mituns: (freiheit)
Popular sentiment these days would have one believe that the line Janis Joplin belts out in "Me and Bobby McGee" is the truth about freedom these days: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Of course, the insinuation is here that maybe it's better to be "attached" to something, that somehow freedom isn't all that it's cracked up to be. However, even in this simplistic rendering of "freedom", it goes to figure that if one has nothing left to lose, they are in the position of being open to gain anything.

In honor of Independence Day, in the U.S., the 4th of July, it does well to actually speak a little about freedom and why it is so important. In this sense, it's not that when one is "free", he or she has the ability to do "whatever you want", but more to the point, that one is not made a lifelong slave to forces outside of one's control. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. understood this keenly, having been subjects of the British Crown, and having felt that their calls for self-determination were increasingly falling upon deaf ears, they decided that it was imperative to throw off these bonds subjugating them.

This was not a decision that was taken lightly, and, if one is to believe the words of the Declaration of Independence, it was one made when American colonists felt as though there was no other recourse; that King George was a tyrant that could not be reasoned with, who felt that he was above the law that he, as King, was supposed to represent.

And so, reading through the Bill of Rights, for example, the unifying theme here is freedom. In Amendment 1, spelled out are the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly; in short, freedoms to do and say that which pleases him, which is not what a slave can do. With the 2nd Amendment, the point is less about guns or weapons, but about the right of someone to defend himself - after all, when one is a slave, one has no little to no right to assert himself, even if he is being gravely wronged. The 3rd Amendment, though many see it as kind of irrelevant these days also falls into this pattern, because it asserts that one's property cannot be used as though it is government property. It's no surprise that the 4th Amendment, then, deals more explicitly with the sovereignty of one's domain and property, for how much easier is it to enslave someone than by depriving one of his property? These are rights enumerated as general freedoms given to all.

Beginning with the 4th Amendment, we transition into rights granted persons suspected of law-breaking; the 4th amendment continues on to guarantee that searches and seizures can only be conducted with a warrant obtained on approved and specific suspicion, the 5th deals with the right not to self-incriminate, as well as a suspect being free of "double-jeopardy", that is, a person need only to face a court for an offense once, rather than possibly having the same offense haunt them even after being acquitted. The sixth, seventh, and eighth continue to deal with the rights of the accused, which, again is the sort of treatment one can only expect when all people are equal in the eyes of the law and when all people have their own little island of sovereignty when it comes to the respect of how individuals conduct their lives.

The 9th and 10th Amendments, when seen through the lens of freedom, deal with the relationship between the individual and the state; that the Constitution, in many senses, is a document restraining the government from claiming itself sovereign over the individual. This is why many see the Constitution as a document of "negative liberties".

Yet in all of this talk about freedom, why is it so important? Many people still find it easier to let the course of their lives be determined by others and find comfort in not taking the risks necessary to live as a free person. One answer can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which boldly states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." In short, God created man to be free, and therefore it is man's right not to be enslaved by those who would, by infringing on his God-given rights, would cause him to be enslaved.

Now, to those who have very little understanding of the Bible and of Christianity in general, it seems ludicrous to assert that God created man to be free. After all, isn't Christianity all about all the rules one must adhere to, seriously cramping the way one would want to live? Isn't the Bible more or less the handbook of all the "rules". And who can be expected to follow rules that were made all those years ago? Hasn't our society "matured" past that? I touched a little bit upon this in a previous post (, where basically I make the case that by following Christ, one finds lasting freedom.

Furthermore, I would also make the case that one of the overarching themes of the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is about freedom, both individual and societal, and the consequences of misusing this freedom is not just the downfall of individuals (say Adam or Samson) but also of nations (such as Old Testament Israel, but also Sodom and Gomorrah, for example). It may seem counter-intuitive that lasting freedom comes from submission to God, but in this same theme of freedom, we see in the New Testament that through Christ, we can attain the ultimate freedom; in this life, the freedom to be able to exercise self-determination, self-reliance, and self-accountability, and in the next the freedom that heaven is. Surely it is quite unique on the face of the earth that a nation should be established that espouses this God-given freedom as the basis of its founding!

