The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

THE MOUTH THAT ROARED

“Glad tidings of great joy.”  That is the message of the Nativvity, preached from a thousand pulpits this Christmas.  But for at least one of our clergy, Jesse Jackson, Sr. there is never a holiday so solemn that he can’t refrain from preaching about the ethereal to offer his opinion on the mundane.  In his most recent foray, the Rev. Mr. Jackson decided to express his outrage at the “racist and anti-gay comments” that “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson made in his GQ interview.

Thanks to the controversy of Mr. Robertson’s remarks, there may only be a handful of people in the United States who have not seen one or more episodes of “Duck Dynasty.”  I am one of them.   If I want to watch reality television, I have only to step out on the streets and observe those who pass by.  At least that is unscripted.

I’m not certain how many of us read the GQ interview.  I have and would agree with those who found Mr. Robertson’s remarks to have been phrased in a less than poetic way.  But those are the remarks he made and considering his background as a backwoodsman I’m sure that he expressed himself in the way which is familiar to him.  That is hardly a reason for condemning the man.  If it were, Vice President Biden would be under a gag order.

For those of us who subscribe to a Christian ethos,as I presume the Rev. Mr. Jackson does, there is no reason nor does any of us have the right to condemn anyone else.  We leave that job to a higher authority.  Subsequent to the interview, Mr. Robertson made it quite clear that he personally condemned no one personally.  That is not his job.

What Jesse Jackson categorized as “anti-gay” remarks actually related to sexual activity outside the traditional marital relationship.  Mr. Jackson should be aware that the Bible does condemn all sexual activity other than between a husband and wife, whether that is between two men or two women or a man and woman who are not married.  We all transgress.  The Rev. Mr. Jackson is no exception, having fathered a child outside his marriage.  Hopefully he has mended his former ways.  But it is hard to listen to his condemnation of another on this subject and not have some reservations about his sincerity or the worth of his words.

Then there is the second issue, Mr. Robertson’s “racist” remarks.  As far as I could tell from the interview, Mr. Robertson merely described the condition and the attitudes of those blacks with whom he worked in the field.  Whether his interpretation of their condition was accurate or not, none of us can truly say.  But to categorize his belief that those blacks never expressed outrage at their conditions as being racist seems to be an overreach.

Racism – or for that matter – any form of prejudice is a horrible thing.  All of us should pity those who make it the central point of their worldview.  That includes Mr. Jackson and all others who profiteer by pitting one race against another.  People who truly oppose racism, as Mr. Jackson did back in the ‘60’s should be equally outraged when anyone is attacked solely on the basis of that person’s skin color.  Of course, back then, Mr. Jackson would not have attacked Phil Robertson for his position on homosexuality since he espoused exactly the same view..

Have we heard Mr. Jackson speak out about the “Knockout Game” in which predominantly black young hoodlums attack innocent, defenseless people and try to knock them unconscious with a single punch?  Have we heard him protest the fact that most of the victims have been Jews?  Has he spoken out about the tragic shooting murder last week of Brian Friedland in the Short Hills, NJ mall at the hands of four black thugs?  Of course, this most recent murder might have been the unfortunate result of a car jacking, nothing more.  But whenever a black is attacked by a white person, Mr. Jackson assumes that the motivating factor behind the attack is racism.  Why doesn’t the same logic apply when the roles of assailant and victim are reversed?

Over the years I’ve watched Jesse Jackson morph from a committed advocate for the disadvantaged to a purveyor of racism for the sake of personal gain and prestige.  That is perhaps the greatest tragedy – watching his perversion from a crusader to a succubus.

While his words once had meaning and his message had value, they are now little more than the vitriolic output of a mouth that once roared and whose passion once soared.  And there are fewer people of conscience who  bother to listen to him any more and worse, are embarrassed for him..

NATIVITY

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all!

THE DUCK THAT QUACKED

Phil Robertson and “Duck Dynasty” have developed one of the most successful franchises in reality television.  The show, aired on the A & E channel, holds a first place rating among viewers.  Or, at least it did until Mr. Robertson’s interview with GQ magazine was printed.  In that interview Mr. Robertson expressed his personal view on homosexuality which runs contrary to the current cultural trend of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.  His opinion was an expression of his fundamental Christian beliefs.

