Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Take One Part Mercy, One Part Gender


As I will be taking a short break from posting until after the New Year, I would like to close out 2008 with a re-iteration of how important it is to recognize the “big picture” of God’s nature, which is LOVE. God’s love and God’s justice are one in the same. Just as a parent corrects their child out of love and for the benefit of the child, any punishment by God is temporary and corrective as justice would show a finite life requires finite correcting.

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”
I John 4:16b

As another Christmas passes, the pangs of not attending church with my family, while lessening, are still there. But I have no regrets and am happy to be able to know God as my friend and to cut out the corrupt middleman who claimed to be the only one able to interpret the Bible and the nature of God for me. My spiritual journey is a blessing. The split from the Catholic Church was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I’m meditating, praying and studying up more than I ever had as a Catholic.

I quote Thomas Talbott, author of The Inescapable Love of God: …the universalist perspective rests upon two theological assumptions for which we find ample support in the New Testament: first, that God, being perfectly loving, wills or sincerely desires the redemption of all sinners, and second, that God, being almighty, has the power to achieve this end. If you accept both these assumptions, then universalism follows as a deductive consequence. So if you reject universalism, then you must also reject at least one of these assumptions; that is, you must either deny that God wills (or sincerely desires) the redemption of all sinners or deny that he has the power to achieve it.

Fire is a PURIFYING element. How does that concept work into the idea of a punishment for one who might be (theologically) temporarily cast into a "lake of fire"?

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. God bless all of you!


Destruction of mercy. Lack of understanding. Polarization. Elitism. Judgment. These are just a few things that come to mind after reading the following story.

A person’s gender is not simply skin deep or to be kept solely in a perimeter of nether region. A person’s gender embodies a WHOLE person – physically, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually (see the smart bolded quote in the article). The one person who is supposed to be expounding on the grace, forgiveness and love of Jesus is way to quick to pick up stones he should be loathe to throw.

A person who is homosexual by nature denying his/her natural urges makes about as much sense as a heterosexual person denying theirs, eh Your Celibate Eminence? Also any citation in the bible whereas homosexuality is condemned is easily deconstructed and debunked as a social faux pas in the Jewish culture, rather than a damning act quoted by Jesus, which it is not.

Tom Curry, a friend, poet and children’s book author makes a very sarcastic, yet eloquent statement about this topic:

In order to structure a belief system around the assumption of perfect knowledge, we can't evolve. Perfect knowledge becomes imperfect if it needs to be reconsidered in light of changing cultural and scientific understanding. Maybe nature is telling us to back off by creating gays or non-breeders, maybe it is not. We have no way of knowing. What we do know is that there is homosexuality in nearly all species of animals, that there are genetic markers which seem to predispose some to homosexual behaviors, that where people lie on the “gay” line is rather more a matter of gradation than absolutes, and that these ‘knowledges’ and understandings continue to change as we learn more about the tremendous complexity of the body, the mind, and sexuality, we should be revising our world views. It’s funny that science continues to point in the direction of tolerance; rejecting the biological basis of race, finding increasing evidence of the biological basis for homosexuality, etc.


Gay groups angry at Pope remarks

BBC NEWS - Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Gay groups and activists have reacted angrily after Pope Benedict XVI said that mankind needed to be saved from a destructive blurring of gender.

Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment. The comments were "irresponsible and unacceptable", the UK's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) said. Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian MP, called his words "hurtful". The row erupted as news emerged that the pontiff is to pay his first visit to the Holy Land in May next year. 'Self-destruction' Pope Benedict made the comments in an end-of-year speech to senior Vatican staff. Defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, he said, but also about protecting man from himself. It was not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'", he said. It came from the "language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans". Gender theories, he said, led to man's "auto-emancipation" from creation and Creator. "Rain forests deserve, yes, our protection but the human being... does not deserve it less," he said. LGCM head Rev Sharon Ferguson said the Pope's remarks justified "gay bashing" and bullying. Mark Dowd, strategist for Christian environmental group Operation Noah, said the comments betrayed "a lack of openness to the complexity of creation". And Ms Luxuria, who recently lost her seat in the Italian parliament, said suggesting people like her were destructive was very hurtful. "I'm someone who was born as male and has a spiritual and female soul, and it's contradictory that a Pope just thinks of people just made as flesh and not made of a spiritual aspect." The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. Earlier this month, the Vatican said that a proposed United Nations resolution decriminalising homosexuality went too far. "Unjust discrimination" against gay people should be avoided, but the use of wording such as "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the text would "create serious uncertainty in the law", it said.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

God Our Hero, God Our Father

Video games. I hate them but I used to play them all the time. This weekend my husband asked me to play so I sat down and played a Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe game. I forgot most of the moves I had used so often as a kid. Playing the game got me thinking about what it means to be a superhero.

A hero is not universally recognized as someone who violently submits their opponent and then stands with their arms in the air while the one defeated trembles and cries at their feet. That may be a victor of sorts, but not a hero. A hero is one who does something so righteous that they are exhalted as being, perhaps, better than the average person. A hero saves the day.

I use this topic to lead into the question posed by Thomas Talbott as it relates to God:

Is the power of a conquering HERO to compel his enemies to obey him against their will?

Now, a ruling monarch may indeed force a subject to bow against their will and may even force them to utter certain words; but praise and thanksgiving can come only from the heart.

As God is Love he will not arm wrestle one into belief. It is more his style to set such an overwhelming example of love by dying on the cross as the suffering servant rather than a tyrannical monarch, that one will come to believe because of this act of Love. We see in the bible over and over God is referred to as "Father"...not Your Highness, or Your Honor, or Your Majesty, but Father. This is a huge statement as to the nature of God.

What does a loving Father do but take their sinful children back time after time, never ceasing to stop loving their children even after being wronged by them. Even when people on the outside of the situation look in and shake their heads. Each one of us knows families where the [adult-]children act like ignorant fools. And the parents are the suffering servants - they put up with, fund, house and continue to unconditionally love those stupid [adult-]children. Why would we think God the Father would act toward us any less loving when he knows the number of hairs on our heads and knows our thoughts before we think them? Our biological fathers aren't even privy to that information. And our biological fathers will pass away, but God the Father will not, so as long as your biological father lives, he will love and try and sway you to become a good person. Therefore, God, who neither dies nor goes away will continue to love and court you even after YOU die. God does not give up on his children.

Our Father never stops loving us and I believe He always has His hand on our shoulders through whatever we are going through. Unconditional loves means you have to do nothing to earn it, not even believe.

This wonderful truth conflicts with the traditional interpretation that God will judge and all those not in favor say 'nay' and then go to hell for eternity. Not so. Your real father, a human, wouldn't do that to you if you denied him...so what makes you think a loving deity would fall short of that? I believe God is love and therefore his judgements are conducted out of love. Any temporary punishment is for the benefit of the judged. A finite life (even one brimming with sin) does not warrant infinite punishment. That would be unjust and if God is Love, which I believe, He is also just.

The bible is not infallible. It was written and cut and edited and re-arranged all by humans like you and I. An imperfect channel to convey the Word perfectly! This is why we cannot rely 100% on the flawed conveyance of man. I think, in essence, the bible and all its mixed messages is a book of guidelines. And it is up to all of us to discuss it, talk about it, talk about what we agree with, what problems it has from it's original Greek and Hebrew translations into Latin, etc. and how it applies to our lives. I see the bible as a springboard, not a slab of concrete. One way allows you to achieve higher thought by expounding on it, one way simply holds you down with no give and you take those words as unbending and closed to any intellectual interpretation.

When I was younger and lived at home, before I would leave the house to go out, my dad would say to me, "Use your head." I imagine God tells us the same.

