Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Visit to Monticello: Life, Slavery, and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom

Monticello called us.

It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  The weather was beautiful, I hadn't been to Thomas Jefferson's home in years, and the boys had never seen it.   My parents were visiting, and it was their suggestion and their treat.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

The tour guide (Oh, sorry, docent) said something that gave me pause:  When Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he stated that we are given (I don't think she mentioned God or the Creator, come to think of it) specific rights, including liberty; but that ironically, he owned slaves.  I resisted the temptation to point out that the first right he mentioned was life, and wasn't it ironic that we now allow the rampant killing of unborn children in the womb, and act as though it's another inalienable right?

I was thinking about that again this morning.  I realized that back in Jefferson's day, slaves were considered non-persons, and that's how people justified the buying and selling them as personal property and treating them however they pleased.   Nowadays, we know better.  In 1973 the Supreme Court decided that unborn children were non-persons and therefore can be disposed of as a piece of unwanted garbage.  We are right 
back where we started, it seems to me.

On our way out we stopped by Thomas Jefferson's grave.  When I read the inscription on the tombstone ("Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia") I realized I was standing on sacred ground.  Even though Jefferson's religious views were a little bit unconventional--I'm told he wrote his own version of the Bible that eliminates all references to Jesus' miracles and makes no mention of anything supernatural--he understood the importance of our right to practice our religion without interference from the government.
...Almighty God hath created the mind free;
That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,
That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time; 
That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical...
(Source:  Wikipedia.  Emphasis mine.)

Jefferson noted that we are to be free to exercise our faith without coercion, without ridicule, without the threat of being sued, and without having to pay any taxes or penalties.  

Standing there I thought of the HHS mandate that forces employers to pay for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs even when it violates their religious beliefs.   I wonder how Thomas Jefferson would feel to see the United States government giving faithful Christians and Catholics the finger.  I think he would weep.

(P.S.  I may not be using Blogger much longer.  When I went to upload my photos I was informed that I'd used up all my space on their photo sharing site, and if I wanted more I'd have to pay $2.99 a month.  Since I'm a cheapskate and this blog generates zero income for me, I'm not willing to do that.  I deleted quite a number of photos that I'd published on older posts, and that seemed to do the trick--we'll see if they're also deleted from the posts--but at some point I will run out of space again.  Wordpress is looking quite attractive today.  I'll keep you posted...)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes, The Sunday Edition


I've been trying to put my thoughts into words over the last week and a half since the election.  I pound away at my keyboard and push "Delete" over and over.  How do I express my profound disappointment without sounding like a sore loser and a whiner?  How do I say that four more years of Barack Obama will turn our country on its head and it will be almost impossible to get back what the Founding Fathers gave us without sounding like an alarmist?  How do I lament the fact that so many people seem more interested in getting handouts than taking risks without sounding like a snob who doesn't care about people in need?  And how do I (finally, after four years) admit that Barack Hussein Obama is in fact anti-American, has no interest in our national security, doesn't give a crap about you or me or anyone else except himself and his own twisted agenda to make America weaker and poorer without sounding like a loony conspiracy theorist?  I've heard many conservatives rant about how people who voted for Obama are fools, crazy liberal extremists, Kool-Aid drinkers; some Catholic bishops even went so far as to imply that because of Obama's pro-abortion record, voting for him would constitute a mortal sin.  Well, I know plenty of people who support Obama, and they're not any of these things (and I'm certainly not about to point any fingers and yell "sinner" at anyone).  They are kind and generous people who, like you and me, want the best possible future for their children and our country.  We just disagree (quite strongly, to be honest) about what that might look like and who would better serve our nation.  There are certainly some raving lunatics and Kool-Aid drinkers on both sides, and I'm convinced that the results of the election (assuming there was minimal voter fraud and Obama won fair and square--although did you see this story fromPhiladelphia?) is a reflection of our culture's moving away from God and from basic moral principles and our adoption of if-it-feels-good-do-it and how-dare-you-judge-me attitudes.  If I say abortion is always wrong, I'm an extremist.  If I don't want to pay for your birth control, I don't care about women.  If I say that marriage is between one man and one woman, I'm a bigot.  Am I racist if I criticize Obama?  Most people I know wouldn't accuse me of that, but remember when Jimmy Carter said that people who were against Obama just couldn't deal with having a black man in the White House?  We have a challenging four years ahead of us, but I am not going to sit around and whine about it.  I've made a promise to myself to be more kind, more patient, and more generous.  Every day I pray for four things:  tirelessness, selflessness, wisdom, and joy.  (I don't pray for patience; that always gets me into trouble.  I figure "wisdom" is much better, don't you think?)  If we all had more of those things, how much more wonderful this world would be.


