Tag Archives: freedom

They Hate Us

I don’t think there’s anyone I know who actively and clearly despises me. And I’m happy to say I can’t think of a single person for whom I feel animosity or hatred. “Hate” in reference to a person is a strong and heavy term, one that shouldn’t be used casually, bandied about like some new teenage slang.
Sadly, it’s all too easy to drop the H-bomb when we’re talking about people in general, especially when they differ from us.

And that’s how I discovered yesterday that apparently a full quarter of the earth’s population hates me. Not the best news, that. But it was Monday, so it kind of figures.

To clarify, I saw some appalling Facebook comments on a Right-Wing news article. And like the buffoon I am, I waded into discussion of politics and religion on social media.

But how could I not? These freedom-loving patriots were deeply concerned that I might be unaware of the danger I face daily. They felt a compelling need to set right my misguided notions about liberty and religion.

The background? An Army Reservist who is also a Muslim was kicked off a gun range in Oklahoma. The range owners have a “Muslim-Free Zone” sign posted, and the customer claimed that after he self-identified as a Muslim, their treatment of him went from calm and professional to rude and hostile. For their part, the owners claim he was ejected from the range because he acted “belligerently” and not because of his faith.

Good, since that would be illegal discrimination based on religion.

So the Right-Wing news site had a steady flow of comments ranging from “He’s lucky they didn’t ask him to hold the targets” to “You guys realize he’s an American servicemember, right?” And it was the former variety that I couldn’t resist replying to.

Profound statements like:

“Islam isn’t a race!!!! It’s a violent oppressive cult that they joined and/or remain in willingly. Facts > opinions.”

(Of course, Christianity isn’t a race either. It’s a religion people join or remain in willingly. And it, like Islam, is protected by the first amendment, so discrimination against someone based on that is frowned upon and also illegal. And that is a fact, not an opinion.)

“Muslim isn’t a religion. He wasn’t denied service because of his religion but his way of life, to kill anyone who’s not Muslim.”

(In this case, his “way of life” was to serve our country and put himself in harm’s way to defend our way of life… something I feel fairly certain the commenter is unwilling or unable to do. And “Islam” is a religion, and “muslim” is an adherent of that religion. So when a store posts a sign or tries to enforce a “muslim-free zone” policy, that should offend American sensibilities if we truly believe what the Founding Fathers said about all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. You know, all that super patriotic claptrap the Right pulls out when we defend Christians.)

 

“To all of you that are offended by everything that doesn’t comply with your own interests, or beliefs… stay the hell home, and board up your damn windows. This is used to be America “land of the free” until a bunch of whiney @$$es started crying about stupid $#!+”

(To be fair, maybe this guy feels the way I do, and all these people afraid of Islamic extremists they’re convinced are about to invade the nation are a bunch of whiners that should board up their windows and hide in their bomb shelters.  
But I assumed he meant the whiners who see a sign saying, “You’re not welcome here” and question it. The whiners who question commenters that advocate wholesale murder of Muslims for the crime of existing while telling me it’s the Muslims I should be afraid of. The ones who say “They should go back to their own country” while forgetting that at some point, that could have been said to the vast majority of American ancestors.

To those people I say “Go board up your own damn windows.”)
I’m not worried about radical Muslims that hate America. I’m worried about radical so-called patriots that are willing to tear down the foundational principles of this nation while claiming to do us good.

By their words and their deeds, it’s clear. They hate us.

And no, I’m not talking about the Muslims. And no, I’m not pointing the finger at ALL conservatives or Right-Wing thinkers.

But to the Trump supporters, to those who agree with committing war crimes against civilians, to those vocal, hateful voices out there bringing disgrace upon your party and the nation you claim you love: 

Congratulations. You’ve become the thing you fear and hate most:  An ideologically-driven body of angry people espousing violent, radical, anti-American declarations and policies without regard for any conflicting evidence or higher good.

You’re the ones not only casting away traditional American values but actively coming against them.

You’re the danger. You’re the threat.

So Help Me God

An atheist Airman was denied the right to reenlist in the United States Air Force recently. It’s been my experience that everyone had the option to say the phrase if desired, or omit the phrase if desired. But that changed late last year.

