Monday, February 25, 2013

NO to Tolerance!


My wife and I often attend the annual banquet of an historic black community-based organization.  Men put on black tie and tuxedos while the better halves throw on their new ball gowns. (Of course it has to be a new gown each year.)  Last year’s banquet was intended to be no different in terms of routine, but that soon changed.

We sat down to a table of strangers.  We introduced ourselves around the table as is customary at these social affairs (not my favorite part) and we met a very lovely Jewish couple to our immediate left.  Then the minister gave the invocation.  He was a prominent black pastor from a prominent multi-cultural “center” and not from a mainstream denomination.  Quite frankly, I’m not convinced he professes Christianity.  He gave the invocation and omitted the often used Christian prayer ending “in Jesus’ name” confirming my suspicions.

His omission of “in Jesus’ name” was glaring for any listening Christian.

I turned to my wife and remarked how very surprised I was to witness such a glaring omission of common Christian prayer protocol.  After all, this was a historic black organization presumably rooted in the shared religion of the black diaspora. 

To my surprise, the couple to our left overheard our quiet conversation and boldly remarked, “We’re so happy that the reverend chose to show tolerance for non-Christians.”

I replied, immediately, “When I attend temple, I don’t expect the rabbi to insert references to Jesus to make me comfortable.  Conversely, you should not expect for the name of Jesus to be omitted at a Christian event.”  He had no response.

Tolerance is not demanding the crowd of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, black, white, straight, gay, males or females,  to bend to the views of the individual who is different, but rather tolerance is the individual embracing and respecting the rights of that crowd to be who and what they are. 

Our culture of tolerance has it backwards.   It expects the crowd to bow to the demands of the individual who happens to be different instead of telling the individual that it is you who needs to find tolerance.  Let’s get it right. 

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Monday, February 18, 2013

The Power Within


I recently spoke with some who are experiencing transition in their lives.  Some have lost their homes, others have lost their jobs, and others are paralyzed by the loss of a relationship from divorce or death.  They all have one thing in common:  fear.

Fear says I cannot recover from a foreclosure.  I’ve lost everything and I cannot start over.  Fear says I’m too old to get another job; who will hire me at my age? Fear says I will never find anyone to love me again.

Here is the good news:  fear is only an emotion. It cannot stop you or block you.  Only you have the power to stop you!

While fear appears powerful, it is overcome by two key principles.  Confidence and Faith.
Confidence is knowing how great you are.  Now that sounds arrogant so let me put it in context.  God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps.  139:14).   God said that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13).  He said you are more than a conqueror. (Rom. 8:37).    

In other words, you GOT IT GOING ON!  You didn’t say it, God did.

In The Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy, finds herself lifted out of her home by a tornado into a strange land called Oz.  She spends the entire movie trying to get to the wizard of Oz because Glinda, the Witch of the North, tells her that he holds the power to send her back home to Kansas.  As she follows the yellow brick road, Dorothy picks up new friends each with their own petitions of the wizard to have more fulfilling lives.  The scarecrow wants a brain, the tin man a heart, and the lion courage.

Throughout the movie, Dorothy is pursued by The Witch of the West to retrieve her murdered sister’s magical ruby slippers that appear on Dorothy upon her landing in Munchkinland thanks to Glinda. 
Dorothy meets the wizard and it is revealed that he is a fraud.  He is a little, scared man behind a curtain with no power at all. 

As Dorothy and her friends are dejected, Glinda tells Dorothy a secret.  She says, Dorothy, you had the power within yourself to go home all along. You alone Dorothy can make your wish come true. Glinda instructs her to click her heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”   

Finally, Dorothy wakes up from what has been a dream to find herself safe at home in Kansas surrounded by her loved ones.

God says that He made you with the ability and power to overcome every situation.  Like Dorothy, you have what it takes within you to break out of your own situation because you are mighty in Christ. Stop looking to someone else to give you the answer or the way out; there is no wizard of Oz.   The knowledge, wisdom, and ability lie within you.  Knowing that is called confidence.

