Political participation

Young Mom’s musings about gay rights and how a Christian should act were very interesting, and I found I wanted to comment on them, also on some of my thoughts in reaction to the comments that came up. (She made a couple of inaccurate statements, but they didn’t change the overall thrust of her post, with which I mostly agree.) Plus, as I thought through my own feelings, I found I wanted to add some things. Tangents! the joy of blogs.

So, first, I know how you feel.

When I first read what Young Mom had written, my first thought was an instinctive agreement. Then I read some of the comments, and felt some doubts about my own agreement. I had to think about why for a bit, but this is actually something I have been thinking about, and so some of the answers came fairly quickly. And in some areas, I disagree. But writing them down, well that takes longer.

When I see protesters who profess to be Christian acting in ways that I feel are hateful, I fully understand Young Mom’s uneasiness and distress with political activity. I fully empathize with that emotion, because it is part of my own feelings. I cannot walk in a protest, especially as a Christian, with a group who are professing to act based upon their Christian beliefs, who write things like “You are going to hell because you are gay.” Its truth is not the problem. HOW it is said IS a BIG problem. I think that how a Christian supports something can be just as important as what a Christian supports. When my fellow Christians act in hate and not love, then I cannot walk with them.

But I don’t think that excuses us from ANY political participation. (She wasn’t suggesting that, it is just a reaction I’ve seen in many.) The entire idea of the United States is built upon the fundamental principle that every citizen has both a right and a responsibility to be involved. For some, a minimum level of responsibility is nothing more than voting. For others, it goes all the way to becoming a politician and actively working to change things. For the rest, there are many shades in between. (Actually, there is a large portion who do absolutely nothing, including vote, but they are copping out on their own citizen’s responsibility. I try not to despise them, but it’s hard not to feel negative about them.) Political participation is essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy, so I cannot simply say “I hate politics” and leave it at that. By doing so, you are handing someone else the power to make decisions for you, and I just can’t do it that easily. I can with God, but not with people. So I have to find a way to be involved that doesn’t support those shouting protesters but does fulfill the responsibility to be a good citizen.

When I am tempted to do nothing at all, I do sometimes remind myself of Christ’s admonition to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. While part of that message was to be sure to give him only what is his, there is also the admonition that that a total lack of involvement is not really an option either. The government, especially the US government, needs to have involved participants.

And something that bothers me a lot? We have started acting as if political discussion is as sensitive as religious discussion, with the result that people think it is impolite to bring it up in general conversation. Um, if we don’t talk about it then how can we reach ANY kind of consensus? We need to remember to be civil and self-controlled, not hateful and shouting, but we still need to discuss it.

It is actually rather funny when I think about my own family. My parents were never highly involved in politics as I was growing up, other than voting. But as they’ve grown older and had more time (no kids at home, you know) they have started paying a lot more attention to what is happening in politics and being a lot more verbal about their opinions. My brother and sister are also a lot more intense about it as well. All of them listen to a lot of talk radio, which actually drives me insane, even when I agree. (I find talk radio, especially call-in shows, hugely annoying. Endless repetition. Constant interruption. Really stupid questions. Irritating.) But what concerns me sometimes is that I don’t know that they’ve given it a lot of deep thought. Maybe they have, but I don’t always feel certain of that, and it worries me.

One of the areas where I’ve not been completely sure I agree with my family is the issue of having a law defining marriage. They agree with the idea, but I’m a little more dubious. One: this is, at least in part, a religious issue as much as a legal one, and I do believe in the separation of church and state. (This is one area where I don’t agree with Young Mom’s statements. Marriage is not just a legal issue, it is both religious and legal.) If I remember right, there are countries where people have to have two ceremonies, one civil and one religious. That actually makes a good bit of sense to me. Two: I’m not sure I am as bothered by the insurance, etc. consequences. If a gay couple wants to be sure that their gay “spouse” receives the same benefits as a heterosexual spouse, then I’m pretty much fine with that, even though I believe them to be completely wrong in their homosexual choice. It is their choice. Letting them have the same spousal benefits does not imply approval by me or by a religion that clearly teaches it as wrong. Three: I’m wary of defining homosexuality as illegal, since that has led to a lot of wrongs in the past. How many human beings persecuted others for their sexual choices? LOTS! The homosexual choice was certainly sinful, but so was the persecution.

