Consecutive Days Riding: 108 Days Blogged: 97
New Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 807
As I ride the bike this morning I find myself pondering the significance of two recent news stories. One is associated with the tragic suffering in Haiti and the other involving A South Carolina politician. A recent story reported that a Christian organization named Faith Comes by Hearing is in the process of raising $300,000 in order to ship what they call “proclaimers” to the people of Haiti. These are not tents, or medical kits, or prepackaged meals, they are solar powered audio Bible in the language of the Haitian people. Mr. Jon Wilke, a group spokesman noted that the Haitian people will need the long-term hope and comfort that comes from knowing that God has not forgotten them. The second story concerned recent comments made by the lieutenant governor of the state of South Carolina. Andre Bauer was speaking to the issue of government assistance to the poor when he made the following comment: “My grandmother was not an educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduced, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”
I believe every person has a right to hold and express their opinions and that people have a right to spend their money where they feel there’s a need. However, in both of these cases it is my opinion, that these individuals are in fact displaying a profound shortsightedness and potentially dangerous bias. In particular, it presents me with a scary prospect that Mr. Bauer, who is the Lieutenant Governor and running for the office of Governor, could be making our laws and deciding who get our social service aid. As I think about these issues I recognize several assumption and premises that guide my personal expression of opinions.
, I strongly believe that we have a right to our opinions. Part of the benefit of being in a democracy is this right to share, explore and listen to other people’s opinions. Our system is based on the hope that this give and take of opinions will lead to well thought-out choices (laws and programs) based upon a consensus of opinion and objective facts.
Secondly, like the late Senator Monahan I believe “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own fact.” Some people become confused when loudmouth radio talk show hosts present their opinions as if they were “God given truths.” Shouting loudly and repeating something over and over does not make it “true.” This behavior shows that it is YOUR strongly held opinion! I realize that Mr. Wilke and his group feels righteous and good about sending solar powered Bibles to the people of Haiti. But I ask: Is this what these people need, will these “gifts” meet their most desperate needs? Does this gift have more to do with meeting the needs of the givers than the receivers? In addition, the last time I checked isn’t Haiti already a Christian nation? But then perhaps it’s an issue of a form/substance analysis because Catholics may not be considered “true” Christians! As to Mr. Bowers, he has a right to his opinion about what causes the high level of need among our country’s poorer citizens. I disagree with his assessment that feeding them, with the resulting breeding, is what accounts for their growing numbers. Being a resident of Mr. Bauer’s home state I suspect that a lack of jobs, drug problems, a dysfunctional education system and state leadership that promotes low wages and employer rights over workers rights/needs may play a more significant role in the growing numbers of our state’s poor.
The third point I’d like to make is that while you have a right to your opinion, you also have a responsibility to both acknowledge and accept that your spoken words have consequences! I often find that talk show hosts, who get paid to “pontificate,” and some politicians, who can garner both attention and donations (e.g. “You lie!”) simply express loudly what they believe and then later they’ll either make a lukewarm apology (i.e., Mr. Bauer has insisting he wishes he had used a different metaphor and that he “didn’t intend to offend anyone.”), or they disavow any criticism as petty biased partisan politics. The Christian Bible group has every right to spend its money the way it wants, but how do you think the people of Haiti might feel when they receive solar powered Bibles instead of much needed food and shelter. What’s the message to take away from this gift? Will they see it as a joyful and heartfelt sharing of the word of God, or an example of a group that has ignored their obvious immediate needs and chosen to tell them what they “really” need? As the people of Haiti bury their beloved Arch Archbishop and many of their priests and clergy is the humane and loving response to send in automated devices with the subtle message “leave your churches and join us?”
As I recall, in response to the great tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, a TV program showed a group of Christian college students rebuilding shattered homes in southern Thailand. It was wonderful to see these American youth pitching in to help those in desperate need. Then the interviewer asked how they decided which houses to rebuild. The response: “Oh, we rebuild the Christian homes!” Again it is their right to send aid in the way they choose, but how do you think the other victims of this disaster, many of them Buddhist or Muslims felt as they watched this preferential treatment. Do you think they rushed out to join the Christian church simply to get a new home? Do you think this might have fueled an unsettling feeling of resentment at these foreign people who come in at a moment of great need and do “good work” in the name of their God, but only for “their people?”
Again everyone has a right to their opinion, just as I express my opinion in this blog. But I challenge everyone to think through the consequences of their expressed opinions and actions. Ask yourself, do my actions and opinions do more than simply meet my need to feel “good” and “self-righteous?” Do my actions and opinions have more far ranging consequences? Do they meet other people needs, as they define them, or do my actions and opinions drive a wedge between communities, cultures and religions? Think twice before you speak or act, once for yourself – through your needs, and once for the “others” – through their needs!
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