Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.

President Obama Wants All of Us to Learn

I am equally concerned that a growing number of citizens are being spoon-fed their opinions from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck.

by David T. Bruce

obama-2009America has been divided for some time in terms of political agendas and in respect to opinions governing in what direction our country should grow, with Republicans and Democrats (and their constituents) often reaching an impasse, accomplishing nothing.  Yet the recent clash over President Obama’s scheduled address to school children is infantile at best, showing a lack of concern about issues that truly affect the nation as a whole.

I honestly doubt that the speech is an attempt to inject the federal government too far into public school business.  No Child Left Behind was such an attempt (and on many levels, a failed attempt), and other than school faculty and administration, I do not hear or read of the general public being outraged about that dandy piece of legislation.  In all likelihood, the opponents of the President’s address would say nothing, if the Commander-in-Chief were Republican, and vice-versa.

One woman interviewed by CNN stated that she is very scared to be in this country with the current leadership.  Was the administration of the past two terms satisfactory?  If so, then I am concerned about the population of this country who follow blindly, and I am equally concerned that a growing number of citizens are being spoon-fed their opinions from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck.  The President is not forcing anyone to watch his address at school, any more than citizens are forced to watch an address at home.

Are students compelled to watch; are they a captive audience?  Perhaps. Still, the Obama administration is making the speech available prior to the address for families to preview in advance. Doing so gives families the opportunity to discuss the speech and decide how the message relates to their values and beliefs. Damage control, for lack of a better term, may be initiated before the address. Making the speech available prior to the address also is a show of good intention by the administration, a gesture that seems intended to alleviate concerns that some socialist plot to brainwash our children is not happening without our knowledge.

Can we take the President at face value? I think we should try. Can we, for a moment, put our politics and biases aside, and imagine that a father of two daughters with the ability to positively affect the lives of all children might avail himself the opportunity? To those who would choose to raise hell over this one moment in time, please get a grip and get over yourselves. With the unemployment rate just shy of 10% and an economy knee-deep in recession, with a poverty rate at about 12% (according to 2007 statistics), and with over 15% of our population without health insurance coverage, our country is challenged with issues that affect us all far more than words of inspiration from of a man trying to put a positive spin on the future for our children.

Love It or Leave It

For whatever the reason, we the people have been negligent in upholding our end of the Constitution. We have a right – and a duty – to speak out. When we become fearful of doing so, we need to take a long look at our leaders and how they govern. We need to reestablish jurisdiction over our elected officials.

by David T. Bruce

dissent_fb_picThe American Revolution resulted from the efforts of the British government to subject the colonists to taxes and commerce polices that would help the government pay for the costs associated with the funding of the French and Indian War. These taxes and policies were an attempt to raise revenue by taxing colonists for such items as legal documents and tea. When the colonists objected, boycotted and revolted, the British government sought to take away the rights and privileges once afforded to the colonists. The two sides went to war. The colonists had the fortitude to say what the government was doing was wrong, and following a yearlong struggle, the colonists sent the British home. The United States was born of these events.

Comparable to many countries in the world, we have prospered as a nation. The United States has the largest economy and one of the highest incomes per capita. Compared to other nations, we lag behind in terms of health care with the highest obesity rate in the world and a mortality rate that does not even rank in the top 20.

During the Bush/Cheney administration, our nation became one that condoned torture, wire-tapping, and racial profiling. Were we to ask for a show of hands from individuals to determine who would support the aforementioned behaviors, few would do so. However, by our show of apathy, almost all of us are guilty as charged. As citizens, we have watched while justifications for war were concocted; we have silently stood witness as unemployment and inflation have increased at the same time as the salaries of government officials and corporate CEOs did the same.

Those that dared to speak out against improprieties at the beginning of the Bush/Cheney administration were often labeled unpatriotic. Those who disagreed with the wars in the Middle East were told love our country or leave it. What has changed in more than 225 years? Where is our outrage over a government that systematically chips away at the freedoms the original colonists fought to secure?

The colonists loved their new home; they fought and died to acquire the rights we now enjoy, rights that we seldom take advantage of for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. To stand up for the rights of an individual is to be patriotic. To bring attention to behaviors of government officials that go beyond the boundaries established by the Constitution is patriotic. We – the people – govern, and while anarchy is not desired, we, as citizens, have every right to defend our rights from those who might impede them, whether the perpetrators are foreign or domestic.

During the 2008 election year, many Americans spoke out against the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration by electing Barack Obama. As poignant and noteworthy this national epiphany was, a measure of frustration remains in that we, as a collective group, did not voice our opinions sooner. Some of us may have indeed been fearful. Others may have believed they had no choice. Still others may have looked the other way, lost in their day-to-day routines. For whatever the reason, we the people have been negligent in upholding our end of the Constitution. We have a right – and a duty – to speak out. When we become fearful of doing so, we need to take a long look at our leaders and how they govern. We need to reestablish jurisdiction over our elected officials.

Physical attacks – a literal revolution on the scale of the American Revolution – are certainly not the answer. Yet like those colonists willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believed was wrong, we must be able to sacrifice a part of us (whether that be a lifestyle change, time, or money) to change what we believe is wrong. We cannot continue to watch our government make ludicrous, expensive decisions on our behalf and then beg forgiveness and ask for our vote later. For the love of our country, we must speak out.

To love our country does not mean that we should follow our leaders as the country loses respect around the world. To love our country does not mean that we should remain silent as the government and business leaders of our country lead us to financial ruin. We must practice tough love. We should not have to leave because we disagree. We should hold our leaders accountable, make them pay for their choices, and send them packing when they don’t do their jobs.