Monday, October 12, 2009

I can make you sick

It is my practice to get a flu shot because I have the potential to make people sick, including some people who may be particularly vulnerable. As a pastor I spend a lot of time in areas where sick people are--particularly hospitals. Then I go to nursing homes and congregational gatherings where people are not sick.

Because of my age and health I am not in a priority group for receiving a flu shot when there is a shortage of them but I wonder if I should be. I do not think I would be in great danger of being hospitalized or worse if I contracted the H1N1 virus, for example. But I am concerned that I have the potential to spread it to some who are vulnerable to adverse reactions maybe even before I know that I am sick.

According to this report of a few weeks ago Centers for Disease Control has recommended that priority be given to these groups when the H1N1 vaccine first becomes available: pregnant women; people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; healthcare and emergency medical services personnel; children and young people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old; and people ages 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. Actually the report says that the priority list includes the groups above. If there is an expanded priority list that also includes members of the clergy I haven't seen it.

Anyway, since members of the clergy move back and forth between large groups of sick people and large groups of people who are not sick, does it make since to include us on the priority list?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy "Blasphemy Day"

I apologize, I am a day late, so a belated happy "Blasphemy Day" to you. According to a CNN report, the first ever blasphemy observance was held yesterday. The event was sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, headed by Ronald Lindsay. He was a devout Roman Catholic who once considered entering the priesthood but now he calls himself a non-believer and he defends the right to "ridicule, criticize--even lambaste God."

The date for Blasphemy Day was chosen to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the publication in a Danish newspaper of a controversial cartoon depicting Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. The drawing was protested by many Muslims as blasphemy. Wednesday's observance included a contest for the best blasphemous slogan. The winning phrase was memorialized on a t-shirt.

While I condemn blasphemy, I join with Lindsay in affirming the right of people to speak against God if they so choose. Rightfully the 100,000 supporters of the Center for Inquiry are outraged that some nations seek to execute blasphemers. Furthermore this CNN report made me aware that six states in this country (Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming) have laws against blasphemy on the books. This is disturbing.

According to Massachusetts law:

Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or
contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars ...

Some of the language of the anti-blasphemy laws of the other five states can be found here.

Baptists in the early days of this country affirmed the right of citizens to speak freely, including those who do not believe in God. John Leland, a Baptist leader, wrote in 1791, “Let every man speak freely without fear—maintain the principles that he believes—worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing …”

Leland aggressively proclaimed the gospel, baptizing more the 1,500 people in the course of his ministerial career. But he and his fellow Baptists of 200 years ago were equally aggressive in defending complete religious liberty and the separation of church and state. They were utterly against blasphemy, but they were also against blasphemy laws. They were convinced that the Lord would accomplish his purposes just fine without any coercive laws of the state.

They were right too.