Monday, March 24, 2014

Synodical President Speaks Out

"We must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty."
...from a letter sent out 24 March 2014 by the Reverend Matthew Harrison*

You’re tired of hearing about Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court, tired of all the talk of fines and health-care plans and reproductive rights, tired of being bombarded with words spoken in anger from both sides of the aisle. You want to put your fingers in your ears, switch the channel, and wait for the ruling and the rest of it to just go away.

But even though you are tired, even though you’ve grown weary of having the same discussions about the same points, Hobby Lobby and fines and health-care plans still matter. They matter because your country – the United States of America – was founded on the principle that you were born with certain rights: the rights to seek and follow truth, to live according to your beliefs, to worship freely.

And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.

Today, our federal government threatens that right, consistently refusing to protect religious liberty as our Constitution and the laws of nature demand. In the dozens of cases against the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, the government has started dictating the boundaries of religious beliefs, and to pick and choose which beliefs – and which individuals – deserve religious liberty protection.

The contraceptive mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide a full range of 20 FDA-approved contraceptive devices, drugs and services in their health-care plans. These include "emergency contraceptives" with the ability to prevent implantation of an embryo – in other words, the ability to end a human life. Catholics, Lutherans, and many other Americans find these drugs morally reprehensible. Yet, though objections to the mandate are strong and numerous – with over 90 lawsuits filed so far – the government has simply swept them aside.

The mandate’s provisions allow for very narrow exemptions for houses of worship. Exemptions do not extend even to affiliates of those houses of worship; for example, a Catholic order of nuns, operating homes for the elderly poor, is not exempt. Nor are Christian colleges, nor are thousands of other religious non-profit organizations, which serve the public good.

In the case of the non-profits, the government has come up with an empty "accommodation" that would force organizations to sign HHS forms directing third-party administrators to provide the drugs that the organizations cannot. As one plaintiff, the Little Sisters of the Poor, explained, these forms are nothing more than permission slips. The Little Sisters cannot direct someone else to act immorally, just as they cannot act immorally themselves. The government has branded this particular belief meaningless.

Neither the exemption nor the false "accommodation" extends to individuals who run their own businesses, like David and Barbara Green, owners of Hobby Lobby. The Greens morally oppose providing drugs that can prevent implantation and have filed suit against HHS, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In the Greens’ case, the government claims that moral convictions must be abandoned at the door of the workplace. The Greens may not run their own companies according to their consciences. Or, in return for staying true to their convictions, they will be forced to pay crushing fines.

The government’s distinctions under the mandate don’t make sense. The government does not get to reduce God and the way in which He works down to what happens only in church or worship. By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church – not the government – must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries.

Moreover, God uses each of us in our vocations to serve those around us. This call to serve others and live according to our beliefs extends beyond our houses of worship, into our homes, our communities, and our work. To prevent individuals from following the dictates of their consciences is an abuse of power and a gross infringement on human dignity.

As the leader of a Christian church body, I strongly object to the government’s approach of picking and choosing whose beliefs merit consideration. Now, according to the government, Catholic nuns must authorize others to give out free contraceptives, and evangelical Christians must abandon their most deeply held convictions in the operations of their own businesses. What group, and what belief, will next be under attack?

Friends, we may be weary. We may be tired. But we must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty. This mandate threatens not only those whose religions specifically compel them to oppose it, but all Americans. We cannot allow our government to define the content of our beliefs or the degree of their significance.

* The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the current and 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

David Byler a.k.a. Canovals

24. ožujka 201

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Foreign Policy.

This is part 6 of a series concerning a briefing at the White House in Washington DC on Ethnic Day 2014

part I of the adventure is at:  dorucak na granici
part II is at: booooom
part III is: at White the House

Foreign Policy.  I promised to tell you about our "Ethnic Day" White House Briefing on Foreign Policy.

First the moderator wanted everyone who had been recording or filming the event to bring their equipment or devices forward to the podium. I supposed that was to erase their recordings because the next thing he told us was that everything being said was "off the record."  I noticed there was not a rush forward to the podium.  My camera was stuck back in a car because we couldn't have cameras with us for the White House tour.  I was a little disappointed in this because I had lugged the thing all the way to Washington D.C. just so I could video the proceedings as I was told I could.  Sigh.

Next we were introduced in rapid fire sequence to some young people whom we were told were  from the "NSA" which I take to be the National Security Adviser's office not to be confused with the National Security Agency which is engaged in signals intelligence, i.e. tapping your phone. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is a senior official in the Executive Office of the President who serves as chief advisor on national security issues.  The National Security Advisor participates in the National Security Council and is supported by the National Security Council staff which produces research, briefings, and intelligence for the National Security Advisor to review and present either to the National Security Council or directly to the President.  I believe our presenters then were actually from the National Security Council staff.

