Thursday, May 14, 2009

A European's View of Future Danger

My husband's brother in law was telling us this morning that the birth rate for Euopeans is about 1.3, while the birth rate of Muslims is a lot higher. Why is he worried? Several reasons were given and they gave me room for thought...

He said that the Dutch culture was "dying" due to the infilteration of the Muslims, who use the tolerance of the Dutch to undermine Western values. He said that there was a priest who had been banned from a Christian school due to intolerance to Islam, and he gave other instances of Muslim use of religious tolerance to bring about a reverse discrimination. This is very disturbing when you consider how many immigrants are infilterating the culture and expanding their numbers by enlarging their families. In a couple of decades, he prophesizes that Shairia Law will have rule over Europe if nothing is done to stop it.

Westerners have been concerned for the planet's limited resources, and have limited their population growth., as a result Civilized societies have ceased to base their views on sacred sources, therefore, where Scripture has commanded man to '"be fruitful and multiply", the West has deemed it ïrrelavant as authoritative. Science has replaced religion in authoratative influence.

Science is not "pie in the sky", but proveable through observation, experimentation, and manipulation. Man has taken the reigns of power and determined his own destiny through the power of science''s knowledge. While science has empowered the West, the West also knows its dangers. Those who are religiously minded and do not heed the dangers of science, are even more dangerous. as they use the sword as the 'weapon of God'. This is why our national security is of utmost importance. We must in the West not abandon NATO. but, seek to broaden the influence of protecting science from hands that would use scientific power subversively.

Religious freedom and tolerance has been the bulwark of the West, but our strength may become our weakness, if we do not wake up to the insidiousness of religion's influence and power. Those who think they speak for God are a danger to civilization. Secular humanists are right in their call to tighten the belt against religion's rights in the West.

I really don't know which is worse, a totaltalirian secularized State, or a totaltalarian religious regime. Both subvert something that is distinctly human; choice. freedom and religious conviction.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Have You Ever Wondered

Today we arrived in the Netherlands to visit my husband's family. It has influnenced who he is, but I wonder how much it has influenced him really? I can see both similarities to his family of origin and dissimilarities. This is quite normal and is why neuroscience is investigating how much of our "selves" is written on our brains. I have wondered about personality and how much is innate and how much is formed. I am sure that most have thought about these things.

Personality has little to do with spirituality, in fact, spirituality can hinder personal growth as much as further personal growth, because of the conforming demands of religion in understanding of religious teaching.

Theology is about what we cannot know, as it is about a transcendent realm, that is, unless we view man, as God's point of reference. What is man to be like? Man can develop irregardless of spiritual connection, or religious commitment.

So, I am wondering if religious commitment and spirituality is a hinderance to man's development. For if man does something because of something outside himself, then what kind of person is he, really? A person must have their individual conviction and commitment to those convictions if he is to attain what he is to become. But, that takes knowing oneself and staying true to what one values.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Freedom Comes From Self- Knowledge

A philosopher once said that an unexamined life is a life not worth living. I think this is a truth that is pertinant for today. This afternoon, my son in law, whose degree is in psychology, gave us a personality test. I had taken this test before and it didn't "sit well" with me, as far as the results. It just didn't seem like it "fit' or was comfortable. I asked the tester back then, if stress or extenuating circumstances would affect the answers and therefore the results. I know now, that it does.

After taking the test, and reading the results, I felt relieved and "okay". I am a "General". My childern all agreed that this was who I was/am. I had been thinking that there was a "perfect" or "ideal" Christian. That is NOT so...and it is freeing to know that how I am, is what I am supposed to be. Religion is very deforming, in its conforming stance, and demanding "change" because one is not "perfect" or "ideal" like Jesus.

Religion can be a form of mental illness, I think. It hinders self-acceptance, and creates another reality, instead of dealing with the real, and pertinent. It seeks to attain something that is alien to the natural person, some spiritual sense or spirituality that is not based in the 'real world".

So, on this Mother's Day, it is okay that children are not my "ideal goal". And as I wrote before, I don't care about politically correct things, and many times I don't care about religiously correct things. If that is okay with you, then maybe we can be friends. Otherwise, we must go our separate ways. No guilt, as Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways and that seemed okay for the writers of "your authority".

