Monday, June 30, 2008

Educate Thyself - Part II

Why should the "state" should be educated in the "church"....perhaps to know thy 'enemy'.

As an American I am embarrassed by this obscene lack of education by someone whose job it is to know.

It should be essential that the religions of these sects be known and understood as they directly affect the governing bodies in conflict. Life is not a cake to separate here. And if one's ideals can be understood, no matter how foreign, it may help create channels for better communication and diplomacy. If a Sunni is aware that a U.S. soldier is taking a course to understand their beliefs, I think that would create an element of respect by the Sunni because hey, "they're trying to understand me". It would also lay the basis for Americans knowing what cultural faux pas they can avoid, i.e. mistaking a Sunni for a Shiite or the like, as well as asking questions or drawing comparative problems in their own religions in the states.

I rest my case. Education in religion is ESSENTIAL.

Democrat flunks his first intelligence test

By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last updated: 1:55 AM GMT 14/12/2006

Representative Silvestre Reyes was flummoxed when a journalist rounded off a 40-minute interview by asking him two basic questions about the Islamic groups that are the principal targets of America's intelligence agencies. "Al-Qa'eda is what – Sunni or Shia?" Jeff Stein, the Congressional Quarterly magazine's national security editor, asked Mr Reyes. "Al-Qa'eda, they have both," came the reply. "You're talking about predominately?" the congressman then asked, before venturing: "Predominantly – probably Shi'ite." As Mr Stein noted in his subsequent column: "He couldn't have been more wrong. Al-Qa'eda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi'ite showed up at an al-Qa'eda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball." He then asked the congressman about the terrorist group Hizbollah. "Hizbollah. Uh, Hizbollah..." he said, laughing. "Why do you ask me these questions at five o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?" The holes in his knowledge are a fresh embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi, the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, whose leadership was undermined when her chosen deputy was rejected by Democrats. She selected Mr Reyes to chair the House intelligence committee over the head of Jane Harman, who is widely respected as having a firm grasp of the nuances of the Middle East. Miss Pelosi is said to harbour a long-time personal grudge against Miss Harman. Mr Stein has been quizzing senior intelligence officials and politicians with similar questions for the past 18 months. In a similar gaffe-laden session, Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI's national security branch, did not know the difference between Sunnis and Shia either. "The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following," he said. "And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following." So which were Iran and Hizbollah? With a 50 per cent chance of getting it right, Mr Hulon flunked by plumping for Sunni. Congressman Terry Everett, a Republican and vice-chairman of the House intelligence sub-committee on technical and tactical intelligence, chuckled when he was asked the same question. "One's in one location, another's in another location," he said. "No, to be honest with you, I don't know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something." When Mr Stein outlined the difference, which dates back to the death of the Prophet Mohammed in AD632, Mr Everett said: "Now that you've explained it to me, what occurs to me is that it makes what we're doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area." Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis, a Republican who oversees the CIA's recruiting of Islamic spies, was also stumped when asked if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shia. "Do I? You know, I should. It's a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it's the Sunnis who're more radical than the Shia." Mr Stein said: "This is basic stuff. We are not talking branches of Sunni. Congress's role is to oversee the intelligence agencies and make sure taxpayers' dollars are well spent but they don't know how to ask the right questions." Islam split into Shia and Sunni sects after the death of the Prophet in AD632. What became the Sunni sect supported Mohammed's most trusted lieutenants as his successors, while the Shia believed that only his direct descendents should rule the Islamic world. Over the centuries the sects have divided further in areas such as prayer and Koranic interpretation, and who is the true leader of Muslims.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Educate Thyself

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

-- Aldous Huxley

I would like to take a moment to brag about my parents.

They are extensive world travelers who continue to explore and shake hands with the world and cultures around them. They've been to so many places and have been spending a month at a time abroad for the past few years. They are also devout Catholics.

On Father's Day I had a chance to commend them and tell them how proud I am of them for expanding their horizons in getting to know other cultures and religions. That only a decade ago they may have held a somewhat unfavorable view of non-Christian foreigners who harbor different beliefs, customs, tastes, traditions, etc.

Buddhists, for example, may have been viewed with a twinge of judgment. But in Thailand they took a class on Buddhism, spent time with monks, toured temples and participated in the parade of a young man becoming a monk. They educated themselves, got to know and speak with the people and through this education came a new respect and connection with those in the world who are different from themselves.

