Tag Archives: divorce

Thinking of the Senior

There are many things in the news and in my personal intellectual explorations to be written about this week, but I have to set those aside for the moment to acknowledge today as Father’s Day in the United States and a few other countries. (Finland has its Father’s Day in November for some reason, but that’s beside the point; part of me is still very much American.) In fact with all the fuss here over Midsummer I would have forgotten this holiday entirely were it not for some touching posts by some of my Facebook friends.

I’ll leave aside the question of how being a father changed my own life and how it continues to be central to who I am, even though at this point my own sons are very much on their own and rarely in touch more than once or twice a month these days. I fully accept that, because at their ages I was even less in touch with my own father. What I want to say is something about how my relationship with my own father has laid the groundwork for who I have become, and the sort of credit and blame he deserves in that regard. I’m pretty much at peace with who I am, so I happen to think of it primarily as giving him the credit he deserves, but those who have a more critical perspective regarding me as a person might want to blame try to him for part of what I like about myself.

20150621_193037I write this sitting in the little camper trailer that I have as a working residence on the “job site” of the country place I bought this winter, with money from a small stock portfolio that my father transferred into my name sometime a while ago; I’m not exactly sure when. There were times when my sons were much younger when I really would have liked to start this sort of project, but for lack of money I was unable to, but such is life. The uniqueness of this current opportunity would have been lost had I been able to follow in my father’s footsteps too closely in that regard. Let me unpack that a bit for you.

I am in fact the last of my siblings to start reenacting one aspect of our unusual childhood that we all found particularly valuable: “The Farm”. The original farm, as far as we were concerned, was a place on the Massachusetts/Vermont border that Dad bought back when he was living and working as a business consultant in New York City –– back when he was in his early thirties and none of us kids had hit puberty yet. It was a small former dairy farm in a town called Heath, with a fair amount of open field space, a line of old apple trees across its wind-swept gentle ridge line out back, a classic New England stone fence along the north side of the property, a forested patch with lots of sugar maples running along its western border; and a house, a barn and a few odd out-buildings, each with their own serious structural challenges. We worked together, with a few odd hired helpers and experts, to repair and rebuild this place into an environment that we each in our own way found to be therapeutic.

The letting go of this place was a sort of emotionally complex experience for each of us, and we each in our own way tried to hold onto part of it, while at the same time “being honest with ourselves” about the whole matter: what we were each able to take away from the place emotionally, what aspects of the experience we could hope to recreate and build on later, and what limitations there were to the experience for each of us to try to overcome in our respective re-creations thereof. So here’s my current retrospective on that formative experience meant in my own life.

The word “heath”, for which the town was named, is not all that actively used in everyday speech anymore, but it basically refers to an area where the soil is poorer than that of the surrounding territory and where farming becomes a lot more difficult. Though strictly speaking not much of the town was composed of heathland in the strictest sense, the name was still appropriate. It was not a particularly highly prized area: no major national parks or tourist attractions close by to speak of; just relaxed farmlands where white people had got rid of the native Mohawk tribes centuries ago, and where they had been trying to eke out a modest living for themselves from the stony soil ever since. It was as generic as rural New England gets. Yet for our purposes that was perfect. It was a place to practice skills of simple self-sufficiency, to get nostalgic for simpler ways of life, and to have the space to find a sense of peace with oneself.

The Heath farm had its own collection of “interesting” neighbors. There was the family in the next house to the north who would very much have been “hillbillies” had they lived in the southern half of the Appalachian chain rather than its northern end. They lived a rather poor, simple life, killing whatever non-domesticated animals happened to wander through their fields for food, regardless of whether those creatures were “in season” or not. My brother brought his pet rabbit over to their house to get together with their rabbits for breeding purposes (successfully), and we got a second rabbit in exchange for the service, but that was about the extent of our interaction with them.

Across the street from them lived the manager of the Montgomery Ward’s catalog shop in the closest proper shopping district (thirty-some kilometers away). That fellow and his wife seemed to have a sort of dream of living simply but stylishly off the land, in harmony with nature, but in all sorts of little details it never seemed to work for them, particularly when it came to their animals. They had a set of very expensive bird hunting dogs that never really learned to hunt, in spite of their spending more on a state-of-the-art training collar than I’ve ever spent on a car in the years since. They also had a cow that they never really learned to milk. In fact the milking process turned into such a brutal daily a contest of wills between man and cow, driving the latter to panic and the former to frustrated hysterics, that they had to virtually give the beast away for the safety of all concerned. It was quite the show while it lasted though. This couple also happened to provide the strongest basic supply of neighborhood gossip for anyone who was interested in such. Even so, they were probably the neighbors on that road that Dad built the strongest friendship with.

