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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Today, my political theory class discussed Socrates and Crito. The Crito is a discussion between Socrates and one of his followers, Crito, where Crito tries, unsuccessfully, to convince Socrates to escape Athens after he has been convicted and sentenced to death.  The question our teacher ended up posing to us was “Is it possible to be loyal to the state while you disobey its laws?”  I answered in the affirmative.  I believe in the ideals of our country: free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to live our lives the way we want (assuming we don’t harm anyone else), social mobility, meritocracy, everyone is equal under the law.  But I also know that our country doesn’t, has never fully, lived out those ideals.  We are a country that shuts out its religious minorities, oppresses its racial minorities, degrades its women, and gives advantages based on birth from the second you begin to get medical care or education.

 

Many conservatives complain that liberals don’t love this country, that they only want to focus on America’s flaws and changing its awesomeness. Liberals, particularly many of my young friends, all but shout back, “But it is flawed!  This is wrong!  How can you praise your country when one out of six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and a black woman is much more likely to end up in jail or killed rather than college?”  They’re angry—and rightly so.  Anger in the face of injustice is understandable and perhaps, when channeled productively, is even the most rational, ethical response at times.

 

I understand. I share the frustration.  However, I also believe that a country is more than its individual politicians, its court decisions, its flawed laws.  I can still love this country because I love it at its best, at what I want it to become.  Whistleblowers, practitioners of civil disobedience, are all willing to take risks, take the consequences of their actions out of a desire to make our country better than it is.  Our class discussed the difference between laws and Laws.  Laws being the highest ideals, the underlying principles upon which we try to found everything else.  Patriotism doesn’t require obedience or lip service, in fact, an institution like a state should be strong enough to withstand criticism and discourse.  The fact that we have these ideals, often, I think, is what makes all of this so hard.  Something in our national consciousness cries out that this is not right, because this is not how it should be. This isn’t who we should be.

 

As I was thinking of all of this, I couldn’t help but suspect that part of this trend of disillusionment is why many millennials are opting for spiritual rather than religious, for personal development rather than a church. They look at hypocrisy among church leaders, abuse scandals, dogma that denies facts…a system that doesn’t live out its ideals, because it is made of flawed men and women who have not been able to live up to the promise of God’s true church.

 

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. For me, Lent is a time where we try, in our own lives, to get closer to that idealized version of ourselves.  It’s a time where we have to face our own brokenness and how far we have to go, but commit to trying nevertheless.  I think our country could use some Lent.

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Where do I start?  Where do I start?  It’s difficult for me to determine where I should begin to explain all the things that I find horrifying about this video… 

Let me start here.  I’m not ashamed to say I’m a Christian either.  Let me say this first: Rick Perry does not speak for all Christians. 

Guess we’ll work chronologically.

“You don’t need to be in the Pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military”

First of all, everyone who is capable and has a desire to serve our country in the armed forces should be welcomed as they are.  Men, women, homosexuals, heterosexuals, Caucasion, African-American, Asian, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim, this is a country where all are welcome, and our military should reflect that.  There is no reason why people who are gay should be prohibited from serving in the military forces.  In the American Revolution or the Civil War, women dressed as men to try to serve their country, they had to hide who they were as well.  Now, women are valued members of the services, sometimes even being able to accomplish tasks that men are not, such as speaking with local women to gather information.  And really, gays being allowed to serve in the military, that’s really the worst thing you can think of that’s wrong with this country?  What about the fact that gay teens are feel forced to commit suicide because of excessive amounts of bullying because of their sexual orientation?  Don’t you think that’s much more concerning in what it says about America and our values?

