Monday, May 28, 2012

So, Why Get Married? What's a Wedding For?

Been to a wedding lately?

If you’re in your twenties or thirties, I’m sure you have, or are likely to be going to one soon.  It’s the wedding season.  Have you noticed?

What’s your favorite part of a wedding?  Okay, besides the free drinks at the reception.  Wait, I know, it’s the dancing, right?  Especially after a few drinks have been downed, that’s when the real fun begins.  Don’t you think?

Well, I know one thing: the ceremony is the least favorite by far.  So much so that, if they can get away with it, many will head straight for the reception and bypass the ceremony altogether.  It’s as if the wedding is really one big excuse for a wild party, nothing more.

Yet, the sad truth about weddings is that less than fifty percent of marriages will stay together.  Depending on which statistic you read, a little over half of all marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce.  Where’s the love?

Of course, many couples don’t even bother anymore: “I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me with whom I’m in love or to whom I’m committed,” some say.  “We’re in love and we’re happy together and that’s all that counts,” they might add.

I might argue that there are some real, practical and logistical, social and economic reasons why getting married and obtaining a legal marriage license is much better than just “shacking up” or “living together,” especially when it comes to having children.  But I’ll pass on addressing those reasons for now.

Here’s the real question.  Why a church wedding?  Granted, many choose not to have a church wedding as such and come up with very imaginative venues and formats for that special event.  Still, there’s always the clergy-person that’s there, making that fateful declaration: “I now pronounce you Husband and Wife.”

Do you believe in a Greater Power?  If you do, you want that Greater Power’s blessing.  Do you not?  That is what is at the core of a church wedding, the religious ceremony.  God’s blessing.

I submit to you that one of the many immediate and pressing reasons why more than half of all U.S. marriages end up in divorce is that couples are committing their lives to each other in the strength of, and on the basis of, their own ability to “make it work.”  And, sooner or later, many discover to their surprise that love is not enough and realize that they neither have the strength, the capacity, the skill, nor the will to make it work to the end.  It just becomes too much for them to deal with—trying to shape or change or depend upon another needy human being to meet one’s own needs and find happiness.

Humans need a Greater-Power other than themselves in order to “make it work.”  Love is not enough.  Human love is fickle, frail, and weak, conditional and needy.  It can’t handle the challenges of marriage on its own.  What is needed is God’s all-wise authority along with God’s un-conditional love over a marriage.  Couples need the power and authority of God over them.  Yet, more and more, couples, including those who declare faith in God, are minimizing this essential point in their marriages and at their wedding ceremonies.

A religious wedding ceremony ostensibly is about God.  It is recognition that the Blessing of God upon a couple is not only wanted but needed.  God’s greater authority, power, and wisdom is needed and requested in behalf of the newlywed couple.

In that light, a religious wedding ceremony is also a proclamation of faith, and a declaration of obedience to that faith, the couple promising fealty not only to each other but to God as well: “I, we, submit to God and His will and purpose for our lives.”  In that light, God’s blessing is being asked for—so that, “if God be for us, who can be against us.”

If a couple takes such a religious ceremony seriously, regarding its vows and its request for God’s presence and blessing (and that’s a big “if”), the couple has a much better chance of having a lasting and successful marriage—meaningful, fruitful, enduring, and ever expanding and growing with regard to mutual care, nurture, and respect.

As we all know, a good marriage takes work, hard work.  And, there is no guarantee of success.  There can’t be.  We’re human.  Still, with a willing spirit-of-submission to that Higher-Authority/Greater-Power that we call God, we have a much, much better chance of success.  With God’s input—His Wisdom and His Authority, His Truth and Spirit working in and through us—as we learn to submit to God, we’ll have all we need apart from our own inner needy dependent selves, to make it work.

I know.  I’ve been married now for going on twenty-nine years.  It’s not been easy.  Indeed, sometimes it’s been rather harsh and painful (of which my wife can testify).  But because we believe in God and because we are willing to submit to His Authority and plead for His grace and mercy in our lives when we mess up (to correct and change me, on my part, for example), we’re still together.  And our love and respect for each other is only getting better as the years go by—by the grace of God.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Doctors view PA Law as a Gag Order. We support the Doctors

Blowing it out of proportion, exaggerated fears, reactive!  That’s what they’re saying about the doctors.