Then sort of across the street from our place, a bit to the south, was this academic researcher of some sort, who I never actually got to talk to other than seeing him drive doing various errands with his old red tractor, yelling, “Hello neighbor!” to everyone whose path he crossed. He had a reputation for trying to borrow things a bit too freely, for taking other little liberties on other people’s property and for generally not fitting in with the local community. More than anything else, Dad seemed to be concerned about not being too closely compared with him.

The next piece of property south of there, on both sides of the road, belonged to the last working dairy farm in the area. Dad always appreciated this particular farmer’s work ethic, and they both clearly enjoyed chatting together about all things practical and agriculture-related. But on some level there were differences between their perspectives that mutual respect wasn’t going to cover. The farmer was part of one of the “original” families in the town, who all kept a certain emotional distance from the various “newcomers”, and beyond that he had his own private stresses in life. He had a batch of kids, none of whom were all that interested in following in his footsteps. Meanwhile no one ever seemed to see his wife, until one day the news came out that she had died, from liver failure as rumor had it. It wasn’t too long after that, when the last of his kids were ready to leave the nest, that the farmer sold off everything, pulled up stakes and left town, not looking back. But by that time we too were starting to emotionally let go of our connection with the area.

Looking back at that time it’s easy to conclude that the Heath farm was part of a particular era in Dad’s life that had was quite thoroughly over by the time he sold the place. Dad went through a string of marriages, each lasting pretty close to seven years, each involving its own challenges and “growth experiences” for him. The farm was pretty strongly tied to his second marriage, and by the time his third marriage came along for many reasons it was no longer a viable option to hang onto the place. We all sort of recognized and accepted that, but as I said, somewhere in our hearts we never let go of those experiences.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, it was through the career and investment decisions that Dad made during the course of his third marriage that he was able to give each of his children enough of an investment portfolio so that I have now been able to use part of that money to finance this sort of modest rural escape dream of my own. Thus in virtually every way this cottage project brings aspects of my relationship with my father to mind for me. It has almost all of the aspects that made the Heath farm so special for me at least –– things that I strongly speculate were important all to my siblings as well: simplicity for its own sake, understated natural beauty surrounding the place, interactions with neighbors with lots of “character”, and working to turn an essentially unwanted property into something beautiful and desirable. The only major aspect of the original model that is missing for me is being able to share it with my own children. But that has to do mostly with timing issues, for which I don’t really blame anyone, least of all my father.

The comparison and cause-and-effect relationship between my own experience of divorced-fatherhood and my father’s is a more complicated question. What I can say for sure is that he and I both made significant mistakes in our marital decisions, both in terms of who each of us married, when and why; and how each of us failed in our attempts to build and maintain those relationships thereafter. (My father’s current marriage appears to be going strong for him, hopefully on course to see him through the rest of his life now, so perhaps he’s learned more from his mistakes than I’ve learned from mine, but that is sort of beside the point here.) I can further state that my mistakes in these areas have been entirely different sorts than his mistakes, and I don’t see my mistakes as evidence that he screwed up in terms of being a bad role model for me. There are still many things about some of his mistakes that I do not understand, mostly because they have to do with things that were not talked about in front of children when I was a child, and which were not really any of my business anymore once I became an adult; but I don’t believe that such an understanding would have prevented me from making my own mistakes in marriage in particular.

The relevant issue is that the relative roles men and women in society and in marriage are still changing. Women have (largely justifiably) demanded greater respect for their contributions and capabilities, and that has effectively destroyed the traditional status quo of what men and women have felt culturally entitled to demand of each other. There are many cultures which are still resisting such changes, but such resistance seems largely doomed to failure. As much as they might try to deny it, the most culturally conservative branches of Christianity, medieval Islamic traditions, African tribal traditions, Chinese Confucian traditions and other such systems which seek to keep women “in their proper place” are continuously having to make new compromises as women’s rights become more widely recognized and accepted. Nor can we take any of their fights against such compromises to be “a bold moral stand” of any sort. Thus we are in a position where we still don’t know what new cultural norms will arise for regulating romantic relationships and marital mutual responsibility. So there is really no mystery to the matter of marriages continually breaking up more as traditional gender roles get shuffled around.

