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11/27/2002

 

shooting bambi and the separation of church and state



this may be my last post until at least next wednesday. with the holiday coming up, and with deer camp immediately there after, i plan on thinking of nothing of any great religious, political, or social importance--and even if i did i wouldn't have a computer within miles of me (a great sigh of relief goes up from the crowd).

before i take my leave, i'd like to offer a brief, parting shot on Thanksgiving. i won't bother telling you boring stories of the Christian history of the holiday since every other Christian blogger on the web will be. instead, i'll tell you a one-sentence long boring story about myself:

when i was a grade school student, i was taught that Thanksgiving was first held so that the pilgrims could express their gratitude towards the indians.

it's sad that the separation of church and state has come to mean the secularization of the state. constitutionally, nothing more is intended than the barring of an established state religion, and when one considers the role such institutions played in the european politics our founders were fleeing, this isn't difficult to understand. the king's church was the only church because the king's church made the king king. works out nicely. in this day and age, we are expected to believe that our founding fathers actually intended a strictly secular government with no mention of God or faith or spirituality of any kind since this would always be considered "discriminatory" by some. i'm not sure how one gleans this from the constitution alone, or even from the other writings of its framers. even the famous "separation of church and state" phrase was coined by jefferson in a letter assuring the baptists that the government would in no way intervene in their theological affairs--in other words, far from being intended as a tool for the removal of religion from public life, it was rather offered as an assurance of the contrary made to religion.

when i was a child attending public school, i was lied to because some people believe that lie to be more important than the truth. that the lie ought to have been the truth, and that it's more useful to us today if we pretend that it was. the pilgrims were grateful to the indians, but the first Thanksgiving was offered up primarily to God, whom is the source of all good things--including helpful indians. why block this out? the influence of secular humanism has been gaining an ever-stronger foothold on america's schools, courthouses, and legislative bodies. to the secular humanist, rights are ultimately a thing of human invention. what liberties we enjoy, we enjoy because of the constitution which is nothing more than a piece of paper written by men. and so there is nothing to stop another piece of paper written by other men from taking its place, and someday, if we aren't careful, this very thing will happen in america. the constitution will never be officially scrapped, i do not think, but perhaps it will be so overwhelmed by bad case law and even worse public education that it will be reduced to, at best, a figurehead with no real power.

i can't help but think of the royal family in england, and like the royals, the Constitution was once believed to derive its authority from God Himself. the constitution doesn't grant you any rights at all. one man is never justified in taking away the rights of another, so how can he grant what is not even his to take? we are all equal, and our constitution simply enumerates those basic liberties that were granted to us by God. our government may derive its authority from the consent of the governed, but our rights flow from a source that government can never legitimately block.

"big deal, locdog," say some. "whether you believe your rights come from some god or not doesn't stop the government from taking them away if they want to. what difference does it make?"

it makes a big difference. if i view my rights as a gift from God, i will be that much more vigilant to defend them. if i view them as nothing more than a human invention, will i resent it as deeply if they are infringed? i'm not talking about gross infringements, which would offend anyone, but the subtle little ones that seem to slip quietly into our lives and which no one ever seems to raise a fuss about, but which, over time, do severe damage to our liberty. i believe, sadly, that the homeland security bill just passed contains within it the potential for some of the most egregious deperivations of civil liberties yet witnessed, and if it is not put to such a use by this current government, the framework will at least have been established for one that will.

so tomorrow, whenever you are pigging out, here's one more morsel for your mind if not your gullet: this Thanksgiving, thank God for giving all men the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. the right to freely speak and freely worship. the right to justice, so that the Law--His invention--may be applied equally to all in the manner He decrees. thank Him that you have been blessed to live in a nation where, at least at one point, the men who governed us daily thanked Him for these same blessings. and pray that He grants that He grants us to live under such men once more, lest we become like the myriad of nations throughout history who have done what we are beginning to do now: pretend that God's gifts are things we have given ourselves.

locdog hopes everyone has a happy Thanksgiving




11/26/2002

 

are Christians enemies of the muslim faith?