I think the doctors have every right to be worried and we, the public, need to support them.

Ever since fracking has begun in the Marcellus Shale regions of Pennsylvania we’ve been hearing accounts of spoiled drinking water, once pristine water-wells now polluted having to be shut down as dangerous to one’s health.  Many tell stories of developing health problems and medical issues that were nonexistent before the introduction of fracking in their neighborhoods.

And what is the response of the companies that are doing the fracking (e.g., Halliburton, ExxonMobil)?  Typical, adamant, not to mention arrogant, denial: There is no evidence connecting the dots.  They say.  You can’t prove it’s us.  Besides, we’re self-monitoring.  Trust us.  We’re not causing the problem.  They assert.  But if they are not the source, who is?  And if their fracking chemicals are not polluting once pristine drinkable water-wells, what is?

Yes indeed, deny as they may, there is an obvious and direct connection between their fracking and the polluting of wells and worse, the growing cases of ill-health among local residents living in fracking locations.

But where is the proof?  Well, these companies have managed to take care that no proof can be found, or rightly used against them, if found.

First, they maintain secrecy in the name of “proprietary information” protection.  It is therefore next to impossible for the public to actually learn what chemicals are being used, as they flaunt rights of secrecy and privacy protection for their business.  Secondly, they’ve managed to escape from under EPA’s regulatory Toxic Release Inventory and Safe Drinking Water Act.  These regulatory acts were to insure that communities are given information about chemicals that companies are releasing and to be held directly responsible for the polluting of water.  Thirdly, and this is the one the doctors are upset about, there is a new law that now prevents doctors from sharing information that they do obtain (out of the necessity to treat patients becoming ill from these secret chemicals) with other doctors and patients or with the community at large.

These companies have surrounded themselves with a cloak of legal secrecy.  Obviously their greatest fear is full and public disclosure.  We can only conclude that they fear public reaction if the public actually learned the truth of what they are doing, the chemicals they are using and its effect on the environment.  Thus, their greatest defensive maneuver is to keep us ignorant and in the dark.  And their greatest offensive weapons are the economic, legal, and political powers backing them with laws that sustain their secrecy.

I agree with the doctors.  This is not good.  The law puts doctors at risk and on a dangerous footing (damned if they do, damned if they don’t).  It is indeed a gag order, and it bodes ill for the general public.

I don’t believe these companies need proprietary information protection with respect to the chemicals they are using for fracking.  The public’s safety and health concerns must have first priority, not to mention our need to sustain available clean drinking water resources, such as local wells.

We need to demand FULL DISCLOSURE!  Let the doctors as well as any concerned citizen speak freely and obtain all the information they need with the freedom to share it with whomever they wish.  All of us need to learn the full extent of the situation and have all the facts before us, in order to properly address any present or potential problem, face any challenge, and deal with heretofore unforeseen consequences resulting from the eager desire to exploit our gas/oil resources by the use of fracking.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Obama supports gay marriage. He’s an Avowed Christian. Is this a contradiction?

When it comes to the gay question, this country is divided, almost right in half.  And, although it largely seems to play-out as the religious verses the non-religious, it is more than just, faith against non-faith or believers against non-believers.  Even Christians are divided on this issue.  Most large and mainstream Protestant Christian denominations have had the gay question arise more than once in their regional and national assemblies.  What’s happening?

Why is this issue so volatile?  Exactly what kind of issue is it really: Is it a justice, civil-rights issue?  Is it a religious, faith issue?  Is it a political, power-play issue?  Or is it a rule-of-law, authority issue?  Yes.

If it were just a religious faith-issue, the conservative religious voice would have long been dismissed as irrelevant and relegated to the innocuous corner of one’s private religious beliefs, and left at that—in the same way that observing Kosher laws or rules about fasting on certain days is dismissed as a matter of private personal belief-preference—by our greater society.