“but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school”

First of all, I’m a devout Christian, I’ve grown up celebrating Christmas, and I know no one who has had to hide the fact that they celebrated Christmas.  In fact, I’m a Christian and I sometimes wish people didn’t so openly celebrate Christmas.  I also have attended both Christian and public school.  I have lived in both worlds.  I miss having prayers in class, I’ll admit it, they can be a nice way for people to come together.  But I was in a Christian school.  It has never crossed my mind that it would be appropriate in a public school.  Aside from the fact that not everyone’s Christian, not everyone’s religious.  There are Creaster people (people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, or in Jewish equivalents, only on High Holidays) and then there are outright atheists and agnostics.  Having organized prayer in school just isn’t appropriate in public school, the place for that is home, church, (or your equivalent) and within a group of people who have agreed that they are comfortable with something like that.  Besides, I pray in school all the time, but it’s between me and God, and that’s something that no one can legislate away from me.  I don’t know why we think that it has to be in an organized setting to be real.  Whatever personal feelings are, we are a nation that does not institutionalize religion, and that means that in our public institutions, organized prayer does not have its place. 

“as President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion”

Okay, if you’re going to be making an ad that thousands of people are going to see, get your facts right.  Things you’re discussing, such as what is acceptable in terms of school prayer or in public Christmas displays, those decisions weren’t made by Obama, they were made by the supreme court.  There’s no war on religion, at least not from the government, that there’s a culture that’s turning more hostile to religion in general, I’ll give you that, but I don’t think government’s how you fix that.

“and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage”

Okay, as any of you can see if from the title of this blog, much of what this blog is about is the mistaken belief among many in our country (a disproportionate amount of them being in politics) that religion and politics go hand in hand.  Conservative=Religious (i.e. Christian), Liberal=Secular (i.e. evil…just kidding, sort of).  Things aren’t this clear-cut.  I’m a liberal and I’m an evangelical Christian.  There are religious liberals, there are secular conservatives.  There are conservatives and liberals who are both religious but believe the first amendment means that we shouldn’t insitutionalize religion.  I don’t like it when liberal is used to mean secular.  I don’t like it when conservative is used to mean Christian.  Things are much more complex than this.

All in all, I was rather horrified by Rick Perry’s ad, even more horrified when the only real outcries I heard were on social networking sites and not by any in the media.  Religion isn’t an us-them thing, there are no teams.  I found Rick Perry’s ad concerning and more than that, I found it sad that he actually thought that the majority of Americans held the same views.

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If I understand correctly, the term “values voter” was first coined with the reelection of George Bush in 2004.  An exit poll asked voters what was their most important issue, among issues like the Iraq War, the economy, and healthcare was a choice of “moral values”.  Around 22% of the people chose moral values, and around 80% of those people voted for George Bush.  Implicit in this flawed poll was the assumption that the economy and the Iraq war were not choices based on moral values, as opposed to issues like abortion or gay marriage (it is worth noting that a later poll, which asked people to choose which moral values issue was most important to them, drastically more people chose the economy or Iraq over abortion or gay marriage).

However this came about, “values voter” has come to be associated with “conservative Christian”.  Values issues have a very narrow circle in people’s mind: abortion, gay marriage, contraception, stem cell research, et cetera.  A recent values voter summit was basically synonymous with “conservative/Republican values voter summit”.  Much of America, including the media, has accepted that “values voter” means “Religious Right Christian”.

I think it’s time to change that.

I’m a liberal Christian, and just because I plan on voting for Obama in November doesn’t mean I don’t have values.  Gay marriage is one of my values’ issues, but it’s because my values teach me that all people should receive equal treatment under the law and that families that are bound together by love should be celebrated and are an asset to this country, doesn’t matter the gender of the parents.  Foreign policy is a values issue for me because I believe that before all else God wants us to live in peace with one another and for each person to be able to live with dignity, human rights is a values issue.  The economy is a values issue, how is it right to treat people?  What should we be spending our money on?  Do I want someone who’s going to spend my tax dollars on the military budget or on social programs to help fight policy?  Both those choices reflect values (for more on values and the budget, please see my earlier post, “Budgets as Values”).  My stances on the issues are influenced by my values, which might be different from the values that the person next to me has and that will reflect in their politics.  Liberals are values voters too, even if they have different values.

