Thursday, December 27, 2007

Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

So I thought I would post one more time before 2008. This one is a departure on my faith observations, however. I had called this one. Awhile back, when NPR announced her return to Pakistan, I said she's going to be taken out.

Today, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated while speaking at a rally. While Bhutto appeared to have died from bullet wounds, it was not immediately clear if she was shot or if her wounds were caused by bomb shrapnel. Bhutto led Paksitan from 1988 to 1990 and was the first female PM of any Islamic nation. She was participating in the parliamentary election set for 1-8-08, hoping for a third term. A terror attack targeting her motorcade killed 136 people the day she returned to Pakistan after 8 years of self-imposed exile.

I just want to say that as a woman, aside from any religious implications, I have to view her as a martyr for all women. We currently have Hillary Clinton running for the presidency of the United States. She is seen as a potential breakthrough for females in the course of history as the U.S. has never had a woman president. But how much more courage does it take as a woman to run for office in a region where women are second-class citizens and often treated as property, knowing at any time your death could be lurking in the hands of a sniper. A region that I so eloquently refer to as "the fucking dark side of the moon". Obviously, Bhutto knew this as she had been out of Pakistan for years. But surely upon returning, she had to brave the volatility amongst the tribes and the extreme risk she took standing up to speak in public at all. I think this woman was a fine example of one who actually deserves history-book credit and standing recognition not just for her views, but for HER.

Hillary runs for office from the comfort of her well-guarded plush home in New York. Bhutto knew death was a great possibility every time she showed her face in public. While both women should be lauded for their leadership, I tip my hat to Bhutto and her courage. Courage in that amount, no matter what the sex of the vessel or the location of the vessel on this earth, cannot be contained to itself. It is a deluge that, rushing down the mountain with vigor and zeal, sometimes clashes and ends its purposeful quest against the doom of a man-made dam waiting at the bottom. But before it is stilled and its dramatic journey ended, it saturates the greenery and life on the side of the mountain...leaving a little of itself behind over all that it touches.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Churchmas

I am almost 30. This will be my first year ever of not attending Christmas Mass at one of the few Catholic churches in my home town. I used to lovingly force my non-believer husband to go with me to mass on Christmas. In a few past years, too, I have gone with my family or by myself to 2-hour Christmas vigil masses. I used to think wow, no good believer should EVER miss Christmas mass...its like the queen-mother of all holy days and God will be watching to see whose been naughty and whose been nice and went to honor church.

When you attend regular mass and then go to Christmas mass - the church is packed with "Holiday Catholics" - those who only attend church on Christmas and Easter, which, in a way, seems even more hypocritical for some reason than a regular churchgoer, but I digress from my point...

I have felt some sadness when I hear Christmas music as of late. Yes, I will miss the "smells and bells" of a dimly lit church filled with Christmas hymns and the smoky clinging of the incense lantern as it is being swung to and fro around the altar by the priest. This type of experience was always part of the landscape of my life. More than a feeling of passing sadness is a greater feeling of what I can only describe as a validated peace in quiet Truth. I plan on having my own meditative moments at home as my "new mass".

As God can see me sitting in silence on my couch in my house on Christmas and know the pining I have in my heart for Him and the utter gratitude of sending his Son as the ultimate loving sacrifice, so can God see the person in a noisy church at Christmas mass in the front pew, gossiping to her friend next to her, straightening her husband's tie and thinking to herself "I am so glad I got this Ann Taylor blouse everyone can see how sharp I look." Yes, I will be fine having a dedication to God in the privacy of my home.

"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." -- Matthew 6:6

I think as social animals in a church setting -- and anyone who has been knows exactly what I'm talking about -- people get distracted from the point of being in church to honor Christ and simply get caught up in "people watching". Will I see anyone I know? How can I avoid shaking the sick person's hand next to me during the Sign of Peace? That guy behind me is so hot! Yes, among masses, Christmas mass is a HUGE distraction from true prayer and meditation in drawing closer to God. Sad that so many don't confront this fact within themselves and are conditioned to feel such GUILT to attend church. I know. I've been there and felt that. That whole guilt thing keeps the money rolling in for the diocese. All churches take out ads in the newspapers in the month of December, gently chastising you to get your ass to church on Christmas. It's big business.

