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Believing Christians should look upon themselves as such a creative minority and ... espouse once again the best of its heritage, thereby being at the service of humankind at large.
Contributing column by Bob Shepherd
Bob Shepherd: GUEST COLUMNIST
Posted : April 18, 2010 at midnight
The Barry Hazle case is national news, and the Record Searchlight outspokenly defends Hazle against the law enforcement and the judge (our local court) for their heavy-handed treatment of the lonely individual. Your editorializing paints Hazle almost as a victim of police-state sternness, while readers are expected, it would seem, to see the judge as some medieval inquisitor. Is this in vogue these days? Our so-called enlightened age delights in attacking old beliefs, old-fashioned traditions, old-fashioned theisms, even ice cream trucks with musical melodies meandering through the neighborhoods. We are modern, and have little need for the ways of bygone eras.
But in defense of the judge and law enforcement, why should we undercut programs, like these faith-based "twelve step" or self-help programs that, for some reason, actually work? Maybe we should all ask ourselves why it is that these programs actually do change lives, if given a fighting chance? You talk about how journalists and editors love the First Amendment. Hurray. I am sure the public supports you, as did our forefathers, and theirs before them. Your liberalism has its role, an important one, defending the First Amendment. You seem like crusaders or missionaries, determined to protect poor victims of the probation system and the local courts. Good for you. Hazle sounds like most of us, an OK guy (but who didn't give his Empire recovery program much of a chance). Too bad his addiction apparently got him in trouble in the first place. Every one of us, as human beings, struggle with life and its issues. (So do we blame the police and judge and "conservative" law-makers for that, too?) Whose fault is it for the messes we wind up in?
But these supposedly old-fashioned and faith-based programs are doing good, also. Maybe you should ask why they work. Why do they help some people, and have high rates of success? Why did President George W. Bush initiate a broad cooperation with faith-based programs, outreaches, and religious philanthropic "bootstrap" enterprises? Then why did President Barack Obama not only reiterate and endorse the vision of his predecessor, but substantially increase and expand it, practically doubling the faith-based cooperation? Why?
America, rightly or wrongly, is a very religious nation. It has been said that we were the first secular republic in history, as if that is a good thing. Personally, I am certain it is. But even our deist Founders were convinced of the important role of the churches. Ben Franklin was no fundamentalist, not by a long shot. But he enthusiastically applauded the positive effects of the revivalism of colonial-era evangelists of his day. George Washington was a vehement supporter of religious liberties, yet he also firmly endorsed the importance of the role of Christian (and other) faith in America.
On the other hand, Martin Luther King was a fundamentalist, an out-and-out Christian, a Bible-believing moralist and a quote-unquote do-gooder, yet everyone who knew him praised his personal spirit of tolerance and compassion and a wonderful sensitivity and openness to interreligious understanding and brotherhood among differing faiths. Also, in my opinion, he showed respect toward atheists.
If every faith-based program has to shut down, or has to deny who they are, be ashamed of the private Christians (or other believers) who donate the vast proportion of their funds, can you imagine how much outreach and philanthropy will shrivel up in this nation, and globally?
A deceased mystic who lived in Redding, Paul Hourihan, wrote a wonderful biography of the founder of Twelve Step (AA) programs, Bill Wilson. (Vedantic Shores Press, Redding) It is titled "A Strange Salvation." Is it coercion when someone makes up his mind he needs help, even if it comes from a "power" there is no rational explanation for? Doctors perform "miracles" and as a patient I sometimes simply trust. I put myself into their hands. I go with the flow, so to speak.
There is a saying that the three most coercive institutions in the history of mankind have been government, religion, and parenthood. There is a lot of truth there. Therapists say that the highest proportion of memory healings have to do with the bad parenting we all received. Conversely, the healthiest people are the ones who had good parents. And then people like Bill W. come along and say, attitude is everything. As long as you have someone to blame (like courts and probation departments), you never have to take responsibility yourself. "I had no choice over my parents, or my mother country, or my mother tongue. Someone is violating my constitutional rights." So where does "poor me" end, and personal responsibility begin?
Does it sound like I think Hazle should simply have "gone along" with the program, obeyed the law, played by the rules? Why not make exceptions for the type of individualist who (in the bad old days) people called a scofflaw, a rebel. "My mean mother forced me to go to school."
Listen, I support separation of church and state as much as the next guy. No one wants to turn back the clock to the days of inquisitions, a single official church, crusades, witch-burnings, lynchings, and the like. I just don't think that is the issue here. It's hard enough being a judge or cop, endeavoring to give a little encouragement to the large majority who do play by the rules, and try to go along with the lot that "fate" (or the government, or their parents, or God) has handed them.
What if accepting personal responsibility really does work, and is not just some mystic conspiracy, or Buddhist mysticism, or Eastern - or Jewish - philosophy? What if they really were on to something?
New Book on my reading list. John DiIulio's Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future
Theoretically, much of it sounds plausible. (How can it hurt?) DiIulio (a Republican) foresees: "More religion, less Juvenile crime: the case for faith, not prison, to prevent youth crime." [related]
President John F. Kennedy exhorts: We cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
We need our values still
God is our Refuge and Strength
I happen to think that Democrats like Barack Obama as well as Oprah, and a substantial number of others, particularly with a black church heritage, are right to try to lead us back to the gospel roots in this country. Why should the Republicans be the only once to invoke biblical authority for themselves. It was a moral message that Dr. King used when he called on his followers, for one brief shining moment, to be BETTER than America, and thereby he ultimately called America back to her highest ideals, without in any way disparaging the great principle of religious freedom. We each must look inside for the deeper wellsprings of our spirituality, and seek again within the ethics of the ancient paths.
[See importance of faith]
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