Obviously it’s more than a simple religious issue.  It’s also a social issue, directly affecting laws that govern the economy of marriage and family, among other things.  Thus, it not only becomes a legal or legislative question, but a question of authority and social-power, which raises the following questions:  Whose rights are being protected?  Who defines these rights, and for whom, and on what basis?

These are questions of power and authority.  They are also questions, the answers of which are directly or indirectly drawn from one’s Worldview—i.e., one’s assumed and presumed universal norms, principles, and truths—belief in God or belief in no God or belief in a particular kind of God, etc.  Our variant and competing Worldviews are at odds with each other in this pluralistic society of ours.  And at root is our fear that we are going to lose some basic foundational rights, privileges, and values, if “the other side” gets its way.

For example: if a Christian couple turns their home into a Bed-N-Breakfast hospitality center, must they be forced to allow gay couples to stay in their home against their conscience?  Who says so, and on what legal, ethical, social, or authoritative basis?  Or, should the gay couple have the right to sue for discrimination because the Christian couple on the basis of their faith refuse to house and serve “their kind” in their own Bed-N-Breakfast home?  Whose rights are being trampled upon in such a situation?  This example alone reveals the complexity of the issue.  It is a freedom-of-conscience, faith issue, a social justice issue, a legal/authoritative issue, not to mention an economic issue.  Hence, it is an emotionally touchy and explosive issue, held with great passion on both sides.

According to our traditional historical American values and principles, Christians (and people of any Faith) should be free to exercise their conscience in pursuit of their religious convictions without hindrance by government.  On the other hand, even some religious convictions are unacceptable in practice and outlawed by our government—for example, polygamy—thus, it might be a fair question to ask, if we are to accept the legalization of same-sex marriage, why not also legalize polygamy?  Still, we readily admit that specific religious faith-practices or life-styles are not to be imposed upon the whole of American society.  For example, so-called “Blue Laws,” forbidding businesses from opening on Sundays, have been largely discarded for unfairly imposing a religious faith-practice on the general public.

As to the question of legalizing gay marriage, neither side wants to lose on this one.  Each side fears the social political power of the other, fighting against legislative law and economic restriction enforced by the opposing side.  It appears to be a straightforward win-lose battle with no happy solution with more of the same—civic division, political battle-cries, and tactical legislative power-plays.

Writing to my fellow Christians aside, I think that we are being derailed from our call and duty by struggling to maintain power and control over the moral politics of this great American society.  The church is not called to enforce its ethical and moral beliefs upon this nation or any other nation.  Christians are sojourners in the world, in the world not of the world, said Jesus (see John 17).

The church (the collective body of Christians) is called to do two things and two things only: The Great Commission and The Great Commandment.  So, as long as Christians go around worrying about whether gays should have the legal right to marry while lining their pocketbooks with the world’s resources, pursuing the American Dream, Christians are missing the point no matter how conservative their theology may be.

Furthermore, throw no stones, Jesus effectively said.  Remember his response to the woman they brought to him who was caught in adultery: “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.”  No one dared cast the first stone after hearing that.  Think about it, what Christian family is not without its alcoholic or gambler, adulterer or fornicator, drug addict or sex addict, thief, cheater, or loser, and yet is still accepted as a member of the family?

We affirm freedom of conscience.  Let God be the judge.  If a person believes he/she, in good conscience, may marry someone of the same sex.  So be it.  He/she will answer to God, not me, not you, not this government.  It’s that simple.

Keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:10-12, which says: Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?  Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’  So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

It is not for us to play God and do God’s work of judgment, condemnation and damnation?  To do such is contrary to our responsibility to carry out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  When the early church began to equate itself with the Roman Empire, it began to lose real spiritual and moral vitality.  Let us not make the same mistake while in the American Empire.

