Thursday, January 31, 2008

Last night me and Sarah V wrapped up the first season of "The Tudors", a very very (emphatically, very!) factual account of the lives and wives of King Henry VIII (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyer) and his court.

These bonding sessions allow us to both revisit our college days when we obsessed over a BBC series about King Hank, and allow us to learn about medieval life in general. Also, the actress who plays Anne Boleyn is so goddamn smug, and smirks so much that you can play drinking games to her smirks.

We learned a lot about history and stuff. From this remarkably informative program, we learned that:

--King Henry was hot when he was young, but not nearly as hot as that one dude in his court who totally looks like Chris Martin from Coldplay and had a homosexual affair with a young choir boy.

--Queen Catherine of Aragon, as portrayed in this show, does not curse "Oh Santa Maria!" nearly as much as she did when she was in that BBC series.

--Medieval lawyers had hipster hairdos and were very fashion forward. Also, hotter than King Henry.

--Consumption sucks. Especially when you can't find your husband to catch you as you fall over in a pool of your own blood vomit because he is busy banging a chambermaid.

--If you are royalty, not only do you have an audience when you do your banging, but you also have to have someone standing with a bucket while you masturbate.

--The plague is scary, but luckily you can ward it off with leeches or having lots of sex (i.e. "banging") to sweat it out.

--People did a lot of banging in medieval times. It was very "free love." Like the 60s, only with less drugs and more guillotines.

Anyways. We got to talking about "heresy" and Sarah V asked me if you can still get in trouble for it. I didn't think you could, but then I found this Wall St Journal article which claims that heresy is on the rise. (Look out--I hear the projected mutiny stats for 2007 will be just as surprising!)

In the article, a 71 year-old woman named Karolyn Caskey is cited on trespassing charges at a baptist church by her pastor. The real charge was more complicated than that though. Apparently she had questioned Pastor Burrick's authority when she firmly suggested that, as his congregation grew, he should hire a board of deacons to manage church affairs, as stated in the church's charter. He likened her suggestion to spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord." Caskey was a church member for 50 years, donated 10 percent of her pension to the church, and taught Sunday school. She was sent to the local jail.

Another case from earlier this month saw a pastor of a 6,ooo-member megachurch threatening to expel 74 congregants for "gossiping" unless they repented for suing the pastor for access to the church's financial records.

Over the last decade, more than 24 lawsuits have been brought against pastors by congregants on defamation charges. In 2003, a woman and her husband won suit against the Iowa Methodist conference and its superintendent after he publicly accused her of "spreading the spirit of Satan" by gossiping about him. Courts typically refuse to hear cases like this because churches are protected by the constitutional right to "free religious exercise."

I feel that the church has a bit too much constitutional protection under the law if it's that difficult to sue someone for publicly shaming and casting you out from, in many people's case, the only community you know. This inefficiency in legislating religion reminded me of a Robert Green Ingersoll quote I came across recently, which addresses the importance of a separation of church and state, but may just as well apply to the ways in which a pastor can feel "above the law":

Men who believe in the liberty of man, who are willing to die for the honor of their country, will be excluded from taking any part in the administration of its affairs. Such a provision would place the country under the feet of priests. To recognize a Deity in the organic law of our country would be the destruction of religious liberty. The God in the Constitution would have to be protected. There would be laws against blasphemy, laws against the publication of honest thoughts, laws against carrying books and papers in the mails in which this constitutional God should be attacked. Our land would be filled with theological spies, with religious eavesdroppers, and all the snakes and reptiles of the lowest natures, in this sunshine of religious authority, would uncoil and crawl.

It is proposed to acknowledge a God who is the lawful and rightful Governor of nations; the one who ordained the powers that be. If this God is really the Governor of nations, it is not necessary to acknowledge him in the Constitution. This would not add to his power. If he governs all nations now, he has always controlled the affairs of men.

Robert Green Ingersoll - “God in the Constitution”

Right on dude, right on.

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