News for Sociology of Religion--Fri Apr 25 05:52:51 EST 1997

    That comment leads this column because of what it says and where it was made. Paul Marshall, a writer and teacher on religious persecution, (New York Times)

    House Speaker Don Aldridge is my hero. I hope he stays in office forever. Arizona politics without Aldridge would be like a day without  (*)



    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    ``The suffering or death of any human being of any or no religion is as offensive to God and as demeaning to us as is the suffering and death of Christians. However, to act is to act on something particular—and the persecution of Christians worldwide is massive, underreported, largely unknown and when known is often passed by in silence.''

    That comment leads this column because of what it says and where it was made.

    Paul Marshall, a writer and teacher on religious persecution, said it at a New York City Council hearing. The council is considering legislation to take billions in municipal contracts, bank deposits and pensions away from business in the China trade.

    If enough states, cities and stockholders take action the Chinese government and Christians it persecutes will know there is more to America than Washington's trade-driven sycophancy. Local and individual action can be a response to the challenge in the title of Marshall's new book: ``Their Blood Cries Out.''

    A double crime is being committed. The crime of persecution: by communist regimes and those Islamic governments and movements that consider freedom of religion a danger to them. The crime of the accepting witness: free nations that look away out of greed for trade, or political cowardice.

    Recognition of both crimes will be a blessing in itself _ ``dayeinu,'' as Jews sing at the Passover seder—and would lead to others. It is not easy for people of good heart to act against the persecution of one group without opposing the brutalization of the minds and souls of others.

    Religious persecution is committed because dictators know all human rights break holes in the walls of fear that they erect to protect them from their people. But freedom of religion is often not even mentioned in the list of human rights and gets least international support—except when organized with determination and continuity. This has not been done about Christian persecution.

    Human rights movements and writing, including mine, usually deal with arrest, torture and murder of those who try to exercise their political or social rights, not nearly enough on assaults against religious human rights. U.S. politicians and diplomats tend to act as if protest against Christian persecution is against the Constitution.

    All human rights pay the price. Only when religious freedom is understood to be as critical as any other liberty will a nationwide human rights constituency be built in America.

    But such a grass-roots constituency is in the making, largely because of a growing awareness of persecution of Christians.

    That won't make everybody happy. Try asking your local U.S.-China lobby CEOs for contributions to persecuted Chinese.

    Some Christian groups that ``witness'' in China warn that public ``shaming'' of the Chinese government, or economic sanctions, will convince Beijing that Christians are a threat, and increase their persecution. Makes my skin crawl with memories about blaming Jews for upsetting the Nazis.

    High-level ignorance about the techniques of religious persecution must delight the persecutors. Newt Gingrich worshiped at one of China's officially recognized churches, often shunned by other foreign visitors. Imagine how this came across to Chinese Christians who refuse to be part of the government-controlled churches, and instead risk their freedom by worshiping at one of their many underground ``house churches.''

    House churches? What are they? The question came from James Sasser, a defeated Tennessee politician, after he was appointed ambassador to Beijing. Human rights folk will forget that question, in 50 or 60 years.

    Still, the awareness of Christian persecution grows within Congress and across America. Every public hearing that leads to action, every stockholders' suit, every church or synagogue protest helps it grow.

    In my columns on Christian persecution, I have emphasized the Chinese because, for money, Western business and governments strengthen the dictatorship that hounds Chinese Christians. The persecution of Christians outside China also grows—as of the Copts in Egypt. I will write about them soon. Against persecution of Christians, no one column will end my writing or commitment. I've made that promise to myself.

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    c.1997 The Arizona Republic

    House Speaker Don Aldridge is my hero. I hope he stays in office forever.

    Arizona politics without Aldridge would be like a day without sunshine. Or something like that.

    What I mean is that regular old politics can be so boring. We need people like Aldridge to spice things up. Think about it: If Aldridge weren't around, I'd probably be writing about biennial budgets or depreciating tax schedules.

    Personally, I think it's great that Aldridge makes it a habit to call the woman who lobbies for the University of Arizona science center Legs.

    Many of the other university lobbyists are middle-age males, you see, and the anatomical precision of Aldridge's terminology makes it instantly apparent believe me to whom he is referring.

    I really don't see why so many people particularly women find this reference demeaning. I mean, what's wrong with having good legs? Just because a woman uses her brain doesn't mean she should be recognized for it.

    I'm just ticked Aldridge wasn't referring to me.

    Then there is Aldridge's comment to Senate President Brenda Burns about how she could extract almost any political concession from Gov. Fife Symington because she was so pretty.

    Isn't that sweet?

    I don't see why everybody gets their panties in a wad over this one. I'm sure Burns is real proud to know that it's her looks, not her character, that matters most to Aldridge.

    That's all we women want, you know, to be regarded as luscious sex pots especially by men as suave and dashing as Aldridge.

    But it's not just Aldridge's comments with regard to women that seems to have sent everybody over the edge. It's his comments about blacks, Hispanics and Jews.

    At least Aldridge is an equal opportunity offender.

    Not too long ago, Aldridge reportedly told freshman Rep. John Loredo that he should model himself after veteran Rep. Art Hamilton, who Aldridge said is a fine example of how black people can be just as intelligent as the rest of us.

    I'm not exactly sure who the us is that Aldridge was referring to. Maybe he meant all people with brown eyes. Or all Catholics. Or all diabetics. Or all middle-age white guys who wear polyester.


    But one thing I am sure about is that this comment shows how Aldridge sees the world in shades of us versus them however he defines the terms.

    This, of course, is very helpful. Dividing people by their differences, rather than drawing them together by common interest, is sure to strengthen, not weaken, our society.

    Earlier this year, during a speech in Sun City, Aldridge blamed the state's teenage pregnancy problem on Hispanic males, who, he said, prove their machismo by seeing how many women they can impregnate.

    Again, I don't see what the big deal is here. Hispanic males do contribute to the teenage pregnancy problem in this state.

    Of course, so do white males and black males and males (not to mention females) of just about every other hue. I'm sure Aldridge meant no offense by singling out Hispanics.

    Some of Aldridge's best friends, I hear, are Hispanic.

    Just a few weeks ago, Aldridge got a lot of negative publicity for dismissing the importance of a bill cracking down on hate crimes by saying that the bill was supported by a few Jews in the Legislature.

    Actually, that's what a television reporter said Aldridge said. But you know how those TV reporters are, always distorting things and making things up. (They have to, fact could never be stranger than fiction, especially in Arizona.)

    For the record, Aldridge insists that he never said a few Jews.

    On no. Far from it. Instead, Aldridge insists, via his press aide, that what he actually said was that the bill was backed by a couple of Jews.

    This makes, of course, a huge difference.

    The phrase a couple of Jews is far superior to a few Jews. I'm really glad Aldridge clarified that. I don't know about you, but it makes me feel a lot better.

    So getting back to the original point of this column, I just want you to know that I thank my lucky stars every day for House Speaker Don Aldridge.

    God forbid his Republican colleagues should oust him from his leadership post. I can't imagine why they would want to. He does such a good job of speaking for them.

    As long as The Donald is there, all Republican legislators bask in his glow.

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