Saturday, June 29, 2013

Religious Intolerance

The forces of religious intolerance have been evident in America since the time of early European settlement. Yet out of the experience of that intolerance our founding fathers created an understanding of religious freedom and embedded it in the constitution as part of the first amendment.

George Washington addressed the Jewish congregation at Newport, Road Island when anti-Semitic feeling ran high. He said, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be no one to make him afraid.”

From our founding we have been a nation of predominantly protestant Christians but we have not been a “Christian Nation.” That is no one religion has been officially recognized over any other religion. People of all religious faiths are permitted to assemble and worship together as they please. We note that Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Deist or non-religious are all welcome to enjoy religious freedom here. That is a great thing about America.

The ugly other side of the coin is that among people in this country ignorant religious intolerance has occasionally run rampant. Until after World War II there was a pronounced anti-Jewish sentiment here. As late as 1939 twenty thousand people gathered in New York with banners that read, “Stop Jewish Domination of America.” When John Kennedy ran for president the dirty trick campaign wanted to stop the alien Romanist from giving power to the Pope in the Whitehouse.

The same tired arguments are used over and over against what ever religion is targeted:

The tenets of [?name the religion] are opposed to the values of America.
[?name the religion] have undue influence with American elites.
[?name the religion] integration into America is a veiled foreign invasion.

Fear of the different should never cause us to hate and be hated because of our personal religious beliefs.

Friday, June 28, 2013

That Prefix "RE-"

July is the month I sort through and clean out my paper (and now electronic!) files. It’s intriguing how many files under the letter ‘R’ begin with ‘re-‘:  retreat, revival, recycle, research. This prefix ‘re’, means ‘back’ or ‘again and again’. This prefix also can intensify the meaning of the word that it precedes. This little prefix can inspire changes to re-organize our lives.

Why not re-write your wills this summer? Or re-turn a borrowed item and re-new a friendship?  Perhaps re-consider a poor habit and re-vive a healthier one. This month could be a good time to re-duce the clutter in your home and re-consider the things you collect.

Now might be the right time to re-concile with an estranged family member, or re-build a damaged relationship. You might re-claim a good intention, or re-commit time and energy to an important cause. We do well to re-call what we value, and re-solve to give it due attention.
We can all re-cycle and re-use many items that we now throw away. Or re-pent of criticism and re-frain from harmful words. We can re-trieve a rusty skill, or re-flect on a new idea. Maybe re-furbish an old treasure and re-place dead batteries. We can re-inforce a helpful practice and re-cruit others to make a change.

We need to re-member that our ability to accomplish any of these changes, to re-turn to a more fulfilled lifestyle or re-search a new direction, does not happen through our efforts alone.  The God, in Whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17.28) plants the desire to make a new start in our hearts and minds. In one of his short letters, the apostle John re-frames our assumption about motivation: “in this is love, not that we loved God [first], but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” (I John 4.10).

At the same time, we do have a role in re-forming our lives. Sr. Joan Chittister describes it this way: “It is not faith to rely on God to supply what we are capable of doing for ourselves. Faith is not passivity. Faith is the surety that we are meant to have what we are striving for, that it will come in God’s good time—as long as we do our part, as well, to make it possible.” 

Most of all, summer is a time to re-lax the body, re-fresh the mind, and re-store the spirit with rest, good food, and re-creation. As we re-view our lives and loves, may we re-tain what is valuable, re-lease what is completed, re-cover what we desire, and re-joice in the present.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Equal Civil Rights

Our society has been going through massive cultural changes over the last fifty years that I have been an observer. I remember when Sunday morning in church was the most segregated hour in the country with whites and blacks in different churches. It was a time when a white southern woman could use the “N-word” and not cause a stir. It was a time when the word gay meant happy and certain people kept their preferences hidden.

Many very small things and some major changes have happened over the years to make the civil equality changes we are witnessing today. After the voter rights and integration in schools began a slow shift in thinking. Many people my age have not made that shift but our children and grand children have. To the great surprise of their elders they believe in equal civil rights for all people and they are taking over. The polls are showing that shift in the political arena and in society in general.

As my generation dies off the shift will become the normal because the grand children who do not see color as a test of friendship will be the leaders of our county. The same is true for gender issues and disabilities or language. Today I am a member of Hurstbourne Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and we have several mixed race families and a variety of languages worshiping together in peace and love. This is the way it should be for God loves all his children equally and so should we.

I have believed in equal civil rights for everyone for a long time and now is the right time.  For those who are having a hard time dealing with this change, hold on because it has only begun. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day Dreams

For many of us so much of our time is spent on wasted day dreams. How many times did my teachers ask me what I was staring at out the window? I was not actually looking at anything out the window; I was thinking about far away places and what I might do there. Some would say they were wasted day dreams and perhaps some of them were but not all of them.

The difference between those dreams that are wasted and those that are not depends on what we do with them. A day dream becomes a life goal when we begin to act on it. That action may come many years later when an opportunity arrives and a dream become a reality. When I was in the eighth grade I wrote a short paper on Petra and became fascinated with the city carved out of the rocks. Over the years I day dreamed about what it would be like to visit that place. When I studied archaeology in collage that day dream returned and included digging in Petra. The day dream became a reality in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

Writer’s day dream and we later read their novels. Edison day dreamed and later lights came on. Einstein day dreamed and science was turned on its head. Jules Vern dreamed of going to the moon and President Kennedy took action to make it a reality. Day dreams are important beyond entertaining ourselves when we put action to the dream. Dream on my friends. Dream on!