This morning my husband and I were listening to the radio and the following (article) came on:


Group Sues Over Christian License Plates
Lawsuit Claims "I Believe" Plates In South Carolina Advocate Christianity

The Associated Press - June 19, 2008

COLUMBIA, South Carolina -- A group that advocates separation of church and state filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to prevent South Carolina from becoming the first state to create "I Believe" license plates. The group contends that South Carolina's government is endorsing Christianity by allowing the plates, which would include a cross superimposed on a stained glass window. Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Christian pastors, a humanist pastor and a rabbi in South Carolina, along with the Hindu American Foundation. "I do believe these 'I Believe' plates will not see the light of day because the courts, I'm confident, will see through this," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, the group's executive director. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for South Carolina, asks a judge to stop South Carolina from making the plates and rule that the law allowing them violates the First Amendment. The bill sailed through the Legislature with little discussion earlier this year. Gov. Mark Sanford let it become law without his signature because the state already allows private groups to create license plates for any cause. Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell said residents asked for a way to express their beliefs, and legislators responded. He disputed Lynn's accusation that they were pandering to constituents in an election year. "That's what critics always say when they see something they don't like," Harrell said. "I think this has less to do with the First Amendment and more to do with their disdain for religion generally." Lynn said his group would not have opposed the "I Believe" plates had they been advocted by private groups. State law allows private groups to create specialty plates as long as they first collect either a $4,000 deposit or 400 prepaid orders. Lt. Gov. AndrDe Bauer said last week that he is willing to put up the money, then get reimbursed. Bauer said the idea came from Florida, where a proposal for an "I Believe" tag failed. He called it a freedom-of-speech issue. But a Methodist pastor who joined the lawsuit, the retired Rev. Thomas Summers of Columbia, said the plate provokes discrimination. "I think this license plate really is divisive and creates the type of religious discord I've devoted my life to healing," he said. Another of the ministers, the Rev. Robert Knight of Charleston, said the plates cheapen the Christian message. "As an evangelical Christian, I don't think civil religion enhances the Christian religion. It compromises it," Knight said. "That's the fundamental irony. It's very shallow from a Christian standpoint."


I am a Universalist Christian and I acknowledge that not everyone in the U.S. is a Christian. And that's 100% cool with me. I am an advocate of the separation of Church and State and I believe legislation needs to be divorced from any form of religion as issues regarding “State” can be applied to ALL peoples, whereas issues regarding “church” cannot.

When I pay for my license plates there is a tax. When I pay for the renewal stickers on my plates there is a tax. A taxing, legislative body that is the Secretary of State (any state) should not have a lick of jurisdiction to entertain religious incorporations / messages into a license plate.

Bumper stickers and Jesus fish should suffice in telling the world through the wonder of adhesive and plastic knick-knacks just how you and your car worship.

Actually, to let the world know you and your car are at peace with other religions, check out this cool bumper sticker and where you can order it:

Separation of church and state is a political and legal doctrine that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate and independent from each other. The term most often refers to the combination of two principles: secularity of government and freedom of religious exercise.

The phrase separation of church and state is generally traced to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, in which he referred to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as creating a "wall of separation" between church and state.

The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947. This led to increased popular and political discussion of the concept. (Source: Wikipedia)

My husband feels that Comparative Religion should be a mandatory class in all grade, middle and high schools and I completely agree. If children are being taught about the world around them, they need to know the facts about how life is organized within one of its most enduring machinations: religion. It has been said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Well, if the masses do not have the facts about said religion(s) and make false assumptions regarding other masses and have chaos...and often, war.

Comparative Religion is often an elective offered in college but to educate the young will help dispel many myths and stereotypes of such things as what Muslims truly believe...or where Mormons came from...or why Jews have the holidays they have, or what exactly Purgatory, Nirvana, Valhala, Heaven or re-incarnation is. Many people haven't got a clue as to what a Wiccan is or what Santeria is or what Last Rites are or the difference between dharma and karma. And on and on the ignorance goes.

Not a religion class that sways or converts...but a class that will simply EDUCATE CHILDREN IN PRESENTING THE FACTS ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ACTUALLY BELIEVE THE WAY THEY DO AND WHY.

I think this type of education would help disintegrate the divisive judgement on others and bring about a sense of unity and peace this nation has embarrassingly lacked for ages.

In a sense to know is to love. And everybody needs to know.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kiss My Naked Ass, Robert Hurt!