Quandries, Questions and Qualifications About the Church

Today, our pastor had a sermon about "the spirit" and the scripture. His thrust was that by believing that god speaks through human words, we can be spiritually formed. He said that this formation was more important than the news in the newpaper, as the "old wisdom" is a higher form of "wisdom" than the "Hip" one. This is the spritualized "gospel" separated from reason that supposedly appeals to those "in need". If this spiritualized gospel is rejected, then it is asserted that those who reject it are reprobate, doomed to destruction in eternal hell fire. This attitude is not very becoming of the Church.

Tradition, reason and faith intersect in the person's experience. It is a hard row to maintain a relevant message when one's belief in a personal god, becomes impossible to believe, yet, tradition demands the obedience "of faith". Those who have sought to literalize the text, so that they can demand obedience of some standard of behavior that is socially convenient and create destruction to others in their struggles of life. If ones is struggling and does not obey these "demands" according to Scripture, then they are disobeying god, are rebellious, and need discipline and correction. Correction, inevitably means conformity to the shape of the "standard" and however that standard is understood. This is horrendously oppressive to the individual as an individual.

Yet, my pastor said that we first must learn to obey, and then seek to understand. This is the irrational faith of a leap into the dark.....because of a belief in a personal interventional is the same that Job's comforters tried to have him do. While Job did not do anything wrong, as he was blameless, the comforters sought to give the reason for his suffering which pinned the guilt upon him. Job did need to learn that mystery is not found within "right behavior" and recieving "just desserts", but in life itself. As life is given and gifted.

Today's sermon left me cold, just as spirituality does. I don't want spirituality, but I do want to be human. That is what life should be about, seeking the good, as defined and lived by one's own conscience and allowing freedom of conscience to others, while allowing open doors in relationship.

I don't believe in imposing "bibilical reconstruction", or "dominion theology", as that becomes a way for the Church to dominate the discoursein the public square , and not listening to other opinions and viewpoints. Academic freedom should be what the church is about, because who should be afraid of any truth seeking endeavor? And truth should be applauded wherever it is found. The Church has not been known for this attitude historically. They have wanted to maintain the social order and control, so that society would "not fall apart". Much has to do with how one views "what god's plan is" and IF god has a plan, which is doubtful. Christians have pinned their hope on an ancient text, church tradition, and dogma. That does not bring about constructive change, if it is not relativized.

Those who adhere to this mentality do so because they feel that the Church should have power and control over others, instead of living in such a way that they are alluring. All the Church has to do is "preach the cross" and people flee, why? Because what was used in Scripture pertained to persecuted times, is used today to justify a "sectarian attitude" that ultimately does bring about persecution. And then, the Church acts smugly as if Scripture has been fulfilled and "proven" and those who have fled are deserving of the "just punishment' that God will give them in the afterlife. This is apocalyptic thinking and it is not appealing to civilized people. I don't see where the Church has done anything to add to her appeal in a free and open society and this is her demise.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Questions About Trust

This morning while checking my e-mail, I had gotten a comment on the "A Few Good Men" entry. In responsing to the comment, I suggested that although support systems were important for the young lawyer to pursue justice, that trust was the foundation of receiving the support. That got me thinking...

Trust is earned by someone's belief in what you do, or who you are. Trust cannot be manipulated, as trust is about relationship. Trust is about understanding and accountability. One does not listen to those who have abused, misused, or disregarded the relationship. Relationship has to be mutually edifying for it to be healthy.

Mutuality in relationship is about allowing differences, respecting rights, supporting opportunities, and giving hope. It is the social contract, where there is equal respect and regard for another's life and values.

In all relationships, there is a give and take, at least if there is healthy mutuality. Hierarchal forms of relationship can be healthy as long as there is also respect and encouragement from "both ends", not a demand to rights, but a trust that there will be "a right". Respect is foremost in regards to trust in relationship.

I find that when workers felt their rights were being abused that they sought recourse in just compensation for their work. One wonders now, what just compensation means, when those in other countries will do the work for less. Cultural living standards differ, and the American worker is disadvantaged by his own culture's standard, which has become his own.

While the worker had sought rights and won "justice", the executive has used his power to exploit and use his position and power to maintain even a higher standard of living. There seemed to be an attitude of entitlement on both ends, which built resentment and a lack of mutual respect and trust. Outsourcing jobs was a means to make more profit for the executive to "look good" and to exploit the system he had created, and benefit the stock holders, while the worker's right to work was devalued and undermined., creating an esculating environment between the worker and the boss.

I do not know the solution, but I do know that our globalized economy has exasperated the problems in corporate and private interests. Now, the government gets involved, which compounds the problem and creates a quadmire of beauraucracy that is hard to hold accountable. The citizen cannot be informed because it takes a legal mind to understand. And sometimes I think this is a convienient way to enlarge one's pockets of interests.

