Friday, December 24, 2004

The Santa Clause III: Attack of the Red Herring

Groups on right say Christmas is under attack

This week, Jerry Falwell, a conservative leader, told supporters that "so-called civil libertarians attempt to purge all vestiges of faith from the American public square." Also this week, Paul M. Weyrich, another conservative leader, proclaimed that "the campaign to eliminate Christmas from our society is well underway." Several conservative commentators have echoed the charge on television and radio and in newspapers.

The Rutherford Institute, declaring "Christmas Under Siege," cites a "growing tendency among public schools and government officials to ban references to Christmas or Christianity." The Alliance Defense Fund, which has been battling gay unions, sent letters to more than 6,700 schools as part of its "Christmas Project." It has 700 "allied attorneys" looking for cases where local authorities have sought to secularize the holiday, and it has found three dozen instances of bans on candy canes, prohibitions on Christmas colors, and cancellation of holiday celebrations that had Christian components.
I had a long chat with my folks the other day because I am just incensed at how these people are using requests that public school not have children sing religious Christmas carols in music class and Christmas concerts to make a claim their religious freedom is under attack. My dad was surprised at how strongly I felt these songs should not be included in public schools because I never complained about it growing up (originally because I was confused and thought there was something wrong with me for being confused, as I got older I just recognized that I have to respect and abide the faith of others because this is a country that is predominantly Christian). This being said, I'm seriously perturbed how the issue is used to get normally rational people hysterical over "secularists"/non-Christians trying to "rob them of their holiday". Now if you look at the lyrics of Christmas Carols like: "Hark! The Herald Angels sing", "G-d rest ye merry gentleman", "Go tell it on the mountain", "O Holy Night", "What Child is This?", "Away in a Manger", "O Come All Ye Faithful", they are overtly religious in nature (with references to Jesus as messiah/saviour and being Christian, etc.) and therefore completely inappropriate in class/choir/student concert of a public school.

Even to a non-Christian child who knows they/their families don't believe in these things, the message still appears to be one of endorsement of Christianity via celebration of Christmas through school/government. This goes beyond respecting someone else's faith, this is a de facto requirement to become engaged in religious activity in a public (government funded/supported) setting.

Singing the dreidle song or a Kwanzaa song, does not take away from the Jesus is saviour/deity/G-d message of Christmas as these songs are more akin to "Holly, Jolly Xmas" or "Jingle Bells". I can guarantee you the families protesting removal of a creche would be mighty displeased to see Satanic symbols at their child's school and if someone were to write/advocate a holiday song with lyrics like "In December, children, don't despair; Jesus is not the Saviour, of this please be aware" and lead public school children regardless of faith or lack thereof in class or a Holiday Concert, they'd lose their job, their house would probably be fire-bombed and I'm sure there would be lawsuits for the despair and anguish of the little Christian children.

No one is trying to discourage, let alone prevent, anyone who freely chooses to do so from celebrating Christmas. It is, however, a religious holiday (Independence Day is a historical holiday; Christmas is not and it would be incorrect/disrespectful to treat it as such) and, like other religious holidays (including Chanukah, Passover and Easter), shouldn't be celebrated in public schools because children are a captive and impressionable audience. It is possible to acknowledge a holiday without actively celebrating it.

Your right to freedom of expression does not supercede the rights of others to freedom of religion; imposing your religious beliefs on others is an infringement/violation of theirs. The people complaining that Christmas is "under attack" are the same ones who stomp their foot to keep "under G-d" in the pledge and the 10 commandments posted in schools with the argument that no-one should feel as though religion is encroaching on public institutions because the references are "really" secular, have no overtly religious meaning and that the "secularists" are reading way too much into them. These same people then respond to a question of "if these symbols are so devoid of meaning why can't we remove them from public institutions?" with the accusation we're trying to prevent them from expressing their faith! Do they even know what they want, let alone why they want it? People do a great disservice to themselves, the country and their religion when they focus on public displays and activities instead of their own personal observance and celebration.

If people are so concerned about expressing their faith and maintaining the integrity of their holy days, why don't they embrace and express their faith by going to church, participating in a Living Nativity at church/privately owned community center/home, adopting a local family in need, etc. instead of protesting others' use of the phrase Happy Holidays in lieu of Merry Christmas or complaining about the dearth of Nativity Scenes & Christmas Carols on government property and public schools?