are Christians enemies of the muslim faith? should they be?

yes, and yes.

are they enemies of muslims? is there a difference?

no, and yes.

i read a washington times story on some comments that pat robertson recently made which you can find here if you are so inclined. mr. robertson is calling for closer media scrutiny of the koran, displeased with the gloss-over treatment and widespread ignorance of the foundation for the 9-11 terrorists' belief system. mr. robertson chastised the president for referring to islam as a "religion of peace", saying that it merely confused the issue and that he didn't recognize bush's authority as a theologian. he then suggested that the reason many passages in the koran which encourage violence against unbelievers are not reported to the american people is media bias:

The public would be better served, Mr. Robertson said, if the media would investigate the content of the Koran and what he says are many passages that incite Muslims to kill nonbelievers. But reporting on that, he said, "is not politically correct."

what is robertson trying to do, exactly? whenever i read things like this, i can't help but form the impression that robertson is positioning himself as an enemy of the muslim faith. why? who knows. i'm sure he has his reasons. but to my surprise i actually find myself in agreement with robertson on this one: there are problematic passages which certainly seem to encourage violence against non-believers, and these should be, but are not being, reported. the leftwing press, the same that stumbles over itself as it rushes to pin every conceivable evil on rightwing hate groups, would never implicate a minority group's philosophy in any wrong doing. they'd rather tell us that the problem turns out to be evil white conservatives in the end--the imperialists who've plundered and raped the arab world until their populations had practically no choice but to vaporize some three thousand of our citizens in a desperate cry for help. rather than tell the american people the truth, the press feeds them a template that they've been peddling off now since the sixties: america is the root of all third world evils.

in pondering this, it occurs to me that most liberals, having read the above paragraph, would, rather than disavowing it, reply instead with a curt "so what." their argument would have its merits. so what if we run red lights as we speed through the inner cities of the koran? what would be the point of slowing down for a look? if we concentrate on those things, what can come of it but widespread anti-muslim hatred? it would be irresponsible to tell the truth since telling the truth would fuel violence and discrimination against populations who are already none too high on the lists of most americans.

in the same washington post article, a man from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a mr. ibrahim hooper, was quoted as saying the following:

Last week, Mr. Hooper said on a New York radio show that conservative religious leaders such as Mr. Robertson were "equivalent" to Osama bin Laden because they want to divide the world into a religious war.

When asked whether Christian leaders would urge killing members of a different faith as bin Laden has done, Mr. Hooper said: "Given the right circumstance, these guys would do the same in the opposite direction."


i dare say most of you to the left of myself (and perhaps some of you near me or even to my right) would agree with the above statement. but i want you to carefully consider the logic employed here. the notion mr. hooper bases his remarks concerning mr. robertson on is identical to one which the press would use to justify sweeping bits of the koran under the rug: it's the idea that someone cannot be in principled opposition to something without being an enemy to those who aren't.

it is a lie.

it is the same lie that causes terrorists to fly airplanes into buildings, because for them, it isn't the Christian or Jewish Faiths as a system of ideas that they are at war against, it is Christians and Jews. to the terrorist, there is no distinction. the man (or woman or child) and the ideals they cling to are one and the same. far from having an intrinsic, inviolate worth, people are simply the sum total of what they believe at any given moment. hence, to defeat Christianity or Judaism, one need not struggle for the soul of an individual with love through compassion and sound apologetics, one need only shoot the person.