"All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Revelation 15: 2-4

"All nations that you have made will come to worship before you, O Lord, and they will glorify your name, because you are great and you do marvelous things; you alone are God."
Psalm 86: 9-10

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This little boy is a gleaming example of how Christlike and pure children can be. This one sets an example of how adults should behave. Baptised or not, this child is closer to God in his actions than most Christians.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Aggressive, Disruptive and Apocalyptic

Thomas Talbott, in his book The Inescapable Love of God, (which I highly recommend) eloquently touches upon points which I have underlined in the book and cannot help but pass on:

Had it not been for the obsessive fear of heresy, grounded in the traditional understanding of hell, most of the atrocities committed in the name of Christian religion would never have occurred.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell, who wrote a tract called "Why I Am Not A Christian" cites the history of persecution within the Christian Church as one of his main reaons for rejecting the Christian faith.

However, there is a distinction between the Christian faith, on the one hand, and the organized Christian church, on the other. The latter is an enemy of the former.

The established Christian religion (specifically Catholicism) is more concerned about self-preservation and its power than with anything else. Even the messages of love and tolerance Christ taught us.

The Christian faith has inspired much of the moral progress "the Christian religion, as organized in its churches," has opposed so vigorously.

Bertrand Russell expands on his indictment of Christianity as follows:

"You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."

The early church fathers were pacificsts; they saw themselves as suffering servants. They acknowlegded the obligation to speak the truth in love, but would never have wielded a sword in an effort to make Christian converts. Between the time at which Christians were almost universally pacifists and the time at which those who called themselves "Christians" began persecuting pagans and heretics, the organized Christian church lost its prophetic vision; having twisted the Christian gospel into a message of fear, one that the early suffering servants would not have even recognized. The life of the early Christian "felt" more like the pacifistic lifestyle of the Buddhist monks of today.

Below is a recent example of the Church's attempt to halt moral progress under the childish, ridiculous, and adversarial use of "absolutes" mentioned in prior articles (just as they feel the educated have sown dissent within the church).
Like Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."


Vatican cardinal calls Obama 'apocalyptic'
Posted by Michael Paulson November 17, 2008 11:37 AM - Boston.com

In yet another manifestation of the unhappiness with the Obama election within the Catholic hierarchy, a high-ranking American cardinal at the Vatican last week called the president-elect "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic." The comments were made in a speech at the Catholic University of America by Cardinal James F. Stafford, the former archbishop of Denver and now Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Vatican City. An excerpt from the story in the Tower, which is the student newspaper at Catholic University: His Eminence James Francis Cardinal Stafford criticized President-elect Barack Obama as 'aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,' and said he campaigned on an 'extremist anti-life platform,' Thursday night in Keane Auditorium during his lecture 'Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul.' 'Because man is a sacred element of secular life,' Stafford remarked, 'man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government'...'For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,' Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. 'On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.' Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the 'hot, angry tears of betrayal' by beginning a new sentiment where one is 'with Jesus, sick because of love'.'' The remarks are occasioning some chatter in St. Blog's Parish. Over at Pontifications, David Gibson says, "I bet that wasn't the tenor of Obama's chat with the Pope the other day. Then again, lieutenants are there to do the dirty work so the white cassock stays clean.'' At Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo called the speech "an ominous impression of the state of things.'' At the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan opines, "the notion that the recent election of Obama is a sign of the Apocalypse has, until now, been restricted to Protestant loonies." And at American Papist, Thomas Peters takes a slightly more sober view, saying only, "Cardinal Stafford made some noise on the CUA campus last week.''

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Think, Therefore I Question the Church

Ignorance is bliss? Those who increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow?

Oh, someone finally says it - and it turns out the Church is the one to say that it is, in fact, the opiate of the uneducated masses.

A weak strike against the educated, the Church HATES when people become enlightened through learning and then question the Church, which obviously has no answers to their questions to satisfy the educated mind. Back in the day, the monks were educated in order to teach the ignorant. Now, the ignorant are few and the congregations are dwindling.

The words Original Sin keep getting tossed around in this article. The theologically educated know that this concept was created by Saint Augustine of Hippo. Another tool of fear and guilt.

Yes, I know Ezekiel 18:20 proves the doctrine of total hereditary depravity (inherited original sin) contradicts the Bible, but you cannot understand the Bible anyway, only the priest can correctly interpret it, right?

Yes, I know that Matthew 18:2-3 teaches that children are better models of purity and conduct than adults, but the Pope teaches that infants are wicked defiled sinners condemned to hell until a Catholic priest baptizes them and removes the curse of original sin. Because infants are lustful, wrathful, slothful, gluttonous, vain, envious and proud beings. Whatever. They are the purest of the pure.

Hedonism? Egocentric behavior? I'd tend to think these terms are being confused with Searching, Seeking, Questioning, THINKING.

And who is this Bishop that is blanket-statement lumping most educated people into heretical bin? Is that not considered judging? Notice in this article that "the Church" is the one being "wronged"...and it says nothing about the educated NOT following the teachings of Christ. It mentions nothing of spirituality and acting as Jesus taught us. It's just The Church that is being "wronged" here. Once again the Church and Christ are two separate entities, which fall further apart with statements like the ones below. The educated see this. That's why the educated are leaving en masse.

The papacy-maffioso thrives on the ignorant. Why don't they come out and say that getting an education is a bad thing. They would be the only institution in the world to be so blatantly desperate in their attempts at thought-control.

Educated Catholics have sown dissent and confusion in the Church, claims bishop

University-educated Catholics are to blame for the crisis in the Church and the growth of secularism, according to the bishop charged with tackling the decline in Mass attendance.

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent - Telegraph.co.ukLast Updated: 9:27AM GMT 16 Nov 2008

The Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church's teaching they are "hedonistic", "selfish" and "egocentric", he said. In particular, the bishop complained that influential Catholics in politics and the media were undermining the Church. While not naming names, he suggested that such people had been compromised by their education, which he said had a "dark side, due to original sin". Prominent Catholics in public life include Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister. Bishop O'Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to "sickness in the Church and wider society". "What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history - resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people's lives," he said. "However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism. "Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him. "It shouldn't surprise us that the shadows cast by the distortion of education, and corresponding societal changes, have also touched members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, even in the Church we find hedonism, selfishness and egocentric behavior." The bishop said that Catholic graduates had rejected the reforms made in the second council of the Vatican, which introduced fundamental changes in issues such as liturgy and doctrine. "The Second Vatican Council tends to be misinterpreted most by Catholics who have had a university education -- that is, by those most exposed to the intellectual and moral spirit of the age," he said. "These well-educated Catholics have gone on to occupy influential positions in education, the media, politics, and even the Church, where they have been able to spread their so-called loyal dissent, causing confusion and discord in the whole church." Mr Thompson, who went to Oxford University, has this month been embroiled in a row over broadcasting standards in the wake of the scandal over offensive telephone messages left by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Under his command the BBC broadcast Jerry Springer The Opera, considered blasphemous by many Christians, and was forced to pull a cartoon called Popetown set in a fictional Vatican over concerns it would cause offence. Mr Blair, also Oxford-educated, became a Catholic last year but has received Mass for years. As Prime Minister he oversaw the introduction of laws on gay rights and abortion which the Catholic church opposed. The bishop said that influential Catholics had set a bad example and corrupted the faith of those who had not gone to university. "This failure of leadership has exacerbated the even-greater problem of the mass departure from the Church of the working-class and poor," he said. "For example, the relentless diatribe in the popular media against Christianity has undermined the confidence of the ordinary faithful in the Church." Although the influx of immigrants from Catholic countries in Eastern Europe has buoyed Mass attendance in recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of indigenous, working-class Catholics. Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, representing a drop of 40 per cent since 1963, but it fell further to 960,000 in 2004. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years, from 4,545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005. Bishop O'Donoghue has produced a report, Fit for Mission? Church, examining the current problems facing the Church and designed "to enable Catholic men, women and children to resist the pressures to compromise, even abandon, the truths of the Catholic faith". He says that he supports Catholics receiving a university education, but urges they should be "better-equipped to challenge the erroneous thinking of their contemporaries". Nicholas Lash, the former Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, called the bishop's comments "extremely grave". Writing in this week's Tablet - a respected Catholic journal - Prof Lash says: "If he had named a particular university or universities, or particular individuals, he might well have had a series of libel actions on his hands. "Quite what constructive purpose could possibly be served by such irresponsible and wholesale scapegoating of the educated, I have simply no idea."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

I wish I could take credit for this...