My father had his own reasons, which I only partially understand to this day, for choosing to set aside “traditional marital responsibility,” before that was particularly popular or respectable thing to do. I, on the other hand, tried to find personal security through dogmatic belief in traditional gender roles and moral codes, only to find that I could not depend on such standards to safeguard my future happiness or domestic tranquility. My father didn’t provide a “positive role model” in that regard, but I can’t imagine that it really would have mattered for me if he had; things had changed too much. Beyond that the hypotheticals run way too deep for me to even begin to sort them out.

What my father did offer to me was a role model of how to remain dignified and keep a sense of personal honor even when things don’t work the way you want them to, and even when your honor comes under the bitterest attacks. The farm in Heath was part of that. It was an exercise in looking for sustainable values in an ever changing world. That isn’t to say that Dad found them there, but he made my siblings and I part of his process of looking for them, in such a way that each of us in turn has continued looking for such values in ways we each started to develop for ourselves at the farm.

Part of that for me has been seeking out a balance between religious and non-religious aspects of my life; or perhaps I should say, a balance between trying to spiritually connect with other people and trying to spiritually connect with simple, less societally oriented aspects of the world around me. It’s sort of an Ecclesiastes 7 thing (particularly relating to verses 15-18), which could be taken as both an earlier and more profound variation on Aristotle’s idea of the “Golden Mean”.

And that in turn is a big part of what I am doing here at my little place in the Finnish countryside. That is also why I cannot help but think of my father extensively every time I come here. That is what makes it particularly appropriate for me to be spending America’s Father’s Day here on my own.

I’m not sure how far others can relate to what I’m saying here. I’m even less sure about how many might agree with my socio-ethical perspectives on these matters. These are just my own rambling thoughts about what my father –– the man I am named after –– means to me on this holiday. So here’s wishing you, David Robert Huisjen, Senior, the finest of days celebrating your paternal status; and here’s wishing fathers everywhere the sort of deep satisfaction that should go with knowing your importance in your children’s lives.


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”Course You Know, THIS Means War!” (Happy birthday, Robert)

leghorn warI’m writing this in honor of my older son’s 24th birthday today. I’m not sure he always realizes how important his birth is to me, and how much I respect and appreciate him in spite of all of the things that may have come between us over the years.

As I tell my friends, my son is a drill sergeant in the Finnish Army up in Lapland. He seems to find that fulfilling on a number of different levels, and I’m quite satisfied that he’s found that sort of career satisfaction for the time being at least. There was a time that he contemplated becoming a theologian as well, but for various reasons he thought the better of it. Even so, he remains interested in religious matters, though he avoids debating these things with me directly.

This can be seen in the Facebook status he posted yesterday, in Finnish, quoting from the controversial recent speech given by Finland’s Minister of the Interior and “Christian Democratic Party” chair person, Päivi Räsänen. To quote Robert in full, (in my own translation into English):

“I don’t understand what the problem is here. ‘…the situation where officials forbade the apostles to preach about Jesus…’ was an example of illegal activity. If the law forbids this, then you can certainly break that law.”

In complete respect for his perspective, I do actually understand what the problem is here, and I’d be happy to explain it. I can readily picture Robert saying, “No, that’s OK,” but I’ll do it anyway. For me it’s a matter of “doing what I do” this time in honor of my son. And not only will I try to explain what I see as the problem in this matter, but I’ll go on to briefly explain what I would like to see those my son is in fellowship with do in terms of moving in the direction of solving this problem. Of course this isn’t “Thus sayeth the LORD.” This is just a fatherly perspective which happens to coincide with my current doctoral studies. It is inevitably imperfect, and if Robert or anyone else would like to address those imperfections, I would be happy to take their council in return.