There is not to be a separation between a public servant's job and the private citizen's right to know, which is what the "tea parties" have sought to "voice". This is a "voice" for public good and social justice, but there are other "voices" that do not need respect. These are the attitudes of the Taliban or the antagonist. One can have convictions or opinions without oppressing another or demanding that the other agree and behave accordingly. Sometimes when difference is too large to bridge, it is best to allow room, so disagreement and tension is dispelled.

In international relations, negotiation and diplomacy is a tedious job. Cultural divides become widened whenever religions dominant opinions, ideas and convictions. Religion can be dangerous because the religious believe that their view hold "ultimate truth or value" and to disregard it, is to disregard God. The fundamentally inclined do not trust those who do not regard God as the foremost object of desire and focus. It is difficult to negotiate with those whose opinions are underwritten by "god himself".

I find that the religious are the hardest and the most difficult to broaden and engage in "public ways", as the walls are built too high. They feel that the very definition of themselves as religious is threatened by engaging the "secular" world. Trust in life, itself, is not a value to these religious "idealists". They find their comfort in the "next world", where they are promised justice.

Justice should be sought in the here and now, as that is all we really know and have. And American government seeks justice in the here and now in seeking to establish democracy abroad.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"A Few Good Men" continued....

Whenever I watch a movie I usually chew on it for a long time afterwards, that is, if it is worth chewing on :). Things that were meaningful during the movie come to my remeberance and once again I learn something.

Today as I was continuing to think about the movie from last night, I realized that though the two Marines and the colonel and the trial all were significant in regards to the issue of justice. It would never have transpired if the lawyer had not taken the case, or taken the risk of loosing , not only the case, but his life in the military as well as his reputation in the future. He believed in justice. That justice could be known, and found. Justice was elusive at times, but he pursued, at one point almost gave up hope and despaired, but was encouraged to continue to seek justice and he did. And justice was won.

It always does a heart good when justice is found and served. People don't get away with crime, abuse of others, or with getting around the system in legal manevuering. It gives one hope that the world is not forsaken or hopeless. That is what justice is about. And civil or formal justice is a better way to understand and see it, as a trial has an "end" and a verdict. A trial does not continue the suffering or the injustice like life so often does.

Whenever I see a movie like this, I always ask myself the question, if I would have done the same thing, if not, what would I have done differently. It is always worth a self-assessment. I hope more movies will pursue the subject of justice.

Walled Hearts and Walled Religions

Many years ago when I was in undergraduate education as an adult, I wrote a paper for my"World Religions" course. In that paper, I wrote, "is a rose by any other name, just a sweet?" That question haunted me, but has come to have meaning to what I believe nowadays.

Is a rose by any other name, just as sweet? Yes, of course, it is. The word "rose" conjures up an image to those that have been exposed to roses and sometimes it can activate the sense of smell in our memories. But, what if someone had not known the flower by the name "rose"? If they smelled a rose, called a "chamelleon", would it smell the same? Yes! Would it be the same flower? Yes, even though it was called by a different name. The same goes for true faith and one's character.

My point in all of this "rambling" is this: is the "Christ figure" just as sweet by any other name? Is the Christ figure represented by other names, such as Gandhi, Mother Theresa, uncle Joe and aunt Harriet? Does the "image" of Christ have meaning besides the person of Jesus of Nazareth (if he is a historical person)? What is the Christ image? And does the Christ image have to be manifested in the same way as Jesus of Nazareth?

The Greek Fathers understood the image of god in man. They knew about representation within real time, not the "City of God" of St. Augustine. This is where all religions point beyond themselves to a world beyond our knowing. Some agnostics may find solace in idenifying with a community of faith as they understand the purpose of myth and myth-making. Others may find more solace in understanding their connectedness to sciences' "real reality" in this world. It really doesn't matter, as both types of agnostics will "do faith" in their own realms of influence. Both types have come to terms with faith as a real "unknown" and unknowable mystery about life in its complexity.

I named my paper "Walled Hearts and Walled Religions" because this is what I think hinders the "ideal" world, life and value. Walls bring definition, but do not bring resolution or reconciliation. Walls keep others out, while protecting one's understanding of oneself within comfortable zones of definitions, behaviors, and religious rites.

Today's world is torn because of these walls. Walls that hinder and resist. Walled hearts are not open to another's views. And walled ideas are not about academic or religious freedom. We are bound by the very definitions that we make. We enslave ourselves from our small-mindedness and our fears.

