Early Voting, Or Why I’m Still Really Baptist

It’s voting season around here, and it’s a well-known primary election for North Carolina–mostly for the Marriage Amendment. I am thankful, for many reasons, that early voting is an option. For one, the line is shorter. For another, it’s more convenient. And so, on Monday afternoon, I walked over to my community center to cast my primary ballot.

If I were to wait until election day next Tuesday, I’d be doing so at a local church.

The former seemed so much more appropriate. Mostly because I believe in the separation of church and state. Staunchly, I’ve come to realize. And voting in a political election at a church flies in the face of separating the two. Voting at a town community center just…fits.

Walking home from my community center got me thinking about this whole separation of church and state thing and my earliest attempts to understand it. I asked my youth minister when I was in high school, but never got a clear explanation of what it was or what it meant. It was clarified in my Baptist History class at Campbell, but the farther reaching implications have only become clearer for me in recent years–particularly as I’ve considered more deeply what it means to vote in a church versus a community center…or have a minister sign the state’s marriage license.

While all of the arguments fly around this amendment, and while pastors speak for or against it from their pulpits–in ways that harm and abuse one’s power in one case in particular–I am reminded that the reason I believe in the separation of church and state is because I have Baptist roots. Deep Baptist roots, apparently. Because real Baptists believe in it. In fact, Baptists are the reason we have freedom of religion in the First Amendment. Baptists also are believers of autonomy and freedom of the local church and individual beliefs. And even though I’m part of a non-denominational church, I’m still really down with all of that.

Ironically enough, it makes me a conservative Baptist.

But since those ideas have been…well…perverted…in many instances, it may make me a liberal Baptist.

Either way, I’m still Baptist.

Collectively Human

Once upon a time, we all came together for a common purpose, for the greater good, for a cause that was ours and so much greater, for–literally–the sake of the world. Once upon a time, we were not united by nationalism but by our collective humanity.

Once upon a time, the entire world was on fire and the only way to stop it was to get involved. It was the last just war, the time when everyone had to give a little–or a lot. When everyone got involved in some way. When our country was struggling economically and forced into a conflict that brought all of civilization to the brink. Where our nation may have been the most alive as it was faced with the most to lose.

How quickly we forgot that sentiment. As WWII came to an end and our country emerged stronger and more economically stable, when we cared for our neighbor (or even knew who they were), when we understood what it meant to lose it all and appreciated getting some back. How quickly we forgot when, 20 years later, we were thrown into a national climate of division. When we were once again involved in a war–one many will argue we never should have gotten involved in. When soldiers returned home wounded and broken–spat upon and shunned, in spite of the fact that they were still fighting a war that may not ever leave them inside. When no one could agree on politics. When civil rights reached a violent climax and so many had to be convinced to see things differently than they–or anyone in their family ever had.

Bring it forward another 30 or so years. To the most recent horrific tragedy in our nation. An act of terror so unforeseen and stunning that made us feel like we were collectively gut-punched. And then, within the next few days and weeks, we were collectively joined as a nation of people who once again understood what it meant to stand in solidarity with our neighbors. When we once again knew who our neighbors were. When we were joined in our collective humanity, not by our nationalistic unity.

But in the ten years since 9/11, how quickly we’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten who we are. We no longer look after those around us. We’ve seen more war than any moment in our history. We’ve stood on the sidelines as thousands of innocent Afghan and Iraqi men, women, and children have been murdered or abused at our hands. We’ve forgotten what it means to give a little–or a lot for the common goals that should be higher than ourselves. We stopped thinking about logical conclusions. We stopped looking out for others in order to serve our own selfish desires. At least we no longer spit on our troops.

At some point, instead of demanding Medicare and Social Security (all the while screaming “Socialist!” when it comes to any other government program), instead of refusing to pay a little more in taxes (even though the people who legitimately could pay more think they’re money will run out in 6 years instead of 6 lifetimes), instead of pointing fingers only at the guy in the Oval Office, maybe we should examine ourselves. Maybe we should think about what we can all give for the greater goal. Maybe we should stop fighting over debt ceilings and come to the middle. Maybe we should come to the middle on a lot of things. Maybe we should remember that this experiment we call the United States probably exists and is successful (in spite of ourselves) by the grace of God…and then start acting like we are all children of God. Maybe then we’ll be less concerned about Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or Progressive; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist; military or civilian; black, white, Hispanic, or Asian; gay or straight. Maybe then we’ll be less inclined to be self-serving. Maybe then, we’ll stop operating out of a base of fear. Maybe then, we’ll once again be…collectively human.