There is no limit, no special set, for what are values issues.  A values issue is any political issue where your opinion comes from your values, and almost all of our opinions have some root in our values, whether we think about it consciously or not.  I’m a values voter, because I vote based on my values, even if those values are different from the Religious Right.  To say that only the Religious Right Christians are values voters is to imply that the rest of America doesn’t have values (which I’m sure a number of conservative Christians do believe).  We do, they might be different from yours, or have a slightly different perspective, but they’re still values and they still matter.  It’s time that everyone’s values are given equal credence in the public debate and that people admit that values voters aren’t just conservatives.

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It seems that everyone has a stack of “good” characters that they like to point to for support for their arguments.  Such as Glenn Beck’s frequent references to Martin Luther King during his “Restoring Honor” Rally…when Martin Luther King had communist sympathies…and we all know how Glenn Beck feels about communists.  Of course, the one most frequently taken seems to be Jesus.  No one can argue against Jesus of course, not even non-Christians, because what they disagree in theology, few people really want to bash the person who coined the Golden Rule, if for no other reason than it doesn’t make you look good.

A year ago, Herman Cain, the new favorite not-Mitt Romney of the month, wrote this article: http://www.redstate.com/thehermancain/2010/12/20/the-perfect-conservative/

It was entitled the Perfect Conservative, who is, as you can probably guess from the first paragraph, Jesus.

Main Point of Article: Jesus was a conservative.

“Evidence” of the Argument: “He helped the poor without one government program.  He healed the sick without a government health care system.  He [fed] the hungry without food stamps….For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check.”

So, technically, much of what Herman Cain said was true (though frankly looking at it in a historical context, the broader point remains to be proved).  I also can’t refrain myself from pointing out a number of the liberal things that Jesus argued for, such as distribution of wealth, paying taxes, giving money to the poor, et cetera.  And I have no doubt that Jesus would have been accused of class warfare if he lived now.   But none of that is the point.

Jesus was not a politician, of any stripe.  He was a social activist, a rabbi, a carpenter, and many other names, but politician was never one of them.  Jesus had a message that transcended any small politics of one era.  One group cannot claim Jesus for his own.  If you believe in Jesus and his principles of love and treating one another well and you are a conservative Republican…good for you.  If you believe in Jesus and his principles of love and treating one another well and you are a liberal Democrat…good for you.  There is not a party that has the corner on Jesus.  Jesus would probably look with disappointment on politicians on both sides.  I don’t think Jesus is a liberal or a conservative, I think he went above those kind of labels and I think when one group tries to claim him solely as their own it is shameful.

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Now, I first want to say, that I am going to add in those next two parts on religious literacy, however, I came across this and felt that it was important and wanted to share.

I am one of the many people who continues to be concerned over dialogue in the political arena that seems to foster anti-Islamic sentiment or to reinforce people’s narrow views of the religion.  I’ve at times noticed similarities between the preoccupation with many on the right with the supposed threat of Islam to our country and national identity and with the red scare of the mid-twentieth century, including senate hearings.  Another parallel is politicians use of specific words to incite fear or prejudice, trying to appeal to the concerns of a number of Americans.  One of these code words that has appeared is the sudden obsession with sharia law and the so-called danger that it poses to our country.  I found this article by Amy Sullivan of the Huffington Post entitled “The Myth of Sharia Law in America” and thought that it was excellent and certainly worth sharing and discussing.

Link to the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-sullivan/sharia-myth-america_b_876965.html

