Untested faith may produce unexpected results when faced with unanticipated trials.
When it is impossible to change your circumstances, the only thing left to change is your attitude.
I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I’ve invested a good amount of time in this issue. I don’t need to reiterate what others have said about the intricacies of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Simply started, the Equal Protection clause states that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, period. What bears stating is the legal precedent in referencing the Fourteenth. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states that required the states, under law, to segregate based on race. Facilities were supposed to be “separate but equal.” They rarely were equal. President Woodrow Wilson, an overt racist, practiced gross discrimination. The equally overt racist Democrats of the late 1800s through the mid 1960s did everything possible to undermine the anti-segregationist policies of the Republicans. The southern states felt their state sovereignty allowed them to discriminate within the borders of their states. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth was the constitutional basis for the federal government to overrule state sovereignty because the federal government is responsible for ensuring all citizens get equal protection under the law. Given the preponderance of states that have marital equality laws, it was not, in my mind, a far stretch to apply the same principles that shot down Jim Crow. What the Fourteenth does not touch is the right of people that are not agents of the state from discriminating except in areas such as housing and employment. This ties into the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By law and practice, churches are not agents of the state. Congress cannot force a non-agent to act. I am an ordained minister. I cannot be compelled to perform any service for anyone. I don’t know the individual laws of every state where marital equality is the law, but I can tell you that Maryland’s law is well-crafted and explicitly protects the clergy. Here is the text of Question 6, the public referendum for marital equality in Maryland,
“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”
I am a libertarian. I voted for Question 6 even though I will not personally perform a same-sex ceremony. I am not discounting what I believe to be the biblical truth on the topic. I am standing behind the right of two people to enter into a legally binding contract, which in the eyes of the state, is what marriage is.
The reason we have this mess is that our bloated government stuck its nose into marriage, a thing formerly under the scope of religious bodies. It chose to grant legal privileges to married couples. Once it did that and the individual states began to legalize same sex marriage, it was inevitable that it would have to respond.
Before we are too quick to respond to this ruling, think of where America would be if Jim Crow was still in existence.
I had a wonderful discussion with a man from Rwanda that I met in the parking lot at the FDA where I am serving as a senior business systems analyst. While my French is atrocious, I could see that the book he was carrying was a history book dealing with the struggles between blacks and whites in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. I asked him if he had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda and if it was accurate. He told me that he had and unfortunately, it wasn’t. We started talking about the Hutus and the Tutsis and racism. He asked about the origins of racism. I talked to him about Dutch and British colonialism, the caste system in India and the Untouchables in particular, and also the treatment of the aboriginal people of Australia by the British settlers and even more contemporary Australians. Then he asked me a very poignant question, “what do we do to get rid of racism in this country?” I told him that the best things that we can do are to dispel falsehoods by teaching the truth and to show ourselves as friendly and respectful toward those of different people groups. We have to dispel the falsehood that there is a unified hatred of one group by another by proving that at least one person of that group doesn’t hate them.
We discussed what sort of teachings might change people’s minds. I spoke to him about the common ancestry of humanity as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. I told him stories of Moses and how his own brother and sister were upset with him because he married an Ethiopian woman. I told him of the Jewish people from Ethiopia that stood as a testimony to the fact that we are truly one race of people, a message he echoed to me earlier in our conversation. I told him of the origin of humanity being from North Africa and drawing the conclusion that if all people came from one place, then the essence of all humanity is identical and we simply have different appearances.
I asked him if he was familiar with the Gospel story and how when the edict went out to kill the male children two years and younger that Mary and Joseph fled to North Africa. He knew the story well. Being a Jew in my heritage and my pedagogy, I asked him a question versus presenting my conclusion. I asked him, “would parents of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy hide in a place where everyone had brown skin and black hair?” He smiled and said, “no.” Then he surprised me. He pulled out a book and asked me if I though it was legitimate because he had a friend that only spoke French who needed this book in French. The title was, “Nouveau Testament.” He knew there were versions floating around that had slight changes to promote the doctrines of certain cults. I opened the book to Jean 1:1, recited John 1:1 in English and asked him if that’s what it said. He confirmed that. I asked him to look at the phrase, “and the Word was God” and make sure that there was no indefinite article there, a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantiate their Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) doctrine of Christ. He said there was none. We did a similar drill with Jean/John 3:16. He confirmed that what it says was what I recited. He was very happy because now he could give his friend what he was asking for.
