Category: politics

religion and freedom

September 28th, 2009 — 5:33pm

I don’t understand people who claim that our country is falling apart because we don’t have religious freedom anymore. “Our children don’t pray in school.” “Our children aren’t being taught about God.” I’m sorry, but if your children aren’t praying in school, it’s because they’re making their own choice not to. If your children aren’t being taught about God, it’s because you aren’t teaching them. School is not the place for mandated prayer time, and it’s not the place for catechism.

What is this notion that prayer has been brutally stripped from the classroom?

No child gets punished for taking a moment to bow her head and say a prayer in the lunch room before she eats. No child gets arrested for saying a prayer at his desk before he takes his spelling test. That’s why I don’t understand this claim that prayer isn’t in the schools anymore. What do these people want? They want their child’s calculus teacher to start the lesson with a prayer? They want the teacher to force the children to kneel down and pray together at the end of the day? What about people of different religions? Should we ship them away? Segregate our schools by religion? I don’t get it.

And what is this notion that kids aren’t allowed to be taught about God? That we don’t talk about religion and its role in history?

I just was flipping through the news channels and stopped on Glenn Beck’s show. I usually avoid this show, but I was so fascinated with the people speaking that I couldn’t change the channel. It was some kind of “mother’s forum” where the audience members were airing their grievances. Many were complaining about how their children don’t learn history anymore, so they’re losing their identities. Er, when was the last time these people sat through their children’s classes? Because I just sat through a 5th grade class last Thursday as a volunteer, and the whole time I was there they were learning about history. George Washington. This nation’s founding. It was pretty clearly a history lesson to me.

The people on this show were saying that their children weren’t being taught about how important religion was in the establishment of this land. Er, I’m pretty sure if you ask any mildly attentive high schooler why the pilgrims came to the Americas, they would tell you that they were seeking “religious freedom.” If you asked them if the founding fathers were religious, they would know that they most definitely were. In my own history classes, we discussed many different religions’ basic beliefs. We learned about who founded what, when, and why. We had a unit where everyone did a presentation on a different early-American religious group. As an eleventh grader, I taught a whole lesson about Joseph Smith. I didn’t get sent to jail. Neither did anyone else who taught about other religions, however unique or unconventional (or mainstream) they were.

This is what religious freedom is. We don’t impose our beliefs on others. We create an atmosphere where it’s safe to learn about all kinds of people and faiths. We don’t force anyone to adopt any behavior they don’t approve of. Children are allowed to pray in schools, but they aren’t forced to. We don’t hang the Ten Commandment’s from the ceiling, but we don’t punish people for keeping them in their hearts.

We live our religious beliefs within ourselves… it’s the way we act, the ideals we hold inside, the way we treat others, the way we choose to worship in our free time. We don’t need the government or our schools to enforce our own personal religious codes. We simply create a space where everyone can practice their beliefs “how, where, or what they may.” If you feel very strongly that a more personal view of religion and God needs to be infused with your child’s schooling, then more power to you. That’s why this country allows you to home school your child, to send your child to a private school, or even to start up your own charter school. We all have options. That’s what’s so great. We all are free to choose, regardless of whether we’re Muslim, Catholic, Jain, Mormon, or atheist.

The people on this Glenn Beck show were saying that they’re tired of the government trying to make us dependent on it for everything. Then why are they so insistent that the government enforce religion? It seems to me religion is a personal issue, taught in your home, fostered in your heart, and practiced on an individual level. I don’t understand its place in public schools beyond the scope of informing our children about the different belief systems that exist in our society.

One last thing and then I’ll cap it. The people on that show were also saying that we don’t live a free country anymore. They said that “we’re only partly free,” and one woman—a black woman, no less—asserted that after the fifties, everything began to fall apart. So I guess that granting civil rights to blacks and suffrage to women were all steps backwards in extending freedom to our citizens?