The reason I changed my major from sociology to religion and philosophy was because of an ethics course. That very ethics professor just recently died. I owe him a lot. I wrote a paper for that course about moral development and moral character. He told me at graduation that it was brillant. I found it hard to believe, but the more I have learned, the more I have come to understand that character is indeed the essence of life and it doesn't really matter about religion.

Moral behavior is more about attitude first and foremost, not behavior, as behavior is culturally bound. But, whenever moral behavior is defined by a tightly defined cultural understanding, it is a means of oppression and a hinderance to moral development. Ethics would not allow such "standards" to stand, as it is more important to protect human rights, than any cultural "ideal".

"A Few Good Men", a Movie on Justice

Last night I went to babysit my grandchildren, while my daughter and son-in-law worked. After putting the kids to bed, I watched the movie, "A Few Good Men". It was a great movie about justice.

Justice has been defined in many ways. But, this was a movie that held those in leadership accountable in the "chain of command".

The movie was about two Marines in Guantanamo Bay, who were charged with murder of a fellow Marine. These Marines followed the orders of their superior, a colonel, under "code red". Code red was a term meaning that one must under all circumstances carry out obediently orders. Code red is a way to maintain "order" or "control", but it is not a way to carry out justice.

Hierarchal governmental structures are good at maintaining order or control, but do not necessarily bring about justice or are just in the means to attain justice. The ends justify the means, unless there is a balance of power and a way to address "blind spots", in "goal accomplishment". One must never be a blind slave or servant of injustice or unjust "governments", even in the name and for the sake of justice.

In the end of the movie, this is what the lawyer did, to bring about justice. He held the one in authority accountable to his command. The two Marines were honorably discharged. Justice does require accountability to "the rule of law" and to right norms of human behavior.

Today's world is being challenged in the area and sense of justice by multiculturalism. Multiculturalism values all cultures alike and considers their view when making value judgments. This is the road to tolerance for those who do not value human rights, such as the Taliban.

But, while the moral absolute of justice does value the individual's right, religion does not view the individual but the social/communal way of understanding culture. I find that in our international world, there are various ways of understanding citizenship, for instance.

The young Somalian woman who sought political asylum in the Netherlands and became a Dutch citizen found out that her citizenship was negated after some of her forms were not "truthful". Later, it was ruled that under Somalian law or understanding of citizenship, she had filled out the forms "correctly". The Netherlands took her motive into evaluating her credibility. Her Somalian culture determined her understanding and therefore, her way of filling out the form.

So, in regards to justice in international relations, the individual will always trump religion's social cultural "rules" and values. Thus, the secular humanist understands the danger of religion and religious zeal. I agree.

Self-Perception, As "Reactional Conviction"

Sometimes I think religion is very unhealthy, and hinders development. I have understood some past pscyhologists have viewed our understandings of God, as projections or internal conflicts with our families of origin. I do agree that how we view God is dependent on these conditionings. This is what started my thinking this morning....

Does our self-perception "interpret" our understanding, not just of reality, but what we read, see and do? What if those in a minority position always "see" other's prejuidice, because of their own disposition toward prejuidice and continual feelings of victimization, which increases the probability that these will continue to act in ways that result in the "outcomes" they fear? This is "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Since I believe this is so, how does one change one's perception of oneself? How does one act differently so that they do not predispose themselves to behaviors that are self-defeating? I think this is why so many find themselves experiencing the cyclic view of life, instead of a progressive view of life. Is life getting better and better, or is life a continual tread-mill?

I think that we are made to accomplish, acquire, conquer, and become. And much of the "project" of self improvement must be done within oneself in one's own commitment to develop or become, and sometimes it is necessary for others to hold one accountable.

So often, I think, others are passionatley convicted because of something internal. This hinders rational discourse, and sometimes reactionary opinions that hinder viewing or seeing things clearly. We need other eyes sometimes to see what we must see.

I have been blessed with a husband that did not emphasize my background of self-criticism. But, sometimes self-criticism can be constructive if one responds to it. I did this last year while in D.C. I lost weight, and exercised daily, ate better and took vitamins. It was "okay" to take care of myself. And there was no self-recrimination that I was "self-seeking", "selfish", etc. So often, especially in conservative Christian circles, it is hard to maintain a balance of taking care of oneself and one's family. Family is to be the highest value, and others might judge your "self improvement" as "selfish amibition", or selfishness. This should never happen.

