Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hamid Taqvaee on the right to nuclear weapons

Maryam Namazie interviews Hamid Tagvaee of the
Worker-communist Party of Iran in this post titled: There is no ‘right’ to nuclear weapons.

Here's an interesting quote from Tagvaee on the West's cultural relativsim when it comes to non-Europeans.
Maryam Namazie: When it comes to the ‘third world’, you often see the people living there being given the same opinion as the government of that country whereas that wouldn’t be the case in the west. For example, if the British government has nuclear weapons, it doesn’t automatically mean that it has a right to them or that the British people agree with its having such weapons. Why does that happen, especially when it comes to political Islamic groups or the Islamic Republic of Iran?

Hamid Taqvaee: The problem is that public opinion in western countries or to be exact the media and the government in western countries, categorise people in the ‘Third World’ in this way. They want to make people believe that whatever happens there and whatever the regimes do there are what people there want. And automatically this implies that governments in the Middle East or in Third World countries are representing their own people. Add to this cultural relativism and you can see what is going on. As a result, they say that Iran is an Islamic country; whatever the Islamic Republic says is what people think and so automatically they conclude that the people of Iran support the Islamic Republic’s securing of nuclear weapons. But the real situation in this case and almost every political issue is the exact opposite. The people of Iran automatically oppose what the Islamic regime says and wants because the people of Iran despise this government. Their position on the nuclear issue is opposite of what the government says.

Stonnings cancelled in Iran

A follow up to this post maybe proving signing these petitions does count for something. The latest from Maryam Namazie: The Islamic Republic of Iran does not dare stone anyone else!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

FDR's meaning of Christmas

From Jon Meacham in today's WaPo,
Sixty-five Christmas Eves ago, on the South Portico in 1941, with Churchill at his side, FDR declared: "Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies . . . Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us and all men everywhere."

For a nation at war, whatever our politics or our religion, it remains an ageless message.

Stephen Schwartz: Wahhabis or "Salafis"?

Stephen Schwartz writing in the Weekly Standard,
The Sunni terrorists in Iraq have worked even more linguistic magic on Western media, who have assigned them the title of "insurgents." But too much blood has been shed for Westerners to continue flattering Muslim extremists in this manner.

The Sunni murderers in Iraq are terrorists, not insurgents.

And they are Wahhabis, backed by Saudi Arabia, not pious "Salafis."

As George Orwell knew, the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their real names.
Also just finished Fouad Ajami's The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq . It hammered home for me that there was indeed a plan for Iraq after the war and we picked the wrong one: The State Dept and CIA's CPA instead of DoD's backing for Chalabi. Congress needs to read Ajami and call Bremer to some hearings.

Sen Durbin should send these troops a card

Excerpts from a letter from Col. Wade F. Dennis, JTF GTMO, APO AE 09360 posted at Democracy Project via Ratzinger Fan Club,
Instead of bullets and IEDs, troopers here duck noxious "cocktails" of the fab five: feces, urine, spit, semen, and vomit tossed into their faces. They don't receive Purple Hearts when an enemy detainee requests a comfort item then grabs the hand of the kind guard passing it to him and breaks the trooper's arm or wrist.

Do you want to guess who receives the Christmas and Holiday greetings here in Guantanamo? The terrorist detainees who are confined here to keep them from killing you and your families! Last year alone Guantanamo detainees received more than 14,000 cards, the vast majority from muddle-headed well-wishers and sympathizers. This year local authorities estimate the number may exceed 16,000! Some are addressed to the detainees by name or by their detainee number, available on the Pentagon website. Most are simply addressed to "Any Detainee at Guantanamo."

Like the other 40,000 or so pieces of detainee mail that transit the post office on the base the cards are distributed into the cells. The cards are passed out to the detainees by troopers who may themselves not have received any sort of greeting from home in a long time. Some of the troops here are wary about the way they are perceived by their friends and families at home. One officer said that "nobody in my family was in the military. None of my friends have the slightest clue of what we do here. They think I'm some kind of brutal jailor or something."

It's hard to blame the American public for being ignorant about real conditions here considering that their opinions are shaped in large part by politicians eager to score points against the president by trashing the soldiers at Guantanamo, or by a compliant media ready to believe and promulgate the worse without the trouble of fact-checking or balancing the story.

These troops have been called terrible names by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from Massachusetts. On the House side Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha act as if the troops are the problem and not the terrorists. No wonder some reservists who have returned from tours in Guantanamo to the States are reluctant to tell their friends where they served.
xp Illinoiz

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jesus, Mahdi both coming, says Iran's Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad on WWJD via Regime Change Iran,
"I wish all the Christians a very happy new year and I wish to ask them a question as well," said Ahmadinejad, according to an Iranian Student News Agency report cited by

"My one question from the Christians is: What would Jesus do if he were present in the world today? What would he do before some of the oppressive powers of the world who are in fact residing in Christian countries? Which powers would he revive and which of them would he destroy?" asked the Iranian leader.
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom." he said.
"I have traveled to all the continents except for one, and I know what is going on out there. Everybody is eager to hear the Iranian people's message," the Aftab-Yazd newspaper quoted the president as saying, according to Agence France-Presse. "The world is rapidly becoming Ahmadinejadized."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Illinois, the Ukraine, stem cells, and the left

Cross posted from Illinoiz.

