Monday, December 21, 2009

Tyranny and Theocracy

The purpose of the Iranian revolution was not just to overthrow the Shah and his despotic regime but to establish a theocracy. The Iranians held a theocracy under a collective of spiritual men would establish and lead a just upright society and the country would flourish.

One of the principle architects of the theocracy Grand Ayatullah Montazeri recently died at the age of 87 as an outspoken critic of the theocracy he helped established. As one of the theocracy’s founders and Grand Ayatullahs Montazeri even though under house arrest since 1997 he had greater freedom to speak his mind and thereby give some legitimacy to the Green Movement for questioning the results of recent elections.

While maintaining he was not disillusioned he criticized the theocratic government for exchanging one oppressive tyranny for another. Monatzeri took issue with political clerics for amassing power and wealth rather than serving the people. He condemned ongoing mass executions of dissidents and for issuing death statements that give people the impression that the Iranian theocratic government is in the business of killing people. He came to advocate freer speech and an open press that he repressed in his earlier years.

I suspect that most conservative and middle of the road Christians would say that they are not surprised by the religious tyranny and clerics using their positions to accumulate power and wealth for themselves. They are not surprised because Iranians cannot have a true theocracy since they worship a false god and have a flawed human penned holy book. Hence, the theocracy is a failed experiment. Rather than the clerics being spiritually minded and guided by the God’s Spirit, they are guided by self-centered motives and do things to keep themselves in power rather than serving the people.

I concur that the Iranian theocracy has not served the Iranian nation and that it is a very impressive regime. History is replete with examples of leaders corrupted by absolute power. It happened in Rome, in France, England, and the Soviet Union. It occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. It happens within an unfettered capitalist system. Even though there are checks and balances against absolute power, the corrupting nature of power and amassing of wealth through office also happens within a democratic system.

Some conservative Christians dream of having a theocracy. If a Christian theocracy were established in any country would we see the same corrupting influence? It is pity to say this, but yes we would see the same. Human beings who are high minded have a way justifying their actions while doing ungodly and unrighteous things. It would not take long for narrow set of religious views to prevail while those who differ in thought and lifestyle are oppressed, and sometimes oppressed in an ungodly fashion. Quietly at first leaders would gather greater power and the wealth trappings of that come with it. Two decades or so later their hording of self-serving power and gathering of immense personal wealth will be done less quietly. Hence, over the years tyranny would be firmly entrenched.

Regardless of the title or the justification absolute power is dangerous for the populous.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Are “War on Christmas” Warriors Helping to Further the Secularization of Christmas

For at least two decades the conservative element of the American church, particularly fundamentalist and a significant part of the evangelical church, has been concerned over the secularization of Christmas and fearing the Christian holiday in a secular holiday.

Since 2005 heavily driven by right wing Christian elements and spinmister Bill O’Reilly a “war on Christmas” has been waged. The “war on Christmas” is an effort to keep “America’s favorite holiday” from being secularized and neutered so that non-Christians are not offended. The Family Research Council argues “Christmas” is inherently a religious term and therefore the holiday is inherently a Christian holiday and should be celebrated as such. They argue that if a person is to celebrate Christmas then it should be celebrated as a Christian holiday or not at all. In essence this most benevolent position holds that whether a person is a Christian or not, they should use the religious greeting, use the religious symbols, the trappings as if they are Christians. The argument is that they should put on a mask and behave as if they are Christian.

As part of the war O’Reilly has created a “Christmas friendly” measure to which merchants are evaluated regarding their friendliness towards Christmas. Merchants who do not use “Christmas” in their advertisements, have their staff say “Merry Christmas” and who do not put up an adequate display of Christmas trimmings are scored poorly. A merchant is graded down and berated for advertising “Holiday” sales or using the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Rather than leaving it to their staff to decide what to say many merchants have mandated that their employees say “Merry Christmas”. Advertisements are festooned with Christmas greetings and artwork and stores are decorated according to the seasonally politically correct manner and that “Christmas” is prevalent.

Four years ago The Salvation Army was criticized by the soldiers of the war on Christmas for becoming politically correct and removing “Merry Christmas” from its kettle signs. “Merry Christmas” was never removed as it was not on the sign to begin with. The other day I was looking at some old pictures and came across three of with kettle signs from the late 1970s…no “Merry Christmas” was on these old “Need Knows No Season” signs either.

