Posts Tagged religion

Bad ideas, character, and American greatness

Having little kids, I think, probably gives one a slightly better understanding of how God sees all of us, if one is prone to that type of thinking. They cry when they don’t get their way. They fight over basically meaningless things. They hurt themselves and each other, sometimes out of ignorance (whether culpable or not), sometimes out of actual seeming malice. They complain WHEN THEY ARE GIVEN WHAT THEY ASKED FOR. They hold their poop in for days until it all comes out in their pants, and act like they don’t know what they could have done differently. Kids are crazy and they make us crazy.

They’re also sweet, and kind, and generous, and loving. All in a perfectly innocent, un-self-conscious way that makes it infinitely more beautiful when one offers her brand new toy to the other because he’s upset. They’re creative, and interested in everything, and they are literally the center of my life and my heart. And it makes it all the more shoot-me frustrating when they get themselves so worked up and I can’t help them. And I do wonder how often God must feel that way about us.

We hurt ourselves, and each other, doing things when we totally know better. We eat crap that makes us sick, we selfishly treat each other like objects, and we allow ourselves to become addicted to things that poison us and destroy our relationships. We’re no less stubborn at 34 than at 4, we’re just better at rationalizing it. And faced with this mess we’ve made of the world, we all come up with our own bad ideas for how to make it work, and then we end up hating each other fighting over which bad idea we should impose on everyone.

But the kindness, the love, it remains too. And this can get us through. No matter which bad idea we go with, nothing will fix anything if we’re being selfish and hating each other. No government program can solve that. At the same time, no matter what, if we all give of ourselves in love, in whatever way is before us, I don’t see any of the bad ideas ending up so bad.

The founders felt this way. John Adams, for example, said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” One can find many examples of the founding fathers arguing that the success or failure of the fledgling nation depended finally upon the character and morality of the American people, much more than the structure of government. But one quote in particular comes to mind today, apparently misattributed to de Tocqueville, but summing up the thought:

“America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Just some tired musings on the eve of yet another imposition of a bad idea.

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A Christian, a Muslim, and Ben Carson walk into a bar…

Well, sometimes it all feels like a joke.

Dr. Carson stepped in it last week. From Huffington:

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Commentary has followed two lines so far. One is just sort of flat out wrong. The other, I don’t know how to think about.

1. Everyone saying Ben Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution, doesn’t understand the Constitution.

I am actually surprised, in a disappointed way, that this comes up in every left-wing response. “The Constitution says there will be no religious test for public office!”

To those on the left, this apparently means that voters are legally required to ignore a candidate’s faith when deciding whether they support the candidate. I’ll remember that next time someone attacks a conservative for sounding too Christian.

In actuality, this simply means that the states can’t write a law saying “ONLY EPISCOPALIANS ALLOWED ON OUR BALLOTS”. But if Larry the Lutheran can’t abide voting for Episcopal Earl, that’s his vote and he can do with it what he wants. Individuals are still allowed their religious convictions and their own opinions in the US.

So, what Dr. Carson said was, at least, fully in line with the Constitution. He didn’t say a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be President. He just said he wouldn’t personally support a Muslim candidate. He’s allowed that opinion.

2. Islam and the Constitution.

Here’s where I confess ignorance. Rather than knee-jerking out a response on either side–either cheering the courageous stand, or condemning the blatant bigotry–I want to actually consider the question. Is Islam incompatible with the Constitution? Let’s back up in his statement.

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

This, as a standard, ought to be uncontroversial. Someone’s faith is part of who they are. If a candidate’s religion dictates that he must act in a way that would violate his duties in office, Ima say maybe he shouldn’t hold that office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kim Davis.

So where does Islam fit into this question?

I think it’s important to remember that we vote for individuals, not religions. That would have been a decent answer for Dr. Carson to give, by the way. What does this individual’s Muslim faith mean to him or her? Because, of course, ask ten experts on religion how Islam may or may not be compatible with the Constitution, and you’ll get ten contradictory answers. I imagine you could ask ten Muslim theologians and have the same result. Islam, like any major religion, has broken into denominations and factions, and different leaders seem to have different interpretations of some pretty significant points.

