Category Archives: Politics

A Rejoinder to Mr. Holloway

The following was printed as a letter to the editor of the Ruston Daily Leader on February 5, 2012, titled, “Man speaks out against alcohol sales”:

This is a response to the Jan.16 column by Mrs. Jessica Darden and the December City Council meeting:

First, I would like to address the City Council meeting held on Dec. 5. I have never been to a meeting that was any more insignificant than the one held on Dec. 5, 2011.

From before the meeting began, I was told that the vote was already decided and would be three to two against the majority of those present and, I believe, the majority of this city. The meeting was a waste of time. I learned that if you are a business in this town, what you want and say matters, and if you are a resident, your views are of no interest to the council.

We were actually told that the best thing that had happened in Ruston was the expansion of alcohol sales here nine years ago. Although no study had been done and no evidence was presented by the restaurant association, we were led to believe that the glorious growth of alcohol was the most progressive event in the last decade in Ruston. That may be one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard, with zero facts to support it. In fact, a study was presented from LSU that says the expansion of alcohol will never be a financial winner for a city. Only the ones who pay the most taxes matter and the people who live here may as well shut up and sit down. I hope the people of these districts remember that the next time they vote!

My second response is to Mrs. Darden, who in her column printed on Jan. 16 said that all of us “Bible Belt” people were all wrong. She said their generation needed to be allowed to make their own mistakes, of course she is assuming they live over this one. Unfortunately, a number of students traveling down the frontage road did not live over their mistaken choices. She said young people are going to drink whether it is legal or illegal. Well, using that reasoning, we could say that young people will always steal automobiles so just leave your keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked to make it easier on them. Is it really a gain during a recession as she says? It seems to me that during a recession, there is a greater need to purchase gas to get to work, food for the table and utilities for the home instead of going out on Sunday to get a buzz! One last thought is when she said “Let’s join together … to see just how much of an impact can be made right in our backyard.”

I like that slogan of “let’s join together,” and I want to invite the, I guess we will call it the “Bible Belt Crowd,” to join together and voice your displeasure with this expansion of liquor on Sundays, which us old Bible Thumpers call the Lord’s Day. I am asking all who claim to be Christians to choose to use your money wisely on Sundays. I know that I will support the restaurants that support family and faith over finances.

– Mike Holloway

This is my response, which was printed this morning:

Having read Mr. Holloway’s letter to your paper on Sunday, February 5, which concerned his displeasure with the recent changes to the law formerly prohibiting all alcohol sales on Sundays, I wish to make a few comments.

As a follower of Jesus, I have found myself consistently bothered by any language or practice which seems to have at its root a sort of religious legalism. (By “legalism,” I mean portraying in black or white actions that are in reality gray.) Whether or not Mr. Holloway subscribes to a form of legalism, it is precisely this sort of discomfort which a reading of his remarks elicited from me, and it is that which I wish to address.

First, Mr. Holloway seems convinced that legislation prohibiting alcohol sales will in some way either compel the citizens of Ruston to conform to the tradition of attributing to Sunday a special, but arbitrary, significance, or that it will prevent alcohol abuse. I argue that it will accomplish neither.

Concerning the former, it seems hardly appropriate to use the force of law to deny access on a single day to that which is perfectly legal on the six other days. I assume that Mr. Holloway would not suggest we reinstate Prohibition. In the case that the majority of citizens in Ruston wished to observe a special reverence for Sunday, it seems curious to me that a law should be necessary to enforce it. In the case that most citizens do not attribute a special significance to that particular day, the injustice of such a law seems greatly magnified, given that it forces on the whole the religious convictions of the minority. Such laws succeed, but only in falsely construing Christianity as a religion in which there is greater emphasis on religious tradition than on faith in Jesus. No law will ever change the heart, and people forced to conform to aspects of a religion to which they do not adhere naturally do not think favorably of it. One cannot legislate others into having reverence for God (not that reverence for God is dependent on abstaining from alcohol).

Secondly, it is not at all clear that a law prohibiting alcohol sales on Sunday will in any way deter people from consuming it, much in the way that laws prohibiting firearms at schools do nothing to prevent shootings. While I appreciate Mr. Holloway’s concern in wishing to prevent alcohol-related deaths, I see no reason to think the old law was successful in accomplishing this; but even if it were, it does not occur to me why dying from drunk driving on Sunday is somehow worse than suffering the same fate on Friday. Stockpiling enough alcohol to last one through Sunday seems an easy enough task, but I’ve known people to drive as far as Athens to acquire it. People who wish to consume alcohol, will, and if it is neither illegal nor sinful to consume (not abuse) alcohol on other days, I see no good reason whatever to attempt to prevent the practice through legislation.

My last and greatest concern is that the old law has the potential to misconstrue Christianity. Jesus was relentless in condemning the legalism of the Pharisees, pointing out that they cleaned the outside of the “cup” but ignored the inside. Perhaps my failure to understand the difference between Pharisaical legalism and laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sunday is simply due to my being obtuse.

Mr. Holloway places a special emphasis on Sunday, calling it the “Lord’s Day,” and asking Christians to “choose to use [our] money wisely on Sundays.” I would like to go even further and encourage Christians to use their money and their judgment wisely every day. Is not every day the “Lord’s Day?”

