chicken, it’s about liver”, or better yet – “chopped liver is not about chicken, it’s about the appetizer the Weintraub family eats every Friday night before they eat chicken soup, boiled chicken, potatoes, peas, noodle kugel and pie”.

Jewish tradition is not so self-indulgent. It’s not all about us. There is a humble reverence for the blessings of the earth. That’s why we say:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohaynu melech ha’olam
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

So how can this silly good doctor insist that “gay marriage” is not about gay people? If not about gay people, who on earth is it about? Instead of honesty, we get empty phrases: “Strengthening our values“, “Protecting traditional marriage.” Those phrases are designed for the “culture war.” They’re for something, not against GLBT people.

Dr. Morse, or “Dr J” as she refers to herself, is a self-described “culture war coach”. Here’s the mission statement from her web site:

Timeless values are the core of prosperity for business, families and society. The Culture Wars are bad for business. The attacks on timeless values— including marriage, the two-parent family and religion—increase costs, undermine productivity and demoralize your work force. As your Coach for the Culture Wars, Dr. Morse is prepared to defend against these attacks. Using economics, statistics and history, Dr. Morse will help you take ground and avoid losses in the Culture Wars.

Dr J has a PhD in economics which she earned “during her twelve year lapse from the faith” until the “devastating experience of infertility brought her to her knees and back to the practice of the Catholic faith.” She is an “academic” who is now a “part-time Research Fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty”. ZMagazine’s Bill Berkowitz wrote about Acton in a 2004 article.

Here’s how Dr. J informs her readers that “Gay marriage is not about gay people:”

Marriage is the theme of my on-going informal series of talks with Southern California friends and neighbors who are concerned about the California Supreme Court’s imposition of same sex marriage. Don’t be drawn into a discussion about gay people. We need to talk about marriage: what marriage really is, and what it means for society.

Dr. J then talks about a California court case involving a lesbian couple (this isn’t about gay people, remember?) that sued a doctor who refused to perform an artificial insemination procedure.

Although the legislation covering the use of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) has nothing to do with “what marriage really is, and what it means for society”, Dr. J has found some dots to connect: “One of the ladies in our group goes to the very doctors who are being sued! So this issue really hits close to home.”

Is Dr. J really claiming that marriage is about the “right” to know what procedures your doctor is performing (or refusing to perform) on other patients?

I find Dr. J’s logic at times hard to follow – but she is an economics professor, not a legal scholar. Here’s more from her email. First, she says:

“Why not let the doctors have the freedom to practice their religion, unhindered by the government?

Then she says:

The doctors actually could have a solid, non-religious reason for their reluctance to artificially inseminate an unmarried woman: the doctors might believe that children need a father, and are entitled to have a relationship with their father. We should not criminalize that belief.

Get it? The “freedom to practice their religion” is not about religion. There are “solid, non-religious reasons” for imposing religious beliefs on others.

The Dr.’s redefinition of what *is* and what *is not* does not come easily. It takes years of training by so-called “worldview” outreach ministries. “Worldview” is the code name for the belief that every story in the bible is factually, historically and literally true and that the Christian-right evangelical leaders like Dr. James Dobson are the only people who can decode that truth. “Worldview” is a reinvention of the Jewish tradition of Midrash that substitutes submission to authority to thinking and discernment, and of course, “worldview” is obsessed with LGBT issues.

BreakPoint, the “worldview” arm of Chuck Colson’s Loudoun headquartered (and tax-exempt) Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM) tipped us off to Dr. J in a post about John McCain’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show. The post references Dr. J’s Mercator.net article titled “Beyond same sex marriage” where she claims that:

The freight train of same sex marriage will not stop at the station called simple “equality.” The legal equivalence of same sex couples with opposite sex couples means that marriage will no longer be society’s most reliable method of attaching mothers and fathers to their children and to each other. Marriage will become a gender-neutral creation of the state, which actively detaches children from at least one of their parents. Parentage will not flow automatically from the marital union, but will have to be assigned by the state. The final stop on this train is the complete de-gendering of society, along with the continual incursion of the state into civil society.

Interesting conclusion from a person who had a “devastating experience with infertility”. According to Dr. J’s bio:

“In 1991, she and her husband adopted a two year old Romanian boy, and gave birth to a baby girl.”

The wording of her bio implies that Dr. J’s baby girl was the product of ART and therefore did not “flow automatically from the marital union.” If that speculation is correct, then both of Dr. J’s children were “detached from their biological parents” and “assigned” to Dr. J and her husband “by the state”. Is it possible that Dr. J. feels guilty about this and needs to justify her behavior? What better way than to differentiate her family from GLBT families who do exactly the same thing, but don’t model “worldview” teachings about “God’s design” of the family – hence the odd remark about “de-gendering” society. Dr. J is justified by her heterosexuality and her gender expression; otherwise, her family is no different from an infertile GLBT family. She has denied her own children their “right” to know their biological mother and father and attached them to herself through state intervention. The “freight train” she describes is her very own life. Dr. Morse is attempting to institute special rights for infertile heterosexuals where the outward appearance of biological reproductive capacity is the parentage test, not anything so logical as the ability to raise children responsibly.

This is where politics comes into the picture. Systematic irrational bias doesn’t make good public policy, and it wouldn’t become public policy without the intervention of the following tripartite travesty, comprised of:

  1. Academics like Dr. J and so-called “family scholars” at the Institute for American Values – all mysteriously funded by the same list of charitable foundations: Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation;
  2. “Worldview” ministries like PFM who direct their believers to indulge only in the writings of the approved “academics”; and
  3. Activist judges and politicians who implement “worldview” public policy through the judicial and legislative systems.

The tripartite creates its own fragile reality which is so blindingly narrow that the truly converted have lost the capacity for compassion and empathy for GLBT people. If they acknowledge that we have families, and that we are good and decent people, the justification for their own behavior is destroyed. The theological implication for “worldview” true-believers seems to be that if GLBT families are not differentiated from their own with the fabricated constructs of “sexual immorality” and “genderlessness” then Jesus died for nothing and they are destined to die in their sin, never to receive God’s grace and eternal salvation. It must be terrifying for them.

Part three of the tripartite is also quite active in Loudoun. Just before the June 10, 2008 Congressional primary election, I received a campaign mailer from my very own Congressman, Frank Wolf (click on the image for a larger view). The final issue in his platform is:

“Strengthening Our Values”
Congressman Frank Wolf knows the strength of our nation is rooted in the strength of our families. His dedication to our values is shown in his support for traditional marriage and pro-family legislation.”

You can see what this means legislatively in Wolf’s stridently anti-gay voting record, which is proudly displayed on his Family Research Council scorecard. Are we really to believe that this program of “Strengthening Our [sic] Values” and “pro-family [sic] legislation” that opposes basic protections like employment non-discrimination and hate crimes data collection is not about gay people? In one sense, they are correct; it’s not about us, but about the tripartite’s tireless efforts to put our families in harm’s way as much as possible, and to manufacture a new “right:” To boastfully promulgate and legislate antiquated anti-gay bias.

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