Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thoughts on Religious Freedom

The Arizona religious freedom issue reminded me of a fifty year old conversation.  One of my neighbors was upset over the new civil rights legislation, complaining that it stripped him of his freedom to live where he wanted to live, which was in a restricted neighborhood that kept out blacks and Jews.  He could not grasp the idea that everyone should be free to live where ever they want (or could afford).  He could not grasp the idea that choosing where you want to live does not give you the right to choose where someone else can live.  It simply did not compute.  That was fifty years ago. The law is well established.  Beliefs and attitudes are still on shaky grounds.

The issue, it is said, is religious freedom, enshrined in the Constitution and inviolable.  But shedding that veneer reveals the same old argument that one should have the right to restrict the neighborhood; in this case, who I will or will not do business with in the public market place based on religious conviction.

It may be the same old argument, but because it's framed in the context of religious freedom, it demands a deeper examination of what religious freedom means. The Constitution is not clear on that.  It simply prohibits the government from establishing a state religion.  It has come to mean that each person is free to enjoy whatever religion they like, and that others cannot be compelled to practice that religion.  It is a freedom that is not without limits.   For instance, the question of compelling others to listen to Christian prayer as a cultural standard in the classroom and at public events has been hotly debated.  One end of that debate is determined to defend such prayers in the firm belief that being "one nation under God" means one nation under a Christian understanding of God, or at least a Judeo-Christian understanding of God.  In other words, one should be free to practice any form of Christian or Judeo-Christian religion.  Anything else might be tolerated, but within limits and under supervision.

That side of the debate has obvious fallacies, but that doesn't keep it from being a deeply held emotional conviction, an all but unshakable prejudice.  Unshakable as it might be, we, as a society, are even more determined to use civil authority to prohibit one religious expression from compelling others to be exposed to it, and the debate rumbles on.  There are other limits to religious freedom that are more legitimate because they are more commonly agreed to: child and sexual abuse for instance.  As a society we not only condemn such abuses within the house of religion, but intercede with civil authority in spite of claims of religious freedom.  In other words, even in America, constitutionally protected religious freedom is not unrestricted religious freedom.  There are limits, but what are those limits?

In the case of the Arizona legislation, as well as similar legislation proposed in other states, the idea is that a person doing business in the public market place can use their religious belief to deny service to a member of a class of persons, even though that service is available, without restriction, to all other members of the public.  Before you jump to conclusions, it's not as clear cut as it may seem.  Not only do we have to ask what constitutes a religious belief, but we also have to ask what constitutes denial of service.  Here's an example.  If I go into a kosher deli and order a ham sandwich, I will be denied that particular service on religious grounds.  On the other hand, I can order anything on the menu of kosher items.  I can check into a Marriott hotel without being a Mormon, and though I know there will be a Book of Mormon in the night stand, I will not be compelled to look at it.  One denies me the right to a ham sandwich on religious grounds.  The other, on religious grounds, offers me an opportunity to be exposed to the LDS but does not make it a requirement of my stay.  Neither of them denies me service because of the class to which I might belong.  Or consider this; the state defines marriage and makes me, an Episcopal priest, an agent of the state authorized to certify that a marriage has taken place.  But my church is is not wholly in the public market place.  A significant part of it is in the private domain of religious belief, and within the context of my religion, I, under the discipline of my denomination, am the sole arbiter of at whose marriage I will or will not officiate, and I do that on religious grounds.

What it gets down to is this.  If you want to do business in the public market place, you are free to offer whatever legal product or service you like, and that product or service can be heavy with religious content: a kosher deli, a Mormon hotel, a Christian bookstore, a shop filled with Wiccan crystals, Rastafarian gewgaws, you name it.  You can restrict what you sell, but you cannot restrict who you sell it to on the basis of some class of person to which they may belong.