Now here comes the second principle.  Faith.  Do you believe God? Will you believe what he says about you and your ability to be more than a conqueror?

The believing part is up to you. 

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Archbishop Emeritus Roger Mahony: Pied Piper



In the Pied Piper story, the rat catcher returns to the town that stiffed him from his fee for ridding the town of rats.  To exact revenge, he returns at 6:00 a.m. and by his fife (flute) he leads all of the children out of their homes and then to their death.
I read this story when I was in elementary school and it’s been told time and time again.  What stood out for me as a child was the parade of the children often depicted with bright colors, balloons and the like all necessary to capture the kids’ attention.  What was never highlighted, at least in my mind, was the beginning and ending of that particular scene.  First, I don’t recall that the children died.  I think I would remember that.  I recall they never came home again.  Second, there were no parents in this part of the story.  I don’t recall one adult face.  Not one.
How could this strange man lead the children out of their homes at 6:00 a.m.?  I pondered this question for some time and the answer came to me.  The parents.  The parents were absent, not paying attention, not leading in their homes. Where was everyone?
This is exactly why retired Cardinal and L. A. Archbishop Emeritus Roger Mahony has fallen from grace.  Somehow he lost touch with his calling, his responsibility to God’s people, and that the faithful relied on him to exercise reasonable care as a shepherd  over their spiritual lives. Sadly he was absent from his post as spiritual leader.
On February 1, 2013, the church released thousands of pages of documents as part of a global settlement showing that Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry, in his role as Vicar for Clergy, intentionally concealed evidence. 
Internal Catholic church records  recently released show that 15 years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Mahony and Curry discussed ways to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement.
While Mahony apologized in the mid-80’s and as recent as two weeks ago, he claims he followed standard policies across the country’s Arch/Dioceses as if that covers his moral failings. 
Now the greater community seeks justice.  Archbishop Jose Gomez (Mahony’s successor) rebuked Mahony and relieved him of administrative and public duties and accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Curry as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara. 
Esther Hatfield, director of the Survivors Network of Children Abused by Priests (SNAP) said, “In truth, LA church officials - including Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Bishop Thomas Curry and others - have relentlessly and expensively and successfully fought for years to keep these horrific secrets secret.
It's ludicrous for Mahony, Gomez and Curry to claim to be "forthcoming" with records they've successfully kept hidden for decades, using millions of dollars from generous parishioners to pay high priced lawyers to obstruct disclosures.”
Now, instead of setting a standard for leadership by accepting all responsibility for their moral failures, Mahony and Gomez criticize one another in public.
This is a colossal failure of our local L.A. church leadership, it is criminal since they are mandated reporters by law, and if these men continue to hide behind the walls of the church we will all suffer irreparable harm as the Church loses all credibility to preach, teach or protect the most vulnerable among us.
The recipe must be full disclosure and full repentance that includes naming every priest (which apparently the documents do) and bringing them to justice in the public square.
It is not too late to stop the Pied Piper.  Let the healing begin and let it begin with Mr. Mahony.





Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No Guns. No Freedom.




The sacred Second Amendment is the re-fried wedge issue to divide Democrats from Republicans. With deference to, but because of, the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, we are now gripped once again with the question on how to control senseless violence.

The left, led by the president and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, believe the answer is more legislation to limit the types of weapons available in the US. Additionally, they propose stringent background checks to ensure the "sane" are purchasing guns.

The right, led by the National Rifle Association, believes the Second Amendment allows for citizens to be armed and they believe that right is absolute and without restriction. In other words, no limitations should be placed on a citizen's right to defend or to hunt.

This push and pull between the political elite is not new and the Second Amendment right to own a weapon continues to be opposed.

In 1791, the words "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" was authored by James Madison and was added as an amendment to the Constitution.

