Wednesday, July 29, 2009

David and Goliath- Part 4

This is a continuation of my discussion of the story of David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17-18.

Not Discouraged

David was not discouraged by the insults of his brothers, who told him he had no business being there and he should go home to his sheep. He wasn’t discouraged by Saul, who said he was only a boy and shouldn’t even think of fighting this experienced warrior. David wasn’t discouraged by Goliath’s taunts and, most likely, by the laughter and insults coming from the Philistines.

David wasn’t discouraged that this giant was armored with a helmet, coat of mail, armor on his legs, a huge spear with an iron tip, a sword and shield. This guy was formidable, but that didn’t discourage David. We, also, shouldn’t allow ourselves to be discouraged or overwhelmed by things in life, even when they seem too large to handle. Let us always keep our eyes on God, who is our ever-present help in times of need, as we read in Psalm 46:1-3:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. NRSV

God Prepared David

Finally, God used circumstances to prepare David all his life, just as God prepares us to do his work. First, God prepared David for his battle with Goliath by his experience with the wild animals while tending his father’s flock. This experience gave him the skills to bring down the giant with a stone.

Second, God prepared David to be the future king by having Saul bring him into the army. David learned leadership skills, military tactics, and got to know important people. David also spent time in Saul’s court, so David learned about that as well.

We can see that God arranges circumstances to fit with his plan.


You and I might not be fighting physical battles like Saul and his army, but we are fighting spiritual and emotional battles all the time. We are battling temptations, discouragement, frustration, and feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed. Yet God assures us in Romans 8:37 that “…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (NIV) Let us always keep in mind the words of David in Psalm 18:2-3:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.

In his battle with Goliath, David fought for the glory of God. He came to the contest in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel. He wanted Goliath, the Philistine army, and all the earth to know that the true and living God was Israel’s God. Goliath had ridiculed Israel’s God and blasphemed his holy name, but David set the record straight. David saw this as a contest between the true God of Israel and the false gods of the Philistines.

Our life is also a struggle against the false gods of this world: greed, jealously, materialism, and self. Rather than giving in to these false gods, let us always do things for God’s glory, and not for our own.

Monday, July 27, 2009

David and Goliath- Part 3

This is a continuation of my discussion of the story of David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17-18 in the Bible for the story.

Faith in God

I think the main lesson from this story concerns faith in God. You can see David’s faith in that he didn’t hesitate to volunteer to do battle against this formidable warrior. David knew his God Jehovah would give him the victory because God had helped him before, against wild animals. He knew God had given him the skills, tools and experience to be victorious. He knew that his God was more powerful than the pagan gods. He knew he had been chosen by God to be the next king – God wasn’t going to let his anointed be killed before he even had a chance to take the throne. We see that faith expressed in Psalm 18:50, which David wrote:

Great triumphs [God] gives to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever. NRSV

We also see David’s faith in God for the victory, not weapons:

Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God. NRSV

When you and I face problems, it will help us to recall how God has helped us in the past. We can take heart because God gives is strength, the courage, and the guidance we need to deal with what we are facing, if we ask him.

The Right Perspective

What a difference perspective can make. Saul and his troops saw only a giant who was mocking them and their God, and they cowered in fear. David, however, saw a mortal man defying almighty God, and was ready to stand up to him. David viewed Goliath was a target too big to miss – the bigger they are, the harder they fall. He knew he would not be alone when he faced Goliath, because the battle is the Lord’s. Proverbs 21:31 says:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. NRSV

In one particular situation, the Lord said this to the Israelites in 2 Chronicles 20:15b):

“Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” NRSV

David looked at his situation from God’s point of view. For you and me, viewing what appears to be impossible situations from God’s point of view helps us put our “giant” problems in perspective. David didn’t see an unbeatable giant, but a vulnerable man whom God would defeat through David.

More about the story of David and Goliath in a future post.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Arrest of a Black Harvard Professor

There has been another unfortunate incident that has racial overtones, which is the arrest of an African-American professor in Cambridge, Mass. As I understand it, this is what happened:

The professor returned home from an overseas trip, taking a limo from the airport to his house. He tried to open his front door, but it was jammed. He and his chauffer, also black, went around back and opened the back door. A neighbor saw two men (who happened to be African-American) fooling around with the door, and assumed a break-in was taking place. This neighbor called the police, who then dispatched officers to the house.

