The Kosher-ness of Hating "Religion"

You see it seemingly everywhere…Music, movies, books, etc.  It’s popular to bash religion. Typically, it’s preceded by the word “organized”. Many, even in the Christian community will say something to the effect that it’s about a “relationship” not about “religion”.  Okay, I get that.  I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years now. I understand that the overreaching important thing is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s a given. However, let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, religion is not always viewed as a bad thing in the Bible, something some Christians might be surprised to find out if they would actually read the scriptures…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27 (NIV)

You can boil this down to two basic points…First, pure religion is to look after orphans and widows. While looking after an orphan or widow can take many different forms for different people, it’s still a pretty straightforward statement.

However, keeping oneself from being polluted by the world can and does encompass many different things, many of those things being the forms and functions that we typically assign in our minds to being “religious” in nature. Those things could be attending church, serving in a ministry, helping the poor and needy, etc. These are good things. Even if someone’s heart is not right with Jesus, i.e. the relationship, they are still good things. If the hungry are fed by people with a poor or self-serving attitude, I still praise God that the hungry are fed. Obviously, those with that kind of attitude aren’t going to receive any particular benefit from that service but the end result in this example is that the hungry are fed.

Let’s face it…Those of us who attend worship on a regular basis might not want to call what we are doing in church “religion” but the fact of the matter is that it IS religion. It’s religion, not in our selfish attempt at obtaining salvation, but religion in humble reverence to a loving God that is keeping us from being polluted by the world. That’s why we worship Him in song, in the word, and in service on a weekly basis. That’s why we serve Him in deed throughout the week, at our jobs and in our homes and wherever it is that God would lead us. At least, that’s my hope and prayer.


Revisiting…Smoking Bans

Considering that Indianapolis is once again considering a smoking ban (there is already one in place that is working quite well, by all accounts, if you’re a supporter of that…), I thought I’d re-post this article from March of this year.  Suffice it to say that the ASNs are on the march again…

I think we can all safely agree that smoking is dangerous to one’s health.  Besides that, it smells bad, is unattractive, and is generally annoying.  I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life and don’t particularly care to be around people when they are smoking.   That being said, I hate the anti-smoking nazis even more than I hate smoking itself.

The ASNs, as I shall henceforth refer to them, have managed to get smoking bans of all different degrees passed in various communities throughout the country.  Their argument is that it’s for the common good for our government to forcibly cause businesses, both big and small, to enact smoking bans so that employees and patrons alike don’t become sick because of direct or second-hand smoke.

My question is, if the ASNs are so against smoking, why don’t they just follow the temperance crowd from the early 1900s and just completely ban smoking, or better yet, tobacco products of all kinds?  Wouldn’t that strike at the heart of the problem?

Well, you see, there’s a problem with that line of thinking.  The government on all levels is also addicted to tobacco, not in the physical sense, but in the monetary sense.  They are so reliant on heavy taxes levied against tobacco products that they would no more ban smoking than they would cut off their own arm or leg.  It’s one of those comfy little “paradoxes” that our government just seems to get entangled in.

But that’s just one problem…The other is laziness.  ASNs argue that they should be able to go into a restaurant without breathing in other people’s secondhand smoke.  While I agree that no one should be forced to breathe secondhand smoke, this is rarely the case.  There are several reasons why I believe smoking should be allowed in private establishments…

One is that an owner of a private restaurant, bar, etc., should be legally allowed to determine whether or not their own establishment should allow smoking.  Adults sometimes do stupid things.  Smoking is one of them.  That doesn’t mean that we as citizens need to be monitored like little children and kept from self-harm at all times.

Secondly, workers who do not wish to be subjected to secondhand smoke can exercise their freedom to work elsewhere.  I know some of you out there, when reading this one, will no doubt feel that I’m just an unfeeling, hatemongering conservative.  To you, I say “Bite me!”.  Anyone who knows me very well at all, knows that’s not the case.  Anyway, despite the rising unemployment rate, if you feel strongly enough about not being around secondhand smoke, you still have the freedom to seek other employment.  No one is forcing you to work in that environment.

