Thursday, January 31, 2008

I published this rant in the paper and received an interesting response which I'll post later today. Essentially a reader who identified himself as an "ordained minister" told me I was going to Hell because of my attitude towards religious freedom.

You see I was always taught that our Christian God was a loving and forgiving deity and that Jesus was all about love and tolerance. Of course throughout history people have interpreted those qualities as reasons for murder, exploitation and prejudice. Some folks still do.

When my wife and I took in our Buddhist foster child many years ago I thought this was an act of being a decent Christian. Not shoving Christ down her throat was also a way to show her we think there are many paths to the same God.

According to the letter writer, I'm going to Hell for my open-minded approach. What else is new?

I don't understand why my statement that America should be a country of religious freedom – which means having a government that doesn't impose a religion on the public – is such a radical statement, especially to people who view themselves as conservatives. I thought at least some conservatives were folks who yearned for a country that exhibited the values in the Constitution and that includes religious freedom – which also means freedom from religion. Of course, I'm wrong about that, I guess.

It's letters like this one that emphasize the very great divide we have in this country that goes way beyond simple differences of opinion or life style options.

You know I thought it would take a little longer, but I was wrong. Martin Luther King Day is being abstracted.

Do you know what the meaning is behind Memorial Day? Unofficial start of summer? Indy 500? How about the day to recognize Civil War dead? In the South, it was called "Decoration Day," as that was the day school kids would "decorate" put flowers on the graves of Confederate Army dead.

Quick, now why do we have Veterans Day? It's not just another three-day weekend, is it? No, that day was originally to denote the end of World War I.

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington worked for this nation so their birthdays would be vehicles to sell cars, right?

My theory is when all of the people who actually lived through a time when a holiday was created pass away, the holiday loses much of its meaning. So the generation that lived through WWI is largely gone and that event is now an abstraction, a chapter in a history text.

I received a cheery press release from Ski Vermont that read in part: "The combination of snow guns and the hefty snowfall that Vermont has seen this season guarantees resorts will be running full tilt as travelers make their way to the mountains for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. ski weekend . And, Vermont resorts provide the perfect learn-to-ski/ride experience for those thinking about jumping into the sport with a quick weekend getaway the perfect way to take advantage of the MLK long weekend."

Clearly a way to use the day set aside to consider issues of race and civil rights is to go skiing in Vermont.

There are still plenty of people alive who lived through Dr. King's career. There are people alive who knew Dr. King personally and professionally. I'm surprised that King has become a historical abstraction this soon. I didn't think it would happen for years.


Everyone misspeaks now and then. We all say goofy stuff we know is wrong the moment we close our yap. I know I have in the past and, regrettably, will in the future.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee recently said at a Michigan campaign stop, "I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."

Huckabee clarified his point on the FOX News show "Hannity and Combs" that he specifically was referring to abortion and same sex marriage and that he was not in favor of a theocracy.

If the former governor were here in my office, I would ask him just which "living God?" The Judeo-Christian God? The God of Islam? Buddha? The Hindu deities? The Pagan Gods?

Now I know he means the Judeo-Christian God, but here in America we have people who practice many different faiths and things can get a little murky when a presidential candidate clearly picks one faith over another for public policy in a nation where we have a separation of church and state.

I don't care how you worship. That's your Constitutional right. And I don't care if you oppose abortion and same sex marriage. That's your right, too. But, Governor Huckabee, don't try to impose your religious beliefs on me and the rest of the country through this political process.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Mark Martin said...

I'm not for Huckabee or his extreme Bible thumping. But here's a thought:

What if - work with me here - WHAT IF he was talking about the "generic" God you speak of? Does s/he approve of same sex marriage and abortion?

All of the ones you list, I suppose maybe the Pagan Gods do, but I'd draw the line before I started accepting what they preach.

I'm not 100% sure, but I'll bet Islam frowns on abortion and same sex marriage. Probably a lot sterner frown than Huckabee's.

Buddha? I don't know. But I'm interested, so please clue us in. Is same sex marriage and abortion cool to Buddha? Or the Hindu Deities?

I hope this does not sound argumentative. I'm trying to build a bridge here! I guess I'm saying don't get so caught up in the fact that Huckabee is a Christian that you miss the point of the statement. A statement I only halfway, or maybe a third or fourth or whatever, agree with.

Bill Dusty said...

Many, many, many years ago, while a teenager growing up in Somers, some Jahovas (sp?) - or something like that - came up to my door and we debated religion (I was never a religious guy). They told me that all the animals on earth were going to hell or purgatory (I forget which) because they didn't believe in God.

I laughed my ass off. And still do ;-)

SRBissette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SRBissette said...

Freedom of religion means just that -- and, thus, freedom FROM religion, meaning you have the right to believe as YOU believe, and I have the right to believe as I believe, without either of us forcing the other otherwise.

Unfortunately, tolerance is the essential element of freedom OF religion. That is, tolerance that others believe, and live, and worship or do not worship as they see fit.

That means, too, that one must tolerate -- unless behavior somehow directly imposes upon your right to live/worship as you see fit -- that other live differently. That others are NOT practicing Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, Satanists or whatever. That others may indeed wish to safely have the option to terminate THEIR (not YOUR) pregnancies; that others might not be heterosexual; that others might not believe exclusively in marriage as being just one thing, or another, or might not believe in marriage at all.

And that's OK; as long as those 'others' aren't forcing YOU to have abortions, or YOU to have gay sex, or YOU to marry someone other than you wish to marry, it's OK.

Tolerance. Grasping, welcoming, and enjoying the fact that everyone is different, believes different things, lives life differently.

My personal rule of thumb: substitute the name of ANY religion you do NOT agree with for the name of the religion you DO subscribe to in any given statement of opinion, fact or 'fact' -- can you live with that?

If not, why presume elevating YOUR religion uber alle is in any way preferable, tolerable or American?

Freedom of religion = freedom from religion. It's that simple.