Here’s how an article on described what happened next:

Police said he [Professor Gates] flew into a verbal rage after [police officer] Crowley asked him to show identification to prove he should be in the home. Police say Gates accused Crowley of racial bias, refused to calm down and was arrested. The charge was dropped Tuesday, but Gates has demanded an apology, calling his arrest a case of racial profiling.

Gates, 58, maintains he turned over identification when asked to do so by the police. He said Crowley arrested him after the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.

First, the way it appears to me, the police officer was correct in verifying that the professor did, in fact, reside in that house. From what I’ve heard, that is standard operating procedure, and the professor shouldn’t have taken offense. Wouldn’t he have wanted the police to verify someone else if it hadn’t been him in that house?

Second, it appears that the professor grossly overreacted in this situation. The police weren’t driving by and stopping him at random. A call was made saying a crime was in progress, and the police were doing their job. They were actually protecting him and his property.

Third, I believe officer Crowley acted properly because he teaches a course on racial profiling at a police academy. He, if anybody, knows how to work with minorities. Moreover, I suspect (but can’t verify) that once he saw the 58 year old distinguished-looking professor and examined his identification, he was satisfied and was on his way out the door. It appears that the professor followed the officer out the door, screaming at him and demanding his badge number. He wouldn’t calm down, so Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct. While the professor overreacted, Crowley should have just gone back to his cruiser and left.

Having said that the professor overreacted, I know where he was coming from (although I still believe he shouldn’t have become as agitated as he did). I’ve discovered that many African-Americans have a chip on their shoulder after years of mistreatment. Although I believe the police acted properly in this case, the perception of the professor was that he was being mistreated because that’s what hundreds of years of history says happens. That’s a very hard point of view to get rid of, and just when you think things are getting better, another incident occurs either to you personally or to another African-American. Then you’re back to square one.

I suggest that white people be sensitive to where African-Americans are coming from. Even with a black president and significant progress over the last 40 years, many blacks still have this feeling of being discriminated against. The sad fact is that they are still objects of bias, often subtle, mostly unnoticed by whites, but nevertheless there. We whites should watch that our own subtle biases don’t surface.

Having said that, I still believe some African-Americans play the “race card” in cases where in fact, it isn’t appropriate. They should be careful and not yell “bias!” and “racial profiling!” at every incident. Save your ammunition for the big ones.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Jersey Corruption

I was sickened at the extent of corruption among NJ politicians. Many politicians were recently arrested as a result of a massive FBI investigation. It is a shame that those who are given the public trust can so easily betray that trust. Unfortunately what happens is that in certain communities or states, corruption becomes systemic. Such a system attracts dishonest people, and so even after arrests are made the situation persists. New officials coming into the system naturally gravitate to taking bribes and doing other illegal things because that’s what’s done.

What I found particularly disturbing was the number of rabbis involved in money laundering and other criminal enterprises. Here are men who stand on the bema every week proclaiming the Word of God, yet leading lives that bring shame and dishonor to the God they are representing. Judging from their appearance, they are Orthodox Jews who conscientiously observe many rules regarding diet, dress, the Sabbath, and other matters, yet are leading dishonest and hypocritical lives. I don’t know how they can reconcile their faith and religious observances with their criminal activities.

These rabbis are not unique in their hypocrisy, just the latest and most obvious case. What this does, however, is taint every churchgoer and every observant Jew, plus every clergyperson. People tend to paint with a very broad brush, so the anti-religion crowd will say their usual lies, “They’re all hypocrites” and “All they want is your money.” Let us remember that we can’t judge God by his followers, because we all sin and fall short of God’s standards. God doesn’t force his will on anybody. We have free will, which we abuse quite often. It’s just a shame that some clergy fall into gross sin such as those rabbis did and such as priests did with little children.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

