Sunday, April 24, 2005

#159 - Our Fathers' Sorrows

With apologies in advance, but only for having rambling thoughts.

Via Michelle Malkin comes this story of a middle school in Colorado that found themselves listening to a somewhat modified version of the Pledge of Allegiance. A guidance counselor at the school, no doubt having the best of intentions, changed the phrase "one nation, under God" to read "one nation, under your belief system."

Nice out.

The debate about the importance of God to this country is, of course, old news. One can only imagine how the founding fathers must feel. I'm guessing they frequently hang their heads in shame every time we feel a need as a nation to apologize for believing in God.

It's easy - perhaps too easy - to blame the atheists for this. Certainly they made it a battleground when they launched law suits to have God removed from as many public venues as possible. Still, except for a few shining voices, the believers largely let them get away with it.

Political correctness is, in fact, a symptom of a much more ravaging illness. A cancer of such magnitude that it threatens to destroy every quality of life for which our forefathers fought in every war since the Revolution. One of our most basic rights is the right to worship in any way that we may choose, without fear of government interference, and yet we abdicate that right every time we allow some humanist to strike the word "God" from public view.

I suppose, if I were to give atheists the benefit of the doubt, that there may be some genuine offense taken in hearing the name of God invoked in public. Certainly Cain took offense. In fact, he got so tired of hearing it that he destroyed the life of his brother and made himself an outcast for the rest of his existence. But I don't remember hearing about any apology from Adam. "Sorry, Cain. I know we never understood your need to disbelieve in our Creator, and you'll never hear us mention him again." Show me that scripture, and I'll buy into the atheistic argument.

The very amendment that guarantees freedom of speech as well as freedom to worship also implies a right to never have to apologize for having faith in God. Why should we? What is it that seems to be so offensive to so many today?

Probably it is the aspect of personal accountability that galls them. "One nation, under God" implies that this country - rightly - is founded on laws that have their roots in Judeo-Christian tradition. The laws that demand respect of other peoples' civic rights are squarely in synch with revealed law from God himself. We cannot and should not force others to believe in God, but neither should we feel compelled to shut our mouths in public lest we be accused of offending others because of God. Those who would live a life free from personal accountability risk having their freedoms severely curtailed by literally throwing them away. Certain things are still illegal in this country, and living a life without accountability ultimately leads to those illegal acts. Those who somehow manage to escape that accountability in this life will have that much more to account for in the life to come.

There is a basic argument that says that those who don't appreciate this country are free to leave it. I personally have found that argument to be somewhat harsh. I have lived outside the country. I fully recognize the blessing it is to live in this constitutional republic. I know how repressive other governments can be and often are. I suppose there is also a temptation to ask those who feel offended by basic Christian beliefs to simply close their ears, but that argument, too, is harsh.

Most of us who profess belief and faith in a living God feel absolutely no need to apologize for believing the way we do. In fact, it offends us when someone forces us, practically at gunpoint, to close our mouths and worship in silence.

Make no mistake: a revolution awaits. It will come when society has degraded itself sufficiently that the only way to go is up. Life will have become so wearisome that knowledge of a loving God will be a healing balm.

A knowledge for which I will refuse to apologize.

Monday, April 11, 2005

#158 - Giving Me Gas... [Updated]

Our summer will disappoint this year, I'm afraid. We usually look forward to summers if only because we have a chance to take a week or two and travel around with our little family. There for awhile we alternated between our friends up in Washington state and family in Utah. Last year we decided to putz around the mountain regions of northern California, admiring the beauty of Mount Shasta (while worrying about the decided lack of water in Shasta Lake) and surrounding areas.

This year, I'm thinking our big destination will be the local putt-putt and pizza palace.

It's not that I'm complaining, but it isn't as if the country has had little or no warning about these pesky fuel costs. I was a new driver during the "Energy Crisis" of the late 70's and had to spend a few days at our local gas stations. We slowly inched our way around the block waiting for our turn (wouldn't you know both of our vehicles had odd numbered license plates!) to put some go-juice in our go-buggies. Every time we did, we lost several hours of life sitting in those cars, softly swearing at some faceless organization called "OPEC" and wondering when Detroit was ever going to get a clue.