Do you know this is the Year of Faith?  Truthfully I haven't really thought much about it; other than to tell myself perhaps I should start reading the Bible daily again and pray more regularly and consistently.  I have done one thing, though:  Flocknote has a very cool way you can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I have one sitting on my shelf that I've barely touched.  Well, you can sign up to receive daily emails with a little bit of the Catechism in each one, and if you keep up you'll read it all the way through in a year.  I've already fallen behind, but every few days I'll read several of them at once, so hopefully it won't get too far ahead of me.  Interested?  Go here.


Saturday I ran my first 5K.  I shouldn't say I ran it; I walked some and ran some.  I originally signed up for it because Curly and Moe are preparing to test for their black belts (hopefully in January) and they need to do some "endurance events" between now and then.  The 5K was a fundraiser for the Special Education program at the Catholic high school up the road from us; and although our kids don't attend, many of their friends do.  I figured this would be a great way for us to get out and get some exercise, give a little something for a good cause, and help the boys earn their black belts.  I even downloaded a totally boss app on my phone to help me get into a running routine, and for the last few weeks I've been pretty faithfully doing my little running/walking workout up and down the street.  (AND, I say the Rosary while I'm doing it.  That's the best part.)  As it happened, Moe came down with an upper respiratory infection this week, and although he's much better we decided he should forego the race; and Curly, well, he just decided he didn't want to do it. (He owes me $15.)   I thought seriously of skipping it altogether, but decided to go ahead and do it.  I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, whether anyone I knew would be there, and hoping I wouldn't be the only one who would mostly be walking.  I did see a few people there I knew, and there were many people who walked the whole three miles and had a great time doing it.  I finished in a little under 44 minutes, and I think this will be the first of many 5K races I'll participate in.  Next time I'm going to drag my family with me, assuming no one is sick...


Joe got a new car last weekend.  Want to know why?  On Friday as he was turning left through an intersection a woman driving a minivan sped around a curve, ran the red light, and slammed into him.   The whole front of his car was smashed.  I'm just glad she didn't hit the driver's side door, and that no one was injured.  Now he has a 2011 Hyundai, with automatic transmission that he can take to work and Larry can learn to drive; he's already talking about the two-seater sports car he'll someday get to drive on the weekends.


And now for our family entertainment report:  Moe made all-county chorus, and he got to spend a day at one of the area high schools practicing for the concert that was held in the evening.  He stood in the front row, and you can imagine how proud it made me seeing him standing up there singing his heart out.  Last weekend (in the middle of all the excitement with the accident) Larry starred as the prince in a musical production of Cinderella.  My parents came and stayed with us for the weekend, and Joe's mom and my brother and sister-in-law spent time with us and came to the show as well.  And this week, Curly and Moe auditioned for the school production of Disney's The Little Mermaid.  Curly will play Chef Pierre, and Moe snagged the most coveted part--Sebastian the crab.  Needless to say we'll be hearing this a lot in our house these next few months:


In the past we've traditionally traveled to my or Joe's parents' house for Thanksgiving; this year I'm hosting for the first time.  Yesterday I picked up my turkey at the farmers' market (I'm told he--she?--lived a happy life on the farm until Friday morning), and today's agenda (besides Mass, of course) will be to do finalize my menu plan, make my shopping list, and do some of the cleaning around the house that I didn't do yesterday. (BAD mom, BAD!)  My dad sent me a recipe for gluten free stuffing, and I expect I'll be browsing the Internet for some more of those; and my mother-in-law has already given me lots of great advice about cooking the turkey.

When I brought home the bird yesterday I found myself talking like the Swedish Chef.  I may be doing that quite a bit this week.


Our prayers continue to be with the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Seeing the devastation and hearing the stories of communities coming together and helping each other reminds me of how much I truly have to be thankful for. 

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, no matter who you voted for (haha) !

For more Quick Takes, visit Jenn's Conversion Diary blog.  Happy Sunday!
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