A few hours after publishing this post, I went on my daily walk, and found this in chalk along the curb. It had been placed there since yesterday (I always walk the same route)*.
UPDATE on the photo, June 29: I went by the spot about noon, and no evidence of the chalked saying – it rained overnight. So the photo is the only reminder that it was ever there. One of the truths of accomplishing big things is the adage: “if you can believe it, you can achieve it”. This applies to many things in many ways.
(click to enlarge)
At the exact same time as the disastrous sectarian (religious) war in Syria and Iraq, another religious inspired event, an essentially covert religious “war” of its own, is being marketed in the United States. It began on June 21, Summer Solstice, and runs through July 4: a fortnight involving an annual natural phenomena, a national holiday and a religious initiative. It is quite a marketing package.
Today is the half-way point of the official observance; but it will continue long past July 4th, rest assured.
It is called “Fortnight for Freedom” and its marketing focus is on an alleged heavy-handed federal government coming down on poor beleaguered Christians who are, it is suggested, forced to compromise certain religious beliefs to obey laws with which they disagree, such as parts of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Just one example: being required as a company or employee to dispense birth control to others who desire that particular service when ones believes birth control is a sin. It is, indeed, a clash: a demand of freedom for one; with no apparent attention about freedom for the other whose views might differ.
The initiative seems to make so much sense, if you go no further than the surface rationale. As you think more deeply about the implications, though, it is really a tangled web of deception. “Freedom” apparently only applies to those who can then restrict certain others freedoms. Thus Fortnight for Freedom isn’t about freedom at all, it is about domination and control, imposition of beliefs, only without the bombs and bullets. It is about marketing an idea, a belief, as superior to other contrary beliefs.
Here is a description of Fortnight for Freedom. “Fortnight for Freedom” and its companions have come at me from a number of different directions in the last week or so.
Last Friday, the local Catholic Archdiocese newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, had a photo of four earnest looking Bishops on page 11, all intently looking at an iPad above a headline “Bishops focus on religious liberty….” I am Catholic. I get this paper. I know their story….
Here is the article that accompanies the above photo: Bishops focus….002
Technology and Media and Words are wonderful…and awful. The words “Fortnight for Freedom” are not even mentioned in the accompanying article; but the timing of the article is no coincidence.
The Bishops of my Church (I am an active Catholic), have far more than enough “freedom”; there is no need for them to demand even more freedom to take away freedom from others who have differing beliefs than they do, including great numbers who consider themselves, as I do, “active Catholic”.
But this is not just a Catholic hierarchical notion. Last Sunday, a good friend gave me a letter “Standing Together for Religious Freedom, An Open Letter to All Americans“, issued by a Southern Baptist entity, whose first signatory is a Catholic Bishop. The few other signers are, it appears, almost all Catholic or Evangelical Christian leaders of one denomination or another.
This is a top down deal between very odd bedfellows; not a bottom up groundswell. When I was growing up, we Catholics avoided Evangelicals. It was probably also true, vice versa: Catholics were Papists, not Christians.
I see no signers of the Open Letter from mainstream Christian denominations, Jews and Moslems, nor the great numbers of people who do not happen to share a particular belief system. They appear to be only Catholic and Evangelical “leaders”.
There is a bottom line for me in this:
There is a certain amount of “freedom” and “liberty” available. Think of a very large soup kettle full of liberty and freedom.
The Founding Fathers of the U.S. had the right idea about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but even for them, then, the concept was essentially reserved to white men with property (including slaves).
At the same time, our founders purposefully and deliberated separated Church and State, an inconvenient truth for some who now actively attempt to rewrite our national history to fit their version of the facts.
We’re now at 238 years of the experiment called American Democracy. It took nearly 200 of those years, some of them very hard years, to come to some fairly reasonable equilibrium about what freedom and liberty meant in practice: ending slavery; securing the right to vote for women (1920) and others (universal suffrage); more universal rights like the Voting Rights Act, Womens Rights, (1960s) etc.
In each of these cases, and others, there was a need to equalize “power”; to share in the wealth of that container of life, liberty and happiness. Each person has a right to that freedom and liberty.
Notions like Fortnight for Freedom want to turn these around; to redefine or to establish new definitions of what “freedom” and “liberty” mean.
Their intent, under the guise of seeking freedom, is to take it away from some as a benefit to others.
To go backwards, not forwards.
What do you think?
After I completed the above, I was scrolling through unread e-mails from earlier in the week. This particular one, passed along by Joyce, is particularly telling about the relationship between todays Piety and Power.