On the whole, as I’ve thought about it, I decided that if a law came up to define marriage as between one man and one woman, I would probably vote for it, but I am certainly NOT going to campaign for it. But before I vote for it, it has to meet certain criteria for me. It has to be a positive law, meaning it establishes a right, not a negative law, that punishes someone for making the opposite choice. Being a homosexual is as sinful as being a fornicator in God’s eyes, as I understand it, so I’m not going to even ask for a law about either of those, so long as they bring no direct harm to another person. (This was one of Young Mom’s inaccuracies. There have been times when being a fornicator or adulterer has been illegal, in the US as well as pretty much everywhere else. And I believe there are some gays who are attempting to make it religiously acceptable to be homosexually married.) Yes, I understand that there are many cultural, societal consequences to these things that can be/will be mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually harmful, but you can’t legislate everything. You shouldn’t legislate everything. That is not the province of government.

In a way, I suppose thinking about this goes back to my own struggles to understand what is the purpose of government. So much of what a government should do is based on definitions and opinions of what is harmful, what is a natural, human right, and what should be a choice. And this topic is deeply intertwined with my previous post about laws, regulations, and guidelines. What a law dictates and what a society approves are two different things. I am more distressed by the fact that being gay is “approved” by society than the fact that there is no law on the books that defines marriage in favor of a heterosexual couple.

Sigh. This is the kind of confusion you will find inside my head.

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rules or guidelines?

There oughta be a law.

How often have you heard that one?

Human beings have an innate sense of fairness, but they are also lazy and lacking in self-confidence, as well as highly variable life experiences. (There is also the fact that many human beings are actively malicious and want to do those annoying and hurtful things. As much as I believe in the basic goodness of humanity, I fully acknowledge that there are individuals who have chosen the way of evil. Much of the laws that are necessary are a result of those persons.) The result is a desire to have a “rule” or “law” to refer to for authority when dictating something to another person. This is why we have homeowner’s associations that dictate the appearance of your property. This is why we have those lists of really ridiculous old laws still on the books in many towns.

This is why we have laws in the first place. And laws can be a good thing, if used rightly. And using them rightly also means remembering the spirit of the law first and the letter of the law second. But rules can also be hideously dangerous.

Why are laws dangerous?

First of all, there is that letter of the law danger, already mentioned above. Any law that is slavishly followed without understanding its intent can lead to harm. (Perhaps a way to ease that possibility is to include statements of intent into the text of a law so that people can adapt judgment to reality?) But even beyond that is the fact that rules can be manipulated by people to achieve goals wholly unrelated to the true intent of the law when it was created. Unfortunately I’m not sure there is a solution to that problem, since it is inherent to human beings and their faults. Even the solutions I can think of at this moment lead to the same types of problems.

Another danger that I have seen a lot of recently is when laws are created that usurp my right to choose. A vivid example that I am noticing nowadays is the raw milk vs. pasteurized milk laws. As I understand it, many people, especially large corporations that sell pasteurized milk and government agencies that regulate our food and drink here in the US, really want to make selling and drinking raw milk completely illegal. They claim that it is horribly dangerous. Yet the facts, as I understand them, do not support this contention. Is there danger in raw milk? Yes, but there is also danger in pasteurized milk. If appropriate precautions of cleanliness and temperature control are taken, then I would guess that the dangers of raw milk are equal to or less than the dangers of pasteurized milk. Which means that the government and these corporations wish to control my choice about the milk I drink based upon faulty assumptions or selfish desires. (The full discussion of this needs a post of its own.) I object to their limiting of my choices regarding my food and my health when they have no real proof for their desire to limit me. (I will note that more research needs to be done. But it needs to be unbiased. Is that even possible?)

Yet this usurpation of choice is not of itself the fundamental danger. What truly underlies this attitude is a blind trust in the “authorities” of our government, which is really a “Big Brother” type problem. Yet the sad truth is that that selfsame government that we are trusting is made up on human beings. And once again that is related to the inherent problems of being human, which includes character traits such as selfishness and laziness. How many ordinary people truly want to bother researching whether or not the risks of raw milk are better or worse than pasteurized milk? How many truly want to bother changing an entrenched situation when the longterm effects are not clear? Truth is, very few people care enough about the same things to make changes when there is an easy way out.

What laws and regulations are necessary?

These days I am discovering that, once you get past the clearcut dangers that do require laws and the rules that help deal with annoyances, the answer really shouldn’t be a law. There should be guidelines and regulations, but flexibility is better than rigidity and free choice is often preferable to restriction.