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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Satan masquerades as an angel of light and his servants wear the guise of righteousness

What I, as an outsider, have noticed of the Christian Leaders overtly involved in politics (Falwell, Phelps, Robertson, et. al.) is that their focus is not their own behavior or tending to the needs of their own flock, it's the behavior/actions and beliefs of those outside their domain. The neocons they support are equally hypocritical. Who among us would use religion/faith as a weapon; focus on condemnation instead of love; legislate decisions for us lest we dare to exercise free will; or lay claim of knowledge to what cannot be known and use this intimate knowledge for political gain/ambition? When acting acting out of "love" and concern for sinners, should you not tell them: "we love you, we are concerned about you, we understand you are free to make your own choices and we'd rather you choose otherwise so we have no other choice but to say (1) we're here for you, if you want our help to change and/or (2) we can not keep company with you because we don't want even a remote association with that with which we disagree" or do you protest them, enact laws against them and send treatises about their eternal damnation? Which would be consistent with the truly faithful?
Galatians 6:"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. commentary on false prophets, I noticed the following interesting points (emphasis added by me):
Examining the conversation of these leaders can quickly reveal the God they serve. Do they speak of God's kingdom, His righteousness, and His love; or does their conversation center on the things of this world and life? Are they peacemakers, sowing mercy and love? Are they gentle and patient, or do they lose their temper easily? Do they walk in faith, or are they continually looking to other men for their needs to be supplied? Are they always pressuring people for money, or do they simply receive those gifts over to others, or do they continually complain and gripe over all the things that are not pleasing to them? Is goodness evident in their lives instead of evil? Do they put people in bondage by always threatening them with the wrath of God, or is freedom of choice extended with the warning of the penalties of sin? Jesus came to set us free, not to bring us under the bondage of men.

Let us prove all leaders and see if their fruit is good fruit.Do they love and not hate, have joy instead of depression, and promote peace instead of strife? Are they longsuffering (patient) or impatient, gentle or harsh? show love and tolerance for those that oppose them?
Who but a false prophet would say "well yes, we're all sinners" then stand in judgment to say G-d thinks that the sins of others are more grievous than their own? They point out that they repent their sins and do not continue to engage in them unlike, say, homosexuals who do not recuse themselves from sinful relationships. Yet they preach and impose legislation on all of us in a manner that breeds contempt and fosters sin.
Galatians 5:19 "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of G-d."
When those of us who do not support the imposition of the religious beliefs of other on our lives, or even the foisting of our own religion on others, point out morality cannot (and should not) be legislated and that people must live in accordance with their own faith, we're accused of mocking G-d.
Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: G-d cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

Well, if there is a G-d, the lives we lead and our own behavior and actions will be what he bases his judgment on. G-d is omniscient and infallible, man is not.

Those who oppose separation of church and state are labeled by these leaders a "godless secularists" and yet among us there are many faithful who do not like the bastardization of our religions to be used as a test or tool to control the masses. Those who know full well that man has free will and he can, and should, make moral decisions of his own volition (you can't just claim the moral high ground, you have to live it and let others choose how to life their lives.) If your only way of not succumbing to temptation is avoidance, then avoid it, others get strength by temptation and some indulge; it's called free will and we're nothing without it.

The neocons, Falwell/Roberston/Bush/Phelps assert that religion must remain in the public domain as it's the only way to prevent our descent into moral decay and, therefore, we must support bringing prayer back into schools and municipal/government settings so people can attest to and express their faith to the world. Funny, Matthew 6:5 actually seems to admonish this need for overt displays of faith:
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen."

Express your faith by leading a good moral life and when you pray, do so to communicate with G-d, not to show others how faithful you are. Is it possible these leaders are pushing this issue to affect an appearance of faithfulness and lay claim they can expose those who are not among the "faithful" for their own personal benefit (because those who are not with them are against G-d)?
Matthew 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity*."
* iniquity also means injustice; isn't offering different rights to people inequitably an injustice?

2 Corinthinians 11:13 "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, that his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness."

Is it not possible that these religious leaders could really be false prophets leading those who truly wish to lead good, moral lives down a path other than the one they think they're on? Their end will be what their actions deserve. Torelance is not limited to saying you can exist but our rights/beliefs supercede your rights, tolerance affords equal rights (you don't have to like them, you done have to approve the actions but you can't tell them they have to hide or are not allowed the same rights and protections you have yourself).
1 Corinthians 13:4 "Love never fails. But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child a I talked liked a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."


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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

You're wrong Justice Scalia, there is NOTHING wrong with the principle of neutrality

1st Amendment of the US Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On Monday, Justice Antonin Scalia said (emphasis added): "There is something wrong with the principle of neutrality," said Scalia, considered among the court's staunchest conservatives. Neutrality as envisioned by the founding fathers, Scalia said, "is not neutrality between religiousness and nonreligiousness; it is between denominations of religion."

