Religion and Abortion, and

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“When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen,” said Republican candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana (a Midwest state of farms and cities) in 2012. . . . → Read More: Abortion, Religion, and Rape: America’s Politics 2016

Forgiveness Is As Natural As Breathing, But It Takes Work

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In a single act — forgiveness — anchors our strength, clears our way, and removes blocks put in our way by others and by our reaction. Through it, we honor . . . → Read More: Forgiveness Is As Natural As Breathing, But It Takes Work

Is Arizona the New Mississippi?

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DDRape. Sexual violence. Guns. Denial of health care. Food stamps. Religious liberty. Gays. Immigrants. Jobs. Deficits. Defense. Is Arizona the new Mississippi?

Do you really practice your religious beliefs in business? Is there a religious doctrine that prohibits a believer, of any faith, from doing business—selling goods and services—with others who believe or live by different tenets? Is there a commandment from God that prohibits trade and business interactions with groups outside of your faith, or those whose behavior is interpreted as anathema to your faith and personal beliefs?

Did Moses miss a tablet?

Does your faith practice apply equally to giving and receiving? How far does your practice of rejection go? Will you reject a sentence or fine from a gay judge? Will you refuse treatment by a married gay doctor? Or not get your hair done by a married gay beautician? Will you send back a meal brought by a gay server? Will your gay radar constantly ping the world around you, causing you to be the flippered ball in the machine?

Does your personally decided prohibition of faith include members of your family, as it does in Dick Cheney’s household, where love had nothing to do with it and his and his daughter’s stance against gay marriage left him with a house divided.

Is this article of religious faith—no business interaction with gays—a personal inconvenience that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable, so you blame the victims of your prejudice, rather than acknowledge the inadequacy of your faith and the paucity of your good will?

Who passes these laws?

Not even the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Gnostic Gospels said shun the gays; do not sell to them. For faith is not Arizonaaffected or demonstrated by interactions, but by actions: the way I act with those with whom I interact is the real witness of my faith and belief!

This latest Arizona law seems a little creepy and paranoid. It substitutes personal preference for faith principle. Under the law’s hallelujah principle, it allows each believer to set the tenets of their own belief. If some Christians will sell me flowers if I marry or have a same-sex partner, other Christians may refuse. And if they do, I should make the sign of blessing and rejoice that I have not put their faith to the test or impinged on their freedom.

We are back in the looking glass zone.

In that bright tunnel, my elaborated personal beliefs are the source of my freedom and faith. Freedom is no longer a social promise that we mutually defend, lifting it higher. It is personal only. By law. There is no mutual trust. No common ground.

Society’s claim on freedom actually lifts freedom to its highest level: it allows me to believe while I help others who do me no harm. But if my freedom results in injury to you by debasement, missed economic opportunity, the denial of services and goods, I have not paid freedom forward. I have discriminated. I have sinned. Continue reading Is Arizona the New Mississippi?

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A Faith Lesson for Todd Akin

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Sometimes, truth is besides the point. In today’s politics, its relevancy is certainly diminished. Its purpose is abandoned, standing as empty and eerie as the giant hollow factory shells of Detroit.  We  are taught to think of truth as solid and firm, but its integrity sways like the vine bridges built deep in rain forest interiors hidden from view. Truth is adaptable and timeless, which makes it easy to overrun. But in the heat of the moment, the property of truth Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. cited is often forgotten: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”

Its role in this season’s Presidential campaigns is over- and underrated, as one is about fear, the other about feel good. It is true that systems in conflict or competition create a set of their own norms intended to gain advantage and defeat the other, and this determines their options and handicaps their outcomes. Yet one campaign has based its entire strategy on betting against truth’s rise, believing truth’s adaptivity can be twisted and crushed by fear. The truth of truth is that truth expands; it is indispensable, not disposable.

Yet the power of truth is rare as a social or political force; it has always been tied to a sense of shame, a feeling of inner pain, a self-imposed humility, an emptiness and brokenness that rained on a soul telling a lie. Truth, celebrated as a virtue, carried with it a sense of embarrassment that made it hard to look people in the eye. Despair–agony–waited on those who bent or violated its moral faith. All day demons reigned in the lost hearts that told lies, a separation that left these hearts disturbed in out-of-body drift. Truth is the comfort of wholeness. Truth is foremost an inner quality, a force that builds a fabric of trust.