The worst argument, in my opinion, is that the average person should just be able to go into a restaurant and not have to breathe in someone else’s noxious fumes.  This is where the laziness comes in.  It’s rather easy in these times to either go to an establishment’s web site or, God forbid, call them and ask if they allow smoking.  If they allow it, you don’t go.  Period.  End of story.  If they don’t allow it, you can thank them and then proceed to their nearest location for a fine dining experience.  Since when are we so lazy that we will knowingly subject ourselves to something that we knew was allowed in a particular place?  There are always other options out there for those that don’t want to give their business to restaurants that allow smoking and, you know what, if there isn’t an acceptable alternative for you, then how about resorting to that good old American standard of a home cooked meal?  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can still buy food at your local grocery store and actually fashion it into a real meal.

I’m all for owners voluntarily making their establishments non-smoking.  I would love it if that were the case.  However, I’d rather have to be inconvenienced by putting up with a small bit of secondhand smoke, finding another restaraunt, or God forbid, staying home and having a quiet meal with the family.

Roman Polanski, Scumbag

Has anyone else been bothered by the seeming parade of Hollywood types rushing to the defense of Roman Polanski? In case you haven’t heard, Polanski, plead guilty to engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, a girl who was only 13 at the time. It has been reported that Polanski drugged the girl and performed various sex acts while she was semi-conscious.

It angers me to even think about such a thing happening to any woman, regardless of age, not to even mention a child. I have an 11-year old daughter and cannot imagine how furious I would be towards this “man” if that happened to her.

I’d like to re-post a portion of an article by Ken Connor, guest columnist for “The Christian Post”.

Nevermind that what Roman Polanski did was morally repugnant (not to mention illegal). Nevermind the fact that he is a man who has exhibited no qualms about taking advantage of young, impressionable girls. As far as the artistic community is concerned, Polanski’s brilliance as a filmmaker trumps his responsibilities as a member of the human race and immunizes him from the need for accountability before the law. Using this same train of logic one can only assume that if Polanski were a mere pedestrian filmmaker, his fellow artists might be less willing to give him a pass.

This same warped mindset has infiltrated other parts of our society-a society increasingly obsessed with the antics and peccadilloes of the rich and famous. Consequently, securing justice in situations involving criminal accusations against giants of the entertainment industry is often difficult. So too in the political arena, where elected officials at every level of government routinely engage in reckless conduct with an arrogance possessed only by those convinced that they are above the law.

Imagine the consequences for the average Joe if he admitted to engaging in sexual relations at the workplace with a variety of female subordinates. He would be fired on the spot. What if he were exposed for tax evasion? Jail time and heavy fines, no doubt. And finally, what if our average Joe were indicted for drugging a 13-year-old girl and performing lewd sex acts upon her semi-conscious body? If convicted, he could count on a stiff jail sentence followed by a conspicuous spot on the national database of sex offenders, no job prospects, and little chance of regaining respectable standing in the community.

For celebrities like David Letterman, Charles Rangel, or Roman Polanski, however, none of these consequences appear to apply. Letterman’s primary worry in the aftermath of his on-air confession seems to be with his ratings-which, by the way, have skyrocketed. Charles Rangel continues to preside over the appropriation of our tax dollars as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Roman Polanski receives a lifetime achievement award for excellence in filmmaking.

Exempting the rich and famous from the need to conform to the moral norms and prevailing laws of society makes a mockery of the principle of justice. As history has demonstrated, a just society cannot exist if the rule of law is not applied equally to all. Roman Polanski may be a brilliant filmmaker. His work may be admired the world over. He may be an inspiration to his peers. But none of this vitiates his obligations under the law.

You can read the rest of Connor’s article here.

It CAN Happen

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:43-45

Ever since before the current recession started, many supposed experts were running to and fro saying that severe economic problems will not or cannot happen here.  “Why, this is the United States of America, you know. Things like this just cannot happen here.” We’re told to just have a positive outlook and not worry about it. Well, I agree with that in theory but, in my opinion, that statement would be better interpreted as “hide your head in the sand and pretend nothing’s happening”.

