Friday, June 17, 2011

The True Meaning of Marriage

Recently, Archbishop Timothy Dalton, Archbishop of New York, recently wrote an incisive, if not provocative piece on the true meaning of marriage.  Some of you who may read this may think that the Archbishop and the Catholic Church and all who believe what the Archbishop has to say in his piece are old-fashioned, politically incorrect, and bigoted.  I am sorry for that because none of those things are true.  What is true is what the Archbishop writes about in his article.  It is time for truth to win out over political and social debate.  I hope those of you who read the article below will find the Archbishop's comments insightful and thought provoking.

"The stampede is on.  Our elected senators who have stood courageous in their refusal to capitulate on the state’s presumption to redefine marriage are reporting unrelenting pressure to cave-in.
The media, mainly sympathetic to this rush to tamper with a definition as old as human reason and ordered good, reports annoyance on the part of some senators that those in defense of traditional marriage just don’t see the light, as we persist in opposing this enlightened, progressive, cause.
But, really, shouldn’t we be more upset – and worried – about this perilous presumption of the state to re-invent the very definition of an undeniable truth – one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children – that has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start?

Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea.  In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law.  There, communiqu├ęs from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.
But, please, not here!  Our country’s founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values – life, home, family, marriage, children, faith – that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence.

Please, not here!  We cherish true freedom, not as the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought; we acknowledge that not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a “right.”  And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?

Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people.  The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like.  This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human condition.  Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits:  It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children.  Please don’t vote to change that.  If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so.  This is false, it is wrong, and it defies logic and common sense.

Yes, I admit, I come at this as a believer, who, along with other citizens of a diversity of creeds believe that God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage a long time ago.  We believers worry not only about what this new intrusion will do to our common good, but also that we will be coerced to violate our deepest beliefs to accommodate the newest state decree.  (If you think this paranoia, just ask believers in Canada and England what’s going on there to justify our apprehensions.)

But I also come at this as an American citizen, who reads our formative principles as limiting government, not unleashing it to tamper with life’s most basic values."

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Culture of Arrogance

Anthony Weiner, New York congressman, came forward to announce that the charges leveled against him in the last several days that he tweeted lewd images of himself to several young women were, indeed, true.  For days, the fiery liberal congressman has denied that he did any such thing.  He went so far as to say that he was a victim in all this having been victimized by some unnamed hacker.  Weiner, while admitting his guilt in this, also said that he was not resigning his post because he had a lot of work to do.  In the course of the statement he did apologize to his wife for causing her so much pain but never once did he apologize to his constituency or the congress itself.

It would be very easy to be smug about all this but I find myself feeling sad and angry.  It is sad that one of our leaders such as Weiner, has become so arrogant that he feels he can get away with nearly everything.  His arrogance led him to bad judgment and reprehensible behavior.  I am angered that men who find themselves in positions of power such as a United States congressman can think of himself as one who can do what he wants no matter what that may be.  Here Weiner, a supposed champion of women's rights, abused women with unsolicited, unwanted obscene photos of himself to women half his age.  And he refuses to resign?

Of course, in all the arguments in the aftermath of his admission, discussion of what he did was wrong but it wasn't illegal seems to have flourished.  In other words, as long as what someone has done is not against the law, even though it is wrong in every way imaginable, that behavior is OK and there should be no consequences for those actions.

The sad thing, of course, is that Weiner is far from being alone in his actions and responses.  His actions are a symptom of politicians in general.

We live in an age of arrogance.  This was demonstrated over the weekend by Sarah Palin, someone who is the exact opposite in political philosophy from Anthony Weiner.  Ms. Palin said that Paul Revere road his famous gallop through the countryside to not only alert the colonists to the impending British invasion, but to warn the British not to do it.  What?  Really, Sarah?  History does not bare this out.  To compound the problem further, when given the opportunity to straighten her statement out, rather than admitting she was wrong, she stood her ground, insisting that Revere's famous ride was, indeed, meant to warn the British of the American resolve.  Once again, a politician has exhibited an arrogance that defies common sense.

This arrogance must stop.  The time for politicians treating their constituencies as though they didn't have any greater than a second grade education must come to an end.  It is sad that we have reached this point.  Do you really trust a man to make crucial decisions about defense questions or health care questions who would be so stupid to send these kinds of pictures to young women over the Internet?  Do you really want to give the keys to the Oval Office to a woman who refuses to admit she was wrong about a rather insignificant historical fact?