Sullivan starts out with the phrase “if you are not vitally concerned about the possibility of Muslims infiltrating the U.S. government and establishing a Taliban-style theocracy, then you are not a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination”.  Part of this is people’s idea of the concept of ‘creeping sharia’, that sharia law will slowly come into our laws and culture without us noticing it and in the process take away our American values, freedoms, and identity.  Sullivan goes onto some of the examples of Republican presidential candidates who have started speaking out against Sharia.  Rick Santorum referred to sharia as a “threat” to the country.  However, this is nothing compared to some of the concrete suggestions at combating sharia law that have been discussed by Republican candidates that Sullivan quoted.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain stated that he “would not appoint a Muslim to a Cabinet position or judgeship because ‘there is this attempt to gradually ease sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.  It does not belong in our government.’”  I first want to state that what Herman Cain is suggesting, keeping people out of government posts because of their faith, is illegal and it is stated in the constitution that “all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (article VI, paragraph III).  It is worth noting that Herman Cain also believes that it should be legal for towns to refuse to accommodate mosques being built if the majority of the population opposes them.  However, by that logic a town could refuse to accommodate any minority religion’s house of worship, for instance a town that was predominantly Catholic, as my own town is, could choose that the Episcopalian, Unitarian, Methodist, Baptist, and Congregationalist churches in the town, along with the Jewish synagogue, could also be banned.  I hadn’t realized that in our country that rights of the minorities were dependent on the whims of the majorities.  Herman Cain continues to be an outspoken critic of sharia law and Islam, saying that “our constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.  Islam combines church and state” as his argument for why Islam is entirely antithetical to America.  The major flaw in his argument is that, as anyone who has read the Old Testament or the Jewish Torah is well aware, Christianity and Judaism both have strong roots in the combination of church and state.  There are laws and regulations in the early books of the Bible on many of the same subjects as sharia such as prayer, contracts, interest, dietary needs, crimes, and welfare.  Christianity and Judaism’s holy texts combine church and state just as much as Islam.  Cain doesn’t seem to realize this however, reasserting: “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws—sharia laws.  That’s the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”  Christianity has, plenty of times in the past, instituted governments where there was no separation between church and state, many of these governments existed very recently as well, even now national churches exist in many European country.  The separation between church and state was a new and radical idea at the inception of our nationhood, it is not a religion itself that opposes or affirms the separation between church and state, but how the people of that religion choose to carry out their faith.

Sullivan also cites Newt Gingrich, current presidential candidate and former speaker of the house, who has been calling for a federal law stating that sharia cannot be used in any court case.  The issue is actually a familiar one and has not been confined to sharia.  Many people in the past have said that judges should not be able to use international precedents (as in, decisions or laws from another country) as justifications in American court decisions or sentencing.  The logic behind this is valid.  However, singling out sharia as a threat isn’t quite as valid.  Sullivan addressed the issue of when and where sharia is used in United States courts, describing how examples where sharia might be brought in is when the two litigants are Muslim who would like a Muslim arbiter to settle issues around marriage contracts or business deals in compliance with sharia, or in executing an Islamic will.  Sullivan points out: “They are no different than the practice of judges allowing Orthodox Jews to resolve some matters in Jewish courts, also known as beth din.”  The other times that sharia is brought up is when courts hear cases where the litigants are from different countries, or deals or custody arrangements were made in other countries under different laws, in this case sharia is brought in as the foreign law, it should also be noted that Catholic canon law is permitted in such cases as well, as Sullivan pointed out.  A large number of states in the past two years have debated or passed laws to ban the use of sharia in courts.

However, it actually wasn’t Newt Gingrich’s attack on sharia’s use in court cases that I had a problem with, it was his assertion that supreme court justices and other judges who oppose that idea should be removed.  The judicial system is critical to our fundamental system of checks and balances.  Our judges are meant to augment our legal system and to provide a check on the legislative and executive branches; if we start removing judges based on what decisions they make, not only do we undermine the job they’re meant to be doing, but then we might not get the same opinions, judges might change their verdicts based on which political party is in power out of fear of losing their jobs.  They can no longer contribute to the system in the same way.  When the supreme court handed down their decision in the case of Brown versus the Board of Education, President Eisenhower was in office.  President Eisenhower was a segregationist, but the courts said that schools had to be integrated.  Though Eisenhower didn’t agree with the court’s decision, he knew that as president it was his job to carry out the court’s decisions no matter what.  The courts and judges need to be able to come to their own conclusions about cases and laws, no matter what those conclusions may be, and threatening the very judicial system’s principles that our nation relies on not only undermines that system but fundamentally threatens it.

