Posts Tagged Fundamentalism

The Right’s Abortion / Climate Change Dilemma

It’s obvious that the debate over climate change is pretty much divided along party lines, as it is with abortion.  The heart of these debates  seem to have more to do with sociological differences and not scientific ones.   Both sides are taking moral stands.

The most compelling of the arguments against abortion goes something like this:  “No one can say precisely when life begins so to end  a pregnancy, no matter how early, is at the very least potentially destroying the life of a human being and the future generations that may follow”.  Many religious people will go even farther and claim that all contraception does this.

So why don’t these same arguments apply to man-made climate change?  Even if no one knows for sure (in spite of the tremendous body of scientific evidence supporting it) that man is making the Earth warmer, isn’t it just as immoral to dismiss it out of hand as it is to deny possible embryonic humanity?  Isn’t there just as much risk (if not much more) of robbing countless human generations of their potential for life?

It was Rick Perry who summed up the Right’s position on abortion by saying that he would always err on the side of saving lives.  But it seems that for the Right the only lives worth considering are the ones whose potential is closer at hand, not decades in the future.


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Set Your Watches for Medieval Time

Well, it’s happened again. Another group of religious fundamentalists have zealously declared that the mysteries of science are explained by the words of Holy Scripture. I thank God that these folks have not been allowed to push their religious beliefs into our nation classrooms and laboratories (yet), relying as they are upon faulty science to hide their true agenda. This particular version of scriptural science presents us with a new twist on “Medieval Times”. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Right now in Europe, Christianity is not the the majority religion. It could happen here some day.

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The Biblical Squint Test

christmas tree

(Sorry for being out of season, but…..)

We were talking on one of the earlier threads and there was some disagreement over the true meaning of certain scriptural passages. (I must be kidding, right? Here?) It seems like we kept going around and around and around. I was suddenly reminded of another familiar situation where I keep going around and around and around. Christmas.

Or to be more precise, decorating our home for Christmas. I’ve always loved this time of year, I probably even loved it more when I didn’t have a faith (but that’s another story). But I am not crazy about getting everything down from the attic, setting up the decorations and then having to clean up. I especially don’t like having to trim the tree. It is a lot of work.

I used to spend a considerable time making sure that every single strand of tiny lights was evenly distributed on each branch, like my father had taught me. Soon enough I learned how to stand about six feet away and toss the lights on like a fisherman casting his net. I’ve always preferred the little tasteful white lights, like the ones we had growing up. My wife, though, hails from a tradition that celebrated with gaudy multi-colored lights. She was raised Lutheran and I Catholic. In the spirit of ecumenicalism we agreed to blend both types of lights. 25 years later I can’t even think of not having it both ways.

Some people accuse me of wanting to have it ‘both ways’ when it comes to how I relate to God. I can see value in most all faith traditions and I hesitate to say if someone is not with God even though they may respond to him differently than I do. I consider myself to be a Christian but there have been times when I have been challenged on this. Apparently some think that I can’t hold to this more tolerant point of view and still maintain a faith in Jesus.

Usually our arguments will boil down to the essence of where we disagree – Holy Scripture. Someone may place more emphasis on a certain verse than I do. I might be inspired by something completely different. With both of us concentrating on what we each holds most dear, we usually end up stalled and, at best, agreeing to disagree. But that can be so unsatisfying.

When decorating our Christmas tree, each family member would devoting his or her efforts to specific parts of the tree. When the children were small they concentrated on the low hanging branches. I would be teetering on the stool near the tree top while my wife would finesse the all important mid section. Even then, some would stray more towards one side of the tree over the other. Many times the kids would hang balls and ornaments in the ‘wrong’ places, out near the ends of the branches where they sagged or too far inside where they could hardly be seen. This would drive me nuts but over time I learned to bite my tongue, for the sake of familial harmony.

When all was hung, when the boxes were empty, we would take a few steps back to review our handiwork. After a few moments my wife Bev would say, “Well? Does it pass the squint test?”. To my surprise, it always did.

Standing in close to the tree all I see are the individual ornaments of different shapes, colors and sizes and where they are placed. The occasional broken branches and bare spots are starkly visible. I am painfully aware of the ‘mistakes’ of my children. Though they should be fixed so that they make more sense, I just accept their placement.

But when I move back a bit, take in the whole thing and, softening my focus just a little, I can make out the image of a beautiful, colorful and blazing bright Christmas tree. All the intricate and and glistening ornaments, each of them with their own story of Christmases past, working together to create this wonderful creation. Even those deep and dark crannies where the lights do not reach suggest mysterious areas worth further exploration.

A cooperative effort between God and his children, a Christmas tree speaks in a slightly tone to each person that meets it, evoking memories and feelings that cannot always be expressed. The ‘imperfect’ yet natural shape, the ‘inaccurate’ placement of the balls, the ornaments that range from big and shiny to small and fragile – each element works together to present a perfect whole. A little different every time, each observer can agree that the shape is always the same, and the spirit that this shape evokes can be shared by all.

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The Old Man’s Yard

garden gate

There once was a kindly old man who lived in a big house, on a big yard in a town named after him. His yard faced a very busy road, a road that he had laid out himself a long time ago. Back then it was a quiet country lane that meandered through green farmland.

