Saturday, March 6, 2010

Unraveling the Tapestry of Our Culture

America’s strength has always been founded upon its diversity. The melting pot of the world has become an economic juggernaut that now drives the world economy. The United States has demonstrated that the American Dream is accessible to anyone in a free enterprise economy and a democratic society that does not discriminate against race, color, or creed.

Over the past 250 years, the United States of America has been the destination of choice for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses who have sought safe haven and opportunity by escaping from their homelands where they suffered under economic and social oppression.

Too be sure, diversity has not been an easy course for America. In a land where native peoples were conquered, slavery was once common place, U.S. Citizens of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and imprisoned, and anti-immigration sentiment has always run high, civil rights have been more of a concept and ideal than an absolute. It started with the phrase that helped frame our desire for independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Since that declaration in 1776, civil rights in America have been a work in progress more than a destination.

If diversity is the thread and colors that are woven together form the tapestry of American culture, then civil rights and the peaceable resolution of issues are the glue and the grease that hold it all together. And what a beautiful tapestry we have become—people from every nationality, race, language, and socio-economic background living in peace, governing ourselves, prospering and caring for one another, and helping the rest of the world to know the benefits of freedom and democracy.

There is, however, a pernicious trend in America that threatens to unravel the very tapestry of our culture. Political Correctness has permeated our culture, but being politically correct prevents us from acknowledging and embracing our diversity. We are no longer allowed to express ourselves freely. Instead, our language must be sanitized and our vocabulary purged of such terms as he or she, black or white, short or tall, winner or loser, fat or skinny, gay or straight, and stupid or smart. Especially perplexing is that any reference to the God of Judeo-Christian culture is systematically being expunged from our society while other religious references are tolerated.

This unraveling of our culture became clear to me when I served at the Department of the Interior as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks where I helped oversee and set policy for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

We received word one day that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was threatening to sue the National Park Service. The ACLU was incensed that a certain book, The Grand Canyon—A Different View by Tom Vail, was for sale in the bookstore at Grand Canyon National Park. The ACLU’s letter argued that by presenting the view that the Grand Canyon was created by the receding waters of the Great Flood as described in the Bible, the book should not be sold in a National Park Service venue. Their argument was based on the separation of church and state clause of the First Amendment and because the book differed from the National Park Service’s position that the canyon was formed over hundreds of thousands of year.

Of course, it did not matter to the ACLU that there is no consensus within the scientific community about how long it took to form the Grand Canyon. Nor did it matter that the book in question is a compilation of essays written by 23 people. Three of the essayists were theologians and the rest were highly acclaimed and well educated scientists with PhDs in geology, hydrology, geophysics, and atmospheric science, to name a few of the disciplines represented.

But, wait a minute. In this same bookstore, and almost every other bookstore in National Parks, there are numerous books about Native American spirituality and prayers. From the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, interpretive signs point out three of the most prominent peaks in the canyon that are each named after Hindu gods. And, in the bottom of the canyon, the most famous of the geologic formations is called Zoroaster Formation in honor of the ancient Persian prophet.

The point is that you cannot talk about America and what made her great without referencing our religious faiths. You cannot benefit from the strength of diversity by trying to sanitize our heritage. We cannot address what problems exist by denying or failing to recognize that people are all different. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and if there are biological, biochemical, and physiological reasons for those differences, it is okay to acknowledge them.

Christian Faith and the Bible had a great influence on the Founding Fathers who established this great nation and wrote documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If you have ever been to Washington, DC, the monuments to Jefferson, Lincoln, and Washington all reference their faith and allegiance to Christian principles. The Supreme Court of this land is adorned with references to God and the Ten Commandments. To fail to recognize these facts, and worse yet to try to deny them through historic revisionism, will steadily erode our cultural heritage and unravel the tapestry of our culture today.

Like the Founding Fathers, I do not believe in State sponsored religion. I do not want my government telling me what to believe. I happen to be an unabashed believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That is my choice and mine alone. I will defend my right to my faith and I pray I live my life as a good witness of my faith. I will also just as vigorously defend your right to believe in whatever or whoever you want. More to the point, I do not believe it is society’s or the government’s responsibility to purge our nation of those things, religious and otherwise, that make us diverse and strong. To try to homogenize America will completely unravel the tapestry of our culture that has made America what it is today—the beacon of hope to the rest of the world.

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