Sullivan continued her article by defining sharia, noting that although it has become a word in many sound bytes, few people actually understand what sharia is.  Later in the article she quoted the example of a state senator from Alabama, Gerald Allen, who was sponsoring a bill banning sharia, but when asked to define it by a reporter could not actually say what sharia was.  In her explanation of sharia, Sullivan says: “More than a specific set of laws, sharia is a process through which Muslim scholars and jurists determine God’s will and moral guidance as they apply to every aspect of a Muslim’s life.  They study the Quran, as well as the conduct and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and sometimes try to arrive at consensus about Islamic law.  But different jurists can arrive at very different interpretations of sharia, and it has changed over the centuries.”  I think one of the closest parallels to sharia, as so defined, would be the Talmud, a text in Judaism of discussions by rabbis over Jewish laws, ethics, and traditional customs, among many others.  I also will admit that I smiled a bit at the last part of the quotation.  In my daily listening to the news and in the research for this article I’ve heard a number of the candidates expounding on how Islam is different from what we think (though I’m not exactly sure who “we” is supposed to be and I wish they would all stop using pronouns like “us” and “they”) and Muslims are therefore fundamentally different from the rest of us.  However, that last part of the quotation sounds exactly like Christianity or Judaism or any of the other major religions.  We all interpret God’s will for us, the Bible, and Jesus’ teachings in very different way.  We come to different conclusions about what the text says or what God means every day and what we believe has evolved greatly over two millennia since Jesus first spoke his teachings.  I think if someone said that all Christians believe _________, if it wasn’t something like “in God”, I think most of us would realize pretty quickly that all Christians don’t agree with whatever it was.  Christians disagree amongst themselves on basically everything, from marriage to gender roles to morality to government to economics to hell to the Bible to church.  The idea that you could say that all Christians think alike or believe in the same things is absurd.  I think the idea that all Muslims think alike or believe in all the same things is equally absurd.  You can’t lump people of all the same religion into one box.  It seems to me that much of sharia is just the process through which through study and faith, many Muslims try to find the best way to live out what they see to be God’s will, the same as any of us.

Sullivan noted at the end that “unlike the U. S. Constitution or the Ten Commandments, there is no one document that outlines universally agreed upon sharia” (though it is worth noting that different faiths use different versions of the ten commandments as well) and began to answer the question of how some Muslim countries use sharia in their legal systems.  While Sullivan acknowledges the extreme scenarios, such as the Taliban ruling Afghanistan using sharia, most countries sharia usually makes up the laws around contracts.  In other countries, where the government is secular, Muslims still use sharia in their practices like prayer or diet.  Sullivan adds, “In general, to say that a person follows sharia is to say that she is a practicing Muslim.”

Lastly, Sullivan addressed many people’s fears about the “extreme punishments” in the sharia like stoning someone to death, beheading, et cetera.  She points out the very important fact that even though a judge can consider sharia in their decisions, sharia cannot override our laws or constitution.  Sharia cannot be used in a way that contradicts the laws that we currently have and no one can force a judge to consider sharia.  Also, despite people’s horror about some of the punishments described in sharia, people have to remember that things that many of us would describe as equally inhumane are proscribed in our Bible.  Stoning is named as a punishment in the Bible.  Yet, in our country’s long history with a Christian majority in the population, I don’t recall stoning ever being chosen as a punishment by a judge, certainly not within the last century.  The fact that the Bible named it did not mean that judges rushed to use it in their decisions and I find it equally unlikely that something different will happen with sharia.