Surely, too, this ultimate freedom is something so precious that not only is it worth fighting for, but also worth dying for, because we know that even death will have no hold on us and that there is little else that we can "give" our posterity that is so precious. Nothing left to lose, indeed!
mituns: (towers)
One of the more oft-quoted statements of Jesus is "the poor will always be with you". It comes in context of a woman anointing the feet of Jesus with an expensive perfume, and Judas complaining that it would have been better for the perfume to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

From this statement, I don't think it's overreaching to extrapolate from this that there will always be need; that no matter what we do, there is always someone who can use a helping hand. As Christians, we should always be ready and willing to help others out. Many people have tried to point out the difference between helping others through personal charity and being forced to through government compulsion, and it is a very valid point, but it really only scratches the surface.

The larger problem is that, particularly because there always be the poor among us, there is always a need for something. There are also different ideas about how to satisfy these needs.

For example, I happened to hear about this place in northern Idaho on the radio once, called Kinderhaven. I guess that up there, the situation was that if somebody was arrested and they had kids that needed to be cared for, the kids either ended up staying with the parent in lockup or they ended up sitting at juvenile hall until other arrangements could be made. Somebody decided that neither of these options were terribly good, and set up a licensed home where children - from birth up to mid-teens - could be brought until they could be taken care of by others. It's a great idea, and certainly fills a need. It is also a charity, and as such, depends on donations to continue this important work. I daresay, though, that it runs more efficiently than a government entity, and does more for the kids, the donors, and the staff than if it were just another government agency.

However, not everyone thinks like this. There is a young woman who runs one of the biggest databases of missing people in the US. She does this completely on her own and does a fantastic job with it. She also has an accompanying blog. One day she was commenting that many families of missing people - especially the families of kids - end up in pretty rough shape after someone goes missing: Among other things, many parents lose jobs (and healthcare) because they spend so much time away searching for their child. In any case, the tenor of the comments started out with, "Oh, it would be so nice if there were someone there to help them," to "The government ought to do something to help these people." A couple of the people there seemed to be taken aback when I said that it sounded like a wonderful charity idea, and I think I also mentioned that they could get started with it themselves.

What was striking was that with the people in the latter example, the idea that the government might take some more money from them was okay, but that it would be too difficult to do something privately. Of course, some of this comes from the idea - which is totally against what the Christian faith teaches - that the individual does not matter, and cannot do anything of consequence on one's own. In this mindset, the only way to effect change is doing so by using the overarching "structure" of government. In this way too, one never has to be the lone voice, the one fool in the wilderness.

However, the problem is, as I stated before, that there always is a need, whether it's a place for kids to go when their parents are in trouble, or if it's support to families of missing people, or creating a place for kids to get out of the house and play on rainy days. The structure of government - any government - is not such that it does very much effectively, and the more needs it tries to satisfy, the more poorly it satisfies all the others. The effect then, is not of the empowerment that comes from giving freely to charity, and people's lives being changed for the better because they recognize that love, but rather that those who pay for the government become slaves to it as its scope becomes greater, and those who receive its "benefit" learn to not only consider it an entitlement, but learn to hate those who support them.
mituns: (freiheit)
One of the themes that Paul expounds on in the Bible is of freedom in Christ; that Christians, despite whatever situation they may find themselves in, are free people.

This flies in the face of today's conventional wisdom, which would have everyone believe that religion - and in particular, Christianity - is a bunch of rules that are put together to infringe on a person's freedom (and fun). Furthermore, even among political "conservatives" there is a wide breach between those who view freedom more in the sense of a Biblical standard, and those more libertarian-leaning friends who view freedom as just being able to do what one wants.

I am old enough now to have watched friends of mine get into train-wreck situations in large part due to making one bad decision after another. Yes, that is their right to do. However, as a result, they are not happier people, and they now are subject to a lot less freedom (due to bankruptcies, divorces, emotional baggage and the like) than they would have been had they followed the path toward Christ. Would it have been an easy road? No, certainly not. However, especially in the long run, striving toward virtue, particularly Christian virtue, pays off.