I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a feminist. I am a Democrat. I am a Liberal. I am a believer in God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the message He proclaimed to Love One Another. I believe war embodies the qualities of the antichrist. I am a believer in freedom of religion and living peacefully with those I disagree with. I believe in separation of Church and State.

And I vote.

So, naturally the following article really makes me laugh, shake my head and look around in incredulity saying "Does anyone else see what's wrong here?"

Firstly, ancient art revered women and saw their bodies as works of art in themselves. Stories of gods and goddesses remain in our history and gorgeous painting and sculptures by genius artists have graced the ages. These historic and lovely works of art are not to be censored.

So, now, in the year 2008, you decide your delicate sensibilities are suddenly offended, you republican Nazi? What's next, book burning? Maybe retract the 19th ammendment?

Absolutist men in power with their anti-understanding, anti-culture, anti-gay, anti-mercy, anti-women, anti-anything-but-white-male-WASP visions are terrifying. Those bodies governing this great country must learn from the trees: be flexible because what doesn't bend, breaks. This article shows the regression that is not only terrifying, but possible with the Conservative Christian Republican Right-Wing Wackos who are ready to burn witches again should they take over the White House. I think the debacle of this past administration should serve as a huge warning.


Work on Texas GOP's platform stirs passions

By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News - 09:02 AM CDT on Friday, June 13, 2008

HOUSTON – Robert Hurt went to Washington and didn't like what he saw – nudity in the nation's capital. "Nude women, sculptured women," he told the state Republican platform committee, which sat in rapt attention. Of all the evils in Washington that the Texas GOP took aim at this week, removing art with naked people from public view was high on the list for Mr. Hurt, a delegate from Kerrville. "You don't have nude art on your front porch," he explained. "You possibly don't have nude art in your living rooms. So why is it important to have that in the common places of Washington, D.C.?" Mr. Hurt offered statistics: He'd heard that 20 percent of the art in the National Gallery of Art is of nudes. He offered detail: On Arlington Memorial Bridge overlooking the famed national cemetery, "there are two Lady Godivas, two women on horses with no shirt on and long hair." Actually, they are classical sculptures about war – one called Valor, depicting a male equestrian and a female with a shield, and Sacrifice, a female accompanying the rider Mars. The GOP platform will be presented today to the full convention. Like all platforms, it's a statement of principle and a political document to rally the troops. In this, a presidential year, it advocates prayer in school, getting out of the United Nations, teaching intelligent design with evolution in science classes, repealing of the minimum wage, declaring illegal immigrants criminals and outlawing abortion with no exceptions. "Hallelujah!" said a delegate who had urged strong anti-abortion language. The platform calls homosexuality contrary to "the unchanging truths" ordained by God. It opposes gay marriage, civil unions and the custody of children by gays. The party's own leaders aren't spared. There's a call to repeal the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, sponsored by the party's presidential nominee, and to oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor, the brainchild of Gov. Rick Perry. Ridding Washington of naked art didn't make it. Neither did a complaint by a Kerr County delegate that her daughter was having trouble getting college scholarships. "There are so many scholarships, if you are the right color," she said. "But for a white girl, who has good grades, you really have to look." Glenn Sheblaton of Coppell, whose family fled communism, called for language to withdraw American troops from Iraq, saying, "You can't impose democracy from the barrel of a gun." The committee disagreed. "There is no substitute for victory!" the platform says in supporting the Bush administration's war on "radical Islamist terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries around the world." Last week, the Texas Democratic Party decided not to call for a federal Department of Peace and Nonviolence in its platform for fear Republicans would use it against the party in the fall campaign. In much the same way, Republican Bill Calhoun of Houston cautioned against calling affirmative action "simply racism disguised as social value." He said such language discourages blacks from joining the GOP. The issue was debated in committee, principle vs. politics. In the end, strong language prevailed. "That may not always be the best political strategy," platform committee chairman Kirk Overbey said Thursday. "But we're here to say we're sticking by our principles."


And by the way, I do display nude art in my living room. I have a sculpture of a naked woman's body, actually. Some of the most moving pieces of art in the Louvre are naked women. Only small men with a small minds focus on small and petty things like doing away with these treasures to society and culture.

