Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Tribute to Our Friend

Passing from this life to the next in anonymity is an unsettling thing to me.

This morning Sandra called me at work and said our neighbor, Sally Lester, had passed away on Monday, alone in her bathroom. Her sister, Peggy, who lived next door discovered the tragic scene and called Sandra to tell her the news. Neither Sally, nor Peggy have any living family, and only a handful of friends.

So, I am posting this brief article so that perhaps Sally will have more than Peggy, Sandra and I, and the one family besides us mourn her passing, and hopefully a few of you will keep Peggy in prayer. Sally was a wonderful person. She encouraged Sandra and I as parents. She always praised the rehab work we were doing on our house. She loved our kids like they were the grandchildren she never had. To get to know her more (and I hope you do), visit these two posts written by Sandra.

The Beginning

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Separation of Church and State...Brittish Style

When most Americans hear the phrase "separation of church and state," they regard it as a uniquely "American" conundrum waiting to be solved. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Anyone can see by my last post the need for the issue to be raised in Iran. Iran's new buddy, Russia, has witnessed Putin's reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church as an instrument for promoting nationalism. In both cases religion has been used to accommodate a political agenda.

Lately eyes turned towards England when Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made some controversial suggestions towards religious inclusivity. To put it simply, the Archbishop, realizing the devout Muslim population in England is not only growing but there to stay, suggested that elements of Sharia should be adopted to foster social cohesion. This would mean that two forms of law would coexist within England. For example, a lawbreaker who is Muslim may be punished differently than a lawbreaker who is Christian.

I was not surprised to read the reaction of emergent demigod, Brian McLaren. McLaren lauds the idea, seeing the issue more as an issue of accommodating varying religious beliefs, which is admirable. But perhaps an insider perspective is more in tune with issues, as is described in the Economist.

The issue is complex since the Church of England is so much more intertwined than would be possible in the United States. As the Economist points out, law is the highest order in England. To a Brit, making exceptions of any kind is absurd an offensive. And perhaps even more of an issue, is the fact that such a prominent Church leader has the wherewithal to make such a political call. In the United States a media heyday ensues anytime church leaders make political suggestions, let alone creating policy (were it possible outside any congressional position).

The Economist solution? Cut them loose. Sever the relationship between parliament and the Church of England. What do you think? Does a fluid law based on religious affiliation encourage social cohesion? Or could jealousies over privilege and punishment ferment in this environment? Should the church be completely separate from the State? If that were to happen, would that encourage social cohesion?

***After making such bold statements, the Archbishop public declared that many aspects of Sharia Law are appalling. That is why he only suggested "elements" of Sharia be allowed. The Archbishop is certainly not making many new friends these days.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

God Judges Those Who Oppose Nuclear Energy

Is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--Iran's Supreme Leader--deluded? Is his passion for God and his passion for country so overwhelmingly intertwined that he actually believes that God's fiery fist of judgment is raised and ready to crush any opponent of Iran's controversial nuclear program? Or is it just an example of a tyrant using religion to scare subjects into obedience.

As reported by the Associated Press, Khamanei said, "The Iranian people openly announce that they will defend their rights... God will reprimand them if they do not do so," this in reference to the program.

Whether or not Iran should be allowed this capacity is not for me to decide, nor the point of this blog (although I must point out Iran insists, as per evidence suggests, that they have no intentions of using nuclear fuel for weaponry). The point is this: Theocracy can be a clever disguise for the bloated ego of tyrrany.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Waxing Nostalgic with the Boss

Every so often a tune, an image, a smell, etc. comes my way that instantly transports me to the past, to a time when life was simpler. Doesn't it seem that the older we get, the more crap we have to deal with, whether it be secure employment, the IRS, or tatterred relationships? Things have changed. When I was kid, I never saw presidential candidates on Nickelodian. I just remember cartoons!

Everytime I hear this song, released on Bruce Springsteen's 2007 album, Magic, a wave of nostalgia washes over me, and everything seems alright, everything feels so much simpler; if only for a few minutes. I feel like I am my son's age; five. Here are a few things that I am reminded of:

I think of my mother kneeling and praying, asking God to find a beautiful godly wife for her worked!

I think of watching my two favorite cartoons, Tom and Jerry and the Snorks.