It seems that most sin is like addiction; one cannot just sin and be done with it, but that sins get repeated over and over again. In this life of sin, the choices that are open to us narrow, and we are left, picking between the "lesser" of evils, barring that we don't go the path of complete repentance. (And even in repentance, there are times when we still must live with the consequences of what was done forever.)

A life lived in Christ, on the other hand, is one that sets out a framework for the individual as well as a society to live in harmony. In the course of history, I do not believe that there is any other type of society other than those based on Christian ideals that allows all members - Christians or not - to be able to reap such bountiful rewards of citizenship. However, as Christians, we cannot be fooled into thinking that this is merely the result of happenstance, and we must be ready to defend this framework not only because of our own faith, but because we want to see as many people as possible be able to fulfill their potential. When this system is attacked, it is not because this system is not "inclusive" enough, but rather because there are so many who are more interested in trying to amass power among a people who are enslaved. The easiest way to get there, though, is first to make a person slave to his own vices. To do that, Christian virtue must be done away with. (Again, with mind to our libertarian friends, Ayn Rand was wrong, and excellence does not necessarily beget virtue.)

In the case of Hans and Sophie Scholl, whose Christian faith was the key motivation behind standing up against, both of them left this earthly realm with the word "freedom" on their lips. Yes, they were standing up for the freedom of Germany, but in so doing, found a freedom that is much deeper and which lasts forever. This is the freedom of which Paul writes: freedom of the individual, freedom of spirit, freedom in Christ.
mituns: (Default)
It is rare thing to enter the bedroom of a teenager without noticing posters on the walls of movie stars, bands, or sports figures. Once upon a time, when I was much younger, an adult asked me, "Why do this? It doesn't make any sense. It's not like the person in the picture cares about you." As a child, I had no good answer, but as an adult, I'd like to commit a few comments on the subject here.

As members of the human race, we are wired to be social beings. We come into this world almost completely helpless, and only have one or two things which we do well. Life after that is an incredible learning experience for children, but they rely on others - especially parents - to teach them things. As a result, a child who has parents who take an interest in his education, no matter what the economic level, does better than a child whose parents are indifferent.

As children grow older, they start to admire others outside of their immediate circle for doing uncommon things. If it's a sports figure, seeing a poster might remind the person how exciting it is to watch him play or it might be an encouragement to compete in the same sport. A poster of a band might remind someone of the feelings one has listening to the band's music. Movie stars represent a type of lifestyle people dream about living.

This type of thing is hardly reserved for adolescents. All over, we see images of people as reminders to us as to what they achieved. In the grand scheme of things, the accomplishments of a baseball team or its members are not terribly noteworthy, but if one goes to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play, it's not just baseball one will see, but also statues of notable people who have been with the Cubs' organization. Of course, the statues are placed in honor of the people depicted, but they wouldn't be placed there if there wasn't some sort of emotional response that people have by viewing them.

Just as learning is for a baby, the extent of human knowledge is social and cumulative. To be an airplane engineer, for example, is not to say that one has to do as the Wright Brothers did and create a totally new aircraft. A young person studying aircraft engineering will learn early on an incredible amount of information that is being handed down to him by others, be it directly or by books. Because so much can be learned quickly this way, one does not need to live longer than everybody else to learn more than others. In doing this, one becomes indebted to the ones who have built that foundation, but there also comes the understanding that we might be providing a little more to the generations following us. There are really few who have made the most incredible breakthroughs, but this is the reason that one might find a picture or bust of Shakespeare in a library.

(This line of thinking reminds me of sermon I once heard where the priest talked about discussing history with his cat, making the point today's cats live their lives in the same manner that cats always have; there are no "great cats of feline history", nor do cats build monuments or memorials to cats of yore.)

