Friday, December 30, 2005
Resolutions and Wishes
Everybody is making New Year’s resolutions. Well, perhaps not everybody, just about 45% of Oklahomans say they are doing so. The Militant Moderate is not all that much for making resolutions. Maybe that is because he has a long history of breaking some of his better ones:
quitting smoking ---- done 12 years ago; result of bronchitis not resolution
losing weight ------ done several times, only to fall back
stop drinking ------- never had that problem, so quitting was easy
get tougher on family ------ that didn’t work, especially with the wife
exercise regularly ------ successful for short, intermittent periods only
stop bossing people ------ this is in the genes and has never been successful
be nice to wife ------ successful; her threats worked better than any resolutions
improve diet ------ works best when only food is what the wife puts on table
So, the Militant Moderate has had minimal success with resolutions. Perhaps he should stay with making New Year’s wishes instead. Let us concentrate on wishes for the nation
First, he would wish for peace in the world, beginning with peace-oriented leadership in this country. Polls show this would be popular with 57% of the nation’s citizens.
Second, the Militant Moderate would wish for greater civility in American politics. While there are indeed major differences among us in political ideology and thought, there need not be such hostile rhetoric, hate speech, and rancor.
Third, MM wishes for greater prosperity among all of America’s citizens. While the economy appears to be doing well in growth rate and unemployment statistics, these do not reveal the differential in prosperity between the really wealthy among us and the rest of us – middle class and lower socio-economic classes.
Fourth, the MM wishes for a balanced budget for the nation. He wishes that the people would wise up to the so-called cost-savings efforts of this Congress, cutting school lunches, Medicaid, student loans, and Medicare while still cutting the taxes of the wealthy. This same Congress will soon give the President an increase in the $8.2 trillion debt ceiling, while battling to extend the ill-afforded tax cuts for the rich.
Fifth, but not finally, the Militant Moderate would like to see real effort put into reversing this nation’s continuing trade deficit, and its increasing debt to nations like China. This may mean the revival of stiff tariffs, which cause Americans to pay higher costs for goods. But the superior standard of living for American workers demands protection of its businesses, industries, and its workers. We cannot become merely a service economy.
The Militant Moderate wishes a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2006 for all.
…….. Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
Monday, December 26, 2005
INTELLIGENT DESIGN AND EVOLUTION
It is time for the Militant Moderate to plunge bravely into the shark infested waters of controversy about the attempted introduction of “Intelligent Design” and the debunking of evolution in public school science classes. This is, as the federal court in Pennsylvania has just ruled, a revival of the attempt to teach “creationism” in science classes. The U.S. Supreme Court had already decided that teaching creationism as science in public schools was tantamount to teaching religion, and therefore is constitutionally forbidden.
This federal judge by the name of John Jones, a conservative appointed by President Bush and a church regular, said that intelligent design was merely creationism by a new name. He used the language “breathtaking inanity” to describe the words and actions of the prior school board in Dover, PA, in putting such a requirement into the science curriculum. The patrons at Dover have, of course, already voted that entire board out of office. Now, if the courts and people of Kansas follow that example, as expected, the leaders of the movement are still unlikely to give up their efforts – merely regroup to form a new strategy. The courts will again be blamed for tossing God out of the schools.
To the Militant Moderate this continuing controversy seems almost bizarre, certainly an unnecessary and inappropriate battlefield, when both education and society have so many more pressing practical concerns.
Perhaps strange for a critic, the MM himself believes in a form of intelligent design theory. That is a tenet of his religious faith. However, he believes that this should be taught in church and not in the public schools. Most certainly, it should NOT be taught in science classes. Further, as long as evolution is considered by scientists as a mainstream theory explaining a myriad of scientific observations and facts, then it should be taught in all science classes in either secular or religious educational institutions. There should be no stickers or disclaimers put in textbooks or read in classes.
The Militant Moderate was fortunate enough to have a very wise biological science professor at Oklahoma State University in 1947. When we began our unit on Evolution, he gave a short, serious, personal talk to the class. Dr. Roy Jones told of his own shock of being ostracized by family and friends when he went home from the university as a student proclaiming his knowledge of evolution. He gave us some sound personal advice, “For me there is no conflict between science and the Bible. The Bible says, ‘God created.’ It does not say how. The role of science is to explain how God created, and to discover and explain the laws He set in motion governing the universe.”
The Militant Moderate believes that Dr. Jones, a devout Methodist layman, was correct. MM believes in a form of intelligent design, and he believes that evolution is at least a partial explanation of how creation took place. He sees no inherent conflict between science and religion. But religion should be taught in churches and in extended families, not in science classrooms.
…… Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
Friday, December 16, 2005
Christmas, 2005, has been an unusual holiday season. It appears that this Christmas, more than any other, has been brought unwillingly into politicized, ideological conflicts to the consternation of most ordinary people. The worst previously experienced have been complaints about commercialization.
Christmas is very special to most of us just because it is Christmas. We know the reason for the season, but we are yet able to enjoy much of the glitz and glamour of the cultural holiday which has grown up around the advent of Christmas and extending to the New Year. Although we know what the first Christmas was really all about, we are able to give and receive “Holiday Greetings,” “Season’s Greetings,” and “Merry Christmas,” and we enjoy the wonderful conviviality of Christmas.