10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal
Craigslist - Date: 2005-10-06, 12:53PM PDT

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Re-post this if you believe love makes a marriage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Buildings and Bridges

Buildings and bridges
are made to bend in the wind
to withstand the world,
that's what it takes
All that steel and stone
is no match for the air, my friend
what doesn't bend breaks
what doesn't bend breaks

Buildings & Bridges – Ani DiFranco

I went to visit my parents a week after the election. My dad and I got into an argument that virtually escalated into a shouting match. My parents are devout Catholics and wanted McCain to win for the simple reason that he would have dissolved Roe v. Wade. But even if McCain had won and followed through with that, it still would have been up to the states to decide their own laws with regards to abortion.

I’ve covered this topic before and have gotten hit-and-run comments from someone who has basically shouted YOU HATE BABIES! YOU HATE LIFE! SINNER! SINNER! SINNER! …and then ran away and could not defend their stance further. And that’s fine. I used to be on the other end of the rope and think that, too. Then I grew up and started using the brain the Good Lord has blessed me with. It has been said: Lower your voice and strengthen your argument. So, everyone quiet down and listen.

This article causes me to roll my ex-Catholic eyes. Bishop Daniel Conlon is quoted as saying "It's a matter of absolutes." I have a big problem with absolutism, which I addressed in a previous entry - http://craftingtheschism.blogspot.com/2007/09/8th-deadly-sin-absolutism.html - You can’t lump all abortion cases into the same basket and declare it 100% outlawed. No one likes abortion. No one is PRO abortion. No one grows up thinking, yeah, I’m really psyched for this abortion! No one is happy about it. But it is necessary for some.

The loudest picketers of this debate are celibate men. That baffles me. Be a woman. Get raped. Get incestuously raped, even. End up pregnant. Then see how you feel about the untruth that was planted in you through violence. See how tough it is to make that decision. You walk a mile in a woman’s shoes that has had to make that decision and suddenly you have a hard time being judge and jury.

To these Catholics the unborn are decidedly more important than those who are already here. I’ve covered this before. Many fighting to outlaw abortion in every single way shape and form are somehow serenely OK with the American occupation and involvement in an unjust war in Iraq where innocent children and babies are obliterated DAILY. Through ignoring and not fighting this issue as hard as they push against abortion, they are imminently advertising that they are at peace with human collateral damage. They just choose to turn a blind eye to that violence, after all, those Iraqis are not Christian, right, so who cares? This seems to be the attitude and if it is not, someone prove me wrong. They’re more absorbed by fighting for potential life than existing lives. These are the same people who think unbaptized babies will be floating around in Limbo (purgatory) separated from God. Yeah, because unbaptized babies who die have SO much sin on their souls to warrant being separated from an all-loving God. Sheesh, gimme a break. Stop your elitist nonsense and look at these situations through the eyes of a loving God, for Christ’s sake!

The separation of Church and State is so necessary… but the cooperation of the religious sectors is also necessary. The Catholic Church is rather adversarial in their attitude and attempts at influencing the upcoming administration. The attitude towards anyone who has had or is considering an abortion is unadulterated venom and vitriol, not compassion and love. Christians are supposed to be all about compassion and love, but their hypocrisy runs rampant and their horns start to show.

Is it surprising that the Church offers no talk or solutions for means and methods to eliminating the situations that would call for abortion in the first place? Their answer is another ridiculous “absolute”: ABSTINENCE. This method obviously DOES NOT WORK: God programmed our bodies to want to have sex. And God’s technical influence trumps this unreasonable request and nature proves this over and over and over again.

Obama has not even taken office yet and these bishops are swarming like bureaucratic vultures. The Church certainly is not approaching the situation with any sort gentleness or grace like Jesus would have done. Then again, I find the actions of the Church to be quite far from the way Jesus would have conducted things.

The one semi-voice of reason in this article is a woman, Sister Jamie Phelps, emphasizes that the voters have to weigh the whole range of issues for the preservation of life. Most Typical Catholics do not. They pick abortion as their main issue; put their blinders on and to hell with everything else. They ignore the big picture and refuse to consider the holistic repercussions of voting based on a single issue out of many that affect human life. This is not the way of the spiritual thinker and I absolutely do not think this is how Jesus would have approached the ballot.


Catholic bishops plan to forcefully confront Obama
By Manya Brachear – Chicago Tribune staff reporter
8:38 PM CST, November 11, 2008 - BALTIMORE

In a direct challenge to President-elect Barack Obama, America's Roman Catholic bishops vowed on Tuesday to accept no compromise for the sake of national unity until there is legal protection for the unborn. About 300 bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their national meeting, adopted a formal blessing for a child in the womb and advised Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, president of the conference, as he began drafting a statement from the bishops to the incoming Obama administration. That document will call on the administration and Catholics who supported Obama to work to outlaw abortion. "This is not a matter of political compromise or a matter of finding some way of common ground," said Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Ohio. "It's a matter of absolutes." The bishops, long one of the leading political forces against abortion, spent the first part of Tuesday behind closed doors reportedly debating the merits of "Faithful Citizenship," a nuanced guide for Catholic voters issued last November. Though the document made clear that "the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," it also advised Catholics to weigh issues like poverty, war, the environment and human rights when choosing candidates. But some bishops said they were surprised to see Catholics cite the document as justification for selecting candidates--like Obama--who support abortion rights. A slim majority of the nation's Catholics voted for the Democratic candidate. Several bishops said that Catholics could not in good conscience vote for a candidate who favored abortion rights after Obama pledged to pass legislation that would overturn state's restrictions on abortion such as late-term abortion bans and requirements of parental consent. "Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion," said Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis. Bishops Thomas Paprocki of Chicago said such legislation could threaten laws that allow health-care workers to refrain from carrying out procedures that violate their conscience, putting Catholic health care institutions in jeopardy. "There are grave consequences," Paprocki said in an interview. "If Catholic hospitals were required by federal law to perform abortions, we'd have to close our hospitals." "I don't think I'm being alarmist," Paprocki told the bishops. George agreed that losing federal funds would put Catholic health care facilities, which make up a third of the nation's hospitals, out of business. Closing Catholic hospitals would put many patients seeking charitable care from those facilities at risk, he added. In crafting the statement to Obama, the bishops urged the cardinal to indicate a desire to work with the administration in areas of economic justice, immigration reform, health care for the poor and religious freedom. But they stressed the church's "intent on opposing evil" and "defense of the unborn child." They vowed to oppose any law or executive order that might loosen restrictions on abortion. They emphasized that efforts to advance abortion rights would "permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans and would be interpreted by many Catholics as an attack on the Church." They also urged Catholics in public life to be committed to the teachings of the church. Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., vice president-elect Joe Biden's home town, called on his brother bishops to be more punitive against Catholic officials who are "stridently anti-life." "I cannot have the vice president coming to Scranton and saying he learned his values there when those values are utterly against those of the Catholic Church," Martino said. Sister Jamie Phelps, a theologian at Xavier University in Louisiana, also served on Obama's National Catholic Advisory Board. She applauds the bishops for issuing the statement. But she said the Faithful Citizenship document made it clear that while the rights of an unborn child are a priority voters should consider a whole range of issues regarding the preservation and quality of life. "That child has no voice if it's not the voice of the bishops and the voice of Catholics," she said. "But you can not pick and choose an intrinsic evil." George said the Faithful Citizenship document remains the guiding principle for Catholic voters. But he said future versions should be tweaked so portions are not "misused and misinterpreted." He said Catholics seemed to overlook the "whole question of proportionate reason." George has attributed Obama's victory to the economy, insisting that it was not a referendum on moral issues such as abortion rights. The bishops also approved a blessing on Tuesday devoted to a child in the womb, intended to support parents, unite parishes and foster respect for human life within society. "Obviously it's a very tangible way for us to witness pastorally and sacramentally to the life of an unborn child," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. "It's very consistent with the priorities we've raised."