The Air Force cites US law that supersedes its previous guidance on the matter as the reason for a change in Oct 2013 that took out the option to say – or not say – “so help me God.” Title 10 Section 502 covers the oath of enlistment, and it makes no provision for omitting the phrase in question. So the Air Force has a justifiable position for its argument, which boils down to “We have to follow the law. If the law needs to be changed, then Congress has to change Title 10 Section 502 so that we can then change our regulations which fall under it.”

My experience has been that most people say it or omit it as applicable to their personal stance, and no one really cares. But the case, linked above, is proof that if someone wants to fight on this issue, the religious language is clearly going to win.

But that doesn’t make it right.

There’s a petition in the works to change the code to the very reasonable, already-done-in-practice-for-years method of “say this part if you want, and don’t say it if you don’t want.” I hope you’ll support it.

Everyone loves Top 10 lists, so I thought I’d toss one in.

Top Ten Reasons to Change Section 502 of Title 10:

10. Yes, there are atheists in foxholes. I’ve served alongside many atheists who were among the hardest-working and most skilled in my almost 20 years of military experience. I count it an honor to have served beside them, and denigrating their choice to reject a religious belief is actually unlawful, just as it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against me based on my Christian faith. I mean, the whole “unlawful” part should be enough to require no other reason. Article VI of the Constitution states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” While this clause at the end of the oath might not exactly meet the standard of a “religious test” it certainly sits in a very grey area. But since this point is clearly not enough, let’s move on:

9. There are plenty of other faiths in foxholes too. The military needs bodies, and so we take all kinds. That means that we’ve got Buddhists, Catholics, Druids, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants, Sikhs, Wiccans… to name a few off the top of my head. Half of those belief systems – to my knowledge – don’t recognize a monotheistic God. So the “so help me God” doesn’t work for them. Yes, they may be a small minority, but the law has to protect the rights of everyone, not just the special people.

8. This would take us back to our roots. Now, some of my Christian friends and many of the inane comments on the Interweb talk about going back to our identity or roots as a Christian nation by keeping this phrase mandatory. News flash: much like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, this “so help me God” was a recent addition. Prior to 1962, you wouldn’t be prompted to say any such thing if enlisting into the Armed Forces. And honestly, I hope going back to the 60s is not what the Christians have in mind. (Side note: the Internet, it turns out, is a wonderful source of information. Using it before stating opinions and misinformation as fact is a very considerate course of action.)

7. This is not a Christian nation. Again, contrary to many comments on social media declaring it so, America is a secular nation by design, with a Judeo-Christian culture making up an arguably large part of past influences, along with deism and humanist philosophy. God didn’t pen the Constitution on stone tablets that George Washington brought down from Mount Vernon. However, many of the colonials were inspired to come to the New World to escape persecution and mistreatment on the basis of holding minority religious beliefs. That helps explain why American law and government was designed to ensure no requirement for religion would be enforced upon the people. Yes, there are quotes from Founding Fathers who speak about the need for faith in God. But they clearly didn’t intend an enforcement of one religion over every other.

6. We can use all the proud, honorable service we can get. I’ve served with atheists who are quite honorable and some who are jerks… just like there are Christians who are quite honorable and Christians that I wouldn’t trust to hold my Bible outside of my sight. Our nation has a large number of military commitments and missions, and we are striving to keep up that pace (if not increase it) while reducing the number of people in uniform available to execute the mission. If an atheist Airman is volunteering to serve, I’m happy to stand beside him. Because what matters on the flightline or the frontline is that we both swore to defend the Constitution of the United States.

5. This doesn’t take God out of anything at all. Some Christians worry that this is a case of persecution, or an instance of taking God out of the public sphere. But the language of the petition is clear: If you want to keep “so help me God” in your oath, do so. If you don’t want to say it, don’t. Nothing is lost for the believers, but the same level of equality and freedom to choose would be granted to those of other faiths or no faith.

