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  • Baby Jesse in the Manger

    • Posted on Dec 20, 2015

    Here's this morning's (12-20) Waterloo Courier column on what might have been,  

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    Every December Christians honor the babe in the manger, and even non-Christians have to admit it’s compelling and memorable.

    It pits the meek against the mighty, poor against the rich, outcasts against insiders. Oh yes, and the founding of a world religion.

    It’s so powerful that no one thinks twice about recycling it every year.  The same ought to go for alternative versions.  Here’s my revised Christmas story that I freely adapted years ago from Matthew and Luke.

    Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for this which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit.”

    “She will bear a son or daughter and you shall call his or her name Jesus or Jesse, for he or she will save his or her people from their sins.”  

    While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered.  Lo and behold, Mary gave birth to their first-born daughter, wrapped her in swaddling clothes and laid her in a manger.  There was no soft crib because there was no place in the inn for such refugees.  

    Following the angels’ suggestion, she named her blessed daughter Jesse.

     

    Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all about them.  The shepherds were sore afraid.  

    And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesse the Queen.

     “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

    When the angels went away into heaven the shepherds said to one another, “A little girl, our savior?  Can this be?”

    “A female savior? A lady Lord?  Women can birth saviors, but they cannot be one.   Everyone knows that!”

    They went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph.  Soon they looked with wonder on the babe lying in the manger.  And they made known that which they had heard concerning this child.  All the people wondered at what the shepherds told them.

     Then the shepherds were no longer sore afraid.  They were just plain sore. 

     “What happened to the days when only boys could be saviors?  Has any girl ever become anything but a wife, an old maid, or a witch?”

    The shepherds went home, thinking the real savior had not yet been born.  “Probably some maverick angels,” one of them mumbled.

     Along the way, they met three wise men who had heard the news.  The shepherds stopped them, saying, “Turn back. Save your frankincense and myrrh. Wait until the real savior comes along. This one’s only a baby girl named Jesse.”

     And Mary, mother of Jesse, pondered all these things in her heart.

     “What if little Jesse had been born a boy?” she wondered, after she and Joseph had returned home.  “Would he have been worshiped as a real savior?”

    Mary prayed nightly that if her daughter Jesse had any special powers she would keep them to herself.  Little boys with special powers became saviors, founders of great religions. 

     Little girls with special powers were burned as witches.

    Baby Jesse grew into wonderful woman, a friend to all in need, wise beyond her years, and deeply beloved.  Thanks to her mother’s wise teaching, she never used her miraculous powers, and never married.

    Jesse lived and died in obscurity.

    Meanwhile, all around the world, wise men kept waiting for the real savior
       
    Merry Christmas, everyone. 

     

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    Posted in
    • Religiosity
    • satire
    • Christmas
  • Kim Davis, Beliefs, and Truth

    • Posted on Sep 13, 2015
    Here's this morning's Waterloo Courier column.  Kim Davis continues to be a hero to Mike Huckabee and his ilk, but to the rest of us she's a scofflaw who deserves both firing and oblivion.  
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    Not everything we believe is true.  Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.  
    True believers remain convinced that their beliefs are not beliefs at all, but Truths.  
    Absolute, unchangeable Truths, usually with the authority of a supernatural being behind them.   

     Kim Davis, the jailed Kentucky county clerk, asserts her belief that her Christian God supports only heterosexual marriage.  For her, that’s not merely a belief but the Truth.  Thus same-sex marriages are not really marriages, but sinful violations of God’s law. 

    Therefore people who don’t share her belief in fact violate her Truth.   
    Once someone is convinced that they have the Truth, they can’t be convinced that their “Truth” is actually a belief that not everyone shares.  

    Truths are not open to question.  Beliefs are. 
    .  
    Ms. Davis has plenty of fans and followers.  Fellow Christians who agree that her Apostolic Pentecostal belief is Truth, not neurons firing in their direction. 
    Why did she (or any true believer) shift from belief to Truth? I can only speculate, but many beliefs begin as central tenants of a community of believers.   In her case, the Apostolic Pentecostal sect that Ms. Davis joined in 2013 believes as a sect that certain passages of the Bible are absolute Truths. 

     Once she joined, accepting the group’s beliefs became mandatory.  One cannot join a community of believers unless you profess their beliefs. 

     That’s how many beliefs become Truths, in my experience—joining and identifying with a group’s set of beliefs.  We all do it one way or another, though not necessarily to find eternal Truth.    

     Ideally, none of us should accept beliefs as Truths, no matter how much we need to belong.  That’s what critical thinking means, and students are supposed to learn the process in high school and college.   We’re individuals, after all, and don’t have to convert group beliefs into personal truths without investigating and choosing.        

     Had Ms. Davis investigated the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality, she might have found that the Bible also condemns adultery, divorce, tattoos, pork, certain haircuts, etc. with the same God-given certainty.  As a three-time divorcee, she has already violated God’s written law, and Biblically shouldn’t have been granted church sanction for her second or third marriages. 

     I don’t want to judge Kim Davis harshly for being a hypocrite.  Who among us isn’t? 

     However, I do want to roundly judge and condemn her for not understanding that her Truth is a merely a belief.  No one is compelled to share it.   

     As a government employee, she’s constitutionally forbidden to impose her
    religious beliefs.  

     Ms. Davis tried to get around it by not issuing any marriage licenses for either traditional or same-sex couples, but that simply closed down one of her duties altogether.  Unacceptable.  

    Hence she rightly received a contempt of court citation and jail for refusing to follow the court’s order to issue marriage licenses to everyone.  

     So is this a case of civil disobedience, following in the honored tradition of Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, among others?  Going to jail for following one’s conscience?  

    Technically, it was an act of civil disobedience in that she refused to obey a law because of a personal belief.  But she did so as a government employee breaking her oath of office.  Hence it was insubordination as much as civil disobedience. 
    Moreover, Thoreau, et. al. broke laws to broaden rights and correct injustices in their societies.  In contrast, Davis broke the law in order to limit citizens’ rights and continue injustices against a minority—a major difference that cannot be overlooked.   

    Hence, the loss of her job seems both right and just, as does jail time for noncompliance.    
     
    Meanwhile, let’s remind ourselves that government officials who think they have the Truth can be dangerous.   
     

     

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    Posted in
    • Religiosity
    • Personalities
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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