Confederate Memorial Day

Today in Alabama and in Mississippi and in several other southern states is the commemoration of the Confederate War Heroes known as Confederate Memorial Day.  This year is especially singled out as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.   It is on this date in 1865 when General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Union General William Sherman.

As  a Yankee,  I admit I do not fully understand, when our nation has Memorial Day to honor and remember all of America’s war dead, why there is a  need to differentiate this war from the rest. The history of the origins of Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day may give some clues.   Memorial Day was developed to honor the war dead of both the Union and Confederate Armies.  It was first celebrated on May 30, 1868.   The south did not choose to honor their war dead on this date but instead chose another day, April 26th.  Some southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on a different date. It was not until 1971  did the South recognize this holiday in May when Congress declared the last Monday in May to be a nationally recognized day of memorial to commemorate all war dead.  But there some differences in how this particular war is perceived by the losers and winners that I believe is the reason or perhaps the real motivation behind this southern holiday.

If I was to ask what this war between the states was about, those who side with the victors would say this was a war about slavery.  Those who side with the losers would state this was a war about state rights and sovereignty.  Both answers are partially correct.  As my grandmother would say “There are three sides to every story; your side, my side, and the truth.”

The issue between which has predominance, state rights or federal rights continues to be waged in the political arena.  This holiday as it is celebrated today is a grim reminder of the concern of federal sovereignty over states rights. It is the battle cry of the Tea partiers who want less federal government.  The Tea partiers do not necessarily want less government paid service–as they shout to keep hands off social security and medicare–but they want the states  and not the federal government to have more control over their social programs.   State rights have come to the fore over same-sex marriage.  And it is surely to be on the front burner after the passage of  Arizona’s new controversial immigration law.

Do states have the right to determine who they provide services to, who they marry, who can live within their boundaries?  Do states have the right to pass discriminatory laws that fly in the face of the federal constitution?  What interstate agreements  do states have in honoring other states who declare other laws to be legal for their citizens?  Confederate Memorial Day is a painful reminder of the wounds that still remain in this country from a war that tore this country in two 150 years ago.   Its wounds still fester in the racism expressed in this country under the new guise of fear against socialism, equal rights for sexual minorities,  and immigration reform.

From the chair that I sit in, Confederate Memorial Day is a longing to return to the day when states could ensure that white privilege was codified as was the case in the Alabama State Constitution last ratified in 1901 and still on the books though no longer enforceable because of  Federal law.

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Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm  Comments Off on Confederate Memorial Day  
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When does personhood begin?

This is a variation on the age-old question of when does life begin–at conception or at birth?  There was a recent bill passed in Utah that criminalizes  miscarriages as homicide if the woman engages in “intentional, knowing, or reckless act” that results in a miscarriage.   Potentially this means if the woman does not wear a seatbelt, or she drinks alcohol, smokes, falls down stairs, or remains in an abusive relationship and then miscarries she could be charged with homicide.   This bill had passed both houses of the state legislature and was sent to the Governor for signing.   The Governor wisely, after an uproar nationwide, sent the bill back for removal of the most offensive language, the word reckless.   It is expected that some miscarriages will still be considered homicide and carry a felony.

There is another bill , an amendment actually that will redefine for Mississippi what is the legal definition of personhood.  Personhood Mississippi is seeking to define personhood as beginning at conception.  The wording of the amendment is as follows:  Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hearby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”  The organization has received wide support and exceeded the number of signatures needed to place this on the 2011 ballot.   There are similar petitions being submitted in Florida, California, Montana, and Missouri. 

Obviously if this personhood amendment were to be pass it would strike down the women’s right to control her own body should she become pregnant even if that pregnancy were to threaten her life.  If she aborts the fetus because of the risk to her health, under this redefinition she could be charged with infanticide but if the birth of the child resulted in the death of the mother, does the newborn then get charged with matricide since the fetus is a person with rights and responsibilities?  A whole other question for debate. 

These are two bills that would alter how we define personhood. These bills are based in a theological and doctrinal belief that conception is the start of personhood or the start of life.  There are doctrinal beliefs that state that birth is the beginning of the person’s life. 

Two very popular verses in the Hebrew Scriptures are quoted to support the doctrine that life begins at conception:  Jeremiah 1:5 states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  and Psalm 139: 13, 16 reads “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”   These verses point to more than simply when life begins but also suggests the doctrine of pre-destination. 

