Monday, December 24, 2012

Does God Go To School?

     It seems that predicting the future is a thriving industry. Forecasters of doomsdays, fiscal cliffs, etc. as well as numerous seers who can predict one's love life, financial success, you name it, are a dime a dozen. I wish I had the ability to write one's horoscope; my financial future would be assured. Oh wait, that requires the gift of BS - not ESP.
     But I digress. The industry goes back thousands of years; the magi who sought the Christ child were astrologers. (Traditionally there were three of them, but the Bible doesn't mention the actual number.) And that was the start of the segment of “prophets” that I am getting very tired of hearing from: those who predict the complete disintegration of society because we have “kicked God out of our schools.”
     Face it, folks, we did not kick God out of our schools. As I understand it, God is everywhere that we are. According to Psalm 139, “. . . if I descend into hell, thou art present.”
     As the Newtown incident demonstrated, in some cases descending into hell would be preferable to going to school, but the point is, the Supreme Court not withstanding, God is present even in school.
     There is not, nor can there be, any prohibition against anyone's praying anywhere, anytime, for any reason. And that applies no matter to whom the prayer is directed, whether it be to God, Allah, Zeus or the Wicked Witch of the West. Nor may the school suggest to someone who doesn't believe in prayer that perhaps the acquisition of religious belief would be beneficial.
     What is prohibited is the school's giving any suggestion, blatant or subtle, as to whom or to what the prayer should be directed.
     It is more likely that our society will disintegrate because of the tendency of religions to separate people into “us” vs. “them” groups, than that kids will not be force-fed prayers over the school intercom system.

     My books, "There Are Only Seven Jokes" and "The Spirit Runs Through It" are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Mindless Attack.

     Almost buried in the coverage of the atrocity committed in Newtown, Connecticut, was another story of an act of “rage”: An attack on three elderly Mennonite ladies in nearby Clay, Pennsylvania.
     A young man posing as an insurance salesman gained admission to the residence occupied by three sisters who ranged in age from 84 to 90. Once inside, he donned a mask, and assaulted the ladies with a stun gun; he also punched, slapped and kicked them over a two-hour period.
     During his rampage he indicated that he had been a Mennonite, although people who knew him said that he never was a member of that faith. He also read from the Bible, and vandalized the one belonging to the ladies.
     Finally he spread a variety of household chemicals – bleach, vinegar, pesticides, etc. - throughout the house, and left the ladies tied up. Had it not been for a relative who stopped in four hours later, they might have died. They are expected to recover from their injuries.
     Police reported that the assailant was identified and arrested shortly after the incident. No one knows what set him off. According to one acquaintance he had “a soft heart” and “an inquiring mind.”
      The Mennonite faith as practiced in this area is distinguished primarily by the commitment of its members to service and pacifism. The test scores of students at the Lancaster Mennonite High School are “consistently superior to those of local and state averages for public and church-related schools.” Students are offered a rich variety of activities, including athletics, drama, music and art. All high school students attend daily chapel services and take a theology or Bible class each year.
     Why anyone would find fault with a community of faith such as this boggles the imagination, but like the events in Newtown, it seems to stem from a deranged mind.
     Could it have been prevented? Perhaps. If someone had recognized the symptoms of the young man's disengagement from the real world, treatment may have worked. But our ability to recognize and react to those symptoms is woefully inadequate.
      It is the government's responsibility to protect its citizens. Gun control laws, a hot topic at the present time, are not enough; obviously they could not have prevented the Mennonite atrocity. A systematic approach, covering weapons control, education, and psychological profiling and treatment is indicated. Only the government can organize and finance such a wide-ranging approach.
     Does President Obama have the leadership ability to spearhead such an approach? I hope so.

My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs

Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Mark Of The Beast.

