I’ve tried to write this piece a couple of times but found it almost impossible. The key is to put it on paper without sounding preachy or religiously stilted. So, here goes another attempt.
The main characters in books, TV, and movies are increasingly expressing their doubts or disbeliefs in a higher power. Many artists and writers and other public figures are also declaring their agnosticism or atheism. It’s a situation that shocks me.
Sure I know that hoards of folks no longer rise on Sunday morning and attend church. I also know that many say that today’s church no longer meets the needs or fits the styles of their lives. Much of the displeasure comes from the public’s desire to be entertained. That’s why the biggest growth in churches comes to those who offer alternative worship services that are filled with videos and the new Christian music. Other people don’t like giving up sleeping late on Sunday mornings.
Okay, I understand the possible need for change in the approach to religion by churches. What I don’t get is the complete turning away from the belief in a power above ourselves. Spring’s air perfumed by honeysuckle and the jabbering of birds who’ve returned home from miles away seem to hint that some power has a plan in place. Music that reaches to the depths of our hearts is another thing that is too special to just have happened by the “human” genius.
How do those who don’t believe manage to get through the tough times? Yes, I know that many will say that relying on a god during a crisis is nothing more than tricking one’s self. However, the peace that comes from the presence of a spirit is not a trick of the mind. The confidence that God is present gives us the ability to face the worst of things. No, God won’t necessarily interfere with or “fix” the events of life, but He will walk beside us as we travel through them.
An association with a church is a life-sustaining one. It can offer individuals fellowship and friendship. Far too many folks live away from family; the connection with a church family offers support and company when the bad and good things in life come around. People who aren’t a part of a church might visit some. No, they don’t have to join. Instead, they can just visit until ones that fit personal styles are discovered. Suddenly, people have a support communities, even if they don’t want any part of God.
I’ve seen plenty of individuals who give religion a bad name. At the same time, I’ve been around atheist who weren’t at all pleasant. Many in the second group are just as vocal in their nonbelief as those “pushy” Christians are. Atheists that are loudest sneer at the idea of a God. It’s as if their egoism suggest that individuals are in charge of all that is created in life. Our existences are filled with many “giant” events that are far above our abilities to create. I don’t much think they can ascribe them to personal power or the simple roll of fate’s dice.
I have friends who doubt, and they will continue to be friends. No, I don’t feel sorry for them. I do hope that at some point they find something to believe in above themselves. I’d like for them to find a church like mine (Beaver Ridge United Methodist) that opens its arms to all, that places its energies in reaching out to others through local missions, and that offers an outstanding speaker who is both engaging and sincere.
Most of all, I’d like to think that we are a people who relies on a high power for guidance. Humans make too many poor choices. Sometimes we don’t know what to do. It’s then that the reliance on God is something that offers peace and confidence. I don’t condemn anyone. Instead, I invite them to explore  groups and places that offer them strength and aid.

Whose Right Is It?

I don’t know about any other Tennesseans, but I, for one, feel so much safer knowing that our state officials are taking care of us. If you don’t believe they are, just check out State Senator Frank Niceley’s “fatherly” leadership.
Niceley’s proposal would remove the arduous task of choosing Democratic and Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate from you and me and place the task in much more capable hands, caucuses in the state legislature. Oh, you didn’t realize that this was such a terrible burden? Well, Niceley seems to think that we aren’t up to the challenge. A poll showed that 93% of those asked opposed the bill, but our senator said that 92% of us didn’t know that until early in the 1900’s that’s the way things were done.
This pol states that “we need a little history lesson,” and that his proposal is a way to get the federal government under control. How’s that going to happen? According to him, if enough small red state legislatures could choose the candidates, “they could effectively control the U.S. Senate and through that “get Washington under control.” I’m interested in who “they” is.
What seems clear to me is that Niceley’s bill (SB471) is nothing more than a brazen attempt to usurp the right to vote from all of us in Tennessee. This man suggests such a thing is okay because too many of us are not only ignorant but also apathetic. I can agree that the numbers of folks voting is low, but when the choices offered include people like Niceley, there’s not much reason to get out of the chair to choose.
I am not apathetic and resent Niceley’s suggestion that I’m ignorant. No, I don’t see eye-to-eye with the man, but that doesn’t mean I lack the capacity to choose a person to support as senator. I’ve seen the workings of our state legislature and sure don’t want them speaking for me as far as candidates for either party. By the way, what if an Independent candidate wants to run? How does he or she get on the ballot?
Our state “leaders” have often decided that we should not have the right to choose persons for leadership positions. For example, Tennesseans want a return to an elected school superintendent. However, the state legislature refuses to allow the change. Some leaders have said that appointed superintendents take the politics out of education. So, the selection process is left to school boards, and I’m pretty sure those individuals sit at the pleasure the districts that elect them. The result is that a leader of the school system answers to a handful of people instead of the public that he or she serves. Of course, we voters would have to decide on a person who lives in the area and is familiar with the “politics” of the area and the system instead of bringing in someone from far away who has no stake in educational system. I suppose the legislature thinks we voters aren’t as smart as some search firm that gets a wad of cash to find superintendent candidates.
Few of us are happy with our leaders. Their partisanship leads to fights, anger, and the dreaded “gridlock.” Frank Niceley might think he and his cohorts are better equipped to choose the “right” candidates, but I’m SURE the intent of the founding fathers was to give the right to choose leaders to the people, not the chosen few. Perhaps we can figure a way to choose a better candidate than someone who wants gerrymandered control of elections. I, for one, am disgusted with any person who thinks of himself as being above citizens who are ignorant and apathetic. Of course, Niceley might be right that voters aren’t too smart; they voted him in, didn’t they?