Courtesy of the newspaper Savon Sanomat

Courtesy of the newspaper Savon Sanomat

First of all, in terms of agreement with Robert, Mrs. Räsänen and the Book of Acts in the New Testament, I would absolutely defend the principle that any law which is intended to silence one’s freedom of religion, and people’s freedom to express their religious convictions in the public forum even, is a bad law, which deserves to be broken. According to a recent report I’ve seen, of all the most populous countries in the world, the ones which do the best at practically respecting this human right to freedom of religion are Brazil and South Africa. I have close friends from and strong sympathies with both nations in this regard, and I believe that the United States, Russia, China, Western Europe and the Arab nations could learn much from their positive example.

But that’s not really the point that Mrs. Räsänen was driving at. Where she was going with her speech was in trying to convince religiously conservative Finns to join in with what in the United States is being referred to as “the culture wars”. In particular she is trying to create political momentum in the direction of being more restrictive of abortion services and less publicly accepting of homosexuality.

The speech in question begins with a nostalgic bemoaning of the pattern of secularization, church property being sold off due to its low usage rate, and the church losing its cultural influence in Finland overall. This she sees as a problem because, “Churches and Christian organizations have had a far greater influence on the stability, safety and economy of our society than is commonly thought.  The foundations of child welfare, respect for human value and human rights, as well as other aspects of our legislation and civil culture are strongly based on the picture of humanity brought in by Christianity. Honesty, our work ethic and respect for authority are prerequisites for our receiving tax income on the basis of which our welfare can be maintained. Stable families, lasting marriages and responsible parenthood are preconditions for the development of children and young people.” The implication being, the less Godly people are, the more all of this come under threat.

This is contrasted with a culture of hedonism, in which sex and drugs and rock and roll overcome the fear of God, where young people’s lives fall apart for lack of a spiritual focal point. The statistics used to shock the righteous here are that over half of Finland’s first-born children are born outside of wedlock, and each year Finland has 24,000 marriages and 14,000 divorces. To protect us against these trends we need to go back to literal respect for the first chapter of the Bible: mankind is made in the image of God, and marriage must always be between one man and one woman.

At this point, rather than trying to back up this weak assertion, Mrs. Räsänen goes for comic relief –– telling of how when she had her last child, her then 2-year-old daughter requested that the following new family member Mommy would bring into the world would be a kitten. The Minister then asserts that those who don’t follow her biblical literalist standards are just as silly as her young daughter was back in the day. From there she goes into a rant against abortion based rather closely on American “Religious Right” materials (which I responded to here last fall). From there she moves on to an argument against Finland moving closer to the Dutch/Swiss model regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide, concluding with the argument, “Calls for euthanasia are the fruit of the value collapse of our time. A culture of superficial hedonism drives people to retreat from life’s limitations into death. If life’s purpose is defined in terms of seeking pleasure, the limitations caused by sickness or disability appear to destroy the meaning of life. These days it is difficult to accept that weakness and suffering are part of life.”

There’s a lot that can be said in opposition to all that, but the basic issue comes down to one of asking, how far are we justified in telling other people that they have to suffer because our religious convictions say that’s what they have coming to them, and on that basis they’re not allowed to do anything about it? If we get beyond that issue then the next question is whether or not that is really the (only) proper understanding of the Christian message here, but I won’t open that particular can of worms this time. Suffice to say, Dostoevsky’s fictitious speculation about all things being permissible if God is dead does not strictly speaking hold true philosophically speaking, nor does it provide a valid justification for civil law being based strictly on religious principles.

Mrs. Räsänen’s sermon goes on to depict Peter Singer’s philosophy of sentience having more moral significance than intra-species loyalty as the major antithesis to a Christian moral perspective. She concludes her polemic on this particular matter with the theologically unconfirmed statement, “The message of the cross is nonsense if human life is not sacred and human value unconditional.” As powerful as the message of the cross is in reinforcing our understanding of each person’s value before God, however, there is nothing about assuming that terminally ill people have the right to choose to die, or that the presence of an eternal soul in a first trimester human embryo is somewhat questionable, which nullifies the message of the cross.

Her next argument is to say that heterosexual matrimony is the only context in which child raising is a legitimate process. “Sex differences, manhood and womanhood are […] a significant part of the Christian image of humanity. Marriage has a special place within this Christian image of humanity in that it is the only union between people that was established in the creation.” On this basis all political efforts to have homosexual relationships recognized as legitimate, on the same level as heterosexual relationships, must be anti-Christian.

