Monday, October 28, 2013

Three stories, one point. American traditions under attack, but fighting back!

Today, I've got three stories for you.  One is totally nuts, one is crazy in a good way, and one has elements of both, plus makes a point.

The first is about the preacher of a church in North Carolina.  A perfect example of crazy.
Marc Grizzard, of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina, says that the first King James translation of the Bible is the only true declaration of God’s word, and that all others are “satanic”.
Not only is he crazy, but he is ignorant, too.
 The New Revised Version Bible, the American Standard Version Bible, and even the New King James Version are all pronounced to be works of the Devil by Pastor Grizzard and his followers. 
Pastor Grizzard said: “I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people. 
“We are burning books that we believe to be Satanic.”
 He is ignorant, because it is well known by biblical scholars - even the apologetic ones - that the King James version he likes so much is acknowledged to be the absolute worst translation of the bible ever.  If your objective is to know what the original authors of the books of the bible wrote and meant, it should be the last translation you'd want to pick up.

Oh, and the book burning part is pure idiocy.  Grandstanding at its worst.  This is pure ideology, not theology.

Second, a pastor in Mississippi, Dr Michael Minor, embarked on a personal odyssey to improve the health of his congregants after coming to his church (in 1996) and finding an epidemic of obesity so bad he was burying them at the rate of one a week!  His latest effort?  Pushing ObamaCare.
He has had marked success. "You can see the difference. People are much better sized, way better. And once they get it off, they want to keep it off," he said. 
Now he is taking on the much bigger task of trying to get the state's nearly 275,000 uninsured people to sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 
With technology problems dogging enrollment on Obamacare health insurance exchanges, the roles of people like Minor are becoming increasingly crucial in determining the success or failure of President Barack Obama's healthcare law. 
His church is one of only two organizations in the state to get a federal "navigator" grant to help the state's uninsured sign up for policies provided through Obamacare.
Go read the article about him, it is a wonderful example of someone who truly cares, and puts his preaching into practice.

His understanding of his holy book is diametrically opposed to the idiot in North Carolina.  It is also opposed to the understanding of the bible of a women who runs a homeless kitchen in South Carolina you may have heard of.

This third story is about a humanist group in South Carolina who offered to assist at a homeless soup kitchen in Spartenburg.  They were rebuffed rather sharply.
… Landrum, executive director of the Soup Kitchen, told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a “disservice to this community.”“This is a ministry to serve God” she said. “We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don’t know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don’t give any money. I wouldn’t want their money.“
It seems to me that it is that director who doesn't know what atheists are!  How did the group respond?
Despite the setback, the atheists pulled through for the people they were trying to help. On Saturday, they gave away over 300 care packages to the homeless, each package costing about $15 and including things like gloves, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, lip balm, snacks, etc.
They didn't get nasty, they didn't call names. they set up across the street to take advantage of the homeless gathered at the soup kitchen to provide further help.

The best part of this story, and why you should go to this link to read the whole thing, is that another soup kitchen, run by a different church group, has asked the humanist group to come assist at their facility!
“[the Greer Soup Kitchen] even wrote to us during the recent media frenzy to tell us how much they look forward to us coming.”
It seems that the media attention attracted the other group's attention, and they decided that the first was just doing it wrong.

I have a point to make about this.

The driving divider in all this is obviously people's differing interpretations of the christian bible.  Some see it this way, some see it that.  Some groups hate gays, others welcome them as just another christian.  Some will accept help without condition, others only think christians can meet the test.  Some folks see ObamaCare as another way to provide healthcare to the needy while others just see the needy as moochers.

While the godless are busy shattering people's ideas of what it is to be godless.  One CAN be good without the assistance of a deity.

Is that my point?  No.

My point is that without the divisions of differing interpretations of the bible, it would be easier to come together to solve this country's problems.  For over forty years, the conservatives (allied with the religious right) have dragged their feet, fighting every attempt by the left to weave a safety net for the needy of this country.  Today, more and more people are coming to see how the obscene amount of money we spend on the military could, all by itself, turn the problems of the poor in this country around and probably end poverty once and for all.

But we just can't overcome the opposition to it engendered by the propaganda pushed by the right wing, often spread in churches, large and small.  Lies about who the "moochers" are on welfare.  Lies about contraceptives and abortion.  Lies about health care.

Lies about Obama and his health care law.

It IS encouraging to see people like Dr. Minor who are willing to put ideology aside and do good for the sake of doing good.  It IS good to see the Greer Soup Kitchen step in and offer a place for the humanist group to assist in spite of their differing religious beliefs - to see them recognize that doing good is an end in itself, and not just an expression of religious belief.

That kind of changing attitude is going to make things better in this country, IF we can see more people put religious differences aside and come together as Americans.

As Americans.

As Americans, we have a system that was designed to allow differing religions and traditions to live side by side with a minimum of strife.  On the whole, it has worked remarkably well.  So well, religion has thrived here, without the artificial restraints other countries have put on its practice.

People from other countries with a history and tradition of animosity towards other ethnic groups or religious groups come to this country and often live side by side with their former enemies - peacefully!  That animosity becomes less of a necessity here, where religious freedom is itself a tradition and a way of life.

But our own tradition is under attack.  The right wing extremists in this country, led by the Dominionists, are trying to change people's ideas of history, trying to re-write that history to make it seem as if this has always been a christian country.  Their goal is to turn us into a theocracy, where only their brand of god worship is acceptable.

It doesn't need to happen that way.  We need to fight that attitude, and spread the ideals of tolerance and progressivism.

Whether you are a believer or not.


Melissa said...

Robert what a succinct and perfect observation in your sentence "This is pure ideology, not theology."
I enjoyed reading this article and will follow up with the links later.
Thank you.

Robert Ahrens said...

Thanks for the comment!