One of the very important things that I believe that Protestant churches have lost is the sense of the worshipper being part of the community of saints. Especially in the United States, Protestant churches tend to be very plain, and more than that, in not recognizing more than a handful of early saints, I believe that it becomes more difficult for people to understand that Christianity is not something that is solely personal but something precious that has been shared and passed on through the ages. By surrounding ourselves with icons, for example, one has a constant reminder that there have come before us champions of the Faith, people who struggled through their lives but stayed on the path to holiness, in days long past, as well as in days much more recent.

The images of people we don't personally know that we put around us are a good indication as to what we like, what we respect, and what we aspire to. Therefore, we need to be very careful who we choose to look to - and look up to - in the most physical sense. A child cannot explain why he wants to have these pictures around him, but it is a very powerful way of reminding him not only of history, but the potential he brings to the present.
mituns: (Default)
According to the dictionary, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. I would argue two points related to cognitive dissonance; first, that most people need to find some way to resolve this dissonance in order to set their minds at ease (not just for spiritual but also physical well-being) and that the leftist ideology demands that its adherents live with tremendous amounts of unresolved cognitive dissonance.

As an example of this, one of my cousins is quite leftist, and before I blocked her from my Facebook, I would occasionally comment on her posts with things to consider. At one point, when she was afraid that the Republicans in the Senate might use the filibuster to block some legislation that she favored, she posted a link to a petition to try to end the filibuster as a Senate tool. In response, I posted quotes from her favorite politicians, President Barack Obama among them, praising the filibuster as a necessary and useful thing. Instead of considering the new information as something to consider in her opinion of the subject, her method of dealing with the cognitive dissonance was to become extremely upset with me.

Cognitive dissonance enters our lives in a variety of ways. First of all, there are the types of people who seem to be duplicitous by nature - many politicians seem to fall into this category by virtue that they can say things that directly contradict each other, and yet not only seem to believe what they themselves say, but hope to get everyone else to believe it too. For example, on election day, I saw a tweet from somebody with "Catholic" as part of their username who said that they had just gotten back from voting for Obama because they were concerned about the number of abortions, and it seemed that only President Obama had any plan for reducing those numbers. Really? Does that make any sense at all considering the man's attitudes and actions on the subject? Yet here was this person who either couldn't or wouldn't compare the words to the actions.

Secondly, guilt is a kind of cognitive dissonance, especially if the action is ongoing. Yes, Mr. TSA agent knew he shouldn't be stealing things out of suitcases, but he continues to do it anyway. As a society, we've decided guilt is bad, and so we must find justification for our actions to relieve this burden. Had Mr. TSA agent been paid more, he contends, or had the working conditions been better, he wouldn't have "had" to resort to stealing things.

Third, there is the cognitive dissonance of disbelief. For example, it's hardly surprising anymore that after some youth gets arrested or killed doing something, all the people around testify that "he was really a good kid" or "he was just about to turn his life around". If the story makes the news, the families sometimes even provide pictures of this "good kid" being involved in questionable activities, all the while blaming others, especially police, of "overreacting". ([Update 30 Nov 2012: A perfect example here as to what I'm talking about. Note that the girl who was killed breaking into someone's house is lauded as a "role model" at school, even though her cousin says she's a) had substance abuse problems b) has been through some sort of rehab program and c) was probably breaking in to service her addiction. How is this girl a role model exactly? ])
Related to this, is the dissonance children experience, for example, when they expect that their mothers, at the very least, love them, but the mothers don't show that love. The children often go out of their way to try to reconcile the fact that they know they are supposed to be loved, but they grow up not experiencing it.

The way liars usually get caught is that they no longer can keep these lies straight. If one has thoughts that cause tension because they are irreconcilable, it goes to reason that at least one contention has to be false. A thinking person, therefore, will consider these ideas and try to find a resolution by figuring out what is true and what is false. Modern liberalism expects that all of us can accept contradicting notions without question. For example, it's highly ironic that one week, Time magazine ran a cover with the story "The Case for Killing Granny" (as a good thing) but soon afterwards, an ad runs depicting Paul Ryan as throwing grandma off a cliff (as a bad thing). Were liberalism consistent or truthful, the latter instance would be held as an example of the first.