and therein lies the real distinction. in those initial questions i asked, some of you doubtless thought "how can you be an enemy of the islamic faith without being the enemy of all muslims?" it's really quite simple: i can--nay, all Christians are called to evangelize the world for Christ. we are taught in the Bible a system of truth that is exclusive, and hence a Christian is automatically opposed to any other--at least, he is if he wants to believe in what Jesus actually taught rather than sweeping a few uncomfortable passages under the rug himself. but that only places us at opposition with ideas, and i would no more hate a man for being a muslim rather than a Christian than i would hate him for thinking that i was wrong about which football team was poised to win the superbowl. it's true that we have a lot more invested in our religious beliefs than we do our sports teams (er, some of us do) but that's only an emotional distinction: in purely logical terms the situations are equivalent, with two people holding contradictory propositions. i must, after acknowledging that distinction, then choose to extend my difference to include the entire person i am disagreeing with if i'm to make him my enemy, for there is a clear difference between opposing A, and opposing A and B. but what i've actually done there is dehumanize the fellow. i've said that he isn't a plumber or a fan of stevie ray vaughn or some mother's son; he's nothing more than an idea, and one that i don't like. the terrorist robs a man of his humanity before he robs him of his life. but that is a choice and it's one that no one need make. you can try to talk to someone and convince them you are correct. if they don't listen, you could respect their opinions and keep yours to yourself. there doesn't have to be violence.

i used to work in an environment where i was the only heterosexual male among thirty or so gay men, and a few lesbians. long story. most knew that i was a born again Christian, and while they treated me none the worse for it, they were surprised that i could reciprocate their friendship. i might have gave them the argument that i have just given you, but it would have done me little good. they had to see that i could respect them as human beings and show them the same Christian love i would hope to show anyone before they would be convinced. my sister once had a similar encounter as she was walking across campus and happened on a student-led gay pride rally. she engaged a few of the participants and witnessed Christ to them. while there were no glorious conversions that day, a key battle was nonetheless won:

"you know," said one of them "you are the first Christian we've talked to all day who hasn't told us that God hates us and that we are going to hell."

my friends, that hatred is a choice and it's one, for the Christian at least, that must be then transferred onto God. if for the muslim no such psychological slight of hand is necessary, but he must needs fight a literal war against the Christian and the Jew to fulfill the commandments of allah, then that is all the more reason for opposition to the muslim faith. it is all the more reason to tell the truth about it. it is all the more reason to show muslims love not hatred, because hatred alone bankrupts the best laid apologetic. if we adopt that course, we may as well lose the distinction between man and idea ourselves, and join the terrorists in their methods.

locdog believes that we do not have to




11/25/2002

 

violence vs. free speech



perhaps no p.c. trend frightens me more than the growing demand for an abolition of free speech. i read recently that harvard is considering a speech code to eliminate offensive terminology. harvard, for goodness sake. they wouldn't be the first university to adopt such a policy, of course, but to think that something like this could happen in perhaps our most fabled bastions of free speech... as much as that bothered me, though, it was a mild case of heartburn compared to the scorching acid reflux attack tom daschle's recent tantrum brought on.

When I was accused of being an obstructionist, there was a corresponding, a very significant increase in the number of issues that my family and I had to deal with. And I worry about that.

Rush Limbaugh and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabes have a very shrill edge. And that's entertainment. We were told that even people who don't agree with them listen because they're entertaining.

But what happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen. They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting.


before responding, i think it only fair to point out that daschle's tactics are nothing new. in the wake of the oklahoma city bombings, there was a massive push from the left to link right wing talk radio to the timothy mcveighs of the world. i can remember prime time news shows that did reports on talk radio where limbaugh and co. were all but accused of commie plots to dope our drinking water and pollute our Precious Bodily Fluids. even laying violent plots aside, conservative talk radio is a favorite scapegoat among democrats for their political failures. we can all remember bill clinton whining about

Rush Limbaugh and all this right-wing extremist media just pouring venom at us every day.

Look at how much of talk radio is a constant, unremitting drumbeat of negativism and cynicism. . . . After I get off the radio with you today, Rush Limbaugh will have three hours to say whatever he wants, and I won't have any opportunity to respond, and there's no truth detector.


and we can all remember hillary's infamous today show appearance in which she tried to blame the omnipresent scandal surrounding her husband on the "vast right wing conspiracy" that had "not yet been fully revealed to the American public." we're still waiting, by the way.