Of course, always, always there is a problem with deciding what is truly a danger and therefore requires a law, what is simply an annoyance and therefore needs just a rule, what is a reflection of choice and therefore should have just guidelines.

Really, this kind of thing is what lies behind the desire of so many to go and build a utopia on the edge of the wilderness, where the choices are clearcut and the shades of gray are few. The utopians think that if they just start afresh, they won’t make the same mistakes over again. I regret to inform them that humanity bears its own mistakes inside its own character. All they are doing is starting the cycle all over again.

In a way, this kind of confusion is why I am a Christian.

Shades of gray

image

It’s not that black and white.

In fact, I think this is a prime example of the black and white view being about as bad as a lie. Personally, I find it insulting.

huh, I didn’t realize my picture was that bad — Here’s the blurry text.

Top quote:

The Bible: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” I Timothy 2 (New International Version)

Bottom quote:

Humanism: “The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred—marriage should be a perfect partnership.” Robert Ingersoll, in a letter dated April 13, 1878

November 2010 roundup

What special or unusual event occurred?

Mom came to visit me for a week, which led to a whole lot happening.

What were my accomplishments this month?

Mom really cleaned up my house! Which is not exactly MY accomplishment, but it’s significant.

I did make some progress in understanding the website situation in my professional association situation, which didn’t exactly solve the problem, but did give me some ideas for solutions.

I did have my first committee meeting at work about the use of social media at work. Several of the members of the committee, especially some of the few in management, complimented me on how well I ran the meeting — I’m chair — which did feel good. I’ve been in too many meetings that went on and on and didn’t really come to any conclusions.

The training course that we are developing at work is also moving along. I think my colleagues are really beginning to appreciate some of the possibilities and difficulties of the online teaching format.

What were my disappointments this month?

Mom and I didn’t really make the progress in scrapbooking her stuff that I wanted to. But she left behind one of the old scrapbooks for me to convert, so I can finally get some of them off of those old, acidic pages. That will make me feel much better, even if we didn’t make much progress with the really old stuff.

What books/music/shows did I enjoy this month?

  • Patricia Briggs Wolfsbane
  • Nalini Singh Play of passion
  • Happily ever after by Roberts
  • Mysteries of the middle ages by Thomas Cahill bah! started but haven’t finished. Not sure I will, because it’s feeling like a generalization book.
  • Some easy romances
  • Knitting in the old way — well, I didn’t actually finish it this month, maybe next month.
  • Beyond the flood / Ian Wilson — well, even though I haven’t read the previous research on the Black Sea flood idea, I could feel this author doing the leap of logic thing a few times. I don’t really doubt the fundamental reality of the Black Sea flood event, but some of his later speculation — and it is presented as such — really makes me feel irritable. I could feel the assumptions.
  • Trojan war by Barry Strauss bah! Having read on this general topic before, I realize how much he is summarizing and generalizing. I felt like he was talking down to me. Of course, if I hadn’t read in this area, maybe I wouldn’t feel that way?

What crafts did I work on this month (not what I finished, but what did I work on)?

  • Socks
  • Citron — finished!
  • denim quilt — I’m stubborn, and the end is in sight!
  • Dishcloth
  • Summerweight cardigan
  • Purple handspun hat

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?

Well, of course, Mom came to visit, but we also made a trip to visit a cousin and family who now live within an hour or so of me (been there for a year, and had I even called them yet?). Now that we’ve reconnected and know that they are close, surely we can make the time to do it again!

Plus, I visited my college friend and her family for Thanksgiving. I got to see her larger family, which was nice, since I had gotten to know them quite a bit during our college years, when I would visit a LOT. But the nicest thing was seeing her newest baby. He’s already eight months old, and the happiest, bounciest baby boy!

What gifts did I give and/or receive?

Well, Mom, in her inimitable way, bought me a flatscreen tv, an early Xmas present. Plus, she gave me the gift of lots of cleaning.

I also received my first gift from my Secret Sister. She is paying attention to what I wrote!

What special or unusual purchases did I make?

I bought a mini-camcorder. I’ve been thinking about a video recorder, especially for doing the VHP interviews I like to do, but also just for fun. When I received the cash award at work in late September, I decided, THAT is what I want to buy, and so I did, once I found one that suited my idea of small size, and external microphone.