Sullivan questions why sharia has become such a concern for many Americans and such a force in our national debate and elections.  She points out that many people either believe that such laws against sharia are necessary to preempt sharia’s invasion of our laws or, “assert that all Muslims are bound to work to establish an Islamic state in the U. S.”.  Aside from the fact that there is no evidence of that, I don’t see why if people are afraid of something like that why they’re not more worried about the many public figures who continue to call out that our nation is a “Christian nation” and that we must preserve its status as such.  Personally, though hypocrisy among politicians is nothing new, I still have to say that I wish we could expect better of our presidential candidates.  The Republicans are running on the core value that we need to restore America’s focus on the document of the constitution, while many of them are not only threatening the first amendment’s protection of people to be able to practice their religion freely but are also disregarding laws about religious discrimination in public offices and the checks and balance system of the three branches that was at the very core of the constitution.  Sullivan seems to think it is more likely (and I agree) that instead of Muslims slowly working together to impose their religion upon us “that politicians who cry ‘Sharia!’ are engaging in one of the oldest and least-proud political traditions—xenophobic demagoguery.”  She says that one of the easiest ways to tell “is when politicians carelessly throw around a word simply because it scares some voters.”  A sad example of the many ways that politicians like to use emotionally charged words to incite people to make emotional decisions motivated by fear rather than reason.  Sullivan finishes her article strong, stating: “The anti-communist Red Scare of the 1950s made broad use of guilt by innuendo and warnings about shadowy conspiracies.  If GOP candidates insist they are not doing the same thing to ordinary Muslims, they can prove it by explaining what they believe sharia is and whether they’re prepared to ban the consideration of all religious codes from civil arbitration.  Anything less is simply fear mongering.”

Now, for my final word, I’d like to say why any of us who are not Muslim should be actively involved in fighting against any attempts to limit Muslim’s religious freedom.  It might be easy to not be too concerned, since either way, we could argue, it doesn’t affect us.  However, there is first the danger that the erosion of the religious civil liberties of any one group threatens the religious civil liberties of us all, and we might very well find ourselves in the same place later down the line, one never knows.  There’s also the simple fact that it’s wrong, and as the Bible extolls us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” this should mean that we are vitally concerned with the treatment of other people.  Lastly, I think history has shown, that while those who led charges against discrimination against a people are always villified, it is really the people who stood by and let it happen that history lays the most blame at the feet of.

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The Muslim practice of women wearing headscarves to cover their hair and neck has become a symbol in the United States for Islamic women.  Some see it as a symbol of their refusal to integrate into American society, some see it as the exercise of their religious beliefs, some see it as a sign of their oppression by men.  For most of these young women their choice of clothing is something that is reflective of their personal faith and they hold to that even in the face of ridicule or judgment by people around them.

Let’s just start with some terminology.   There are many different types of coverings, the four major ones being the hijab, the chador, the burqa, and the niqab.  The hijab is a headscarf that covers women’s hair and necks.  The chador is a full-body wear that is similar to a cloak and it leaves her face exposed.  The niqab is a full-body covering that covers everything except the eyes.  The burqa covers the eyes as well, leaving only a mesh covering to see through.  As a sidenote, the now-infamous headscarf ban in France bans only the burqa and the niqab and not the hijab and chador (though these things are not allowed in places like French schools where wearing pieces of religious symbolism is forbidden).  Hijab is also, at times, used to refer to the overall practice of modest dress.  Modest dress is interpreted several ways, most believe that it should not be form-fitting and many believe it should cover everything except face and hands (and some believe those too should be covered).

Women and girls wearing some form of the headscarf is becoming increasingly common.  While some are resistant to our country changing, I believe that it is America’s versatility and ability to change that is part of what makes this a great nation.  Just as with civil rights, an African-American girl also started to become a face of America, along with her blonde hair, blue-eyed counterpart, or as Asian-American girls also became common to see in the media, so I think that these Muslim girls are also becoming another face of America, something that bothers a great number of people.  This girl—a young woman with a hijab covering her hair, a loose-fitting shirt with long sleeves, and slacks—she is also America.

Common misperception: only immigrant women and girls still wear the headscarf and wearing it is a sign that they have not integrated into American culture.  This is false.  A large percentage of the women who wear the headscarf were born and raised in America, just like the rest of us.

Common misperception: most girls only wear the headscarf because they are forced to by their families or husbands.  This is also false.  While there are cases where women are forced by their families to wear the headscarf (particularly abroad) the majority of women make this choice freely. For the record though, in a way, isn’t a family encouraging a girl to wear a headscarf or cover herself not that different from when our parents refused to buy us a piece of clothing or leave the house in an outfit because we were wearing a short skirt or a low top?  Or when we’ve done that to our daughter?  Standards of appropriate dress are different in every family, we know this.  While this does not excuse someone forcing their daughter or wife to wear something against their will, perhaps looking at it from this perspective we might understand better why some families strongly wish their daughters to dress in a way that they think is appropriate.