Sometimes we wish that the hypersensitive and the hyper-righteous would just give it a rest, and let us all enjoy the special season of Christmas.
A number of years ago, this writer penned a poem that he called, “A Christmas Poem.” While it was written in recognition of Christmas, an attempt was made to summarize the life and mission of Christ and to convey the broader meaning of the season for believing Christians through the centuries. This is offered now for the reader’s consideration.
A CHRISTMAS POEM
Into a world by misery darkened,
Among a people by famine of spirit weakened,
Chafing under the Roman conqueror's boot,
Looking toward the branch from Jesse's root.
A nation by religiosity perverted,
In bondage to the speciousness of laws;
Mind and spirit from the truth diverted,
Slaves of a dogma filled with flaws.
Seared by sun and stung by sand,
Dismal, downtrodden, and in despair.
Announced by the voice in a wilderness band,
Heralded by the angelic host in air.
A song of joy and a declaration of peace,
A message of hope and promise of love;
From bonds and burdens a new release,
Valid by voice of thunder and form of dove.
The lame walk, deaf hear, and the blind see,
Inheritance is a blessing for the meek,
Humanity from Evil's chains set free,
His way to find, His will to seek.
To heinous death, a submission brave,
Savoring suffering, mankind to save.
Living, on Easter's morn to rise
And join with us in tomorrow's skies.
………. Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
Thursday, December 08, 2005
The "Christmas" Controversy
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
So now President Bush is being attacked by the conservative, evangelical right wing for sending out Christmas cards which say, “Happy Holidays.” He is pilloried as representing himself as a born again, practicing Christian and then betraying that model by capitulating to the secular infidels espousing a generic non-Christmas holiday. His greeting card is defended by those who regularly remind us that we are a diverse society, and that any greeting (oral or printed) which recognizes any element of the religion attributed to some 95% in our society is improper and incorrect by definition.
The American Family Association has been promoting a boycott of Target stores for using “holidays” versus “Christmas” in its advertising and store greetings. (Target denies this.) Bill O’Reilly, who has a campaign defending Christmas, has listed retailers on his website who use “holidays” in their materials or greetings and questions their worthiness for shoppers. (Fox has had to change its own website language to conform to O’Reilly’s code.) In opposing the “professional atheists” and “Christian haters,” the defenders of Christmas find themselves allied with strange bedfellows, the retailers and businesses that profit from the commercialization of Christmas.
Christmas has a bizarre history in this country. Puritans in Massachusetts considered Christmas as an objectionable pagan festival. Failing to find December 25 in their bible, they forbade its observance originally in 1620, and from 1659 to 1681 they had a secular law making the observance of Christmas a crime. (This is a prime example of the need to keep church and state separate.) In 1827 an Episcopal bishop complained Christmas was a day of drinking and swearing, while as late as 1857 Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches were reported by New York newspapers as not observing Christmas. However, by the 20th century Christmas was espoused as a religious holiday by Christians. The principal problem for churches became the commercialization of the season. Not only ministers decried this, but in 1965 the dialogue of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has Lucy voicing that Christmas “is a big commercial racket.”
Neither is the objection to secular observance of a religious holiday a new phenomenon – “a liberal plot.” In 1906 some 20,000 Jewish students boycotted the elementary schools of New York City objecting to the singing of Christmas hymns. In 1946 the Rabbinical Assembly of America denounced such forced participation of Jewish students as “an infringement on their American rights.” For decades some businesses, colleges, schools, and secular groups have employed neutral terms such as “winter breaks” and “Season’s Greetings” out of sensitivity to those of other faiths. Sensitivity and courtesy in this respect is not a new phenomenon historically, and it is not out of place today.
Most of us do not choose our Christmas greetings with either political correctness or religion in mind. We want one that looks pretty and expresses our sentiments. It is our right as individuals to choose our greetings, and if we offend it is our own responsibility. However, in defense of Mr. Bush, a card representing the office of the President of the United States should not be religiously doctrinaire. Further, it is probably better that all such greetings from governmental offices and public institutions be kept secular in nature. A business enterprise which caters to people from all religious faiths might be well advised to exercise care in choosing greetings.
With all that said, it should be noted that this is another of those areas where all forms of extremism should be rejected. We must be more tolerant of differences. We must cease our “slash and burn” rhetoric and combative style. This writer remembers well the resonating greeting to customers of his hometown Jewish department store owner/boss, “Merry Christmas!” While devout in his own religion, that good man exemplified the generous, giving spirit of Christmas as much or more than anyone.
It is time that sensible people take note that Christmas is both a Christian commemoration and a holiday of the broader American and world cultures. Accoutrements have grown up around the holiday that have little to do with religion, but it is still Christmas.
This writer sees little possible harm in either the greeting “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” He believes objections to any of these, or to the prime artistic and historical music literature of the season, to be nit picking and serve only to alienate and inflame. But it still behooves those supposed 95% who recognize a religious base for Christmas to be courteous and sensitive to differing beliefs of others. There is no excuse for boorishness or riding roughshod over the feelings of other Americans.
Some might just say outright, “Things have gone too danged far, and we are not going to be a constant battleground for a bunch of loonies at both extremes! We’ve had enough of this! Cut it out!” Now, that is being a militant moderate!