Monday, September 13, 2010

We The People

“We the people” three of the most powerful words in the English language.

When these words are used in the United States of America’s constitution, set it apart from any other constitution in the world.

Somehow, over the nearly two and a half centuries of being a Country, “We the People” has somehow diminished to mean nothing more than part of a civics lesson in High School quiz.

When the framers of the Constitution met and as they were working on framing a document that would bring self determining government to the thirteen colonies, one of the intentions was to promote active involvement with the affairs of government. The people were to be responsible for electing representatives to government. The people were to hold those people accountable for their actions, and for seeing that the wishes of the people were carried out.

Over the past few years there has been a growing unrest among American voters that the elected officials in office had somehow forgotten that they were there to represent the people, and not their own special interests.

I don’t think it was ever the intention for “The People” to go on holiday once their votes were cast, but it appears from my own observation that the holiday season is just about over. People have begun to wake up to the fact that without the vigilance of the voter, and needed accountability

Locally in California a small community was outraged to learn that 99% of the city council, the city manager, assistant city manager, and police chief, had voted themselves both pensions and salaries far beyond what could be defined as reasonable.

It also turns out that this was accomplished legally after a referendum was held; however only 400 out of a population of 40,000 voted, with the majority of voters voting in favor of the pay rises. This low number really stands out given that there are only 9000 registered voters in the city of Bell to begin with.

Although there have been recent allegations of possible voter fraud, the fact remains that the vast majority of those registered to vote made the decision not to take part in this special election.

There is a stark warning in the Book of Mormon concerning the consequences of either having an apathetic attitude, or in avoidance of participation in selecting who should represent us in government. We read in Mosiah chapter 29:25-27:

25 Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law--to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

In the 2008 national elections, the number of voters who took part was approximately 131.3 million ballots or 61%. This is a high percentage, helped I would suggest by the fact there was an African American running for office. People tend to gravitate towards such “history making moments” as this.

According to data provided by the Federal Election Commission, from data drawn from Congressional Research Service reports, the average percentage however is a lot lower than 61%.

From the years 1990-2008 the average percentage of voter turn-out was 41.7% In other words, over half of the registered voters, 58.3% in the United States of America, made the decision not to take part in the electoral process over a ten year period. Over half.

Someone once said that if you don’t vote or take part in the political discussion, you don’t have the right to criticize the way that things are going locally, with the State, or nationally.

“We the People” have ended up with exactly the kind of men and women in local, statewide, or national office that we deserve.

It’s time to wake up and take back ground that was willingly given up. It’s time to wake up those elected officials and remind them that they are there because “We the People” elected them to represent us in this Republic.

It’s time for “We the People” to draw a line in the sand and declare that this Republic deserves men and women far better than we have in office.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Burning of A Book: Is it Christian?

From time to time I take part in an online discussion on religion. I have to admit that I enjoy, for the most part, the dialogue that can develop as I discuss with fellow Christians, topics of theology. Occasionally the topic can blend into the secular arena, as well as those areas that religion and secularism seem to blend in.

The events over the past several weeks of a 50 member church in Florida, and the announced plans to do a public book burning on September 11th, has opened up scores of debates and discussions on religious and non-religious forums.

In an effort to learn the mind set of the group that I was with I posted a new topic and asked the question: “Is it ever appropriate for a Christian /Christian Church to either: Take part in Book Burning?

The response was heartening, most took the view that while there is disagreement with the Muslim faith, the burning of the Koran is too extreme and is not representative of the Christian faith. There were a few responses that stood out in my eyes as demanding some sort of response by myself, after all I did ask the question.

The following are both statements that interested me, and my responses to them. I have, due to limitations on that discussion page, had to edit out my reply. Those edited portions have been placed back in their original context.
I don't consider the Koran to be a holy book. If I found a Koran in a box from the same estate sale, I would keep it and have it on hand to mark up/highlight the pages in order to show others (including Muslims) that it is a book of hatred and not love, not religion.
Such emotive rhetoric, as noted above, greatly concerns me.

Pick nearly any part of the first half dozen books of the Old Testament, any translation, and you’ll find tales of genocide, harsh rules that God gave to the children of Israel, capital punishment for wearing cloth with mixed threads, planting crops in the wrong manner, death for touching and eating an unclean animal.

In the New Testament is a story of a husband and wife, who, after failing to give all the money that they had collected to the Church, were struck dead by God.

However, in the Old and in the New Testament are stories of love, redemption, hope, and the words of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest, ever so gently, that we might want to dial back the tone of voice that declares that the Koran is a book of hatred and not of love. If I found a Koran in a box, I’d notice that it has many good things to say about Jesus Christ, that it contains some rather good moralistic values, common sense values to follow, in addition to those so-called negative aspects to it that attention has been drawn to.

Would we have the courage to write the same criticisms against the Bible as we do against the Koran, that it is a book of Hatred, and not of love?

I’m suggesting that while WE may not accept the Koran as containing the words of God, millions do, and our demands for equality and respect can be, and perhaps should be measured against how WE respect the rights of others to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience

They burn Christians, kill Christians, murder their whole families in the 10/40 window all the time. They scream foul when a Christian threatens them with this and the media plays to all of the world's fears. I pray for more mercy and grace on all those who chose not to be in obedience to God's word. "Follow peace with all men and Holiness, without which no one shall see the LORD.
I’d like to gently remind people that our own history as Christians is not without blemish either. And I am not necessarily speaking of the Crusades either.

Christians kill Christians too. The KKK, from what I recall from my history classes, was, in part established by a portion of the Christian community. Anyone who has lived in the South knows how charitable these "Christians" were, and in many instances still are, to people of color.