Thus, there is no contradiction.   A Christian need not oppose this society’s trend in allowing legal same-sex marriage in order to maintain faithfulness to Christ.  Indeed, the Christian witness in general might be better received if he/she were more gracious about the whole thing.  For Jesus reminds us that His Kingdom is NOT of this world; His followers are citizens of Heaven, not earth.  Thus, we need not fret ourselves over this issue at the social, cultural, political level.  Our task is to simply bear witness to the grace, compassion, mercy, and love of Christ for all of humanity.  Jesus came to save, not condemn, the world.  As for judgment, that’s God’s business, not ours.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A 6 Year-Old guilty of Sexual Harassment!?

You’ve got to be kidding, right?  No, it’s true!

A six-year-old boy received a three day suspension at Sable Elementary School in Colorado for repeating what is apparently a popular song from a group called LMFAO.  What’s the name of the song?  “Sexy and I Know It.”  The lyric he quoted?  “I’m sexy and I know it.”  Apparently the boy sang or said these words to a girl with whom he was standing in line for lunch—hence sexual harassment.  Really?!

I have no idea who this group is, LMFAO.  But I am vaguely familiar with the song in that I’m sure that I’ve heard a clip of it somewhere—TV, radio, the internet—I don’t remember where exactly.  Nevertheless, I remember hearing it because it’s like one of those dreaded commercial jingles that stick in one’s mind long after first hearing it, due to its catchy melody and easy singable lyrics.  No wonder that a six-year-old would pick it up and easily repeat it.

As far as I can tell, it’s typical MTV like music, young people’s stuff.  By the way, if you’re in my generation, don’t get too smug, some of Frank Sinatra’s best songs are no better for its message (think of “Don’cha go ‘way mad” or “Please be Kind,” songs that virtually endorse extra-marital affairs).  Nevertheless, though much could be said about the song itself, this is not about the song.  It’s about the boy in a lunch line at school who repeated it, sang or quoted it to a girl he was standing next to.  Was this an example of real, bona fide, sexual harassment?  I think not.

Why not?  Because the kid is only six-years-old, because he was repeating something he heard from what is apparently mainstream pop music, a catchy tune with striking words.  In short, he was just being a kid and committed a kid’s level error not an adult level crime.  That’s all.  You don’t have to be a child psychologist to conclude that there was probably very little real sexual interest in this kid’s action.  Upon repeating the song’s lyrics to the girl standing next to him, it’s not like his intent was to say: “Hey babe, you like what you’re looking at?  I’m sexy and I know it.  So, let’s get it on!” the way you can imagine a sexually mature adult, who also happens to be an idiot, might think of saying to a woman.

Real adults should be smarter than this.  Real mature adults need to teach and nurture children, show wisdom and insight in understanding a child’s life, a child’s perspective, a child’s world.  So this!  Suspending a six-year-old for sexual harassment!  It’s over the top.  It’s reactive and insensitive, and shows a lack of depth and thoughtfulness, and a total lack of wisdom.  Such reactive measures teach children little—but to possibly distrust adults as over reactive who understand little and care even less.  Did those in power even try to understand what the kid was thinking when he repeated the lines to this song?  Did they try to understand his actions from his point of view, a child’s perspective on life, the world, and even sexuality?  Or were they just being hardnosed, impatient, dismissive, and authoritarian about it all?

And this is the real problem about this incident.  Adults are proving themselves to be more and more intolerant, mean-spirited, impatient, unkind, foolish and unwise, self-serving, and kneejerk reactive with their dozen-and-one zero-tolerant policies for everything that is disturbing to them.  It’s a show of weakness rather than strength.  It says adults are actually afraid of children.

We adults must truly fear that we really have lost control of things.  Why else would we react with such hardnosed authoritarianism, leaving no room for thoughtful and restorative nurturing action toward miscreants?  When lines are crossed and rules are broken, we apparently prefer to mindlessly resort to applying strict harsh consequences, with little thought and even less insight, and absolutely no processing and consideration of context or situation.

It is rule by authoritarian control, a heavy-handed use of power to exact strict obedience and enforce outward conformity, rather than taking time to nurture the inner life, the inner soul and spirit of a child.  And this is precisely why we lose so many of our children, as they grow into their teen years, to the very rebellious ideas and reactionary causes that so many older adults fear and abhor.