Thirty years and about a gazillion SUVs later, we're still clueless. We still choose to ignore those who warn against our dependence on foreign oil, and laugh at those who tout alternative fuels for a commute-happy society. Worse, we threaten to find creative ways to punish those who dare to purchase energy efficient vehicles, because some poor politician isn't getting enough money to waste on highway maintenance projects. (If you've ever seen a CalTrans road project, you know that "efficient" is not allowed in the current bargaining unit agreement.)

With the cost of gasoline steadily creeping upward (we're pushing the $3.00 ceiling here in sunny southern Cal!), the next voices I expect to hear would come from the various tourism boards across the country. I, for one, will likely not be taking my family very far from Orange County this year. I've done the math, and even my easy-on-the-mileage Saturn will be too expensive for anything but day trips. If even 10% of the families who normally find some way of travelling elsewhere for vacation find themselves in a similar situation, I predict a few ghost towns increasing their spiritual populations by summer's end.

Me? I'm not getting into this debate. I can't really afford to do anything but wait it out and either buy an alternative-fueled vehicle when I can next afford one (retirement, I'm thinking), or save up for five years at a time so we can take two more travelling vacations before the girls get too old to enjoy them.

Yeah, it's that bad.

UPDATE: So Mrs. Woody and I were budgeting for our vacation this year, when Mrs. Woody hit on the idea of checking into the train. (Note: the Coast Starlight is not suffering from brake trouble these days)

Turns out that travelling by train actually saves us over the cost of gas, hotels and food that we would pay for the trip up and back. So, odd as it may sound, saved by Amtrak!

Monday, April 04, 2005

#157 - Death Watch du Jour

It's been interesting to note how the world reacts to death. Or, I should say, it's interesting to note how the media wants us to see how the world reacts.

With Terri Schiavo there appeared to be a huge following of people who wanted - desperately - to empathize with her suffering. Not the brain damage, mind you. It was the family struggle that seemed to spur most people into one corner or another. I, for one, cannot for the life of me figure out why her husband was so dead-set against handing care of his wife over to her parents, who certainly seemed perfectly willing to handle her care and keeping for the rest of her natural life. It has made absolutely no sense to me.

Then again, I'm a little worried about letting the judicial system handle this sort of problem. Worse still was having Congress turn it into a political statement. No; circus, really. If the issue boiled down to the argument of whether a given person has the "right" to die, please let the participants be those who can still speak for themselves. Making Terri the poster child for this issue violated her right to suffer privately. There was no reason to parade her through the public square in order to press a point.

Has my mind been made up on all of these points? Absolutely not. As I mentioned before, there but for grace...

Unfortunately, any time the media gets involved in these affairs, the whole spectacle reminds me of vultures circling some wretched animal just before the final blow. Reporters swoop in and out like so many scavengers, making what they hope to heaven is a profound statement on the human "angle" of the story, then riding the crest to yet another journalistic prize. Terri lies dying while the J-school knock-offs make their marks on the story. Watching the reporting of this tragedy has reminded me forcefully of the reporters in "The Right Stuff" who were always accompanied by the sound of plague-carrying insects. How appropriate.

Even with the passing of a spiritual leader, such as the Pope, the circus changes nothing but the tent. Same tired acts, new tent.

I'll grant you that the passing of a Pope is of great interest to me. The Catholic church has fascinated me for decades as an academic study, and I'm very much interested in watching the process of selecting a new Pontiff as it unfolds. Succession in the LDS church is nothing if not predictable, and there's nothing political about it. That's why it intrigues me to watch a religion deal with its own political issues in something as significant as choosing its next spiritual head.

In the meantime, rather than merely report on the failing condition and eventual passing of a great man, the media had to turn it into Death Watch du Jour. The ticket hawkers sat pompously at their anchor desks and barked for everyone's attention. "Getcher front row seats right here! Witness the gripping drama! Watch bereaved Catholics everywhere! And don't forget: we still have a chance to sway church policy about such media-critical issues as women in the priesthood and gay marriage!"

Oh, yeah. Couldn't forget that.

So now the death watch has turned into a social-issues watch. Terri and John Paul II are dead.

Long live their controversies.