We both ended our work days with a wonderful encounter. I have been telecommuting for five years. While I dislike making the drive, I love meeting people face to face.
I was on a Web site devoted to providing instruction in a gamut of subjects (instructables.com). I was looking for instructions on how to properly wear the keffiyeh I bought earlier in the year (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-wrap-a-Keffiyeh/).
A keffiyeh is a garment of Middle Eastern origins. My reason for wanting to know how to wear one follows. The sad thing I discovered in looking at the comments that followed the simple keffiyeh wrapping instructions was some people trying to politicize the simple presence of a page instructing people how to wear a garment that some people associate with terrorism. Instructables.com is an apolitical site. It is there to show people that don’t know things how to do them, period. This was my response to the post:
Thanks for the instructions. The keffiyeh is an extremely practical garment. I am going hunting tomorrow and it is supposed to be unseasonably warm. I have a cold weather hunting balaclava, but it will be a bit too warm to wear. I have a bright orange and black keffiyeh to go with my blaze orange and black hunting camouflage. The first time I used the keffiyeh was at an outdoor garage sale where I was manning a booth in the sun for three+ hours. It kept my very Caucasian skin from getting very burnt. Its gauzy structure kept it from getting to be too warm.
For those who are trying to make this political because of its Semitic origins, please don’t go there. I am a Jew, an American patriot, and a Zionist. As much as the world tends to forget, Arabs and Jews have a common parentage and a common region. The keffiyeh is not a religious garment, it is a garment of the desert nomad. At one time, most of us Semitic folks were nomads in desert areas. I was in the US Army and was stationed in the desert for three years. I wish I knew how to wear one of these back then. We wore gauze cravats like keffiyehs but they didn’t stay in place as well and were not so easily converted back and forth to face covers. My wearing of a keffiyeh does not make me any more of a Palestinian sympathizer than my wearing of an ushanka (the Russian ear-flap hat) makes me a fan of Vladimir Putin. As a person of Ukrainian heritage, I despise Putin because he embodies the egotistical oligarchical leader who seems to think he is better and smarter than everyone else. That doesn’t make me want to trade in my ushanka for a ski cap or ear muffs.
When I was a soldier, the Army implemented the PASGT, styled after the German Bundeswehr’s Gefechtshelm (helmet with ear covering that is favored by bikers). That didn’t me a Nazi. We wore ponchos too. They have their origins in South and Central America.
The bottom line is this, in America, we have a creole culture. We see it in our arts, cuisine, language, and clothing. Our nation has been fortunate enough to be able to borrow from the hundreds (if not thousands) of cultures of our citizens. Let’s not be so ignorant and naive to think that we Americans should avoid cultural garb because it has its origins in cultures some of us might not agree with.
I am changing careers. After 25 years as a technologist, I am going into instruction and training. I resigned my position as a business analyst in early August and stepped out in faith. Originally, it was because my former employer could not place me in a business analyst position. As I began to look for business analyst positions, I found that the fact I had been working in a different aspect of Information Technology for over one year severely impacted my ability to get a business or systems analyst position. Instead of lamenting that, I have chosen to make a change. Those who know me know that my passion is for education, particularly adult education. I am devoting myself to changing to a career that involves instruction, training, and instructional design.
I have an application for a full time instructor position at a college that offers online instruction. In a discussion with the recruiter for that position, I explained that one of my burdens for going into education is the plight of the combat veteran, who after leaving the service, finds that combat skills are not highly prized in the civilian workforce. I wrote the following to her:
Sadly, the greatest danger to combat veterans these days is not the battlefield; it is coming home. By Labor Day, more veterans will have killed themselves in 2013 than died in the entire Iraqi conflict. When I was in seminary, I volunteered to serve in the first conflict as a chaplain. The law does not allow seminarians to deploy overseas, but I was allowed to serve as a chaplain at Ft. Hood as part of the recovery effort in 1991. I was on the ground for 18 hours when I was called to the Psychiatric ward of Darnell Army Medical Center. One of our soldiers tried to kill himself by taking 400 Tylenol because he couldn’t cope with life after war. One in four homeless people are veterans. Remote education is a weapon to combat those problems. Veterans can start to learn before they leave the service. Veterans that have returned but are facing unemployment or underemployment can go to school after business hours. Not having a meaningful job can lead to despondency. Despondency is dispelled by hope. Hope comes from a knowledge that something better is possible. Career-focused education can provide hope.
