Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
Ends, means and contraception
Your paper discusses many aspects of the contraception issue, but not the one I find most troubling. Where does the president get the constitutional authority to mandate that a private insurance company (albeit publicly regulated and traded) issue a private policy to a private employer that must provide coverage for contraception, etc.? Persons of high intelligence and good will can disagree about the merits of the policy. I have written before about state mandates. They represent bad policy and increase premiums, but no one questions states' authority to legislate in that area. Some policies have such coverage, some do not. Reasonable adults in a free society should be free to make informed decisions about the scope of coverage they want and are willing to pay for. Personally, I think it is terrible policy, but that misses the larger point. The political leadership in this country is not supposed to rule by edict. Maybe in Putin's Russia or Chavez's Venezuela, but not in America. That is the most disturbing thing about this whole controversy. The ends do not justify the means, despite the best of intentions.
Kicked out of church
My friend, Mike Nunn, had not been in church for forty years. He regularly rails against "religion" and is an atheist or agnostic pantheist like Einstein.
Mike had no desire to go to church when I invited him, but Mike is a gentle and tender bear of a man, almost Christ-like. He agreed to go, despite his prior bad church experiences, because I asked him to do so. And Mike likes my Christian views.
A Jewish friend, a GOP Tea Party member, also likes my Christian views, so he readily agreed to attend when I asked. He even brought his wife along.
A third friend, a confirmed atheist, declined. He was afraid of being "called out" and "shamed and embarrassed" as he had been the last time he attended church. And, yes, that, too, was decades ago. I laughed and pooh-poohed his fears, telling him, "Christians don't act like that."
As for moi, the third sinner in this sad tale, I had not been in a church for over half a decade before a recent Sunday night when we three sinners stepped out to a Hot Springs church. I will not name the church or pastor. I will say only this: It plays a central role in the local GOP (God's Own Party) efforts to take over all elective offices in Garland County. Nor will I name the visiting televangelist; I will only say that he is an Oklahoma televangelist whose shtick is that he is a Christian rabbi (despite no rabbinical training) with a messianic twist favoring Israel (Christian Zionist).
Prior to attending, I emailed the local pastor and told him of the group attending. I assured him that we would not disturb, intrude, nor even talk to this rabbi after the service. We would sit quietly and peacefully. The local pastor agreed, so we went with his knowledge and permission. The church members met us, all friendly and welcoming.
We dutifully stood up during the protracted praise and worship and the televangelist's initial prayers and "prophecies" over the crowd. My bad lower back disc hurting after about thirty minutes, I sat down. So did Mike Nunn, age 73, who also has some pain standing for long periods.
Mouths agape, we watched the visiting rabbi lay hands on a young girl and "release the greatness of Einstein" inside her. We marveled when he prophesied that "another Facebook and another Google" would arise from this congregation in God's 2012 "transfer of wealth from the ungodly heathen to Christians."
We were astounded when he "prophesied" that God is going to deliver "missiles into the hands of True Believers," which we knew were not the Palestinian Christians in Gaza (who constitute about 20 percent of Palestinians) because this televangelist is a Christian Zionist.
At that point he asked the congregation to rise. Mike and I did not rise. Some others did not rise. The rabbi insisted. Most of the others rose. Mike and I did not.
At this point the rabbi put his arm out full length, his finger pointing right at me, and ordered in a thunderous voice, "Rise." I remained silent. He pointed again and angrily ordered, "I mean you! Rise to your feet!" I said and did nothing. He then thundered, "Are you a Christian?" I replied, "Yes, sir, I am." He then demanded, "Then why will you not rise?" I remained silent and sat peaceably. He then ordered the elders/ushers, "Go escort those folks out!" The bouncers arrived, but we still sat peacefully and silently. The televangelist then threatens, "Unless you leave right now, I'll call the police and have you arrested for criminal trespass."
Mike and I, two sinners, one an atheist and the other a Christian, left. My Jewish sinner friend and his wife chose to stay. The bouncers followed us out to the parking lot, and when Mike and I paused to chat a bit, they told us we must leave immediately or face criminal trespass charges. We left.
During all this, the local pastor, who had known and agreed to our coming, remained silent. As did the congregation. Not a Christian soul spoke up for us.
I apologize to my friend, Mike Nunn, for how he was treated. And to my Jewish friend and his wife. I now confer near-prophetic status on my atheist friend who declined to go for fear of what later that evening happened to us.
Without painting too broad a brush, such are the folks who are taking over the Tea Party, the local GOP, and many of the local churches here in Garland County.
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