Tag Archives: liberal

Is This “Freedom of Speech”?

These are a few of the crude boxes we are sorted into by our society and culture, or by ourselves. The problem with boxes is that they block what we could learn from others.

Not long ago I ran across a children’s book that belonged to my mother when she was a little girl in the 1920s. Merely mentioning the title of the book would be considered racist and offensive today, but it was about little black children. I loved it when I was little—too young to see what some would see in it now.

The little children in that book were a lot like me. They liked the same things I did, got into trouble for the same things I did, were scared of the same things that scared me. I thought I would enjoy playing with them. Of course I could see that their skin was not the same color as mine, but why should that make any difference?

As a little boy, I also had a colorful storybook called Little Black Sambo. The title character was dressed like a young Indian prince and obviously lived in a place where one might encounter tigers. I thought the way he outwitted those tigers was pretty darned clever. I was afraid of tigers—an older cousin had tricked me into believing a tiger might be lurking in the dark in our attic—so I hoped I might be just as brave if I ever met a tiger.

There were few African-Americans around me in the area of South Texas where I grew up, but there were many Latinos. When I had opportunities to play with other children, it didn’t occur to me to think of the color of their skin or their way of speaking English or their family background. Why should that matter?

But something happened to all of us on the way to growing up.

I am reminded of a song sung by the character of Lieutenant Cable in the movie South Pacific: “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” The song tells us that we are not born with prejudices, but we learn them from people who are influential in our lives.

As a person of faith, I believe that prejudice is not natural to our spirits—that in spiritual terms it is an aberration. Why should one child of God distrust or dislike another because of something so superficial as skin color? Prejudice and bigotry are worldly, mortal concepts taught and instilled by people who let fear and hate dwell in their hearts.

But we live in a world where hate and fear are strong, and they have created a social atmosphere in which words are weaponized. More and more, government and special interest organizations focus on the differences between us, convincing us that the differences are more important than the similarities we all share. Efforts to remove barriers somehow seem to drive us farther apart.

For some people, the differences between us have become insurmountable obstacles that prevent open discussion of the things we have in common. In many instances, extremists on both ends of the spectrum of opinion control the debate, and they seem more interested in living behind walls than in an open world. 

As an old white man and a person of faith, I feel that in today’s world I might not be permitted to have a dialogue with someone of another race or gender orientation without first agreeing that they are right and I am wrong; I would be required to accept the idea that I am a member of an oppressor group and my religious views are simply the product of prejudice. The choice seems clear: give up my own heritage and my faith if I want to have any common cause with them.

And yet, as a lifelong believer in “justice for all” and “one nation, under God . . . indivisible,” I find it hard to discuss some issues with fellow conservatives. Any talk of breaking down barriers between us and others who see things differently is dismissed with the “woke” label.

I am reluctant to express my feelings openly on social media for fear of reprisal. Some liberal thinkers have said this response is a cop-out, a refusal to face the issues. No, it isn’t. I mean it. I’m afraid. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has paid a high price for expressing views that differ with others on transgender issues; she has been labeled a hater, verbally attacked, and threatened with rape or murder. She has been villainized for writing of her own experiences as a woman. I realize some will not agree with her opinions, but I have not been able to find any hate in them.

Briefly, I opened a Twitter account, hoping to engage in dialogue on important issues. What I found on that platform was hate, anger, bigotry, and a lot of misinformation that people clung to because it affirmed their biases. Civil discussion on social media seems almost nonexistent.

I don’t know if there’s any way to achieve this given our current social climate, but I long for a day when we might actually talk about public issues with each other as reasonable individuals without retreating behind our shields of self-identification and keeping one hand on our ideological swords or spears. 

Whatever our color, ethnic background, commitment to faith (or lack of it), we are family. Why should we be at war with one another?

How Mad Are You–‘Hell Fire’ Mad?


Protesters 3Ag17_01717BRecently, I had a call from someone I love and respect, someone I have not talked to in two or three years. I wondered if we would be able to talk congenially. I have recently responded to some of that person’s strongly worded posts on social media with an opposing political viewpoint.

But we had a fine conversation, expressed our love for each other, and said we really should do this more often. I was grateful it went that way.