Aside from the church issues I have -- which is about a truckload worth -- I have just as many issues with the whole gift-giving culture Christmas has become. I don't have the time or energy to expound on the bastardized commercial this holiday has become, but I do want to share as my gift to you, dear reader, the following item that you may (laughing) consider purchasing for the holidays...I give you the God Robot.

This little number out of Japan offers the dweeby nerd the know-how to pray to God and gain the love of his dream girl (as seen on the box, I apologize for the small photo). After all, if you don't pray you are doomed to heartbreak. LOL.

Unbelievable that this is an actual item, isn't it?

Seriously, may God bless you with a clarity of spirit and a knowledge of his eternal grace, reader.

See you in 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Water Dripping from the Ceiling

On Sunday my husband and I were driving through town and we were listening to National Public Radio which announced that services honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe were being held to bring Caucasians and Hispanics together. We passed a full parking lot which we hardly ever see full. He commented that something big must be going on. I said Mass is happening at the Presbyterian Church. Later that evening we were watching "Dinner: Impossible" on the cooking channel and the chef was at The Ice Hotel in Quebec. The hotel had a chapel made of ice with pews and an alter.

So, funny enough, I had a dream about church last night:

I dreamt that I was in an old city with cobblestone streets and a tornado or storm was coming and I was seeking shelter. My grandmother was with me and she led me into a Presbyterian church that had large marble stairways displayed in flights leading down, down, down, really far into the ground, similar to the depths of the Paris catacombs - maybe a quarter mile into the earth. It was a safe place to weather the storm. The storm could never reach us or shake the walls in this cavernous sanctuary. Everything was softly lit and palatial, lots of polished taupe marble and when we reached the bottom, there was a chapel that was half-filled with people who were getting settled in for a mass that felt semi-Catholic. We sat in a pew.

I remember feeling apprehensive because I am no longer Catholic. I felt that I owed respect, so I sat through the service...until the end. At the end, the pastor said that this congregation and church was so blessed because as of late the statue of the Virgin Mary was weeping. In disbelief, I got from my seat and inspected where the statue was and saw that -- like the Parisian catacombs -- water was seeping through the earth and dripping down the front of the marble face of Mary. It streamed down her face and it pooled onto the marble floor. I pointed at it and angrily shouted, "No, she is not weeping - condensation is coming through the ceiling!" Everyone just sat there with their hands folded as if they did not hear me, rocking back and forth and praying the rosary. In lieu of my past Catholic split and realization of Truth, I felt almost like picking a fight because of this ridiculous situation. I screamed "Don't you ever question these things? They are not tears! It is not a sin to question!" No one answered, they just kept repeating their prayers and ignored me, hell-bent on believing that the Virgin was actually crying. I felt that while I was in a physically safe place, I was in a place that felt wrong. And frustrating. And untrue.

I woke up and my first thoughts were that 1) Truth cannot be found in beautiful marble churches and in deep underground sacred havens of prayer. 2) That the obvious problem of "miracles" and putting faith into statues and people other than Christ would be pretty close to blasphemy if I were God looking in on these things. Not to mention the misuse of one's brain in questioning things such as streams of water that are mistaken for celestial tears. 3) Safety and feeling safe and accepted does not guarantee that you have found Truth and going into the storm, whilst difficult, may be better than sitting through false safety.

I do feel like I am screaming at people who are stubborn and unwilling to question any aspect of faith sometimes...especially elders (maybe this is where my grandmother came into my dream). However, I feel thankful that I have come to break out of the blind following of incorrect dogma to see the water dripping through the ceiling.

Friday, December 14, 2007

God, The Mover of Lands and Peoples

"Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

Luke 3:5-6

What a fantastic Truth. While this passage is self explanatory, it can be reiterated that the following words are spoken in absolute terms: EVERY, EVERY and ALL. Not some. Not a few. ALL. And ALL flesh shall see salvation. If this isn't a plug for universal reconciliation, I don't know what is.

All mountains will be leveled, all paths made straight. I believe that the example of large expanses of earth that cover thousands of miles and are billions of pounds provide the enormous example of what God can do. And if God can put all peaks low and the valleys high - making the earth straight at the snap of His finger, in the end He can surely "correct" the flaws of infinitely smaller beings, humans. With God all things are possible. This just goes to show that the huge things are cake for God to fix....and so the small things (us) will be an obvious snap.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Universal Salvation

God is Love.


Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 puts it beautifully:

It seems pretty clear that if God were to send people to unrelenting torment for not saying the right words or believing the right thing, then he would not be patient and certainly not kind. He would be demanding his own way. He would be keeping a record of us having wronged him. My friends, He would be disregarding the Bible's very own meaning of Love - in addition, failing to save all men, Christ's very purpose in life. However, if every person is to be saved, nobody is forever lost, and no suffering is eternal, then his death on the cross would be completely fruitful, and triumphant in what it was meant to do. God would dwell in a fullness. "Love never gives up." 1 Corinthians 13:7

Today, we will not question God, but man. And, let us no longer question God's love but man's careless estimations of Scripture, and God's power to save the world through Jesus Christ, that we may trust in His love - knowing that though men lie, He is yet faithful.

[end quote]

The eventual salvation of ALL is the only outcome worthy of God and the love He promises to all his lambs in scripture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thy Will Be Done

The big prayer in the Catholic Church is the Our Father. We used to all hold hands and say it each time. This is a beautiful prayer taken from scriptures. Most Christians know it in one variance or another.

Look at the highlighted words:

Luke 11:2 "And he said to them, When ye pray, say, Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth."

Thy will be done. Not man's will be done. Thy will covers the earth now and forever, so how can people think they are in charge of their own salvation. God's will is salvation. And it will be done.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Misled Are Many

One of the things that piss me off is when people make idle threats, subtle judgments or asanine insinuations in the name of Jesus Christ, quoting the bible as in giving someone an ultimatum. It is fundamentally hypocritical and I see this from time to time on MySpace, where I have a profile and about 65 'friends' (many are old acquaintances that I rarely interact with). One of these friends posted this on the bulletin board recently. I removed her identity but if you cannot quite read it I have put the plain text of this message next to the image.

"I'm curious to see who believes in God on my friends list...there is no bribe of a miracle or anything like that. If you truly believe in God, then repost this bulletin and title it "My Best Friend". If you don't believe in God, then just ignore this. In the bible, Jesus says, "If you deny Me before man, then I will deny you before my Father in Heaven."

The passage quoted is Matthew 10:32-33. The Concordant Literal New Testament verses are:

32 "Everyone, then, who shall be avowing Me in front of men, him will I also be avowing in front of My Father Who is in the heavens.33 Yet, who should ever be disowning Me in front of men, I also will be disowning him in front of My Father Who is in the heavens."

Context is so important. Take something out of an entire context and the meaning can change. Put that piece of Scripture taken out of context and stick it in a MySpace bulletin to everyone and it looks like an unfriendly ultimatum. It is not followed up with the rest of the Truth. It is not followed up with the whole story, just a section that looks like a threat to the recipient. Two topics to soapbox about that won't gain one friends on an open forum like MySpace: politics and religion. The person who posted this bulletin, I can say in all honesty, is relatively "new" to Christianity, so her newfound zeal is misled in an incomplete message.

This passage does not imply eternal damnation, but rather a judgment. It means you will have to answer for your actions on this earth, and yes we will all be purified of our sins, but we will all acknowledge and return to God. All is of God and all will return to him. God has a goal. He intends to become All in all of His creatures. He will accomplish this by way of reconciling all His enemies by the blood of Christ's cross, by justifying, vivifying, and saving all mankind at the consummation. Those who believe now are saved by His grace. For those who do not believe there is a process of judgment, all the while leading to the same bright goal.

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

Christ is "the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers" (1 Timothy 4:10).

Not exclusively of them.

Spiritual author Mark T. Chamberlain beautifully descirbes the consummation of all citing Scripture in a way I could never improve upon, here it is:

To bring this out clearly, I'm going to quote from a number of texts that have been pieced together like the links of a chain that all fit together to show that the Kingdom of Christ will one day include everyone who has ever lived and God will truly be "all in all."

