Questions of Religion

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I often run across news articles that cause me to seriously reflect on what I believe to be the state of the world. Recently, I paused over an article, “Christian Slapped with $12,000 ‘Shariah Fine’ for not Removing Shoes.”

It’s a short article, and it was written with some fairly obvious Christian bias. That’s my first pause. I suppose that if the publication is by Christians for Christians, I could cut the journalist a little bit of slack. Even so, I have a hard time understanding how to justify what appears to be an attempt to stir hard feelings against another religious group and/or the government. Sure, I believe that Christian rights should be honored with equal protection under the law (yes, I’m very American), but fear mongering isn’t helping the cause.

I am concerned about a system (and yes, I know this happened in Canada), that financially supports the side making the claim without providing an even opportunity for the party who has to be defended against the claim. Having only the article for information, it does look like the government is siding with minority groups without reasonable checks in place, putting a heavy burden on those who are accused — and opening the door to outrageous abuses of the system.

I am concerned that there was a breakdown in communication that became a legal incident. From the article, there is no telling if one side or both sides behaved badly as they communicated. But, it seems like adults should be able to be civil and transmit information to each other. How simple would it have been to remind your landlord of your beliefs and request that he and other visitors please remove their shoes when they enter your home? Shouldn’t a good Christian honor that request as a show of respect and Christian love?

Finally, my biggest concern is how touchy we all seem to be lately. Can a Christian say, “God bless you” without someone of another faith (or no faith) crying to social media that Christians are trying to force them to adopt their beliefs? Shouldn’t a Muslim woman be able to wear a hijab without fear of being called a terrorist? How can governments help ensure that all citizens have equal rights without getting into the business of religion?

Is there a way to make room for us all?

Easter Thoughts

easterheadWhen I was as kid, I would have never believed that I would have felt any sense of worry or nervousness when writing about Easter. I grew up in a time when sacred and secular practices blended together to make a fun, chocolate-filled holiday for kids.

But, as I grew up, the world changed. Everywhere I turn, it seems like we have tension, distrust, and even hatred. Something as simple as saying “Happy Easter” is now preceded by thoughts of — will this person be offended because they aren’t Christian?

The actual celebration of Easter can be even more charged — should it just be a spiritual holiday, do you mix in secular traditions, do you try to separate ancient pagan influences and have a “pure” holiday, or do you put religion aside and just celebrate it in the spirit of welcoming spring?

I don’t have all the answers. If I could write a magic sentence that would bring world peace, it would be written in a heartbeat.

What I do know is that we somehow have to learn to accept and love people in spite of (or maybe even because of) our differences. We have to learn to disagree agreeably. We have to stop being so ready to assume that someone’s words or actions are calculated attacks against us and our values. We have to change inside before we can influence any change around us.

So, without any ill-intent, but speaking from the goodness and well-wishes of the culture in which I was raised,

“Happy Easter.”

Election Reflections: “Hate Won”?

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In the United States, the election is over, but the rhetoric, the ugliness, and the bad behavior continues. Social media is still filled with barbed comments, and citizens are still protesting. It doesn’t help that, for the first time that I know of, the president-elect called his opponent so that she could congratulate him or that the runner-up gave a concession speech filled with code words to encourage her supporters to continue the fight because “America” had made a bad choice.

To me, it’s a no-brainer that we had an extremely low voitng turnout: this is not the way most Americans want their leaders to behave.

However, in the aftermath of such an spiteful election, I think it is the attitudes that I have seen reflected on social mediia that disturb me the most. Especially when I read someone telling the world, “Today, I had to tell my children that hate won.”

Really?

Who said you had to tell you children that? Did hate really win, and is it fair to paint fellow citizens who disagree with your world view in that matter? Have you polled people who voted for Mr. Trump to find out why they voted that way?

Perhaps you could have told your children that, even when things don’t go the way we think they should, the American election system still works. The people have a voice in who governs them.

You might also have told your children that, whether or not we disagree with those who are elected, we have a duty as citizens to work to build and maintain a country where everyone is encouraged and has an opportunity to be their best.

You could have said that a lot of the issues over which we have been divided are deep and complex, but that we adults are doing our best to solve them using the laws and processes provided by our country.

Understand, I am NOT denying that Mr. Trump said some extremely disturbing things throughout the duration of his campaign. I admit that I have misgivings about anyone leading that has to keep going back and “explaining away” what he or she has said previously.

But I think the larger issue is not who is running the big show, but what we are swallowing as truth and then regurgitating to others. The people still hold the power — each person has a lot of power to influence others. How we behave ourselves makes a huge impact on the world in which we live.