I think of the way that many within the Baptist community, for example, as recently as the mid 1970's still held onto what is seen as narrow minded bigitory concerning African-Americans. I shudder at this bigoted ignorance.

Our own skirts, as whole, are not without stain and blemish; however it’s what we do TODAY that matters. Repentance does remove those stains.

Finger pointing towards THEM, only serves to remind ourselves that while we are pointing fingers at them, we have three fingers pointing back at us, perhaps reminding us that our own history in this Country as “Christians” isn’t always something to brag or be proud of.

We need to be careful here and perhaps dial back the righteous indignation a bit.

Many of them also which used curious arts brought T H E I R books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
I would suggest placing this particular verse of Acts in context is in order. To wit:

17And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

It’s a far cry from those coverts, in Acts, burning those materials of their own, as an outward sign of repentance, than from a “Christian” burning a book that is seen by others as being Holy.

My own feelings on this subject are rather tender for some reason.

When I hear the phrase “Book Burning” I immediately think of the books written by Freud, Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, along with a score of German Authors, biographies of German and Russian political leaders being thrown into a fire in Germany in the 1930's, and the resultant restriction of thought, speech and movement that the Nazi State brought onto an entire country.

It’s hard for me to fathom that something as disagreeable and, frankly oppressive, can be allowed to happen here, in the United States of America., even if the United States Constitutions First Amendment, governing freedom of speech, doesn’t prohibit the burning of a book.

In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed making it illegal to transport and deliver "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" materials. Comstock claimed to have been responsible for burning 160 tons of "obscene" literature and causing the arrest of over 3000 perpetrators in his lifetime.

In 1935, the library trustees of Warsaw, Indiana ordered that all copies of Theodore Dreiser's novels in their libraries be burned for its obscene and leftist content. As a boy, Dreiser went to school in Warsaw, Indiana.

In 1939 John Steinbeck's landmark novel, "Grapes of Wrath", about the tragic plight of migrant farm workers from the Oklahoma "dust bowl" were burned all over the country for both its political content and "vulgarity."

Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut J.K. Rowling are just a few authors who, over the course of the mid-20th century have had their works consigned to the fire pit because of the words that they’ve written, as if burning a book could remove the idea, or the existence of the story.

Sadly, book burning doesn’t seem to be confined to a Church in Florida. The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina hosts a book burning on Halloween every year.

Their web site, states that:

The purpose of the book burnings/shreddings on Halloween is to collect the "perversions of God's Holy Word", ungodly books by "heretics" and movies and then destroy them because they are satanic. The church believes through them God is helping them "encourage other believers to do what God's Word says in Acts 19
about burning satanic books.
Concerning this year’s book burning, the web site proudly says that:

The annual Book Burning for 2010 will be upon us very soon. This year is going to be much bigger and better. We already have collected more perversions of God’’s Holy Word than we had last year, as well as many books by heretics and
Here’s what they had on their agenda for 2009; one anticipates a repeat of the same for this year:

“We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, ESV, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, and ect. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

“We will also be burning Satan's music such as country, Rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goodies, etc.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson , Charles Swindoll , John Piper , Chuck Colson , Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart , Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers , Brian McLaren , James White, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus , Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, Will Graham , and many more.

We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the original TR. We are not burning the Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the original TR or the KJB.”

And for those who get hungry, after such “holy” work, the web site boasts that:

We will be serving fried chicken, and all the sides.”

An idea should never be feared. Words can convey a great deal of things, love, anger, lust, murder, war, hope, charity, remembrance of family, dreams of a better future, space exploration, and a reminder of our past, and the necessary warnings not to repeat the mistakes of that past.

The burning of a book seems to me, to be an attempt to erase a concept and an ideal. As Orwell and Bradbury have shown us the burning of a book cannot on burn away the idea, once that book has been read. If anything such an act fans the flames, so to speak, of our remembrance and determination to hold on to the very thing that is being destroyed.

Have we reached the point as a society where the very notion of a book frightens us so much that we need to burn it, regardless of how others may see it?

My Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while in its infancy, was subjected to similar treatment that these good “Christian” ministers are doing today.

Not only was the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments, which was an earlier edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, burned, but the religious leaders, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others were tarred and feathered. On one occasion acid was mixed with the tar. Men, women and Children were, at gun point removed from their homes, and farms in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois , solely because of their faith in a book, and in a man who lay claim to being a Prophet of God.

At Hauns Mill in Missouri, an armed militia, or rather an armed mob of several hundred men, conducted a brutal slaughter of the inhabitants. Among the militia were so-called minsters of God.

All this because of a Book and an idea that the Lord had begun His restoration of the Gospel here on the earth.

With all that is going on nationally with the declared outrage of a building site in New York near “Ground Zero”, being used as a center of Islam, this coupled with a book burning, adds fuel to the level of intolerance that is building up.

The atrocities of September 11, 2001 will forever stain the Muslim faith, perhaps as the event of Hauns Mill and the acts of Governor Thomas Ford, in leaving Joseph, Hyrum, Willard, and John, defenseless in Carthidge, will forever stain the States of Missouri and Illinois. However we cannot apply a forty foot wide paint brush and cover the entire Islamic faith, or those two States because of the misguided criminal actions of a few who act, somehow, in the name of the Almighty.

Book burning, no matter what the reason is, in this writers opinion, not the way to combat evil. The burning of a book that is held as being sacred, is not the way to bring people to Christ. If anything, it will only result in ears being deafened, and eyes being shut to those very eternal truths that one would wish to impart upon the non-Christians of the world.