Dr. Darrel Ray writes a guest post for JT in which he discusses how religious leaders have used shame as a means of guiding the political process. Dr. Ray is much smarter than I am (it’s a low bar, in all fairness) and has written about this thesis extensively in a couple of his books, but this is a good quick overview of the idea.
Essentially, Dr. Ray suggests that by making sex and those things associated with it actions for which one should be ashamed, it later allows leaders to set a standard by which forgiveness might be given. The problem is that these are entirely arbitrary violations in the first place, so the system is a sham. For example, if I am your spiritual leader and tell you that His Saucy Mass frowns upon and condemns those who do not read my blog daily and introduce it to at least five people per week, after a while that becomes ingrained in you. However, there’s an escape clause: you can demonstrate your devotion by voting for the person I want you to, it only takes a few minutes, and you don’t have to feel guilty about not promoting my blog like you heathens damn well should be doing. This last bit is important because, as the adage goes, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” and living by arbitrary rules all the time is really, really hard.
Since most believers end up breaking the laws they have set down before them at least a few times, then all it takes is somebody to come in and offer you an opportunity to publicly repent all past sins, but do so in a private way that can be easily hidden, like voting for somebody or buying somebody’s book or eating hate chicken while misunderstanding what “free speech” means.
Here’s an excerpt:
The real crime, according to religionists, is not being ashamed of being homosexual, having an abortion, masturbating, practicing safe sex or premarital sex. These are a direct affront to those who believe these behaviors are shameful. Thus the religious rage against unashamed sexuality. The proof is in how Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Sen. David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, (and I predict, Dinesh S’Souza) have all come back. Once they show proper shame, they are allowed back into religious leadership roles. That is why liberals cannot be forgiven for just sexting (think Anthony Weiner), while a conservative religionist can engage in all kinds of sins, and still get forgiven by the community.
I find this particularly interesting because he mentions homosexuality in there as an aspect of sexual shame. You’d be surprised how often I hear “why are there no straight pride parades?” and “‘Pride’ isn’t something just queers feel”, and it makes me want to yell back that that’s because “pride” is the opposite of “shame,” and straight people have never been told they should feel ashamed of their heterosexuality. Just a thought on that.
Go read the whole thing.