Monday, November 10, 2008


Seriously!? YOU ARE KIDDING...

Uh, guys, you're DOING IT WRONG!

Since when did monkly duties include brawling?

So unChrist-like.

Their heads should be all clunked together Three Stooges-style.


Forget lions, Christians fight each other
Monday, 10 November 2008 - Reuters

Greek Orthodox and Armenian worshippers traded blows in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian denominations jealously protect their hold over areas of the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion. Israeli police moved into the shrine, which faithful also believe contains the tomb of Jesus, to restore order and said they arrested two clerics. Dozens of worshippers, dressed in the vestments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations, traded kicks and punches, knocking down tapestries and toppling decorations at the site in Arab East Jerusalem. The brawl erupted during the Feast of the Cross, a ceremony in which the Armenian community commemorates what it believes was the fourth century discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Fights are not uncommon in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre among the representatives of Christian denominations who are responsible for maintaining its different chambers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Bible is a Launching Pad, Not a Landing Strip

The bible exists to encourage the conversation, not end it. If the bible was written in 21st-century speak, it would certainly be, I think, easier to comprehend, but regardless of that not being the case we still have to view the bible through 21st-century eyes. Eyes that are set before a brain that has been educated in many ways the ancient peoples' brains were not. Critical thinking and weighing theological differences with common sense was probably not exercised in those days, I imagine, nor was it encouraged. That was a "do as I say, not as I do" era. This is a "Well, hang on now, let me think about that a minute" era.

If we're to swallow what the bible gives us at face value, it is asking us to dumb ourselves down. You wouldn't take a VCR programming guide and not think about exactly what you are reading before employing the instructions, would you? And if the writers of the VCR programming guide originally wrote it in Greek and in Hebrew, the translation to English would be rather...innacurately rough.

The bible is the same way. If the bible is a guide for how to live, it also needs to be carefully thought through to be correctly applied and the origins of speech in which it was written also need to be taken in consideration. God chose Greek and Hebrew for the original text on purpose - these languages have specific nuances and meanings. Many of which have been grossly changed during the translation into Latin. Who translated these texts into Latin? Error-filled, politically-influenced humans.

Theologians such as Augustine have raped the message that made its way to the west. The early Christian church was largely universalist. The idea that God as an Omnipotent Love could and would save his creatures which he made (and made susceptible to sin and weakness) was unfortunately weeded out from the Church over the course of years under influence of - what else? - politics. Below is an excerpt from Augustine in response to the early church's universalist leanings, which he absolutely did not like:

"It is quite in vain, then, that some yield to merely human feelings and deplore the notion of the eternal punishment of the damned and their interminable and perpetual misery. They do not believe that such things will be. Not that they would go counter to divine Scripture - but, yielding to their own human feelings, they soften what seems harsh and give a milder emphasis to statements they believe are meant more to terrify than to express literal truth."

--Enchiridion, Ch. XXIX

Here's my thing: One of the many reasons I did not vote for McCain was because of Sarah Palin. Now, people have said "I like her, she's just like one of us". And I must respond with "No, I don't want a VP who is like me. I want a VP who is a Savant and a genius." So, Augustine, as for a God who I will worship and love, I want a God who does not have my humanistic tendencies to lash out and wreak vengeance upon those who wrong me (also, we are programmed by God Himself to commit wrong). I want a God who is SO MUCH BETTER THAN MYSELF, one whose love is all-encompasing and inescapably, wonderfully perfect. A love that I can look to and say to myself "I need to be more like that, I need to be more merciful and good."

Damning someone to hell for eternity seems like something a begrudged southside Irish matriarch would do to her enemy, the neighbor, for accidentally shoveling snow over onto her side of the yard.

So, Augustine, who is yielding to their own human feelings now?

If I am to love and revere a God who is "like me" in the sense that the punishment delved out is so over the top and does not fit the crime (one lifetime cannot warrant an eternity in hell) ...well, I'd rather vote someone else into that office, thank you.

I believe "hell" is a purifying fire with an EXIT. If it were eternal that would mean evil would exist forever and I don't think an all-loving God would allow that. God's justice is a loving justice. His Love and His Justice are one in the same. Any punitive actions are taken for the benefit of the punished, not the human-like pleasure of the Creator.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Did!

I'm still running on an Obama high. The magnitude of the hopeful change to come has been a blessing not only to the United States, but to the world. I watched on split screens the reactions of people in Australia, in Japan, in Africa - when the announcement came that Barack Obama would be the 44th President of the United States of America. Everyone was rejoicing! This, for me, ranks up there as one of two moments when I was truly PROUD to be an American. (The first was witnessing the abundance of houses, business, highways and peoples donning the American flag following the 9/11 tragedy in a unanimous "United We Stand" moment. I recall seeing someone in the stands of a Cubs game in the weeks following 9/11 with a sign that read: Chicago Loves New York. That made me proud, too.)

The unfortunate situation with Proposition 8 in California is the dim light in this new day, but change starts with change. One day all people will have rights to live as they see fit. The hope of the momentous and historic event we all just witnessed should provide a greater hope to come.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank You God!

I could hear the shouts from Grant Park three blocks away. From my balcony I could see the spotlights shining over the skyscrapers like the Bat symbol, calling for the hero.

And then it happened. The landslide. And all the world watched and listened.

And I thank God.

Today I am amazed at the few people I know who are disappointed...but am not surprised when they cannot back up any of their arguments with logical thought and research. The educated have spoken.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Importance of Voting

I thank God that I live in a democratic society that allows me to cast my vote. I stood in line this morning waiting to vote for an hour and a half. And I ended up filling out my ballot by holding it against the wall as there were not enough booths. It was a mixed experience: aggravating and exciting at the same time. It is history in the making and as a miniscule part of the collective, I helped write it by casting my ballot.

I know I have posted items on Utah Phillips before, but below is an article I find particularly inspiring. Though it is four years old, it is still applicable, if not more.

God bless & go vote!

P.S. Confession: In an impassioned conversation about how ProLifers cannot be in support of the collateral damage of innocent life resulting from our Iraq occupation, I referred to it as "This goddamned war" and I am sure God understands (and forgives) my absolutely correct assertion (i.e. blaspheme).

A Conversation With (the late) Utah Phillips

October 12, 2004 By Carolyn Crane – The Nation.com

Utah Phillips is a folk singer who tours the United States, delighting audiences with his outlandish stories and challenging them with the ruthless honesty of his insights. A veteran of the US Army who served in Korea, he rode the trains for years after coming home in despair from what he'd witnessed overseas. He met Ammon Hennacy in Utah at the Joe Hill House for Transients and Migrants and discovered anarchy and pacifism.

These tenets have since shaped his life and work. Phillips and I live in the same Northern California town, Nevada City, where he was one of the founders of our thriving Peace Center of Nevada County. It was from the community radio station there that he produced Loafer's Glory, a collection of stories, poems and songs set to the accompaniment of Woody Guthrie-influenced guitarist Mark Ross. And it was to that radio station he went in late September to share with his community an important political decision he'd made, which caused him great difficulty and pain.

You surprised many people who are familiar with your work with your announcement that you were going to register to vote for the first time ever.

This is not easy for me. I'm an anarchist and I've been an anarchist many, many years. The anarchy that I've followed and practiced all of that time came to me through Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers, through Ammon Hennacy, the great Catholic anarchist and pacifist. Ammond taught me, as he did, to treat his body like a ballot. My body is my ballot. And he said, "Cast that body ballot on behalf of the people around you every day of your life, every day. And don't let anybody ever tell you you haven't voted." You just didn't assign responsibility to other people to do things. You accept responsibility and see to it that something gets done. That's the way he lived and that's the way the past forty, going on fifty, years that I have lived. It's a way to vote without caving in to the civil authority I'm committed to dissolving.