There are verses in the Hebrew Scriptures that support the doctrine that life begins at birth when the baby draws its first breath.  Genesis 2:7,   He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”.   Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath. In Job 33:4, it states:   “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Again, to quote Ezekiel 37:5;6,   “Thus says the Lord God to these bones:   Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.   And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live;   and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  [as found at http://joeschwartz.net/life.htm

These two very different and opposing doctrines are based in the Bible. These are doctrines held by various denominations of the Christian and Jewish faith.  So whose doctrine is correct?  And whose doctrine should reign supreme in a democracy that claims freedom of religion? 

To add to the confusion, science has its own varied theories of when human life begins.  Does it begin at fertilization?  Does it begin at gastrulation–the point at which the embryo can no longer subdivide and create twins or triplets.  Or  is it when an EEG can be discerned?  It is a definition of death, when the brain flatlines and an EEG no longer registers.  Or is it when the fetus has potential viability, or when there is lung function somewhere between weeks 25 and 28 of gestation.   Or is it when the cord is cut and the first breath has been drawn?   Science according to which area of speciality has multiple answers to when human life begins.  As Dr. Gilbert states in his lecture given in 2007 (see link here)  there is no one coherent view and no consensus in the answer.

The answer is not one that will be found easily.  And if we are going to pass laws based on a doctrinal belief rather than based on the unfolding science then the debate becomes whose religious doctrine is supreme.  That is a road towards theocracy.  A road that this democracy needs to ensure that humanity never travels down again as it thwarts the fullness of humanity in all of its creativity and expression.    Blessings,

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 11:55 am  Comments Off on When does personhood begin?  
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A return to Old Fashion Mississippi values ??

I don’t know if any of you have seen or heard the political ad where the candidate running for congress states several things:  Has conservative values (OK); nation founded on Faith, Family, and Freedom (OK); will not waver on his views of traditional marriage (OK, I happen to be pro equal marriage rights); will continue to stand up for the unborn (OK, I happen to be pro choice);  and Washington needs a good dose of “Old Fashion Mississippi Values.”  (er… WHAT?!).

I understand the conservative values statement but I tend to be progressive in my values.  I am not totally convinced that Faith, Family, and Freedom were the three things America was founded on but I have heard this rhetoric from conservatives before.   I understand how someone could be against equal marriage rights and even against a women’s right to choose.  But to end the ad with wanting to bring to Washington “Old fashion Mississippi values”?  

Uhm… I don’t know about you but here is what popped into my mind when he said this…  White supremacy…  White Privilege… Re-instituting the Sovereignty Commission which spied on civil rights activists and colluded (or if that word is too strong … conveniently turned a blind eye) with the terrorist organization known as the KKK… segregation of schools…  lynchings…  Burning churches…  The free use of degrading terms to demonize groups of people (such as the n word)…  These were the values of Mississippi 40-50 years ago.  These are the old fashioned values of yesteryear and he wants to bring these back?  To do what?  …  (My ability to be facetious won’t really work here.) 

 

How about some new values or better yet a return to values that a very wise teacher taught on the shores of Galilee…  Love your neighbor as your self… Do unto others as you would have others do unto you…  How about being like the good Samaritan–that reviled demonized race of ancient times–who sought to relieve the suffering of another…   How about seeking to emulate those values… 

How about wanting to keep jobs in Mississippi instead of having them leave for cheaper wages in other countries.  How about wanting to ensure equal educational opportunities in our schools so that all students regardless of the school district they live in have the same chance to excel.  How about insisting on a living wage in Mississippi?  How about wanting equality for all the citizens of Mississippi.     How about ensuring affordable housing for low-income families?  How about ensuring that couples who are looking to adopt and raise children in loving homes can, regardless if they are common-law wed or same gendered (This is a bill before the state legislators).  How about not creating felons of undocumented employees and their employers for hiring them (This was just signed into law by Governor Barbour).   How about fixing our judiciary system so that the punishment is the same for a person of color as for a white person who commits the same type of crime. 

These actions are based in values that I could get behind.  They represent the values that my faith teaches…  inherent worth and dignity of all persons;  Justice, compassion, and equity in human relationships.  

May our hearts embrace the desire for a different kind of Mississippi,  not one from the past, but one that seeks to uplift all of its citizens towards a better future. 

Blessings,
Rev. Fred L Hammond

Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 3:31 am  Comments (1)