Do we really have to buy the black-and-white thinking that has been crammed down our throats? Is it really true that someone who disagrees with my point of view must disagree becuase they are vile and hateful?

Do we have to run around claiming that it’s all over and there’s nothing left for us to do because the government has to solve all of our problems? Do we have the fortitude to join volunteer groups that are making a difference and actually be involved in change?

Personally, my choice is to bury the hatchets we have wielded throughout the campaigns reach across the divide, and extend a hand of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood that has defined our nations ideals from the beginning.

Politics, Elections, and Common Sense

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Even as a music teacher in an elementary school, politics sometimes try to creep into class time. Because my job is to teach music, I will discuss anything relevant to the current day’s lesson, and then move on. I highly respect my position in training young children, and the boundaries I must keep.

What has hurt my heart most deeply is the ugliness or nastiness that my students tend to mirror when the conversation begins. The oldest children in my class are about 10 years old. They haven’t pondered the issues or made choices for themselves — by and large, they are mirroring what they have observed in the adults in their lives.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of regard for either party’s candidate — or for the two leading minor candidates and the antics that I see broadcast in the news. What I see are adults behaving badly. Sure, the stress of the campaign will eventually get to anyone. An occaisional outburst might be explainable. In my mind, however, the constant mud slinging of American politics is completely inexcusable. Our country is more divided than it has been in my memory — and we are more likely to very our countrymen (and women) as enemies than ever before.

What does it say about us, the everyday citizens, when we embrace a news media that earns its keep by finding the darkest, most salacious, and most disgusting details and publishing them until they become normal fare?

Why are we so content to let media give us the details and not do research ourselves?

When did it become ok to champion leaders who behave like children in the public and who are of such questionable character that they are under investigation or on trial for crimes?

When did we forget that we have young, impressionable future leaders watching all of this and framing their thoughts and opinions on the words and actions of the adults in our lives?

What are we supposed to think when gun sales are soaring immediately preceding an election? Are the people buying them terrified of an unwarrranted government seizure of civil liberties, or are they being purchased by those who are planning to overthrow any leader elected that they don’t like? Should be we terrified of riots?

As Americans, who  are we and what has happened to us?

The people still hold the power in this country. The question to me is, are we still responsible and mature enough as citizens to be equal to the duties, loyalty, and dependability such power requires?

I hope, as Americans, that whatever happens on election day, we will pull together, take care of each other, and seek the COMMON good. (Yes, I mean that we just might put the needs of our neighbors and communities ahead of our wants!)

I hope that we remember the younger citizens of this country who don’t have a voice yet but who are watching and imitating us as their examples of adulthood. I hope that we will remember our commitiments to them.

I hope that we will remember what “allegiance” and “one nation” really mean and that we will embrace the ideals that thousands of good men and women have died to protect and give to us.

I hope that, whatever the outcome of this election, we will embrace being Americans as being of the highest honor, and not settle for anything less from ourselves.

Presidential Politics

The memes have been flying across Facebook for a long time now, and while some of my friends seem to be serious backers of certain candidates, the majority of my social circle seems to either be wringing their hands or face-palming over the dismal prospects.

I will be honest. I went to the primaries in my state and voted for a candidate that I knew didn’t stand a chance. Why? Because even though my vote is only one small vote, it counts. I knew that the person I trusted most in the election had an even smaller chance if I didn’t go.

Without debating the merits of any candidate in the election, I would like to encourage you to consider your civic responsibilities. If your only knowledge of the candidates comes from late-night comedy shows and 15-second evening news blurbs, you might want to question your preparedness to vote as a responsible citizen!

Here is the plan I intend to take, and I encourage you to do the same:

  • Check with your local election commission to see when the cut-off date for qualifying for the ballot is, and then check to see when early voting begins. Sometime between those two dates, the ballot will be available (usually online) for you to see exactly who your choices will be for your district.
  • Examine those names! Look at their campaign websites. Red flags should go up if they are advocating their elect-ability on things that you find offensive or unsettling!
  • If you find someone that you are truly comfortable with that isn’t part of the two main parties, you may want to actually speak out on social media and in conversations to alert your friends and acquaintances that alternatives do exist.
  • Don’t neglect state and local officials — they can make a big difference in your life, too!

I have recently read several blog posts and articles that are accusing Americans with being more concerned about the shape of Kim Kardashian’s posterior than about who runs the country. It’s time to prove the naysayers wrong!