The other week O’Reilly and one of his colleagues running into bombast were pleased that they made a difference and are winning the war on Christmas. They are pleased to be in the forefront in beating back the secularization of Christmas.

For all their glowing pride, these soldiers who are fighting against the secularization of Christmas are decades late. Just a rose by any other name is a rose, Christmas by any other name is a secular holiday in both Canada and the United States. It is time for that we take a deep breath, get a life and recognize the reality that Christmas is a secular holiday. GASP.

Yes the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ rests below the surface, but it the celebration and worship of the Christ child has become encased in layers and layers of cultural celebrations. One only has to work one day in a Salvation Army distribution center or stand at a kettle outside WalMart for a day to see that people of various non-Christian faith traditions are participating in the gift exchange.

Though efforts are made to tie the Santa story into the Christian story of Christmas, Santa has nothing to do with the religious holiday. Neither do the decorations and the parties. The great Christmas feast is not part of the Christmas story. Likewise, the tradition of traveling great distances to spend the holiday with family and friends has no connection with the Jesus story and worship of the Christ-child. The timing of the holiday is tied to ancient pagan Roman, Germanic and other ancient cultures celebration of the winter solstice. All these elements have become attached to the celebration of Christmas and as each was added, each in their own way added to the secularization of Christmas.

A stone through from my office is the Egyptian Embassy where last week they put up a Christmas tree and decorations. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, druids, atheists, etc. are celebrating the holiday by putting up trees, lights, decorations, exchanging gifts, and partying with friends and family. Many of these folks are comfortable with being greeted by “Merry Christmas” and giving the greeting too. Evie and I know Jewish families that celebrate both Hanukah and a secular Christmas holiday. In Iowa I knew a Hindu family that celebrated Christmas as an American cultural holiday…they sang the songs and carols, they put up the decorations, they bought and exchanged gifts and other than going to church you would not know they were any different from our family.

Outside the Sunday Advent readings and carol or two sung, from my observations few Christians become mindful of the religious component of the holiday until Christmas Eve, and possibly part of Christmas Day. Why I say part of Christmas Day is that the birth of the Christ-child is not part of or upon the minds of the family during much of what happens during the Christmas Day celebration with family and friends. Sure we listen to Christmas music on the radio, ipods, stereos, etc., but the religious carols intermingle with the secular songs and the Santa fable to be part of a cultural celebration.

As for expecting, nay demanding “Merry Christmas” be widely spoken and be the standard retail establishment greeting once we are into December, a troubling question plays upon my mind. Given the “Merry Christmas” greeting being mandated by managers, and expected to be said to all and from all their employees regardless of their faith, how would the “Merry Christmas” advocates react to a store requiring all their employees to give a Jewish or Hindu or Muslim greeting during those religions high holidays and festivals? I fear that there would be a huge cry out from the Christian community over such a requirement being placed upon Christian employees and the greeting being spoken to all. Such an outcry would expose the fallacy of the “war on Christmas” position and that such a hard stance is not in keeping with the constitution.

I shake my head and laugh at the “war on Christmas” warriors. Instead of getting to the heart of the issue and challenging the Church to jettison the secular elements, to simplify the holiday and focus upon the heart of the Christmas story and the worship of the Christ-child, I suspect that in the long run the “war on Christmas” warriors are reinforcing the opposite of that which they seek. The more “Merry Christmas” along with all the celebration and trappings are used and spread about within the secular and non-Christian communities, the deeper Christmas will become an American cultural celebration. In so doing they are helping to reinforce the commercialization and secularization of the holiday that is celebrated by everyone, regardless of one’s faith system.

Warriors like O’Reilly are focused upon and battling for a phrase, as if that phrase was a mystical magical phrase. They are treating the phrase as if it were lucky rabbit’s foot, say it enough and all will be well with the country because God will bless us type of mindset. They are repeating the same error Israel did with the Tabernacle which they brought into their camp thinking it would give them victory (they lost badly).

These warriors push retailers and civic leaders to have the trappings of Christmas. They are attempting to keep the holiday from being neutered many decades after it has already been commercialized and neutered. In their fight for the Christian Christmas face, they are overlooking the message of Hosea 6:6, that it is not the trappings and the practice of a religious ritual that is called for, but the a generous compassionate heart.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Necessity of the Separation of Church and State

As a Canadian who is also an American citizen, one of the most puzzling things about American society is how the separation of church and state is understood. The concept has gone well beyond the separation Canadians understand.