I truly believe that this dualism is a leading cause of depression and a greater sense that so many people of my generation have of being lost and without purpose. We are told, for example, that we are random happenstances who live but for a moment, then cease to exist. While we are here, we have no greater objective than to reduce our own suffering to the greatest extent possible. The soul, which was designed for the eternal and longs for it, is but a piece of delusion. If we cannot reach for the objective Truth in this instance alone, how can one keep from going insane?

If there is no Truth, there is no reason to seek it, and we become enslaved to those around us who have managed to amass the most power. Without the power of independent thought, and the ability to exercise our own will to think, we become powerless to resist the tyranny of those whose goal would be to amass power by enslaving others.

The answer here is the paradox that is Christianity. In order to save our lives - to experience the eternal that the soul longs for - we have to be willing to die to this world (the exact opposite of the goal of a secularist). In order to be free, we must live by the rules set forth to us by God. In order to have faith, we must seek out objective Truth. Only as we get closer to these ideals can we shut out the cognitive dissonance around us and that which has entered our minds and souls. The more we do so, the more we are at peace, even though we never give up the fight for what is right.
mituns: (Default)
Since early 2009, I have been involved, to one degree or another, with the American "Tea Party" movement. According to the prevailing media, that puts me into a category of "far right-wing kooks" who simply do not want to pay taxes (or, on a more sinister note, supposedly do not want to pay taxes so as to undermine a black president... but I digress).

My goal here is not to explain or justify the Tea Party. It is hardly monolithic, the numbers range from few to huge, and in it there is a coalition of disparate groups.

One of the strengths of the Tea Party is its focus on taxes as an issue, although at almost any Tea Party rally, signs referencing a wide range of issues can be found. As a practical matter, sticking to a more universal theme is helpful, as this provides a wider base of support.

However, I am considering now how this focus on taxes becomes a weakness, if viewed from the other side. From the perspective of a taxpayer, more and higher taxes are bad because they make it harder to survive on the same amount of work and they stifle economic activity because money that could be used to spur on other economic activity is being sucked away by government.

That being said, when one is the beneficiary of others being taxed at a higher rate, whether employed by the government or government agency, or receiving benefits, such as welfare, the cry by others that taxes are too high rings like a rallying cry of heartless greed; an example of Ayn Rand's axiom, "Greed is good".

There has even been a strain of supposed Christian opposition to the Tea Party, citing various Biblical references from obedience to civil authority, especially Romans 13.

As a Christian, I reject Rand's Objectivism. In my last post, I wrote about Hebrews 13:5, which commands "Keep your lives free from the love of money" and "be content with what you have". On the subject of taxes, Jesus himself says, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's". The Old Testament, in particular, details many times tax rates and how taxes were levied. Jesus' statement concerning paying taxes, was, in large part, an affirmation that His mission on earth was not to be the King of the Jews in a political sense; Jesus' mission on earth was not to challenge Rome, or even to free the Jews from foreign occupation. Jesus affirms that as citizens of nations, Jews - and Christians - are subject to the laws of the land.

The biggest caveat to this teaching, however, is when there are laws in place which contradict God's Law. Think of the story of Daniel. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Think even of Jesus' parents who fled to Egypt rather than to follow the edict of Herod to kill all baby boys under 2. The Bible is clear on this point. When laws of the state and laws of God are in conflict with each other, a Christian must follow God's law.

Paying taxes is one thing; there are very few, even in the Tea Party, who believe that taxes ought to be done away with altogether, and fewer still who fail to pay taxes. However, when we say our government is a republic and our taxes are used to support abortion, there needs to be some outcry. When money collected in taxes is used to prevent a whole section of society from discovering its potential, there needs to be some outcry. And when the money from our taxes is used to support the god that government has built unto itself, there needs to be some outcry.