I think of staying the night at my grandma's house. Her appartment was on a busy street. I can remember it was the greatest laying awake at night in the summer with the windows open listening to the soothing sounds of traffic.

I remember laying on the slide of my swingset, staring at the clouds and the sky. I can remember thinkig that the blue sky was like a thin sheet, very close to earth, and that outer space was nearly within reach.

What makes you feel like this and what memories come to mind? Enjoy the song!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How to Vote

Wednesday, February 6, I came across a blog of triumphant overtones. In this blog, the author detailed an arduous caucus line he endured in freezing temperatures, rain, and sleet to vote for Barack Obama. I admired his tenacity, until I read the last paragraph that explained he had endured so that he could tell his future offspring that he stood out in the harsh elements just to vote in the first black president of America.

Before I go any further, allow this disclaimer: The following does not stand as any endorsement of any candidate.

Besides the fact that voting based solely on the color of one’s skin is racism (Clinton, Huckabee, McCain, and Paul don’t stand a chance based on this criteria), it is stupid. Voting based solely on anything other than platform is unfair not only to America and her constituents; it is unfair to the candidate. In the cited example, those things which Barack Obama is fighting for are being trumped by superficiality.

Obama’s race is just the most recent example. In the past few weeks I have heard more than a few people say they are voting for him because he is a gifted and charismatic speaker. Wow! Great criteria…so was Hitler. In the past few weeks I have heard more than a few people say they are voting for Huckabee because solely because he is a Christian. Brilliant! We all know that Christians always hold an impeccable track record (wasn’t Richard Roberts in the news recently?). In the past few weeks I have heard more than a few people say they were voting for Hilary Clinton because it is about time a woman sat in the Oval Office (gender discrimination).

When I have had the chance to talk with some folks mentioned above, I have asked them point blank questions about their candidate of choice, such as, “What is Huckabee’s economic policy? Every time I receive a stammering, uninformed response that is so general it could apply to any candidate on either end of the weird political spectrum.

We are a shallow people. We are plebeians. We poignantly driven. We live in a nation in which we have the freedom to be wrong, but also to be right. Thus, we cannot vote according to our nature, according to our predisposition, our rearing, our cliques, etc. Here is my advice to anyone who stumbles across this post:

Before you head out to cast your primary vote, do this. Go to EVERY candidate’s website. Pretend that there are no suave or moving pictures of each candidate. Find out where each candidate stands on the important issues (in my humble opinion, the most important issues this election are economic and foreign policy). After having done so, whichever candidate most precisely matches where you stand on the issue, whether they are liberal or conservative, vote for that candidate.

If this struck a nerve in anyone, pass it on.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's That Time of Year

It seems that nobody knows what Christianity is about anymore. Everyone argues about best practices, relevancy, and doctrine.…and in many cases, I am right there with them. Both sides of Christianity (liberals and conservatives) are hurling subtle attacks at each other…and again, in many cases I am guilty. Maybe at times, I’m leading the pack.

As I read through the Psalms today, the contrite, broken spirit spoke volumes to me. I thought, “here, this wreck of a man, this adulterer, this humble sinner is who YHWH chose to lead a nation, this flawed man was the chosen progenitor of the Christ.

And this led me to think about the season of Lent, which is now upon us. My first taste of Lent was at Trinity Lutheran School in the 5th grade. The non-denominational church my parents attended traded tradition for relevancy, so I had missed out on this, besides the Pączki my Polish grandmother brought over on fat Tuesday.

In my opinion, the Lenten tradition, while bleeding of history and tradition is a beautiful reminder of what Christianity is about. Lent, in the words of Fr. William Saunders, “is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.” St. Ireneaus, defender of Christianity against the Gnostic heresy, spoke highly of the practice in just 203 C.E.! (for more history on Lent, click here)

This year I am going to engage myself in the Season; something I have never done. Traditionally, Christians gave up food, so I too am following suit. After thought and prayer, I am giving up all forms of meat throughout the process, and I am going to focus on all aspect mentioned above by Saunders. I hope throughout this I will be reminded of why I choose the path I choose, and to be less of a Laodocean (see previous blog).

As I was driving home and reflecting these Lyrics floated out of my Nissan’s speakers: Love is not a victory march…It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah. If isolated from the rest of the song’s context I thought, “I want this to be my attitude this Lenten season, from start, and especially at completion”

Want to join me? What might you sacrifice?