Here is a wonderful montage collectively summing up where this country is going should we elect another Good Ol' Boy:

And here is another site where Obama's camp puts to rest those silly rumors started by the GOP regime:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Politics And Religion

This past week controversy has surrounded a charismatic Catholic priest named Fr. Michael Pfleger whose parish is St. Sabina's, a predominantly black Catholic church on the southside of Chicago. I watched the rant in question by Fr. Pfleger on YouTube as he mocked Hilary Clinton .

As a feminist I find his mocking tirade offensive even though I support Obama. And though I believe in freedom of speech I believe in separation of Church and State. I know that the Catholic Church is a tax-exempt institution and clergy is not generally permitted to outwardly attempt to sway the congregation through their opinions on politics and candidates one way or another. Which is exactly what is happening here. And it is done so blatantly and divisively. Instead of promoting unity among parties, classes, gender and races, Fr. Pfleger performs a huge disservice to all in a very obnoxious way. I think the way he feeds off the attention and encouragement of the crowd falls in line with the shady televangelists of olde. A fine line exists between positive spiritual charisma and loud narcissistic propaganda.

Where is his focus on God and our relationship to Him in all of this?


St. Sabina Parish leaders to meet with Cardinal George over reinstatement of Rev. Michael Pfleger
By Manya A. Brachear – Chicago Tribune reporter - 11:20 PM CDT, June 4, 2008

A couple scheduled to be married Saturday at St. Sabina Catholic Church and the 51 graduating kindergartners at St. Sabina Academy called on Cardinal Francis George Wednesday to "reinstate" Rev. Michael Pfleger in time for the celebrations this weekend. Church leaders said they would meet with the cardinal to discuss the hiatus he forced on their pastor. "I do not believe Cardinal George fully considered the impact of his decision," said Amanda Breedlove, a prospective bride who for months has envisioned Pfleger presiding at her wedding. "It's a feeling of being robbed. One day your family member is there. One day he's not. A temporary administrator is not our pastor." On Tuesday, George told Pfleger to take a sabbatical "for a couple of weeks" to reconsider his mocking remarks about U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton during a recent sermon. Asked to vacate the church rectory within 24 hours, Pfleger had several places to stay in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, church leaders said. They said he had no plans to rent an apartment. Leaders also assured the temporary administrator for St. Sabina appointed by George, Rev. William Vanecko, pastor of St. Kilian's Catholic Church, 8725 S. May St., that they would work with him and that any sharp words were not directed toward him but at decision-makers. "We're encouraging the faith community not to point their fingers at him because he's not the culprit," said Randall Blakey, director of ministry at St. Sabina. Pfleger, a longtime priest and activist on the city's South Side, made headlines with a May 25 guest sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ in which he mocked Clinton and suggested that she is a white elitist who felt entitled to the Democratic nomination for president. As a video of the sermon circulated, Pfleger promised the cardinal that he would not publicly mention any candidate by name this summer and fall and that he would abide by the "discipline common to all Catholic priests." U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who already had taken hits for controversial statements made by Trinity's now-retired pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., terminated his membership at the South Side church a day later. Pfleger issued a statement Monday seeking to clarify another controversial snippet from that sermon. He said he erred in saying, "America is the greatest sin against God," when he meant "racism." The cardinal repeatedly has allowed Pfleger to stay as pastor of St. Sabina, where he's served for more than 30 years, long beyond church policies that limit pastors to two 6-year terms in a parish. Deacon Michael Threet said Wednesday that his No. 1 concern is Pfleger's absence from the building and fear that he will not return. "There will no future as we know it at St. Sabina," Threet said. "We believe God called Michael Pfleger to this church to be an earthly shepherd at this time. . . . Whether it was appropriate or not, the punishment was extreme and [George is] hurting the faith community."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

God Grant Us A Price Break?

When it comes to prayer, there are things that are God-worthy to be prayed for - like strength in a tough situation, faith when in doubt, wisdom in a confusing predicament, endurance for the long haul, even for more love when one is having a hard time loving. Characteristics that are essential to the spirit which will nurture a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit. Yes, rock on.

Then there are people like these who I feel are mis-using their time and prayers. They are praying for gas prices to drop. GA$ PRICES. Now, don't get me wrong, prayer in all things is fine, however, there is a line to be drawn when it comes to praying for material goods (and this is classified as such) - and publicly at that. God helps those who help themselves - these people need to address their lobbyists, their Congress and stop taking God for a pushover economist fool.