What about the poor and needy then? Are they to starve? I believe that the Bible is also very clear on this point as well. Those who can work, should work (2 Thes. 3:10), but those who are not able to (widows, orphans, the elderly and infirm) should be taken care of by anyone who considers himself to be a Christian, by virtue of Christian love. Shirking our duty as individuals by depending on the state to tax us in order to provide a bare minimum of care is a tragedy and completely foreign idea to Christian doctrine.

I'm not delusional in thinking that every member of the Tea Party is a Christian who is speaking out on Christian principle. However, it is certainly not incompatible for one to be a Christian and to be a member of the Tea Party.
mituns: (Default)
Nikolai Berdyaev's book, "The Fate of Man in the Modern World" was written after the incredible destruction of World War I, the memory of which was still near enough that many believed that everything must be done to avoid a repeat performance. Yet at the same time, the world, and Europe in particular, was drawing near to an even bigger conflict, the likes of which few could imagine at this point in time.

Politically, the world was in chaos. Many of the old monarchies had been overthrown, and each country was filling the power void in various ways. In Russia, the Bolsheviks had been in power for 17 years, in Germany, Hitler and the Nazi party had recently gained power, Spain was in the midst of civil war, and little seemed to be resolved by the Great War of recent memory.

In reading one of the reviews on for this book, the reviewer seems to postulate that although Berdyaev presents a good number of interesting ideas, he offers very little in the way of answers to the problem of "the fate of man in the modern world", as no political or philosophical can do this.

The only answer, as Berdyaev, is Christianity; the belief in Jesus Christ as God and the change in one's life that being a Christian must precipitate. It is only through Christianity that the uniqueness and creative energy of each individual can still be respected in the midst of the aggregate; that the conflict inherent to individual need and greater good become one in the same. When one doesn't believe this, or at least have some understanding of how different a truly Christian life should be, it is no wonder that it seems like Berdyaev is somehow "short" on answers here.

I Corinthians 1:18-19 For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness: but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise: and the prudence of the prudent I will reject.
mituns: (Default)
Recently, I read the book Nikolai Berdyaev's book "The Fate of Man in the Modern World", which, despite being a fairly small book (about 130 pages) and dealing with the issues of Europe in 1935, is still quite prescient and touches upon many issues that the "modern world" is still dealing with.

Berdyaev himself was a Marxist who came back to Orthodox Christianity and was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union because of his writings. He first ended up in Berlin, but after a period of a couple years, he settled in France, where he lived out the rest of his days. Because of this, he has firsthand experience living in Russia, Germany, and France, and as he speaks about the modern world, much of what he writes about centers on these countries.

However, in 1935, which was the year this book was written, it was not as though these countries were somehow insignificant on the world stage. The Soviet Union had existed for 17 years, and behind the wall of socialist utopia, Berdyaev understood entirely what socialism does to human beings who are trapped in that system. In 1935, Adolf Hitler had been in power in Germany for two years, and again, Berdyaev considered what had happened in Germany to have been something akin to mass insanity of which nothing good could come.

In dealing with the substance of "the fate of man" in this current age, Berdyaev also is no huge fan of capitalism, as he sees that in its pure form, it is as dehumanizing as socialism. As he understands it, a Christian society is one that necessarily has elements of socialism, and so he's considered by many to be a "Christian socialist". However, the more I think about this, the more I believe that he is correct.

This isn't to say that I believe that socialism is the right way to go, and I don't believe that he would either. Take, for instance, the book "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Rand is adept at painting the picture of the world as it is when government strangles free enterprise, when it picks winners and losers for the sake of fairness, etc. At most Tea Parties, there are numerous signs with pictures of Rand, with the question "Who is John Galt?" as well as other references to this work. It is a powerful work, but it largely fails when it comes to answering the question of why someone who is gaining power and influence would also not use illicit means to solidify that growing power and influence. Her answer seems to be along the lines of "Excellence breeds virtue", and to demonstrate that, all of the elite characters are truthful and good when it comes to matters of business.