As I was writing the above, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Massachusetts law requiring a 35 foot “buffer zone” for protests at abortion clinics violated free speech. It was noted that this same Supreme Court has a much larger “buffer zone” at it own Court in our Nations Capitol, and doesn’t get the contradiction between its own behavior and its own ruling. Here’s a good commentary on that issue.
from Carol A: Really liked your post, Dick. For a long time, I’ve thought our country has lost its way on the issue of freedom. Freedom without responsibility and respect for others freedom is merely freedom only for a few. Freedom is like individualism in this country. Both need to be balanced and if there is anything we lack, it is balance. We see that in the Tea Party who refuses to address any issue where they might need to compromise. They’re dead set on destroying Obama in whatever way they can. My way or the highway.
I think the issue needs to be discussed and be out in the open. It’s not whose freedom is most important, but how do we balance it with respect for other people’s freedoms.
from Norm N: A link from Time. “Doctors urge more hospitals to perform abortions”.
Response from Dick: Per both Carol and Norm’s comments, I think the weak link in the advocates arguments (i.e. to end abortion, etc) is that it completely dismisses any other point of view, and pretends that a simple solution, perhaps legislatively or by court decision, can be crafted and controlled by advocates for a particular point of view. We are a pluralistic society, and more so than ever, “the other” can never again be driven into silence. Difficult issues require compromise, and compromise requires people to dialogue, truly, with people who have different points of view.
from Peter B: It would be useful if we could be clear about the issue of insurance covering women’s health care: the institutions are not “required as a company or employee to dispense birth control…” Only qualified medical professionals and pharmacists do that.
If I were taking this on, I would focus on the muddying of the waters that is the usual strategy for those who wish to raise these tempests where there is no real Constitutional issue. Whenever they get us to argue the pros and cons of their supposed grievance, they have already won the argument, because they have established in the discourse that there is an issue there. It is bogus.
There’s no “there” there, but as we see, these tactics of confusion and mendacity work all too often. It is a lot trickier to try to argue that a company is infringed upon because its insurance package covers things they don’t like covered (as, I read somewhere, the Hobby Lobby company has provided its own employees for years). People smart enough to make that case face an uphill climb if they want to rouse up people stupid enough to buy it.
I have a good friend who is now in trouble for not paying taxes, forty percent or more of which support the bloody wars of aggression and conquest now conducted in our names, and for private profit. If there is a bright line between the obligation to pay taxes and our religious objections to mass murder, there must be a bright line between paying for health care coverage without discrimination, and our personal religious objections to family planning, etc.
It’s all about what is done in your name, with your money, and the real question is, what’s yours? What constitutes an act for which you are accountable? And to Whom? The definition is completely arbitrary and made up out of whole cloth. It is an impossible question that we had hoped to resolve by just putting it off limits in the Constitution. But language doesn’t hold still. Even the meaning of a comma after “well regulated militia,” has changed.
Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that establishing a perimeter around abortion clinics where people are not allowed to scream in the face of a girl walking toward the building is inhibiting the screamers’ free speech rights, which trumps the girl’s right to walk unmolested down any street in America. (How do they even know whether she is trying to deal with private issues that are hers and hers alone to live with, or just looking for a clean bathroom?) It is (or was) actually only the government that is accountable for any infringement of free speech in the Constitution. It’s a “Congress shall make no law” thing, if I am not mistaken. And what about all those restrictions on protest in D.C.?
We need to work farther upstream than the political conflict itself: literacy and critical thinking skills are the worst casualty of the Education Wars. Democracy cannot stand against ignorance, and you can’t win a shouting match.
from Bruce F: You are correct, Dick, Hobby Lobby’s idea of freedom is based on power & domination. Their entire business model is based on that precept, especially their relations with their employees. The answer for their employees is to unionize. A very difficult proposition for them, but if they were unionized, this law suit regarding the ACA wouldn’t be, along with a whole host of other assaults on labor. Hobby Lobby, like many business, are taking advantage of and thriving in the week economy & labor market to exploited there employees, and it’s in the name of freedom.
I fear a 5-4 decision in favor of the plaintiff.
from John B: Organized religion is a part of the establishment. Most religions espouse the delayed gratification in an after life paradise IF the believers obey the teachings, and we know what that means.
I want to believe there is a higher order to life, maybe even a GODHEAD, but beware of conflating mainstream American religion with freedom. Most religions are dying in a slow and painful manner. Some of them, like certain ones originating in the eastern Mediterranean region are promote despicable social practices. These are the opposite of freedom. As examples, consider the breakdown in negotiations between the Jews and Palestinians or the wars between the Sunnis and the Shias.