In Canada the government is religious neutral. It does not promote or support one religious faith above another. It recognizes that every resident has the right to congregate for worship and worship as they so wish without governmental interference. People are free to hold any religious views a person so wishes. Likewise her residents are free to reject any and all religious believes as conscious so dictates. In return what the government and the country expects is that its faith communities to be respectful of those that hold different beliefs, to carry out religious dialogue in a civil manner and to respect the law of the land.

In return, the government protects the individual’s and group’s right to religious express if that expression is not contrary to the law of the land. Each group’s property is treated the same and allowed certain property tax exemptions and its income is tax exempt if it falls within designated bounds. Gifts to all recognized religious bodies treated the same with no group being favored above the other.

In other words, in Canada not only is government and religion not antagonistic towards one another, they frequently partner together to provide significant good for the overall welfare of the community. In the United States there is an antagonistic edge towards church and state relationships.

When the Unites States was created, it appears that the founders had similar religion neutral practices in mind. In various commentaries penned by them regarding the founding documents are references to religious neutrality and the recognition that other than Judaism other religions such as Islam may well be part of the American milieu. They also recognized that it would be left to subsequent generations to work out religious neutrality in practical terms as the country evolves and changes.

The religious neutrality has been an ongoing challenge, particularly in the last six decades. As the nation became more pluralistic court ruling and other laws were specifically designed to be religion neutral. Unfortunately some the the reaction from the conservative church became anxious that the Lord's Prayer and other Christian expressions were being removed from schools and other government locations. The intent was for neutrality but various elements in the church saw it as a threat to the church and the "dechristianization of the Christian nation." While there was some cause for concern as there was some rulings and legislation that appeared to be an effort to create a religion free environment, the bulk was an effort toward religious neutrality. As with many other conflicts the more conflicted the spirit, the further both parties pushed each other apart so that increasingly a religion free environment seemed to the goal.

Today there is a growing reluctance to see religious communities be involved in any venture that involves public funds. A religion free rather than religion neutral stance appears to have greater force. Some on the left fear that the funds will be used to proselytize while some on the left see the funds as providing an opportunity for the government to dictate religious belief, conduct and employment policies. The church does not have innocent hands.

What I find most interesting is those who are most fearful of governmental interference in her beliefs and practices are frequently the very same groups that are aggressively attempting to force government legislatures to design various laws around their religious teachings. The Roman Catholic bishops and the right to life elements of the church are demanding that government funding for abortion for any cause (including incest, rape and immediate physical health risk to the mother) be explicitly prohibited in the health reform legislation. This is an example of religious views being pushed out upon the country which on the whole does not support such an extreme position.

One bishop has gone as ask a Roman Catholic Congressman not take communion because he is willing to allow for federal funding of abortion. Communion within the Roman Catholic Church is one of the primary sacraments of grace, and the Church is withdrawing that primary vehicle from the Congressman because he will not agree with the Church on this one point. There is no separation of church and state.

Another example of a branch of the church that is attempting to force its views upon the community as a whole is the ballot and other initiatives regarding gay rights and gay marriage. While the initiatives are carefully crafted in their wording, and positioned to be defending “the traditions marriage”, what underlies it all is inflexible religious teachings and homophobia. As an aside, any cursory understanding of western and world history through the course of history shows us that the “traditional marriage” is anything but traditional, but is for the most part a modern North American creation.

Interestingly these groups do not see their political lobbying as being wrong or as entrenching a particular set of views upon the country at large. If the Jehovah Witnesses had greater political clout and were pushing for blood transfusions not be permitted or paid from public funds, would these same groups not take issue with the JWs for imposing their religious views upon the country as a whole? I doubt that they would remain silent.

It is such political activities of the religious right that pushes for people to have a stronger demarcation between church and state within the United States. In the last year I have come to see that the more dogmatic views of the separation of church and state is necessary in the United States whereas it is not in Canada. The separation is necessary to protect the state and the citizens of the country at large from a highly active and forceful religious group from having undo sway and having that brand of religion receiving preferential treatment, or worse tyranny of one religious viewpoint dominating society and how the country is governed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bowl Challenge - My Choices

The other day I posted a blog pick as many as possible 20 bowl winners. While all five BSC games must be in the mix, the other 15 can be selected from any of the remaining 29 bowl games. My 20 selections are in red. For a few I have provided some rationale.