4. This upholds equality. We don’t want to live in an American version of an Orwellian fable. “Everyone is equal but some are more equal than others” can’t be permitted or upheld here. That’s not what our servicemembers–religious or atheist–are fighting to protect and defend. How can some people rejoice that Hobby Lobby gets to stand on its religious beliefs, and then rejoice just as loud when someone else’s freedom is tread upon? Well… I know how they can do so. But it’s still vile and wrong.

3. Yes, it is a big deal to “just say it.” Imagine showing up to work on Monday and being told unless you deny your faith, you’re fired. Just a few words. No big deal, right? Just say it, and keep earning a paycheck. Who would stand for this? I can’t. So if I’m not okay with the hypothetical, then I can’t accept when it is really happening to someone else.

2. Defending the rights of the atheist means defending my own right as well. If the government can mandate someone to swear an oath contrary to their belief, then that has far-reaching implications. I cannot be okay with that so long as it’s done to “them” without realizing that the government then has the same power to someday inflict such a requirement upon me. Call it the Golden Rule, call it common sense, call it sticking up for the underdog, or whatever you want. Sadly, I saw hundreds of comments of “Amen!” “Praise God!” and other passionate expressions of joy on this subject. If that’s your initial reaction, take a moment to think about how it would feel to be told you must deny your faith, or swear to Allah or something similar in order to serve your country. Why would anyone be okay with this?

And finally, my overall reason to change Title 10 and do away with this enforcement of “so help me God” in the oath is:

1. Nothing is gained but hypocrisy. The atheist has no faith in this God we are demanding he or she call upon. It forces the enlistee to lie while swearing or affirming a solemn oath. I’m not accusing the atheist here; I’m accusing the enforcers and defenders of such a requirement. Those four words mean nothing at all if forced upon someone who doesn’t believe. This serves no purpose. It is wasted breath. What should matter to a Christian isn’t whether these four words are said, but rather are they being lived out? Plenty of people, Christians and atheists and whatever else, have said “so help me God.” But apart from sincere faith informing and motivating devout action, who cares? It’s empty. No one’s life has been transformed to emulate Christ by the addition of “so help me God” in their oath of enlistment. Instead, we have a vast majority of people saying something that means absolutely nothing to them, and the political Christians will call it a victory. “We defended God in public,” they’ll say. “We kept God in the oath!”

No, all you did was create hypocrisy, forcing lips to say what hearts don’t believe.

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.'” (Mark 7:6 NASB)

'Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for...
‘Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for…

So, please, whether you’re a believer or not, go to Whitehouse.gov and sign this petition. You’re not just defending the freedoms of others, but also your own.

If you think I’ve missed a key point in my top ten, or if you think I’m way off base on this one, I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know in a comment below! Thanks for taking the time to read, and even more so if you’ve signed.

Radical Focus on Wrong Things

When does making music not involve playing actual music?

When you’re a “Radical Christian,” apparently.

I hope you all have perfect pitch...
I hope you all have perfect pitch…

A gent named Wes McAdams has a couple blogs that popped up on my Facebook feed. His site is titled “Radically Christian – 1st Century Christianity in a 21st Century World.” One post calls into question why some churches feel musical instruments are a necessary part of the worship service. The next challenges the idea that instruments have any place in today’s church at all.

It concerns me when people assume they’ve found the secret, the missing spiritual link, the one thing that every “good” or “true” Christian should be doing (or not doing) in order to show how much more Christ-like they are than everyone else.

Usually that’s the road to heresy. Because if Jesus isn’t the One Thing–if your message becomes “Jesus and (fill in the blank)” instead–then your Gospel isn’t the good news of grace anymore. It becomes all about doing something to prove your faith and earn your reward. Or it becomes yet another self-righteous way to show how much better you are than the benighted and corrupted so-called Christians in every other church.

However, since I have been a lead worshiper at times in the past, and since one of my passions is worship (to include specifically the musical part often done in church gatherings), I wanted to give Mr. McAdams’ points due consideration.

(thinking…)

At best, he’s being silly and nit-picking, but generally harmless. At worst, he’s way off Scripture, and his condemnations foist an assumed truth based on misunderstandings upon his readers.

He makes important points about what worship has become to many churches. It can be a spectacle or performance with little or no heart. It can be focused on the congregation without giving due regard to the God we’re supposedly worshiping. It can be a misguided attempt to draw more people who otherwise might not be interested in church. And it can feel like a talent show where people get attention.

