Moral Contradictions

Friday, December 23, 2005

Target is not a temple

This week's Newsweek showed up in my mailbox yesterday, and I was struck by Anna Quindlen's article, "Frankincense in Aisle Five!". There are so many great quotes embedded, as the article expresses the sentiment I've had regarding Christmas and secularism.

...If God is watching us, as some believers suggest, as though we were a television show and God had a lot of free time, the deity would surely be bemused by how dumbed-down devotion has sometimes become in this so-called modern era. How might an omnipotent being with the long view of history respond to those who visit the traveling exhibit of a grilled-cheese sandwich, sold on eBay, that is said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary?....

...Or what about the statue in California currently said to be crying bloody tears?...Why worry about the alleged weeping of a plaster effigy when so many actual human beings have reason to cry?...

...It is hard for me to figure out how a snub by a home-improvement center can diminish Christmas one iota...

...O ye of little faith, who believe that somehow the birth of Christ is dependent upon acknowledgment in a circular from OfficeMax! According to the story, Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple, saying that they'd made his father's house into a den of thieves. By any stretch of the imagination, does that person sound like someone who would hanker to be formally recognized at Sears and Walgreens, as though his legacy depended upon being given pride of place among redundant hand appliances and teddy bears in Santa hats?

I'm not sure where I read this, but I fully agree with the notion that I don't need the secular world to endorse my faith. I'm more upset about the commercialiation of Christmas - by focusing on that issue along with getting its panties wadded up over whether or not the $5.15/hour 17 year old K-mart cashier wishes me a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, the Christian Right is sending confused signals to our society: "We don't want the stores hyping the holiday and focusing on the bottomline so much, yet we also want them to wish us a Merry Christmas!".

Once again, the true issue is clouded by the knee-jerk issue, causing the boat to sink before it can pull out of the harbor.

I believe someone on this blog admonished me for focusing on others as opposed to working on myself to affect change. So, instead of getting all worked up whether or not the girl at Target wished me a Merry Christmas tonight (she did), here goes nothing:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Back to business and its accompanying reality...

Kudos to Rep. John Dingell and his Christmas poem read on the House Floor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why did the bad man take away Christmas?

Hehe... What makes The Onion funny is they simply provide a logical end for the means used by interest groups to further their causes with inflammatory and emotional propaganda.

Exhibit A: Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What would Jesus say?

The only time in the Bible where Jesus becomes enraged is when he destroys the moneychanger's tables at the Temple. Why? The "house of prayer" was desecrated as it had been turned into a "den of robbers" (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46 NIV).

The Twelve followed him for three years, yet not all was smooth with his other disciples:

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe"...From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:63-64, 66 NIV).

These folks listened and walked with our Lord - face-to-face. We believe in Him today because of a book, which leads us to see His work around us; they physically interacted with Jesus, yet still did not believe. You can read on in the Gospel and see that even the Twelve did not fully understand what happened until after Jesus was nailed to a tree.

Jesus said words and did His actions knowing what His fate would be: death, so that all can live. He spent years preparing for His ministry, and the fact that He was able to stay alive for three years and not have been killed by the Pharisees sooner took divine intervention.

Just as Jesus devoted His physical body towards pointing others to eternal life and nourishment of the Spirit, so should we Christians.

Defacing the call of Christianity and engaging national discourse as well as raw emotions over a petty and ultimately meaningless secular affirmation of our Savior's birth does not fit with my understanding of what Jesus was working towards 2000 years ago. The entire "War on Christmas" smells of a power struggle, of which in the end there will be no winners. Jesus changed the world under a polytheistic Roman government near its imperial peak, yet even He was killed by his own.

If Jesus came back today, would we recognize Him?

More importantly, would he recognize us?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not a surprise...

As some of you have noticed, I haven't been updating this blog as frequently as I used to. I'm definitely not short of material - I think the reason is some of the overall Church issues that used to be abstract are now becoming reality. Thus my energy is sapped and I'm less motivated to go looking for trouble. :)

Yet I'll still drop in here every now and then, especially when I see follow-ups to some previous posts, such as this article about President Bush sending out a Holiday card. :)

Fundamentalists mad at Bush for wording of holiday card 'Christmas' appears nowhere on White House greeting

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Originial Sin of the Founder's Intent...

...I always wondered, while studying the Constitution and how it applies today, why the Founding Fathers, if they really wanted a Christian Nation, as some claim, leave out the word "God"?

Susan Jacoby has a compelling article in "Mother Jones" titled "Originial Intent".