These are times of tension, turmoil, and heated commentary about what is happening in our nation’s government and what elected leaders are doing. I have my own strong feelings about developments in Washington that could do long-term damage to the United States.

But there is another national problem that concerns me even more, and so I am doing something I have tried to avoid in this blog. I am repeating a theme I touched on a short time ago: the corrosive nature of hate and anger.

Some who are heavily committed to supporting one party or another seem unable to treat people who disagree with them as human beings—as other children of God. They dehumanize people they see as opponents, and this makes it easy to hate.

Most often this dehumanization begins with labeling: “fuzzy minded liberal,” “hide-bound conservative,” “left-wing do-gooder” “right-wing bigot,” “pious hypocrite,” or “[insert religious affiliation] terrorist.” That individual who disagrees with us may be a loving parent, may do a lot of good in the community, may be a very incisive thinker. But if we give them a pejorative label, it’s easier to tell ourselves they deserve some cruel fate—public humiliation, tragedy, or even death.

These days, it might be good for many of us to review “The War prayer,” in which Mark Twain reminds Christians that wishing evil on our enemies is not a Christlike attitude.

The Master Himself warned us against contention in which we seek to condemn those who disagree with us: “. . . I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: . . . but whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22)

Are you in danger of hell fire?

Here are some questions that might help each of us determine whether our political thoughts could be putting us in moral danger. (And I write this knowing that I need to face need these as much as anyone else.)

Do you find yourself wishing that certain politicians of the opposing party could be publicly humiliated, punished, or socially annihilated?

Of course, you would never do anything to them, but would you be secretly pleased if something happened to shut them up?

Do you find opportunities to post cutting or critical things about others on social media? If you actually met them in person—if you sat down across a table from them to share bread—would you say those same things to that person’s face?

The man with the megaphone pictured here was a protester who showed up regularly at a large Church-sponsored religious pageant to protest. We called him “the Screamer.” He stood across the street and screamed vile and vulgar insults at church members attending the event. Much of what he said was lies, all of it intended to provoke contention. He wanted nothing more than to have someone confront or perhaps attack him, because then he could claim to be the wounded party. “See? See what they’re doing?”

In political terms, are you playing the Screamer?

It’s easy to tell yourself, “Oh, I don’t really hate them. I just hate the things they do and say.” If that’s true, then how would you explain those feelings of hoping something bad might happen to keep them quiet?

Would Jesus Christ, or the great law-giver Moses, or Mohammed—or whoever you respect as your ruling moral authority—speak of people in the same way you think of them?

I believe that modern science bears out the danger of carrying around feelings of anger and contention inside us all the time. Maybe that is one reason Jesus Christ warned us about being angry at our fellow beings. If we spend too much of our lives being angry, we will create a little bit of hell for ourselves here on earth, and we will waste time we could have used to prepare for heaven.


Do You Feel Qualified to Cast a Stone?

They came at Jesus, that devious group of scribes and Pharisees, with a challenge: Moses taught that we should stone this woman for adultery. What do you say? (John 8:3-11.)

Jealous of his influence among the people, and fearing the loss of their power to govern, they tried to use the law of Moses in their scriptures to entrap Him. They hoped Jesus would say something that would let them accuse Him of sin against their law.

Hand holding large stone

Are we constantly carrying stones with us, ready to attack those who do not think as we do?

But they reckoned without His wisdom and inspiration. Instead of giving them a “yea” or “nay” decision, Jesus offered them a challenge: Were they completely free of sin? He forced them to examine themselves. “He that is without sin . . . let him first cast a stone.”

There is real spiritual and ethical danger in mixing scripture with politics. Holy scripture is a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways. Those who use it to try to condemn their political opponents usually end up wounding themselves.

Are you as weary and dismayed as I am at the mixing of scripture and theology into our current political contention?

How do people who claim to believe in principles of righteousness justify citing the holy scriptures to condemn opponents to hell?

Lately I have seen the scriptures used liberally to condemn those who oppose President Trump. I have seen people who claim to be religious post vulgar and obscene things about his opponents. Some of them attacked Nancy Pelosi for mentioning her faith and prayers for the president, calling it hypocrisy.

