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Carrol Vertrees: Executing our right to the First Amendment

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:14AM



I like to quote people who are brighter than I. Their number is infinite.

Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I thought of Pogo after the horrendous killings in that Connecticut school. That may be a harsh judgment, but there is some truth in it. An air of complacency hangs over our land. Or maybe it is just confusion. Puzzlement.

When a little religious sect shouted that God ordered it as a punishment for the state’s stand on same-sex marriage, I remembered Yul Brynner telling us in “The King and I” that “There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know.”

God ordered the sacrifice of innocent children to make a point about adult behavior, these misguided folks claim. Until I receive a message from on high, I will feel sorry for them. Or, if I know how, I might be righteously indignant. I still am sure of what I absolutely believe about God’s role in the school slaughterhouse tragedy. He didn’t do it.

This little bunch claims a link to Calvin, who said that humans do things that are sinful, or, as one writer said “just plain dumb.” Well, we are all plain dumb sometimes, guilty of moral stupidity.

Now I, a fumbling amateur, quote from a real theologian, Fred Niedner, a theology professor at Valparaiso University. He reminds us that early leaders, including King Herod, sacrificed children to help ease fears of being overthrown. That was not an uncommon practice.

He suggests that “…we too have shown ourselves willing to sacrifice our children, a score at a time, to the divine and saving power of the weapons we trust to keep us free and safe.”

Some people have said that our Second Amendment rights are the only guarantee of our First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Niedner writes, “If I understand the argument correctly, that means guns alone enable our worship of God.”

That is something to ponder as we put the season of peace behind us and hope that we won’t have to go through tragedies like the school murders again. Hope isn’t good enough, though.

The appearance of this religious sect in the Connecticut school story was a hate demonstration, but it was more.

This group picketed the funeral for Elizabeth Edwards a couple of years ago, carrying signs saying “God Hates You” and “Thank God for Breast Cancer.”

The sins of Elizabeth Edwards, these folks seemed to say, are that she left us wondering about God’s role in her grief, pain and illness.

She never stopped looking for answers. Is that a sin? She taught us more — we should do what is right, not for a reward but because it right.

Even I can understand that, and in my heart, I applaud. Claiming that we know all the answers to the meaning of life is, if I may say so, one of those dumb things that writer cited. Even if our beliefs are unshakable, we err if we do not continue to wonder and ask questions. Searching for answers should be part of life’s excitement quest.

Doing that, we can change the message on our placards and signs — real and implied — once in a while when we learn something new.

Why we do not continue to seek answers is, as Yul Brynner said, a “puzzlement.”



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