I hope no one minds an extra mid-day sermon — I still have something prepared for this evening that shouldn’t be bumped because it’s relevant to recent events, but even more recent events make this one relevant as well. At this rate it will quickly get to the point where I just can’t keep up and my copy of Photoshop will explode.
Leaders of the Christian Right act like they and their subcontractors in the Republican Party are the only line of defense between decent, God-fearing parents and the moral destruction of America’s youth. Every other week another self-proclaimed guardian of morality or childhood offers up a new infringement on civil rights with the excuse that it’s necessary to protect us, and especially our children, from homosexuality, pornography, sex, contraceptives, abortion, drugs, alcohol, internet predators, teen pregnancy, developing hairy palms, paper cuts, and so forth.
The right of habeas corpus is one of the oldest and most basic rights in the West. Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase meaning roughly “you must have the body” and means that those who have power over the physical persons of prisoners are required to bring them before an independent judge for the purpose of evaluating whether their detention is just. To put it simply, the right of habeas corpus is the right of each person to not be subject to arbitrary, unreviewable arrest, detention, or imprisonment. It is the right of each person to have an independent, impartial judge examine their case and determine whether the law allows for their continued detention or if the law requires that their freedom be restored to them.
It’s disturbing enough to ponder the extent to which the American government has authorized and defended certain practices, such as torture and secret prisons, which are characteristic of fascist, authoritarian, and totalitarian political systems. Even worse, though, is the extent to which self-proclaimed defenders of traditional Christian morality have been willing to either openly support or at least turn a blind eye to these practices. People who spend a lot of time crying out that America is a Christian Nation are spending little if any time proclaiming that torture and secret prisons are incompatible with Christian morality.
Christians commonly represent their religion as being one of peace, love, and kindness. At the same time, Christians don’t appear to be any less likely to engage in cruelty, brutality, or evil than anyone else. What gives? How can both of these be true? The answer lies in the fact that as a belief system, Christianity isn’t solely defined by the highest ideals which it might express. Christianity is also defined by the actions and attitudes, however low, of actual Christians. In effect, Christianity is what Christians do — for better and for worse.