I also bought a new computer, because I discovered that half the memory on my old one was no longer being recognized by the motherboard. It was becoming agonizingly slow, enough to annoy me.

I also found some really cool gifts at the craft fair for my college friend’s children, especially the wooden toy gun!

I also, started buying Xmas presents, but giving those is for later.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?

Well, the ankle was still taking its sweet time to heal, but I felt a little improvement each week. Next month, back to running and building up my strength.

I ran out of allergy serum for dust mites, and had a slow time getting it refilled because my allergist went on vacation. My allergies have definitely been irritating, although not madly bothersome. The cold is finally letting things calm down a bit, I hope.

While I was away at Thanksgiving, I got a really nasty sinus headache, which definitely progressed into a migraine. Unfortunately, I did not have my migraine meds with me — slow refill — so  I had to fall back on others meds, which meant the headache lasted for three FULL days.

I’m really grateful for my prescription migraine meds. They really work.

Anything else noteworthy to include?

I feel like I was lazy all month with my Bible study. I was so off-rhythm that I found it difficult to focus. I really need to get back to that.

Also, in the process of transferring stuff to my new computer, I’ve begun to finally integrate my Android phone and my MS Outlook fully. I had to buy two extra pieces of software (well, one so far (gSyncit), because the other one is on trial (Google Tasks), but I think I will be purchasing it. fortunately, cheap). Plus, I feel like some of the apps on the Android are improving in recent months, enough to make them much easier and nicer to use, such as the Evernote app, Dropbox app, and Docs to Go integration with Google docs. I’m finally feeling like they are all working together. Of course, this all happens as the new Android tablets start to show up and my old ipod Classic starts to act up, which means that an iTouch is not that far away, and I may find that I prefer the tablet size to the smartphone size, but at least that can wait. (If I do one day get the tablet, I’ll probably just change to a super-simple cell phone and let all my productivity stuff be on the tablet.)

October 2010 roundup

late, and therefore more difficult to remember, but nonetheless relevant!

What special or unusual event occurred?

I sprained my ankle.
What were my accomplishments this month?

I can’t think of anything.
What were my disappointments this month?

frustrating situation at work
What books/music/shows did I enjoy this month?

  • Knitting without tears
  • Cry wolf and Hunting ground and Masques by Patricia Briggs
  • Several Nero Wolfe mysteries
  • Some easy romances
  • Knitting in the old way — seeing it anew as a more experienced knitter, especially since I got the updated edition
  • a bunch of other things

What crafts did I work on this month (not what I finished, but what did I work on)?

  • Socks
  • Citron
  • summerweight cardigan
  • denim quilt

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?

Visited my sister
What gifts did I give and/or receive?

None that I can think of.
What special or unusual purchases did I make?

Um
What illnesses or health concerns did I have?

Ankle, ankle, ankle!
Anything else noteworthy to include?

Happy holidays

Warning: Rant of sorts

Not too long ago I read some critical comments by passionate, politically active Christian organizations that we ought to reprimand/boycott/be annoyed by those companies that choose to use only “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I confess my first reaction was something along the lines of “Get a grip.”

Now, just to give a clear and accurate background — I am a Christian. One who is fully aware of the basic history of the Christmas holiday. And I fully believe in respecting people’s choices (even when I think they are wrong; after all, that is what free will is, the opportunity to make our own choices, right and wrong). And what does that mean? It means that the “Christians” who are so obsessed with using the term “Merry Christmas” for the winter season celebration are totally ignoring the fact that 1) Christ was quite probably born in April, not in December (the historical inaccuracy of this has always annoyed me); 2) the pagan celebration of solstice is most definitely older than the celebration of the created holiday Christmas, which was after all created to replace the Yule celebration; and 3) businesses are not religious organizations. Asking them to make a religio-political statement by using only the specifically Christian terminology is ridiculous. All these people are doing is making Christians look fanatical about piddly details and disrespectful of other religions. The solstice celebration has not ever been exclusively Christian.

What does bother me with these businesses? If they use happy holidays only, fine. It’s generic and inclusive. But, if they use happy holidays, happy Hannukah, happy Kwanzaa, happy solstice, and yet refuse to include merry Christmas, then they are the ones being disrespectful by not granting equal treatment to all those who are having a holiday during December. The toleration practiced by these businesses should be inclusive, not preferential.

I have no specific examples to offer either way. I ignore the holiday shopping madness as much as possible.

Okay, rant over.

Happy holidays to all!