Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is God a facebook user?

With the start of the Christmas season, I’ve noticed quite an increase in Christian “status updates” among my friends on facebook. You know; the sort of post that thanks God for friends and family and/or affirms the user’s faith, or has some other secular message the users have felt they should share. (In many cases they are messages reposted from another friend, and invite the reader to repost as their status, “if they believe.”)

As I’ve stated elsewhere (including facebook, stop to think about it), I’ve got no problem with these types of posts, and in fact support my friends’ rights to post ‘em. But I’ve got to admit that I don’t understand, exactly, whom these posts are meant for.

(I should point out before I go any further that I believe in a Western-Christian God, the same as most of my friends. OK, so I’ve got some major problems with the way some religions try to force their message on everyone else – and I’ve got a major problem with some of the stuff in the Bible – but overall I consider myself a believer.)

One of the messages repeated over and over is, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” which I’m not sure I understand. The very statement appears to imply that someone – maybe society – is attempting to strip the holiday of its origins. Is anyone actually attempting to do this? This appears to be some type of call-to-arms for believers, but I’m not sure of why they feel it necessary to do so. If they believe, they can believe no matter who attempts to usurp the holiday, right? Why would it be necessary to broadcast that?

So my question is this: who are these messages for? I’ve developed a few theories, some of which may be accurate.

1.       They are posted in an attempt to “convert” unbelievers.
2.       They are posted in an attempt to assert the users’ superior piousness, thereby shaming the reader into reforming his ways.
3.       They are aimed at fellow believers who may need a reminder of their faith; just assertions of the users’ faith and an attempt to band together.
4.       They’re posting this as a message to God and/or Jesus. If this is the case, do they assume that God reads their facebook posts? I do not grok.

Yes, I’m confused by a lot of religious dogma, and especially by fundamentalists. My friend Pastor Julie (a Lutheran minister), has said – on more than one occasion – (in a semi-irritated voice), and I quote: “Al, don’t argue with fundies” –her term for fundamentalist Christians. She says, “Arguing will only get your blood pressure up and they’re not listening anyway.” Which I suppose is true, although I have to admit I do like talking to these people since they are usually so adamant that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket (heh) and nonbelievers are leading to the downfall of society.

But these facebook posts are some of the most confusing things ever, I think. Why spend time reaffirming your faith on facebook? Do you get something special out of doing that?

Am I missing something? What do you think?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stormy's 10-Point Election Year 2012 Ground Rules

1.       If you don’t exercise your right to vote, you voluntarily give up your right to squawk. I mean it. If you didn’t vote, I don’t want to hear you complaining later.
2.       You and I may differ in our political ideologies. This does not make me your “enemy.” Vigorous debate is crucial for our democracy. If you consider me your enemy just because we differ in opinion, you’re wrong – and most candidates are much closer in ideology than the opposing party is comfortable admitting. And while I’m on the topic, partisan squabbling impedes progress, people.
3.       Politicians are not your friends. They are trying to get elected or stay in office. You may experience some ancillary benefit from a politician’s policies, but their intent is to obtain or stay in office. You should always remember that their interests and agenda come first and any benefit your might receive is merely happy coincidence. Politicians are often trying to do the “right thing,” but you may or may not benefit from their definition of what that “right thing” is.
4.       If you live in a state that permits “straight party” voting and vote for one party via straight-ticket, I have three words for you: “Shame on you.” I consider it your civic duty to fairly consider each candidate on merit and platform, and no one party represents your – or America’s – best interest. One size does NOT fit all. C’mon people. Yes, it’s a lot harder and a lot more work, but worth it in the end.
5.       I’m perfectly willing to listen to your arguments for/against a candidate or issue, and you may even change my mind.  But if you aren’t willing to fairly consider my point of view – even if radically different than yours – I’ll return the same courtesy.
6.       It makes no sense to hope that the economy tanks (or some other major catastrophe occurs) just so your candidate can be elected or stay in office. Worse, it’s un-American. Think about it.
7.       As a voter, you owe it to yourself – and your country, state, and municipality – to inform yourself on the positions of all the candidates and issues on the ballot, long before Election Day. If you’re unclear on a candidate or an issue in the voting booth, don’t cast a ballot on that issue. An uninformed voter is a dangerous voter.
8.       When a politician gives a speech or speaks at a debate, for the most part they are merely reciting memorized lines given to them by image consultants, campaign managers and marketing firms (experts at “spin,” in other words). If politicians were somehow forced to develop their own speeches – and defend them – you might be surprised at how different their own ideas are. You should always keep in mind that your opinions are being manipulated by agencies incredibly adept at influencing voter thoughts and attitudes.
9.       Politicians promise a lot of things. Job creation, lower taxes, rejuvenation of the economy, you name it.  After obtaining office, it’s a whole different thing, however, and the truth is, they can only do so much. In short, don’t believe everything you hear. By all means, support your candidate on general principles, but don’t expect them to follow through on what they say they’re going to do once elected. They’re telling you what you want to hear, after all.
10.   It may be hard to believe what with all the media spin nowadays, but most candidates are probably pretty honest and have attempted to formulate some type of plan to help guide our country. Occupying an elected office is not an easy job, nor is opening yourself up to scrutiny of your public and personal life during campaigns and while in office. Therefore, if someone has decided to share their vision for our country by running for office, they deserve a modicum of respect – until you know for sure otherwise. Then, have at it.
Final note: Elections are good for our democracy and ensure that politicians represent the current will and mood of constituents.  Elections are a time for healthy debate and vigorous competition among political parties. They are not a time for hatred or revenge or fear-mongering. This is supposed to be interesting and fun, people. Don’t let an election erode your opinion of your neighbor. And always remember that people fought and died for the right to do this.

Your thoughts?