"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas is a Time to Reflect

This will be my last post for before Christmas as I am getting ready for the trip to Denver to spend with the two granddaughters.  Rotating Christmas now with our grandchildren getting older.

Decided today I was going to answer the Mike Huckabee's of the Country who seem to believe only their evangelical churches have all the answers and the rest of us are not 'true' believers.  Former AR Governor Mike Huckabee has been trying to walk back his comments after a backlash on what he said about the massacre in CT, but IMHO his true feelings haven't changed as I see the same thing out of other evangelical leaders:
During his own Fox News program over the weekend, Huckabee also spoke about the massacre, tying the supposed removal of God from society to the increased instances of violence. "We’ve escorted [God] right out of our culture and marched him off the public square," Huckabee said, according to Inquisitr. "And then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what it has become.”
The Huckabees of the world can talk all the want about the reason that all these massacres are happening is taking God out of our lives.  Just because someone doesn't attend Church, doesn't mean they don't believe.  To emphasize prayer being taken out of the schools was the reason for the shootings shows a vengeful God of the Old Testament not the loving God of the New Testament.

As a Christian, I am sick and tired of the hard right acting like they are the only one's who believe in God and  if you don't believe like them, then you cannot be a 'true' Christian.  When the Supreme Court ruled that organized prayer in the schools was against the Constitution using "freedom of religion," the hard right evangelical community missed the interpretation preferring to get publicity and donations for their campaign to put prayer back in schools.  Prayer never was removed from schools -- it was organized prayer by the administrators that was stopped.  It didn't stop schools from having a moment of silence where students could choose to say a prayer or not.

You cannot remove God from a building or a Town Square no matter what you do because I believe he is everywhere and in our hearts.  My biggest problem with the religious hard right today is that evangelicals in so many areas refuse to acknowledge other people's faith and beliefs.  They want clones of what they believe which was brought home to me right here in Norman several years ago:

When I was the Vice Chair of the County GOP, the local Parade Committee decided to rename the Christmas Parade to the Holiday Parade to be inclusive as we have many different religions and beliefs with students and professors from all the world here in Norman.  The uproar coming from the evangelical community was so far over the top that I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I was dumb enough to write a letter to the editor saying I didn't see a problem as we are a diverse community and not having 'Christmas' in the name didn't change the parade.  I was not prepared for the nastiest that ensued with a lot of it coming out of the faculty of the local Christian school.  Some of the threats were so far over the top, they were reported.

That's when I learned to know members of the City Council who had no input into the name change but like me didn't see a problem.  The instigator of all the hate towards us was the same person who was the distributor for bracelets "Keep Christ in Christmas" all over the Country.  Put 2+2 together and you have the obvious answer for the uproar.

Imagine between told someone wants you to die and go to hell over a name change of a parade -- finally disconnected my phone but looking back that may have been the start of my splitting with the Republican Party because I couldn't believe what happened next.

Our County Party had a float in the parade and because the theme was about toys, I thought it would be a great idea to have our float based on Toys for Tots and then give all the toys on the float to the Marine Corps Reserve for their campaign.  Because of my standing up for other religions who wanted to participate in a Holiday Parade, the County GOP members did not donate very many gifts so I was approached by four businessmen who wanted to give money anonymously to buy the toys.  That soon grew and I had $1,200 to spend on toys along with smaller donations which added up to $1,500 after I rounded it off with a donation of my own.

I ended up on local TV as I was coming out of a  toy store for an interview why I thought the name change didn't matter and I told the reporter I didn't think changing the name of a parade was going to  change anyone's belief in Christmas and the birth of Christ.  Went on to tell him it was only the name of a parade that hundreds of kids look forward to every year.  Toy store gave me a 20% discount on everything as they had been following the story and then the manager threw in two dolls with outfits and several trucks as her donation.

Our float was a real hit with the kids with some asking to throw them a toy instead of candy.  After the parade, people came up to me to thank me for standing up and then made donations for more toys to purchase after the parade.  A week later I was still getting checks for toys from people of the community which I turned over to the Toys for Tots campaign.  I received donations of toys from several different religious groups who do not celebrate Christmas after being on the news.  As one student from the Jewish Center on campus told me -- this is about children having a toy to open on Christmas morning.  It is about the children not the adults and then thanked me for standing up.

After I delivered the presents to the Marine Corps Reserve across from Tinker AFB and saw the disbelief on their faces that we had so many toys and then turned over the checks, I knew I had done the right thing in not pulling our float out of the parade,   When I first contacted them I figured a couple bags of toys, but it was much more than that as they kept taking bags of toys out of my car and then I handed them checks for $432 to buy more toys.  All the toys we collected were distributed back to the children of our County who would not have had a Christmas present.  I told the Marines that the toys and donations came from people of different faiths in Norman.  The Lt told me that they had read about me in the paper and how I stood up for the children as the Religious Right wanted to cancel the parade because of a name change.

The following year the parade committee caved to use both Holiday and Christmas in the name but the parade is the same no matter what the name -- people in the parade pass out candy to children as the floats go by, the children dance to the music from the marching bands, and then get so excited when the last float with Santa Claus appears.  The parade is about how much the children enjoy the parade not what the parade is named.  .

When my term was over, I never ran again and the GOP never did a Toys for Tots campaign again -- their own self importance ruled the day not what you could do for children.  It was a lesson I will never forget.

If I had one moment in my life where I stood up and said enough is enough out of the Republican religious right, it is that moment where I wrote a Letter to the Editor which I knew would set off a firestorm but I wanted to help rescue a parade for the children.  In the end, the children won because they had presents to open and the Scrooges of the GOP lost.  I would do the same thing all over again.

The massacre of innocent children, teachers, and administrators in CT followed by the ridiculous and stupid comments from the hard right religious leaders along with the gun lobby, made me think back to that parade and all the hate that was spewed at volunteers, city leaders, and myself for a name change.  It is the same mentality I see today in people like Huckabee that want to blame everything on lack of God in buildings, in parks, or in town squares where you cannot put up a manager scene on city property.  Churches put up manger scenes all over the country and so do private property owners.  God is everywhere and how a person chooses to worship is a private matter.

This Christmas season is a time to pray for all the families who have lost family members to gun violence this year and pray that the cycle of these mass killings come to end by giving our elected leaders the courage to stand up and do something about getting so many violent weapons off the streets.  Pray this Christmas season that the hate rhetoric stops and we come together as a Nation.

At this Christmas season, remember all the children and hug your kids and grandchildren a little tighter and thank God for every day you have with them.  My three children are grown but it doesn't mean I stop worrying about their well being and happiness.  Have three grandchildren who I love deeply and Thank God for them and their parents every day when I wake up in the morning.

God Bless and have a Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Ben said...

A lovely post. Thanks.