Akin and the ensuing political arguments badly miss this point. His one sentence/word/day violated a larger, higher trust. One New York Times commenter observed: Continue reading A Faith Lesson for Todd Akin

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Digging Deeper: Mocking God

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This election, there’s a movement around the country to use the Bible and prayer in the wrong way. It makes God a political partisan. It associates God with vengeance and hatred, substitutes a personal or group judgement for God’s own as it despoils the idea of divine glory, and mocks God by asking God to grant divine intervention and authority to actions God condemns.

Put aside the impulse to run to the barricades of clichés, the library of platitudes about religion. Go outside free will, the failed standards of churches, the doubts about the existence of God, the comfortable substitution of superstition, the smug blindness by which we ignore the invisible, universal presence our ancestors were able to discern with slowly evolved awareness of its immanence. For all doubters, simply look to creativity–one concept–the endless, infinite, ever-changing, amazing creativity that is the world, things small and large, near and far, that are, even by our limited measure, eternal marvels of patterns and chaos that link light arriving to our eye before the earth was formed.

After creativity, morality is a universal set of human rules, tied to an afterlife. Sacred texts developed by communities coded behavior and designated good and bad. For Christianity, the Bible is a sacred text. Its words by many believers are considered the holy writ of God. And its believers, many people of power and influence, of education and means, are using its verses to pray for the defeat, death and the spiritual disembowelment of Barack Obama.

E-mails are being widely distributed with the title, “Pray Psalm 109:8.” Here’s the relevant section of Psalm 109 people are using to pray for Barack:

When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8 May his days be few; may another take his place in office. 9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven[a] from their ruined homes. 11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. 12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. 13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. 15 May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may blot out their name from the earth.

People around the country are praying these words, sending them to friends, specifically putting “Pray Psalm 109:8” on tee shirts, hats, and bumper stickers and earnestly bowing their heads without thought or remorse that Barack be “blotted out.” Others are using what they believe are God’s words to ridicule Barack, mocking him with the swift righteousness of  a God whose wrath is final. But God’s wrath is not theirs; their judgement is not His. By not embracing God in love, they deceive themselves and mock God.

Harriet Tubman is a major source of my own belief, this woman whose head was crushed by a 40 lb. scale weight when she was 12, leaving her in a six-month coma and with debilitating lifelong seizures and migraines. She was the height of 19th century courage as she guided small bands of the enslaved to freedom across hostile landscapes, never caught, never losing a passenger on her underground railroad, even as she lapsed into day-long seizures, never captured despite the $40,000 price tag on her head by those who condemned her victories for freedom as evil.

During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman served as a soldier, scout, spy, and nurse–but never fired a shot. She united faith and works. She healed hundreds of soldiers given up on with dysentery, using an herbal remedy she learned from the enslaved. She liberated the largest one-day total of the enslaved, over nine hundred, as she commanded three ships clearing mines from the Combahee River, a blackwater river along coastal South Carolina. She was present at the nation’s first emancipation celebration at Port Royal, SC, beginning midnight, January 1, 1863. As freedom spread across the South in its own long march, at the time and place of its notice, no soldiers died and no deaths were recorded. Freedom was unspoiled.

God’s warrior angel deserves sainthood. Her work is how God answers prayers. It shows how God intervenes, not through death but hope. God is a refuge, not an assassin. The grace and protection of God surrounded her every step. She always claimed to be guided by God’s voice.

Those who are praying the verses above are praying not for the righteous guidance of God but for his vengeance. Their praise of God corrupts his intent. Their hearts do not see God as a fortress against distress. Their stubborn hearts follow a false way. They profane the sweet honey from the rock.

Among the leaders of the Psalm 109 prayer movement is Kansas Speaker of the House, Republican Mike O’Neal. O’Neal also wrote in an e-mail: “At last – I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up – it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!” This is a man deceived by the wickedness of his own heart, a man who cannot ask for glory. He has misjudged God’s trust. Continue reading Digging Deeper: Mocking God

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