However, this worldview - objectivism - is hardly virtuous in a Christian sense. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, for example, charity is considered weakness, and traditional "moral" values such as fidelity and chastity are nothing more than old and useless traditions. Without a Christian base, this is logical. Communism values man as far as his contribution to the collective; in "pure" capitalism, man's value is still determined as a function of his production.

Berdyaev, though, avers Christianity as something that is different, that raises man up and out of the vicious circle of communistic and purely capitalistic societies. Christianity insists that one's worth is intrinsic to one's being, regardless of what that person can produce either for himself or for society. As a Christian, one is called to take upon himself a code of conduct that calls him to act in a "Christian" way; a way in which he does not lie, cheat, or steal, that he supports the poor, old, and hungry through willing acts of charity. Ironically enough, it is when people act in these ways, a civil society is built, upon which just about any type of governing system can be placed (though, for obvious reasons, socialism will only work in places like monasteries), because people, as a whole, will govern themselves.

And so, in America at least, we have two different groups who consider themselves "conservative" even though their worldviews are often quite a bit different. In the example of the "Tea Party", it comes to a shock to many that a large percentage of those who support this "libertarian" movement are the dreaded "social-conservatives", who, if we are to believe what is being said, want to use government to enforce their (usually) "Christian" values on everybody. The other group is the more "libertarian" group, who claim to make very few "values" assessments, and claim to just want to be left alone by government as well as others.

In these days, there are quite a number of places where the interests of these two groups converge, but it is amazing to see the amount of infighting among the "conservative" movement as to who is a "true" conservative. For this reason, even though many, many people see Rick Santorum as a conservative, because he is squarely in the "Christian values" group, many of the more libertarian-minded point out repeatedly how he can't possibly be a conservative and at the same time encourage a return to "family values" and make statements against contraception and pornography.

To the Libertarian, freedom itself becomes the highest ideal, and a government should serve no more than to keep society from falling into the chaos of anarchy. Yet this type of freedom lends itself to many abuses and an eventual de-humanizing of the soul. As to the conundrum that Christianity and freedom have created from the beginning, I refer back to the words of St. Paul: "For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to another. (Gal 5:13)
mituns: (Default)
In traditional Christianity, the body itself is not to be worshipped, but is to be respected being made in the "image and likeness of God" and as the container, so to speak, of the soul. Furthermore, at Christ's second coming, there is to be a physical resurrection of the dead. For these reasons, the body, even after death, is to be cared for with respect and the reason for burial rather than cremation.

In 2009, a scandal broke out as it was discovered that in the Burr Oak cemetery, plots were being resold, headstones were being relocated, and bodies were being dumped to random parts of the cemetery. As part of the effort to rectify this mess (to the extent possible), the director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese's Executive Director of Cemeteries was put in charge of this task, and ultimately, the Catholic cemeteries buried bodies in their own cemeteries, in plots that they donated.

Three years later, we are now embroiled in another scandal involving the dead in Chicago. Apparently, the Cook County morgue was overcrowded to the point of being completely unsanitary, with many more bodies than could be accommodated . Sometimes, there have been reasons for delays, but a lot of it boils down to plain incompetence.

Again, in the city's hour of need, the Catholic Church has offered to them free burial plots. This isn't some slick marketing ploy, or a political move on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. This is plainly in keeping with the Church's mission, that every life is of value and deserves some dignity even in death. However, this time the city is not so quick to accept.

I can only think of one reason that the city is not working with the Catholic Church, and that is that it boils down to politics. In the last few weeks, the Catholic Church has made a stand against the Obama administration's diktat of mandatory contraception coverage by all employers. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, not only is President Obama's former chief of staff, but has a brother, Ezekiel, who is the Head of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it is hostile to the Church, and as such, it would be very hard for someone this close to President Obama to publicly accept help from such a source.

Some of the people whose bodies at the morgue remain unidentified. Some seem to hav no family. Others can't afford the costs of burying their dead. However, reverting to the "logic" of the contraception fight, it would be terrible for these poor souls to be buried in a Catholic cemetery because undoubtedly not all of these people were Catholic, and as such, a tragedy if they weren't offered free birth control!


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September 2013

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