David and Goliath- Part 2

2. Giants in Scripture

We may think of Goliath as either fictitious or a freak. However, giants are mentioned several times in the Bible, so they had been around the Land of Canaan for some time. The first mention of giants is in the introduction to the story of Noah, where it says in Genesis 6:4a:

There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward… NKJV

The Hebrew term translated as “giants” in that passage is Nephilim. Anak and the Anakites were also understood to be giants, or Nephilim. They are mentioned by the spies reporting about the Promised Land to the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 13:27-28, 32-33):

“We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there...”
So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

This report scared the Israelites and they were afraid to go into the land the Lord had promised to them. As a result of their lack of faith in God, they were punished by not being allowed to enter the land for 40 years, until that generation had passed away. Goliath wasn’t the only of those giants still around during the time of David. Here’s the mention of two battles between David’s forces and the Philistines from 1 Chronicles 20:4, 6 (NRSV):

After this, war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer; then Sibbecai … killed Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants; and the Philistines were subdued...
Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great size, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; he also was descended from the giants.

So that we don’t think these giants are just legend or exaggeration, here’s a brief report on giants in the Land of Canaan from the IVP Bible Background Commentary:

Champions of this size are not simply a figment of Israelite imagination or the result of embellished legends. The Egyptian letter on Papyrus Anastasi I (thirteenth century B.C.) describes fierce warriors in Canaan who are seven to nine feet tall. Additionally, two female skeletons about seven feet tall from the twelfth century have been found at Tell es-Sa’ideyeh in Transjordan.

3. Accuracy of Slings

Regarding the sling, it is estimated that a skilled slinger could hurl a stone at more than one hundred miles per hour. The effective range was probably about one hundred yards. These ancient slings were not like the Y-shaped slingshot we think of. The stone was held in a leather pouch with cords attached at opposite ends. The sling was whirled over the head until the person let go of one of the ends, opening the pouch and sending the stone flying.

4. Psychological Warfare

Goliath’s insults and curses against the Israelites, David and his God reflect an early type of psychological warfare. These insults were intended to demoralize and intimidate your opponents. In those days the warriors were generally understood to be stand-ins for their gods, who were really the ones who were doing battle. The insults were aimed at the opposing army’s gods, and they were calling down curses on the enemy from their own gods. That’s why David reacted to Goliath’s insults the way he did, saying:

“Who is this heathen Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26b, paraphrased)

We will take a look at what we can learn from this story of David and Goliath in the next post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tort Reform and Health Care

One element that is missing from the various proposals for reforming health care coverage is tort reform. None of the lawyer-politicians in Congress want to cut off sources of revenue for their fellow lawyers. Yet there’s agonizing as to how to pay for this health care behemoth that will emerge, and how to reduce costs from the absurd current levels.

What everybody seems to be forgetting is the two reasons why costs are so high: the practice of defensive medicine and the cost of malpractice insurance. Here’s some suggestions as to how to reduce costs:

(1) Limit liability and you’ve cut costs significantly. Doctors, hospitals, and other practitioners won’t have to pay such high liability insurance premiums.

(2) Make doctors liable only when there was a clear case of malpractice and negligence, and not just because the doctor or the hospital has deep pockets.

The “Deep Pockets” doctrine is ruining our country. Even if a person or company showed no negligence and did everything correctly, often they still have to pay because they have the “deep pockets” (or at least their insurance carrier does). The reason for this doctrine is the belief that “somebody has to pay” for somebody’s misfortune, regardless of who is to blame or if anybody is to blame. Sometimes the injured party is at fault for their own injury, but somebody else ends up paying because they have the deep pockets. What a ridiculous and unfair way to do things!

So what I mean by tort reform in the medical world is what I described above: limit liability, eliminate the deep pockets way of doing things, and make doctors and hospitals liable only in the case of obvious negligence. Then watch those insurance premiums and other costs some down.

Bottom line: you can’t reform health care until you reform the legal system that drives costs up.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon Landing

Today is the fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing, which occurred just shy of two weeks after my first son’s birth in 1969. I believe there is a lesson in that moon landing for us today.

When John Kennedy was President, he challenged the country to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. And we did it! Today there are many pressing problems that require a concerted effort on the part of this country.