Thanks to constitutionally protected religious freedom, and within the context of a house of worship, restrictions can be placed on who may enter and who may be served using religious belief as the standard.  Outside of that context, in the more public arena, some restrictions can be placed on customers, such as "no shoes, no shirt, no service," but they are limited and not always enforceable.  The moment you define the customer to be denied service on the basis of what class of persons she or he might be, or what he or she believes, using religious freedom as your shield, you have trespassed beyond the realm of religious freedom and into the realm of Jim Crow.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ownership and Stewardship

So here is another subject I wrote on years ago, and am writing on again - ownership.  We have done some major remodeling of our house over the last three or four years.  I think we are finally done.  A friend asked me if it was a wise investment, would we ever see the market value of the place exceed what we put into it?

No, it's unlikely that the market value of the house will ever surpass what we've spent on it, but, as I said to my friend, we don't really own it anyway, we're just stewards of it for a time.  Several people owned it before us, and many will own it after us.  In the meantime, we have invested in making it a wonderful home for us, and hopefully for those who follow us.  He looked at me, mouth open, and an uncomprehending look in his eyes.

The whole idea of ownership gets muddled in so many ways.  I understand the legal meaning of ownership: deeds, bills of sale, rights of owners, "sanctity" of private property, and all that.  The legal meaning of ownership is important.  It defines boundaries that make an orderly and secure society possible.  Thou shalt not steal makes little sense if we don't have a mutual, and legally binding, understanding of what is mine and what is yours.  But I also understand that our possessions come an go through our hands, there is little permanence to them.  In my adult years I have owned six houses, a dozen cars, all kinds of clothing, equipment and gear, and let us not forget food, and "personal effects."   They come, they go.

It took years for me to understand that, in exchange for money, I can acquire the exclusive use of something for a period of time of my choosing (with certain stipulations and limitations).  After that, if it was a durable product, it will pass into the hands of another.  That's not a reassuring thought for some people.  Several acquaintances cannot bear to part with anything they own.  Basements and garages are filled with possessions of little practical value.  Off site storage units are packed.  Except for consumables, they have in their possession almost everything they have ever bought.

A few others are proud that their farm, ranch, or business has been in their family for generations, which is not bad in itself, but becomes a terrible burden when it comes time to recognize that it will not continue that way.  No one has a permanent right to anything.

Consider this portion of Psalm 49: "When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own. Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.  Such is the fate of the foolhardy, the end of those who are pleased with their lot."

We are all simply stewards of what we have, and that implies its own set of responsibilities and burdens.  A steward knows that he or she is not the absolute and permanent owner of that which has been put into her or his hands.  It is held in trust.  A steward is in in charge of it, can use it as deemed best, can transfer ownership to others, but in the end is accountable - to whom?  Future generations for starters.  I have certain moral obligations to the next owner of the house I live in now.  I have other obligations to my children and grandchildren, the community I live in, my neighbors, and so on.  We all have that kind of moral obligation whether we recognize it or not, and whether we are good stewards or lousy stewards.   That's true for all of us, but for those of us who claim to be Christian, the greater accountability is to God, and it is God who will demand the accounting.

Therein lies the rub for Christians.  We get skittish about the idea that what we have acquired by the sweat of our own brows might actually belong to God and not to us. Have we owned things, no matter how hard we have worked for them, or how much we think we deserve them, have we owned them in a way that honors God's gifts to us and God's presence in our lives? Have we owned them in a way that honors those around us, and especially the poor, oppressed, and those in great need?  Have we owned things in ways that will contribute to the well being of generations to come?  We don't much like to be confronted by questions like these.  They are theologically challenging and politically uncomfortable.  True enough, but not sufficient grounds to avoid them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mizpah

I may have written about this years ago, but I don't remember, and maybe you wont either.  I once knew a rector who ended every vestry meeting by having everyone join hands in a circle and recite in unison, "The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other," to which they would all append, "Mizpah."  He would smile a benign smile, and I often wondered if it hid a slight smirk.  Most of the vestry assumed that this little ritual was supposed to be a sign of the Christian love that bound them together in shared commitment to the work of the church.  And if that's what happened, good for them.

I doubt if it occurred to any of them that it was the oath sworn between Jacob and Laban, two charlatans who distrusted each other for good reason, as Jacob departed Laban's land to return to Canaan.  Mizpah (a watch tower) was the heap of stones they set up as testimony to their oath and a boundary marker that neither was to cross.

It was like saying, "Alright you difficult people, let's part for another month doing our best not to hurt each other, and try to play nice out there."