18th Century ministers clearly saw a problem with the Constitution:
One North Carolina minister observed with forthright disgust, during his state's ratification debate, that the abolition of religious tests for officeholders amounted to nothing less than "an invitation for Jews and pagans of every kind to come among us." The Reverend John M. Mason, a fire-breathing New York minister, declared the absence of God in the Constitution "an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate" and warned that Americans would "have every reason to tremble, lest the Governor of the universe, who will not be treated with indignity by a people more than by individuals, overturn from its foundation the fabric we have been rearing, and crush us to atoms in the wreck."

Some point to the Declaration of Independence as proof. I can certainly understand this notion, yet cannot get around the fact that the DI separated us from Britain, yet the Constitution formed us. One has to understand that governments ordained by God were a little old in that point of history. All monarchies derived their power from God, and the Americans desired a new experiment by throwing that power to the people - Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists... We The People. In regards to the Constitution and how it applies to today's law, America's history from 1607-1789 doesn't count - only what's written in that document counts, and that's why it's so novel, so incredible, so "original". As Jacoby points out, the Founding Fathers created the first secular government in the world.

Yet, whenever she makes that point, she gets bombarded:
Eighteenth-century theological conservatives lost the battle over the Constitution, and the pill remains equally bitter to their spiritual descendants. Every time I write an article mentioning the constitutional omission of God, I receive hundreds of identical emails calling me a liar (sometimes a godless liar), because the document is unmistakably dated "in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven." That the religious right should fall back on a once-common manner of dating important papers—as unrevealing of religious intent as the use of B.C. and A.D.—demonstrates just how seriously it takes the enterprise of controlling the past in order to control the future.

I'm going to break away from the article and interject a couple of my own comments. I never understood the term "strict constructionist" because it seems that "original intent" is thrown in there as well. I see a difference between reading what the law says and prognosticating what the Founding Fathers meant. When groups from both sides commit this sin of adding words to the law, they step into territory where the answer will never be known and always hotly disputed.

There's also the argument of the personal beliefs and writings of the FF's. Yet today we hear about supreme court justices being nominated and saying that their personal beliefs won't interfere with their interpretation of the law.

Jacoby reminds us that Virginia's passage of the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786 played an enormous role in the writing of the Constitution.

Thanks to the strong influence of Jefferson and Madison, Virginia stood alone among the states in guaranteeing complete civic equality and religious freedom to all citizens. In 1786, Virginians rejected a proposal by Patrick Henry to provide public financing for the teaching of Christianity in schools and instead passed an Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which ruled out tax support for religious instruction and religious tests for public office. Significantly, the new law was supported by a coalition of evangelicals, who—as a minority in a state dominated by Episcopalians—feared government interference with religion, and freethinking Enlightenment rationalists, who feared religious interference with government.

The influence of Virginia's law, enacted less than a year before the writing of the federal Constitution, cannot be overstated. The delegates in Philadelphia could have looked for guidance to a crazy quilt of conflicting state laws, rooted in religious prejudice and incestuous Old World church-state entanglements. Instead they chose the Virginia model, which, as Jefferson proudly stated in his autobiography, "meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

I always heard of the "letter of the law"... only I'm afraid too many substitute the word "law" with "custom".

At the risk of plagarizing Ms. Jacoby any more, I highly recommend that everyone read this article. I've grown up under folks who preached that we are a Christian nation and I've heard all their arguments and the facts they bring up. However, the more I studied history, the more I studied the application of Constitutional law, and the more I thought about this issue, the more evidence I saw that simply undercut the arguments of my youth.

Why does history need to be rewritten to make up for the fact that the Constitution simply does not mention God?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Some observations...

...from listening to radio, reading blogs and online news, and watching a little tv... I can't escape from the recent case held before the Supreme Court regarding abortion and parental consent.

Note: I've traditionally stopped my mind from even entering this complicated, passionate, and venomnous debate. I just don't want to be apart of something so hateful, as I feel so many people are talking and no one listens - thus nothing is resolved, as a victory for one side only emboldens the other.

I have noticed some "moral contradictions" from both sides. Again, this is just pedestrian thought - I refuse to get in the middle of this. Heck, I may just turn off comments on this post because I'm simply fleshing my thoughts out.

First, the liberals: Why do we have a society where a 17 year old girl cannot take tylenol in school without going through a whole slew of forms and permission from her parents, yet she can get an abortion on demand in secret?

Next, the conservatives: If so many folks are willing to demand that a 16-17 year old be charged as an adult for a heinous crime - heck, even be executed... why don't we consider 16-17 year olds as adults in other situations? Abortion and sexual consent come to mind.

I know I've constructed strawman observations and that there is underlying issues - but when you lay everything out on the table, it doesn't make sense. (However I'm assured that folks on both sides would be willing to explain it to me).

Thus, I focus on other ways I can help our society. I do not wish to become part of the propaganda, as I struggle to find the facts, search my faith, and produce a defendable opinion that is based on morals and reality.