Sunday, November 27, 2011

It Won't Hurt You None

Here is a recent column I wrote for the Washington County Observer. Although it's about an Arkansas event, it has national significance regarding religious freedom.

One of the first things law students learn is to think like a lawyer. That requires disassembling events and testing them agains evidence rules, witness veracity, legal precedents and the law's language. It helps remove emotions, prejudices, bias, and deceit from assessments of events.

Legal reasoning can decay into what I call "lawyerthink: " the parsing of language at the expense of comon sense. Even scripture describes the deadliness of focusing on the letter of the law rather than the spirit.

Lawyerthink has infected public views regarding religion, as evidenced by pressure on the Arkansas Department of Human Services to stop state funding to West Fork's Growing God's Kingdom Preschool because it "promotes" religion. Republican State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife, Marsha, operate the school. Full disclosure: I campaigned for Rep. Harris and am working for his reelection.

Lawyerthink attempts to squeeze every vestige of religion out of anything related to government. Lawyerthink, taken to its logical conclusions, would say that a church bus cannot drive on a state highway or that a city fire department should not respond to a call from a church. Those are imaginary offenses. But reality is just as bad as when a federal judge threatens arrest at a Texas graduation ceremony for those using words like "prayer" and "amen," a California couple is fined for a home Bible study, and God's name is banned from military funerals.

Attacks on faith are more than assaults of the Constitution's free exercise clause. They represent strikes on the culture itself, which is overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian. Especially here -- there is a reason rural Arkansas is considered part of the Bible Belt. That's why government and political meetings begin with prayer (often in Jesus' name, I might add). That's why there are crosses marking highway deaths. That's why so many folks go to church, even if only at Christmas and Easter. It's also why we say "God bless you" when somebody sneezes (although there was a California teacher penalizing students for doing that).

Note that culture does not make one holy or less holy than anybody else. But culture represents how people behave in a certain area, region, or nation.

The attacks on the preschool are attacks on local culture. Note that it's a Washington group pressuring the state DHS to lean on the Harrises. Most Arkansans recognize that the Harrises are using state funds (our tax money) to help local children and families. And they do it in a religious environment. Until now, the DHS itself recognized that.

I'm reminded of a country music show in a Western state. Before beginning their chuck wagon dinner, one of the cowboys said: "Now, folks, there's something we do around here before we eat and that's give thanks to God. So if you don't pray, that's alright.

"It won't hurt you none."

So relax. The Harrises are not establishing the First Church of Arkansas. They're Christians using our money to serve families against the background of a Judeo-Christian culture.

It's perfectly legal And beneficial.

And it won't hurt you none.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Welcome to the Revolution

I'm currently writing for the Washington County Observer. Here's a recent column:

The revolution begins immediately.

Right after "Dancing with the Stars."

Class warfare -- the dream of Marxists everywhere -- is supposedly taking root in the United States.

After all, Tea Partiers, marching in the streets holding signs dripping with unprintable hatred, are livid over the election of the first black President. And local communities are fielding police in riot gear to protect the masses in case Granny gets a bit rambunctious waving the Flag.

Occupy Wall Street claims to represent the masses as they speak, drum, protest, and make sure the generators are running to feed their hungry corporate-spawned iPods and laptops ("Power to the people!").

We're on the brink. It's brother and against brother. The Nation is ripping itself apart.

The horror!


We've seen worse. Even the founding of the Nation couldn't bring a consensus -- many people remaining loyal to King George felt a need to flee to Canada. Uprooting and voting with one's feet is serious business.

Then came the sixties. The eighteen sixties, that is. That's when the country really was torn apart and heated slogans turned into a horrific bloodbath. It indeed was brother against brother. And army against army.

And the nineteen sixties were no picnic, either. People lamenting alleged divisions of today often are unaware or forget the trauma of some forty years ago -- coast-to-coast burned cities, assassinations, campus riots, and strong generational splits.

True, there are strong differences of opinion today. And probably more than one holiday has been disrupted by a political dispute or two (Last year, my brother-in-law's pre-Thanksgiving dinner welcome to family and friends included this command: "No discussing politics. No politics in my house!").

But overall, typical American mutual respect and unity among one another remain.

But there are certain kinds of division going on. They are artificial divisions. "Astrosplits" I'd call them, much like the Astroturf protests of a rent-a-mob.

That's because dividing people brings confusion, discord, problems, and, if left unchecked, ultimately defeat. President Lincoln got it right when quoting the Bible's statement regarding how a house divided cannot stand.

Astrosplits pit political party against political party, men against women, race against race, and social and economic classes against one another. Astrosplits demonize certain people -- bankers and Wall Streeters, for instance. Because what's morale outrage without scapegoats?

But most people go about their business -- consumed with jobs, families, church, and social activities. They're not indifferent or apathetic, mind you (witness how the Tea Party came on the scene). And despite differences in politics, gender, race, ethnicity, income, and status, most Americans do a pretty good job of getting along.

Today, however, there is one new twist. We have a man in the White House who seems to revel in dividing us; indeed, to stoke it.

Because his desire to remake this nation according to his own ideology seems grounded in that old biblical fact: a house divided cannot stand.

Yet the President can huff and puff but he cannot blow this house down.

Because once again, Barack Obama does not understand the people he claims to lead.

The people of the United States of America.