Monday, June 27, 2005

Christian Nation My A@#...

When I logged on to my AOL this evening, I was greeted by an article on the Supreme Court's split decision regarding the display of the 10 commandments. They decided that the displays outside of the Texas courthouse could stay, but the displays inside the Kentucky courthouses had to go. AOL, loving polls as they do, asked people to vote on whether display of the 10 Commandments should be allowed on government property. I develop surveys for a living, so I love polls, too. So, I voted. So did 107,135 other people, and counting. By the time I get to the end of this paragraph, another 1,000 or so people or will have voted, and not just because I'm a slow typist. People are voting like hotcakes.

For the record, I voted with the majority (66%) that display of the Commandments should always be allowed. Twenty percent said it should never be allowed and 14% said it should sometimes be allowed. Clearly this is a divisive issue, and one that is very important to at least 107,135 people. Granted most of these people are routinely grossly overcharged by their ISP, so these might not be the sharpest crayons in the 64-pack. Still, I'm one of them, and I can't be the only idiot savant in the AOL family. So, let's not discount them, out of hand. Anyway, I voted. But, for me, this issue is like the gay marriage issue. I honestly don't care.

Before I launch into my main point, as is my custom, I must digress. I need to clear up one thing for all of the good people fighting in the name of Christian symbology. The 10 Commandments are more rooted in Jewish theology than in Christian theology. While the wisdom of the Commandments is not to be disregarded, the New Testament is quite clear that Jesus' death freed us from the curse of trying to earn our salvation by doing good works and trying to live according to the letter of the law (Galatians 3:10-13). We're saved by grace, now, so the 10 Commandments aren't really central to our belief system (Romans 5:20). But, hey, if they ever come up with a symbol for grace and faith in the truth of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection, I might join the fight to get that displayed...but probably not.

Either way, I don't understand why people are acting so surprised about the ruling. Given the current state of our society, the concept of America as a Christian nation is laughable. To be honest, it's an insult to Christianity. I think we should consider a legal change from "Christian Nation" to "Capitalist Nation" or "Relativist Nation". We only really drag out that "Christian" moniker when we want to feign self-righteous indignation and separate ourselves from the Hebrews, Muslims, or Buddhists. So what's the point?

If displaying the 10 Commandments really meant to us, as a nation, what everyone wants to pretend it does, we wouldn't need to display them. The truths that they symbolize would be evident in everything we did, because they would be written in our hearts. But, they're not written in our hearts, are they? So what difference does it make if they're sitting in front or inside of some courthouse that the majority of us will never visit. They've been written in the Bible for 2000 years. We don't visit them there, either.

Is it scary to see freedoms of Christian expression dwindling as our nation kneels before the gods of Diversity and Tolerance? Yes, of course. But, in the end the question is not "Who is going to let me worship my God?" The question is "Who am I going to let stop me?" And no branch of the government, no law, and no symbol can answer that question for you. Being the light of the world that God created you to be doesn't require an act of Congress. You don't need a Supreme Court decision to love or forgive.

CHRISTIANS: There's a saying: "Living well is the best revenge." If you really want to affect non-Christians, live well. Be a real Christian. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. I know it sounds radical and "fringey," but give it a shot.

ANTI-CHRISTIANS: Stop fighting a battle you've already won. We're a secular nation. Leave the Christians their symbols. For some of them, they're all that they have.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Poem or Two

I'm really happy for Mr. Felt, and I in no way wish to belittle his contribution to the respective and joint histories of politics and journalism. Beyond that, I will certainly be the first to extol the virtues of an unburdened (or less burdened) conscience. But, was anybody really sitting around saying, "Screw the meaning of life, I just want to know who Deep Throat was." I mean, really...

I was just telling a co-worker of mine, there are several mysteries that I find more pressing: the JFK assassination, the location of the Garden of Eden, the Bush re-election, the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa's body, the Bermuda Triangle, Where's Waldo Issue 3 - page 12. My co-worker's addition to the More Pressing Mystery List was the inspiration for Carly Simon's "You're So Vain".

But anyway, I'm off the subject, as usual.