This is a very personal issue for some, so I think it is fair for me to state my perspective on the matter in very personal terms: My sons know that I am quite strictly heterosexual myself, and that I have been what is properly called a serial monogamist. I set out to live by biblical standards, but after their mother chose not to live by a shared commitment to such standards and abandoned our marriage, I found those standards rather impossible to maintain, as much as I wished to do so for the sake of my children. But from a biblical perspective then, regardless of my good intentions, I am a far greater sinner than any homosexual. There are far more verses condemning divorce and sexuality without deep personal commitment than there are verses condemning homosexuality as such. Nor can I, by any stretch of the imagination, say that any of my gay friends are in any way to blame for the marriage crises I have seen and gone through; nor that their sexual orientation would automatically make them worse parents than many heterosexual parents I know. Thus the categorical stigmatization of their sexuality which Mrs. Räsänen contributes to in her speech is unacceptable to me. The rest is details.

The Minister moved her sermon towards a close with an anecdote of a prostitute who had become a believer and who felt rather guilty for her profession being against God’s will (another factor that has had absolutely nothing to do with my experiences of the breakdown of family life). On this basis Mrs. Räsänen wants all sin to be acknowledged as such, so that sinners can come before God (preferably by way of his ecclesiastical representatives) to beg for forgiveness. It is from there that she went into her citation of the apostles’ preference to “obeying God rather than men.”

In terms of the original context of the verses in question, however, I believe she rather misses their point. The apostles were not trying to set standards by which non-believers would be required to live; they were trying to survive in an extremely hostile environment in which their value system was subjected to all sorts of unfair stereotypes, in which things eventually got so bad for them that it literally became part of the government program to invite people to watch Christians being killed just for the entertainment value of it. Trying to compromise and get along with such a governmental system, as a political strategy, was a bit of a non-starter.

Does that mean that Christianity cannot coexist with any strong form of central government? Of course not! At one point, in fact, the Apostle Paul himself made a gesture towards peaceful coexistence with the powers that be. After starting out the book of Romans with a bit of a homophobic rant against the leaders of Roman civil society –– God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. …so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. (Romans 1:26-29) –– and from there having written a particularly long letter in which he went through issues of the dynamics of God’s forgiveness, his own personal guilt complexes, and the role of the Jewish nation in the big picture of things, Paul sets out to close the book in as conciliatory a way as possible. Thus he starts chapter 13 with advice to show the greatest possible loyalty to these civil authorities:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. (verses 1-3)

In historical context this turned out not to be particularly trustworthy advice: doing “what is right” provided no guarantee that Christians would be treated fairly by the Roman rulers over the next couple of centuries. Yet in one sense this passage does offer valuable advice all the same: If you operate on the assumption that those in authority are in fact on the side of the right –– evil, greedy and depraved as they may be –– you have a lot less to fear and you have a lot better chances of living in peace with them than if you automatically consider yourselves to be in a continuous state of war with the powers that be.

The question then is, how can we apply the various teachings of the Bible regarding political perspectives –– with their varying historical contexts and strategic backgrounds –– to the context of a pluralistic liberal democracy in which we now find ourselves? Face it: our current world political situation was never envisioned by any of the writers of the Bible. Nowhere in the scripture is there the remotest consideration of how the people of God should vote if they are faced with choices in municipal elections between those who demand more just treatment for the poor and those who demand stricter punishments of the promiscuous. Both sorts of priorities can be justified on the basis of various biblical teachings, but the nowhere does it say directly how things should be prioritized if we are given a choice between the two. The possibility of our current situation arising –– the idea that these things might someday be decided by the collective will of a mixed body of voters, including both believers and non-believers –– never occurred to the apostles and prophets.

Nor is there specific direction in scripture as to what to do in the case where a large group who identify themselves as followers of Christ would attempt to seize the reins of power for their own moral cause and fail. Should they pack up and try to find a more righteous place to live? Should they try to stage a coup and take over the government by force? Or should they just “suck it up” and get on with life as best they can? Over the centuries believers have found justifications for considering each of these reactions to be their proper “Christian responsibility”. I believe there can be a time and place for each, and they need to be considered very carefully (and prayerfully) before we move forward with the more radical solutions in particular. I can accept the sincerity of those promoting any of these solutions in any given situation, though not necessarily their understanding of scripture nor their practical strategic, political intelligence.