My pics are in red...when the game is over the winner will be enlarged and in bold.

BCS Five

BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2...... Alabama vs. Texas

Rose Bowl (1st).... Oregon vs. Ohio State

Allstate Sugar (1st)...... Florida vs. Cincinnati
I would love to see Jeff Quinn, Cincy’s interim coach and his charges defeat Florida, but I cannot see the Bearcat defense handling the Florida offense, particularly when they are out to show that their lost to Alabama was a fluke. I hope Quinn does a strong enough job to earn the head coach position.

Tostitos Fiesta (4th)..... TCU vs. Boise State

FedEx Orange (5th) .....Georgia Tech vs. Iowa
My heart hopes for Iowa but my realist side says “get a life.” Though Stanzi is back, he will be rusty after being out for the last three games. GT’s triple option offense will challenge and overwhelm Iowa’s defense. After LSU trouncing GT last year, GT will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Ferentz will have Iowa prepared and they will be gritty, but they lack the depth on both sides of the ball to handle a top tier team like GT.

My Other 15 Selections

St. Petersburg (19th)..... UCF vs. Rutgers
Meineke Car Care (26th)..... Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
Emerald (26th)...... USC vs Boston College
This is the under achievers versus the over achievers. USC’s pride is on the line. I expect a hungry and focused USC to win by at least 14.

AdvoCare Independence (28th)..... Texas A&M vs. Georgia
Champs Sports (29th)..... Miami (FL) vs. Wisconsin
Pacific Life Holiday (30th) ......Nebraska vs. Arizona
I do not think Nebraska has another game in them like they had against Texas. Arizona’s offense should score at least 17 points. I do not think Nebraska’s poor offense should score more than 13 pts.

Insight (31st)..... Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Chick-fil-A (31st)..... Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech

Outback (1st) ..... Northwestern vs. Auburn
Konica Gator (1st) ..... Florida State vs West Virginia
On paper WV should win and will because FSU’s defense is too anemic to stop the running of Divine and the scrambling QB Brown who has an arm that will pick FSU’s secondary apart. Though FSU will be motivated to give Bowden his last victory, and Bowden will have a good game plan his defense will not be strong enough to handle the Brown-Divine attack.

Capital One (1st) .... Penn State vs. LSU
My head says go with Penn, but I am selecting LSU. LSU could carry the day if the right LSU team shows up. A focused LSU defense should handle Penn’s offence, but the LSU D-line will need to keep pressure on Clark or Clark will have a field day with the passing game. Jefferson will need to have a great game like last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl in order to compensate for an anemic run game that is missing the injured Scott.

Valero Alamo (2nd) ...... Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
Mich State does not have the horses to match Texas Tech and Mich. State coaching has made questionable calls throughout the season. I will still be cheering for Michigan State to upset Texas Tech. (2nd) ..... Connecticut vs. South Carolina
SC is a well coached team and while UConn has done very well and is building a solid program, its offense will not have a tough go against SC and SC’s inconsistent offense which started to mature late in the season should have enough success to win if they can avoid turnovers and the untimely bad penalties

AutoZone Liberty (2nd) ..... Arkansas vs East Carolina State
Ark defense is too porous – ECS has handled high powered offenses like Ark and has a solid offense too. Also Chip Holz is a creative motivational coach who is on the rise…his team will be ready and disciplined.

International (2nd) ...... South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Nor Ill almost took down to Big Ten teams and they are stronger than they first appear. SF started well but stumbled in the last third of the season. If SF is to win, they have to stop NI’s strong running game and again have a solid offensive game that they showed against Florida State.

Others – italic print are teams for whom I am cheering and believe will win:

Brut Sun (31st) ..... Oklahoma vs. Stanford
AT&T Cotton (2nd) .... Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State
New Mexico .... Wyoming vs. Fresno State
Gaylord Music City .... Clemson vs Kentucky
Sheraton Hawaii ..... Southern Methodist vs. Nevada
Little Caesars Bowl .... Ohio vs. Marshall
Texas .... Navy vs. Missouri
Roady's Humanitarian ..... Idaho vs. Bowling Green

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Football Bowl Challenge

This is a challenge that for the most part is primarily for Josh, Evie and myself…and possibly for Christian too…as we tend to follow US college football more intentionally than others in the family. The challenge is to go on the record as to the projected winner of 20 of the 34 bowls.

