Tuesday, April 27, 2010

immigration, part one

The hot news topic recently has been immigration. It has been spurred by the enactment of a new stricter law in Arizona, a state that I spent considerable time in in the past, but which I am glad to be out of. There are many reasons, chiefly climate and politics, but I still have good memories and friends from that period in my life as well. My experiences in Arizona are complex, as is the issue of immigration. It brings up many issues of faith and politics interacting and I hope to cover a few over the next few posts in order to prod your thinking.

There is the issue of entitlement. We often think of entitlement as an attitude of "others", chiefly seen in the anti-equality arguments of social conservatives against (as they say) "special rights" for gays. But I think that those of us who can trace our ancestry in this country back to colonial times have a habit of thinking in terms of entitlement for ourselves - and that can be dangerous.

There is the issue of dealing with those less fortunate. Our hearts are drawn to give to help victims of natural disaster, poverty, disease, in foreign lands. But when they come here to live and work, our attitude changes. We tend to be very protective of "our space" ,."our resources",. and forget everything we learned in kindergarten (sharing).

There is the issue of law. We are adamant that others abide by the letter of the law, but how often have we slipped out of ticket due to an understanding officer? What if the law was applied to us with the tightness that we advocate for others?

And finally, the issue of passion. It is a good thing to be passionate and to have strong opinions - it shows we care. But all too often it can degenerate into fear, distrust, hatred, and prejudice , of many varieties (not just racial).

I think the most important thing is to think clearly and with empathy...or at least with sympathy. We may not always be able to identify with what others are experiencing or feeling, but we can try to "walk a mile" in others shoes and think how we would feel if what we advocate doing to them were done to us. It just might change our attitudes and our hearts.

More to come in future posts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

let me have coffee please

Sometimes you just have to rant. I admit the TeaPartiers get me riled up. I was a history and political science major, so I think I am more versed on those subjects than the average jane and joe, but it still amazes me when I hear the stuff people say in these gatherings. But I know that throughout our history we have had much like this. Most people do not think past what they read in their (flawed) textbooks in school and don't remember much of that. They are seriously incurious and utterly unmotivated to investigate beyond the bare facts, even of our valued American heritage. And they tend to just echo the loudest voice that seems to mirror their politics.

We tend to resort to demagoguery, sloganeering, sound-bite patriotism, and platitudes. In the past it has gotten us into plenty of trouble - witness the "yellow journalism" of the Spanish- American War. While we may think that today's acrimony is some radical change from the peaceful past , I beg to differ. During the run-up to the Civil War we had one Senator beating another one senseless on the Senate floor in a debate over slavery. Today we have the Virginia governor issuing a Confederate Month celebration without even mentioning the "S" word. How forgetful are we?

I wouldn't be safe in Texas ("Remember the Alamo"? really?) and though I would like to tweak a few Tea Partiers they are too disturbing. I mean, has anyone asked them why they use a historical event that conflicts with their purported values to spark their movement? What do I mean? Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Boston Tea Party was nothing more or less than an act of political vandalism.

Destroying someone else's property (remember this was British,not colonial tea) to make a political point Kinda like the anarchists breaking store windows in Seattle during the WTO riots. Something that would seem an obvious violation of those pesky Ten Commandments that these Tea Partiers would love to see displayed everywhere. But yet we in America have through the years celebrated the event as a highlight of proud American history

I know, that will get me marked as a heretic in many circles - and that's not the end of things I could say about our skewed view of history. Let me be clear, I love my country and this is my home. I love the freedoms that we have and there is no where else like here. I am very grateful to God for allowing me to be born here. But love doesn't have to have blinders. If you love something or someone you want to make it or them better. Hiding from flaws is not love ,it is myopic (nearsightedness , for those of you without glasses :)

So my assignment to you is this. The next time you hear or read a platitude or slogan or appeal to "patriotism" don't just swallow it whole without analyzing it , to see if it makes sense. I know we are all busy, not in school anymore, and it is easy to just absorb the news. But if we are to avoid being led around like sheep by the latest loud voice we have to develop better brains and use ours heads to actually think, not just store trivia.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

a world without....what?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do without some significant tool or technology?
If you ever camp, like we do , you know how it is to do without some modern conveniences for a while. And even then it is only for a short while and then we go back to the regular techie world.
What kind of things would you be willing to give up, or think that the world would be better off without? What scourges would you like to rid the world of? Sometimes I think cars are more trouble than they're worth, especially when needing fixing, but I can't see myself giving mine up any time soon.

According to some recent comments from so-called "conservatives" they would hate to see a world without nuclear weapons (or at least the US without them). Imagine that? Their response to the recent talks between the US and Russia on reducing nuclear arsenals is to warn about the danger of going back to pre-nuclear days. Does anybody who lived through the Cold War really think that it was a fun time and we wouldn't have been better off without nukes? You really would miss the "duck and cover" drills in elementary school?

It is not that I am against national defense, not in the least. In the same way that we protect our families and homes individually, we must be ready,willing and able to defend our country against those who wish to do us harm. But would you use a flamethrower or bombs to defend your house? No, because in defending you would destroy more than you saved, and the use of those things would harm all around you. Such is the case with nuclear weapons...poison the earth , sicken people, for years, and once you start there is no easy way to stop.
]If you have ever seen the records (pictures and first hand accounts) of the devastation of Hiroshima you might understand the importance of insuring that something like that never happens again.

There was a time when nations had no qualms about using chemical and biological weapons and WWI battlefields were full of their victims. These things are not contained to the battlefield and don't discriminate between soldiers and civilians. We got beyond thinking even having those were okay, perhaps one day we will do the same for nuclear.

To think that we as a country once contemplated a nuclear exchange with the Soviets, thinking that somehow anyone would "win" is disturbing. And to think that there are some who are "afraid" of reducing nuclear stockpiles is even more so. God has given us free will, but that does not mean that we should use that freedom to go down paths to destruction. I applaud the recent discussions and hope they will bear good fruit. And I pray that cooler heads will always prevail.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hope and Change

It always amazed me during the campaign of 2008 how the words hope and change were maligned by one side because the other side used them as rallying cries. They were dismissed as "touchy feely" and those who embraced them were dismissed as delusional. By many who should have known better. It is one thing to debate the kind of change needed or just what our hope should be, but we should never dismiss hope and/or change as being bad.

Think of this weekend and the celebration of millions of believers. Easter is all about hope and change. Hope is bound up in the idea of resurrection. That death is not the end, that there is a future beyond the grave, called Heaven. Reuniting with love ones and the our great Deliverer.
And not just in the far future, but right now. As we read in Jeremiah, God said to the children of Israel "I know the plans I that I have for you ...to give you a future and a hope". In many other places God assures us that while in this world we will have hard time He will be there with us to get us through. An appeal to hope is not wrong.

And what about change? The cross and the empty tomb are symbols of great change. They were the ultimate change points of a life lived to challenge the accepted thoughts and conditions of the day. The religious conservatives of the day were much like ours today and Jesus challenged them constantly to lose their chains of legalism and realize the spirit of the Law. How many times did he say in the Sermon on the Mount, "you have heard it has been said....but I say unto you" ? He chastised them for putting "theology" (or ideology) above the welfare of people. He called for a life of sacrifice and demonstrated it on the cross, removing the barriers between God and man. That was some change!

Too often we get stuck where we are, and with things as they are, and lose hope of things ever getting better. Or we comfortable where we are and fear change, thinking it will only be for the worse. But God calls us to better things, to grow each day. And we who have faith in God should live it out each day, and be the first to embrace hope and change, now and forever.

Happy Easter everyone :)