The chain begins at creation when all things were created by Christ with full knowledge of the fall of man that was to come and a plan already in place to redeem mankind. He who created all things will "reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). This reconciliation or restoration of ALL things was foretold by God when He "spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago" (Acts 3:21). God has appointed His Son to be the "heir of ALL things" (Hebrews 1:2) and in God's Son "shall ALL the nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8).

God has given His Son "authority over ALL flesh, to give eternal life to ALL whom He has given Him" (John 17:2). "The Father has given ALL things into the Son's hands" (John 3:35) and so "ALL flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6). Because of "the unchangeable character of God's purpose" (Hebrews 6:17), because His love for His enemies is unchanging and "He is kind to the ungrateful and evil" (Luke 6:35). "He desires ALL people to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). He "gave himself as a ransom for ALL" (1 Timothy 2:6). He "is not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He "has consigned ALL to disobedience, that he may have mercy on ALL" (Romans 11:32) "for from him and through him and to him are ALL things" (Romans 11:36).

So God's plan is "to unite ALL things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:10). The Father has "put ALL things under Christ's feet" (Ephesians 1:22) and has "given ALL things into his hands" (John 13:3). Jesus has promised to "draw ALL men" to Himself (John 12:32) because "the Father loves the Son and has given ALL things into his hand" (John 3:35). Jesus said, "ALL that the Father gives me will come to me" (John 6:37). Jesus says that like a good shepherd, He will search for each of His lost sheep "until he finds it" (Luke 15:4). "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:37). "The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for ALL people" (Titus 2:11).

Jesus is the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus gave His flesh as bread "for the life of the world" (John 6:51). "He gives life to the world" (John 6:33). He is "the light of the world" (John 8:12). "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). "He is the Savior of ALL people" (1 Timothy 4:10), “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). "He appeared to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

Jesus "abolished death" (2 Timothy 1:10). "He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). His power "enables him to subject all things to himself'” (Philippians 3:21). "The gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does" (1 Peter 4:6). He has "the keys of Death and Hades" (Revelation 1:18). He will throw "Death and Hades into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14).

"In Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22). He "accomplished the work" that the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). "He restores all things" (Acts 3:21). "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11). "Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, `To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! "' (Revelation 5:13).

"Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For 'God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when it says 'all things are put in subjection,' it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

These verses have not just been thrown together haphazardly. They are the expression of that purpose that runs through the Bible, a purpose first stated in mankind's creation in the image of God, a purpose that can be traced throughout the entire Bible, in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, and most clearly in the New Testament. From it we learn at least three things:
1. Christ came claiming the entire human race as His own, to the end that He would save and restore the entire race, not just part of it.2. He came with full power and authority over all men, having received all power in heaven and earth over all hearts, all evil, all wills.3. He lived and died and rose again, completely victorious, having fully accomplished the work His Father gave Him to do, which was the salvation of the world.

To deny universal restoration and reconciliation is to mutilate the Scriptures. We are not dealing with a few isolated verses in which it might be possible to say that "all" was used loosely and doesn't really mean "all." We have a connected series in which link follows link---a series that teaches the actual, not potential, universality of Christ's Kingdom. Let's look closer at these passages, taking them in their natural and fair meaning, not obscured by the traditions of men.

Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." The question is this: Will Jesus Christ really do what He said He came here to do? He didn't say He came to save some of the lost. He came to save the lost. And that is everybody! Apart from Christ, we are all lost, but He came to seek for us until He finds us (Luke 15:4).

Luke 3:6: "All flesh shall see the salvation of God." This verse is probably taken from Isaiah 40:5, which says, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Surely these verses point in the direction of universal salvation. Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

[End quote]

The threats of Scripture taken out of context do not attract people to Christianity, but repel them from it. That's simple psychology. God is the Great Psychologist. He knows that threats will not turn men's hearts. It is a shame the poster of that MySpace bulletin does not realize she is doing more harm than good. I guess ignorance is bliss when you have a whole church backing up that falsehood by teaching from an incorrectly translated Bible. Humans are base and bloodthirsty creatures, they want to see their enemies, murderers, etc. burn for eternity. They get pleasure from thoughts of that. But God's ways are not man's ways. Man wrongly spun God's message into a very human ultimatum. Believe in my gracious love......OR DIE FOREVER IN A FIERY HELL!!!

Does anyone else see what's wrong with this?