By the end of December 17, about 36 hours before the first bowl being played, select 20 out of the 34 bowls. While in the mix must be the 5 BSC bowls, it is left to the individual to choose which 15 of the remaining 29 bowls he or she thinks will be the winner. Feel free to explain your choice. Let’s see who is able to project the most winners and have bragging rights

I plan to make my selections by Monday morning.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Conservative Church and Divorce Rates

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post this deals with a response to troubled marriages and divorce within the church, particularly within the evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Joanne in her commented noted several divorces whereas Barb was not aware of any. I know little about this division, but I am aware of eight divorces within the division, and there are not many large congregations.

We need to ask ourselves why the evangelical and fundamentalist churches have the highest divorce rates, rates that are about 50% higher than those who admit that they are agnostics and atheists. Part of the issue lies with why so many believe Dr. Tom Ellis’s laughable claim that only 1 out of 39,000 who receive premarital counseling, attend church regularly and pray together experience divorce.

Such a claim assumes that those who are saved and led by the Spirit are virtually immune from divorce. Such thinking leads to the belief that if the marriage is in trouble, then there is something spiritually wrong with one or both of the marital partners. Faith in Christ and divorce are viewed as mutually exclusive. Hence the prescription is prayer, confession of sin and all will be well. This is dangerous thinking.

Such dangerous thinking sows the seeds of marital problems. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists live in the real world. They are not immune from temptation. They are not immune from interpersonal conflicts and tensions created by thoughtless actions of the other. To claim that marital tensions, arguments and other issues should not happen in a godly marriage brings a strong social pressure to put on a false face and deny that there unresolved problems within the marriage. Such denial creates an environment for a problem to fester and grow, to become attached to another unresolved problem and become magnified.

If one is part of a church that holds such dangerous thinking, is such an environment conducive to approaching the pastor to receive counseling? Of course not. Further, if a pastor and church holds that the divorce rate is as small as Ellis’ claims, why would a pastor prepare himself/herself for such counseling moments which would rarely occur during his/her professional career? Even if one felt that the divorce rate was less than 2%, such a pastor would not likely give much attention to marital counseling skills and knowledge sets.

Feeling awkward and fearful in acknowledging a problem brings alienation. In such an environment, most couples whose marriages are at risk would likely drift to the fringes of the church, or even leave the church as separation approaches.

Though evidence is to the contrary such individuals such as Ellis dogmatically hold that the biblical models of the family provide a protective marital bond that the secular models cannot own. They cannot accept that atheists have such a low divorce rate.

Why would atheists have a lower divorce rate than those claiming to be Christians? The studies have not examined the issue to any significant degree. Is it possible that those who stand outside the church have more honest and realistic expectations of their marital partner and their marriage as a whole. Is it possible that atheists may well see marriage as a partnership that involves active work, honest communication, mutual respect and affirmation, and are not as deeply offended when their partner offends them? Is it possible that lacking the “religious denial" baggage they are more freely admitting and addressing issues earlier, working out their problems and creating the foundation to forgive one another more freely without dismissing or dealing with their conflicts through the use of empty platitudes we too often find being tossed around in the church?

Saying and believing, "Just take it to the Lord in prayer" or "Surrender the matter into the Lord's hands and He will work it out," or "You just confess you sins and you will find peace", etc. tends to allow a couple to avoid dealing with a problem. Marriage demands ongoing work, open honest communication, respect and facing issues in a forthright and upright manner.

It is overdue for the conservative branch to open its eyes, to look at the data, to admit the truth of what is happening within the marriages conservative Christians, to move beyond empty platitudes, roll-up its sleeves and help families deal in meaningful ways with everyday life issues.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Difference Faith Makes in the Divorce Rate

When I was in college, a confidential survey was conducted by a Christian grad students at the University of Kentucky as part his PhD. He was studying whether faith made a difference in moral conduct. The survey focusing upon conduct over the past year and was being conducted at three evangelical colleges and five secular colleges. The short questionnaire asked about sexual activity from petting to intercourse, academic cheating, and the consumption of alcohol and drugs.

