Archive for August, 2007

A Christian Bless on Our U.S. …Maybe?

August 23, 2007

I know a couple of my past entries have, in some way or another, involved Christianity, but I get on kind of a “roll” with topics and just end up with a lot to say about them.

If you’d like to know what the point of this entry is without reading the entire thing, here it is: The United States is NOT a Christian nation. It never has been. Anyone who tells you otherwise a.) is full of bologna or b.) honestly has no clue.

I first stumbled upon the significance of this fact during my freshman second semester at Marquette. I had possibly the most wonderful Western Civilization teacher I could have ever asked for, and while studying the Enlightenment period in England, we discussed all the ways in which England’s government influenced America’s own setup- even our Bill of Rights is based off one that Parliament created years earlier. All of America’s earliest and greatest leaders modeled themselves off of the great Enlightenment thinkers from France and England.

A key point of the Enlightenment Period was the search for logic and rationality. Intellectuals of this period sought reason in all things… including religion. It was at this time that deism flourished.

In short, deism is a belief in a creator, usually referred to as God. This was a replica of Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” who sets the world in motion. However, once the Creator winds the watch (the analogy that is commonly used) he steps back and observes as it all unfolds. This god does not intervene in human affairs. Ever.

Following along the same lines, deists do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They believe that he did indeed exist but that he was in no way divine. Why is this? Because it was not reasonable. It did not make sense that the Creator would interfere with the world. Thomas Jefferson even created an edited version of the Bible in which he censored ALL of Christ’s miracles (miracles are things that defy the laws of nature, and why would the Creator violate the natural laws which He himself established?).

Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, all of them were deists. They were not men of Christianity, and in fact, they believed that Christianity was a religion that should be taught to children and to the uneducated.

The truth is, even today, many people who identify themselves as “Christian” are not TRULY Christian. The one single thing that makes Christianity different from any other religion is the belief that only through the acceptance that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, can an individual be saved. I personally cannot agree with this. Can an African living in one of the poorest countries in the world not be saved, simply because he/she has never HEARD of Jesus? That seems to counter the whole notion of the infinitely loving God we hear so much about in the New Testament. Simply because we were lucky enough to be born in a Western nation where Christianity is talked about frequently we are also lucky enough to be saved.

I don’t think so.

[Also, as a side note… for those of you who argue that the phrase “under God” should not be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance because it has “always been there” and would “change the originality of the Pledge”, please review your facts. The phrase “under God” was not added to the Pledge until 1954 by the Knights of Columbus, while the ORIGINAL Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Here’s a good quick read on that history by Dr. John W. Baer.]

I’m really not trying to bash on anybody or tell you that your faith is wrong (because I don’t believe in doing that), but I think it’s important that we be well-informed before we go on yelling and causing a ruckus about this or that. This is a government absolutely based on the notion of separation of Church and State.

However, I feel that both sides of this argument can take things wayyyy too far. Yes, it’s wrong to have the Ten Commandments posted on a courthouse wall, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to offer a moment of silence in public schools. A Christian may take this time to ask Jesus for guidance for the day; a Muslim may ask Allah to bring him or her strength during a time of need; a Buddhist may take a moment to peacefully meditate; while an atheist can just take a second to relax and unwind. As long as no mention of God, Mohammad, Krishna, etc. is mentioned, then who cares?

Certainly not me. You are not infringing on my right to worship as I please, nor are you forcing me to believe what you believe. I’m not being harmed; I’m not being bothered. End of story.

But perhaps that is a discussion for another day. I feel I’ve begun to ramble, so I’ll end here with this that is something that I’ve been trying to live by for the past couple months:

“Judge not lest ye be judged.”
-Jesus (Matthew 7:1)

Gay is Okay! Back off already, will ya?

August 14, 2007

This is going to be one of very few occasions in which I spend an entire blog ranting about some major issue like this. Feel free to spit back if you don’t agree, but just please… be respectful.

This whole rant is inspired by comment made by someone I know just a couple days ago.
While chatting about gays in the U.S. with another person with which I am acquainted (I don’t want to give aaaaaany identities out here), this woman intervened and said, “Oh, well I just had to talk to my pastor about that type around my kids.”
I said, “Oh…do you mean too much physical affection being displayed in front of your kids or something?”
She replied, “No… a guy in our neighborhood who has been flashing little kids.”
The other person in the conversation almost exploded with rage. “That’s a pedophile,” he said calmly with great restraint.
I added, “That has absolutely nothing to do with being gay.”

This conversation sparked some anger inside me, and I felt like the best outlet for that anger would be, of course, an opinion blog.

I’m done. I’m done with people complaining about gays. I’m done with listening to wack job Christians scream that gays have brought the war in Iraq upon us. I’m just absolutely tired with people CARING so much about what other people do when it brings absolutely no harm upon anyone else.

You just don’t like that people are living their lives differently than you choose to live yours.
Stop it.