Those faults are also potentially true of everything else we do in church. But we don’t stop preaching even though I’ve heard people talk about what a powerful speaker a pastor is. We don’t stop giving to the community for fear that someone might do it to be seen doing good. We don’t stop sharing the Gospel even though some Christians talk about the converts they’ve made like an ace pilot keeps track of his kills in combat.

McAdams’ post questioning whether we need instruments in worship makes so many important points that I wish I could share it for all that’s right in his assessment of modern worship. He mentions so many causes for concern that I personally share. Modern worship runs the risk of becoming a distraction, a business model, a Play-Doh fun machine churning out tepid and indistinguishable songs onto albums to create dollars instead of devotion.

But the critique goes awry when McAdams takes a logical point (you don’t need instruments to worship) and makes it a mandatory stance (churches must not use instruments to worship). He does this even while pointing to scripture that tells us to do whatever we do for the glory of God.

In so doing, he throws the grace out with the guitars.

The second post I linked is McAdams’ case for why instruments ought to be forbidden in church. He uses the example of ordering a pizza. If he orders a pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple, those are the toppings he expects to receive, no more, no less.

The analogy is, if God in the New Testament only mentions making music with our lips and our thankful hearts, then those are the only “toppings” God wants on His praise-pie. The New Testament makes no mention of musical instruments, only psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

And McAdams argues, that silence is a prohibitive restriction in the same way that I don’t need to say “No green peppers” if I order his pizza as described earlier.

The logic is flawed.

What would 1st century hearers possibly think when told to sing psalms and hymns? Would they possibly think of the psalms of David and others recorded in scripture? Would they see it in a way appropriate to their culture? Was music with instruments forbidden as an expression of worship for the Jewish people?

Hardly.

Psalm 92:1-3 “It is good to give thanks to the LORD… with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre.”

Psalm 33:2 “Give thanks the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.”

Psalm 81:2-3 “Raise a song, strike the timbrel, the sweet sounding lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet…” (all references NASB)

That search took all of two seconds. And there’s plenty more.

McAdams makes the case that the Old Testament doesn’t apply here, just like the pizza order I made last week may not be the toppings I want today. We’re under the New Testament, so what God orders in the New is all that matters.

But the OT informs the NT, and gives us a perspective on the understanding 1st century hearers would have. Otherwise, let’s strip it out of the Bibles, because we only need what is recorded in the NT, right?

By definition, “psalms” and “songs” could be logically assumed to involve music with instruments. The counterpoint to his pizza analogy is that—without specifically saying so—he expects his pizza toppings to arrive placed upon a crust covered with sauce and cheese, because that’s what a pizza is.

IMG_0924.JPG
I guess you don’t want these, because you didn’t specifically ask.

The difference between his misguided focus and my rant is this: grace.

Self-righteousness likes to tell others where they’re going wrong. But Grace is big enough to say “If you worship without instruments, praise God! If you worship with instruments, praise God! Do everything for the glory of God!”

A radical thought, I know… but one that’s big enough for us all to come together.

Pro-Choicers, Please Stop

I know, I know, another abortion post. And who cares about my opinion on this matter, anyway? I’m sure you all have your own, for or against. After seeing some very poor arguments on the subject, I just have to get some things off my chest.

If you’re pro-choice, you should care about my opinion, because I am here to help you, even though we disagree.

The fact is, a lot of you sound like tools. Stop it, for your sake and mine.

I hear a lot of arguments supporting the right of a woman to choose. Unfortunately, many of them are nonsense. I thought I’d be helpful and make a list.

1. Being a man, who are you to think you have a useful opinion on this?

Well, I thought I was a human being possessed (like most of us) of the capability for rational thought that allows me to observe evidence, consider facts, develop conclusions, and make value judgments about various things like we all do every day. It is both ludicrous and illogical to say that because I have not experienced a thing, I am incapable of making any judgment about that thing.

I have murdered exactly zero people in my life. Yet I am capable of coming to a conclusion about murder. I don’t want to do it. I don’t believe it is acceptable to murder people in cold blood.