Most women who cover themselves do so out of a personal choice.  They do it because they feel it is something that is mandated by their religion.  Or some do it because it is part of their faith and spirituality, it helps them to connect with God.  Some do it because they feel that, similarly while many Christians believe in saving aspects of physicality (like sex) for marriage and in only giving that to one person, they also believe in only showing themselves to their family and husband.  And there are some who do it because they prefer to dress modestly as a way of respecting themselves and their body.  Instead of feeling commoditized or insecure about body image, they cover themselves as a way of taking focus away from their body and back to where they believe it truly belongs: their heart and mind.  Many would prefer the stares from their modest dress and headscarf than the stares of boys on a street corner.  Whatever motivates Muslim women to wear their headscarves and modest dress, for many of them it is a deeply personal choice that they make because they feel that this best reflects their faith and beliefs.  Christians should understand this since so many Christians also believe in dressing modestly.  This is just a different aspect and a different way of reflecting a similar belief and practice across our religions.

However, instead many Muslim women feel isolated or ostracized.  They feel pressure from peers and get disrespectful questions about their choices.  At times they have been shouted at, had people try to pull their headscarves off, and there are even a few cases where women wearing hijab have been attacked.  In spite of public disapproval, they have continued to express their faith and they should be admired for that.  We should be supporting these women’s choice instead of condemning them or judging them.

There is a lawsuit going forward by a young Muslim woman against Abercrombie and Fitch after she was allegedly fired because they said her headscarf did not conform with their company dress code.  She had been working without a problem for a number of months and had been sure to wear her hijab in company-approved colors until a district manager saw her.  When she refused to take off her hijab while at work she was fired from her job.  (It is worth noting that this is not the first time since Abercrombie and Fitch have been sued for discrimination).

Abercrombie and Fitch has a specific dress code that they require all their employees to wear, the idea being that the dress code is supposed to reflect their “All-American Style”.  Apparently they do not believe that a hijab is an American style, that it is not All-American.  Aside from the fact that by extension this is implying that they don’t see people who wear the hijab as truly American and the indignity of this, they are wrong.  We are entitled, under the bill of rights, to freedom of expression and that there shall be nothing to prohibit the free exercise of religion.  It is this freedom that entitles us to express our Christian faith, such as wearing a cross.  And all who value their religious freedom should do their utmost to defend it for others.   But further, that these women are free to wear their hijab and express their faith in this way is not un-American.  In fact, having this freedom and right of religion and expression (and to be able to live in a society that accepts their choice) is quintessentially American.

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This book by Tony Campolo gives an view on much of the political and social issues of our time through the outlook of our Christian faith and Jesus’ teachings.  He describes a set of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals but do not identify with the so-called Religious Right.  This group has taken the name Red Letter Christians, a reference to the many Bibles where the words that Jesus spoke are written in red letters for emphasis, the implication being that this group is dedicated to following the teachings of Jesus and his message with a strong emphasis on social justice.

 

There is a chapter on each of the following issues in the book: the environment, the Iraq War, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, AIDS crisis, gay rights, gun control, education, abortion, immigration, crime, the federal budget, the minimum wage, the debt, wasteful government spending, political lobbyists, campaign finance, and candidates.  The issues covered are broad and encompassing. Campolo offers an outlook on each issue through the lens Jesus’ teachings and Christian faith.  He suggests possible solutions to large problems and some new ideas and perspectives.  At the very least, the book can help one create an informed opinion.

 

I think this book is excellent, it is easy to read and very thought-provoking.   It is particularly relevant as we begin to go into another election cycle and we are considering which candidates to give our votes to.  It’s a fresh outlook that allows us to consider what role we want our values and our faith to play in our politics and might hit a nerve with moderate Christians who feel stuck in the middle.

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