You don’t want your children seeing gay people express affection in front of them? Why?
I’ll tell you what: if your child truly is straight, seeing two women hold hands isn’t going to change anything.

I’m sick of the stereotypes: Oh those gays are just SO sexually promiscuous!
I’ve got more news for you… A 25 year old straight man or women having a couple dozen sexual partners is not a rarity. And again, it’s not hurting you!

I am also getting fed up with people demanding that the government outlaw gay civil unions. I can understand Churches outlawing gay marriage; they are private sectors of life in which the government cannot interfere. But that works both ways! Just because it’s “against your religion” for two gay people to get married, let alone be in love, doesn’t mean that the government must prohibit it. Jews don’t believe in eating pork, and you don’t see them seeking a national ban on the product! They just don’t eat it themselves- end of story.
What a concept!

I feel like this country is regressing back to the mentality of toddlers. Do you honestly have to be told to mind your own business, like you’re four years old? Just, leave people alone. They are inflicting no injury upon you. They are not infringing on your rights to be a free citizen of this country. What’s the problem?

And for the Christians out there who are saying that homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible…I don’t even want to hear it. If you REALLY knew what you were talking about, you’d remember what the concept of Jesus’ coming was in the first place. He came to tell the world to throw out all the old rules! He marked the beginning of a new era that preached first and foremost the love of God and others. That being said, how can allowing two men to be together who truly love one another be such a bad thing? We would merely be fostering love in a world that already has enough hate to last us through to the next century.

And secondly… saying that 911, the war in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina all occurred because of God’s wrath on the U.S. for being too lax on gays… Give me a break! Once again, the “vengeful God” is the God of the Old Testament. How dare you call yourself Christian while you still hold so much hate in your heart for other human beings? You make the rest of us Christians look like spiteful lunatics.
Just stop it.

And finally, to the the accusations that same sex couples do not raise mentally healthy children… you obviously have not been keeping yourself up to date. Hundreds of studies are proving more and more often that same sex parents raise children who are just as mentally sound, if not more so, than opposite sex parents. Here is just one example of one such study: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20051012/study-same-sex-parents-raise-well-adjusted-kids

Soooo I’m pretty riled up now, but I feel like all that had to be said. My choice, my preference, is not to live a gay lifestyle, but I will be damned if I have to sit around and listen to other people being told that they cannot live one.

Christian Schooling is NOT Brainwashing!

August 9, 2007

A Christian Bias Against Good Education
I just really want to clarify that generalizing all Christian educational institutions in that manner is quite erroneous.

This was an interesting post, but it bothered me a little for a couple reasons… Some of the comments bothered me even more.

I have been at a Catholic school my whole life… I spent K-8th at a Catholic grade school, then attended a Catholic high school (a school that is academically ranked extremely well in the state of Illinois with an average ACT score of 27 and was recently named the Sports Illustrated High School of the year), and I am now at Marquette University, a Jesuit college.

I can tell you that my education was NOTHING like the descriptions listed in this blog. While God is an active part of a Catholic school (in high school, we attended all-school liturgy assemblies about once a month, a cross was displayed in every classroom, we had to take a theology class every year, and the days always began with prayer) my education was not injected with an inherently Christian outlook.

I don’t recall God being mentioned more than three or four times in any given science class. I studied evolution and the Big Bang theory in biology. While my chemistry teacher would occasionally, after finishing a lecture on something like entropy, state that the Creator is very smart in how he made the universe, that was the extent of God in that class. My physics class was taught by a man who I honestly assumed to be an agnostic, and my environmental science class touched on the fact that we need to care about the earth because we are stewards of it.
I studied American and world history with literally no mention of God’s intervention in either. One of my required theology courses in high school was titled, “Comparative Theology”, a class in which we studied the structure and inherent beauty in other religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. I wasn’t brain washed by anyone. I wasn’t forced to believe anything and neither was anyone else.

I valued and continue to value the strength of my Catholic education greatly. I feel like instructors have a little more leeway to teach the way they’d like to teach. There are no standardized tests issued by the government that regulate class content and constrict the creativity of teachers. If nothing else, our education was enhanced by the Christian ideals of community, charity, and love.

Every year the football players held a food drive before Thanksgiving, while seemingly year round drives- such as school supply donations for underprivileged children and infant clothing for financially insecure single mothers- were a regular part of the school year. Our junior year theology project required 40 hours of community service.

Just because one attends any type of Christian school does NOT mean that every class will be debilitatingly bound in chains and gagged with the Bible. In my 14 years of experience in various Christian learning environments, I have found that it merely means bringing out the best in every aspect of every student- mind, body, and spirit.

My point is, not ALL Christian institutions brainwash students into believing that adding 1+1 = God in algebra. The faith is more of background music that plays gently behind the academic scene. It shows us what we’re capable of with such a fine education, so that, once we get to wherever our careers may take us, we always remember our Christian upbringing in order to better the lives of everyone around us and keep us strong and resolute in our endeavors.

