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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

19 July 2012

A Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,
We are so used to rapid change in our world today. I just got my iPad 2 just a few months ago, now there is an iPad 3 that is even more fantastic than the one that I bought.   One year ago there were several “one” ruler countries in the Middle East, and now we have experienced the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.  We have come to believe that everything must change just like all of the technological and social things around us.  What we fail to recognize as a society is that there are some things that are transcendent, some things that do not change and cannot change, i.e., gravity.  We have allowed ourselves to be caught up in the haze of transformation to the extent that we believe that we can control everything and that there are absolutely no situations or conditions that are not relative in our lives.  "It depends," is a common response to questions these days.
Well, I'd like to suggest that if one really believes that all things are relative, just go jump off the local river bridge and see if they don't fall into the water.  For some reason, maybe our experiences of the sixties, we have come to have the same beliefs about individual rights and moral choices.  I remember from my Civics class in junior high (you remember Civics don't you?) that we were carefully taught that with every right comes a responsibility.  I don't hear much talk about the latter part of that equation anymore.  I propose that would be like leaving off the "c" in Einstein's famous equation.  It won't work that way.
I believe that much of our problems today are inherently caught up in our quest for "my" rights and neglecting what should be "my" responsibility that is the mate of that right.  Yes, I said mate.  The responsibility is married to its right and they cannot be divorced without severe consequences.  We are seeing the results of this attempted divorce every day in our society.  Just like trying to overcome gravity when you jump off that bridge, we believe that we can forgo our requisite responsibility when we claim a right. “It's my right to own a gun.  So, I can defend myself” - and an innocent child is killed.  “It's my right to express my opinions” - so a college coed becomes the center of a national discussion with a marred reputation.   “It's my right to decide what I do with my body, so I can do whatever I want” - no matter what the consequences. 
All of these ideas and many more are born out of this "free association" and "relativistic" mentality.  It has nearly become a national religion.  But, you can't subvert gravity.  I maintain that for everything there is a certain overarching "law" that controls the results of choices.   Personally, I find it extremely difficult to believe that no matter what I choose to do, there will be no consequences, whether good or bad, for my choice.   At the junior high where I taught, we taught our students that there are consequences for their actions.   Do you really believe that those consequences end when we turn 21? I don't think so!
My faith teaches and I believe that, just like there are immutable physical laws to the universe, there are also immutable moral laws.  Just like when the planets and other celestial objects were placed into their orbits and confined to certain rules whether through the Big Bang or by the finger of God, so our social and moral lives are subject to a similar set of rules.  Oh, yes, we can choose to violate those rules, but just like the guy jumping off the bridge hoping to fly, we will fall down.
So, when you and your HHS department proclaim that a women’s right to choose to keep her baby is hers alone and that that baby is just like any others women’s illness, e.g. breast or cervical cancer,  I cannot agree with you.  Unless she was raped or a victim of incest, she freely chose to participate in the act which created that baby.  That baby is not an illness.  That baby is a living human being who should be protected by our laws, not an illness like cancer that needs to be snuffed out.  The death of that baby is a serious violation of the moral law, just like the decision of the women to participate in the sexual act for “fun” without accepting the responsibility of her decision.  I’m sorry, but two wrongs still do not make a right.
These words may sound overly moralistic, but my faith teaches me, and I believe that the sexual act is not some relativistic activity that we use solely for our own personal enjoyment.  Back in the 60’s, I heard women say that they wanted all of these rights so that “they could be just like the guys – participate in intercourse without having to take the responsibility of having a baby.”  Well, my faith teaches and I believe that is not a correct moral decision.  Yes, a person can choose to do that, but they are contravening the moral law.  Sexual activity was intended for the creation of new life, not play. Certainly, there are some resulting feelings of well-being as a result of this activity, especially when used for the correct purpose.  The consequences of this decision to use sexual activity as a just a toy are grave, for the person’s soul and the result of such unions, especially now, because our country allows women to use abortion as a tool of evading the concomitant responsibility of sexual activity.  
I am not against women’s rights.  In fact, I believe that all people, everyone, should be accorded that same rights, e.g., equal pay for equal work, to achieve high positions in business and government, to freely associate.  Rights do not come without a relating responsibility, as I mentioned earlier.
Just in case there is some confusion in your mind, let me state clearly that I am not a Bishop, a Cardinal, a Priest or the Pope.  I am just an ordinary citizen who has supported you from the beginning of your first campaign because you told us you cared about the common, ordinary person, and believed that you could make a difference for all of us.  I was warned by some who said that you were an evil man.  I never believed that.  I still don’t.  You have much good to do for our county and I applaud your efforts.  But in this area, with respect, you are wrong.
When I wrote to you at the White House about this matter, I received a polite reply; but it was clearly a computer generated form letter.  That letter informed me that I should look elsewhere on the website to find how you responded to complaints about this HHS ruling.  I had already done that and that’s why I wrote in the first place.  Your “exception” doesn’t really change anything.  Through my premiums and my donations to charities and schools you are requiring me to pay for something that I do not support or believe.  Because I hold these beliefs as a consequence of my religion, you are forcing me to subvert my beliefs for those of the state.  That, sir, with respect, is a direct violation of my rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment to our Constitution.   You, sir, do not have the right to do that. 
You see, Mr. President, my faith requires me to help others. (Please see Matthew  25 among other citations.)  So, it is important to understand that all People of Good Will who support schools, hospitals, and social service agencies are impacted by the narrow definition of the HHS mandate for religious institutions.  Being People of Good Will and subscribing to the beliefs of a specific church is NOT the only way that we express our faith.  For Christians, our role is clearly defined by at least the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.  Other faiths have similar requirements, e.g., the Jewish prophets’ references to “caring for the widows, orphans, and aliens.”  To define religion as only worship is circumventing what we believe and what the original founders implied in the First Amendment of our Constitution (“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,”).  What the HHS mandate does is to prevent us from freely exercising our own mandate to care for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, ill, and imprisoned.  This we must do as an essential part of our religious belief!  Our schools, hospitals, and social service agencies accomplish these important activities on our behalf.  Our Constitution wisely restricts anyone from abridging this freedom.
Many have tried to discuss this issue with you.  As a Franciscan, I too would hope and pray that you would sincerely discuss this issue with us, understand our concerns, and reverse the mandate, thus restoring the longstanding conscious clause under which we have operated in our country for such a long time.  I’m afraid that the other party will use this issue to fabricate reasons for opposing your re-election and many people will buy it.  Then, we will be stuck with an untenable situation for the middle class.
Without a reversal of this mandate I am no longer able to support your re-election campaign.  Fear not, I will not support the Republicans either, because they are continually demonstrating their callousness to the ordinary American citizen’s condition and many are working from the old Jim Crow mentality (I cannot explain their clear hatred for and opposition to everything you do any other way).
Your actions force me into the situation where I will not be able to vote for the first time in 50 years.  I cannot support your campaign and I will not support the opposition.  I really have no alternative at this time.  Unfortunately, I am confident that many people actually believe the same way that I do, will withhold their vote, and we’ll be stuck with the other party in the majority and the White House.  It’s a pity that you can’t understand that our religious freedom is more important than stopping a baby’s life.  It’s a matter of moral choices and responsibilities.  My religion informs my conscious in such a way I believe that your HHS rulings are wrong and my sense of patriotism informs my conscious that this mandate subverts our Constitution.  I will continue to pray for you to change your mind and reverse these rulings.  Then, with many others, once again, I could support your re-election.

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