I long for a day when a LOUD voice from the sky says: “You guys don’t get it. It was love each other, not loot each other, pray for each other, not prey on each other, share with one another not steal from one another.”
The number one freedom valued in America is the freedom to make money. It is the highest value.
from Jeff P:Well, if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you
mentioned in this post, but then , as you know , I am a godless apostate.
I think the public at this point, from Ireland to the USA to Germany to
Mexico and most Catholic countries finds the words of bishops particularly
meaningless given the record of the self same clergy in policing itself.
Otherwise , I defer to the Founding Fathers :
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of
ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always
avail themselves for their own purposes.
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of
the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting
“Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus
Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the
great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of
its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the
Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for
“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?
In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the
ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen
upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been
the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the
public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries.
A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
[Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]
Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?
— John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 19, 1821
.”…the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political
direction.” [George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that
the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ)
from Andrea G: An excellent read. I couldn’t have stated the issue better. As I scrolled through the letter and the signatures, I wondered how much progress would be made regarding ‘traditional’ social justice issues (poverty, housing, education) if those entities collectively focused on such issues.
from Ray B: When politicians take our tax money and use it in a way that supercedes our basic right to religious freedom must concern us all. Notice and genuine concern through a process starting with the people to stop this downward spiral of our systematic loss of political and religious freedoms must take place. Our well thought out constitution saw the need for democratic freedom and the separation of church and government and must not be tampered with in the un democratic way of this time in our history by those in power and ignore these rights in the name of protectionism with no restraints, all in the name of “the country’s best interests”. Concern for our own people should not be ignored by wars, playing big brother to the world at own demise and financial near insolvency. Our people’s basic rights and the right to jobs, food, safe haven are in our best interest”
from Flo H, Jun 30: I’d never heard of Fortnight for Freedom, but certainly experience the effects of the movement in my community and church. What happened to the belief that, “Your freedom ends where my freedom begins.“? [Ed. Note: Flo didn’t suggest any link, but I’ve added a bunch of links about the phrase.]
from Greg H, Jul 1: I share your sentiments. The conservative tide, at least in the courts, is strong. We will just have to ride it out; I don’t see any alternative.
Curious as I am, I Googled Hobby Lobby to learn if they have any Minnesota stores.
Would you believe their only Minnesota store now is in Woodbury ? Another will open in Maplewood at some point. You may wish to click on this link to view their home page.
response from Dick: We happen to live in Woodbury, about 7 miles from the store. I am not a shopper, so had never heard of this store; my wife is a shopper, but has never mentioned this place. Such is how shopping is. I won’t waste gas or time to even go see the place.
At the home page for Hobby Lobby there is a momentarily appearing ad with two quotations attributed to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (they are portions of the first and third quotations which can be read here). They aren’t up very long. They are probably like all such quotations: a bit like distilling the Bible into one verse without context….
Here is the wikipedia entry about Hobby Lobby.
I know lots of people who believe lots of things. In our free society, the danger is when someone with a particular belief embarks on a course to impose that belief on everyone else through Law. The only remedy I see, personally, is staying active politically. For someone with the interest, and time, here is a long post that discusses the implications of Hobby Lobby.
* – The sign was very tastefully done, and I have no objections to such an expression at all. When I was taking the photo at the beginning of this post, I noticed a lady in a black car stopped near the corner. Possibly it was because I was standing in the middle of the road! But when she turned the corner, she rolled down her window and said – as if friend to friend – words to the effect “really true”.
She drove on, and I left. It is a safe speculation that she had something to do with the neatly done graffiti.
At home I read Jeff’s comment, below: “…if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you mentioned in this post….” In my opinion, movements – makes no different the issue or ideology – often take root quietly and unnoticed, until something happens. The lady likely knew about this sign, as did her church, whichever that happened to be, and she was glad somebody (me) was looking at it. And I thought it important to pass the word about it. (The Bible quote is from Mark 9:23, so says the chalk. I have four Bibles here, three Catholic and one the “red-line Bible”, and in each of the four the quotation is worded a little differently. Below are the respective quotations I have. With the Bible, in particular, it depends both on the translation, and the context that is given to certain phrases or passages….)
1. The post on the curb: Everything is possible for one who believes. Mark 9:23. Possible origin of this translation, check here.
2. Grandma’s 1906 Douay-Reims: Verse 22: “And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
3. My 1961 St. Joseph Catholic Edition: also Verse 22: “But Jesus said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
4. Dad’s 1978 Good News Bible: Verse 23: “Yes” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
5. From 1989 Revised Standard Version: Verse 23: “Jesus said to him, “if you are able! All can be done for the one who believes.”