Although D.C. was freeing in my self-recriminations, it enhanced my feelings of insecurity! What does one do, to alleviate the anxiety, as I had little connection? I think "scape-goats" always internalize their environments and take responsibility for things they shouldn't and don't take responsibility for things they should. (I usually "dismiss" myself, rather than face possible rejection.) Responsibilties become a blame-shifting "game", so it will alleviate "false guilt" and anxiety.

I am a mess. How about you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

History, Power and Minorities

There has been much discussion in some segments of society about history and who is "right" about history. What really happened and what was the ideology that drove the transcribers of history. On one of the blogs I follow American Creation, there has been discussion on our Founding Fathers and the issue of whether they were Christians, and whether America is a Christian nation. On other sites there is discussion about Christian tradition and how we do not have all the information needed to make assertions about the development of Christianity.

Much has to do with those in power, the power structures, and the interests of those who "told the story". Our perceptions do influence how we understand and come to our conclusions. And our perceptions are influenced by our personal and cultural histories.

Christianity was a theologizing of history, so that the minority voice would be heard. In our democratic and free society, we have the right to speak and the right to be heard, as this was the Founding Fathers concern. Minority voices and minority rights have become a backhanded prejuidice against the majority, as these rights are legislated by government in "Affirmative Action" and are enforced by quotas. These stipulations, while attempting to 'correct' a wrong, does wrong, which is what happens whenever there is moralizing, universalizing, or expanding government influence "making amends" for wrongs. It becomes a monster to those it should be kind toward, because it discrimnates inadvertedly and makes demands of time to regulate "itself" in paperwork. Beauracracies are expensive and cumbersome, as well as hard to hold accountable. This is one of the primary reasons our Founding Fathers wanted a limited government.

Just the other day, I was talking to a young couple that were overwhelmed by the government's discrimination! They have made too much money to get help, as they have health issues, and a job loss. Yet, those who have never worked, had children they don't want and live parasitely off of government coffers are given "food stamps", WIC to help with their children and untold other programs of support, while these that are more than deserving don't get anything and yet, have paid taxes and supported the government's interest in being good citizens. What is the answer to these public questions, which affect all of us?

Limited government is a government that does not overspend, gives the individual room and right to pursue their own interests without too much government interference, and allows the market to drive profits. Free societies allow freedom in many dimensions, which brings opportunities, as well as limitations.

I find whenever there is a socialistic "concern", there is moral disintergration, as people need incentive to do and to be for themselves and their families. Others should also be held accountable for taking care of their families. And when the family has disintergrated, then the Church should take the lead in "adopting" those that have no support or help in obtaining opportunity.

Human Rights, Individual Freedom and Social Order

Globalism is not an option in today's world. The question facing the world is where are the boundaries to lie? Do nation states have a right to exist as separate entities? Does every human deserve respect and be given dignity, irregardless of behavior or culture? These are the questions of internationalism, internationalizing Nation States, and the "rule of law". I know I do not have the answers, and probably don't understand all the questions, but it is one that interests me and that I think is of utmost importance for all concerned to address. I am learning.

People are concerned today about relgious freedom, in a world that is wondering about radicalizers of faith traditions. Do humans, no matter their faith practice, deserve "equal protection under the law"? Or does their undermining of the "social order" deny them such protections? Civilized society believes that criminals are to be given a right to trial, but are not given freedom without investigation. The question becomes national security versus international law and human rights. Which is of utmost importance? And how do we know what is of utmost importance?

People are also concerned about how the "rule of law" applies in international relations where it concerns economics. Where do business interests usurp culture? Or does business "do business" within a cultural paradigm? How does business "do business" with those who do not adhere to the same cultural standards when it comes to the "rules", 'traditions", and the formal laws of different nation states? What are the responsibilities of citiziens to protect national security and national interests, at the costs of business interests? And do all nations deserve equal opportunity in regards to information that would possibly be used in a dangerous way? Are citizens granted more protection than anyone else?

These are questions that educated persons (and even, those that are in the learning curve) will disagree on, so it becomes a matter of conviction and commitment to the "most important and imperative" need to address. Needs of people will always conflict with different interests and goals. One must assess where they find the most fulfillment, in a world that is "imperfect" and will not become a Utopian "ideal".

The Freedom to Be and to Do

This morning I was thinking that in less than a week, my husband and I will be with his family in Europe. I have been packing and planning, knowing what our plans are while we are there. And I began thinking how priviledged and blessed I am to have the freedom to "be normal".