Government must lead the way, but there must be commitment on the part of the people. What are some of these pressing problems?

-Energy independence, which will take massive investments and the commitment on the part of everybody to accept some solutions that they may not like. Some don’t like nuclear power plants, but I think nuclear will have to be an important element. Some prefer large vehicles, but they will have to do with smaller ones.

-Energy reliability, meaning our electrical grid must be updated so it can handle peak demands.

-Rebuild infrastructure, which will put people back to work and bring this country into the 21st century.

-Health care, which will require compromises and probably a significant change in the way we deliver health care.

If we don’t have the will to tackle these challenges, then we will become a third rate country.

Friday, July 17, 2009

David and Goliath- Part 1

We are all familiar with the story of David and Goliath. We learned it as children, but it is much more than a children’s story. As with any story or event in the Bible, underlying it are principles we should understand and apply. In this series of postings I want to discuss some of those principles and how they apply to you and me 3,000 years later. This discussion is based on 1 Samuel 17-18.


Before discussing these important principles, let me provide a little background to this familiar story.

1. Chronology

This story appears in the Bible in the chapter following David’s anointing by Samuel to be Israel’s next king. Therefore, we can assume that this confrontation with Goliath took place shortly after Samuel’s visit – but we don’t know how long after. I think we can also assume that King Saul was unaware of the anointing, and David’s brothers didn’t appear to understand what it meant. Otherwise, the brothers would have treated David with a little more respect.

More about the story of David and Goliath in a future post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cell Phone Etiquette

After getting some coffee, I went over to the counter where there are the sugar, stirrers, and napkins. Standing at that counter was a women busily engaged in a cell phone conversation – not doing anything with coffee – just standing right at the counter talking. I picked up a packet of sugar and then had to reach in front of her to get a napkin. She never moved, just stayed planted there, despite blocking people’s access to the supplies at that counter. She was still there minutes later, talking away, rather than going to a table, or better yet, hanging up and calling back at a more opportune time.

Recently I saw a woman walking her dog, talking on her cell phone. She crossed the street without looking, totally absorbed by her conversation. Fortunately I saw her and didn’t hit her. People being so distracted are a hazard to themselves and others.

I have a sister-in-law who works at a store. Many of the younger employees go into the ladies room, where they talk for lengthy periods of time on their cell phones on company time. I’ve seen women talking on the cell phone while negotiating their huge SUVs through crowded store parking lots. Of course there’s always the loud-talking person on a train carrying on a cell-phone conversation that nobody really wants to hear, but is forced to anyways. Kids in school text while in class, which I believe is disrespectful to the teachers.

While the cell phone is a marvelous invention in many ways, it is terribly abused. Car and train accidents have been attributed to cell phone use. People will text while driving, and many flagrantly disobey the law against cell phone use while driving. The cell phone seems to have caused people to believe they must be in nearly continuous contact with their friends or something terrible will happen. Unless you’re on call as an EMT, fire fighter, or some other emergency job, getting that phone call just isn’t that important.

I believe it is incredibly rude to be talking on a cell phone when you are out with another person or group of people. When you do that, the message is “I’d rather be with that person than you people.” I gave a ride to a guy who was going to the same meeting as I was. After the meeting, as soon as we were on the road, he listened to his voicemail messages, and then began returning phone calls for most of the hour’s trip home. I was offended because he felt taking care of business was more important than spending some time talking with me, who was kind enough to give him a ride. I was stuck because I couldn’t listen to the radio (he was chatting away on his phone) or talk on my cell phone (against the law, remember?).

There needs to be better cell phone etiquette and more consideration for other people. People need to remember not to talk on cell phones in public places, because others really don’t want to hear your conversation. Don’t use your phone and drive. Don’t talk when out with other people. If you have to talk in a public place, keep it brief and be aware of your surroundings. Are you blocking something? Are you in people’s way? Don’t be afraid to turn off your phone when receiving a call just isn’t proper. Turn off that phone when talking on it is not a good thing to do! Let the caller leave you a voicemail or text message, and you can respond later. It isn’t that urgent. Be considerate of the people you’re with. Don’t make your cell phone use annoying to others.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reflections on Bastille Day

July 14 is Bastille Day in France. The French revolution followed and was inspired by ours. Many of the Latin American countries, once they gained independence, used the United States as a model for forming their own constitutions and governments. Our country has survived reasonably well despite a terrible civil war; internal divisions over slavery, civil rights, and other issues; and severe economic downturns throughout our history (the worst being the Great Depression of the 1930s).