Didn’t the Master warn us about judging? (Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:35-37.) He cautioned us about the hypocrisy in judging the faults of others when we are ignoring our own. (Matthew 7:5.) Didn’t the God of the Old Testament teach us that only He is capable of judging by looking on the heart of people? (1 Samuel 16:7.) How dare anyone else judge the sincerity of Mrs. Pelosi’s prayers?

I have prayed for every president in my lifetime, but I have prayed for this one more because we live in ever more perilous times, and God is the only One I trust to warn us unerringly about what is ahead. Moreover, some of the president’s public behaviors which everyone acknowledges—his divisiveness, his nasty and very personal attacks on people he sees as foes—make it harder for him to govern and unite the country. I have prayed that he will try to find ways to unite us instead of playing to the voters who are his power base and pitting them against other Americans.

I am not suggesting that there is flawed judgment only on one side. Surveys and studies I have seen suggest that those who are politically liberal are less likely to identify themselves with a particular religious organization. (Note carefully that this does not say they are less moral or less charitable than other people.) It is my observation that when people who are politically liberal judge others, it is most often justified in terms of social order or obligation. Thus some of them may conclude that people of faith are simply uneducated or backward, and we must give up our faith-based beliefs on issues of abortion or marriage or gender. If we insist that we are trying to live by the word of God as we understand it, we are just being intransigent, and they will gladly use the courts and law to impose their will on us.

There is error on both sides here. People at both ends or the political spectrum seem unwilling to let others exercise freedom of thought if this leads to decisions that do not agree with theirs. Some seem to walk daily with stones in hand ready to attack those who dare to act in ways they do not approve. This seems to depend more on the individual’s personality than on choice of religious allegiance. We see this anger and divisiveness in politicians of every faith, and in their most rabid followers.

As I write this, it is Christmas Eve. I cannot reconcile in my mind sending out cards that say “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 3:14), and afterward using the words of the Son of God as moral and intellectual cudgels to beat His children who do not think and behave as we wish.

My prayer is for people who are healers, who will put down their stones and find ways to work with others even when we do not accept all their beliefs.


Dilemma of a Conservative Voter

My official vote-by-mail ballot came today, and now I will be forced to commit to a choice for president. Tonight I am still not sure who will get my vote.

But I am absolutely certain who will not.

Hillary Clinton provokes, first and foremost in my mind, skepticism. For decades she and her husband have behaved as though the rules that apply to ordinary mortals do not apply to them. She has been politically opportunistic, willing to say all the right things that will win votes. Like many liberal politicians, she seems to believe that the solution to every social problem is more government. Her proposed solutions to some problems may sound good in principle, but they’re too fuzzy on specifics. Yes, for example, every citizen should enjoy the same civil rights. But for some citizens, deeply held moral beliefs come into conflict with governmental solutions, as in the case of same-sex marriage. Who will protect the civil rights of those of us whose deeply held beliefs and faith make it impossible to accept what is currently “correct” social thinking? Does Mrs. Clinton simply say, “Tough luck, abandon your faith and fall into line”? And yes, it’s obvious that we have a problem in this country with guns getting into the wrong hands. But just who is going to decide which of us gets to exercise the constitutional right to own weapons for hunting or self-defense, and what type of weapons?

For me, Mrs. Clinton represents those who believe that individual liberty must give way to the common good—the common good, that is, as they in their more enlightened thinking happen to see it. This is suppression of freedom of thought by legal pressure. Voting for her would be troubling.

But voting for Donald Trump would be frightening—absolutely unthinkable. I have been observing or voting in U.S. elections since Eisenhower versus Stevenson in 1956. In all of those years, Donald Trump is the least effective, most unstable, most dangerous presidential candidate I have seen.

Much is being made of the behind-the-scenes revelations in the leaked emails from the Democratic campaign. These offer maddening evidence of political machinations. And yet—few people seem concerned that this information was stolen to be used by outsiders who would like to influence our national election. There seems to be solid evidence that it was stolen and is being leaked by Russian hackers. Vladimir Putin denies any knowledge (wink, wink), but insists that Americans just need to look at all that evidence against Mrs. Clinton. Just look! And now, one of Putin’s key supporters in Russia is making threatening noises about the possibility of nuclear war if Americans don’t elect Donald Trump. I just can’t bring myself to vote for the candidate favored by Moscow.