Besides, I am able to speak to women who have had children and who have terminated pregnancies. I am able to consider medical procedures and their implications. How do we debate or establish medical ethics for as-yet-untried procedures or technologies if only those who have experienced them already get to weigh in on the matter? We use past evidence, past observations, past precedents, and we make a judgment, then evaluate whether that judgment holds true moving forward. We engage in healthy debate.

So stop stifling it by saying half of humanity has nothing to say on the matter.

2. It’s just a lump of tissue.

I suppose that’s accurate. I mean, so am I, and so are you, if that’s how you want to see things.

You’re also a human being, probably somewhere in the adult phase of development. That thing in the mother’s womb is also a human being. It’s a scientific fact that a zygote or embryo or fetus is a human being at an early stage. Those cells are alive and growing. They are living tissue that makes up a human being. Understand that part of why abortion supporters sound so callous to the opposition is because – to the opposition – you are talking about terminating a developing human being, not just removing an unsightly mole.

The debate becomes about when life begins, and how much do we value life. And we can have a reasonable debate about such things, so long as we still permit discussion of ethics in medicine.

But it’s not as simplistic a subject as some would like, and treating it as such does disservice to your arguments.

3. You just want to control women.

Honestly I don’t give any thought to what women (or men) are doing in the bedroom. Choices have consequences. That’s life. Risk STDs, risk pregnancies, risk emotional pain, live it up, enjoy physical pleasures, experience heights of ecstasy. Whatever.

But you’re still defending terminating a human being. I don’t want to control women (or men). I want to defend the women (and men) who don’t have a voice or the strength to defend themselves. This is why I break ties with some traditional Pro-Lifers who will say that contraception and sex education are bad things. I’d rather someone learn to use a condom than learn to choose a Dilation and Extraction.

4. You pro-Lifers don’t really value life. Look at the death penalty.

You actually make our case for us here, while revealing the flaws in your own. First, we do value life. We value it so dearly that when someone chooses to commit a pattern of crimes endangering or ending the lives of others, we feel that the threat they pose to the life of another is too great to justify the risk of further criminal activity. When actions establish a threat to society, we believe – due to the value we place on the lives of others – that the threat should be eliminated. Choices have consequences.

Almost every pro-choice person I know feels the same way about eliminating threats when life is in danger. One of the key provisions pro-choice advocates demand is that exception to abortion restrictions must be made if the pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother. In other words, if that fetus is a risk, we have the right to eliminate that risk.

Pro-choice advocates are talking about possibilities and chances of danger based on past evidence. Supporters of the death penalty are operating on the same concern. There’s plenty of room for debate about the effectiveness of the police, legal, and judicial systems, and due caution must be made to ensure only those proven guilty are punished.
But please stop pretending that we don’t value life. We advocate eliminating the threat posed by the guilty, not the innocent

5. You pro-lifers don’t really value life. Look at guns.

Guns are a means of self-defense that we support based again on the value of life. My life and the lives of my family members are valuable to me, and I am eager to eliminate immediate threats to my loved ones. Guns are a tool to serve that purpose. We advocate legal ownership because it’s a Constitutionally-protected right and because it’s a way of protecting those we care about. We resist attempts to make guns illegal or place undue restrictions on ownership because gun control laws are demonstrable failures.

You don’t even believe in gun control, so stop acting like you do. If you believed in gun control, then you wouldn’t bring out the old saw about coat-hanger back-alley abortions. “If you make it illegal, it’s still going to happen, it’ll just be worse than before.” Sorry, are you shooting down your gun control argument or are you defending legal abortion? I forget, because there’s an obvious logical contradiction.

Certainly there’s a place in our society for reasoned debate. Nobody needs a rocket launcher or .50 caliber machine gun mounted on their minivan. Maybe handguns aren’t 100% evil too. Let’s talk and find a middle ground.

6. Like euthanasia, the individual mother’s choice deserves respect. No one else should choose for another.

We Pro-Lifers go nuts about cases like Terri Schiavo because we value life. Pro-Choice advocates reasonably argue that, when facing terminal illness or the ravages of old age, if an individual wants to die, why should we deny them that right? And they think us mad when we disagree, because that individual had the opportunity to choose, and choice is inviolate. Who are we to choose for them?

