Tag Archives: Religion

One Land, Separate Ideals

America has never been so polarized, so divided or so fractured—or so says the media. Many pundits and analysts have offered observations and predictions based on this perceived dichotomy that is American society. Red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and republicans and other designations are the rally points for differing ideologies across the nation. Issues from immigration to gay marriage, from education to health care, and from foreign policy to domestic issues are driving the debates that separate the nation. Many people wonder why America has come to these crossroads especially given the advent of the Internet and the social media that was expected to unite everyone in the utopia that is instant connectivity of shared ideas. This is not just a fallacy; it is exactly the opposite of what is happening. The Internet is actually the tool that is dividing us.

idealpqThe mainstream media, ostensibly a long-time proponent of free interchange of ideas, touted web 2.0 tools such as Twitter and Facebook for their role in the 2010 Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East, which was expected to foster democratic movements in those countries. The ability to reach out and contact so many people at once is supposed to have been the cause for so many people coming together in such short order to force the revolutions and ouster of the supposed dictators of those countries.

While that may be true (and we have yet to see those Arab Spring revolutions foster democracy in any of those countries) the ability to communicate with so many instantaneously is also fraught with peril. The Internet is worldwide, to be sure. But in this wonderful wide world, there has long been a collection of disparate, different and dissonant societies, many of which who cannot tolerate those that are different. They have existed on the same ball of dirt simply because of the distance that separates them. Now that the Internet has removed that distance, those conflicting ideas ignite into hostility.

This is observable in America as well. The map of the United States shows how the divisions play out. People tend to cluster around like-minded people. This is how communities began. This is how the colonies got their starts in the 1700s. People gathered around those with whom they could identify; typically people of the same nationalities and ethnicities held the same beliefs systems. Thus the community prospered with minimal ideological conflict and churches fostered and nurtured the community.

With the advent of technology, people began travelling to other communities and clustering in cities and in those groupings, nationality and ideology were pushed aside for economic development and prosperity. But the stressors of ethnicity began a slow boil that eventually erupted into the civil rights movement. People of different ethnicities and nationalities began to bicker and fight. Legislation may have quelled the worst of it, but even today different ideologies thrust together into common geographic space breed hostility.

At the foundation of our nation, literacy was not commonplace. Only a few learned individuals possessed the tools and skills to communicate to the masses effectively. In those days, “the masses” was defined by those who gathered around the public square. Again, in those days, the public square was in a community of like-minded people with shared nationality and ethnicity and ideology. Today, anyone can say anything to anybody at anytime. Instant public speech is possible with a world-wide audience.

In England, the people were forbidden to speak out against the government. One of the founding principles of American government was the freedom to speak out against the government without fear of reprisals. It is inscribed in the first Amendment along with a line about how the government cannot dictate how individuals practice their religious beliefs. This freedom has been bastardized by those who think that it allows anyone to say absolutely anything they desire. This is not true. It just means one cannot be arrested for it. Many people have found out through lost jobs and lost relationships that speaking one’s mind on the internet can have consequences.

A teacher posted a picture in which she enjoys an adult beverage while on vacation. Her school terminated her for the posting. A healthcare worker posted a comment in which she advocated mass murder for criminals rioting in Ferguson Missouri. She was terminated by the hospital that employed her. A college professor was fired after joking on a Facebook post about hiring a hit man. Many celebrities have been called to task when they make comments that are picked up in the media and broadcast. Public outcry resulted in the forced sale of the L.A. Clippers after the owner made private comments that were made public by someone else.

In many of these cases, advocates claim these people should be protected by the first amendment for free speech. Again, none of these people have been arrested for their statements. None are facing federal charges. The first amendment is working in these cases. It is other people who are squelching the principle of free speech.

This is because people are communicating—albeit inadvertently—with a global audience and not a local community of like-minded people. A statement decrying abortion would gather great support in a small community where everyone shared nationality, ethnicity and ideology. Make the same statement on the Internet and it is likely to be met with hatred, vitriol and threats of violence.

Human beings are not the same. We still have unique nationalities, ethnicities and ideologies and many of these are incompatible with others. The crisis is the middle east is a glowing example. Ideologues from Palestine cannot abide the existence of an Israeli state and no amount of negotiation can change that. Radical Muslims will never accept any other religion and will always refer to any non-Muslim as “Infidel” and declare a Jihad to kill them.

Democrats and Republicans have different beliefs of the role of government. These differences are fundamental. The only way both can exist in governing is to be willing to surrender some of the ideals in order to achieve a greater good. This idea sounds great in theory, but those who are steadfast in their beliefs cannot abide surrender and they have the support of like-minded community members who rally around them shouting and holding signs. These people look crazy to the members of the opposing community who also rally together and try to shout down the opposition. This is where the dichotomy breeds and it is nowhere more apparent than on the internet.