Bill Clinton’s shameless infidelity in the White House is raised as a criticism of Hillary. I have heard no good explanation as to how she somehow “enabled” him. In my mind, his betrayals of trust 20 years ago—not only betrayals of his wife, but also of the American people—make him the second most dishonest president I have ever seen, after Richard Nixon. And it’s likely that Mrs. Clinton took out some of her anger on the other women involved. But how does Bill Clinton’s guilt give Donald Trump a pass on his disgusting moral behavior? We have Trump’s own words and actions to show us how he feels about and treats women. His wrongs to his spouses are on the public record. He says his situation is different because he wasn’t in the White House at the time. Seriously? He says it was just “locker room” talk. Well, I remember hearing some of that in the locker room among a few of the guys back when I was in junior high—but not among mature men. And why do the words of Bill Clinton’s accusers seem to carry weight with some people but not the words of Donald Trump’s current accusers? Any man who treats women as Trump has and does should face the penalties of law, not be elected to enforce the law from the Oval Office. Obviously, he feels his wealth gives him power to do to others whatever he wants.

Hillary Clinton blamed her husband’s troubles years ago on some vast right-wing conspiracy. Today, Donald Trump blames his troubles on some press conspiracy with the Clintons. The master manipulator who knows how to grab headlines every day with some fresh controversy whines when the press does not write what he wants. He has tried to bar news organizations or reporters he does not like from events that need to be reported. However flawed and erratic our communications media might be, they’re the best we have as citizens to keep us informed about what our government is doing. But Trump would like to control what the media are allowed to tell us. That is a common tactic in dictatorships. Moreover, Mr. Trump has said that he would stop or limit acceptance of some immigrants into the U.S. because of their religion. If he can use the power of government to target one religion, he can target any other. Donald Trump is the very reason that the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment into the Constitution, with its protection of the freedoms of religion and of the press.

His facile characterization of Mexican immigrants is simplistic and ignorant, and his stubborn insistence on a border wall is ridiculous. I grew up largely in South Texas and went to high school about 10 miles from Mexico. The wall is an idea that would never work. Its most likely result would be to create new jobs—for the skilled tunnel builders on the south side of the Rio Grande. Immigration is a vexing, complex problem that needs a cooperative solution, but Mr. Trump does not seem capable of complex philosophical thought.

He mocks people for their looks and physical disabilities. (As someone born with a very visible defect, I take that a bit personally.) He continues to deny saying certain embarrassing things even in the face of printed reports and audio or video clips that prove otherwise. His wealth depends largely on marketing his name—his brand. How is that supposed to produce jobs? He offers little concrete information to back up his promises. He still dodges questions by pointing fingers at his opponent and his opponent’s husband. Just once I’d like to hear a detailed answer. He has refused to renounce violence by his supporters, and now some have floated dangerous talk of revolution if he is not elected.

No. No! This is not a man who can represent the country I love as it deserves to be represented.

If not Hillary or Donald, then who?

The Libertarian candidate does not seem to have a grasp of world affairs. The Green party seems focused only on certain issues, and not the full range of challenges that face our nation. In my own state, latecomer Evan McMullin seems to offer an alternative congenial to my beliefs. But at this point can he have any impact in the national election?

Sometimes I ask myself, “Where are the statesmen and stateswomen we deserve in public office?” And the answer that comes is frightening: Maybe these are the candidates we deserve. Maybe we are asking government to serve our individual or group self-interests to such an extent that the only people who will step up are those willing to promise anything and do whatever is necessary to assure their own aggrandizement.

I am not a follower of conservative television personality and writer Glenn Beck, but in opposing Donald Trump, he said recently that if Hillary is elected, she can at least be closely watched and fought in the political arena. I agree. Donald Trump, on the other hand—and this is my own opinion—is the petulant teenager whose tantrum in the White House could do significant damage to the republic and to national security before anyone could stop him.

This is a painful choice, but for the first time in more than 50 years of marking a ballot, I cannot bring myself to vote for the Republican candidate for president. I have to look elsewhere.