What a shame that the ultimate message of peace and love that God gave the world is consistently raped by the ignorance and blindness of bloodthirsty men who want to make God out to be a spoiled child tyrant king who stomps his feet and smites you for ALL ETERNITY when He is not acknowledged. And all of these typical Christian existing believers wish to stand by and watch as the pitiful "unbelievers" are skewered over the barbeque. And they all smile wide at their pain.

Hypocrisy? Your order is up. Would you like fries with that?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Word To Your Mother

I used to pray the rosary. In fact, my grandparents used to say decades of the rosary on their way driving to places. When I would spend the night at their house, I remember saying the entire rosary before bedtime with my grandma. All five mysteries. My other grandma used to make rosaries with lovely heavy glass beads. And they were beautiful indeed.

Even though I have left Catholicism, I still have a print of the Virgin of Guadalupe hanging on my bedroom wall. I have a black rosary hanging from my crucifix. I have a scuffed up little statue of Mary on a dresser in my walk-in closet that I've had since I was little. She's in her usual blue and white gown, hands folded, head slightly looking down with a tranquil expression. And I even have a silhouette of the rosary tattooed on my back around a crucifix.

I haven't really addressed the Virgin Mary too much after my departure. But now is a good time to do so.

Mary has always been "the softer side of Catholicism" - a sweet and soft landing for the sinner who wants to hide behind her gown like a child as she goes to The Big Guy to intercede for them, possibly reducing their punishment. Like a kid going to Push-Over Mom to soften the blow that might come from Angry Dad. She's a very attractive feature of the Catholic religion as women are rarely symbols in the religious forefront. (Even though it is a misnomer symbol in a largely sexist religion).

While I still respect the symbol and person of Mary, I don't pray to her anymore for the following reasons:

1) She's Not God. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. One shouldn't feel like they need an intercessor with an all-powerful God who knows your prayers and needs before they are even apparent to you and before you even utter them. It's the whole can't-get-a-hold-of-God-so-leave-a-message-with-his-staff type of thing. Mary doesn't pack the punch that God does. Many people put her on par with Jesus, it seems. She was a blessed instrument, but an idol she should not be.

2) Repetitive Prayer is Bad. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words." Matthew 6:7 ...Enough said.

3) Tradition of Men: Roman Catholics borrowed the idea of praying with beads from the pagan religions who were already using them hundreds of years before: In 456 AD, Hindus are thought to have introduced the concept of praying with beads to the world. The earliest reference to a rosary (boberkhas) is in their "Jain Canon" (456 AD) These boberkhas had various numbers of beads 6,9,12,18,36 (any sub-multiple of 108) Islam (610 AD) uses a rosary of 99 beads, one for each of the names of God. Buddhists have 108 prayer beads on the string. The Rosary is of pagan origin and no Christian prior to 1000 AD used beads to pray. Catholics pray repetitive words with Rosary Beads that were first invented in 1090 AD, by "Peter the Hermit" and made popular by St. Dominic in 1208 AD. Catholics believe that Mary appeared to St. Dominic in 1208 AD, at the church of Prouille and revealed the Rosary Beads to him. From this time, Catholics prayed 15 sets of 10 consecutive "hail Marys" in a row (150 times), in the Rosary. However, in 2003 AD, Pope John Paul added a new set of Mysteries, so now it is 20 sets of 10 "Hail Marys", (200 times in the Rosary, in total.) Catholics will vainly appeal to Psalm 136 that alternates the same phrase 26 times with 26 different blessings God gives us. It is not 26 in a row as with the rosary! This is also a song, not a prayer. Revelation 4:8 has "angels singing" not "men praying".

I don't know how long I will keep my print of the Virgin on my wall or the ancient statue in my closet. I will likely keep my rosary on my crucifix and I don't regret the rosary in my tattoo in the least. Not a bit. I think the rosary is an interesting (if not misled) symbol of prayer, but now I just choose not to actively use it. It was a stretched section of my path to knowing the real message of God and I cannot dismiss it as something "bad". It was a necessary phase and I don't feel keeping it around for posterity is harmful. It is that which is flawed that reminds me of my own flaws and keeps me humble, I suppose. It is a memory of an era past and a stepping stone that I outgrew and outknew, but one that I nonetheless still respect and cannot find it in me to "bash". I will just quietly take my leave of this Catholic tradition.

