The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal/God as Basis of Government
There have been a couple of times I've written about Murfreesboro's daily newspaper, the Daily News Journal
. Generally speaking, the paper's not good for a whole lot, with the exception of L.M. Boyd's trivia column (behind the front page daily).
But today's Sunday paper has something I'd like to bring up. I picked up the Sunday DNJ because the Kwik Sak down the street didn't get its delivery of Nashville's Tennessean paper. And I was too lazy to walk all the way back down to the Shell station, where I'd already walked from. I figured, What the Hell?
Okay, there are many things about the story in question bugging me.
Let me start by saying that I'm unable to link to the story in question. The Murfreesboro paper is doing what it can to protect its profits by making its online articles available only to those who are already subscribers to their newspaper. I apologize for this, and you'll have to take my word for it when I quote a couple of passages.
I should also say for the benefit of any readers outside Tennessee who are unfamiliar with it, that there's a resolution floating among Tennessee's counties that acknowledges and proclaims God as the basis of our government. And Rutherford County (the county I live in) joined a lot of counties in Tennessee Thursday, when the Rutherford County Commission voted unanimously in favor of a proclamation.
Of course, it's front page news here in Murfreesboro. Three days later.
It may have been mentioned earlier in the week. I wouldn't know. I can't search articles on the Daily News Journal Website.
So. One of two things has happened here. Either the story (which is a minor hot-button issue, at the very least on the internet) hasn't gotten any coverage for three days....or the DNJ is putting a story they've already reported upon, with very little news that has happened since Thursday, on the front page of their Sunday newspaper.
Those are gripes Number 1 and 2, I suppose.
I would like to address a couple of things within the article.
First, it has the laziest headline I've ever seen: Resolution about 'God' approved
Granted, I understand space on the front page is at a premium....but one of the things I was taught in my Journalism studies, copy-editing specifically, is to avoid passive verbs and prepositional phrases in your headlines. Commission: God is Foundation. It's powerful. Has "God" above the fold where it will catch people's eyes. It's all good. And it doesn't sound lazy.
The opening paragraph of the news story (written by Byron Hensley) reads as follows:
Following a lengthy debate, Rutherford County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a proclamation "supporting the recognition of God."
If I can make a suggestion to the writer, Mr. Hensley: Please be very careful where you crop a statement when quoting someone or something. See....what is written in the paper here makes it sound like the Rutherford County Commission is issuing a proclamation in support of recognizing God.
Which to me implies that Rutherford County is shrugging off atheism in favor of a deity.
And that's not what the Rutherford County Commission has done.
The title of the document in question is this: "A Proclamation Supporting the Recognition of God as the Foundation of Our National Heritage." It may be only a semantic point, but to me, the difference between acknowledging anything's existence and acknowledging it's role in something are two very different things...two things a newswriter like Mr. Hensley (as well as his copy-editor and editor) should know the difference between.
And this little error serves to widen the chasm of ignorance that's surrounded this issue, too. Because for a lot of people, this resolution has been this: Because in the Bible Belt, either you're for the resolution acknowledging God as the basis for our government, or you're completely against God and a DAMNED HEATHEN who's going to HELL.
Now, toward the resolution itself.
In Rutherford County, apparently, Commissioner Mike Sparks is the man who led the campaign to get the proposition recognized by the Commission.
"I just feel as a county, we need to take a stand," [Sparks] said. "I understand the legalities, but sometimes, when some things right or something's wrong, we need to stand up for what's right."
He adds that certain small groups that don't represent the ideals of the majority are "telling us what to do."
It bugs me very much when a vast majority (and trust me, something like 85% of those in the country believe themselves to be Christians, whether they're practicing or not) still carries with it the stigma of the persecuted.
To Mr. Sparks...okay. It's fine that you want to go along with the whole majority rule thing. That's fine.
But I don't know if I'm able to adequately explain why such a resolution makes those whose beliefs put them in the minority feel insignificant and unrepresented.
My biggest problem with any group activity is when it becomes Us vs. Them. Whether it's sports fans, partisan politics or religion.
And my big problem with the resolution is this: If you make a statement that says God is the basis of our government, then you put in place the mechanism to undermine the legitimacy of any other belief structure, at least in terms of representation within our government.
Simply: the God of the men and women who draft this resolution may not necessarily mean the God of the Torah, or Allah of the Quran when they speak. They may. They may not. That question leaves a Jew, potentially, or a Muslim, even more potentially given our current political environment, in a liminal state. Is my God the basis of the Government, or is it their God?
As such, their place in within the society and their representation as one of those all men being created equal is lost. They are at a disadvantage. And in my mind, putting someone in a disadvantage just because they're in the minority is contrary to what so many different people fought for over the years.
Here's my potentially ignorant statement, while we're at it. Keep in mind that I'm generalizing here, but I think the people I speak of are still largely the rule, rather than the exception, no matter how far we've come in the political process:
My other problem is that the resolution is being voted upon by one of two groups of folks.
The first group is made up of the politicians. And what is a politician other than a person who will, when needed, tell the people what they want to hear? Part of me is really saddened by the fact that this resolution for a large part is little more than an attempt by a lot of politicians to get in good with the church crowd.
Understanding, of course, that it's a double-edged sword for a politician to walk. If you speak ill of such a resolution, it's entirely too easy to be labelled the aforementioned HEATHEN.
Add to that the second group. Since these resolutions are being passed at the local level, a good portion of those voting are little more than Good Old Boys and Gals whose association with other cultures and other religions is limited to what they read in National Geographic and hear about on G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh. And to what they hear in church. And to what they've been hearing their whole lives.
And if that's the case, then it's a resolution that's bred of ignorance and hearsay, more than anything. And in this "enlightened age" we live in, with all the access to any manner of information in the world...info accessible to anybody with a home computer, or failing that, a computer at work, or a library card, for that matter--that sort of ignorance is completely unacceptable.
It just makes me sad. I'll finish by saying that for all the good stuff I've got going on around me in Tennessee, living in the Bible Belt really perturbs me sometimes.