Wish I'd said that!

In recent decades, the ACLU has used its so-called "wall" to fight tooth and nail to prevent government sponsorship of the Pledge of Allegiance, memorial crosses, Ten Commandments displays, nativity scenes, Bible displays, and virtually every other acknowdgement of America's religious heritage.

At the same time, it is worthwhile to note that there have been some instances in which the ACLU has endorsed public displays of religion. For example, When New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani threatened to cut taxpayer funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art for displaying a painting of the Virgin Mary with cow dung and pictures of female sexual organs pasted all over her body, the ACLU was first in line to defend the display. U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that New York City's elected officials were not allowed to place conditions on the museum's funding.

In another instance, the ACLU offered its support to the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts, after the agency sponsored an art show featuring "Piss Christ" - an exhibit consisting of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine.

In the ACLU's myopic world, it appears that the only permissible publicly-funded displays of religion are those which blatantly mock or disparage the Christian faith.

-- Indefensible: 10 Ways the ACLU is Destroying America, Sam Kastensmidt, 2006

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Are You Prepared to Do?

"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church -- and there was nobody left to be concerned."

Those words are attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran minister in pre-war Germany who spent the war in a concentration camp because of his anti-Nazi preaching. He was willing to suffer and possibly be killed for his beliefs. Thankfully, he survived.

Now, jump cut to the movie, The Untouchables. The tough but earnest Chicago cop played by Sean Connery, as he lay dying of massive gunshot wounds, asks the Elliot Ness character a defining question; "What are you prepared to do?"

I use these anecdotes to bring up a question each of us should ask ourselves: What are you prepared to do?

My primary interest is in reaching those who haven't really given that much time to thinking on the things that really affect all our lives. This includes the foundational principles we use to guide us, especially when we think no one else is watching or directing us.

Life, as seen through human eyes - or at least, through Christian eyes - is an incredible gift of God, and too many people often don't really appreciate it until things go seriously wrong. The analogy I've come to use is that everyone starts out, from birth, with their personal 'life meter' on zero, with the scale simply registering that vague quality of value or 'worth,' and each experience either adds to or subtracts from the meter's scale. The question then becomes, "Am I worthy?" 

Allow me to continue waxing philosophical for a moment. I'm not talking about "earning my way into Heaven." In my faith, no one can earn that; it is a free gift of God, salvation earned for us by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the Christ. When I speak of 'worth' I'm talking about my personal impact on the world directly around me; the effect on family, friends, coworkers, church, the public, and yes, to God. To me, being worthy isn't about earning anything; it's about expressing my thanks through service and hopefully, being at least occassionally a positive influence and a value to others.

Most of us more or less stumble through life in a desperate attempt to manage or improve our own lot, and we typically avoid stepping outside our own personal bubble until something attracts our attention, or until we're forced to for some reason. Unfortunately, we will all be forced to step out of our bubble in the very near future - potentially for the rest of our lives, and our children's lives - unless we decide what we are prepared to do, and then act appropriately.

We're now only days away from the mid-term election, that time between presidential campaigns where we vote for senators, members of Congress, and local civic leaders. Nationally and locally, these are the people who have a major impact on the way we conduct our lives and the legal limitations we must live under, yet most of us pay very little attention to them or how they are affecting us, or what they are doing with our money, in our name. These "less-than-president" politicians pass the laws and ordinances we have to live by, which could be as mundane as passing a new traffic ordinance, or increasing the taxes we pay, or making it easier for women to have an abortion or to permit homosexuals to marry. The local judges we elect will determine how justice is administered, and we have learned that far too many judges allow their decisions to be influenced by their personal opinions and political agendas. The legislators and mayors we elect affect the taxes we pay, which can determine how we spend the money they let us keep, and also how our employers spend their money, which can in turn affect our jobs.

So, what are they doing in our name and on our dime?

Well, frankly, too many things to list here, including a lot of things they shouldn't be doing. For example, earlier this year Congress passed the Obama Healthcare bill; over 2,400 pages of legislation that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told us we would have to pass in order to find out what is in it. Apparently she was right, because we've been discovering all sorts of things in it now that the "debate is over" and it is law. Never mind that at least half of the country - mostly the half that works - was against it, or that the Constitution does not require or allow Congress to pass a law that forces citizens to purchase healthcare, or that is perhaps the single most damaging act of congress in the nation's history, but they saddled us with it anyway.

One thing Obamacare does that should concern Christians and others with a conscience is that it could offer a loophole for abortion providers. Even though it currently prohibits direct federal payment for abortions, page 183, Line 18 of the Affordable Care Act allows "(d) NO DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF PROVISION OF ABORTION.—No Exchange participating health benefits plan may discriminate against any individual health care provider or health care facility because of its willingness or unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions." 