I'm happy that the Virgin Mary, as a woman, played such an important role in the life of Jesus. Where would we be without that gentle woman? And what a great role model for mothers.

I hope to hang out with her someday : )

Saint's following is more diverse: Non-Latino Catholics in L.A. are drawn to the Virgin of Guadalupe. - By K. Connie Kang - Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2007

The Virgin of Guadalupe -- the beloved brown-skinned image of the Virgin Mary long venerated in Mexico -- has won a new following in multiethnic Los Angeles. "We see the Virgin of Guadalupe as Mother of the Americas -- north, central and south," said George Takahashi, a Japanese American who is a member of the Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center, St. Francis Xavier Chapel near Little Tokyo. "She is not just for Latinos. She is for all people of the Americas." An estimated 10,000 devotees turned out Sunday for a procession in honor of the Virgin, among them ethnic Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Tongan and Vietnamese worshipers. Although Catholic leaders disagree, some historians theorize that the Virgin of Guadalupe represents a melding of two strands of belief -- Catholic teachings about Mary and indigenous traditions about the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. Devotees of the Virgin believe she appeared in 1531 to a Catholic convert, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, at the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico. According to tradition, she spoke in the local language and directed Juan Diego to build a chapel on the site. The local bishop asked the man, now canonized as St. Juan Diego, for proof, so the Virgin told him to gather roses from the hill -- even though it was winter. Miraculously, the roses bloomed, and Juan Diego brought them back wrapped in his cloak. When the roses fell from the cloak, believers say, the image of the Virgin appeared on the cloth. On Sunday, dancers and musicians in colorful costumes performed in the Virgin's honor. Street vendors did brisk business selling flags and T-shirts adorned with her image, and spectators lined the street along the procession route. "I brought all my children because I want them to learn about their heritage and history," said Francisco Morales, a salesman from Santa Ana. But that heritage has been expanding, as Catholics who don't hail from Mexico adopt the Virgin as their own. "She is our intercessor -- a very powerful, loving mother," said Dr. Truc Truong, a Vietnamese American physician who is among the growing ranks of devotees of the Virgin of Guadalupe. For the last year, Truong, who came to the United States after the fall of Saigon in 1975, has been donating 2,000 roses every week for the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe at Hombre Nuevo, a Catholic media center in El Monte. "I can never spend enough money for Mother of God and God," she said of her $1,500 weekly flower bill. The physician donated thousands of orange and red roses for Sunday's event, which culminated in a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony at the East Los Angeles College stadium. The roses were arranged like flower beds, filling a sizable portion of the field, where 6-foot framed images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego stood. Roses also filled giant urns. "The whole world's here," Mahony said, looking at the sea of people around him. "We are all brothers and sisters under her." Some credit the growth of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe among non-Latinos to Bishop Oscar A. Solis, vicar in charge of ethnic ministries for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Solis, a native of the Philippines, was invited in 1984 by the archdiocese to start the outreach to a number of ethnic groups. "This is an exciting moment in our church," Solis said as he walked with other auxiliary bishops in the procession. "You see a multicultural perspective of this celebration. That's what excites me the most." Recognizing the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the Catholic faith, Pope John Paul II in 1992 dedicated a chapel within St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican to her. Seven years later he named her patron saint of the Americas, and in 2002, John Paul canonized Juan Diego before a crowd of 12 million in Mexico City. Clara Park, a member of St. Paul's Korean Catholic Church near Koreatown, said she feels blessed to have both "God the Father" and "Holy Mother" to go to. "When I need forgiveness, I often pray to Holy Mother to intercede in my behalf," Park said. Park's group walked in a one-mile procession from La Soledad Church to East Los Angeles College with members of its sister Latino congregation, which shares the same facility. Soana Moimoi, a native of Tonga and a member of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Long Beach, loves the account of Mary appearing to an indigenous man. For the eighth year in a row, Moimoi and her family were at the procession.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Muslim Crazies

The big to-do in the news recently concerns a British teacher in Sudan who was teaching a group of children and for educational purposes used a teddy bear. The children chose to name the bear Muhammed. God forbid. The teacher is being charged on blasphemy for "insulting Islam".