Vestries can be a troublesome collection of competing egos: some were cajoled into serving, some are there to keep an eye on the rector, some because it is their God given right to run the place, and some are there to protect their guild or group from incursions by others.  And each of them is there to do God's work, at least superficially, if they remember that's why they are there.

OK, I agree that not all vestries are like that, perhaps not even many.  Moreover, I'm certain that such problems as may from time to time arise happen only in Episcopal Church vestries, not in parish councils and sessions of  other denominations.  But I always wondered if my friend's monthly ritual was something of his own private joke, with the added bonus that, over many years, not a single member ever raised a question about it.

In any case, it seemed to work, and I've often wondered whether, instead of opening invocations that are common among legislative assemblies, this  Mizpah ritual might be a good way to end each day.  "It's time to go home.  Every body gather round and hold hands.  Let's try to leave here without causing any more damage or hurting each other while we are apart, and let this pile of the revised statutes be a sign of our oath and a boundary we will not cross; dismissed."  Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jesus as Warrior in Chief

A friend sent me some roughed out ideas he's working on for an assigned paper.  Among other things, he used Jesus as warrior to describe his actions in destroying the legion of demons in Mark's account of the demoniac.  I was't surprised, but I urged caution.  Prayer warrior is one of those phrases that has entered the lexicon of religious cliche, and making Jesus the warrior in chief is not unexpected, but I don't like it.

To be sure, Jesus is courageous, but all his acts of power are for healing and restoration, for making whole that which was broken, and for restoring the healed to their rightful place in society - healed, restored, forgiven, renewed.  However courageous warriors might be, that is not what they are called to do.  Yes, in the case of the demoniac, the demons are destroyed, but Jesus doesn't fight with them.  He simply confronts them, and they must obey, they have no choice.  The outcome is never in doubt.  The whole scene is inconsistent with a warrior metaphor.

That brings me to the more prosaic prayer warrior appellation that is so often called up by preachers, and assumed by erstwhile believers.  "You are such a great prayer warrior," is a compliment in many circles, and I recall a former parishioner who was very upset that I did not even try to call up a legion of prayer warriors from among our congregation.  I know it's meant well, but it's a horrible metaphor.  It brings to mind a scene from a truly awful television series about the bible in which ninja warrior angels slashed their way through crowds of sword wielding villains to get Lot and his family out of Sodom.

Is that what prayer warriors do?  Slash and burn their way through the enemies of God, leaving behind a bloody trail of broken lives?  Some do.  I recall a parishioner who, in the name of God's love, was a violent persecutor of anything or anybody that might be tainted with homosexuality.  A local preacher is something like a modern day Carrie Nation (look her up if you don't know who she was) with a list of cultural evils that he is certain are the works of the devil.  He is called, he says, to prayerfully whack away at any sign of them, and while he has not yet used a hatchet, his words of condemnation inflict real pain.

"Yes," some might counter, "but what about The Revelation to John.  Doesn't that involve warriors and battles between God and the devil.?"  Actually, no, I don't think  it does.  Read it carefully.  The devil is never in control of anything.  He must go where he goes and do what he does at God's command.  He has no power that is not given to him, on which limits are placed, and whose final destiny is not in doubt.  In the climactic battle, it is God's word alone that seals his fate.  For what it's worth, I don't think John's visions have anything to do with what's yet to come.  They have everything to do with declaring that it is God and God alone who restores what we have broken to a wholeness that cannot be broken.

So, to return from Patmos to today's reality, what should we be doing if we are not prayer warriors.  For a start there could be nothing better than trying to follow Jesus as ones, who, with courage in the face of improbable odds, are agents of healing, restoring, forgiving, and renewing in our own lives, and in the lives of those we touch, and to do it with a deep understanding of Christian realism.  You go first.

On the other hand, if you insist on being a prayer warrior, then I think you and Don Quixote will make a fine pair.  Go forth and tilt.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Grumpy Old Men and Spirituality

I've said before that the Y locker room is a great place for inspiration when it comes to subjects for these occasional short essays.  Reflecting on locker room conversation in light of several recent articles on the spiritual but not religious got me to thinking about how grumpy old men at the Y express thing spiritual.