daschle, it seems, is just following in the clinton's footsteps. he's obviously still smarting from the mid-terms and, rather than accepting the blame himself as his party's de facto leader, he's instead opted to do the immature thing and blame others for his mistakes. fine. that's politics. and personally, i'd much rather have daschle sniveling about AM radio than coming up with a positive, coherent message to rebuild what remains of his splintered party. but when daschle starts talking about violence, well, that's where i've got to take offence.

rush limbaugh, though very visible, is not particularly radical in his views. accept it. he may have a flamboyant approach, but in terms of his politics, he's a run-of-the-mill, mainline conservative. what he offers on his program is often sharply satirical in nature, but no more so than your average political cartoon. true he targets mostly democrats, but so what? that's his right. like many of us, limbaugh thinks the republican party is the better choice and he's given a voice to those who think similarly. he has never encouraged his listeners to participate in any sort of violent revolt, never encouraged death threats or anthrax letters, never encouraged blowing up federal buildings, and has in fact denounced such tactics on his program. you may be strongly opposed to his political views, but the man remains a responsible participant in our democratic process all the same. at least as responsible as the closest analog i can come up with on the left, michael moore, and then some.

limbaugh isn't running into crowded theatres and shouting "fire!" after all, yet daschle blames limbaugh with death threats against his family? although you may not recognize it, you've heard this argument before: daschle's case is that which opponents of violent or abusive lyrics in the recording industry frequently make--except that in those cases, the recording artists really are encouraging violence among their devotees. the reasoning is problematic even when applied to the most offensive recording artists who boast the most explicit lyrics, but daschle asks us to apply the same logic one might use with the Insane Clown Posse to rush limbaugh?

the portrait he paints of talk radio listeners is little better. limbaugh is accused by daschle of stirring up a feverish devotion "akin to religious fundamentalism outside the United States" according to CNN. we are an army of taliban-esque drones who daily receive our programming from rush and roger ailes and then march off to fight in a literal holy war? it is nearly unthinkable that a senator of these United States should decry constitutional free speech as he would the operations of al qaeda, but scarier still is that the negative responses i have read have all been from the right. the increasingly fascist left has offered few complaints, for apparently it hasn't yet occurred to them that by the same tortured thinking daschle uses to link rush with osama, we might link james carville with the unabomber. daschle may think he's attacking conservatives, but he isn't. he isn't even attacking conservative talk show hosts. he's attacking everyone because he's setting a precedent by which certain types of thought are equated with terrorism--thoughts which in and of themselves have nothing to do with terrorism and are, in fact, diametrically opposed to it. that precedent, if accepted, will allow whoever is in power to deprive the opposition of their constitutional rights, but since we would be preconditioned to think "violence" and not "free speech" it's doubtful whether anyone would notice or care.

as always, daschle attempts to stake out an exclusive claim to reason by talking softly, smiling frequently, and scratching his head in feigned bemusement at all the extremism which surrounds him. but let us not accept this hypocrisy as an appeal to reason, rather, let us see it for what it is. where was tom daschle when the NAACP nearly accused george w. bush of driving the pickup truck that dragged james byrd to his death in that disgusting commercial of theirs? or when congressman john lewis (D, GA) had compared republican welfare reform back in '96 to gestapo raids in a play on pastor martin niemoller's well-known statement on nazism: "They're coming for the children. They're coming for the poor. They're coming for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled." i don't remember senator daschle speaking out when former usa today columnist julianna malveaux said of clarence thomas "You know, I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease" or when jerry nadler (D, NY) complained of the "whiff of fascism" he'd caught wind of in florida. i don't even recall any condemnations of shrillness for those certain members of daschle's party who said they would sooner take the word of a known genocidal madman than that of the president of the united states, or for those numerous leftwing pundits and intellectuals who have maintained with a straight face that john ashcroft is a bigger threat to our nation than osama bin laden is. all in all then, i'll safely ignore the possibility that daschle really believes what he says, and instead focus on the possibility that for some senators, winning by trampling one of the democratic process' most fundamental rights is preferable to losing in a fair fight, and daschle's comments are the philosophical prelude to just such an attack. if you can't beat 'em up, shut 'em up.

locdog thinks we ought to keep socialism out of the marketplace of ideas