Monday, April 26, 2010

Samir Selmanovic: It's Really All About God

I am enjoying his book : It's Really All About God

"Our understanding of God is vital to us, but only if we recognize that our understanding of God is not God".

"Why are Christians, and other religious people for that matter, absent from the places where they can't be in charge?"

"We want supremacy, but that is not what we really need.  What we really need is to learn to be a part of the whole."

"Religions are meant to lose their luster to God's larger presence".

Oh, and check out this book review by his daughters -

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bless Our Mother

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my 
Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my 
Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my 
Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

~St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Go Get Em' Sarah!!

This past Friday at a Christian women's rally, Sarah Palin stirred up the faithful!  NO separation of church and state as far as she is concerned, and she is taking the battle to anyone who would say otherwise.

Well I say God bless her!  Go get em' Sarah!!

Now, what to do with all those other "Americans"? The Buddhists, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Jews, pagans, and (cough) non-believers, etc ... hmmmm, so many options that history has to offer. I like forced baptism at sword point myself... but do we really need to limit ourselves to only one option? I mean, I think in the spirit of freedom, we should allow all of those "others" to choose how they will convert to Christianity.

That's what America is all about... freedom... choice... and Christianity!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

She Is So Astute

Today I put on a T-Shirt I haven't worn in a while.  On it is a Buddhist monk, a priest, a rabbi, and an an imam walking happily arm in arm.

"Who are those people on your shirt daddy?" my daughter asked.  I explained to her who each of the men were and what religions they represent.  She laughed.

"That will never happen daddy; Christians can barely get along amongst themselves."

US Education: More Adventures in Missing the Point

I read a very disturbing article this week in the Salt Lake Tribune.  It seems the Federal Government is going to offer Utah money in exchange for changes to be made in up to 60 of our lowest scoring schools.  Though my school did not make the list, I am sure we were pretty close.  What the Feds want in exchange for the money is either:
  • Replace the principals and half their teachers.
  • Convert into charter schools.
  • Close their doors. 
  • Replace the principal and improve the school through curriculum reform, training for educators, extending learning time and other strategies.
The running theme here is that the key factor driving these student scores is the school.  I have stated this before in previous articles, but if the variable in the equation of student progress were the schools, then we should be seeing a more random distribution of successful and failing schools across socio/economic/location lines.  Yet it is very easy to predict under what socio/econoic/location circumstances schools will be successful... and under which they will not.

Nevertheless our nation's leaders, and many of the constituents they serve, seem determined to punish teachers for choosing to teach in the wrong place.

My daughter is in the sixth grade. From her earliest ages, she has been read to, had rich life experiences, a good diet, regular bed times, and protection from experiences she is not cognitively and emotionally ready for. Compare that to many of the sixth graders I teach who have very limited exposure to rich vocabulary and educational experience, who stay up till all hours tending to themselves, who have been watching violent and sexual movies since they were infants, and whose diet is primarily provided by Frito-Lay. To think that, on the whole, these two sets of life experiences will produce equal academic results is blindly idealistic. Yet, our nation seems determined to punish the principals and teachers of these inner city schools for not magically compensating for the different circumstances of these children.

However, my more immediate question is : Here in Utah, which would our legislature prefer?  To see  ANOTHER swipe taken at our public schools?  Or the chance to take up the "posture" of Utah thumbing their nose at the Federal Government?

Both good choices from their vantage I am sure.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Advice For My Republican Friends

Turn off AM talk radio. Really. It is hurting you.

I have noticed a phenomenon growing over recent years and it is this: In many Republican spheres it has now become a bad thing to be educated. To be intellectual could cause other Republicans to look at you suspiciously. To be scholarly in any fashion can put you out of the bounds of acceptability.

Many Republicans resent being viewed as uniformed, ignorant, backwater, and hick. They feel liberals try to paint them as such. However, I see this as a result of anti-intellectualism being encouraged by conservatism's loudest voices - AM radio.

Honestly, the only way someone can listen to hour after hour of the same points being repeated over and over is to encourage a dulling of the mind. The only way they can cycle through the same arguments endlessly (and thereby do very little show preparation) is to train the listeners to conditioned Pavlov responses. Soon talk radio listeners are simply mentally salivating in a pre-conditioned response to key words and phrases. There is no news or depth, just bell ringing.

Lest any listeners be pulled from their stupor, these hosts, and the politicians they keep in power, make intelligence sound like a bad idea. Just today I read of Republican resistance to an Obama court appointment:

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Liu "the very vanguard of what I would call an intellectual judicial activist."

The problem, proclaimed by this high-ranking republican, is not just being a judicial activist - it is being an intellectual judicial activist.

When Texas was recently selecting textbooks, one thing that was made clear by conservative board members was that they wanted to reduce the influence of "experts" and those in "academia".

Translation? Let's have UN-qualified individuals guiding our choices. We don't want the opinions of those who are knowledgeable of the subject matter.