Again, the Pro-Choice position is inconsistent. The mother gets to choose for the fetus all the time, and we treat that decision as sacred. If the individual’s choice is so important then why doesn’t the developing human get a choice in the matter? Hey, maybe we should wait and get his or her take on whether they want to be prematurely euthanized.

7. What about cases of rape and incest?

Before I make a point on this, let me refer you to #1. Even though I’m not a woman, I get to talk about this because like you, I have a brain and the ability to process information and make judgments.

Rape is horrific and unacceptable. Incest is terrible. I do not condone these things or defend them in any way. No one should be subjected to such abuse.

Still, based on that debate about what constitutes life and what life is worth protecting, some Pro-Lifers are going to advocate for abortion to be illegal even in these cases. Is that ballsy? Is that hateful? Is that “rare chutzpah,” as a friend put it? Do the math. If I think that a living human being is about to be terminated solely for the crime of existing, then I’m going to oppose that. If I think that we’re talking about killing innocent human beings, I will believe we are compounding a tragedy. It would be rare chutzpah for me to stand by and say nothing.

There are some arguably good ways and many obviously wrong ways to make these cases. These subjects are tremendously sensitive and merit every ounce of compassion one can muster. I want to smack Pro-Lifers who get aggressive in the face of a victim of rape or incest. Their tactics can be vile and hateful, doing far more harm than any supposed good.

Still, meaningful discussions can and should take place, based on the assumptions we all bring to the table about the beginning and the value of life.

8. Abortion should be legal – if not up to birth then at least up until the fetus is viable on its own. It’s just a parasite until then.

Yes, I know (thank you, science) that the developing human being receives resources from the mother during gestation, and can’t survive outside the womb on its own until… well, what is it, a 50% chance of survival at 24 weeks now? We keep getting better at saving the lives of babies born prematurely. Yay technology!

But I’ll tell you what. Just because a newborn comes out of the womb, that doesn’t mean it’s “viable on its own.” Try leaving an infant on the table right after birth (I mean, if that’s not already common practice at the local clinic). Is that baby going to survive? My eight year old is still a parasite on my resources and his mother’s sanity. My soon-to-be 15 year old is even worse, if that’s possible. The same folks talking about when a fetus is or isn’t naturally viable on its own are the ones telling me all about how it takes a village to raise a child.

So long as it’s a fetus up to a point, it can be terminated and that’s fine, I’m told. Actually, left alone in the womb, the fetus is generally going to be naturally viable. Let nature run its course, and in nine months, most likely, you’ll have a baby. It’s such a natural process that we see news stories of new mothers who had no idea they were pregnant.

It’s not some invader stealing from the mother. It’s a developing human doing exactly what nature intends it to do, in the only place it could possibly be at that stage, the part of a mother’s body that is designed or evolved expressly for the purpose of protecting and sheltering the unborn human being until birth.

9. Keep your religion out of my body.

Well I kept religion out of this whole series of arguments, so we have a deal. How about you likewise keep your dogmatic views about your personal freedom out of that developing human individual’s body?

The Needs of the You

I had the privilege of watching Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the opening scene puts Zachary Quinto’s fantastic Spock into a deadly situation, freezing a volcano in order to save a planet from certain doom. Things go wrong, as they always must, and Spock is trapped. He chooses to stay and do the job, but he cannot be rescued.

He calls back to the Enterprise and explains his logic. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Chris Pine’s Kirk has a differing view about that.

But in that moment, we see the heroism of Spock’s selfless and practical decision. One man can die to save a population from destruction. If you’ve got to go, that’s not a bad achievement to take from your death.

Now imagine the scene from another angle. Kirk lines up a few “red shirts” and says, “I am going to choose one of you for a suicide mission. You’ll save the planet, but you’ll die in the process.” And then he covers his eyes and points, or plays eenie-meenie-miney-moe, or whatever Kirkly method he chooses, and he selects his crewman. “Lieutenant Jones, it’s you.”