The religious right's base they're claims that they're following the constitution with the religion based laws/mores they want to enforce by claiming they are not creating a state religion or state sponsored religion that has supremacy over others. The first amendment does not limit the separation of church and state to establising a state religion, as written it states ". ..make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . ." There's a big difference. Now Scalia refers to himself as an "originalist," someone who makes a decision based on the actual text literally, not the verbiage in context with the times, and yet he disregards the actual text.

So, the bible is to be read literally but the Consitution is not? According to the first amendment as written, we are to be protected from state sponsored religion, not just a takeover or implementation of rules based on one or a group of denominations views. We need to start hitting back using the actual language verbatim "Congress will make no law respecting establishment of religion. . ." Anyone who thinks Jefferson meant otherwise needs to read the letter he based the amendment on (emphasis added): "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;' thus building a wall of eternal separation between Church & State.

Jefferson's final letter to the Danbury Baptists
The draft and recovered text of the Jefferson's letter

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Monday, November 08, 2004

Doesn't anyone else think it's really strange

. .that there are people in this country think we need to amend the Constitution to define marriage and as far as I know we still haven't ratified the ERA?

Marriage was a social construct to protect the family (primarily the mother and children, as men were the providers) and in today's society, we grant legal rights/responsibilities based on the government issued marriage license and, quite separately, churchs/religions grant certain (non-legal) rights/status based on marital status. The problem with the debate in the country today is that we're mixing two completely independent items based on the same name as if they are mutually inclusive. Since we do not require marriage to be sanctified/officiated by clergy the two have to be considered as separate entities.

  • A government issued marrriage license is nothing more than a mutually exclusive binding agreement between two people to have all the legal rights/responsibilities provided under the license for the term of the license agreement (which is not some sort of condonation or approval of the relationship) .
  • The church performs the wedding ceremony and provides whatever sacraments/blessings are required as per church doctrine (this is a condonation/approval of the relationship).
  • Neither the church nor the government have to accept that a couple is married based on the fact the couple has met the requirements for marriage in the other institution (getting the marriage license from the government and the religious wedding are two separate and distinct events that may or may not be tied together after the fact).
Gay marriage should be a non-issue in the government realm/public domain; it's been made into a political issue as a way to establish a particular religious view and legislate based on that view. So, with that being said, let's take a look at the non-religious arguments bandied about by our right-winged friends:

#1 allowing gay marriage will open the door to polygamy:

The state does has a right to intervene in order to protect from potential public health issues, particularly those that can cost society. Inbreeding promotes a level of homozygousity that has deleterious biological effects the financial costs of which could be passed on to society. Additionally, laws against polygamy/incest are not specifically targeted to allow or prohibit a specific
person/group of people from engaging in the activity. The laws apply universally against people of all religions, races, sexual orientations, etc.

#2 allowing gay marriage will open the door to people marrying pets/livestock

I probably shouldn't dignify this one because it is so ridiculous. But since some people are so desperate that they bring it up, they can rest assure that marriage licenses are only provided to those who are legally capable to provide consent. If animals are capable of providing consent, humans are not able to verify consent (except for, maybe, the animal psychic on TV and/or Dr. Doolittle).

#3 homosexuality is "unnatural" and can not result in procreation

Styrofoam is unnatural and yet legal; there have been documented acts of homosexuality/gay sexual activity among lower primates (not common, but documented)

Many married couples choose not to have children & many can not have children without benefit of extreme scientific intervention or adoption; many will not have additional children with their new partner becuase they want to be married but not start a new family. .. will we ban these couples from marrying (and/or require couples who do not procreate to divorce)?

#4 marriage was designed to provide a secure environment in which to raise a family

and yet marriage does not in any way, shape or form come close to guaranteeing this, it all depends on the individuals in the relationship

If you want to talk about the "sanctity" of marriage in religious terms, then the government should not be issuing marriage licences - what's so sacred about a marriage license? Many churches don't acknowledge the legitimacy of marriages performed outside their church affiliation; the Catholic church has granted papal annulments for weddings performed in other churches in order to allow a Catholic (or convert to Catholicism) to (re)marry in a Catholic church. Doesn't that undermine the sanctity of marriage?

This week, Texas School boards mandated defining marriage as "a life long commitment between a man and a woman." Someone better tell that to Britney Spears, J Lo, Newt Gingrich & Neil Bush. Is this a harbinger of change to outlaw or severly limit divorce? How can the act of other people getting married (or divorced, for that matter) undermine the sanctity of someone else's marriage? Gay people who marry each other are not causing alienation of affection within heterosexual marriages, so how does this pose a threat to the institution of marriage (are these people really worried that if gay marriage becomes legal their spouse will say "oh man, I wouldn't have married YOU if I thought I could marry someone of the same gender!"???)


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