Rules for Hypocrisy

This from Margaret and Helen today:

If it were up to me, I would establish a few rules right about now regarding hypocrisy.  Something along the lines of:

  • If you’re Michael Jackson’s father now is not the time to be enjoying the limelight.
  • You can’t  be Pro-Life and Pro-War at the same time.  If one of these dispositions has to be in your cadre, then pick one and  live with the consequences.
  • You can’t deny the right to marry to some and then cheat on your spouse.   The right to happily marry belongs to all no mater how unhappy it makes you.
  • You can’t tolerate the atrocities of one President for eight years and then assign the consequences to one who follows.  From this day forward everything was Reagan’s fault.
  • The Christian Right should be forced to spend a week in Iran.  May the best radicals win.
  • The Real Housewives should actually be housewives.

About that last one.  I mean it.  Really.

I LOVE it.

We Are Not Alone

Things are pretty crappy and uncertain around here these days, what with the economy going down the tubes and unemployment going through the roof. At the same time, though, it could be worse. And it is worse in many other places. Check out the latest post from our friend in Ukraine: 

http://kievkids.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/turmoil-in-ukraine/

Many of you were aware of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia over gas prices at the beginning of the year. It’s only gotten worse…though now it’s across the board. 

So, yes, while things aren’t great in our country, we still have it pretty good. May we all take a minute to look around and appreciate what we have…and find ways to supports our friends and neighbors…both at home and abroad.

Over a Barrel

After living in Kyiv for over a month, I no longer take a few things for granted: sunlight on a regular basis; consistent water pressure and enough hot water to take a shower whenever I want, however many times a day I want; heat I can control.

In Ukraine, someone else controls your heat. In part that means they set the thermostat and control how much gas gets to your property. In part that means they force places like The Ark to install washers on the pipes to further reduce the flow of gas…which means even less heat (did I mention the temperature was 16F today?). They don’t charge you for the difference, mind you. The heating bill here is still $8,500, double what it was last year.

And now, as if those things aren’t enough, Russia has turned off the gas to Ukraine. Like there’s NO gas coming from the primary source. None. Well, let me rephrase that. There is gas flowing through the pipelines in Ukraine. And it is coming from Russia. But it’s not stopping in Ukraine. It’s going on to the rest of Europe. And Ukraine has said it will not interrupt the flow of oil to the rest of the EU. However, the EU will not involve itself in the situation between Ukraine and Russia. Why should they when they’re still getting their oil?

The problem concerning oil in Ukraine stems from a debt owed to Russia–that Russia called in on January 1. According to Ukraine, they paid the requisite amount. According to Russia, Ukraine still owes over $6 million dollars in late fees. Hence, the debt is still outstanding…so no oil. On top of that, Russia and Ukraine have not been able to hammer out an agreed upon price for gas in 2009. Current negotiations have the prices a double what they are now. That means that, should those prices hold, The Ark’s heating bill will essentially quadruple from this time last year. You can’t run an organization with those kinds of budgetary needs. Which means that a beacon of hope for children in this country will no longer be in existance.

The situation has a ripple effect that spans far and wide. Ukraine’s economy is in worse shape than Russia’s…the president and prime minister of Ukraine can’t get on the same page about much if anything at all…people are already out of work and struggling to make ends meet…a lack of heat actually means a humanitarian crisis in sub-freezing weather…and no one will stand up in solidarity with a former Soviet nation trying to make it on their own without having to return to communism…to say nothing of the fact that this whole thing could be used by Russia to draw Ukraine back as it moves to recreate a large, powerful Soviet state.

Politics aside, this situation hits so close to home for me. The Ark truly is a beacon of hope in a place where there isn’t much for children who have no family…or no family healthy enough to care for them. It’s not an orphanage. It’s a place of love, advocacy, hope and family. For it to be closed because of unbelievable gas prices and an inability to pay the heat bill would be reprehensible.