But, we are in a desperate situation here. And it's not just us in the United States. There are people all over the world who are affected by these people who have staged a coup on our government. I can see a shopkeeper in Damascus who's threatened by being bombed out. I can see a schoolgirl who's collaterally killed by the action of these people. There are millions of people in the world who are affected by the actions of this government, and they can't vote in this election. I have no use for Kerry. I have no use for Bush. I don't like either one of them, but these folks can't vote in this election. They have to have people vote for them. And I intend to be one of those. What's the best chance they've got to keep them from being bombed and killed? I don't know. Kerry is an unknown quantity. Bush is a known quantity. A crapshoot, isn't it? But I'm going to stand in for one of these people. And if I'm wrong, I'm wrong by myself.

When you made your announcement, you talked about women who have inspired and influenced your decision. Can you talk a little about that?

I learned a great deal from Judi Barry. I drove and talked with her the day before her car got blown up in Oakland in 1990. She had come around to the idea that direct action and political action are two hands of the same body. I think as an anarchist and when you keep company with other anarchists, as I have in the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, and this is my fiftieth year in the IWW, you develop a great antagonism toward the political process, toward statism in any form. However, many of us have come to realize that political action and direct action are two hands of the same body. We have to learn how to work together: the street and the ballot box. In places like Philadelphia or Boston, Massachusetts, when they put freedom in jail, when they put freedom of assembly and freedom of association and freedom of speech in a bullpen with razor wire around it, they put freedom in jail. In the bullpen on Pier 57 in New York, when my daughter [Morrigan Phillips] was jailed for trying to shut down Wall Street in an act of nonviolence civil disobedience.

They're trying to tie that direct-action hand behind our back. If they succeed in that, how long will it be, how long are we going to hang on to the other hand, the political action hand? Every significant social movement in this country--anti-slavery, suffragette, labor movement, peace movement--all started on the street. All of them began on the street. Don't give up the street. The street's where we win. We vote with our feet. That's where it all begins. Made a song about that. Bohdi Busick put a nice tune to it. No, I won't give up the street. But in this instance, at this time, at this place, I think the situation is so dire that yes, I have registered to vote and I am prepared to stand in for one of the victims of the kind of brutality that the people in Washington bring to the world.

You've said that your choice to not vote, to not participate in the system in that way, is one of the most sacred promises you've made. I know what it means to you to make this decision. It's sobering, because I think: Are things really that bad?

Yeah, it is that bad. Now, I am not putting myself forth as an example. I'm not putting myself forth as a role model. Anarchists don't make rules for other people. You make rules for yourself and then people have got to learn how to trust you. And if you blow it you have the courage to change, and you do change and an anarchist is always something you're becoming. I don't need any congratulations for what I'm doing at all. I feel lousy about it. I don't feel good about it all. I'm simply going to do it. And if there are consequences of my act, than I harvest those consequences. That too, is anarchy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Place In Hell

Here, she is quoting Madeline Albright who said "There's a place in hell reserved for women who don't HELP other women." Sarah says SUPPORT in place of the real term HELP. There is a difference in the context of what she says from the original quote, for sure.

Also madam, you cannot call yourself ProLife. You are for war.

I will be at the Obama rally in Grant Park on election night. Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Satan Ate My Candy Corns!

Yawn. I covered this last year, but here we go again:

Firstly, I assume few Christian children do intensive in-depth research on the origins of Halloween and internally debate the pros and cons of participating in such an event because it may counter their core belief system, weakening their fragile spiritual structure.

Kids want to dress up and get candy. Some adults do, too, myself included - and my spirituality has never been put in peril because I want to play.

Those who do feel this holiday is a representation of evil will avoid it because there are already defensive cracks of insecurity in their spirituality, I think. A person's true spiritual wall is going to be too strong to crack under 24 hours of trick-or-treating and clown masks. Sorry, but it's true.

Halloween, perhaps once seriously mired in the idea of supernatural creepies and fear of evil beings, has (sensitive Christians look away) EVOLVED. The Halloween of TODAY is a lighthearted time of fun, dress-up and parties. Just as Christians ONCE took on the task of converting people through the INQUISITION, conversions no longer go the way of "believe or die". It is SOCIAL EVOLUTION - recognize it! Apply it. It works.

Secondly, the origin Christmas itself has roots in pagan ritual as well.

[According to Wikipedia] The birth of Christ is observed on December 25, which was the winter solstice upon establishment of the Julian Calendar. Banned by the Catholic Church in its infancy as a pagan practice stemming out of the Sol Invictus celebrations,[10] Christian churches eventually recognized the sustained practices as a Christian festival in various cultures within the past several hundred years, allowing much of the folklore and traditions of local pagan festivals to be preserved.

So, pick and choose if you may, but be aware that many traditions celebrated today are not 100% Christian-Created.

Thirdly, the assumptions placed on those who practice Wicca in this article are out and out JUDGING. Not your place to judge, Christian. Let those who practice their religion do so in peace, whether you agree with it or not, they are not hurting anyone. BACK OFF! I am a faithful Christian and I can tell you there are not enough stones to cast at Christians for all the ignorant assumptions and judging THEY do. So, judge not lest ye be judged. Do I really need to start quoting? "Love one another as I have loved you." --John 15:12

Now, for the deconstruction of the Pastor's bullet points in this article:

-- there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10);

This "Pastor" cites Ephesians and writes this article with reference to "the devil" and "satan" as if s/he is a physical being who is going to walk through the door, open the fridge, maybe grab a beer and pop it open. But, really, "the devil" and "satan" are verbs - and everyone has these verbs in them. We are not perfect and blaming a being called "satan" ["satan" made me do it] is a ridiculous deflection of moral responsibility. "Satan" is a very easy to swallow, easy to understand package containing the concept of that which is the opposite of Christ.

God is no idiot. He inspired the scribes of the bible to teach what evil is by embodying a character that represented it. This is an easy lesson that the mostly uneducated populace of the day can understand. As a Universalist, I believe that if there exists such a being called "satan" or "Lucifer", that he too will be saved in the end. Because if God wins, evil will cease to exist. It's just logic. And I believe God WILL win.

-- life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4);

Darkness, as defined in the bible, is not necessarily the literal absence of light, but rather the wrong and hurtful things that people do to one another that amplify antiChristian ideals. What has this to do with Halloween? The Pastor has not made a solid argument that Halloween will lead to violence, nor has he given examples of Halloweens past when an onslaught of violence has resulted. I have a hard time taking his argument seriously. Darkness...Dark colors? Dark outside? Think Halloween is not of Christ? Look harder. There is fellowship and community in Halloween parties and joy in giving candy to children. Children share their candy with each other and parents spend time with their children. People use their God-given creative gifts to create costumes and some trick-or-treaters take collections for UNICEF and other people-helping organizations. Look harder, Pastor. You are blind to many aspects of God in the "evil" celebration of Halloween.

-- those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

Name for me a mere five people who are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded through Halloween. Yeah. I didn't think so. That's where you are mixing up Hollywood movies with real life.

Spiritually sound Christians are able to celebrate Halloween and distinguish between that which is simply traditional and fun and that which is spiritually harmful. Believers can participate without being affected by the silly notion that to dress up as the Boogeyman is to somehow approve of or wish for Boogeymen...nonsense, sir.

Speaking of silly - check out this ridiculous Chick Publication to laugh at more "Evils" of Halloween - this time in a poorly-drawn comic-book-like format.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone. Look out for each other, lots of love and God Bless!


Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
By Pastor Eric Watt - Guest Writer – 10/22/08

CBN.com – What about Halloween? Should you and I be involved in the celebration of Halloween? Finding the answer to this question has been an interesting journey in itself. I interviewed several people and then researched what many leading Christian writers, authors and spokesmen have written about the subject. I also searched various websites like www.christianitytoday.com, www.focusonthefamily.org, and www.cbn.com to read what others might be saying. What I found was an agreement on the origins of Halloween, but a mixture of recommendations about allowing our children to participate in this super-charged media driven holiday. The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions. But what about today? Perhaps we can still learn from history. In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween. Just before reaching a conclusion on the subject, I was struck with the thought that I ought to further my search and find out what Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft, has to say about Halloween. Perhaps they viewed the day as a simple fun and innocent neighborhood activity? “Shock” is the only word to describe what I found. Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. There is no question in my mind that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world. So after discovering this, what is a reasonable conclusion? As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries. My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:

-- there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10);
-- life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and
-- those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past -- and present -- have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.

Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Will It Blend?

I don't believe God is a Republican...or a Democrat. I also am a strong proponent of the separation of Church and State, of course.

I also do not believe people's prayers act as "the hand that moves the hand of God". I believe prayer is intended to be that spiritual conversation which brings one closer to God, not a means of lobbying to God for favors...especially of who will win the White House in November.

The article below is one that, as a Christian, I find embarrassing, here is an excerpt of the prayer spoken before a McCain rally:

"I would also pray Lord that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their God -- whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah -- that his [McCain’s] opponent wins for a variety of reasons."

Exposing his ignorance, the Reverend gets the context all wrong: Hindu is not a 'God'...it is a religion and Buddhism is, by some, not practiced or recognized as a religion per se, but rather a way of life modeled after Buddha, not in WORSHIP of Buddha. And Allah means God. Apparently, the Reverend feels Allah is not another word for God --the same God spoken of. And he obviously has not studied world religions very closely.

But it gets worse...

"And Lord I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day."

Heck, this speech is almost Palin-esque in verbal diahrrea silliness...

This is humorous in that one is praying to God for God to save His own reputation. LOL. This is one of the most ridiculous statements ever. I picture God patting the speaker on the head with a gigantic ethereal hand and saying in a deep sarcastic voice, "Thanks for your concern but I can take care of Myself."

This type of unthinking Christian is inevitably the contradictory type, one who will say "God is in total control" and out of the other side of his mouth say "I have free will". A contradictory statement often heard in churches which confuses many. Look, I believe God is in total control. I absolutely believe in predestination. All I believe we can earnestly do is pray for strength for the journey and wisdom to recognize Him in all beings and treat all beings as a loving God would want us to.

Politics is a divisive instrument...as often is religion, but mixing the two tends to really splatter ignorance all over the kitchen walls. It just gets gross and sticky.

On a slightly separate subject - there is a fun website called Will It Blend - where many items are blended, i.e. an iPod, CDs, etc. in an industrial blender.
Check it out here.


John McCain rally in Iowa marked by partisan prayer

L.A. Times.com – 10/13/08

Rev. Arnold Conrad, in delivering an invocation at a rally today for John McCain in Davenport, Iowa, apparently didn't get the word from the candidate about elevating the tone at such gatherings.

Conrad, who appeared before the crowd before McCain had arrived, offered a prayer that seemed to urge divine intervention to prevent Barack Obama from winning the presidential election -- and cast the outcome as a referendum on differing religions.

The Times' Maeve Reston was at the event, and she passed along the key passage from Conrad's words:

I would also pray Lord that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their God -- whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah -- that his [McCain’s] opponent wins for a variety of reasons.

And Lord I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.

Oh Lord, we just commit this time to you, move among us, make your presence very well felt as we are gathered here today in Jesus's name I pray.

Some in the crowd greeted the prayer with applause.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I read a news story that disturbed me a little bit and made me unusually sad. A man in Canada was walking with his dog along a trail when a mama bear saw him and attacked. He was bitten and injured but managed to use his one good arm to pick up a small log and beat the bear over the head. He kept beating her until she was on the ground and blood was coming out of her nose. She died and the man ran to get medical attention.

Why am I so sad over this? It hurts my heart. I feel awful for the man. I feel awful for the bear. I want to give hugs to both the man and the bear. Both parties were simply acting on their natural instincts. Neither was wrong in their actions…so strange that the scales can tip neither in favor of right nor wrong when an incident like this is classified simply as “unfortunate”.

It feels like the imperfection of this world amplified when two creatures meet and only one walks away. And anther totally uninvolved creature (myself) feels pain over even hearing about the incident. It’s a trifecta of anguish. Or is it a prime example of the perfection of God’s nature for two creatures to act precisely as they were programmed to act and for me to feel the way I do about it. Sad to my core.

All that happens (in this case, this "unfortunate" incident) does so to serve God’s purpose – the purpose of being reminded how imperfect this world is, so we can perhaps appreciate the perfection of the next world. The fragile, the flawed, the fleeting – all must be this way so that the pendulum can swing the other way into a world of the strong, the perfect, and the permanent.

I would like to imagine in the next realm, the man and the bear will meet again on a stretch of ethereal road and give each other a big hug and roll around laughing and playing - like a kid hugging a giant teddy bear.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.

--Isaiah 11:6

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Vatican: A House of Sand and Fog

I think of the Monty Python song "Always look on the bright side of life (whistling)..." when I see little tidbits like this. What about making lemonade out of lemons or finding something positive in this debacle...nope. Instead you have more criticisms out of Rome. Because, as accountants and economists, they have the answers. If you are going to point out mistakes, be sure you don't also embody those mistakes.

[As you see here in this photo, the Pope is dressed in priceless linens, sporting a gold staff and jeweled headpiece just like Jesus used to wear...oh wait.]

I don't think it is any place of the Vatican to criticise the unfortunate situation that is happening. After all, ask them if they'd be willing to set the ultimate example and give away the majority of their wealth to the poor. Hmm. That's what I thought.

"You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

--Matthew 7:5

In this article - the last line in fact - am I reading this as an insinuation that the U.S. is only to blame? "nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture"...maybe I'm reading that wrong ...

The current economic crisis is a shame and there are always people and administrations that need to be held accountable. It really does suck. But for the head of the Catholic Church to say that those who think that "concrete things we can touch are the surest reality" are deceiving themselves calls to mind for me a portion of the Gospel of Thomas (one of the gospels left out of the modern bible) in which Jesus said (paraphrased):

"The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you" and "Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."

Those who believe God is housed in churches of stone available for contact only on Sunday mornings are truly deceived.

The people, families and institutions affected by this unstable economy are experiencing, in no uncertain terms, humility. Humility is an instrument of God. Good will come out of this - people downsize, simplify and get back to the basics of what really matters in life - each other. As much as it sucks and hurts, good will come out of this. Why do we need irrelevant sideline coaches like the Pope to point out, once again, what you all are doing wrong?

Jesus would pitch in and help out and encourage each of us to help one another during these hard times. To share the burden... not point fingers. At least, that's the God I believe in.


Pope criticises pursuit of wealth

BBC News - October 6, 2008

The global financial crisis is proof that the pursuit of money and success is pointless, Pope Benedict XVI has told a meeting of bishops in Rome. The head of the Roman Catholic Church said that the disappearance of money as banks collapsed showed that wealth meant "nothing". The Pope said that people should instead base their lives on God's word. Those who think that "concrete things we can touch are the surest reality" are deceiving themselves, he said. The crisis in the financial industry has seen billions of dollars wiped off the value of shares, and a number of seemingly untouchable banking institutions have been taken over, nationalised, or have collapsed. Speaking to the bishops assembled at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said those who seek "success, career or money are building on sand". When he opened the Synod on Sunday, the Pope attacked modern culture, saying that "nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Streets & Hallways

I was walking home from work yesterday. A car parked on the street had a sticker in the back window. It simply read:

Love Wins

I thought it was a cool statement. And I agree. In the end I believe it does.

Here's a sad reality, though. I've been holding onto a bumper sticker of my own for a long time.

