Monthly Archives: September 2015

Kim Davis seeks not to worship, but impose her beliefs

On July 21, 1651, a Baptist elder by the name of John Crandall was taken into custody by Massachusetts authorities and jailed in Boston. His crime? Conducting religious services at the home of William Witter of Lynn, Mass., who was too old and infirm to travel to the First Baptist Church in Newport.
Crandall, a contemporary of Roger Williams, had fled Massachusetts seeking religious freedom in the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Born in England sometime between 1609 and 1612, Crandall settled in Salem, Mass., becoming a minister of the Congregational Church. His practices were more Baptist than Congregationalist, however, and he was soon run out of town.
Now, back in Massachusetts, Crandall and his two co-conspirators refused to pay a fine to get out of jail; friends paid eventually, but one of the gentlemen, Obadiah Holmes, was severely flogged as a second offender.
And that, my friends, is religious persecution: being jailed for nothing more than practicing your religious beliefs.
Religious persecution is not, however, imposing your religious beliefs on others. And that’s why Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, is no religious martyr. Davis was not jailed for practicing her religion. She was jailed for insisting that her beliefs should trump the rights of citizens to get married.
Kim Davis can practice her religion however she sees fit. She can pray, dress, behave, and live in ways that comport with her beliefs. But those rights end when she starts telling other people how to pray, dress, behave, or live.
Those who support Davis have cast her actions in Kentucky as civil disobedience. She should not be forced to act against her conscience, goes the argument, so therefore she should be allowed to deny residents of Rowan County the right to get a marriage license if they are not heterosexual. But the argument doesn’t wash.
Following this logic, Davis would be allowed to influence all sorts of governmental interactions with the public based on her own beliefs. If she were Muslim, she could refuse to wait on women without head coverings. If she were a Christian Scientist, she could stop the bloodmobile from showing up in the county government parking lot. If she were a Buddhist, she could refuse to issue gun permits based on her belief in nonviolence.
Of course, those supporting Davis would never defend a Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian Scientist clerk. They are defending her not on principle, but based on their own prejudices.
We have separation of church and state in this country both to protect the practice of religion from state interference and to keep religious influence out of government. If Kim Davis cannot separate her religious beliefs from her obligation to serve all citizens, she should resign.
Elder John Crandall was my ancestor. He fought for religious freedom so he and like-minded souls could practice their religion without government interference. He wanted the right to pray in a private home and worship on Saturdays if he so chose.
But Kim Davis is no John Crandall. She’s just another Massachusetts Puritan who thinks that religious freedom works only in her favor.

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Dr. Dyer, my mother’s pop psychologist

I was 16 when my mother discovered Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. She probably saw him on Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin and then bought a paperback copy of his first best-seller, “Your Erroneous Zones.”
From what I remember of his pop psychology, Dyer believed we should experience new things, not worry about other people’s approval, and exchange adventure for fear. My mother, who left the house only to shop at the A&P or get the mail, might seem like an unlikely candidate for a personality transformation. Indeed, I didn’t notice any difference in her behavior, despite her frequent, enthusiastic quotations from the text.
In fact, the book simply reinforced my mother’s already entrenched personality traits. Telling an old Yankee like her that she didn’t need anyone’s approval was like throwing fire on a burn barrel. Soon, whenever she had an opinion, she would follow it up with: “And Dr. Dyer says I don’t need anyone’s approval.”
I don’t think this line worked that well for me, although I read the book, too. My friend Andrea and I used to quote “our buddy Wayne,” as we referred to him, quite frequently. By the time we were 17, trying to negotiate the future (a mystery) and the present (not so hot), he’d become our go-to guru of advice. Yes, we wanted to travel, try new food, stretch our wings! Of course we did – we were teen-agers who hardly ever went anywhere and were under the thumbs of rather controlling parents. And no, we didn’t need your approval, thank you very much, a line that made us feel better about confounding romantic relationships, gossipy peers and demanding teachers.
By the time of his death last weekend, Dr. Dyer had written more than 20 books and turned his psychological bullet points into a prosperous line of CDs, DVDs, and lectures. Over time his “erroneous zones” evolved into a philosophy of intention. In other words, if you imagine it, it will come.
I still think of Dr. Dyer whenever I open a menu. Why get the same old meatloaf, when you can try something new? Recently I discovered his publisher, Hay House, on Facebook. Just as authors like Emerson and Chekhov live on in social media, so too does Dr. Dyer. Today’s thought: “You have the ability to match up with the power of intention and attract ideal people and Divine relationships into your life.”
My mother might have been a hard-core Yankee, but she lived her life the way Dr. Dyer recommended – to the fullest. At 92, she had a mild heart attack. In the hospital, she helped me do crossword puzzles, learned all the nurses’ names and urged me to follow my dreams of teaching full time.
One day when I was visiting, they gave her a plastic cup of berry-flavored yogurt. She eyed it suspiciously, but then dipped in a spoon. Not long after, the only sound was the spoon scraping the bottom.
“Mmm,” she said. “That was really good.”
A few days later, she had a massive heart attack and died. I hope if I get to be her age, I won’t be afraid to try the yogurt.

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