Land of the Free

veterans14.2

I have said before that my Facebook friends are a carefully curated lot. So what I’m seeing regarding the football protests during the national anthem is pretty reasoned, rational stuff.

But I know from some of them that what’s out there in the general population is pretty scary stuff.

It’s all over the news that while most of the teams found ways to protest injustice by standing together, the fans in too many stadiums booed the president on the jumbotron when he made a special 9/11 speech, much as Bush was booed during his term.

Or that a local pastor in Alabama made this statement before a high school football game Friday night:

If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you

And the crowd cheered wildly.

I am proud to be an American and stand for the Pledge and the Anthem.

But I can stand while those who protest kneel. There is room for us both. I see them. I know their concerns are real. They are doing what they feel called to do, and for 240 years Americans have died to defend this very freedom.

We can’t decide who is worthy of the sacrifice. It doesn’t work that way. The blood was shed. The price was paid.

Sound familiar?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday at Church, where there are no coincidences, the theme of the Scripture readings was Mercy.

Exodus 32:7-14. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17. And Luke 15:1-32, the Prodigal Son.

Maybe that’s the problem, on both sides. We’re too much Self-righteous Older Brother, too linear, too worried about the scoreboard. We have to be more Forgiving Father and recognize that those who are taking themselves outside the circle are hurting, hungry, desperate to be seen and loved.

Outside the circle is never the solution. Too easy to say “Hey, they left!” Too easy to say “Hey, they pushed us out!”

The truth is somewhere in the middle, like it always is. And that’s where we meet to heal.

Independence Day ~ Dana

My husband and I spent July 4th 2010 in New York City. It was the first year since 9/11 that the Statue of Liberty was open to visitors. The city was crowded beyond belief and we watched the fireworks on our televisions from our hotel room.

nyc

In the next couple of days though, we drove up the East Coast and made our way to Boston and it’s surrounding cities. Our first stop was the cities of Concord and Lexington. This leg of our epic (40 days and 40 nights) road trip was probably the one I had looked forward to the most. For there we stood, on the North Bridge, the site of the first battle of the American Revolution and the “shot heard round the world.”

photo-25

As my former students will tell you, I’m a total geek for that kind of stuff. It fires me up. But there are places on this earth, places where HISTORY has happened, that are still inhabited by the ghosts of the past. The bridge was surprisingly empty and so we had a good deal of time to drink in the beauty and the importance of that place. I could feel its weight on my shoulders and I loved every minute of it.

In the city of Boston, we saw the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house. What? One if by land, two if by sea, Baby! Awesome! I love the story of the brave men who hung those lanterns up in that Anglican (read: loyal to the King) Church, how they narrowly escaped through a window, and how Revere, a silversmith, rode on borrowed horse and stopped at each and every house, sounding his alarm, on his way to alert Sam Adams and John Hancock that the British were here.

photo-26

Later in Philadelphia, we visited Independence Hall. Are you kidding me? It looks just like it’s supposed to: green table cloths, original desks, Thomas Jefferson’s walking stick at his regular chair (pictured below). It was here that those men of the Second Continental Congress, some politicians, but some farmers, lawyers, printing press operators, voted to declare independence from British rule. Their names are etched in our collective American minds: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, John Hancock.

photo-24

We walked in their footsteps, honored their gravesites, fell in love again with their lives and their vision for this country of ours.

Sometimes I feel sad for what has become of America. I feel like we are forever divided. But on Independence Day, we are united in our reverence for those who fought for our freedom 237 years ago. We are grateful for their bravery, for their conviction, for their resolve. We remember their optimism and hope for the future, for our future. And together, we love America.

And besides, who doesn’t love the chance  for matching American flag dresses?  Happy Independence Day and God bless America.

photo-28

Christians and Gun Control ~ Jen

IMG_20130420_170830-001

“My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues… a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in jeopardy.” Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

Amen, Bishop. Amen.

So you’ll have something to say soon about the lawmakers who vote against common sense gun control measures? The lawmakers who voted against background checks the other day?

Because in 2008 and again in 2012, I sat in church and listened to my priests and deacons preach against pro-choice and pro-gay rights candidates. I listened to them condemn by name elected Catholic Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi, because of their beliefs.

One priest, echoing Bishops across the country, told us that if we voted for any candidate who supported abortion rights, we were sinners who “cannot call ourselves Catholics”.

As a Catholic Democrat, who acknowledges the spiritual leadership of the Church, I was concerned. Shea and I searched our souls and beliefs to make sure our reasons for voting Democrat were supportable by church teachings.

And you know what? They are supported, by the words of our very own bishops, who have said “Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering. Nations are called to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort, always seeking first to resolve disputes by peaceful means. We revere the lives of children in the womb, the lives of persons dying in war and from starvation, and indeed the lives of all human beings as children of God.” (A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States)

Take this statement and apply it to the Republican platform, which would deny assistance to mothers who opt to have their babies, instead of abort;  build a wall between the US and Mexico and arm it to keep desperate immigrants out of this great nation of immigrants;  raise taxes on the poor and hardworking to protect the wealth of the rich; support big business and free trade, despite the damage it does to our economy and workers abroad, and despite Pope Benedict’s call to hold corporations accountable for their business decisions; and support the death penalty, which is murder.

Voting Republican might also put a soul in danger.

My point is that it’s not easy to be a Christian voter. It just isn’t. This nation has an imperfect political system, and neither platform really meets the standards of a Christian voter.

But sometimes, issues are easy. And gun control is a moral slam dunk.

Look back at what the Bishops said. If we are pro-life from birth to death, then gun control is a Christian moral value. If we seek first to resolves disputes peacefully, and if we revere all human beings as children of God, then gun control is a Christian moral value.

If we believe in the New Covenant made by Jesus on that cross and that God calls us to love and that we demonstrate that love by treating others the way we want to be treated, then gun control is a Christian moral value.

There is no moral high ground to support assault weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens. The entire purpose of assault weapons is to kill as many people in as short a time as possible. In the hands of non-military folk, this purpose is “intrinsically evil” and therefore morally nonsupportable.

There is no moral high ground to stand against a simple thing like back ground checks. To argue that background checks infringe on personal rights and privacy is disingenuous in a society where so much of our personal lives are online by our own choice.  And anyone who has something to hide from a gun-related background check is probably a threat to society. Protecting them is morally nonsupportable.

As our spiritual leaders remind us so often, this is a nation founded on Christian beliefs. If we are one nation under God, and call ourselves servants of God, then we must do as the Bishops require and “protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort”.

So where’s the pulpit outrage and thunder on this issue?

My priests and deacons have been silent. My bishop has been silent. This despite public support for President Obama’s proposal from the Vatican. And the fact that so many of those sweet babies in Newton were buried out of their local Catholic church.

In fact, the entire American Christian church has been largely silent.

How can this be?