Islam insulted via a teddy bear? Wouldn't thousands of years have built up a little tougher of skin than this? Isn't that a little extreme? Some people are even calling for her execution! A woman innocently teaching children executed? What about the children - they were the ones who chose the name? They blasphemed just as much as the British teacher! Off with their heads!

Following 9/11 Muslims have tried to express that theirs is a religion of peace - and then this happens and everyone goes apeshit. The zealots who fly off the handle in any religion seem to tarnish the whole of the religion. And Islam is no different than Christianity in this respect.

How ridiculous. How absolutely ridiculous. These people act like children and forget themselves. Their knee-jerk reactions and pouting and calling for a pound of flesh makes them look like fools. A teddy bear for learning is about as insulting and harmful as a snowflake lightly landing on a bear's snout. What about people who give themselves the name of Muhammed, i.e. Muhammed Ali - is it the case where if Muhammed Ali loses a boxing match he inadvertently insults Islam in this way?

The hypocrisy of so-called peaceful religions know no bounds.

He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The Blasphemous Teddy Bear

Monday, Nov. 26, 2007 – Time /
By Rob Crilly/Khartoum

It probably seemed like the most innocent of ideas to the newly arrived teacher from England, still settling into life in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. She asked her class of six and seven-year-olds to dress up and name a teddy bear, and keep a diary of his outings. She hoped it would provide material for projects for the rest of the year. And it might have, except for the name the children chose for their bear: Muhammad. Now Gillian Gibbons, 54, is spending her second night in a Sudanese prison, accused of insulting Islam's Prophet. She faces a public lashing or up to six months in prison if found guilty on charges of blasphemy. And Unity High School — one of a number of exclusive British-run schools in the Sudanese capital — has been closed as staff fear reprisals from Islamic extremists. Robert Boulos, the school's director, said the incident had been blown out of all proportion, but added that the school would remain closed until January to let ill feelings blow over. "This was a completely innocent mistake," he said in an office decorated with sepia photographs dating back to the school's colonial heyday. "Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam." Police raided the school, where Gibbons also lives, on Sunday. "We tried to reason with them but we felt they were coming under strong pressure from Islamic courts," said Boulus. "There were men with big beards asking where she was and saying they wanted to kill her." A similar angry crowd had gathered by the time she arrived at the Khartoum police station where she is being held. Unity, founded early in the last century, is one of several British schools run along Christian lines in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Its high brick walls shut out the dust of everyday Sudanese life, transporting the visitor into the shady courtyard of an Oxbridge college or English private school. Many of its pupils come from well-to-do Sudanese families keen for their children to get the best education that money can buy. But Sudan is ruled by religious conservatives. Sharia law was introduced in 1991; alcohol is banned and women must wear headscarves. Convicted criminals are routinely flogged or executed. The bizarre turn of events that led to the teacher's arrest began in September, soon after she arrived in the country, according to colleagues who have rallied in her support. Her young class was due to study the behavior and habitat of bears, so she suggested that pupils bring in a teddy bear to serve as a case study. A seven-year-old girl brought in her favorite cuddly toy and the rest of the class was invited to name him. After considering the names Hassan and Abdullah, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Muhammad — the first name of the most popular boy in the class. "No parents or teachers complained because they knew she had no bad intention," said Boulos. Until last week. Parents from another class raised concerns with the school. Then Sudan's feared police came calling at the weekend. Gibbons' colleagues said they feared a disgruntled member of staff may be using the issue to cause trouble. Bishop Ezikiel Kondo, chairman of the school council, said: "The thing may be very simple, but they just may make it bigger. It's a kind of blackmail." Khartoum has exploded with anger at accusations of blasphemy in the past. Last year angry demonstrators denounced cartoons of the Prophet that appeared in Danish newspapers. And there have been protests at the actions of Zoe's Ark, a French charity accused of trying to smuggle children out of neighboring Chad. Now everyone is waiting to see whether religious leaders or politicians will take their supporters onto the streets this time. Most parents arriving at the school gates were supportive of the British teacher. One mother, whose seven-year-old son was in Gibbons' class, said her family had not been offended by the name. "Our Prophet Muhammad tells us to be forgiving," she said. "So she should be released. She didn't mean any of this at all."