I am usually there in the early afternoon, arriving just as the younger lunchtime crowd is departing.  It leaves the locker room to us retired types.  Conversation ebbs and flows.  It's not a place for gabfests.  Mostly it's about hunting, fishing, sports, politics, the usual health issues of old men, and the like.  Religion, or anything outwardly spiritual, is not often mentioned, but I've been thinking lately about how old men express spiritual matters in other ways.

The most obvious is conversation about funerals.  There are enough of them.  What kind of man was he?  What was said about him?  Who went to the service?  Death is real, and funerals are the unavoidable proof of that.  The silence that follows a few brief comments speaks volumes about questions of hope, mortality, the meaning of life, and God, but a locker room is not the right place to let the silence express itself in words.  It's too bad because I think the silence is begging to be broken.

Words used to express spiritual beliefs tend toward: courage, strength, integrity, humor, generosity, reliability, important accomplishments in life, etc.  Even political talk has its spiritual dimension because it expresses fundamental beliefs about human nature and the meaning of community.  Moral truth is defined by words such as good, bad, right, and wrong.  There is little room for grey or nuance.  The words used in all these short locker room conversations circle around the pond of spirituality but seldom dive in.  They are words often encapsulated in manly harumphing, assertively stated as fact without fear of contradiction, but however declarative, they are bracketed by huge question marks.

These then are the old men of my afternoons several times a week.  Most of them, even the church goers, don't think church has much to do with the questions implied in their locker room conversations.  Church is for their wives.  Church is a lifelong social habit.  Church is where they make notes in their bible because the pastor told them to.  Church instructs them in answers to questions they have little interest in asking.  I wonder what it would take to translate the spiritual talk of the locker room at the Y into church speak, or maybe the  other way round.

Oh, who cares?  They are just grumpy old men, and we need to be focussed on attracting the young.  Forget'em.  Unless, maybe, the old men taught the young men.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Trio of Schemers

Rebekah, Jacob, and Laban: what a trio of self serving schemers.  They were not unaware of the God of Isaac and Abraham, but appeared to have little faith that that God would be of any use to them.  As for the other gods, they served mostly their own interests, and, if anything, pointed the way to those three doing the same.

I'm not so sure that much has changed.  The great majority of people acknowledge God in some form.  They may know something of the stories of the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but not much.  As for the other gods, they are aplenty, and it's pretty clear that they work for themselves.   Even some who attend church are known to have little regard for what God can and does do in the world of everyday life, and that goes for those who claim that nothing happens unless God ordains it.  The say it but don't act like it.

Look out for your self.  Do what you can to arrange and control events around you to work for your best interest.  Trust, but not too much, because the one in whom you trust will always have a higher priority - his or her own self interest.  At its extreme, it's the Tea Party platform backed  by weapons and stand your ground laws.

The one thing that keeps some of my culturally right wing, but church going, friends from committing unequivocally to Christ is the fear of becoming a doormat, stomped on by others, and marked as too cowardly to man up and defend themselves.  They can go so far and no farther because they see a world populated almost entirely by Rebekahs, Jacobs, and Labans, the rest are either doormats or strong enough to defend themselves and their rights.  They expect to be attacked and scammed at every turn.  Oddly enough, they are often such easy targets that it happens.

If they would only turn to Jesus!  But many have!  In a curious way, accepting Jesus as one's personal Lord and Savior seems to work as a handy back door that makes it OK to retain, without the least iota of guilt, the cultural imperative to watch out for number one.  In fact, since Jesus is one's personal Lord and Savior, these beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors must be endorsed by him.  Right?

I don't know what became of Rebekah and Laban, but Jacob finally had to give in, after a long battle fought hard, and let God be God, so that centuries later Moses would learn that the Great I Am was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It isn't easy to follow in those footsteps.  No one ever said it would be.  Maybe that's what Paul was getting at in letter to the Romans, especially in the 12th chapter.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Milk of Human Kindness

"If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.  He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.  Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given." (Sirach)

At the risk of being accused of Pelagianism, was Pelagius all that wrong?  Reformation theology was soaked in self abasement, the utter depravity of the human soul, and the conviction that, without God's presence, we can do nothing good.  Some of us are still steeped in that theology.  Others bear the echo of it in the Sunday collects.  We avoid moral responsibility by appealing to our original sinfulness and blaming God for it.  Alternatively, we can blame the devil, whom some believe is the real ruler of this world.  Better yet, we can claim to have certain knowledge of what is good in God's eye's, and hold so firm to that conviction that no evidence to the contrary can make us change our minds.  Many reject the whole mess by disowning the judgmental hypocrisy of religion, at least as they visualize it.