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” – Collossians 2:20-23

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A Matter of Common Decency

As those of you who keep an ear to the ground are by now well aware, there is currently a considerable buzz over the Cordoba Institute’s plans to build a mosque and community center two blocks from Ground Zero. The plans, headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, are to turn the old Burlington Coat Factory building into a mosque, museum, and Islamic cultural center, costing upwards of $100 million. It seems unlikely anyone would dispute calling the plans to build such a facility so close to the site of the 9/11 attacks “ambitious,” but many would prefer the term “galling.”

The memory of 9/11 is still fresh in the minds of many Americans, particularly those who lost a friend or family member in the attacks, and it seems a blatant insult, a breach of common decency, even, to erect a structure of this nature in such proximity to the place where thousands died at the hands of Muslim extremists (or fundamentalists, depending on who you ask).

Those in favor of the mosque’s construction claim that the First Amendment protects the Cordoba Institute’s right to proceed with its plans. Indeed it does. What the First Amendment fails to do, however, is nullify the ill effects the construction of the mosque would undoubtedly produce. The First Amendment mantra has been so oft-repeated in defense of the most abrasive (abusive?) actions that those touting it have apparently become callous to the grave insensitivity of their words and deeds. This seems as true in this case as in the abhorrent protests of military funerals by the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. There is, in the minds of these “First Amendmentists,” if you will, a sense that “if it’s legal, it’s right.” Of course, for any person who believes in a morality transcendent of law, this is absurd (assuming sensitivity to the feelings of others is considered a virtue), but I digress.

It can be taken as certain that if the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as it has been called, is completed Muslims all around the world, and especially those responsible for 9/11, will regard it as a victory for Islam. For any Muslim who supported the attack, whether openly or privately, it will be an unquestionable stamp of divine approval to have a 13-story mosque tower over the rubble of what was formerly a powerful symbol of the West’s success. Mr. Rauf has condemned the terrorist attacks, but the sincerity of his condemnation seems inversely proportional to his committment to proceed with the project against the wishes of those still grieving the attacks.

In light of the commonplace over-emphasis on political correctness these days, the amount of surprise I would express in learning that the mosque had been completed in the future would be…well, low. However, there is a not-so-subtle irony in the fact that only in a country where the freedoms of its citizens are valued could an undertaking such as this occur. I’m thinking of something quite different, of course, than the Islamic states in which Sharia law is legally enforced, where even verbal dissent from Islamic doctrines is met with punishments that make a Quentin Tarantino film look tame. Respect for views contrary to one’s own is a virtue seen only Islamic countries in which the fire of liberty has begun to kindle a flame bright enough to scorch the stiflingly oppressive traditions held by Muslims for hundreds of years. Such tolerance is unlikely the product of scholarly exegesis of the Qur’an or Hadith. If it were, it seems Muslims for the past several hundred years must have either failed to get the memo or manifestly ignored it. Yet Mr. Rauf will piggyback on the very principles of liberty and freedom absent in most Islamic states in order to advance a religion that detests them! I don’t blame him (who wouldn’t take advantage of such a great opportunity?), but I can’t decide whether to regard the move as cunning or appalling. I suppose it could be both.

Seeing as the construction of a mosque in this context is only possible under the freedoms protected by our Constitution, it would seem appropriate for Mr. Rauf to encourage the propagation of similar freedoms abroad in Islamic countries as an act of reciprocity. The chances of this occurring, however, are vastly outweighed by the likelihood that Mr. Rauf’s true desire, whether or not it is publicly espoused, is to see the world become an Islamic state, as do most Muslims. It is likely his current proclamations enjoining peaceful interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims are simply the most effective means to advance Islam in the current American context, whether or not there is at the heart of his message a true desire to see views contrary to Islam ultimately protected by law.

Mr. Rauf has been hailed as a moderate for his emphasis on peaceful co-habitation of Islam and other faiths, and he has even attempted to quell the uneasiness by reminding us that the center will house a memorial to those who died on 9/11, but there is nothing moderate about his insistence on continuing with a project that he surely knows will strike many as a barefaced assertion of Islamic power.

In the words of Mr. Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, who is the head of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), “Only in New York City is this possible.”

I hope she’s right.

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Post-Election Thoughts

Regardless of all the various affectations expressed at the election of our latest President, some of jubilation, some of despair, one fact remains: Barack Hussein Obama is the President of the United States of America. The American people have spoken. This fact, regardless of whatever emotion it happens to evoke, is one that we must accept.

However, in all the various remarks I have encountered concerning the election, there is one underlying notion in many of them that I deem to be rather peculiar. It is that there seems to have been expressed a tremendous amount of exultation over the fact that “history has been made,” in that Obama is the first black President of the United States. It is as if people regard “making history” as somehow inherently good.
A particular event is not good simply because it is unprecedented, for certainly there have been unprecedented events that “made history” and yet undeniably mar our past. This present moment in history can only legitimately be regarded as “good” if Obama indeed proves to move America in a positive direction. And yet there are some, especially within the black community, who, seeing in this man some sort of iconic representation of delivery from a perceived oppression, base their joy in his election solely on his color. The race of the President should have absolutely nothing to do with his election, and yet, as is quite obvious, some have expressed an almost religious devotion to “making history” by electing the first black President. This, my friends, is both absurd and naive. Being President of the United States isn’t a right – it’s a privilege that should be granted only in the presence of those qualities that, observed under close scrutiny, the American people deem necessary for leading a nation.

My main point is this: setting a precedent is not inherently good. Thus, only in retrospect can such judgments truly be made. Time will eventually grant us the means necessary to look back upon this moment in history and declare with some degree of certainty whether or not the unprecedented election of Barack Obama as President of the United States was a great achievement or a disastrous mistake.

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