Dave Ramsey is an example of this. Don’t get me wrong. I love Dave Ramsey’s advice on personal finance. He is one of the best at what he does and it’s certainly a good idea to follow most of his advice. However, I believe he’s flat-out wrong on the economy. Will our economy recover?  Perhaps…and I’ll even go so far as to say that it most likely will, for a time. Ramsey thinks we’re going to be just fine and that there’s nothing to worry about. He says we’ll pull out of this.

Again, I agree that we shouldn’t worry. As a believer, I serve a God who is all-powerful and who will protect and see me through even the hardest of times. However, that does not mean that I can’t or shouldn’t do all I can to prepare for what could be an economic disaster heading our direction.

Our government is currently monetizing our debt. They claim that they’re not but, the fact is, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The Fed starting doing this under the Bush administration and has continued doing it in spades under the Obama administration. This approach has failed EVERY time it’s been tried in history.

Our wonderful Senators and Representatives, Democrat and Republican alike, also continue to spend our hard-earned money like the proverbial drunken sailor. Even the so-called stimulus bill, passed earlier this year, contained hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on unnecessary social programs and other pork-laden projects. It was supposed to be necessary to kickstart the economy and get us back on our feet yet it’s more than likely only going to help bring us to our knees even faster.

Again, I don’t believe anyone should panic over this but I do think we need to be realistic about what could happen. God has blessed this country and he may continue to bless us but, sooner or later, we will reap what we have sewn in terms of our fiscal sin. We cannot continue spending and printing money like there’s no tomorrow and expect to have no ill consequences. Those consequences could be very grave indeed.

As the scripture passage above indicates, I as a believer in Christ am not exempt from hard times. I can do all I can to prepare for them but, being a member of this society, if they eventually come, I will still be effected. But keep in mind that with great trouble also comes a great opportunity for blessing. The passage says that God “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. I believe this can be taken two ways…One is that hard times can and will come on both believers and unbelievers alike. The other is that good things can happen even in the midst of hard times and, through those good things, I can still be a blessing to those who are hurting.

The Context Syndrome

Rush Limbaugh made headlines all across the country earlier this year when he said the following…

…but I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.

The portion in bold is what garnered the most attention. All of a sudden, it was national news that Rush Limbaugh wanted the country to go to the proverbial hell in a handbasket. He was wishing economic and social disaster on the entire country, dooming us all to the same fate. Why, that un-American windbag! How dare he utter such a thing?

Qualifying statement: I’m a conservative. However, I dislike Rush Limbaugh intensely. I find his show boring (I haven’t ever been able to sit through an entire show) and he comes across as extremely arrogant, in my opinion.

That being said, to claim Limbaugh was un-American in his statement is to completely misrepresent what he said. Like Limbaugh, I do not want Obama’s policies to succeed, while still wishing the best for my country. I stand in diametric opposition to many of his beliefs. I would like to see his ideas defeated because I believe they are not in the best interests for this country.

Of course, it seems that many forget that throughout Bush’s presidency, many on the left wished his policies ill will also…

I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.

This statement was made by James Carville (pictured above next to Limbaugh), a well-known Democratic strategist. It was made on 9/11/01, only minutes before the terrorist attacks were carried out but, understandably, went largely unreported. Regardless, the left’s attacks on Bush and his policies continued throughout the entirety of his tenure.

I don’t think Carville was wrong for what he said. He not only has a right to say it but I’m positive that he intended no wrong to happen to our country. He was opposed to what Bush wanted to do policy-wise, the same thing Limbaugh meant when he said he doesn’t want Obama to succeed.

Now some on the left will argue that Limbaugh really did mean harm or bad fortune for the country. While those who think that are certainly entitled to their opinion, they couldn’t be more wrong. The same goes for those on the right who think Carville is a bitter old man who wanted nothing more than to see the entire country fail during Bush’s presidency.

The problem here is context. Both men have been taken severely out of context. Neither one wished harm upon the country and it’s entirely obvious when taking the quotes in context. The problem is not them but the context syndrome.