In this the richest nation on earth, the so-called-faithful are praying for money savings? Does this seem wrong to anyone else? What about the starving children, the hurricane, tornado, flood and earthquake victims and the modern-day holocausts occurring in the world? Is their world simply contained within the walls of these United States? The true injustices get overlooked to be prayed for so fervently so they can save 75 cents a gallon? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

It is like a child asking their parents to instantly grant them knowledge of the world's cultures as they stand in a room stacked full of National Geographics. Sometimes, people, you have to work to get your prayers answered.

Perhaps in a strange way, higher gas prices are God's way of saying "Hey, get off your obese American asses and walk to work, bike to work, use the limbs and instruments I have given you and get active." Or, it may be God's way of saying, "Hey, people, time to focus on alternative fuels. The world is suffering and polluted, this is a wakeup call for all of you to work together to come up with new and creative resources to keep the world greener. There is a reason for this jackup in prices! I had to get your attention somehow and since money is so important to you, this is my way of tapping you on the shoulder."


Activists Keep the Faith, if Not Their Money
By Jonathan MummoloWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, May 31, 2008; B05

The price of regular at a Shell gas station in Petworth gleamed defiantly in the midday sun: $3.91 a gallon. But unlike the customers rolling up to the station's pumps this week, resigned to the fact that their wallets were about to take a beating, Rocky Twyman and company had a plan to bring that number tumbling down. They would ask God to do it. "Our pockets are empty, but we're going to hold on to God!" Twyman, a community organizer from Rockville, said as he and seven other people formed a semicircle, held hands and sang, pleading for divine intervention to lower fuel prices. It was the latest demonstration by Twyman's movement, Pray at the Pump, which began in April. Since then, he has held group prayers at gas stations as far away as San Francisco, garnering international media attention and even claiming success in at least a couple of cases. Some would say the proof of whether Twyman has the ear of the Almighty is in the result. On the first day of the movement, April 23, the national average price of a gallon of unleaded was $3.53, according to AAA. As of yesterday, it was $3.96. But Twyman said true faith does not demand instant gratification, and he plans to keep his pump-side prayers going "until God tells us to stop." "This whole thing is a wake-up call from God to Americans, because we idolize men so much," said Twyman, 59, a public relations consultant and Seventh-day Adventist who believes that high gas prices are a sign of the apocalypse drawing nigh. "I think through this crisis, God is trying to call us back to depend on Him more." For the past several weeks, Twyman has assembled a group at a soup kitchen in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest Washington where he volunteers. They have driven to a gas station, locked hands, said a prayer, purchased gas and sung the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," with an added verse: "We'll have lower gas prices." Reactions, and results, have been mixed. After he gave an interview to a Tampa radio station, the station received calls from listeners saying the price at their pumps had dropped. (According to AAA's Fuel Price Finder, regular gas at Tampa area stations averaged $3.89 a gallon yesterday, up from $3.59 a month ago). Last week, as one of the demonstrations was winding down, an angry gas station manager in Petworth chased them from the property, Twyman said, annoyed that the activists were hampering business. On Thursday, onlookers included the puzzled, the amused, the inspired and the skeptical. Sylvester Shorter, 61, of Southeast Washington was pumping $20 worth of regular as the group sang. "They're praying," he said dismissively. "Do I still have to pay $20?" A public relations consultant, Twyman is experienced at garnering publicity and has staged campaigns over the years for various causes, from tsunami relief to bone marrow donations for minorities. In 2005, he began a movement to get Oprah Winfrey the Nobel Peace Prize. (She did not win.) Last year, he led prayers for rain in drought-afflicted Georgia. (Rain did eventually fall.) To some observers, the idea of praying in public for cheaper gas is "uniquely American." Johannes Wiebus, an independent producer who recently filmed one of Twyman's demonstrations for a German TV network, said: "You've got this issue -- high gas prices -- which is an economic issue, a political issue, but no one in their wildest dreams would make it a religious issue in Germany." But to some local drivers feeling the pinch, frustrated at the inability of politicians to solve the problem, the question isn't, "Why pray for cheap gas?" It's, "Why not?" "I think it's a wonderful thing," said Mirrine Thorne of Northwest Washington, who pulled in to gas up her Chevy Impala as Twyman's group prayed. Thorne, a mother of four, said gas prices have limited the activities she can do with her kids on the weekends. "Nobody else is doing anything," she said. "God is going to do something." After a few minutes of song and appeals to customers to join the movement, Twyman and his group began their departure, their hope and faith replenished. The price of regular? $3.91.