Considering the number of Americans who no longer hold human life in any reverence, and who are careless in their behavior, and that abortion is a tremendous moneymaker for conscienceless organizations such as Planned Parenthood, expect that in short time more medical providers will indeed provide such coverage.

A key measure in the new law will require everyone to be covered by health insurance by 2014, but it is so intrusive that many private insurance companies won't be able to profit while meeting the requirements and restrictions, which will eventually force them out of business and us into a government plan - which was their plan from the beginning if you take many of these radicals at their word and by their early writings. As it stands, if you're healthy and single, any earnings from your job will be diminished even further because you're more-or-less forced to pay the insurance premium. But young people won't be the only ones stung by it. The law will also allow children up to age 26 to remain on their parent's health insurance - whether or not they are in school or drop-outs, whether they are married, or even whether they are still living at home, living on their own, or living under a bridge somewhere. It really hasn't been clarified if the parents get any say in this.

Oh, government still gives you a choice; but if you don't want the insurance, the federal government will confiscate up to 2 ½ % of your gross income (and that is in addition to your federal, state and local income taxes). This is how you "nudge" people from freedom into oppression.

Understand that there are serious problems with the old system that needed fixing. But under this new system, nothing gets fixed, and a lot of things will become worse. And while from a patient's viewpoint there are some good provisions in the new law, what much of the law will do is to force a lot of private providers out of business. This will in turn force people to look to government-provided - and rationed - healthcare. If you want to see what the future of healthcare in America looks like, check out formerly-Great Britain. But wait…the British are reforming their system because it is so abysmally bad. Yet the new American healthcare model is already looking at how to economize healthcare costs, including limits on medical care for very young children and especially for older citizens - who built the world we now live in and who have paid a huge share of their life's efforts into supporting it through taxation.

Pork is the steady diet of oppressive government; it takes money from the taxpayers and gives it away in superficial grants and generally useless or counterproductive projects whose only purpose seems to be to put a politician's name in concrete, to the tune of more than $181 million spent over the past decade on frivolous, inefficient, or unnecessary projects. Perhaps we could tolerate the money hemorrhage a little easier if they just didn't spend it so much faster than they take it in.

Speaking of pork; it is a rule of thumb that the more government provides for people, the more it tends to make demands and control peoples' lives, including the most essential aspects of those lives. One of the most basic needs of all is food. Currently, approximately 40 million Americans are receiving food stamps, which means the government is paying for at least a portion of their daily food.

If you were giving someone charity, you would hope and expect them to use your gift wisely, and if they didn't you might threaten to cut off that charity. Now, not just some jurisdictions but the federal government as well are trying to use their power to control how and what people eat. For example, for more than a decade, lard - a cooking staple for hundreds if not thousands of years, has been replaced by vegetable oil in restaurants because of regulation. More recently, in New York City, regulations now look to limit or prohibit the use of salt in food preparation, and food stamp recipients may soon be prohibited from buying sugary soft drinks with food stamps. The lesson here is plain: what government gives you, it also uses to control you.

While such limitations and regulations may seem unimportant to people who don't live in New York City or who don't use those products, the fact remains that government always tends to reach for more control over time; as the old saying goes, from tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow. A benign government will respect limitations on its power; that's the way our government was originally designed. But humans being the fallen creatures that we are, it is simply too tempting for those in power to resist grabbing for more of it, and citizens eventually become too distracted, self-involved, or simply lazy to care about what their leaders are doing. Given enough time, and surrendering enough of the peoples' authority to government, it virtually always gets to the point where fear becomes the major factor that keeps the people from reining in the government.

Government usually move slowly with imposing restrictions on our liberties; they do it one component at a time, one regulation at a time; so slowly that each new generation will grow up to become the social equivalent of the proverbial frog in the pot of hot water. If we stay on our present course a child born five or ten years from now will know much less freedom than children born ten years ago, but that loss will seem natural to them because they will grow up in that environment, never knowing the freedoms that Americans once took for granted; such as being able to protect yourself, being able to speak your mind without fear, or keeping most of what you earn and choosing what to spend it on.

National security - the primary constitutional duty of our federal government - has taken a back seat to what has been openly declared to be a "progressive agenda," although few Americans understand what that agenda is really all about. Captured terrorists are taken from military prison in Guantanamo Bay and sent to New York City. There they are delivered into the civilian court system, which gives more advantage to the accused than to their victims, or to our nation's protection from future terrorism. Our southern border is left all-but-unprotected by the government as illegal aliens cross over virtually at will, and that same federal government threatens to sue border states that are forced to try and protect their own citizens from narco-terrorist gangs waging war inside our border and killing Americans. That primary function of government - to protect us from foreign invasion - doesn't seem to be applied here. Why not?

