Ben Carson likes guns. And he likes people who like guns. And he likes people who like people who like guns. For those of us who don’t like guns, he has no patience. He had no sympathy with those killed last week at Umpqua Community College—if you’re not armed, he complained, it’s your own fault. And he has scant sympathy for Jews killed in the Holocaust. If only Jews had been armed, “the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished.” Makes sense. All the Jews needed to do to defeat Hitler was to organize a comparable military force; let’s say about 10 million men under arms, along with 670,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 1.3 million artillery pieces, and about 230,000 combat aircraft.
The presidential candidates were not asked last night about their favorite quote from the bible, yet the Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, came close to the spirit of biblical expressions of justice and compassion. The candidates brought up ideas and programs that promise a more democratic and inclusive society and a vision for the country that is similar to the compassionate America that Pope Francis offered in his address to Congress. While the stage did not display a rich multiethnic representation and there were differences among the candidates, the debate in its totality advanced the idea of a wide-ranging progressive future that was in sharp contrast to the misanthropic America of the Republican candidates.
Suddenly, just two days before Yom Kippur the man an avid jogger was taken to the hospital. There was the ambulance, the emergency room, the resident, and finally his doctor who arrived only to confirm that he had a panic attack. It sounded most humiliating because in his head he could still hear the ambulance siren and his own barely audible voice, “I am having a heart attack.” His doctor, a young man, young enough to be his son, asked what was going on in his life since physically he was in excellent shape; did he experience any stress, did something unexpected happen, was he worried. The man just nodded his head and said, “No.”
Pope Francis, the wonder pope, managed to destroy most of the scads of liberal goodwill he earned during his recent visit to the United States by sneaking in a visit with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who attracted much national attention through her adamant refusal to process the marriage forms for same-sex couples in her office, claiming that to do so would violate her “religious liberty.” On his trip back to the Vatican, the pope did not directly comment on the Davis case, but did say that “conscientious objection is a human right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”
It was important for me as a Jewish woman to locate common cause with Pope Francis on compassion. It is equally imperative for me as a person of faith to speak out when the pope supports people like Kim Davis who, in the name of religious sin, act to restrict human right and deny marriage licenses to citizens of the same sex. Kim Davis and those who support her insert their religious notions of sinning into the legal domain and defy the American separation of church and state.
Constructing “sinning” behavior must be distinguished from legal rules. Kim Davis’ notion of sin in its religious framing, in this case that marriage between persons of the same sex is a sin, goes against the law of land. She and her supporters conflate their right to hold notions of sin with their right to religious freedom. Let’s be clear about it, no one is forcing Davis to abandon her religious conception of sinful behavior, which she has every right to hold and observe. She cannot however, as a public official break the law of the land since as of June, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the same rights to marriage as heterosexual couples.