I’m sensitive to the idea that there is unfair mistrust and misunderstanding of Islam. I’m familiar with the phenomenon. Atheists accuse Christians of believing in a magic sky fairy and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping statues and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Is the idea that Islamic sharia law would trump the Constitution for a Muslim President a similar mistake?

I honestly don’t know how to actually answer that. Many experts, including many Muslims, are of the opinion that the separation of Church and State doesn’t really fit within Islam. Many others disagree. In Muslim countries, wide majorities favor making sharia the law of the land. But then the people of Egypt–though 74% polled in favor of sharia at the above link–basically rioted to throw out Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after they started trying to implement sharia law. Given situations like that, I’m unwilling to accept a broad claim that authentic Islam automatically means taking the position that secular governments should be run according to sharia law.

I wouldn’t have said what Dr. Carson said. But whether or not the statement is justifiable depends on a greater understanding of Islam than I can claim, so it seems to remain an open question.

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Stand Up For Freedom Tomorrow

Tomorrow, starting at 12 noon in every time zone, in 160 cities (and counting) across America, there will be major rallies in support of religious freedom, about which you may not hear a peep from the mainstream media.

The movement is a massive, nationwide, concerted protest against the new HHS mandate, which is a regulation contained within Obamacare. If you haven’t heard yet of this mandate, it’s a requirement placed upon all employers, including religious groups, to pay for their employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs under their insurance coverage. There are very narrow exemptions that would not exclude religious schools, hospitals, or charities.

So a non-profit Catholic hospital, under this mandate, is faced with the choice of either paying for contraception for its employees, in direct contradiction of Catholic teaching, or simply closing its doors.

If you think this doesn’t matter because you’re not Catholic, or not Christian, or not even religious, keep reading.

This is not an issue that only affects Christians. This is an issue of freedom of conscience for every single American.

I defer to the clear and succinct summary at stophhs.com:

The HHS Mandate violates the United States Constitution and statutory law.  The HHS Mandate violates the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech – both guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  It also violates, among other laws, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The HHS Mandate isn’t simply a Catholic issue.  This is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.  The HHS Mandate allows the government to define whether an organization is religious enough and leads the way toward redefining religious liberty as freedom to worship.  As Americans, our Frist Amendment Right to the Free Exercise of Religion is much more than the right to worship privately in a church building or pray in our homes.  Our right allows us, as Americans, to live our faith publicly through our religious ministries and to serve others precisely because of our religious beliefs.  The HHS Mandate dictates that religious employers can only employ their own and serve their own or be forced out of ministry due to hefty fines. (emphasis added)

This goes far beyond the issue of contraception. Ask yourself what the role of government is in this case. Should the federal government be dictating to every employer every detail of every benefit package offered to every employee? If you accept that, should the government be able to tell a faith-based school that they must provide their employees with something that violates the tenets of their faith? Does free exercise of religion mean nothing?

Should the government tell a vegetarian business owner that he must provide lunch for his staff, and it must contain meat?

This is a dangerous intrusion into the rights of each of us to follow our own conscience. Dangerous in itself, and dangerous for what it would mean for our rights in the future.

Today’s attack is against the rights of Catholic organizations. Forgetting tomorrow’s dangers for a minute, let’s think about that danger. The Catholic school system is the largest private school system in America. 2.5 million students are educated at thousands of Catholic schools across the country. Catholic high schools have a 99% (!) graduation rate and save the taxpayer over $19 billion a year, as they are funded by tuition, donations, and their local parishes. There are 221 Catholic colleges and universities in America, 615 Catholic hospitals (12.5% of the nation’s hospitals), and 1600 local charitable agencies including food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.

The HHS mandate threatens to shut them all down.

Who is on the right side here?

So go to standupforreligiousfreedom.com. Find your nearest rally tomorrow and GO. Tell your friends.

Stand up.

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