The survey was conducted in the spring with the results tabulated in the summer. The college said that they were going to make announce the results in the fall. The following fall, no results were announced not because the surveys were not tabulated but because the results shocked the administration. They were expecting to see a significant difference in the conduct of their students, and those who claimed to be evangelical Christians versus the “secular students.” The difference existed somewhat with regard to alcohol and drugs, but those differences could be explained away as being the impact of the college’s rules and somewhat segregated life.

I learned later that they administration was stunned that their students reported being engaged in academic cheating at a higher level than students on the secular campus. Also they were disappointed that their students were just as active sexually as their peers at the public universities. It appeared that Christian faith was not making a moral difference in the lives of their students.

There is a popular slogan that says, "The family that prays together, stays together." It is widely reported within the evangelical church that the divorce rate amongst Christians who attend church regularly is lower than those who do not, and that within the church, Evangelicals have the lowest divorce rate. Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family as stated,"...born-again Christian couples who the church after having received premarital counseling...and attend church regularly and pray daily together..." experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages -- or 0.00256 percent.

The figures quoted by Dr. Ellis appear to be impressive, but the figure is false. At the best his claim involves bold creative counting, such as the church that claims to have never had a member be divorce expelling people and withdrawing membership when the couple separate. Another shocking explanation is summarily and arrogantly dismissing that those who divorce were “not truly Christians" in the first place. At the worse, Dr. Ellis’ claim is a dishonest and bold fabrication used to hide what he knows as being true, that faith and regular attendance at church does not inoculate one from divorce, and that an argument could be made that it increases the likelihood of divorce.

In its survey on the subject the widely acclaimed evangelical Barna Research Group has found that the divorce rate within the church is higher than it is amongst atheists and agnostics. Further, Barna found that the divorce rate amongst Evangelicals to be higher than within any other segment of the church.

Evangelical and fundamentalists.... 34%
Baptists.... 29%
Mainline Protestants.... 25%
Mormons..... 24%
Catholics..... 21%
Lutherans.... 21%

Jews.... 30%
Atheists/Agnostics..... 21%

Other surveys have the divorce rate amongst “born again” Christians at 27% and those claiming to be Christians but not claiming to be “born again” as 24%.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Paranoia, Conspiracies and Obama

Two the elements of the American character are distrust of government and a bent toward conspiracy theories. These two elements are alive and well in the health care debate. As there were some who did not view Bush as a legitimate President during his first term, there are those who hold Obama is a usurper.

Though the evidence is to the contrary, there are those who still maintain that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore not eligible to be President. Even worse is when a politician like Palin who give tacit support to the claims that officials in Hawaii have falsified records (and the birth announcement in the paper was a recreation).

These same folks hold that Obama is not a Christian but a Muslim. They ignore his statements of faith. They watch and firmly believe videos on youtube that have Obama admitting he is a Muslim. The authors of these videos have vivacious and maliciously edited out words and phrases that would give a contrary meaning to the words. Yet these videos continue to live on, particularly in the church with the “my friend at church” statement testifying to its validity and reliability.

What is interestingly many of these are the same people who attacked Obama for being part of Rev. Wright’s church. They argue that he is a Muslim one moment and then condemn him for being a long time member of a church under the leadership of Rev. Wright without seeing the inconsistency.

This past week the President made a speech to the nation on Afghanistan. Even the timing is viewed, by individuals like Russell Wiseman mayor of Arlington TN, as a nefarious plot to preempt Charlie Brown’s Christmas and keeping people from hearing a character reading the Christmas story ( While I want to laugh at the unwiseman and others with similar views, when there are pastors telling their congregations to pray for the President’s demise, I can laugh. I can only feel disgust at the utter hatred that lies in such hearts and which is masked by religious language.

These are the same individuals who are attacking Obama with the following picture by saying that that on Veterans Day he showed disrespect to the Veterans and Nations by not saluting. At first glance the picture does look poorly upon Obama.

According to this picture was taken not on Veterans Day (Nov 11) but on Memorial Day. On Veterans Day President Obama was wearing a blue tie and an overcoat, not a red tie without an overcoat. The picture in question was taken seconds after the President entered the platform and “Hail to the Chief” was still being played. In other words, those on the stage, and those in uniform below were not saluting the nation, the flag or veterans, but President Obama, the President of the United States. Yet, the falsehood continues to live on and spread fueled by the paranoia of conspiracy theorists who are anti-Obama and a distrust of Obama and his motives.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Say It Is Not So Tiger!