"Normal" means what any human needs for physical and emotional health. Our free society allows us to live without interference from government or fear of upheval in our life or plans. My husband and I can plan to go see his family and enjoy normal family connections.

Americans and others that have "freedom" so often take those freedoms for granted. Freedom is won by hard work and loyal commitment from those who serve in government, in the roles of government officials, or the military. I do not take their sacrifice/service for granted, as I often think about "freedom" and how valuable it is to be "normal".

So, this day, I am thankful for freedom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sectarianism, Faith, and Freedom

Sectarianism are moves away from something "mainstream". Usually, these movements have been a critique of some kind or other. The movements have been political, as well, as religious. These movements have come to identify people in ideological frames, which are meaning-making.

In Christian tradition, Protestants have understood themselves as "distinct from" Catholicism. And Catholicism was a break away from Judiasm, in the early Church's founding. Each 'sect" sought a more "pure form" of religious expression, in more 'pure definitions" that become abstract systems of philosophical discourse. This was the "project" of theological reflection.

In the political realm, theology sought to give a reason for political subversion, reformation or revolution. But, theology was always "after the fact" of political upheavel or scientific inquiry. Theology has always been about addressing and maintaining the "social order" and the "social structures" and institutions that make up civilization.

Political ideology has been based mostly on the social factors of economics, but has also been based on religious freedom, which was our country's founding heritage. How we live and are in the world has much to do with the political philosophy that holds the reins of power and their tolerance of religious conviction.

In America, we believe that freedom is of uptmost importance, as without freedom, the individual is nothing more than a slave in mind or life. So, it is imperative to address the political realm, as apart from addressing this area, there is no ability for individual flourishing, religious freedom or human rights.

The problem for today's world, is the question of religious freedom where it concern human rights or liberties. Should there be State mandated vaccinations for the young, irregardless of the families' religious convictions? Should there be a tolerance of "faith healings" when there have been deaths reported by such convictions? Should there be tolerance of 'honor killings" because of the religious conviction of "property rights' where it concerns women? What is the position of our country and it's ultimate values?

There have always been movements that have sought to "correct" or "address" a problem, as identified by some 'standard'. We live in an imperfect world, and these movements were/are to seek the "ideal". Unfortunately, the "ideal" will never be found. So, it is best to maintain one's freedom from any form of groupish mentality that would tend to seek to "perfect" the individual or society. One can only perfect what they deem needful, which cannot be defined by others. But, it can allow freedom of discourse, which is a beginning to understand and evaluate freedom's assests in assessing and committing to one's highest, or best "ideal" of society or individual. I find that America's government is the closest.

The "Ideal" Sits Within the "Imperfect" World

This morning over breakfast, a friend and I had a discussion about "life". We realized that life was a "desire", as well as a "disappointment". What do we do with the disappointment? And what does the "desire" mean?

The "desire" we both had was over the "Ideal Life". And we questioned how we came to the "ideal". Was our "ideal" the same as another's cultural "ideal"? Was our "ideal" influenced by our cultural "Disney World" standards? And what would that mean as to a "True Ideal"?

The cultural "ideal" of Islam is not what I would consider an "ideal". Honor killing for the sake of God's honor is horrendously offensive. And I told my friend that it makes me very angry. This is why I find myself curious as to the U.N.' tolerance to Islam's atrocious acts of inhumanity! How can ANY civilized society tolerate such barbariansim? The civilized world MUST defend itself against such religious zealotry! Otherwise, our disregard of injustice toward individuals will lead us down a primrose path to slavery under Sharia Law, in the name of tolerance and cultural relativity/diversity!

I told my friend that I had grown more passionate about political engagement than theological reflection, because the political realm was where people really lived. The ideals of our Constitution which defends and protects our citizens' lives are universal standards of human rights, as well as national defenses.

We are a people because we choose to live in a land that is free, but also, dependent on our commitment to freedom and justice in our public life. So, when it comes to reason, most of us would choose freedom of conscience in regards to religious conviciton and not the other way around, where religious conviction supplants reason because of some cultural understanding of "god"!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Individual Choice, Social Contract, and Freedom

Our individualism in America has its roots in Protestantism. Protestantism is a "protest" against the Church and its abuses of power. But, the Protestant Church found itself split again and again over questions about the sacraments and Church government. Church government was understood to maintain the social structure of the "elect", in however that was understood. America, on the other hand, was born to undermine "election" and give room and voice to each and every citizen.

