Two Flags

JULY 04, 2015

Two Flags

Two Flags … won’t be flying at my house today, July 4th, Independence Day in America.

  Neither the Confederate flag nor the American flag will fly at my house today. The Confederate flag has useful good meaning to some people, but it is so offensive to many Americans that it should not be used, and I never do. The American flag is a proud symbol, I display it every year, but as a small protest against our government I just feel I shouldn’t display it this year. Actually, the symbolisms of the two have come to tension recently.
  I am proud to be southern born. Southerners have values and a culture that make us proud. We drink hyper-sweet iced tea and we have found that if you add enough sugar, rhubarb (otherwise unpalatable) can be made into a tasty pie. Well sugar and butter can make many things right. But, there is that ugly chapter of slavery, and the many decades of racism that can never be made right. The persistence of the Confederate flag is emblematic of the persistence of resentment in many southerners over the war between the states (Civil War). This was not a war just to end slavery, but to abrogate states’ rights, in this case the right to secede. States joined the Union willingly; they should have been allowed to leave the union. The failure to allow this, and to pursue force, was the beginning of the loss of States’ rights, which is fundamental in the Constitution. We continue to live with the consequences today: a federal government larger and more powerful than intended or allowed by the constitution.
  In the course of the War, slaves were set free, and I am glad for that. Slavery was unjust and a tragedy, it had to go, but it was already on its way out, and it could have been defeated in other ways, true emancipation with attendant justice. England achieved this without a war. I wonder if some of where we are today might be different – disproportionately more people of African descent in poverty and incarcerated, for example – if peaceful means would have been pursued. The end does not justify the means, which was an unconstitutional exercise of power by the President and the federal government. Would that there had been a Martin Luther King, Jr to lead the country at the time.

  Many Southerners are passionate about States’ rights, and the scars of the unjust war haven’t healed as of this day. None of that makes violence or racism right. I do think it has a lot to do with why the flag has persisted, as a symbol of defiance, not against abolition, but against the infamous war and the extreme punishment of southern states after the war. However, please take down that flag. You have a right to fly it, but if you love people, you will respect the offense it has become, and how it empowers racists.
  States’ rights and constitutional government were further degraded recently when the Supreme Court struck down decisions and actions by several states over the issue of same-sex marriage. I won’t even argue their reasoning on the topic – and obviously they and the country were pretty evenly split on that – but marriage, which is a cultural institution, not a constitutional one, is rightly left to the states whether and how it should be regulated. The day before, they admittedly ignored plain language in a written law (the Affordable Care Act) and presumed the intentions of Congress to uphold the law. Many actions by the Court have been characterized as “activist”, going beyond their constitutional role. This continues to degrade democracy and the Constitution.

  Then we have the autocratic divisive Presidency, which could do so much to heal racism and political divisions, but does the opposite. Our congress is no better. The ongoing failure to cooperate in the best interest of the country is despicable. This is caused by career politicians who are more interested in re-election than in justice. None of the above would be acceptable to our founders, and shouldn’t be acceptable to us.   Unfortunately, this may be beyond recovery. Our vast entitlements, which reach almost everyone, assure that we will continue on the road to socialism. Our system is dysfunctional and we must seek the collective will to return to constitutional government and States’ rights. I am just not very proud of our federal government right now, so no flag this year. No amount of sugar or butter will help.

Marriage, Redefined

JULY 01, 2015

Marriage, Redefined

Marriage- it’s just a word, I suppose. The Supreme Court ruling that states must recognize same-sex marriage redefined the word, ostensibly to apply the Constitution. It was a stunning moment, really, centuries of history and cultural norms seemingly overturned by the stroke of a pen. Many celebrated and many grieved, but the word and the institution had already moved very far from the ideal we thought we practiced. The fifty percent failure (divorce) rate, re-marriages, cohabitation, and various sexual freedoms had already changed the meaning of the word for the culture at large. For a minority, it remained a traditional, meaningful, and even sacred institution. In the aftermath, we consider what the effects will be, beyond the obvious of gratifying half the country. Celebrations continued – even the President giddily lit up the White House – but the grief is destined to continue for a long time. I am not writing about gay rights, or homosexuality. It is none of my business what people do in private. Marriage, however, is public.

Traditional marriage was not defeated or abolished by this decision (though the Constitution suffered another defeat). The real losers are our children. They will be faced with a confusing array of relationships as never before. More and more, children will be deprived of the traditional family, where they are nurtured and normal roles are modeled. This, of course, leads to more confusion about gender roles and relationships. The adults got what they want; the children are left with the ongoing consequences. Children do better in a stable environment with both a mother and a father (look it up). And of course, there will undoubtedly be more infringement on the rights of Christians and Christian organizations, who will be compelled or forced to approve in ways not yet seen. Religious liberty will be sacrificed. It isn’t a great surprise to Christians; it is part of the ongoing slide to secularism/humanism.

Christians support traditional marriage, and do so from a different perspective. Understand, Christians are those who believe in, have a relationship with, and try to follow God, through Jesus Christ. As such, our world view and our paradigm are at odds with the rest of the world: We believe we must yield to the commands of God, even to the denial of self. Yes, this is foolishness to many; it is foolishness, unless it is true. Of course, our culture has evolved to favor self. The person is in center and first place. All choices are of equal value, with fewer and fewer exceptions. Hence I can do whatever I want (“not harming others”), and no one can “judge” me. This world view is godless, by definition unavailable to Christians. Christians would do well to recognize that we are in the minority in this country, perhaps one-third, being generous. This is not a Christian nation, maybe it was, but not so much now. We should be happy we can be Christians in this nation. But, over the marriage issue, we are fairly evenly split, so it is not just a Christian issue. When I see such an even split, I understand there is a genuine difference of opinion, and try to respect that. We are not homophobes; we do not fear you. We do fear what our collective morality can do to our society and nation.

We should acknowledge that we Christians (and the we includes me) have failed to model what we preach when it comes to marriage, and also, especially, when it comes to loving one another, which is our second-greatest command. We need to take notice. At this time, we should see the opportunity to be more Christ like in loving others and to specifically take Christian unions more seriously.

  Secular marriage has existed as long as Christian marriage.  Christian marriage should remain under the church and scripturally based. Pastors and churches should examine their wedding practices. The church needs to be involved from engagement through to the vows, and beyond. This is a choice of believers, to be faithful not just to each other, but to our God.  If the words “marriage” and “wedding” have become devalued it is no reason to abandon our practices, although we already fail in many ways. Churches and pastors must not bow to the pressure to accept all forms of marriage. 
  Secular marriage is under government purview, hence another distinct division of church and state. Secular marriage should remain with the individual states, and those states should chose how to license or register marriages, or not. There is no constitutional right to marriage, so states do not have to recognize marriages or perform weddings, as long as they treat everyone equally. In my opinion, states need to get out of the marriage business.  Under the new definition of marriage, individuals can and should be able to declare their relationships with whomever or whatever they wish in secular society. People already “marry” their pets; their marriages must be recognized in the same way. I believe the government must also recognize polygamy (and how else would “bisexuals” fulfill their compulsion?). The new marriage is the new law; we have to learn to live with it. Let them have the word; it’s just a word.

Copyright 2015, Alvin Perkins