Nazis in Canada

Flag burning in Canada? In a small town in Saskatchewan, Caleb Pelletier recently had enough of his neighbor’s Nazi flag, so he tore it down and burned it. The neighbor, being an equal-opportunity fool, also flew a Confederate flag, which apparently didn’t incur enough of Pelletier’s wrath to receive the same treatment.

Given that Canadians suffered nearly 100,000 casualties, including 42,000 deaths in World War II, one can imagine that the wounds might be raw when seeing that flag. But Pelletier’s reaction leaves me asking a question. What level of offense do we require before we have the right to tear something off our neighbor’s house and burn it?

The Confederate flag–which is a bizarre thing to have flying in Canada to my mind–apparently did not rise to that threshold, but perhaps someone else might have felt more strongly about it.

And what precisely factors into this offense? Was Pelletier driven by the local angle, knowing that Canadians died trying to defeat the forces who flew that flag? Was he motivated by the broader humanity of it, knowing that the Nazis led to the deaths of perhaps 10 million people total?

Would he have been justified in ripping down an old-school Soviet flag? A People’s Republic of China flag? What about a Japanese or Italian flag? How high does someone’s outrage need to bubble before boiling over into action?

I live just a few miles east of the Missouri-Kansas border, where a real-live shooting war was underway nearly a decade before the official beginning of the Civil War. Can I justify being triggered by my neighbor’s Kansas state flag because many Missourians in my area were deprived of their Civil rights under Order Number 11? Or might someone near my place of employment (in Kansas) look at my license plate and rip it from my car because of Quantrill’s murderous raid on Lawrence, Kansas? Of course that’s silly, right? The Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but then World War II ended more than 75 years ago. How long do we get to hold onto our grievances?

Back in Canada, the mental midget who flew Nazi and Confederate flags over his house might reasonably argue, “What harm does a flag do?” And it really doesn’t do any harm, does it? Shouldn’t we be able to see offensive things without attacking them? And if not, then we’re back to deciding how big the offense needs to be.

This is a tough matter to solve. I want to respect the rights of someone I disagree with but I want to live in a non-hostile community. What’s a thoughtful person to do? I find my guidance from Paul:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.–Romans 12:17-18

While I hold some unpopular opinions and am offended by other unpopular opinions, I don’t think I’m justified in inflicting my ideas onto others. It’s like this blog. If my words offend you, then you can turn from them.

More Powerful than a Nuclear Missile

There was once a nuclear missile pointed at Pilot Grove, Missouri, a tiny little town in the middle of the state. I say that the Soviets had such a missile, but I have no firsthand knowledge. What I do know is that about a mile north of town on Route 135, you’ll see the tell-tale arrangement of stout fencing that marks the former location of one of Whiteman Air Force Base’s old Minuteman missile silos. Since the U.S. had a missile there, it’s a fair bet that the other guys had this spot on a target list.

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 12.10.09 PMDriving up Route 135 yesterday, I got to thinking about that artifact of the cold war. In the image here, you’ll find the missile site to the left of the main road where apparently somebody is now storing hay. Glance up to the top left of the photo and you’ll see the former right-of-way of the MKT Railroad, which is now Missouri’s Katy Trail. The town of Pilot Grove would be off the screen, down and to the left, probably about where your monitor ends.

This town was founded in 1872. Some of my ancestors lived in the area as far back as 1820, but no town popped up until the railroad came through. Now, less than 150 years later, the railroad is long gone, converted to a lovely bike trail. The nuclear missiles began to be deployed around Whiteman AFB in 1963 and were decommissioned in 1995. Therefore, in one map image we can see the remnants of two technologies that came to this part of the country, left their mark in fairly dramatic manner, and then became obsolete.

At the same time, with the nukes and the railroad gone, many of the things that brought my ancestors to this part of the country remain a powerful draw. Animals still graze on the Missouri hillsides, and hay, now baled into a giant round bales, still gets those beasts through the winter. The farms are larger and raise different crops, but they still involve quality soil, plowing, harvesting, and the like.

The creations of man are temporary. They can mark the land in long-lasting ways, but they are not nearly as permanent as we think them to be at the moment. The creations of God, however, endure. People can damage those creations, but in most cases, the forces of nature, left to their own devices, will push things back toward where they began. Barring something drastic happening, the trees will still lift their branches to the sky and the rivers will continue to flow to the sea. As much as we like to think otherwise, it is God in control rather than man. It is God, rather than man, who provides for life.

He causes grass to grow for the livestock
and provides crops for man to cultivate,
producing food from the earth.–Psalm 104:14

Is there still a nuclear missile aimed at Pilot Grove, Missouri? That I can’t answer, but a look at the countryside suggests that we should fear not cataclysmic weapons or hurtling technology. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Perhaps we should truly begin.

We’re Number One! And Gaining

Belly FatWhich is the fattest of the fifty, the most obese of these United States? The winner–they certainly didn’t do any losing, did they?–is (drum roll)…

Mississippi, which weighed in at 35.2% of its citizens obese. (Pun intended.)

My own home state of Missouri came in tenth at 30.9%. The other 8 in between these two were (in order) West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and Iowa, all of them with roughly one-third of their inhabitants tipping the BMI trigger for obesity.

We’ve already mentioned that BMI is a notoriously imprecise tool for measuring appropriate individual body weight, but as a tool in the aggregate, it’s much more acceptable. Why? While we might find individuals who are so muscular that their BMI records them as obese when they are actually in great shape–LeBron James being a poster child for this category–those people tend to be the exceptions. Show me a hundred people in the obese range of BMI and you’ll probably find that the vast majority of them have earned that label.

On the other end of the scale–another intentional pun–we find that Hawaii (19%) is the least obese state. What I find troubling is that some of the states with the highest concentration of evangelical Christians are also the most obese, while several states that are notoriously lacking in evangelicals (New York, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts) are all in the least-obese ten. Why is that?

Certainly we cannot blame this steady loosening of the belt throughout the Bible Belt on pot luck dinners. So what is the reason? Are Christians simply so focused on other-worldly things that they can’t push back from the table? Are we totally failing on that whole “prayer and fasting” thing?

All kidding aside, if there is an actual connection between obesity and evangelicalism (and it’s not just a coincidence of geography), then Christians should really be taking a hard look at themselves–especially the middle of themselves–in the mirror. We don’t need to look like fitness models, but we can’t do our best work for the Lord carrying around all that extra tonnage.