A & E responded to the interview almost immediately by “indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson” from his own show.  They went on to make a statement that, “They (A & E) have always supported the gay community.”  Apparently this has not completely quelled the issue as A & E is getting push back from a large number of their viewers who believe they did not respond appropriately and who are threatening to boycott the network.

There are a number of important issues that this whole controversy raises.

The first, and probably the least consequential, is whether or not a business has the right to conduct itself according to self-imposed standards.  My response to that would be, “Yes it does and A & E made its decision based on its well-established philosophy.”  Of course, if we accept that premise, does that not imply that a company such as Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse to purchase health insurance which mandates that it provide abortion, prophylactics or abortifacients in contravention of its religious beliefs?

The second is whether Robertson’s opinion is protected by the First Amendment and whether A & E is essentially abridging his right to state his beliefs and therefore violating his constitutional protections.  Certainly if he had made his statement in the course of filming an episode, A & E might have the legal right to edit out the comment if if offended their policy.  But to take an interview in a different medium as the basis for their action seems to overreach their authority and to be an infringement on Mr. Robertson’s rights.  We would do well to remember Voltaire’s statement, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Whether Mr. Robinson made the statement or withheld it, no doubt it reflects his beliefs.  If we invoke cloture on free speech, whether or not we agree with what is said, what is next – restriction of what a person is allowed to think?

Perhaps the most important point this raises is that proponents of PC thinking are engendering the very thing that they purport to correct.  They define people not as individuals but as mere subsets of some larger group – whether that is based on race, sex or sexual orientation.  Their activities perpetuate all the “isms” and “phobias” which they seek to extinguish.  They presume that all gay or straight people, all men or women, all blacks or whites think and act identically based on the way they perceive the group to which the PC police have assigned them think and act.  That is ludicrous on its face and obviously untrue.  This philosophy strikes at the heart one of their most precious principles – allowing for diversity among members of society.

Whether or not I agree with Phil Robertson is irrelevant.  But I believe that those who see this issue only as a matter which pits one individual against a vocal group are missing the point entirely.  If we are willing to throw someone under the bus because we might disagree with his beliefs, the question is how much faster are we heading toward the point where our own opinions, however mainstream they might currently be, come under fire and we are told to recant – or else.

HOW A RELIGIOUS REVIVAL IN AMERICA COULD TANK OBAMACARE

Once again HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made an appearance on Capitol Hill at a Congressional hearing.  I’ve seen her so frequently that I feel that I should be allowed to call her Kathy or, perhaps, Kit Kat.  She looked very stressed as she explained that she has asked her agency’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into the outside IT vendors to determine if there was malfeasance in the way they performed their duties.

Hmmm.  Good timing.  Due diligence would suggest that the time to perform an investigation into a contractor’s background is before rather than after you’ve committed to spend $600 million with them.  But then due diligence would also suggest that you put a major contract out for competitive bidding and avoid giving business to a college chum who happens to have gone to school with the First Lady.  It’s called propriety.   Notwithstanding, government via the DOD has still figured out that $650 for a toilet seat is a reasonable price, competitive bidding notwithstanding.

If you’re one of the unlucky “small number” of people whose insurance contracts were cancelled by your insurer – 5.9 million policies and approximately 15 million people nationwide – you’re probably nervous about what you’re going to do come January 1st.  You had a perfectly nice policy which suddenly went away and now you’re having some difficulty finding a replacement.  Fortunately, the website is now working better than it did ten weeks ago – so there’s actually a chance you might be able to see what Obamacare has to offer.

And now you’re sitting there saying to yourself, “Self – my choices are getting a new policy with all sorts of provisions which I don’t want or need, paying a higher premium and having a huge deductible before I get any benefits.  Or paying a $95 penalty or 1% of my income as a penalty by the IRS – which can only be collected if I get a refund.  What do I do?  Should I just take my chances and hope I don’t get sick and disregard the law, choosing to pay the penalty and pocketing the difference to self-fund my own healthcare?  Oh, and if I do get sick, then I can sign up for Obamacare and since pre-existing conditions must be covered I am guaranteed the right to buy insurance?”  Well, that seems like a plan to me.  But wait, there’s a way to avoid the penalty entirely.

