It Didn’t Work

What I really should be saying is that I didn’t do it. I mean, I didn’t follow my daily list, nor did I go to church.

Back in September of last year, I announced that I would be following a recommended daily to-do list that I had used way back in the day while I was still married to my first husband, and well into my years as a divorcee. When applied correctly, without compulsion, it worked very well for me. But, like I said, I didn’t follow it, and the results were very nearly disastrous.

I’m not going to go into detail, but I had to quit my job, and I very nearly left the church completely. So completely, in fact, that by Thanksgiving I began announcing to close family members, that I had already left the church. I didn’t really leave, I told them, but I felt that the church had left me, and that was why I would not be going back. Continue reading

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The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Oblivious

The Pledge of Allegiance and the 11th Article of Faith

One of the perks of living in the “land of the free” is that I get to write whatever I want in this blog, without fear of penalty.  Another perk is that I get to worship however I choose (or not) without fear of retribution. This means that I can join any religion, and practice any religion, or not, depending on my own personal convictions. With or without religion, there are many people out there who have made a place for God in their lives.  There are also many who have chosen not to make a place for God in their lives.  Having true freedom means that whatever choice is made, there will be no penalties. No retribution.

And my own religion supports these freedoms. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was still quite young, Joseph Smith composed a letter to the editor of the Chicago Democrat explaining the basic tenets of our faith. Smith meant for this letter to be published.  He wanted others who didn’t understand the LDS church to know what we believe and why we believe it.  Today, we consider the 13 basic tenets of faith listed by Joseph Smith in that letter, to be a summary of our beliefs.

Many members can recite these articles of faith verbatim.  But reciting and knowing are two different things.  Lets take a look at the this particular article:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Some of those same people who can recite this article are the same people who argue that children across the nation should be made to recite the pledge of allegiance in school on a daily basis.  Some of those same people are those who expect all immigrants wishing to become citizens to recite this pledge as a show of patriotism to their new country. But those same people don’t understand what the pledge of allegiance is all about. Take a look:

pledge history

Its history is simple and well-meaning, but changes made to the original usurp the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. It has become a war cry for intolerance for those who wish to entangle personal beliefs with an icon turned idol. It was not written as part of our Constitution, and it was not meant to support intolerant Christian-only politics–but that’s what it does.

In fact, until World War II, this is what it looked like to recite the pledge:

Connecticut school children reciting the pledge in 1942. Look familiar?

Things changed.  Things do change.  We added the pledge of allegiance to our repertoire of “freedom” more than 100 years after the constitution was signed. And more than 100 years after Joseph Smith wrote his letter to the editor, explaining that we believe all people should be allowed “to worship how, where, or what they may,” the words “under God” were added as an exclusionary measure to the threat of Communism. Unfortunately, the pledge comes across to me as flag worship and uber-patriotism. Not only that, it excludes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and truth-seeking agnostics (among others).  Way to spread the Gospel of love, peeps.

It’s time for even more drastic change.  We are the only country in the world to hold their citizens to a pledge of allegiance. It’s time to stop forcing patriotism, and God, upon our citizens. As a world-wide church, and as a world super-power, we need to understand that others are brought to truth through love and patience. It’s time, as George Bush said, for “a kinder, gentler, nation.” It’s time for understanding of the truths we teach; it’s time to practice what we preach.

It’s time remove the pledge as a mandatory requirement for school participation, and as a requirement for citizenship.  It’s time to remove God from the pledge (this is not God’s pledge).  As with all other freedoms, participation in the pledge should be voluntary.

 

Exercise your freedom to read.

Back in the day, about four years ago, when no one was reading my blog and I was still in Chicago, I wrote this post. I thought I’d share it again today to explain why I read banned books (you do too–shame on you!), and so that I could write another blog tomorrow comparing my then and now favorites and to-read lists.

 

Have you read a banned book? Chances are you have.

On Friday, I received an email invitation to participate in a marathon reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl followed by a round-table discussion about the poem, censorship, and book-banning.  This reading is being presented by DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning. I am excited about the prospect. Not because I want to participate in the reading, but because I see an opportunity to explain how I can maintain my personal and religious standards while actively opposing censorship and advocating free speech.

 

Personally and ethically I find the poem demoralizing and debasing, but its existence is important. The poem is scathing and vital evidence of  social maladies existing and unaddressed in the American psyche.  It presents an opportunity for dialogue regarding respectful vs. self-destructive opposition to political control and injustice. Howl is worthwhile on other levels as well, but especially as a previously nonexistent form of self-expression–a new way to look at poetry.  I don’t see much use for it in the classroom however–except in the social sciences. Would I teach it in my own classroom? No, but I reserve the right to make that decision for myself, and I would not discourage others from reading it.

 

I think too, of another document at the conservative end of the spectrum: Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Last I knew, the book was illegal in Germany. I wonder if the Germans are hoping that if they refuse to allow it, the reality of Hitler’s deception will disappear?  But I have read Mein Kampf; don’t like it, and intend to buy my own copy of it. I find it interesting, aberrant, and useful for many of the same reasons I reject Howl; and I want to keep a copy as a way to keep evidence of the truth alive. The Holocaust was real, and without understanding the mentality which supported it, we run the risk of allowing it to happen again; or worse, becoming perpetrators too.  Denying a problem doesn’t make it go away.

 

Banned Books week couldn’t have come at a better time, either.  Just two weeks ago, we watched as a Florida pastor threatened to burn the Quran in protest of a planned Muslim center of worship near Ground Zero of the former World Trade Center. Whenever books are burned, it is done to send a message.  The  message I always get is this: I am ignorant and afraid of people who are different from me. I don’t think that is the message Pastor Jones meant to convey, and I believe that once he could see the Christian outrage in response to his intolerance, he changed his mind, despite the fact that he claimed his mission to be “accomplished.” Accomplished how? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that Islāmic center still going up? Simply put, censorship only serves to magnify ignorance.

 

In honor of Banned Books Week 2010, here are my own banned book lists:

 

10 of my favorites :

  • Harry Potter
  • The Davinci Code
  • The Adventures of Hucklebery Finn
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Twighlight Series (I’ll count these as one)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • 1984
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • The Outsiders

Ten banned books I have read:

  • The Chocolate War (The references to masturbation have led me to ban this book from my personal favorites list.  Otherwise I loved it)
  • The Color Purple (See comment above)
  • Eight Seconds (I recommend this book to adolescents who wonder about sexual orientation, although it doesn’t seem to have much of a plot)
  • Captain Underpants series (I didn’t actually read them, but my son–10 at the time– read parts of them out loud to me, and I thought they were hilarious!)
  • Scary Stories Series (I haven’t read all of them, but I liked them–found ‘em a little tame. LOL)
  • The Great Gatsby(Too voyeuristic for my taste)
  • As I Lay Dying (I loved it, just not sure if it is a favorite)
  • The Awakening (It has a good message, just not sure that I completely agree with it)
  • The Giver (I hated the ending–I thought they died)
  • Are you There God, it’s me, Margaret (I read it because all my friends were making a big deal out of it.  I thought Margaret was stupid–I was 11 at the time.)

10 Banned books that I plan to read:

  • I know why the Caged Bird Sings
  • The Golden Compass
  • Bridge to Terebithia
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Lord of the Flies
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • The Jungle
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Carrie
  • A Mercy (not on banned book lists yet, but it is a Toni Morrison novel, so I expect it to show up soon.)
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