Jones goes to the transporter crying, screaming, fighting until he is restrained. And then he gets beamed down to the planet, ordered to ensure the detonation of a device that will kill him in the process of saving many others. Instead, he scrambles to deactivate the device, like a time bomb. Spock’s voice echoes in Jones’ ears. “It is the logical decision, Lieutenant. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of you.” And Jones fails to stop the device, it goes off, and the day is saved at the cost of Lieutenant Jones’ unwilling sacrifice.

That doesn’t play so well, does it?

Sacrifice is heroic when individuals are free to take that burden upon themselves. The man who jumps on a grenade to save his friends, the medic who pulls his comrades to safety at great risk under heavy fire, the fireman who races into the burning building to save the missing child knowing the structure may collapse at any moment… we see these as heroes and rightly so.

It’s not so moving when someone chooses to sacrifice others against their will. The leader who sends his soldiers into pointless battle for an impossible objective, the criminal who makes his fortune by deception, the deadbeat who takes care of himself while neglecting the basic needs of his children… no one views the sacrifice imposed on the victims as a heroic or praiseworthy situation.

This is what comes to mind for me when I think about “reproductive rights” and abortion in the West.

I thought of this as I was attending a Chinese class. In China, the population lives under the “One Child Policy,” the rule that only the first child receives benefits from the Communist government. I discussed this with my Chinese teacher, along with Spock’s logic. And she confirmed that Chinese society has pretty much accepted this population control as a sacrifice made for the good of the nation. The nation trumps the individual, hands down.

Not so much here. We’re very much about the individual, and their freedom and right to self-determination. Don’t impose your beliefs or values on someone else, and don’t act like there’s some universal values all should esteem. We each have the right to choose!

Yet in the case of abortion, we praise “freedom of choice” when the human beings who make the greatest sacrifice have this burden thrust upon them unwillingly. The fetus does not choose, it is chosen–or rather, unchosen. We are Kirk, sending a red shirt to their death.

I know, I’m a man, so there’s a sense that I’m automatically disqualified from speaking about a woman’s right. But I’m also a human being (as are the victims of abortion). I am also aware of the basic fundamentals of biology which reaffirm that we’re talking about ending the development of human beings during these protected procedures. We may claim that a fetus is not a “person” yet, but it is a human being at a particular stage in development.

I won’t go into the graphic details of how that development is terminated, because it is disturbing. If you so desire, google Gosnell or read about the other similar cases coming to light. Then google or wiki up some abortion procedures. Then ask yourself how it is that what Gosnell did is illegal, but when he did it to a fetus inside a womb, it’s all good.

This is a complex issue, no doubt. I don’t want women in alleys with coat-hangers, to borrow from the Planned Paranoia debate playbook. I’m not keen on abstinence-only education because it seems to me like having information is a general plus. An informed decision about contraceptives might very well prevent an informed (or uninformed) decision about abortion, so I don’t know why many of us aren’t all for that.

I also don’t much like how the Pro-Life movement comes across. Opponents rightly ask, “If you’re all for saving these unborn children and bringing them into the world, who is going to take care of them?” The implication, borne out in reality, is that as much as Pro-Lifers love charity and adoption, there’s not enough of either going on to cover the needs of all the unborn children we might have saved if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Government may be the worst at welfare programs, but if they’re the only player in the game, people take what they can get.

And there are more nuances to consider, no doubt.

I simply want to express how tiresome it is to hear the praises of “choice” in this debate. It’s like generals and politicians exercising choice to send waves of young men and women into combat.

Not quite, though.

The soldier got to raise his or her right hand and volunteer.

The fetus, not so much.

Not Welcome

“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)

The “threat” to America

I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.

Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.

And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.

There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:

These apply to everyone,
Not just people we like.

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.

In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.

Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.

“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”

That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.

To that I’d say,

“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”

I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”

Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!

Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.

I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.

But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.

Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”

Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”

What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms in America, what fight is there? 

I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.

To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.

Apparently everybody doesn’t know.

Welcome to America.
Check your hate at the door.

 

It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.

Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:

“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Breaking with History

Imagine this description in a news story:

The young men gathered at the event were able to stand for the first time in openness and honesty before their peers. They were no longer required to cover up their private lives to save their public reputations. The burden of secrecy was finally lifted off their shoulders after years of living a lie.

And fears of violence or reprisal proved unfounded. Despite being a minority — just 10% of the population, on average — the attendees talked of the acceptance and tolerance they experienced. 

“It’s just not a big deal to my friends,” one man shared with a wide grin. “They know me, and they know this is a part of who I am. Our friendship matters more than our differences.”

I received a forwarded opinion piece in an e-mail from a Christian friend today. The article expressed deep concern that the Pentagon “broke with history” by celebrating its first gay pride event.

In the realm of “blinding flash of the obvious,” let’s do the math. The policy change allowing homosexuals to serve openly went into effect in September of 2011, three months after the last LGBT Pride month.

So… duh. This is the first such month that the Pentagon could even remotely support that without blatant hypocrisy.

They acted in accordance with the policy changes they’ve put into effect. Were we wanting duplicity instead?

But the tone of the article is what really got to me, with its one part fear-mongering, one part disgust.

We — the Christian community in America — are mostly operating under a double standard.

That “news story” description at the top could easily apply to Pride month. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m thinking of the way many of these same Christians would respond if the situation was different. What if this was a news story about a church function in a predominantly Muslim country? Or perhaps if it was an account of a meeting in China under communist rule?

Most of the Christians I’ve met would rejoice at the thought. Our brothers and sisters across the world, permitted to serve God openly in a place formerly hostile to expressions of faith? That would be wonderful news!

It would also be “breaking with history.”

My news story is fictional, but I know the hopes and the prayers of my fellow believers… and my own, for that matter. We look for change in governments that are opposed to open expression of religion. We desire a shift toward freedom and individual rights, even if that’s not the historical way of the nations in question.

Abandoning social norms is acceptable if the change agrees with us.

And we act like our stance on religious freedom makes perfect sense; why doesn’t everyone see it our way? Why shouldn’t Christians be allowed to believe in God in a public fashion in these other countries?

But God forbid that homosexuals in America should have a chance to live openly instead of hiding who they are.

Shortly after joining the military, I learned that the standard I use to judge or limit other people’s activities can very easily be turned around against me.

It’s natural that we believe our moral standards are the best. People can call that arrogance, but that’s a silly argument. I believe what I believe precisely because I think it’s the best, most accurate choice. And everyone else does exactly the same thing. If I thought my beliefs were flawed, I would give them up. I expect we all would.

The danger in having a strong belief or moral standard is that you risk applying it to everyone else, regardless of what they believe.

It’s great that I believe the Christian Gospel and the moral standards of the Bible. That’s the choice I’ve made based on my faith.

But why should I act like that’s everyone else’s choice too?

We set ourselves up for needless conflict and miscommunication when we expect others to align with our beliefs when they do not share those beliefs. I expect people who claim to be Christians to act like Christians. I expect people who aren’t interested in Christianity to live how they choose, not necessarily according to my rules.

News Flash: they didn’t sign on for my moral standard.

People of other faiths or no faith are going to live in accordance with their beliefs. That’s a good thing.

We always hope that our missionaries to other countries would be permitted such freedom. We want them to be able to worship and live out Christian values even if they are the minority.

Why is it we’re fine with the majority imposing values on the minority here in the States?

The standard I use to limit someone else’s freedom will sooner or later be used to limit my own.

For example, some of my Christian friends would balk at the thought that other religions could use Base Chapel facilities for their own religious ceremonies and meetings–especially those pagans and Wiccans! The latter term would come out in the hushed whisper that somehow conjures a mental image of spitting on the ground. “I can’t believe they let them into the Chapel!”

One of my Wiccan coworkers tried to get a rise out of me by pointing out how the Chapel opened its doors and permitted them to meet in the facilities.

“Good,” I said. “The day they tell you that you’re not allowed to meet there, they can come tell me the same thing.”

Celebrating freedom is more than just getting to do what I want. Freedom for all means that I also celebrate the opportunity for others to do the things I oppose.

I don’t need a back-seat driver in my life telling me what to do. I don’t need to be one for someone else either.