Whether this right applied to the individual citizen was first decided in Dred Scott vs. Sanford (1856) where the US Supreme Court ruled that affording the slaves full rights of American citizenship included the right to keep and bear arms wherever they went.

One hundred fifty two years later in 2008 the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, made it clear that the Second Amendment indeed extends gun ownership to the individual. Then in 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court affirmed that this Second Amendment right to own a gun extends to the states.  All of these decisions scored a victory for gun rights proponents but they still left a lot to interpretation.

The affirmation of the right to own a gun did not come quickly. The rise of the mob in the US brought about the first effort to curb what was considered an unabridged right to own guns. In 1934 the National Firearms Act controlled owning firearms through an excise tax ($200 for each gun sale) and targeted fully-automatic weapons, short-barreled shotguns, rifles and other firearms defined as "gangster weapons." Four years later, the Federal Firearms Act would limit the sales of guns to those convicted of certain crimes and required dealers to report gun sales.

As with the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, tragedies propelled gun rights antagonists to extract stricter gun controls from a grieving nation.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1968 gave us the Gun Control Act of 1968 which prohibited the mail order sales of guns and rifles and sales of the same to convicted felons, mentally incompetent and drug users; the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan gave us the Brady Act in 1994 (under President Clinton) requiring a five-day waiting period and background check for the sale of handguns and required that a National Instant Criminal Background Check System be created; it also spawned the Assault Weapons Ban which banned assault weapons that included semi-automatic, and military-style rifles like the AK-47 and SKS. This particular ban expired in 2004.

Now, at the hands of (the-still-in-office) Sen. Feinstein, we not only have another Assault Weapons Ban pending but a president who believes he can tacitly amend the constitution by executive orders and thereby impose his own brand of regulating the gun industry.

What is really going on here? Doesn’t it make sense that more guns, not less guns, in the hands of the law abiding citizen will reduce crime?  Doesn’t the inability to strip the criminals from their guns demand an armed citizenry?

Renowned economist and researcher John Lott said in his 2010 book, “More Guns Less Crime,” that “allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crimes, and the reductions coincide very closely with the number of concealed-handgun permits issued.”  He concludes that concealed carry laws coincide with fewer murders, aggravated assaults, and rapes.” He contends that “[w]hen state concealed-handgun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by about 8 percent, rapes fell by 5 percent, and aggravated assaults fell by 7 percent.”
More directly related to the Newtown incident, Lott co-wrote a 1999 study that concluded, “Deaths and injuries from mass public shootings fall dramatically after right-to-carry concealed handgun laws are enacted. Between 1977 and 1995, the average death rate from mass shootings plummeted by up to 91 percent after such laws went into effect, and injuries dropped by over 80 percent.”

If Lott is correct (and there are many who say he is wrong), then the agenda for more gun regulation seems odd.  More gun regulation will not reduce violent crime; so what’s the point?

The point is to disarm the law abiding citizen so that he may not defend himself from an ever expanding federal government or anyone else for that matter intent on having its own way and therefore giving way for tyranny to take hold.  Tyranny does not stand ultimately and history is the proof. (Of course, no one in power today in the US would call the agenda to take guns from law abiding citizens an attempt to take away liberty and freedom.  However, their actions speak for themselves.)

Alternatively, our legislators simply think they know how much weaponry or ammunition a law abiding citizen needs.  I’m not sure what they will say when the mother attempts to defend herself from a home invasion (with her baby in her arms) with only seven bullets in her handgun (as proposed) up against three would-be robbers and rapists with guns of their own.  How many bullets does she need?
Answer: as many as necessary to save her own life and the life of her child.  No politician should be in the middle of that gun fight.

Owning a gun is the literal manifestation of taking personal responsibility for yourself and for your family. Barring military grade weaponry and reasonable background checks, a law abiding “sane” citizen should have every right to own as many hand guns, rifles, and ammunition as he deems necessary.  That’s the American way.

*Some information in this blog was retrieved from FactCheck.org