Another problem with current politics is that it has helped lay the foundation for increasing indoctrination of Americans toward the acceptance of Islamic sharia law.

New Yorkers are engaged in a battle to prevent the construction of a 13-story mosque and "cultural center" two blocks from where the Twin Towers fell after airliners hijacked by Muslims crashed into them. But despite complaints from the residents and much of the country, the project is supported by the mayor of New York City and the president of the United States, and much supportive liberal media attention has been given to the Imam who is pushing the so-called Ground Zero mosque, even while he travels the Islamic world on the taxpayers' dime. Why is it so necessary to build this mosque in that particular location, especially since it seems to be part of a historical pattern of building them at the sites of Muslim victories, to insult their enemies? And what is the Imam telling those foreign Muslim audiences, even as we foot the bill?

In January, a new cartoon show is scheduled to debut on The Hub, formerly known as Discovery Kids. The show is called "The 99," and is all about Muslim superheroes trying to bring sharia to America by battling what…American Idol contestants? People bathing at public beaches?

There are literal hordes of Muslim activists, and reports of known terrorists, inside the United States at this very moment. There are training camps (even within New York State), and there are sophisticated websites and glossy magazines that promote anti-Americanism, and even offer instruction in the techniques of terrorism and mass bloodshed, and our prisons have become indoctrination centers for new converts and terrorists.
There have been several terrorist incidents within the United States in the past couple of years, all perpetrated by Muslims; yet we continue to walk on political eggshells whenever it comes to Islam. While I am not ready to accuse every single Muslim of working against America or threatening us, the clear fact remains that a huge proportion of Muslims are working against us; against Western culture in general and against the United States in particular. Islam at its core is not a pro-liberty system of belief; it is exactly the opposite of our founding principles.

If you're asking yourself why all this is happening, the answer should be staring you in the face. Even though the West and too many in the US are pushing Christianity away, Islam is diametrically opposed to all things Christian or Jewish, and we as a nation traditionally and rightfully symbolize both to Muslims.
All this brings me to my main point; that for far too long, Christians in this country have walked away from our responsibilities as free citizens. I lay the blame primarily on Christians simply because nearly three-quarters of Americans at least claim to be Christians.

Perhaps it is because as a people we've heard the word "free" used so often that we came to believe that freedom actually is free. Nothing could be further from the truth. Freedom is perhaps the single most expensive thing of all. The freedoms we have enjoyed for so long and taken so lightly - which are now in dire jeopardy - cost millions of lives worldwide and many hundreds of billions of dollars, just in this country.

There is another word, that most Americans don't hear often enough anymore, and it is the mirror side of freedom: that word is responsibility. It used to be a pretty common word; we learned it at home, in school, in church, at work, in the military. Now, it is rarely taught in the home because there are too many distractions, too much TV, too many "tweets." It isn't taught in school because everything there is relative, and we mustn't offend anyone (except Christians or conservatives). It isn't taught very often in church anymore because the emphasis is on dogma or evangelism, and many Christian churches seem to teach or imply that Jesus took all our personal responsibility away, or that He just loves everyone soooo much that He would never demand any sort of real accountability. At many jobsites, the unions protect sloppy workers from accountability for poor performance or bad behavior (think public schools and civil service employees). To top it all off, our military now offers a medal for not acting aggressively in a combat zone.

The truth is that there must always be a dynamic balance between rights, privileges and responsibilities. If we ignore the responsibilities, we will soon lose the rights, and privileges are always tenuous, because by their nature they can disappear at any time. Anyone paying attention will have noticed that some of our most basic and important rights have been diminished, even over the past few years.

When it comes to privileges, few approach the importance of voting, yet most Americans ignore it. But voting isn't merely a privilege that the government allows you, it is a critical responsibility as well.

How important is voting? And does your vote even matter? Let's consider a few instances where one person
made a difference:
- In 1845, a single vote brought Texas into the Union.
- In 1867, one vote ratified the purchase of Alaska.
- In 1868, a single vote kept President Andrew Johnson from being impeached.
- In 1875, one vote turned France from a monarchy into a republic.
- In 1923, it was one vote that put Adolph Hitler into power at the head of the Nazi party.

Will it come down to a single vote determining the next election? Probably not; but every vote counts toward which way that election goes.

Well, the helmets look the same.  In one of the more interesting campaign side-notes, a North Carolina Democrat's effort to use the US military as a selling point in his reelection bid backfired when they inadvertantely used a photo of reenactors in WW2 German uniforms. We could blame it on the lack of accurate history being taught in our schools, but haven't these people ever seen a war movie, even one by a fellow lib like Tom Hanks?

Time traveler?  There's a video mystery going viral at the moment. It shows an elderly woman apparently talking on a cell phone.  What's so mysterious about that, you ask? The video is a snippet from a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film,  The Circus.  Your guess is as good as mine.

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