On page 1427 of the legislation which gave us Obamacare is an exemption from the law for two religious groups – Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites.  (They are also exempt from being subject to paying Social Security and Medicare taxes).  So all you have to do is convert to one of these two groups, start replacing your clothes with black homespun and you guys need to start letting your beards grow out.

I expect that as we get more details on all the “benefits” in store for us with Obamacare, we will see the populations of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana swell as more of us convert and become either Old Order Amish or Mennonites.  Yes, you’ll have to give up your cell phone and toss out your television (no great loss there), but on a positive note, you’ll learn how to build a barn and deep down, admit it, haven’t you always wanted to learn how to whittle?

THE OLD COUPLE AND THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

It was probably three years ago last spring that I first noticed them.  They were an old couple in their late 70’s, walking hand in hand down the street – out for their evening stroll.  It was early evening as Gracie and I drove by on the way to the dog park and I remember an involuntary smile coming over my face as I saw this little expression of their affection for each other.

Although I’ve only seen them while driving, I feel as though I know them well.  Their faces, heavily creased by their years speak volumes about the lives they have led.  I am certain that they come from eastern Europe because they have the sad look of those who have spent most of their lives in a totalitarian state.  Perhaps they are from a former Soviet Socialist Republic, Ukraine or Georgia.

I’ve met many people over the years who escaped from the grip of communist regimes, from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Latvia.  They are grateful for their freedom.  But the years that they spent being told how to live and what to think are so deeply ingrained that their new found freedom does not seem to be able to completely overcome these early formative memories.  It always shows in their eyes.

One day I saw Vladimir, or so I’ve named him, walking without his wife whom I’d named Olga.  As I drove by my heart missed a beat as I worried whether Olga were ill or had passed away.  And then I didn’t see either of them for more than a month.  If I knew where they lived I would have stopped by to see if there were anything that I could do for them.

Fortunately, a few weeks later I saw them once again walking down the street, hand in hand.  I remember breathing a sigh of relief.  All was well.  There they were, with that same slightly tired look on their weather worn faces.

When I first moved to Las Vegas I was amazed at the gusto with which people decorated their homes in honor of the Holidays.  The Thanksgiving leftovers had barely been put away when my neighbors’ front lawns were filled with step ladders and plastic inflatable penguins and reindeers and strips of light were being put up on the eaves of the houses.

There was little in all this which suggested Christmas – no crèches or angels or wise men – but to each his own.  There was at least a spirit of celebration.  But I’ve noticed that over the last few years that has changed.  And I see on the faces of my neighbors fewer smiles and more visages that resemble those borne by my old couple, faces filled with care and tiredness.

While in years past virtually everyone made an attempt to decorate his home with some sort of display, it is amazing that as I pulled into the gate this evening I was struck by how dark the neighborhood looked.  The only lights came from the street lamps.  I doubt this is in deference to any sort of political correctness which sucks out the joy from all celebrations unless they are found on the approved list.

No, I suspect that this lack of enthusiasm reflects the sense of malaise that emanates from Washington.  That a majority of us now believe that we are led by a man whom we do not believe is honest and that even more of us believe to be incompetent and that we are coming to believe we have lost our direction and, in large measure, have lost a sense of hope.

While the war on Christmas continues unabated in our school programs and in our public displays, those of us who still believe in the miracle of humility – which is the essence of the Holy Day – can look for the old couple in our own neighborhoods, holding hands as they slowly walk down the street and remember that as long as there is one person who is grateful for the holiday we call Christmas, hope is still alive and can still work miracles – if we are willing to receive them.

HEROES AND ZEROS

It was Sunday in the late fall and my parents waited for their ten year old to finish Sunday school so that we could go home for a nice lunch.  Because Mom and Dad paid close attention to me, they knew when I wasn’t feeling my usual perky self.  And that Sunday was one of those days.

We had been given the assignment of learning the Ten Commandments for that Sunday’s class and I had done my assignment well, although I wasn’t quite sure what that adultery one was all about.  But during our recitation of them, I was really struck by the first one – and that was what had caused my bad attitude – “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

Suddenly during class it struck me.  I wanted to be God but I couldn’t be – and I thought that was annoyingly unfair.  I didn’t realize it at the time but this was my introduction to hubris – although I wasn’t familiar with the word and certainly had no idea what it meant.