The first presenter was from the "Russian desk."  He carried on quite a while about Russia. Most of us in the room probably have a greater understanding of Russian history, Russian culture, Russian peoples, current Russian trends and events than this poor man had.  One of our group remarked that the man has probably never read Dostojevski in Russian.  My guess is that the fellow has never once read the Oče naš in Russian either much less prayed it in Russian or any Slavic language.  I can not remember if he knew the Winter Olympics were about to be in Sochi or not.  After a certain point in his presentation I was greatly under impressed.

So that was fun.  Next we were to hear from the "East European Desk." The young woman's high heeled boots and above the knee skirt as she crossed the stage earlier had seemed a little short of professional but she made up for that with her enthusiasm.  It was in that enthusiasm that I began to be overwhelmed with sheer terror.  She described Germany as East Europe.  Are the warning flags going up in your head yet?

She told how Germany was becoming stronger and stronger and that was a good thing she said for the region and for America.  She described how Austria and Slovenia were gradually coming under Germany's influence. In my mind I could hear the rumbling klank! klank! klank! of the German tanks as they were described to me by men I knew who had escaped ahead of them once before a lifetime ago.  I could hear the tromp! tromp! tromp! of columns of German soldiers moving south into South East Europe.  I know I was not alone in these emotions because I saw the leader of the Serbian delegation look back at us with a terrified "WTF" look on his face.

The little bit of Croatian I know is kind of an off brand 300 hundred year old brand of Missouri-Texas sort of Kajkavski mixed now with some modern Croatian. As a result it hasn't been just awfully difficult for me to communicate with my YouTube friends from just over the border in Slovenia where they speak something fairly close.  When I hear those tanks and when I hear those soldiers coming the hair on the back of my head rises.  This is too close for comfort.

A Young Bosanac man went to the microphone.  He asked what was the Administration's take on what was happening in Sarajevo.  It was obvious she did not know where or what a Sarajevo is much less anything about what was happening there.  The young man returned to his seat with a frustrated look on his face.  Remember - this is that Friday when the Archives were burned in Sarajevo and she did not know anything about it. We all knew.  Everybody in the room knew. Why didn't she know?

One of our group was at the microphone.  It was clear that the folk on the podium had not one clue about our concerns.  In fact, it quickly became clear that they did not know where East Europe is and they certainly had not a single clue about where is South East Europe.  There was no hope that they might know on what continent Croatia might be. 

Someone from the Polish delegation went to the microphone.  He had had enough already.  "Will all the Russian-Americans in the room please rise?" He asked. No one rose.  He asked all the German-Americans" to rise.  I saw no one rise.    "Will all the Polish-Americans please rise?" There was a ripple  across the auditorium as a mass of Polish people stood to their feet.  His point was that the presenters from the White House had totally missed the mark with their presentations. We didn't want to hear about Russians and we didn't want to hear about Germans who have had us in their sandwich for generations. We wanted to hear about us and the White House didn't even know who any of us are much less where our homelands are.  Soon the briefings were dismissed and we found our way outside into the street.

Lest anyone go away from my report thinking all this was a waste of time, let me tell you that I think what we experienced and what we learned is vitally important in several ways.   First, some of us Croatian-Americans had never met each other face to face before.  I had never met Nenad Bach or any of the others before this time.  Seeing each other for the first time in the flesh was a pleasure and we learned things about each other during our brief time together which  will enable us to work more effectively together in the future. Second, each of us met new people from the other hyphenated-Americans with  whom we will be working in the future on mutually important tasks.  One  cannot put a price on the value of these relationships either.  Third, we've learned what the White House does not know.  That is important. That is vitally important.  It explains for example why President Carter  was bombing Novosad  when the city was ruled by the local Democratic Opposition, which was against the regime in Belgrade.  He did not understand the make up, structure, and situation on the ground in South East Europe and he had no one to tell him the true story. 

It is vital to the interests of America and it is crucial to the interests of hyphenated-Americans to find a way somehow to begin to communicate with the White House concerning our various peoples and about the lands from which we have come. This is the task before us.  It is a huge task but for all of us both sides of our hyphenation will benefit greatly at any success we have.   This is a task we must to undertake, a task in which we must succeed and keep on succeeding. This is not about politics or even about which Administration is in the White House.  This is about us, all of us. 

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

David Byler a.k.a. Canovals

5 ožujka 2014