America was founded on principles of the Enlightenment; reason, natural law, and an understanding of "moral principles" that guided civil society, which was the basis of the "rule of law". The Founders were not evangelical believers, but men of reason, who desired to create a "more perfect union" that gave the individual a voice about their life and their pursuits.

While America's tradition was undeveloped and never gained the traditional strength of traditional cultures, it did have "order" and structure that was based on equality of opportunity, which underwrote justice and liberty. The limited government that the Founders created was to "value individual" rights, while forbidding the sanction of any one religious tradition.

Their understanding was that government was to protect the people by providing a military and maintaining order by balancing power between the states. Centralization was debated by Hamilton (?), but not all of the Founders understood the government's power in such a way. Centralization became more prevalent when socialized programs started to provide and over-rode the individual and State's right to liberty. The social contract became underwritten by the government, instead of the government respecting the 'other party' in the contract.

I think that this is the very "pivot point" to our understanding what is happening with globalization and nationalism today. Where the State had the right to "hold property" which were the slaves that helped maintain economic stability in the South, government's moral "voice" determined through war that slavery was universally wrong. Human rights and "nationalism" were born.

Modernity is based on man's reason, which is developed within certain paradigms. It is not usual, except in free societies and liberal families that people are exposed to "more than one way of understanding life". Worldviews, which are reasonable explainations about life and how reality functions are ways in which people identify. But, reason is not the epitome of reality, although it is useful for living in constructing "a more perfect answer" for faith.

I think that without freedom, individual choice, and social contract, the world is a dark and forboding place that subverts justice, limits freedom devalues the human. I don't choose to live in such a world and most people who have a choice (and know that they have a choice) would not either.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Moral Development in the History of American Government and Society

Anyone who knows me either personally or from reading entries on this blog site, know that I have been thinking of faith, values, and government. Faith has many "colors", and even, shades and tones, within those "colors". This is why there must be a way to live together, a "one Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all". This is where our government's ideals of individual conscience, and religious freedom are values that are to be upheld in today's world. But, how did these understandings of government come about?

Norms in a particular society are the "ways" in which people are "supposed to bahave", there is an assumption that is based on "conditioning" through one's upbringing and the concurrance within the society itself. through relgious teaching or values Some traditional cultures that have not been "born into" the "modern" era, are still living within these particularized paradigms.

Social order is affirmed through various means of upholding the traditions' values and norms. Religion is a big influence in maintaining the social order and affirming behavioral standards.

In America, and the birth of the "modern era", tradition no longer held as much power over societal norms and values. Where society had lived within communal contexts, industrialization dissolved extended family ties and based societal norms on "social contract", "career advacement", and individualized reason. Society itself underwent a "moral shift and change that gave room for man's development, but also undermined man's need of social connection.

In Kohlbug's moral development, the traditional, societal, or "social order" stage of morality, was a "lower level" (conventional stage) than the higher developed 'social contract", or reasoned stage. The assumption is that the individual "self" and his reason was more highly developed, as it was based on our American "ideals" of social contract, the Constitution, which underwrote justice.

Instead of God, or an "elect" or a sacred priesthood that maintained a "social order", the individual and his use of reason was the basis of moral reasoning and maturity. Submission was to be voluntary and not demanded or imposed from the outside, as in authoritarian regimes (political or religious). Our form of government valued a liberal government that upheld individual conscience, where it concerned religious conviction.

Freedom of individual conscience was the "watchword" for the social order and structuring of the Constitution. Religion was given a" seat in the bus", but was not to head the bus's direction, as the Constitution separated Church and State for good reason. All men, no matter the religious affiliation, or none, were created equal with certian inalienable rights. These "rights" were not to be provided by government, but protected by government. Man was assured the freedom to pursue his own life's goals and purposes. America was a free society based on reason and conscience.

I find that American government has left its Founder's rationale of individual liberty, by socializing that liberty. American government cannot garuantee equality of outcomes, but it attempts to do so with social programs that inhibit personal initiative. A limited government has grown to become a ravenous beast that preys upon the people's taxes to sustain the government's purposes of provision, instead of providing protection of rights.

American people of the past had a duty to "god and country" because of their gratitude for the liberty that the government protected. Now, the ones provided for have little incentive and intiative, while those who are taxed beyond their voluntary choice feel resentful of government's intrusion on private property. Private property was a pivotal issue of individual liberty, as man worked and earned his due wage, as slavery and servitude was outlawed.

Our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom and individual rights. The two underwrites the indivduality that our society values and promotes the best environment for human flourishing.