I am fascinated by the fact that many of these other countries, especially those patterned after the United States, have not done as well. They have suffered from dictators, coups d’etat, revolutions, repression, and a host of other problems. Look at Argentina. It has a similar population to ours, with immigrants from many European countries, and a government similar to ours. Why have we done so well compared to these other countries?

The only thing I can think of is that God established the United States for particular purposes, and has preserved us for those purposes. I’m not saying we’re a new Israel or are superior to any other nation. All I’m suggesting is that God had a purpose for us, and I suspect God has other purposes for other countries.

What are those purposes? I can think of a few: a haven for the oppressed; a nation where a person isn’t forced into the state religion; where a person can worship as he or she wants without government interference; where moral and ethical standards are upheld; and a place from which missionaries can go out into the world. If these are indeed our purposes, then we are drifting away from some of them. If we as a nation become post-Christian, then I fear that God will withhold his blessings from us.

Pray for your country, that it will turn to God and fulfill God’s purposes for it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Power Corrupts

Gov. Sanford of South Carolina is just the latest of a long line of political figures who think they can get away with it. Former NY Governor Elliot Spitzer thought he could get away with it, but he didn’t. A whole bunch of Washington politicians thought they could get away with it, but they didn’t.

Why do they think they can get away with these “indiscretions”? I think they believe that once they get into a certain position, they are invincible. They see some of their colleagues getting away with stuff, and feel they should be able to do the same. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Maybe if they went to church or temple on a regular basis they might be better equipped to resist these inevitable temptations. Maybe worshipping God in fellowship with others, hearing The Word proclaimed, and praying together as a body would make them more aware of God’s love for them, their responsibility to not dishonor God in what they do, and their obligation to observe God’s moral and ethical commandments.

As it is, I suspect most of these politicians are far from God. Their church or temple attendance is sporadic at best, and they are more interested in self-serving than in serving God. In Romans 12:1 the Apostle Paul exhorts us to worship God with our lives:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. NRSV

Even though you and I aren’t among the powerful, we can still fall into serious temptations. When we do something wrong and are found out, it just isn’t as public. So let us remain (or become) close to God, attend church or synagogue regularly, and pray every day. Then we can withstand the temptations that come our way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lessons from Michael Jackson

With the passing of superstar Michael Jackson, it made me think of some lessons we can draw from his life and his death.

First, we all die, no matter who we are, how famous we are, or how rich we are. Even the rich and famous can die prematurely. Michael died prematurely, it appears, as a result of the abuse to his body from the many drugs he’d taken.

Second, we should take care of the body God gave us and not abuse it, as Michael apparently did. I’m sure he would have been with us much longer had he not abused prescription drugs.

Third, nobody is immune from the tragedies and heartbreaks of life. That’s why we need God in our lives, to uphold us through those tough times.

Fourth, Michael was once fabulously wealthy, but much of that wealth disappeared. Again, no matter who you are, you must hold to the things of this world loosely, because they can be taken from you in one way or another.

Fifth, nobody is above the law. Of course we’ll never know for sure if Michael did illegal and immoral things with children. Nevertheless, the lesson is clear: we are accountable for our actions, both to the law, and more importantly, to God.

Lastly, Michael has received many tributes and praise in the past week since his untimely death, but he’s not here to enjoy them. He leaves a tremendous legacy from his music and his charitable works, but that will eventually fade. What lasts is your relationship with Jesus Christ and what you did to glorify God. I don’t know Michael’s relationship with Jesus, but I do know that you and I should take this opportunity to draw closer to him.