I think that their assertion that we’re not quite free wedged itself so deeply under my skin largely because of the movie I watched last night.  Bryant and I watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a World War Two movie about a death camp, and it was still very fresh in my mind.  I think I got so annoyed at the people on that show because I felt like they weren’t taking seriously what they were saying. They’re not free? Really? Not being free is not being able to voice your opinion for fear of serious repercussions, like the torture and murder of you and your family. Not being free is having to hide who you are—your heritage and your beliefs—because if people knew the truth, you would be ripped from your home and sent to a gas chamber. Not being free is not being able to help a stranger in need without being beaten to death by the authorities. Not being free is having to agree with the government no matter what.

Not being free is definitely not a Mormon hosting his own talk show on a cable network in a room full of women passionately voicing their disapproval of the President, his administration, and various aspects of our nation. That is freedom. It may bug the crap out of me, but it most definitely is freedom. And I’ll take it.

9 comments » | if i ruled the world, politics, what i watch, what's inside

the pushy, opinionated, loud version of myself

May 5th, 2009 — 11:51am

I used to be really opinionated about a lot of things. Okay, I’m still really opinionated about a lot of things. I guess what I mean is that I used to be really loudly opinionated about a lot of things. I learned the hard, slow way that being like that only closes doors for myself. So while I am still very opinionated, I do think I’ve gotten better at being congenial even in situations where I couldn’t possibly disagree more with the person speaking. I certainly have gotten better at holding my tongue with new people or in situations where it’s clear that the other party isn’t interested in a debate. Alright, so I’m still not perfect, but you have to give it to me that I’ve improved.

However, tonight I startled myself. I was out to dinner with a group of adults (meaning people a generation older than myself). We had only just met. Throughout the night, they had made a number of passing comments that made their political views clear, and they weren’t quite the same as mine. But that was cool; I never felt the need to pipe up about it. We were all having a really good time, joking around with each other, enjoying a tasty meal.

Then as we were finishing dessert, someone started in on a political topic. I didn’t even notice it was happening: all of the sudden words of disagreement were involuntarily falling out of my mouth. I was actually quite mild at first, but as their comments continued, it was as if my engine kicked into high gear in a matter of seconds. It wasn’t even until I heard my voice get louder that I realized I was on the verge of unleashing Pushy, Opinionated, Loud, I-Don’t-Care-If-We-Just-Met-I-Still-Think-You’re-Being-Dumb Kelly. That’s a side of myself that has been locked away for a considerable amount of time. I shocked myself, laughed, and said, “Oh man, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t be talking about this.” We changed the subject with minimal awkwardness and continued on our merry way. I felt a little bad, but thankfully no one’s feathers seemed very ruffled.

Upon reflection, I find it alarming that I could get all riled up like that without consciously allowing myself to do it. Especially among a group of older folks whom I had only just met. It was as if I temporarily morphed back into my personality from sophomore year of college. (Yikes!) Thankfully it was only VERY temporary.

But I have to admit—and here I think is the point of my post—as shocked as I was about my temporary lapse in diplomacy, in a strange and almost refreshing way, it is kind of nice to know that the uncontrollably passionate side of me still exists… even though she’s been locked away all this time. …Is that bad?

1 comment » | politics, quirks, what's inside

forty-fourth, and first

January 20th, 2009 — 10:37pm

Let’s hear it for good speeches that get me hopeful and excited for the future of our country. The pundits can say what they will about President Obama’s inaugural address, but as for me, I loved it.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.  We are the keepers of this legacy.

So? I’m an idealist. I like speeches that promise integrity, temperance, and tenacity. I like to believe that President Obama speaks with complete earnestness when he says, “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.” I think he’s telling the truth. Or… at least I have high hopes that he is.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

I can’t deny that there’s definitely a cynical vein that runs through me. I understand the tendency towards cynicism. It’s true that politicians—yes, even our sparkling new president—will make mistakes and may likely break some promises. But I’ve decided recently that this elevating feeling of hope is far more productive than cynicism, even if the cynics ARE right some of the time, even if I am left disappointed in those moments. I’ve decided to not base my hope in faulty humans, but rather in a belief that we have a greater potential that requires some shade of idealism to be realized. I think this hope is a better choice.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

So I’m sorry if this post makes you roll your eyes. At a different time, it probably would’ve made me roll my eyes too. But for now, I feel happy and hopeful. I feel grateful to be a part of this America.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.


2 comments » | hopes, politics, quotes

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