The thing is, we cannot complain about being unable to do good without God presence because we are not without God's presence.  God is with us and for us.  Isn't that the central theme of scripture?  In some mysterious way we are created in God's image, and God said it was good.  We are not without goodness in us.  Like Adam and Eve, we are able to make choices for good or for evil, or, to be more accurate, we are able to make choices consistent or inconsistent with what God would have us do.

Being able to make choices for good, and to do good, is not the same as being agents of our own salvation.  In fact, I'm not convinced that being and doing good has much to do with salvation.  Jesus sent the disciples out to do good and declare that the kingdom of God was at hand, but that did not eliminate the need for the cross and empty grave.

Being able to make choices for good, to do good, to be people of salt, bearers of light, and proclaimers that the kingdom of God is at hand means to take on personal responsibility.  That also means that we cannot duck personal responsibility for making poor choices.  What we cannot do is assume that we know for certain what is good in God's eyes.  We muddle through doing what we can, not to be good, but to be good enough.  The best we can know for certain is in what direction the good lies, and, as Jesus keeps reminding us, it lies in the direction of love, mercy, and justice.

It's easy to write about this.  It's a lot harder to live into it.  Like the Corinthians, about whom some of us will hear this Sunday, I'm not bad at slurping up and delivering the milk of human kindness, it's the solid food, the meat of human kindness, that I struggle with.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Liturgy Done Well - or not

Those of us from liturgical denominations know about the liturgical police.  They are the ones who go apoplectic if the prescribed liturgical script is not followed to the letter.  They give the appearance of holding the key to right worship, and having the authority to grade performance on God's behalf.  I am among those who take liturgy quite seriously, but I have a hard time with liturgical cops.

I take it seriously because, to me, worship is, in part, a form of dance in which congregations in synchronization with worship leaders are led through graceful movements of prayer and celebration.  Liturgy is the framework for how that happens, and each element of it should gracefully guide us through the worship service.  I love liturgy done well.  I treasure the structure of the Eucharist and Daily Office that engage me in prayerful conversation with centuries of faithful worshipers, and few things grate on me more than liturgy done poorly.

However, and there is a big however, here and there it seems that liturgy has taken on its own life, and become an end in itself.  Some congregations seem proud of their weekly stage show so full of elaborate pomp that God and worship become obscured behind veils of smoke, vestments, and music.  But wait, there's more.  There are liturgical leaders with their noses so deep in the right way to do things that they seldom look up to see, know, and love the people right in front of them.

My two simple points are these.  First, unless liturgy is a conduit for worship in its deepest meaning, it's not good liturgy.  Second, unless liturgical leaders see, know, and love the people in front of them, they are not good leaders.

Two services, side by side, using identical liturgical settings, can exhibit both good and bad liturgy.  It's hard to explain, but in one the people in the pews can feel drawn ever deeper into prayer, and ever closer to the moment of receiving Christ's presence in the Eucharist.  In the other they can feel jerked from one thing to another in hopes that it will soon be over.  In one, the stage shines so brightly with performance that all feel greatly entertained.  In the other, performance becomes a translucent icon through which the divine appears.  In one, the leaders seem so serious in their work, and so angry over any infraction, that any chance of God's love making itself know is remote.  In the other, the leaders seem to take such delight in what they are doing that God's love spills out on every side.

I can think of several examples of the best in liturgical leadership.  For several years I worked with an organist and choir director whose gifts of virtuosity were known internationally.  He teased the most amazing music out of our small choir and modest organ, and he did it all as an act of prayer giving glory to God's name.  He got singers of marginal ability to reach for the highest standards of performance, not for performance sake, but to give their best as an offering to God.  It made a difference.