A Ban on Smoking, a Ban on Freedom?

August 8, 2007

Okay, so maybe my title is a bit over the top, but bear with me…

While working on some chores around the house, my dad tuned into one of his favorite conservative talk shows, something along the Limbaugh/Savage lines. I can never help but listen, even though the extreme conservatives such as these really disgust me sometimes (about as much as the extreme liberals do!). Anyway, I can’t remember which host was on at the time, but I recall a really great point that he brought up about the smoking ban. Cities that seek to ban smoking, even outside, are trying to control personal choice. Legislators are saying, “I don’t like what your choices are because they’re not the same as mine.”

Hm, kind of makes sense. I can completely understand why smoking is being prohibited in bars and restaurants. First of all, it’s just plain unpleasant for nonsmokers. I know personally that excessive and confined cigarette smoke burns my throat pretty badly and even makes my stomach hurt quite a bit. Also… it reeks. You go home smelling like and ashtray soaked in semi truck exhaust. Second, I can see that very concentrated cigarette smoke may make a meal somewhat unpleasant.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, research is showing that second hand cigarette smoke is very harmful to one’s health. This means that the servers, bar tenders, etc. that are working 6, 7, 8 hour shits engulfed in smoke face hazards to their health. Thus, to me it makes sense to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.

However…banning smoking outside…. Hm.

Well that just doesn’t sound quite right to me. While I hate smoking with every inch of my being, I can’t say that it would be inherently fair of me to prohibit someone from smoking outside. I mean… come on. Out in the open air, it’s really not that big of a deal. Sure, a nonsmoker may occasionally get a puff in the face blown carelessly by a gentle breeze, but I can assure you, there are a lot worse odors out on the city streets than distilled second hand smoke.

I just feel that, as a non smoker, it isn’t my place to tell someone that he or she cannot smoke in the outdoors just because it causes me mild and momentary discomfort, and along those same lines, it is CERTAINLY not the place of the government to say that very same thing. In no way should the government be able to step in and say that smoking outside is banned as it causes no one extreme pain or harm… perhaps except for the actual smokers themselves. Ha.

So, my opinion, in short: Smoking ban indoors, good (due to health hazards and moderate/prolonged discomfort for others).
Smoking ban outdoors, bad (due to minimal health risks and discomfort for others).

Foreshadowing, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

August 6, 2007

Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing–
GAO estimates 30% of arms are unaccounted for

Sorry, but I love the Washington Post.

Please see my post, Fear. Violent Fear.

It’s okay.
Just an extra 190,000 AK-47’s lost in the hands of our enemies.
No big deal. Not a problem.
Just another couple thousand American lives.
It’s alright. It’s alright.

The Epitome of a Catch Twenty-Two

August 1, 2007

Losing Forests to Fuel Cars
Washington Post

This article discusses the clearing of the Brazilian Cerrado, an extremely diverse area of landscape, in order to make room for sugar cane, an important ethanol producer. According to the article, already have the Cerrado has been destroyed to make room for cattle farms and soy beans. Scientists have predicted that if this rate of deforestation continues, by the year 2030, all vegetation in the Cerrado will be gone.

As countries seek to lower their CO2 emissions by achieving greater quotas of ethanol, more and more land must be cleared in order to make room for corn, sugarcane, etc. According to scientists, the Cerrado is home to over 160,000 plant and animal species, and many of them are threatened species. This extreme disruption to the delicate Cerrado ecosystem could mean the extinction of thousands of species.

As the world becomes more conscious of the threat of global warming, ethanol is becoming very alluring to tons of investors and big business leaders. It has a promising future. Thus, the race to produce ethanol is heating up. Everyone wants a piece of land in order to share in the profit of the bio fuel.

Think about it: In order to help the environment, we’re killing the environment. Call it what you will: stuck between a rock and a hard place, a catch twenty-two, damned if we do, damned if we don’t… but this has got to be handled cautiously. Some are suggesting that areas that have already been clear-cut for cattle farming could now be used to produce the sugar cane in order to prevent more forestation from being cut.

The fact is, if the agricultural frontier of Brazil is pushed too far, there will be irreparable damage. What happens when all the agricultural resources in that area have been exhausted? Where will we grow our food? Raise our cows? Produce our ethanol? What happens when there really is nothing left? Although that particular situation may not happen for decades, I know personally that I could not even dream of doing something like that to future generations.

I don’t really know what the answer is, nor do I know how to fix it.
To be crude, the whole situation sucks. It just plain sucks.

How much do we sacrifice and how much to we choose to preserve? What type of decision would cause the least amount of environmental damage while not costing everyone on the planet an arm and a leg? What’s the most effective, positive decision FOR THE LONG-TERM benefit of humanity?

How do we choose…?