We are products of our communities; we develop ideals based on interactions with those around us. The “Global Community” is a dream that cannot be realized because of the vast differences that exist between nations, ethnicities and ideologies. Perhaps in a century, if all national borders are eradicated and all ethnicities have blended into a homogenous amalgam of humanity, we might be close to a universal ideology. But don’t count on it. I, for one, would not want to live in such a world. And many in my community agree with me.

 

 

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Matters of Corporate Faith

The Supreme Court, in a rare and splendid example of getting it right, affirmed a principle that most people—especially liberals—overlooked in its recent decision concerning Hobby Lobby. Justice Alito even called it out in his majority opinion: corporations are people; groups of individuals. The problem with liberals is that they do not want to recognize the individual. Liberals have long tried to marginalize the accomplishments of the individual in favor of the group. This has led to the complete bastardization of youth sports where teams no longer keep score and everyone gets to play no matter the level of their athletic ability. It also leads to open enrollment where individual academic achievement is no longer a determining factor in college admissions. Liberals want a utopia wherein every citizen gets a shot at every benefit regardless of skill, talent or initiative.court-PQBG

This stems from a skewed interpretation of the old mantra “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” This derives from the basic democratic principle of majority rules. Liberals extend this idea into the absurd by saying that individual liberties are extraneous when considering the overall good as they see it. While there exists some applications wherein the idea has merit, overall the concept is a fallacy. Mom and pop stores, big box stores, corporations and even the government itself is comprised of individual people whose rights are protected by the constitution.

Despite the cries of “war on women” and “right to choose” (all of which are blatant lies) the Court’s decision is not refusing women the ability to use birth control, not forcing them to have unwanted babies nor forcing them to convert to Christianity. It merely states that the Government cannot force employers to pay for four of the twenty means of contraception that the ACA covers, when those means are counter to their professed religious beliefs.

This country was built to protect individual freedom and specifically religious liberty. This is why the very first amendment in the Bill of Right specifies that congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof. Liberals are very quick to cite this amendment to deny religion in the public sphere crying “separation of church and state,” but hate when the faithful cite it to protect their rights to practice the tenets of their faith.

The Supreme Court, after a string of decisions that limit religion, held that publicly held for-profit corporations, just like non-profit corporations, do come under the protections of the first amendment. Liberals immediately cried out in outrage, claiming that a company is not an individual and that the owners of the corporation should not be able to “force their religious views” on their employees. They wish to treat corporations as though they had the same limitations as the federal government. This is a fallacy as the court has upheld by saying “protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them,” and “Business practices compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine fall comfortably within the understanding of the “exercise of religion” that this Court set out in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872, 877. ”

Liberals have also used the argument that if one religion is respected by law, then all religions should be which would be unsupportable and unreasonable. Alito addressed these concerns as well by saying “It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable. ”

The most important comment in the majority view is the one defining a corporation: “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. An established body of law specifies the rights and obligations of the people (including shareholders, officers, and employees) who are associated with a corporation in one way or another. When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.”

This does not mean only some of the people, like employees or shareholders, but all of the people in the corporation. No one should be forced to surrender their religious freedoms by mandate. “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

So, despite George Takei’s missive in the Huffington Post denouncing religion while asserting that businesses and governments have no place for faith and Senator Reid’s announcement that Democrats will not let the decision stop them from covering all forms of birth control, the Court did the right thing on this one.

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Legislating From the Pulpit

Interfaith services were held across the country today to raise awareness of the plight of the “undocumented worker” (illegal alien in plain language). This was part of Pelosi’s ask for the religious leaders to support Obama’s initiatives. Immigration might sound on the surface like a good and proper thing for members of the religious community to support, but nothing is further from the truth for so many reasons it is hard to list them all. But I’ll try.

One, a person who has entered this country without a passport or visa is committing a crime and it does not matter why they did it. Just as we do not care why a man robbed a bank or why a man shot his neighbor, it should not matter why he or she entered this country illegally. Break the law, get punished.

Two, Nanci Pelosi—a progressive liberal and Osama Bin Bama’s left hand—approached the religious leaders of the country and asked them to support the “progressive” (Socialist in plain language) agenda. This from the liberals, who are the first to cry out for the separation of church and state. Now why is this not just ironic? Well, I’ll clue you in on a little known non-secret: the founding fathers never envisioned that the government and religion would never cross. In fact, the founding fathers established our country on Christian principals and it has been the act of every progressive, liberal administration since to undermine that philosophy and drive Christianity out of the political realm, thus distancing it from the public consciousness. Now Pelosi is asking for not just Christian leadership, but every religious leader to support the progressive (socialist) agenda—an agenda that is expressly anti-religion. It seems that they can accept religion when they can use religion to subvert the common will of the people. This is precisely why separation of church and state was written into the bill of rights. So the government does not use the pulpit to sway public opinion. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” If congress or the president is preaching from the pulpit, it is establishing a religion of itself.