This is it:

Like 9 months I've had this sticker. We recently bought a BMW sport utility vehicle and now my husband and I are afraid that, living in Chicago and making frequent trips to the suburbs and even rural Illinois might invite someone who may or may not be a redneck who disagrees with the peaceful message of my bumper sticker (and is likely uneducated) to take a key to my car. It is expensive to get something like that fixed ...perhaps not just once...but over and over? I am not up for testing this out. Unfortunately, our fear prevailed and we left it off. I love this bumper sticker's message. I just wish I could be certain that its message wouldn't be too overwhelming for some folk.

Here's something else I wanted to touch upon:

I once read (and had heard other places before) that monks and nuns, when walking down a hallway, always walk on the side, near one wall or the other....they never walk right down the middle of the hallway because they think that is a display of vanity. While this behavior is not outlined in the bible, I can only imagine it was something concocted in the middle ages.

You exist and you take up room. That's what happens when you live. Why should I loathe that I exist? Their avoidance of the center appears almost as an apology for their existence. So, in the spirit of believing that God loves me, so I should, therefore, love myself - and take care of myself - and believe in myself and have confidence, I make it a point to walk right down the center of any hallway I come across.

Take that, monks and nuns!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Puppetry of the Mind

As the U.S. election nears it feels like the tax-exempt institutions (i.e. churches) start to tighten their grip on the oars of the congregation boat, steering via overt politicking of their own. Through careful use of language, the Church gingerly ties up how a person should think in a neat little package, avoiding certain watchwords so as not to violate their tax-exempt status. When I was a Catholic, during election season, I can recall leaving the church and being handed a little booklet called How To Vote Catholic. I remember being appalled. I still am.

This booklet can be found here: http://www.catholicity.com/vote/

If you look under the topic of Religious Liberty the following quote is made:

States that enforce secularism in social services and education are violating religious liberty.

Pardon me, but I believe the opposite to be true. A state that enforces secularism (lack of religious preference) in public services such as education are actually protecting and preserving EVERY person's right to freedom of religion, which should be practiced on the private front, not the public front. You cannot teach Creationism in a public school as it alienates all other religions except Christianism. Yes, I said Christianism. Next to religious freedom, the separation of Church and State is one of the greatest gifts this country was given. This bullet point ridiculously and immediately follows another quote under Religious Liberty in this little militant booklet:

"This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that . . . no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits" (Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

Wait a minute. Doesn't one statement directly contradict the other?


The Death Penalty: The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.

How exactly do you teach that the death penalty is acceptable in principle? In the same vein of logic, doesn't the Church teach that if a man lusts for a woman in his heart he has already committed adultery?

Abortion: Abortion is the dominant political issue. Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.

This is the wedge that the church uses to swing otherwise smart people to vote GOP. By stating that abortion is the dominant issue, the Church might as well admit that life loses value once outside the womb. This is obvious in their principle acceptance of The Death Penalty as well as a vague and hypocritical stance on War:

Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in regard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.

The first two words are an oxymoron. There is no such thing. There is never an exhaust in peaceful approaches. Honesty, is that how you view God? That he would give up in His peaceful approaches to getting people to love Him, throw up his hands and declare war. I don't think so.

If I were able to talk to any Catholic, Christian, Non-Christian, etc. who is unsure of who to vote for this election year I would simply say to them: What does your heart tell you to do? What is right in your own independent educated adult mind? Are you too institutionalized to know - or do you feel guilt for wanting to vote one way, but because The Church tells you to differently you feel weird about it?

Listen, God is bigger than the Church (which is technically just a bunch of people). And God takes precedence as the one who created you. You are not a Frankenstein monster the Vatican sewed together. You don't have to answer to anyone but God. You are God's before you are the Church's. He instilled in you a mind to think and a right to decide for yourself. That is the beauty of being free. With His love comes freedom. When you are at the polls do you feel a disagreeable Church pointing a gun at your temple? I hope not. I hope you will free yourself from those guilt-laden bureaucratic shackles.

Good luck, Voter, think for yourself and may God be with you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Like A Virgin

At the farmers market in Paris I went up to the cart of lovely looking pears and as I reached for one, my husband gasped "No, no - don't touch them, here you must only point at the one you want. You aren't supposed to pick them up. It's a faux pas to do that."

"Oh, ok." So I pointed to a glistening pear that looked nice and ripe. The man behind the cart put it in a bag for me and we were on our way. At Luxembourg Gardens we sat to down to eat our freshly bought fare.

I pulled out the lovely green pear, turned it over, and found on the side I couldn't see or touch a nice darkened soft rotten spot.


In the following article, chastity (somehow the word "purity" is used intermittently with "chastity" - honestly, I can't really make the connection - more on that later) with relation to girls is that pedestal title which is being overseen or managed by their fathers. There are "Purity Balls" which are ceremonies held as a type of father-daughter bonding time where the girls sign a covenant, promising to be chaste before marriage, and wherein the fathers also sign and promise to make sure their daughters remain chaste before marriage.

Hmmm. Control much?

I see this simply as a method to control women within militant religious confines. I think it is kind of sick, really. A pre-teen is obviously not at the age of consent to have sex, BUT also not yet equipped to make the PROMISE not to have sex or even KISS before marriage. I think it is an oppressionist regime that will focus on keeping girls virgins and not mention one iota of a boy's virginity. What of the mother's involvement?

In taking this farce a step further, these girls have been disillusioned into thinking that they should not even kiss a boy before marriage. I take the following quote from this article:

“Once I’ve found a man, I think I might want to get to know him a little better,” she said. “I’ll take him to my dad for inspection and he’ll spend a lot of time with my dad, then maybe I’ll do group-dating with friends and go out to dinner with our parents. If girls don’t have a relationship with their fathers, they’ll turn to other males, and that will often end in heartbreak and anguish.”

What? Take him to your dad for inspection?! My God, what about what YOU THINK? Don't you have minds of your own? The whole father-daughter relationships in these cases is wrought with weird controlling, even pseudo-sexual undertones, for me.

History and nature has taught that it is kind of a teenage daughter's job - to break further away from the parents, to rebel a little and to find her own way. If a girl is to know what she wants, she must test the waters. I think a girl can "shop around" to know what she wants and not go completely crazy. No sex and she's a naive girl with no experience, no information, nothing to compare to and possibly, fear. Too much sex and she's considered a whore. I think there is a relatively safe middle ground here that can achieved.

A woman's sexuality is an important part of a woman's life. To suppress the growth of that sexuality for the sole purpose of entering into an institutional arrangement for the sake of holding title of "the first and only" is not only a dangerous and naive stance to take for the woman because she doesn't know what she is doing and has nothing to compare to, but she is settling. She will settle into a realm of "what if's" and will be sorely disappointed in the end. A controlling man would not want his wife to know what it is like to kiss other men that came before him, because that would empower her with knowledge. With experience. With the ability to compare.

I think sex is but one of many steps on the path up the Relationship Mountain. Sex, in the eyes of these militant folk, IS the mountain. It is an unhealthy view to think that sex is the holy of holies because in their physical want to HAVE sex, these girls will marry the first guy who will wait a little bit for them. Not necessarily the RIGHT guy. They will suppress their biological urges for the sake of men - their fathers, their future husbands - but without the reciprocal rules for the men to follow. Gee, that's rather unfair.

While I don't get the staying-a-virgin-before-marriage thing, I REALLY don't get the not kissing a guy before marriage. A kiss is a beautiful thing that SHOULD be experienced by a teenage girl. It is part of the rite of passage in a girl's life: to remember your first kiss, to recall the humorous moments of a bad kiss, etc.

As a feminist, in this age of disease, of course it is important to be vigilant about who EITHER sex chooses to sleep with. I don't think it is a tool for usury or should be a flippant action devoid of true feelings, however, I think it is a natural act and that not all people are compatible and find out in the course of ...intercourse. Just as I think living together is necessary to find out if the two people in question CAN live with each other. As a precursor to marriage, these things need to be found out. Statistically, the majority of people who have not lived with each other before marriage are doomed to failure.