I actually began this post, because in the midst of Spring cleaning I came across a couple of poems that I wrote that were short and that I thought I'd share. Here they are:


I can tell deep down you’re laughing
And that’s fine, I’m laughing, too
It seems to always turn out funny
No matter what we try to do
But my stomach’s sore to aching
And it’s only that I fear
My heart too will be breaking
When this joke’s end does appear
So, if it won’t be too much trouble
If you’d be ever so kind
Could we skip love’s drawn out build up
And cut straight to the punchline


Professing themselves to be wise they become fools
Out of their self-taught wisdom
They build tiny monuments to themselves
As a dog might
Only to step in them later
In their studies they miss the forest
Not for the trees
But for the sign announcing its name
And closing at dusk
They live for knowledge
But die without knowing


I don’t miss not feeling
But I do miss not feeling pain

The subtle lie of seeing every glass as half-full
Seems life to the man dying of thirst as every glass becomes half-empty

For while reality is not entirely overrated
It seems more to me now like a wonderful place to visit

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

They All Fall Down

Calling D.C. a city in transition is kind of like calling the Middle Passage mildly unpleasant. The local gentry have mounted a full-frontal assault on area real estate, littering the landscape with the shrapnel of cookie cutter, mid-rise, faux-loft shoeboxes. Mind you, I can’t exactly lament the relocation of the transvestite prostitutes, the street corner pharmacists, or the itinerant crack whores of yore. And, I have to admit that I enjoy the new selection of organic and specialty items now available at my grocery store. Still, living just North of downtown, literally on the zoning line that separates the commercial and residential districts, I’m smack dab in the middle of Ground Zero. Free-range poultry and unpronounceable herbs aside, living in a war zone is living in a war zone. But, I’m not here to whine about the evils and indecencies (and conveniences) of gentrification.

My actual point in telling the story lies in one of the earliest casualties of the war. My street dead ends into the side of what was the Washington Convention Center. Or, at least, it used to. The old Center was replaced by the massive new Center, which sits on the other side of my building. The old building sat empty for quite some time and was finally imploded a few months ago. Demolition crews have been pecking away at the rubble ever since. I like to walk while I pray and a prayer walk a couple of weeks ago led me to the demolition site. As I approached the site, I saw something I had never seen before: the amazing view of downtown that the building had obstructed. I stopped my prayer, mid-sentence, to take it all in. God, seizing a rare moment of silence, said, "It’s amazing what you can see when you tear down walls that are no longer serving a purpose."

In His own, God-like way, God had used this wonderful moment of appreciation to remind me of stuff I needed to do. A long time ago, I had built a wall to protect myself from the world outside and the various and sundry dangers thereof. He reminded me that the wall needed to be torn down. Adding insult to irony, the crew had left a single stretch of wall intact, about 75 feet long and 20 feet high. God went on to say that my wall was like this one. The job of tearing it down had been started but never finished and there was still just enough left to make seeing everything on either side of the wall difficult.

God said that at the moment that He created me, he put in me everything that I would need to survive until the day that I got saved. And at the moment that I was recreated, when I got saved, He put in me everything that I would need to live abundantly until the day that Jesus came back. The trick for me, for all of us, is switching from one arsenal to the other.

My wall was part of the old arsenal, and it had served its purpose. And well, I might add. It kept people at a workable distance and kept me safe inside. Without my wall, there’s no way that I could have made it through my childhood, through my adolescence. I owe my sanity and there are several people walking around today who owe their very lives to that wall. I don’t mean to brag, but my wall should really be in the Wall Hall of Fame.

Just the same, like the old Convention Center, my wall had long outlived its usefulness. The new Center was open and regularly teemed with people, milling about one event or another, greedily snatching up treasures that magically turn into junk on the other side of the door, like reverse alchemy. And there were amazing views on either side of the old Center just waiting to be seen. At this point, it was just standing in the way of progress.

Fast-forwarding a week or so, I walked by the demolition site the other day and the wall was gone. My eyes got a little misty and I swore that I heard Taps playing faintly in the background. As it happens, the tears were real, but the Taps was just a homeless guy with emphyzema, who was wheezing and muttering unintelligibly as he rooted through a nearby trash can. So, I took a moment to say a last goodbye to my wall and to the Convention Center. After that, I walked over to the homeless guy and offered him some money. Then, I headed home, looking back only to admire the view.