My family is traveling, with our home base in Cincinnati, Ohio this week. Yesterday, we got the opportunity to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the riverfront here in Cincinnati. It was sobering, uncomfortable, and inspiring - all at the same time.
Our 20/20 hindsight makes it difficult to understand how slavery was defended. Politicians defended it as right and necessary (and we think that awful politicians are a new invention…). Businessmen claimed it fueled the economy; and, in large part, they were correct. Scientists claimed that people of African descent were inferior; while they were often stronger and more resilient, they drew the short straw when it came to intelligence. That’s why owning them is OK. (Beware of “settled science”…) Even Africans themselves would raid other villages and tribes, capture people to sell to the white man, for their own financial gain.
That being said - the most uncomfortable part of this was how the preachers provided supposedly biblically-based cover for all this. Sermons were preached about the inferiority of those with darker skin, and how they are ordained by God to be subservient to the white man. (This was throughout North, Central, and South America - this isn’t just a U-S-of-A sin.)
Why was that uncomfortable? It’s no secret that I’m a Christian, recently coming on staff with my church. We, as Christians, must be sure that we faithfully divide the Word of Truth so that our ancestors do not look back on us with the same shame I felt when I heard my ancestors. They got it wrong - from the bottom to the top, point-blank, wrong. We are all made in the image of God, not a one of us more or less valuable or worthwhile than another. This does not mean that we completely capitulate to the current cultural zeitgiest, deciding that abortion is A-OK or that the clear prohibition of homosexual behaviors were somehow misconstrued. It means that we, as people of the Word, must make sure that when we stand up and say “thus saith the Lord,” that we’re correct.
The most sobering part of the museum had to be the “modern day slavery” section. I knew that slavery still existed under different names, but the prevalence statistics were quite sobering. (I didn’t memorize them, so I can’t quote them; suffice it to say, unless you’ve looked into it, it’s higher than you think.) We must ensure that, while we’re looking for the best deal, or the least expensive way to get something, that we’re not enabling modern-day slavery. From unfair labor practices (a big reason I’m against illegal immigration, BTW), to excessively cheap textiles, to service staff, to prostitution and pornography - the market for these things are the current demands that run the engine of modern-day slavery.
Now, apart from the statistics I mentioned in the last paragraph (and some of the details of the “regulated” slave trade), none of what I’ve mentioned above was new to me; it was just sobering (and good) to be reminded of it. I was also impressed with the even-handed display explaining the 3/5 compromise. (For those unaware, it was Southerners who wanted slaves counted as whole people; Northerners didn’t want them counted at all, but agreed to 3/5 to placate the South. It was about apportionment of seats as it related to proportional representation, not an indication of one’s humanity.) As with anything, there were a few places where this language was inappropriately applied, but all in all, I was greatly enriched from our visit there.
Let freedom ring; let us Christians amplify the sound, whether others use that freedom to choose the way we hope they would - or not.
Has anyone coined the term “Popesplaining” yet? If not, allow me. (If so - well, hey, my server, my rules. Why am I asking for permission, anyway?)
A politically conservative Roman Catholic justifying the public papal positions that disagree with their political positions and/or established church theology.
A politically liberal person, typically allergic to anything religious entering the public square, justifying the papal message that coincide with their political views, while failing to recognize his message as a theological one.
Continuing the tradition started last year, I’m writing a three-part series “2007 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” And, as I did last year, I’ll post them in reverse order so they’re in the right order when they’re done. Without further ado…
Global Glow-Bull Warming
During 2007, the global warming movement was exposed for the political, not scientific, issue that it is. As with any movement which sees its power diminished, its adherents ramped up their rhetoric; and, in many ways, the movement has become a parody of itself. In April, Sheryl Crow suggested limiting how much toilet paper we use at each sitting, and suggested we wear “dining sleeves” - devices on which we can wipe our mouths, then remove them and replace them with a clean one. (I’m not sure if the extra water for that laundry offsets the lack of a paper napkin - and wouldn’t cloth napkins do the same thing?)
Carbon offsets were also shown to be next to useless. Carbon offsets, for the uninitiated, are fees one pays to a company which claims to do something “environmentally friendly” to offset one’s carbon emissions. (If that sounds familiar, it should - I believe this technique was pioneered by the Roman Catholic church under the name “indulgences.” Can’t stop sinning? Just get forgiveness beforehand!) A group of three environmentally-conscious people (not right-wing fanatics) created a site called CheatNeutral. It aspires to create a network of fidelity to offset those who cheat on their significant others. It illustrates the point beautifully - ten faithful people mean nothing if you’re the one being cheated on.
In October, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, including his film An Inconvenient Truth. Inconveniently, though, many of the claims made in his film have been debunked. Also, a site called Surface Stations shows some of these temperature monitoring stations - these are the stations whose readings have been used to claim that temperatures are increasing. However, many stations are by air conditioning exhausts and other heat-producing structures. Finally, in December, at a UN conference in Bali on global warming, the man leading the negotiations broke down and cried. It must be rough to see all that power slipping away.
Never-Ending Political Cycle
I won’t talk much about this, because I’m pretty much tired of it just when it becomes time for it to actually happen. Do we really need a 2-year period of time to pick our next President?
This could probably be a ridiculous item every year, but this year seemed especially ridiculous. Earlier in the year, after Anna Nicole Smith passed away, a circus erupted over the paternity of her young daughter. I don’t even know where to start - if every one who claimed that they were the father had a relationship with her that would result in a child in the timeframe where it would be believable… Sheesh.
Train wrecks all over - Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears… Even Britney’s sister got into the fray. The biggest problem I have with all this is the amount of press they get, distracting people from other important issues. But, I don’t know whether to be more exasperated with the media for putting out the information, or the people who give it such good ratings that they keep pumping it out.
That’s enough ridiculousness for one year - up next, the bad…