Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and Horse Racing

The Roman Catholic Bishops and their consistent stance against birth control reminds me of my years in Oklahoma, when I was a Presbyterian pastor in a smaller community just outside of Tulsa.

During horse racing season, there was many a trip to the race track in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and at the betting windows, many a known Southern Baptist, enjoying the day, cheering on the horses, lamenting their losses or celebrating their wins right along with the Presbyterians, the Roman Catholics and even some Methodists from the town.

Yet, the following Sunday, these known Southern Baptists would be in church, listening to a rousing sermon that might well include condemnations of gambling, drinking, dancing and other such forms of social deviance.

And the good folks would nod their heads, come forward and get saved again, and on the following weekend, make a trip to Hot Springs with their Presbyterian friends.

I was asked by the local Rotary Club, of which I was a member, to speak about "the state of religion" in our town, and while emphasizing the strength of religion and its positive influence on the community, I described this disconnect between pulpit and behavior - and noted that this might well be labeled hypocrisy.

Afterward, many thanked me for my observations, yet I'm sure some were discomfited by them.

What with millions of Roman Catholics practicing birth control, and countless sermons and pamphlets and other such strategies employed to align the loyal with the strictures of the church, there is a disconnect here. 

While deeply conservative Roman Catholics like Rick Santorum and Mel Gibson adhere to, support and practice "irresponsible sex," it would seem that the majority of Roman Catholics are far more sensible and realistic.

While I have the greatest respect for the Bishops and their social agenda regarding unions and immigrants, I find their stance on birth control to be regressive, imbedded as it is in medieval convictions about women and their central purpose as "baby factories," in view of the fact that Europe was, for centuries, devastated by recurring war, disease and famine, thus requiring an emphasis upon birth to sustain the population. Rather than seeing this as a matter of simple economic survival, the church turned it into a holy war on women and legitimated male dominance. By the way, the population issue was also central to slaves (a word derived from Slavic) in Europe and then in the "new lands" opened up by Portugal, and the need for labor in the burgeoning sugar and coffee trade and ultimately the cotton trade in the United States.

This fixation on pro-birth policies helps no one, and only further isolates the bishops from reality, and, sadly, plays into the hands of far-right "Protestants" who have similar views on the "holiness of sex," a woman's job as a baby-factory, and the absolute duty to give birth no matter the origin of the conception.

Oh well, just some rambling thoughts about Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and horse racing.


  1. Brother Bob and his Travelin' Salvation ShowFebruary 10, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    I love your grasp of history which gives a needed perspective.

  2. As a spectator sport, Racehorse makes baseball seem fast. At racetracks, a race is run about every 30 minutes, and when it’s run, most people have to watch a big screen or TV monitor to actually see the action.