Now this street was so busy that there was hardly any room for all the cars, trucks and buses that zoomed back and forth all day and all night. The air was thick with smoke and noise. In order to make more room for more traffic the street had been widened, leaving no sidewalk for pedestrians. This made travel very dangerous, especially for the poor street children of the town, who could not drive cars. Many of them had been terribly hurt.

The old man watched this happening and it made him sad. So one day he walked down to his white picket fence and hollered to the kids, “Hey, kids! C’mon, get in my yard. It’s safe in here.” The children on this side of the road dashed through the gate. The noise of the traffic was so bad that he had to yell a few more times before those children across the street heard his voice. They were clinging to the Jersey wall and were so scared that they could not move.

The old man opened the gate wider but still the petrified children would not come. From the other side of the street things looked too dangerous, and with good reason, thought the old man. Cars and trucks continued to rush on by. So the old man called for his son, who was working out back in the garden, to come and help. As soon as his son saw the terrible situation he ran out into the middle of the road and held up his hands. “STOP!” he screamed.

There was a screeching of tires and a loud honking of horns and then a sickening thud. The traffic had come to a halt, the first time in years. The young man was lying on the ground, his body broken. Blood was everywhere.

The children ran over to him. They were crying because they knew what he had done for them. He tried to talk but he kept choking on the blood filling his throat and mouth. They leaned closer to hear him.

“Quickly, children!” he said, coughing. “Run for my father’s house. The gate is open. The yard is safe – the house is yours. But remember your brothers and sisters.” And with that he died. Just then hundreds of horns started blaring, engines revving impatiently. A siren wailed in the distance. The traffic was tired of standing still.

Sobbing, the children quickly dashed into the yard. There the old man stood with the other children, tears streaming down his face. They ran to him and he put his arms around them. They all cried together, sad because he lost his son.

After a while, the old man spoke to them. “Now, now my children. Don’t be too sad. My son died for you but he died happy, because you are all safe with me in my yard. If any of you had died in that traffic he would have been very, very sad. But now you must carry on, in his memory. There are other children to be saved. You must help them cross the street and show them this yard. If you do this, his spirit will live on in you. Meanwhile, rest awhile in the garden.” And then he went up into the house.

The children looked around and they saw how beautiful the garden was, full of bright flowers and all kinds of fruits and vegetables to eat. The old man was so kind, so cheerful and hospitable that they decided to stay. For the first time in their lives they felt safe. Safe and loved. The old man was happy that they loved him and loved his garden.

The children remembered what the son had told them before he died and right away they ran to the garden fence and began hollering for the children across the street to run for the open gate. They yelled unto their voices were ragged. Some of the street children heard them and those on this side of the street were able to come through the gate easily. A few on the other side tried to make it through the traffic towards the open gate. One or two of them made it but many more of them were struck by the speeding vehicles. Most ran back, afraid of being hit.

Eventually some of the children got tired of calling to the kids outside and began to spend more of their time on the green lawn, laughing and playing with each other, singing songs and making up poems about the young man, his father and the beautiful garden. One day, a few of them, after looking nervously at all the traffic on the other side of the fence, suggested shutting the gate. They were afraid some of the more dangerous cars or trucks might make it through and that would just ruin everything. The gate looked way too small for even a little car, much less a big truck, but the majority agreed. Just to be safe.

“But what about the other kids out there?” one of them asked.

“We been calling ’em and calling ’em and they just don’t listen. If they wanted to come in they would have. Besides, mos’ everyone on this side of the street is inside already” they said.

“But what if they’re scared? Remember, we were scared once, too. And how can they get in if the gate’s closed?”

“The big kids’ll keep callin’ and if they see ’em crossing the street they’ll hold the gate open.”

“Maybe we should go out and help them?” she asked.

“What, are you nuts! Look at that traffic, it’s busier than ever!” They were getting tired of his questions. “Dontcha see? They gotta wanna come in. We can’t make ’em. Besides, if the old man really wanted ’em he’d come down outta his house and grab ’em. Like he did with us.”

Time went by. Soon the bigger kids got tired of calling and watching and wandered away from the fence. Sometimes the gate would inch open and a shy little face would peer in. Usually the children were so busy playing with each other they didn’t notice and the new visitor would slip quietly back out. Once and awhile a kid might make it all the way in and eventually, after some time watching, might be noticed and invited to join in the games. Most of the time they just sat down and watched.

Eventually they locked the gate, to make sure that no one came in unannounced. It was important that all the children knew who was in the yard with them. Some could be allowed in, under strict supervision, but there was a simple catch; To get in, they all had to ask politely and humbly for someone to open the gate. No one should be allowed to come in on their own. This way, someone who didn’t appreciate the old man’s generosity and the son’s sacrifice couldn’t just wander in by themselves and start using the garden in the wrong way. In fact, if someone wouldn’t ask in just the right way they probably didn’t really want to be in the garden in the first pace. They were probably trouble makers and would be happier outside with all the others. Now, everyone in the yard understood the importance of proper behavior.

It had been so long since any of the children had seen the old man come down out of his house. He probably had all the kids that he wanted. After all, his garden wasn’t for just anyone.

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