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Christian Nation? Islamic State?

I tend not to get political on my business blog over at Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie, but I might on this site. If that bothers you, feel free to skip this post.

Like most people in the world right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about problems in the Middle East and the ones here at home. The Islamic State is making a name for itself by committing and broadcasting atrocities. Here in the States, we justify our hate of anyone different from ourselves politically, religiously, and philosophically.

Realistically, problems in the world haven’t changed in the past 4000 years.

If we are to survive and thrive as a species, we need to embrace a deeper understanding of ourselves, our past, and the potential for our future. Technology can help us gain this understanding, this gestalt, if you will, of where we stand concerning what has gone before and what is coming next.

Unfortunately, technology can also distract us from living a life of consequence: a life that matters.

I don’t watch television anymore. In the rare cases that I do (e.g., in a hotel room while traveling), I am reminded almost violently of why I stopped. The shows are largely insipid and manipulative. The commercials assault us with rapid-fire images that program our brains. The music either shocks us or lulls us into an altered state. The advertising copy is carefully written to sell us, to convince us that we need this product or service.

The news is full of stories convincing us that things have never been this bad; that our very survival depends on watching to see what happens next. Online news isn’t much better. Mainly videos of shocking atrocities edited to show people at their worst—all designed to keep us coming back for more.

Of course, when we do get to the bottom of a story online, we are presented with dozens of “Sponsored Stories,” little more than bait to keep us on the line. The sole purpose of these stories is to put more advertising in front of us, keep us on the site and make money from us.

One of the worst things that they advertise to us is “food.” Of course, there are ads for restaurants which may be the least offensive, but there are also food products full of insufficiently tested genetically modified organisms (GMOs), sugar, artificial sweeteners, and all sorts of chemicals that are carcinogenic or harmful to homeostasis.

One of the most dangerous aspects of technology right now is pornography. While I don’t have a problem with people living their lives as they please. If women genuinely want to live that way, I’m not one to stand in their way. I could even be persuaded that there might be a place for sex workers of some type in a healthy society.

I’ve looked at pornography online, though, and what I’ve seen has made me confident that more lives are damaged than enhanced by porn. Again, like almost everything we’re talking about here, pornography is primarily about control, power, and greed.

Ever the optimist, I can see that people are working to change things. There are people and corporations for whom “compassionate capitalism” is a real thing. More than just a goal or an ideal, it’s an actual working model.

I know that people, in general, tend to be compassionate toward other people in a one-on-one setting. It’s when we start dividing ourselves (or allowing ourselves to be divided) into groups that our mentality seems to change. We are more likely to help someone in need if we are by ourselves and less likely to help when in a group.

There is a lot of controversy right now over the so-called Islamic State and whether their actions are representative of Islam as a whole. I think the similarity to an issue closer to home is illustrative and can perhaps give us a better understanding of the situation.

Lots of us disagree on whether the United States should be called a Christian nation. Most of the Fathers of our Country were Christians, and all of them came from a Western European background that included Judeo-Christian values.

Everyone agrees that one of the founding precepts of the United States was the separation of Church and State. In other words, we are not governed by any church, and there is no “approved” religion. In that sense, we are clearly not a Christian Nation.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that since the founders came from a Christian tradition, that makes us a Christian nation. That would imply that every atrocity committed in the name of our Government could be laid at the feet of that tradition. The wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans, the eradication of the buffalo herds to starve them, the use of diseased blankets to kill them, all could rightly be said to be representative of Christianity if we are a Christian Nation.

It would include the political wars, the actions of the CIA, including assassinations, drug running, regime building, etc., all laid at the feet of Christianity. The My Lai Massacre, Abu Ghraib torture,  and the systematic discrimination of women and people of color throughout our history would all have to be laid at the feet of the Church.

As a person of faith myself, I’m not willing to do that. Even though I have issues with institutionalized Christianity, I refuse to blame the Church for the failings of people. Not even those who publicly profess their allegiance to it and yet commit private obscenities.

Likewise, I’m not willing to paint all Muslims with the same brush that the Islamic State is painting itself.

I would urge you to turn off the television. Put an ad blocker on your browser and read your news online. But don’t feel like you have to read the whole article. Scan them to find the salient points and read only what you need to get the point. Don’t be pulled into the story that the writer might be telling. Make your own choices.

Consider the groups that you relate to. What does it mean to you to be an American? A Christian? An Atheist? A writer? A parent? Are there people attempting to manipulate you because of your affiliations? What are their motivations?

Learn to cook. Take a walk every day. Learn some history. Take responsibility for your life, your actions, your health, and your beliefs.

Published inMusings