The problem of late in American government is that whenever the law is interpreted by the judicial branch to protect the interests of the government (executive branch), when the executive branch appoints the judges on the Supreme Court, we have a conflict of interests within the government's structure. Balance of power and acccountability was what the Founder's sought to maintain, not to benefit the government, but to protect individual liberties.

We are a people, who are committed to "freedom and justice for all", but if justice is not done at home, we cannot with moral integrity grant it outside of home.

Christians Hide Behind Christianity

I find that I have hidden behind Christian faith. It "protected me" from feeling that the world was a dark and forboding place. But, more so, it was a way of coping with my own anxiety and insecurity. It helped me find meaning, where there had been no meaning. It helped me to feel special, a sense of belonging, and met a need for "family" that would share life with me. It was, in effect, a denial of true reality and an attempt at "creating a new one" (a "new family", a "new me", a "new future", etc.).

Christians hide behind the various group identifiers that help them to form their own "bulwark of faith" against facing what is otherwise, horrendously difficult and challenging. People are self seeking. This should be an accepted fact of life in encountering others. Then, one is free to encounter another with their own agenda and then honestly evaluate, negotiate and compromise. This is forthrightness, as it doesn't try to dissolve self-interest, or sacrifice, but seeks to further goals directly and with honesty. This is the stage of social contract in moral development.

Christians love to define their life in altruistic ways. And most of the time, they seem to love to see sacrifice as "proof of" "love for God and neighbor". Problems of identifying sacrifice occur when there are various differences as to what defines the "correct" sacrifice. Judging another's "sacrifice" as insignificant is offensive and insulting, which alienates and complicates the relationship and the negotiating process.

These sacrifices are used to further "holiness" and "discipline" and 'create and define' Christian character. But, what is the difference in Christian sacrifice and altruism and a "secular" person doing the same? Christians can feel smug and "better than" others, which underwrites their own insecurities, rather than face them squarely and realistically.

I would much rather be "on the same page", knowing that a contract was a useful tool to protect both parties interest, rather than, some "spiritualized" service that undermines justice. Christians use and abuse terms, and situations because of their view of reality. Reality is defined in "other worldly ways" that are defined by "god". "God" justifies in their minds "abuse of power", as they feel morally superior. These "other worldly ways" are imposed upon all of life and others, which hinders one's ability to communicate in 'real terms" and truely know another in "real ways".

So, what do I wish for Christians? I wish that all of them would evaluate their life honestly, without any need to 'spiritualize", "or protect themselves". Life can be hard, indeed, but if one continues to "live in a bubble of unreality", then life cannot be embraced and fully lived. Christians need to be "real human beings" and stop seeking to be anything else.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

When Politics Drives Policy

My husband and I are in Colorado attending a scientific conference. Most of the information has been exciting to him, but tonight he wanted me to join him in attending a talk(s) on how science affects society and policy.

We were late getting to the talk, but the usual "politically correct" policies were being on the front burners of conversation.The scientist we heard was giving a talk and graphs on energy consumption and populations in a global perspective. He showed how the majority of the world's populations are expanding, while most of these don't even have electricity and live an impoverished existence. The discussion ensued over the questions of limiting our comsumption, limiting the expanding populations, and seeking new energy resources. He suggested that the government could underwrite R&D through a special tax. But, since he was from Europe, he made a remark about how Americans don't like taxes. The government cannot be the moral policman when it comes to R&D because then there is limited incentive for scientists to pursue a highly competitive and time-consuming career. And those who have benefitted from government money through grants have government "control" over how the money is to be used in pursuing R&D.

The media becomes useful to "educate" the public to the "wishes" of the government and the "pet projects" of those who want to control the resources of government in funding or limiting funding in specific scientific areas. Not just the "propagandizing of the media" for educating the public on "politically correct" scientific endeavors, but, this particular scientist said, it is difficult to get the proper information to the public and the politicians, who are not understand science. He gave the example of when scientists gave the media information regarding electricity usage and the media picked it up as energy. Policy ensued over incorrect information. Needless to say, that this policy will not be "met", as "mandated". So, public servants wasted time, the public's interest was disinvested, and the public good will not benefit through such means of legislation.

This president has made it his goal to be informed and to base his policy on "good science". This is good policy formation, but if, there is an agenda to "moralize science", limiting the "free market" and private industry, then, the economy cannot flourish and will not promote new innovations, and discovery, because there will be limited incentive and limited ability to engage science in new and original ways, unless it is done under the auspices of governmental oversight.

C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated,; but, those who toment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." HOW TRUE!