Oh those devilish details... once again they’ve given us Virginians a chance to shine in the international spotlight.
“Legalized rape,” Liz Winstead shrieked in The Guardian, referring to the Virginia General Assembly’s now notoriously defunct SB 484.
Who knew that when Virginia’s social (i.e. Christian) conservative legislators were mandating a woman’s “right” to “informed consent” before having an abortion, they were mandating vaginal probes?
The conservative legislators apparently didn’t.
The result of these folks’ (which includes our governor) silly inattention to detail has made Virginia a laughingstock. The Washington Post’s Anita Kumar described the embarrassment caused by SB 484 in a recent article:
The ultrasound legislation, for instance, drew the ire and ridicule of left-leaning cable shows and late-night comedians after it became clear that the bill would require women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe. McDonnell first backed the bill but later said he hadn’t known all the details.
The italics are mine. Because that sentence goes to the heart of what bothers me about conservative Christians’ proclivity for mixing their faith with their politics. They appear to think that religion gives them license to legislate in ignorance; that everything they personally oppose on religious grounds (abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, the right to die) really is bad; that if they oppose it, God opposes it, and to hell (so to speak) with everyone who thinks differently. To hell, even, with reality.
I say different strokes for different folks is fine until people get themselves elected to office. Then their right to remain ignorant goes out the window; replaced by my right to trust that anyone in elected office will at least make a good faith effort to understand what is really going on.
The problem exemplified by the SB 484 debacle is that a lot of conservative Christians in the Virginia General Assembly don’t get this. They are legislating personal beliefs without bothering to check facts. This is how we got SB 484.
Good governance, on the other hand --which is the true business of Virginia’s governor and General Assembly - requires informed examination of complex issues. Don’t be a politician if you don’t want to assume responsibility for understanding what you are doing. Be a preacher if you want the buck to stop with the answers and explanations provided by religion.
It’s obvious in hindsight that when conservative Christian legislators showered SB 484 with their support, they did so based on incomplete, cherry-picked information. They had come up with a way to obstruct a woman’s legal right to choose and so felt no obligation to understand fully what they were legislating. They knew what was right according to their religion, and, by God, the rest of us should be forced to get in line.
Such ill-informed shenanigans may strike the rest of America and the world as very funny, but they strike me as perfect examples of how dangerous it is when fundamentalist religion gets mixed up with politics.
If God is, God is in the real world; a place where prickly, unpleasant, confusing issues have to be dealt with straightforwardly.
If our governor and General Assembly members truly want to serve anything other than their own comfort -- indeed, if they truly wish to serve God -- they should educate themselves fully before they legislate.
Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.