In this article, the author writes:

I couldn’t help suggesting to one trio of sisters, aged nine, 13 and 17, that they might need to kiss a lot of frogs before they found their handsome prince – but such remarks merely produced frowns. One of them spelt out the word “adultery” silently on her fingers and informed me that it was the core of the seventh commandment.

I think to kiss a few boys before finding one's Prince Charming can hardly be construed as "adultery" in any sense of the word, nor is there evidence that it will lead to adultery in the future. So what will happen if you only pick and point before buying - chances are really good that they will turn out to be rotten fruit.

If I were to have married the first guy I kissed, I guarantee I would be nothing short of miserable. If I were to have married the first guy I slept with, I guarantee I would be nothing short of miserable. Before our engagement, my husband and I agreed that the "asking for permission" is nothing short of calling me a possession owned by my father, so we skipped that little tradition which would have insulted my womanhood. Heck, I kept my last name in partial defiance of being considered a "patriarchal possession". Purity? I think I have a pure heart. I try to be pure of mind and thought. I am pure in my kindness and consideration to others. I am pure in my love for God and am pure in my belief that He loves me back. Virgin or not.

I think the biblical view of women remaining virgins is a cultural and era-driven idea. There are no dowries to be had for a virgin in 2008. The idea of purity should be properly used to describe one's spirituality and how they treat others and the world. A girl can be a virgin who has never kissed...and be the bitchiest, conniving devil the world has seen. So, where's the purity in that?

A virgin army proclaiming the thrill of the chaste: The American ‘purity movement’ is growing fast. Meets the girls who won’t even kiss before marriage and their highly protective fathers

Jane Treays - September 21, 2008 – Times Online - It would be a mistake to draw hasty conclusions from Lauren Wilson’s appearance. This is a woman who tosses her long, glossy hair as she speaks and bats her long eyelashes – even at me. A glamourpuss who admits, with a coy smile, that she is actually a bit of an icon to her peers. But this poised 22-year-old is no small-town seductress. In Colorado Springs, a city in a very religious corner of the American Midwest, she is admired principally for her virtue: not only was she a virgin when she married her boyfriend Brett, but she had never even kissed him – a deed accomplished for the first time in front of a cheering congregation. “There was something so special to know that we’d waited,” she told me. “I mean, a kiss awakens everything, and all of a sudden everything within you just wants to respond. We have no regrets. ” Young women like Lauren are no great rarity in the United States these days. In fact, one in six girls aged between 12 and 18 is estimated to have taken a “purity” pledge. Some wear a silver ring to signal their intention to remain chaste, but others take the concept much further, vowing to be pure in all aspects of their behaviour. Lauren’s sister Khrystian, a 21-year-old musician with long blonde hair, explained: “Purity for me is purity of the mind, purity of speech. It’s what I spend my time doing: emotional purity in the heart. It’s a complete wholeness. I have chosen a higher standard for my life.” The sheer numbers in the purity movement are making these aspirations more than a pipe dream: if the people you know share your deep-seated beliefs, then you’re less likely to succumb to temptations. They even have their own teen idols – such as the Jonas Brothers, the pop band composed of three virginal brothers, who were so rashly mocked by the British comedian Rus-sell Brand at the MTV awards. And there are plenty of ordinary teenage boys and young men who are also prepared to wait. In these circles, those who fall pregnant before marriage can be all but ostracised. One young woman I spoke to – a former beauty queen – got pregnant when she was 19. “The guilt was awful. Mum cried, I cried, my dad started to cry – that’s hard,” said Jessica, her eyes filling with tears eight years after the event. “Ever since then, my mom treats me as a lesser person. She still doesn’t think I’m capable of making my own decisions.” Jessica, who miscarried her baby, now lives “in sin” with a boyfriend; she is 27, but her parents refuse to see him and have told her “he can go to hell”. One can only imagine what the good people of Colorado Springs think of Bristol Palin, the pregnant 17-year-old daughter of John McCain’s running mate – but their sympathy will definitely be with the girl’s parents. Even the purity movement’s rituals – I witnessed one father giving solemn blessings to five daughters in turn – hark back to another age. I’d gone to Colorado Springs in May for Channel 4 to film a group of girls, one of them aged just five, as they prepared for the annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball at the Broad-moor hotel. This ball is considered the apogee of the purity movement. Dressed in elegant gowns, the girls arrived with their dates – their fathers. Then, to the accompaniment of Hollywood film scores, they gathered round a large wooden cross to pledge their troth to remain pure. Taking a leading role was Randy Wilson, the father of Lauren and Khrystian, who believes that the key to a girl’s purity – and future happiness – lies in the quality of her relationship with her dad. As a father of five girls ranging from five to 22, he reckons he knows a thing or two about raising women. “There is a core question that women have in their being, and that is: ‘Am I beauti-ful? Am I worthy of being pursued?’ ” he explained. “It must be enforced by the father, the man in their life. If they do not get that reinforced by the father, they will go outside the home to get the answer to that question.” It was Randy and his wife, Lisa, who came up with the idea of the ball – now in its ninth year and attended by about 130 girls. Mothers are also invited, but often don’t come, and there is usually a smattering of brothers. A three-course dinner, without alcohol, is followed by the signing of a covenant: each dad intones: “I choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.” Typical of the fathers was Ken Lane, a purity devotee who invited me to his white-carpeted home and introduced me to his daughter Hannah, 11. “It sounds unrealistic in our day and age,” he acknowledged. “It’s not the exact path I went down personally – but if it can work, how cool would it be to say that I kissed but one man in my life? Why not shoot for the fairy tale?” Hannah shifted slightly under her father’s gaze when I asked her about dating. “Once I’ve found a man, I think I might want to get to know him a little better,” she said. “I’ll take him to my dad for inspec- tion and he’ll spend a lot of time with my dad, then maybe I’ll do group-dating with friends and go out to dinner with our parents. If girls don’t have a relationship with their fathers, they’ll turn to other males, and that will often end in heartbreak and anguish.” I couldn’t help suggesting to one trio of sisters, aged nine, 13 and 17, that they might need to kiss a lot of frogs before they found their handsome prince – but such remarks merely produced frowns. One of them spelt out the word “adultery” silently on her fingers and informed me that it was the core of the seventh commandment. I asked another girl what she would do if she didn’t like the way her husband kissed her at the altar. She looked thoughtful, then brightened. “I probably would – he’ll probably take care of that one. He’ll probably kiss really good. I hope.” During my 10 days in Colorado Springs, I couldn’t help but register the sweetness of the girls, the complete lack of teenage truculence. There’s no straining at the parental leash, no desire to escape and experiment; they are, in short, a delight. Jane Austen is their cultural heroine, with films such as Sense and Sensibility endorsed as an ideal family-viewing choice. Everywhere I turned, I found sentimentality and scant curiosity about the world. The innocence of the parents was more alarming. An army doctor, who had two daughters on his arm, told me that the HIV virus was so powerful, it could penetrate a con- dom. I said the British government had based its entire antiAids ad campaign on the assumption it couldn’t. A few days later, after doing some research on the internet, he rang to say he’d been wrong. To cynical Brits, the intensity of the relationship between the girls and their fathers can be unsettling. It is too trite, however, to label such relationships quasi-incestuous: these fathers are motivated wholly by a desire to remain a strong, controlling influence in their daughters’ lives. For now, the purity movement is too young for anyone to assess whether it leads to happier marriages or fewer divorces. Courtships tend to be quick. Young men are vet- ted by the fathers, and many suitors seek permission to marry within weeks. They may be madly in love – but they may also be suffering from extreme sexual frustration. Six weeks after the Father-Daugh- ter Purity Ball, Randy e-mailed me to say that Khrystian had just become engaged to a Captain Chad Lewis. She will have her first kiss in December on her wedding day.