      A recent newspaper story out of San Antonio tells of a 15-year-old student who is fighting her school district's “locator” chip embedded in her student ID badge. According to her, the chip is a “mark of the beast” as described in the Bible's Book of Revelation. This “mark” is a combination of letters and symbols that will be physically and permanently placed on one's forehead or right hand, indicating that the bearer is a follower of “the beast.” There will be severe penalties for refusing the mark and great rewards for getting it. Among other things “. . . no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
     Within the church itself, the Book of Revelation has had many different interpretations, ranging from a condemnation of the Roman Empire, an allegory of the ongoing fight between good and evil, or a forecast of the “end times.”
     Throughout the ages conservative Christians have believed in the “forecast” interpretation. To them the beast is Satan himself. In recent times the computer chip, especially when embedded in the human body, has been looked upon as a potential mark of the beast. It is incumbent upon Christians to resist receiving this mark at all costs. The San Antonio student obviously falls into this category.
     In addition to its religious meaning, the school district's ability to ascertain the location of the student at all times raises the issue of invasion of privacy. It is for this reason that an unlikely partnership has been joined between the student and the ACLU, and a Texas state lawmaker has introduced a bill into the legislature prohibiting the technology in Texas schools.
     The school district offered to remove the chip from the girl's ID badge, but still required her to wear it at all times while on school property. Again the family has refused on the grounds that it is “submission to a false god,” and that wearing the badge indicates her participation in the program. One wonders how they feel about drivers' licenses, social security cards and other forms of ID.
     In the event the case goes to court, I believe the family is likely to prevail. Generally a state has to have a “clear and convincing” reason in order to limit a person's religious beliefs. Obviously public safety, human sacrifice, polygamy, etc. meet the test, but I do not think that is the case here. But is it possible that a monetary settlement could be reached?
     One personal observation: It is my personal opinion that no matter how wild, unrealistic and ridiculous a belief is, a justification for it can be found somewhere in the Bible. Also, there are people willing to join in the practice. At what point does a particular religious belief become a superstition? Or is there any difference at all?

My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs

Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Day That Changed The World

There are three dates that stand out in the memories of those of us who were born before 1930: December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001. Most of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the horrible news of the events that happened on those days. Today is the 71st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The following reminiscence of my personal experience may not mean anything to my younger readers, but it is important to me.
It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts-for democracy.

The first Sunday in December was warm for the season. Our family had planned for it to be a special day, but little did we know just how special it would turn out to be.
We were having one of our occasional family gatherings at my Grandparents’ farm. Since we got together only a few times a year, this would be a very exciting day. My parents and I didn’t often get to see Uncle Ross and his family, Uncle Ralph, and Aunt Dorothy and her family (cousin Dale was only a toddler, a little over two years old).
As usual, Grandma had made far too much food, including a roast turkey and a baked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes, corn, peas, green beans, a sour salad (Grandpa always liked something sour with every meal), and pie and cake for dessert. The wonderful odors alone literally made my mouth water. As the saying goes, the table was groaning with all the food, and by the time the meal was finished, so was everyone at the table.
There was no running water in the house, but the kettle had been put on the coal stove before we sat down, and by the time the table was cleared, the water was hot, so Grandma set out the dish pan and the ladies quickly finished the cleaning up of the dishes, pots and pans.
The men sat around talking and joking until my father turned to the radio sitting between the door to the summer kitchen, and the window overlooking the now dead looking flower garden.
The radio was one of the new floor models with not only AM (regular) broadcast bands, but also several short wave bands, through which we could listen, but not talk, to police and airline calls as well as amateur radio operators throughout the world. For some reason that was not too clearly understood at that time, these bands usually worked best at night, but on this day they were working very well during the daylight hours.
We had listened to some amateurs for only a few minutes when a lady’s voice broke in very excitedly, saying, “Will you please get off the air! This is an emergency! The Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor!”
As the grownups all gathered around, we quickly switched to the AM broadcasts in order to get the latest news. My father said, “This means we are at war.”
Since I was only twelve years old, I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation, although I knew something important was happening. The next day I listened to the radio as President Roosevelt addressed the Congress. I can still hear him say, “I shall ask the Congress to declah that a state of wah has existed between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.”
It was truly the day that changed the world.


My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and "The Spirit Runs

Through It" are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.