We the people...need to begin to take seriously our role in American political life.  We need to become more astute in tracking what our elected representatives are doing.  It is time for the ordinary citizen to take his or her role as the most important part of political life in America seriously.  We get what we deserve and in Anthony Weiner and Sarah Palin we certainly do not have the best!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

James Arness

On Friday, June 3, we who are members of the Baby Boom generation, lost a TV icon that many of us grew up with.  James Arness, the law in Dodge City, Kansas, known as Marshall Matt Dillon, died at age 88.  It is sad to see a passing of this sort not because I knew the man, but because of what he represented.

Gunsmoke, the series in which Marshall Dillon provided law and order, was on the air for 20 years.  It ran from 1955 through 1975.  This was just one western among many when it first aired.  Countless other westerns came and went during the course of its run, but none seemed to have the staying power or impact.

I was just a little boy when the series first debuted.  My grandfather was a huge fan and would never think of missing an episode.  Marshall Dillon, Doc, Miss Kitty, Chester, and then later, Festus, were all regular guests in our home for one hour a week.  The fondness I had and still have for the show lay in the fact that it brings back some of the fondest memories I have.  I'll never forget my grandfather settling into his favorite chair once a week to tune in to see just what Matt had to confront that week.  He'd light up his favorite cigar, cross his legs, prop his head up with his right hand and for the next hour, be transported back to the old days.  I can still smell the aroma of the cigar!

These were special moments that my grandpa and I shared.  He wasn't a big television watcher to begin with but he wouldn't ever think of missing Gunsmoke unless he absolutely had to.  I would often watch from the comfort of his lap.

Grandpa seemed to be taken with westerns and this was the best as far as he was concerned.  As a matter of fact, he used to get a tablet of paper as I sat in his lap and draw me pictures of horses and corrals.  He was anything but an artist, yet, he had a knack for drawing these animals.  They weren't sophisticated works of art and certainly would have no value as the art world determines value.  But to me, they were the most precious pictures that I ever had.  My only regret is that I do not have any of these drawings now.  However, I can still picture them in my mind.

Now James Arness never knew my grandfather and he never knew the impact that he had on a grandfather and grandson who enjoyed his work in a very special way.  Grandpa and I watched this special western and gifted cast up until the time of grandpa's death in 1964.  I am sure that there are millions of others who can remember similar memories because of this remarkable show.  Today, because of our technology, I am still able to enjoy those same episodes that grandpa and I enjoyed together so long ago.

James Arness and his work in Gunsmoke will go on for many years to come.  The show is a classic.  But the show's greatest impact may not be the quality of the work it represents, but of the kind of memories it brings back.  We all have a purpose in life and James Arness and the rest of the cast were meant to entertain using their talents.  And through those talents, he has helped to preserve some of the warmest and fondest memories of my life and it is for this reason that James Arness will be sorely missed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Humble Cicada

During this last week, those of us who live in the St. Louis area, have been suddenly bombarded by the screeching of an insect that makes an appearance once every thirteen years.  It is the humble, yet ugly, cicada.  This somewhat ominous looking insect is harmless.  It does not bite.  It does not strip trees and mature bushes of its foliage.  It simply emerges from the earth where it has lived for the last thirteen years, looks for a mate by creating a near deafening noise in the daytime hours, finds a mate and does what bugs do, then the male dies, the female lays her eggs and dies.  This life-cycle is short-lived.

These flying bugs are now with us in the billions.  Neighborhoods ring with the mating calls of these creatures.   Some go so far as to swoop down at you as you emerge from your home or car.  You can see them flying as you go down the highway, many of whom slam into your car, meeting death before they can reproduce.  If you look closely at any tree, you will find thousands of the little noise makers dangling from branches and leaves or clinging to the bark.  They all seem to sing in chorus at times and the noise can easily drown out the sound of any average sized lawn mower.  They are annoying, somewhat creepy, but completely harmless to man and most other creatures.

The other day as I listened to their chorus, something struck me.  This lowly little bug, this every thirteen year visitor, is yet another reminder of the greatness of God.  He has created an insect that emerges every thirteen years to mate and fill our ears with the natural screech of nature alive and vibrant.  These annoying little creatures are doing just what they were meant to do.  What purpose they serve is beyond me, but I am quite certain that they do serve something.  That is irrelevant to what I am talking about.

Like everything else in nature, beautiful or ugly, dangerous or harmless, big or little, these creatures are unique reminder of the mystery of God Himself.  They sing loudly and their song can be seen as a song of praise to their Creator because they are fulfilling the nature He gave them completely.  They give us a lesson in humility because these lowly creatures do remind us of our place in the universe.  God has elevated all His creatures simply through their existence.  Each has a place and each gives glory to Him when they fulfill His will for them.

The next time you hear these little noise makers cry out in the daytime, think of it as praise from nature for the God who created all.  Maybe we should join in the chorus by seeking out the will of the Father and finding ways to fulfill that will!