Another acquaintance of mine recently posted a link to a Christian political blog entitled “The War We Are In,” promoting a particularly adversarial stance in which Christians are called upon to see all unbelievers and all Muslims in particular as “the enemy!” According to this perspective, “Throughout its 2,000 year history, hostile governments have sought to eradicate Christianity, or at least subvert it for its [sic] own purposes and subsume it under its own rule.” Thus a siege mentality where, “this longstanding struggle between state supremacy and the supremacy of God” in which “secular liberalism is a political religion which cannot peacefully coexist with Christianity” forms the backdrop for all political action among those who are considered to be properly believing Christians. In particular the author there claims that the premise for examining the “political philosophy of the last 500 years,” should be that “separation of state and religion was first championed by Christianity. Before that the two were closely fused.”

So Christianity brought about the separation between the state and religion. Now what religion was it that had been so closely connected with the state before that? Oh, right…

In order to build this heroic narrative of struggle of the true church against the state, writers like Bill Muehlenberg and Benjamin Wiker –– who are responsible for the blog in question –– need to label many of those who have operated within political systems in the name of Christianity as not being “true Christians,” but rather part of the evil “statist” system oppressing their faith. This is not to say that during the Medieval Period, and thereafter, those forces which claimed to be representing Christianity were particularly sincere in doing so. A lot of rather distinctively non-Christian stuff –– reflecting more of a crude lust for wealth and power than respect for the teachings of Jesus –– has been done in the name of expanding Christian political influence. The problem is that this situation really hasn’t improved much over the past 500 years. It doesn’t take too close a reading of the history of Constantine the Great, Charlemagne, the Borgias, Henry VIII, Pius IX, Ralph Reed or the Koch brothers to see such a trend running from the earliest days of Christianity’s official state acceptance to our present era. And these are the forces which have presented themselves as the Christian alternative to the evils of a more secular government!

These are the forces with which Mrs. Räsänen has been aligning herself. If these “Christian” politicians were to be honest about the matter they would have to say, “We have seen the enemy, and we are them.”

In the case of US politics, starting during the Reagan years (when I first moved to Finland), the Religious Right, in all of its various incarnations, has served primarily as a means of reducing the power of government to protect the poor and the natural environment from the interests of the wealthy and the corporate elite. Fighting against abortion and homosexuality has been their rallying call, but while reducing human sexuality as far as possible to just “legitimate” potential baby-making might be their official agenda, the concrete change in society which they have brought about has been to create “the Walmart generation.” In the process of providing cheap products and driving their smaller competitors out of business, businesses in the United States no longer have to pay their full-time workers enough to actually live off of. Employees can be treated as disposable commodities. Consequently the gap between the rich and the poor has grown far beyond the proportions seen in the works of Charles Dickens. The bankrupt city of Detroit is the current poster child for this dilemma.

I believe that the proper job of civil government is not so much to provide moral guardianship for the population –– keeping people from having sex in unacceptable ways, as Mrs. Räsänen and her exemplars in the American Religious Right seem to be primarily worried about –– but rather to protect the human rights of those governed. These rights include the right to private property, the right to freely choose their own religious paths, the right to speak freely about their personal convictions, the right to have the sort of education that enables them to really know what is going on in the world around them, the right of private individuals to have a say in governmental processes, and the right not to be treated as slaves.

Ideally these rights should be restricted only as far as is necessary to keep their exercise from being used to take away the rights of other people. This is particularly important in the case of religion being used as a political tool. Would-be theocracies in countries like Iran and Afghanistan are not the only ones who try to reject the rights of those who religiously disagree with them in the name of “doing things according to God’s rules rather than man’s rules.” In fact Mrs. Räsänen’s rhetoric –– again picked up from her American exemplars –– comes eerily close to the ayatollahs’ self-justification.

My political interests are not in allowing those who nominally support the same religious brand that I do to have as much power as possible, but to do what I can as an individual “person of faith” to support the sort of government that respects and supports not only my personal human rights but the human rights of all those Jesus called “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” (Matthew 25:40). Rather than getting sucked into American style “pelvic politics”, I would hope that European Christian would share this sort of political emphasis on human rights.

lapland 023And beyond all of this I just want to say to my son, Robert, I love you, and whether we agree on these matters or not I hope you never forget that or have reason to doubt it. Happy Birthday.

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