Three. If some interfaith or ecumenical agency wants to help the plight of the criminal, let them minister to them while they are in a detention facility awaiting deportation. Or even better, let them ride the bus with them back across the border. You cannot minister to a criminal in the act of committing a crime by excusing the crime.

Four. The media is covering these interfaith services and portraying those who support the criminals as being compassionate and those who support the law as being hard hearted. This is because the media has long ago thrown their full support behind the socialist agenda.

It seems that people want to throw open the borders of this land and welcome anyone who wishes to come in. That may sound laudable, but it is in fact foolhearty. We cannot absorb the masses who would want to come here. Our infrastructure would collapse under the burden of all the refugees we would encounter. Also, you have to consider the fact that if so many people refuse to refute their country of origin you have major culture clashes happening in the streets as we find in France and Great Britain. One of the requirements of citizenship in this country is to renounce citizenship in your country of origin. You have to assimilate into the American culture. No, we cannot welcome all the huddled masses without some kind of controls, such as we currently have in place.

Not everyone can get in. That is for a reason and it is a good idea. We as a nation cannot afford it.

But think about this: if we dissolve our borders and let anyone come in as Obama all but suggested in his speech with the Mexican president, then what kind of nation do we have? Our nation is in fact defined by our borders and those borders must be protected and respected. Most importantly, the government should not be using the pulpit to sway the will of the people.

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Setting the Example or Casting the First Stone

Why do people do the things they do? If you ask any number of people on the street that question, you’re likely to get any number of answers. Sociologists and psychologists will babble about the id or the ego or the social construct that is society, but it all really boils down to human nature. We are wired with certain impulses that drive our behavior. These drives have been mapped out long ago by several experts, and while they are theories, they have been corroborated many times over with empirical data. Hunger, fear, thirst, and anxiety are among many conditions that prompt human beings to do certain things. Our society creates many other conditions that trigger similar responses. The trick of the matter is not that we do things, or really not even why we do them. It is why we act surprised when others do them.

Mankind has long held aloft those who are in leadership roles or those who are set apart from the rest of society for intellect, ability or even celebrity. We expect better of them than we do of ourselves. If a neighbor cheats on his taxes, we don’t really care. Oh, we may look down on them for not living up to their responsibilities, but that is about the worst that would happen. But if someone who has been elevated in society does the same, that person is subjected to intense scrutiny and ridicule.

Think about what it means to be famous and be human. Scandal! Joe the plumber would simply enjoy a beer at the bar while regaling his buddies about how he was caught cheating on his wife. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods is placed under the microscope and every aspect of his life is dissected in the media while society adopts a “holier-than-thou” attitude about how bad of a person he is. Bill Clinton suffered the same experience with his adultery scandal, and society even called for his resignation for it. We cannot abide our leaders acting the same way that we do. They’re our leaders. They have to be better than us.

I’m not saying everybody cheats. I’m not saying everyone is an adulterer. Everyone does, however, experience the same temptations and since we are not perfect beings, we sometimes give into our weaker nature and submit to our impulses. It is not always right, or good, but it is human. Can we expect anyone, be it a politician, a sports figure, a celebrity or even a next-door neighbor to behave better than we do at our worst?

We all make bad decisions. We all suffer from them when we do. We need to remember that and stop casting stones when those we admire do the same. Remember, they are human too, and while it is easy to sit back in the comfort of our homes and feel superior that we have not been caught cheating in something, that the shoe could just as easily fit the other foot. One day, one bad decision later, and we are the ones getting caught with our hands in the proverbial cookie jar. If we were famous, we would—just as Tiger said last week—as for our privacy to be respected while we deal with the issue. And—if we were famous—it wouldn’t happen.

A role model is someone who has characteristics that we aspire to achieve. If we play football, then Tony Romo or Vince Young may seem a likely role model. If we play golf, then Tiger Woods seems the perfect role model. If we want to be president, then the President would seem to be a logical choice for role model (although I don’t think he is). But these people are also human, and while they have achieved great success in their fields, they still have lives outside of that area where mistakes can be made. If you can separate the person from the activity—pattern only Tiger’s golf game but not his personal life—then you may have something. Only one role model has ever existed that no one can cast aspersions on, and for some reason few young people would pick him for a role model today. Of course, somebody somewhere offered the biggest help in this with the WWJD campaign. If more people asked that question, there would be fewer scandals.

All we can hope for is the strength of character to do the right thing in all things, pray for guidance from God and follow the examples of our role models—as long as those role models are not Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton or Dave Letterman or Britney Spears or any other celebrity. If you are going to pick a contemporary role model, make sure your role models are people of good character, but remember that they are human.

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