The bishop who oversaw my call to ordination could be so filled with the joy of celebrating the Eucharist that his smiles and laughter infected others with delight in God's presence.  Another bishop, who owned every possible piece of liturgical vestment, and genuflected with aerobic enthusiasm, did it all with such humility that others felt enveloped in prayer with him.  An old friend shambles through the liturgy as if he's almost forgotten what comes next, until you realize that he's praying his way through it.  Another old friend leads each service with such seamless grace that an hour and a half seems but moments.  That's liturgy done well.  That's giving your best and doing it well as an offering to God.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Honoring the Military

One of the popular postings on FaceBook features a depiction of Jesus along side another of a soldier.  The caption reads along the lines of "One was willing to die for your soul, the other to die for your freedom."  It's meant to offer public tribute to members of the armed services who go in harm's way, but it's also terribly deceptive, inclined to perpetuate the myth that America's armed forces exist only to protect our freedom.  Leaving Christ out of it for the moment, let's take a look.

We have been at war for a long time.  Apart from the War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and WWII, it's hard to come up with one, including any of our current wars that have had anything to do with protecting our freedom.  They have had much to do with global politics, what some call "Real Politick," the use of military force at the cost of lives, both civilian and military, to position one nation for favorable advantage against other nations.  The current world environment also has us positioning and repositioning against insurgent groups of one kind or another that appear to have no national loyalties, but are fanatical about particular causes.  There is no question that they can pose a threat to our safety, but not, in and of themselves, to our freedom.  We do that all by ourselves to ourselves.

I suggest that there are better ways to honor those who serve in our armed forces.

Most important, we can honor them best by not engaging in unnecessary wars.

We can honor them for doing their duty with honor and courage as they were called to do it.

We can honor them for enduring tour after tour of emotional and physical brutality.

We can honor them with a super abundance of help, in whatever form, as they reenter civilian life.

In an odd way, we can honor them by censuring those who dishonored their service and their nation by their actions.

We do not honor them by pretending that they are an adjunct of the Christian faith.  We do not honor them by romanticizing war.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Reforming our Democracy?


Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, and writing in 2012, had this to say:

"Our democracy needs reform. We need to limit the powers we grant to our representatives, make it easier to get rid of them, and put safeguards in place to protect minorities against populist campaigns backed by parliamentary majorities. America’s founding fathers had a good stab at this, and their efforts served the country well for many decades; but even there, personal rights are being crushed by populist majorities. Changing that is not going to be easy. But getting free of servitude never is."

It the standard introduction to some right wing ideology to which most conservatives, moderates, and liberals would agree until it is examined more closely.  To be sure, our democracy does need reform.  We do need to improve the safeguards that protect minorities.  And change is never easy.  After that, problems arise.

Mr. Butler wants to limit the powers we grant to our representatives.  Taken literally, that would mean drastic changes to the Constitution.  If, metaphorically, he meant limiting the rights and privileges we have granted to them, including, perhaps, their access to unlimited campaign funds from unknown sources, then he's on to something that most of us could agree with.

Recent experience with far right wing ideologues confirms that protecting minorities against populist campaigns means protecting right wing ideologues, and their friends, from immigrants, people of color, homosexuals, welfare addicts, and other disruptive elements.  It also means, for many, protecting honest gun toting self appointed vigilantes from a nanny state that wants to take away their guns.

Finally, Mr. Butler is certain that the efforts of the founding fathers served the country well for many decades.  It's hard to believe that he would harken back to the good old days of slavery, limited voting rights, robber barons, Indian genocide, suppression of women, tolerance of child labor and domestic abuse, and so forth.  Of course he doesn't desire a return to those good old days of yore.  But there is a golden age that exists in his imagination, and I expect that is what he has in mind.  Sadly, it's a time that never was.

I don't know Mr. Butler, nor much about what he writes.  But I have had conversations with local friends who echo what I do know about him.  They are terrified of losing their freedom, and emotionally anxious about escaping the servitude they see as imposed on them by government.   They have some legitimate fears.  The curious thing to me is that the remedies they often espouse come close to old fashioned fascism, and they don't seem to recognize the irony of that.