Tiger Woods confession of an affair has stunned many. Jesper Parnevik who along with his wife introduced Woods to his wife Elin said, “I really feel sorry for Elin, since me and my wife were at fault for hooking her up with him. We probably thought he was a better guy than he is. I would probably need to apologize to her.”

In preparation of this blog I read a quick sampling of about 140 comments posted by followers of the story. A good number of comments, about 25%, are saying that it is a private matter and it is none of our business what takes place within the Woods family and marriage. No doubt Tiger and his wife agree with those sentiments. Yet, he is a high profile celebrity who has not just made tens of millions of dollars by winning tournaments but from commercial endorsements and presenting a wholesome persona. He has sought to keep his family and personal life private, but when one enters a high profile position, an element of privacy disappears. The higher one’s profile becomes the less privacy one will have. And nothing like a tabloid scandal will bring attention of the press who make huge profits by covering, and even pumping up, a salacious celebrity scandal.

Few comments I have commented, far less than 10%, have argued for her staying with him. For every one who takes such a position there are eight or nine times that number who say that Elin should divorce Tiger. Many say that he cannot be ever trusted again. The assumption is that if he cheated once he will cheat on her again.

It is fair to say that a good number of people will criticize her for trying to redeem their marriage. Jenny Sanford, wife of disgraced South Carolina ex-governor Mark Sanford was commended by many in the church for asking her husband to move out of their home and for taking the first steps to divorce him. She is hailed as for taking a moral stand against wrong.

Those who commend Jenny Sanford tend to be the same voices who condemned Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards for remaining with the husbands. These women raised the ire within significant segments of the conservative branch of the church for forgiving their husbands publically (and privately?), seeking to work through the rough times and to redeem their marriages.

Commending Jenney while condemning Hilary, Elizabeth, Kobe Bryant’s wife, and others who have sought to salvage their marriage bothers me. Those who condemn Hilary et al. need to not only get a life but also take a look at their own beliefs. Is there not a disconnect between what is preached in the Gospels and the Letters about redemption, forgiveness and restoration? Or are we saying that infidelity, whether by the man or the woman, is such an unforgiveable sin that all hope is lost for the marriage and that like Humpty Dumpty it is destroyed beyond repair?

If the answer to the above second question is “yes”, then why are Christian bookstores filled with pastoral aids and marital counseling aids regarding rebuilding marital relationships after infidelity? Are these books, a significant number of which are published by conservative printing houses, for show? Again, if the answer is “yes”, then let’s stop the hypocrisy by no longer publishing such books, having seminaries and other pastoral training programs training pastors for such moments, and cease expecting the clergy of the church to even attempt to salvage the unsalvageable.

If the consequences of the “yes” option are unpalatable and we say “no” to the above question and affirm that there is hope, then why do members of the conservative church (evangelical and fundamentalist branches) condemn Hilary, Elizabeth, et al. at a higher rate than do other segments of our society. Hence my personal disappointment in the conservative church and in the church’s leadership for not speaking positive of Hilary and Elizabeth who in the heat of the public eye seek to redeem their marriages. They need to be commended, not condemned.

Just under one in five men are unfaithful to their wives. Before we speak negatively about men, most of the women with whom those men are unfaithful are women who are married to other men. Infidelity happens both within and outside the church. It happens to people who claim sincere faith. It happens to pastors, and even a giant of the faith like King David was not immune. It always has happened and always will happen.

Tiger Woods has not disappointed me. Whose who say "Say it is not so Tiger" need to get a life. Though he is a fantastic golfer, Tiger is not super-human. He is not divine. Jesper Parnevik’s comment is troubling. If Parnevik thinks that there is a special plain where one becomes immune he could well be headed for trouble. There is not level of spirituality or character to makes one immune. Since the beginning of time infidelity can happen to people of any character if they do not carefully guard their heart and mind.

Woods’ statement states that he is far short of perfect. He is true on that point, neither am I or any reader of this blog. I am content to allow them privacy and space, to allow them to work through their issues. They have enough tensions without me or others being voyeurs into their home. If Elin and Tiger work to salvage their marriage, I will celebrate and commend them.