Recently, I had an online political dialog with a conservative friend who accused me of intellectualism (negatively) because my reasoning was "lengthy" and used "large words". Again, in popular conservatism, that which historically would have been trumpeted is now regarded with suspicion and disdain.

David Brooks offered this commentary in the New York Post:

"What had been a disdain (among conservatives) for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole."


"Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch."

Now lest anyone think I take joy in this development, let me say NAY! I want conservatism and the Republican party to be a robust, intellectual body (and I believe segments of it are, but they are not the driving force right now). I believe this would be good for America. I want Republicans to aggressively resist the "dumbing-down" trend. To do so, I believe they need to take control of the language used within their own party. Liberals may be speaking to you as if you are uneducated, but they are only reflecting the image that you are creating. The solution is not to demand that liberal commentators respect your intelligence; it is to get your own commentators and politicians to stop referring to intelligence as if it is a bad thing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Loving Like a Grown-Up

Years ago, while traveling along the NJ turnpike on our way to Ocean City, my family needed to make a rest area stop.  Jake was still in diapers at that point, so I took him to the changing station in the bathroom.  While I was zipping him up, a gentleman stepped beside us to wash his hands at the sink next to me.  "That's a handsome boy you have there!" he declared.  I turned and said thank you...

... and saw that I was speaking to Al Franken.

He smiled, shook his hands dry, and stepped away.

I was an instant fan.  Heck, he complimented my kid.

This memory was brought back during my 11 hour drive to Albuquerque today.  For the trip, I had picked up the audio version of Al Franken's book: Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them.

It was a riveting "read" - the 11 hour drive flew by. The book was funny, enlightening, and very educational.  I had a sense that Franken was a good man when I "met" him; now I know that my first inclinations were correct.

At one point of the book, he articulated something that I had always felt but never put into words.  I have noticed for a while that I can offer critiques and compliments of America's history and policies.  My ability to honestly look at the one does not mar my appreciation of the other.

However, it is apparent that many Americans cannot do this.  They cannot hear an objective critique;  they take the critique personally and assume that anyone with a critique must be unpatriotic, or hate America.

Franken explains the phenomenon this way:

"If you listen to a lot of conservatives, they'll tell you that the difference between them and us (liberals) is that conservatives love America and liberals hate America.... They don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a 4-year-old loves her Mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world."

I actually think this phenomenon does not divide neatly along conservative and liberal lines; people are simply more complicated than those two categories.  But I understand his point.

I get similar reactions when I critique Christianity in conversations or on this blog.  Some Christians want all words spoken of Christianity to be wonderful, and anyone who critisizes it is bad.  To critique is seen as nothing but harmful.

However,  I think it would be good for our religion if we start loving Christianity like grown-ups.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monday, April 05, 2010

Exclusivism and Parenting

Most every religion and religious sect believe they have a corner on the God market. If you tend to read only books from your religion's authors and the majority of your friends are from your faith, you may have missed how prevalent that notion is. It was not until I had been in a few of the "correct" faiths, and then also had become friends with people that held opposing "correct" faiths, that I decided to reject the whole idea of exclusivism.

I mentioned in the comments section of a recent post that the "outcomes" a belief produces has become very important to me. If a belief is consistently producing bad outcomes, it probably isn't worth having. Exclusivism, it seems to me, produces a lot of bad outcomes.

I believe exclusivism has particularly nasty effects in parenting. I heard the conversations of two parents this week whose children were "no longer following the Lord". The fear, the panic, the angst. Each were mentioning ways that they are "working" on their children. Getting them books, sending them audio sermons, letting the son/daughter know that the church is praying for them.

In some cases, the relationship completely breaks down between the child and parent. The parent does not know how to deal with their child leaving the faith. So they pester, or sulk, or criticize. Soon the son or daughter quits calling because there seems to be no getting around that topic.

I read this in blogs all the time. One woman who left her faith shared part of a text conversation she had with her mother. In it, the mother tells the daughter that she still "considers her part of the fold". The daughter once again repeats that she has left that faith.  The mother replies that it hurts her when the daughter says that.

I think that reaction, like much of religion, is about control.

My wife and I were discussing this on our way home from church and, as usual, our daughter was tuned in to our conversation.

"It sounds like their acceptance of their children is very conditional," Kathryn piped in with a touch of questioning concern in her voice.

After I pulled into our driveway, I turned and tried to allay her fears.

"Sweetheart, whether you become Taoist or Atheist, Buddhist or Baptist; none of that will ever affect how much I support and love you! You can choose what you want, and I will back you."

My daughter smiled from ear to ear, then threw her arms around me. "I love you Daddy!"

She was happy because she knew she was FREE!

My children mean more to me than any religion - every day of the week and twice on Sunday!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Will Someone PLEASE think of the Bunnies?!

Happy Easter!

Resurrection: by Rob Bell

"Every act of Compassion matters! Every work of Art that celebrates the good, matters!"

Resurrection: Rob Bell from The Work of Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Follow the Logic

I am really starting to love Pearls Before Swine.

Pearls Before Swine

HT: Experimental Theology
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