I remember that over the next several weeks as I recited my childhood prayers, rather than beginning with Heavenly Father, I might have better addressed them To Whom It May Concern.  After all, by praying to God I was merely admitting to my subordinate status and empowering a Deity who was, by definition, already empowered.  I was caught in the Charlie Brown and the football syndrome.

Fortunately, I got help with my conundrum.  After several days of allowing me to stew on my own, one night after dinner my parents sat me down to ask what was bothering me.  What they said isn’t important.  It was the very act of taking the time and showing their concern and love that got me started back on the right path.

Well, I grew up and got over my God-envy.  As I thought about it, I really didn’t feel that I was qualified for the job, nor did I want the responsibility.  There were just far too many sparrows to look after – and they seemed easier to deal with than most of the humans I encountered along the way.

It’s a difficult and narrow path between wanting to be important and believing that everything you touch, do or say is an achievement by virtue of the fact that you touched, did or said it.  Perhaps that is a lesson that has never been learned by those who believe that their only hope of attaining fame is by breaking the rules that God and society have laid down for us to follow.  Maybe that is the ultimate consequence of the kind of hubris that I experienced as a child.

We live in a society where those who come from traditional families and hold to traditional values are soon going to be moved to the “endangered species list.”  Those who celebrate the change to the “do it if it feels good” syndrome rejoice in their newly found freedom.  We find them in sports, politics and Hollywood.  These are our new gods and the role models we have offered our children.

Should we be surprised when we read stories about professional athletes on trial for murder; those in office who betray the public trust by committing  financial fraud; or television stars overdosing on heroin?  Should we be surprised that we are raising children who take out their anger by killing their teachers or shooting their classmates?

There are heroes in our society, people who conduct themselves with quiet dignity and respect for their fellow men.  Most of those go unsung and unnoticed.  They are people who never hesitate to give and are a little embarassed to receive.  They are people whom we would love to have as friends and neighbors.

And there are those who have never grown out of their God-envy complexes, who flash their way across our news stories for a moment and then are as quickly forgotten.  They are people who never give of themselves but expect the adulation, praise and gifts of others – and whatever they receive is never enough.  They are people whom we would avoid as acquaintances.  They are zeros.

And we all know that if at the end of the day the scoreboard has a tally of zero by your name, you need to work on improving your game.

WHILE AMERICA SLEPT

Below is the Monday 8/05/13, 8:41 a.m. PDT listing of Yahoo News’ ten biggest trending stories:

1 Sally Struthers

2 Tiffani Thiessen

3 Death row inmate hanged

4 Maui shark attack

5 Dancing With the Stars

6 A-Rod suspension

7 Tawana Brawley hoax

8 Game of Thrones

9 Powerball

10 Al-Qaida threat

The individual who reads Yahoo News may not be your typical American – but then again he or she may well be.  If that is the case, it is interesting that probably that only story that has major significance – the “Al-Qaida threat” ranks only in the tenth position of what people consider to be important.  However, should these terrorists actually carry out some kind of attack (which we all certainly pray will not happen), I guarantee that story would be in first place on the list.

This is unfortunately a vivid explanation of our national disease – complacency.  We are long accustomed to feeling safe and secure and approach life in a reactive, rather than a proactive way.  It takes something like 9/11/01 to remind us that we are not immune to the dangers that exist in this world.

Most of us have yet to realize that America and all of Western Civilization is involved in a war.  It is a war against terror carried out by jihadists who believe imposing their personal beliefs on all humanity is not only justified – it is required by their god.  There is no act that is too brutal which they may employ to achieve their goal.  There is no person who is so sacrosanct that he may not be sacrificed to the cause.

Jihadi terrorism is the ultimate expression of “the end justifying the means”.  And it is time that we wake up to that.  It is time that we stopped accommodating those who invited themselves to live in the west and don’t care for the rules which exist here.

If they don’t like living in countries with Judaeo-Christian values, we do not seek to impose them on them and their religious sensitivities.  Our borders were open to them to come here – and they are open for them to leave.  I, for one, wish them a safe trip home and a good life when they get there.

America may be a sleeping giant.  We may be snoring as the gnats and mosquitoes take a bite here and draw a little blood there.  We may swat at these annoyances and continue in our reverie.

But at some point there will be enough bites and stings to awaken us.  And when that happens, beware.  The giant can be awful nasty when he is aroused to anger.

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