Monday, May 28, 2012

Poem for Memorial Day, 2012

A great uncle of mine fought
the Japanese during World War 2.
He was on a jungle island in the humid,
blazing Pacific.  Foxholes, bayonets,
rifles, blood, terror, bravery, smoke.
He killed three men, he thinks,
and got so close to death that
they put him in a pile of corpses.
He crawled out of it though,
got flown back to America,
hitchhiked back to Texas,
made it all the way home,
made it all the way to his seventies.

I never met him.

This poem is for my great uncle,
even though he can't read it,
because he's dead now. 

This poem is also for
all the American soldiers
I never met. They were sent
to the battlefield and they went.
They're also dead.

Thank you, you brave departed souls.
Thank you, you who cannot
stand with me by the grill tonight,
you who cannot flip the burgers,
sip a soda, see the American flag wave,
and watch the sun set, closing another
peaceful American day.

Thank you for leaving your bride,
so I can stay here with mine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Religion is the Most Important Subject in the World

Dear Readers,

Religion is the most important subject in the world.  It's more important than math, science, English, history, drama, home economics and woodshop.  Religion deals with the meaning of life.  It deals with morality.  Religion props up nations by propping up the families within the nations.  Religion guides lives and it guides the rise and fall of nations.

If you want to get to the heart of Saudi Arabia, you should study the Koran and Islam.  And study Muslims.

If want to get to heart of the United States of America, you should study the Bible and Christianity.  And study Christians.

(I contend that the Bible was more important to the founding of America than the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, or any other similar documents.  Even if some of the Founding Fathers didn't describe themselves as Christian, they came from a Christian culture and were inspired by Christian principles.)

If you want to get to the heart of the Navajo Nation, learn about their religion.  And learn about Navajos.

I don't mean "religion" as it is explained by church leaders acting in their official ecclesiastical capacities.  And I don't mean "religion" as it is presented by missionaries or public relations officials. I mean religion as it is understood and lived by its religions adherents.  Studying the culture, the myths and the folk beliefs of a religious community might be more important than studying official church doctrine.  The culture, myths, and folk beliefs are taught and followed in the home.  And it is primarily in the home, not the church, where children are raised and, thus, nations are built.

Thomas Carlyle wrote in a book I'd like to read, Heroes and Hero Worship,

It is well said, in every sense, that a man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him.  A man's or a nation of men's.  By religion I do not mean the church creed which he professes,the articles of faith which he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases not at all.  We see men of all kinds of professed creeds attain to almost all degrees of worth or worthlessness under each and any of them.  This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion, which is often a profession and assertion from the outworks of the man, from the mere argumentative realm of him, if even so deep as that.  But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others), the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest.  That is his religion, or, it may be, his mere skepticism and no-religion: the manner in which he feels himself to be spiritually related to the unseen world or no-world, and I say, if you tell me what that is, what the kind of things he will do is. Of a man or of a nation we inquire, therefore, first of all, what religion they had.

Therefore, we all ought to be studying religion more. 

But there is danger in studying religion only from an academic perspective.  Religion is meant to be experienced, not studied as a scientist would study an insect.  And comparing religions has its own kind of danger.  You can't understand religion from the outside.  You have to sit in the pew and sing a few hyms and hear a few sermons.  Reading a thousand books about prayer won't really teach you what prayer is.  You have to get on your knees, alone, and pray.

I also think that religion can't be properly understood by atheists.  To understand religion, you have to believe, if only vaguely, that there is an unseen world- a marvelous unseen world- just beyond our mortal perception.