There are three types of occupations: jobs, professions, and callings. A job is something you take to put food on the table, regardless of what the duties are or if there is room for advancement. You have obligations and are committed to meeting them. Having a job is a fine and noble thing. A profession is an occupation that your are committed to for the long haul. You work extra hours, go to school for it, attend seminars and workshops to improve your skills, and take risks to demonstrate just how good you are. Professions are also fine and noble. A calling is a profession that is so all-encompassing that you cannot be satisfied with anything else. A calling drives you to sacrifice. A calling keeps you up at night and makes you excited for the next opportunity to operate within it. My calling is in education.
I have made many applications and have some solid leads, but as with any career change, especially when you are older, finding positions is challenging. If you know of an opportunity, please let me know or pass along my résumé (the link is below).
I believe that we have forgotten how to fight in this country. The further we get from the fighters of the 1950’s and 1960’s such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the further we get from fighting that makes a difference in society. The Occupy movement was a perfect example of this. For all of their bluster, they accomplished nothing and broke dozens of laws that had nothing to do with their cause in the process. They left filth on the streets and caused problems for people that had nothing to do with those they were protesting. In comparison, think of the four young men from North Carolina A&T who in 1960 quietly sat at a lunch counter and simply asked to be served coffee. They were refused because of their skin color. These four young men took up a fight as gentlemen (in the old sense of the word) and with dignity and grace. They were heard. They caused real change.
Fighting involves risks. I believe that Dr. King knew of his impending death and spoke of it just before he was assassinated. Corrie Ten Boom knew that if the Nazis discovered evidence of her fight against totalitarianism by hiding Jewish people in her home, she would lose her life. The Chinese students who died in Tiananmen Square gave their lives so they could raise their voices.
We need to recapture the fires of change in our bosoms and stand against all forms of injustice. Find your passions and fight for them. Take risks. Be willing to lose what you cannot keep so that you can gain what you cannot lose (Jim Eliot). Remember that “a man [that] hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (Dr. King). Maintain the pressure on your “boilers” so you are hot enough to fight but not so hot as to explode. Leave nothing on the battlefield except the echos of your cries for change.
The art of living the Christian life in a fallen world is knowing what to hold fast to, what to tolerate, what to protest, and what to fight hard against.
Ethics are only visible when they are being tested.
If you are a Jew, you can skip to the second paragraph. For the goyim (gentiles) reading this, Sukkos (or Sukkot) is a Jewish Holy Festival where we build and then take our meals in a temporary sukka (or booth) in obedience to the command of G-d in Leviticus 23. We do this to remember how our ancestors lived in temporary booths in the years following the Egyptian captivity. You’ll find it mentioned in the Christian scriptures in John 7 as the “Feast of Tabernacles.” On 15 Tishrei (late September/early October) we start the seven-day festival. With your introduction to Judaism freshly learned, you may be able to appreciate the brief tale that follows.
I have a funny, if not somewhat sad tale of my first Sukkos away from home. I was a freshman at Rutgers University. I went to the Newark campus which was for commuters only. Newark, NJ, like many big cities, is mostly paved. A few Jewish students and I tried to erect a sukka in the Rutgers quadrangle without the benefit of soil to stake it in or trees to tie it to. As fate would have it, Sukkos started on a very windy day so our sukka did not survive. I have to wonder if G-d looked down and said, “what schmucks, they don’t even plan to build a proper sukka,” or if He said, “such faith and commitment these kids have, believing that an untethered sukka could stand on a windy day.”
I am looking forward to finding out which of these He said.
Love is a willingness to lose anything for someone who means everything while expecting nothing.
That is the love that scores the greatest dramas and the mightiest epics. We sing songs of that love and write poems about that love. Every time that someone dies for that kind of love, a little bit of evil dies too. That is how Christ loves us. That is how we should love each other.