Remember the words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 1:3-4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you. NIV

Remember also the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” NIV

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day

On July 4 we celebrate our Independence Day. The 4th of July commemorates the approval of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence by the 2nd Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Of course this bold step did not guarantee that those 13 original colonies would be given their independence from Great Britain. King George wasn’t about to relinquish control over his money-making colonies without a fight. I’ve never known of a king or politician who is willing to give up a source of taxes.

So those brave colonists had to fight for what they believed in, and miraculously they beat the superpower of that day, Great Britain. In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was a radical document, and still is to a large extent. First of all, it defied the king of a powerful nation, a very dangerous act that could have resulted in disaster. Secondly, this remarkable document contained principles that were unheard of in that day and age.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration is the foundational document for our Constitution, and it is based on biblical principles and the best of Enlightenment thinking. We should celebrate the freedoms which God has blessed this great nation of ours, realizing that our freedom truly is from God. In celebrating these freedoms, we must also remember we have responsibilities. We are not free to live excessive lives as we as a nation have been doing until the recent economic problems. We are not free so we can pursue selfish ends. Our independence should not make us irresponsible and self-serving, as the Apostle Paul so eloquently puts it in Galatians 5:13:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence. NRSV

God, through the Apostle Peter, gives us guidelines for being good citizens (1 Peter 2:16-17, NCV):

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Live as servants of God. Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New York State’s Mess

As a citizen of New York Sate, I am embarrassed by and furious with our politicians. This total inaction as both parties jockey for leadership is unacceptable. The additional tax on residents of certain counties to help pay for the MTA budget shortfall is absurd and unfair. All the political game-playing and lack of will to reduce costs is not in the best interests of the state.

Here’s a novel idea: THROW THE BUMS OUT!

As a matter of principle, I’m voting against the incumbents in the next election. If everybody did that, eventually we would have all new representatives who hopefully would get the message: Do Your Job! Conduct the people’s business, not the party’s business, not your own personal business, but THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS!

I believe the actions of our government representatives from the governor on down have been immoral and unethical. They promised to serve the people, and have not. They were voted in with the understanding that they are the people’s representatives, and they have not been. That makes them liars and cheats in my opinion, not to mention irresponsible.

Let me warn you, if NYS continues on these paths with the same old leadership, we will collapse under our own weight of inefficiency, high taxes, inaction, and lack of will. We are certainly no longer The Empire State, but have become the Do Nothing State. Another warning: everybody thinks the folks in Albany are bozos, but my senator or representative is OK. Don’t fall into the trap – vote the bum out, even if you think he or she is OK. The problem is systemic, and the system must be thoroughly purged to become functional again.

On July 4 we commemorate our independence. Did we struggle against corrupt leaders (King George and Parliament) and oppressive taxes just to have it all over again 200+ years later? Living in a democracy, we citizens have a responsibility. If we don’t let our voices be heard, then we’ll get the government we deserve.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Free Iran!

I was hoping that all the demonstrations in Iran would topple the oppressive theocracy and usher in some sort of democracy. I remember when the people demonstrated day after day in Eastern Europe, and toppled the communist governments. I remember when the people demonstrated in the Philippines and toppled the repressive Marcos regime. Why did Iran’s revolution fizzle?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I believe we should pray for that country. The regime is repressive, plus Iran’s quest for a nuclear bomb is a threat to everybody. I would like to see Iran become like Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim but a strictly secular state. The Turks did that to avoid just the kind of situation we are finding in Iran.

I believe in strict separation of “church and state” as the founders originally intended, not as it is being misinterpreted by the courts since 1946. Our Constitution allows people to practice their religion – any religion – freely as they choose. No particular set of religious beliefs, practices or observances are forced on anybody. That is a difficult concept for Muslims, yet a similar situation is working well in Turkey. A religion should be able to stand on its own, and shouldn’t need or require government help in enforcing its rules on the population.

That doesn’t mean, however, that certain standards of decency shouldn’t be enforced by governmental agencies, consistent with that culture’s concept of decency and indecency (and that concept may be rooted in that culture’s religious tradition). So if a culture feels that public nudity is indecent, for example, then those standards should be enforced.

Getting back to Iran, pray for that country, that they will be freed from the tyranny of the mullahs and will no longer be a threat to its neighbors and the world.