Suprized Jill hasn't hit us with this yet. Let me. And let me refer you back to some British Communists writing in the British Medical Journal.
Although most of the ethical debate has focused on the status of the embryo, this is to define ethics with no reference to global or gender justice. There has been little or no debate about possible exploitation of women, particularly of ovum donors from the South. Countries of the South without national ethics committees or guidelines may be particularly vulnerable: although there is increasing awareness of the susceptibility of poorer countries to abuses in research ethics, very little has been written about how they might be affected by the enormously profitable new technologies exploiting human tissue. Even in the UK, although the new Medical Research Council guidelines make a good deal of the 'gift relationship', what they are actually about is commodification. If donors believe they are demonstrating altruism, but biotechnology firms and researchers use the discourse of commodity and profit, we have not 'incomplete commodification' but complete commodification with a plausibly human face.[my emphaisis]
It's not just an issue of the Christian right. The potential is there for the most appalling kind of exploitation of the most helpless people.

I hope Leader Cross knows what he's bringing with this issue.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Khaled Kasab Mahameed

From The Forward: Iran Denies Visa to an Arab Shoah Scholar
Khaled Kasab Mahameed waited until the very last moment, hoping that his visa would come through. A Muslim lawyer from the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, he had reserved a seat on an afternoon flight December 10 from Amman to Tehran, expecting to address Iran’s international conference on the Holocaust. His bag was packed. His wife and two children were ready to take him at 9:00 a.m. to the Jordanian border crossing.

But at 9:00 a.m., his hopes were dashed. In a phone call to the Iranian Embassy in Amman, a clerk informed him that there was no visa waiting for him. “I was so disappointed,” he said. “I sat depressed, and I waited an hour and called again. Then another hour and called again. In the end, they said Israelis don’t get visas.”
Unlike Western leaders who spoke out against dignifying the conference by attending, Mahameed saw an opportunity. He believes that if Arabs and Muslims don’t study the Holocaust, if they continue to deny it, then they will not be able to deal with the conflicts they face.

“It’s very important that they begin to study the significance of the Holocaust,” Mahameed said. “It affects relations between East and West, and it dictates policy regarding the Palestinians in particular.”
The secret to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, according to Mahameed, depends on the Arabs and Muslims learning about the Holocaust — the subject of his lecture — and the Jews, in turn, getting over their fear.

“When you don’t understand the Holocaust, it hinders the peace process,” he said. “I wanted to go tell the Iranians that when you play down the Holocaust or deny it, you are directly hurting the Palestinian refugees who are in camps. By denying it, they are making the Jewish people feel persecuted — which doesn’t allow options for peace to develop.”
Like all messengers, Mahameed has not had an easy time. He stood at Kalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem on Auschwitz Remembrance Day last January, and at a conference held by controversial Arab Israeli lawmaker Azmi Bishara at which he distributed pamphlets about the Holocaust that he printed with his own money.

“People get angry and say, ‘No, I don’t want it,’” he said. He sometimes gets ugly comments on his Arabic-language Holocaust Web site. Once, he said, a Hamas activist threatened his life. Mahameed managed to convince him to give up firing Qassam rockets.

Mahameed remains optimistic. “Just give me two months, and I can make peace here,” he said. “You laugh. I’m serious.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hillary Clinton's "religiousity"

Respublica finds some looking at it. Clinton can't win sometimes (except for elections) with some folks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

For the optimists

Powerline on Ahmadinejad, don't doubt or underestimate this threat.
As president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has regularly denied the Holocaust, called for the elimination of Israel and publicly supported Iran's nuclear weapons program. He has intimated that the program is on track to culminate in March. His repeated attack on Israel's legitimacy -- its right to exist -- seems to be the predicate for the physical destruction of Israel and its people.

The city of Jerusalem is apparently not so holy that it is worth preserving if Jews govern it. So long as Israel can be destroyed, so the thinking goes, the Arab and Muslim citizens of Israel are equally expendable, as are the Arab and Muslim people in Israel's immediate vicinity.

It is striking to me how unseriously Ahmadinejad's and Iran's words, actions, plans, pronouncements are taken. Yet Ahmadinehad's threats are not limited to Israel. He has explicitly threatened Europe and forged an anti-American alliance with Hugh Chavez. Something wicked this way comes.

For the pessimists: The Global Poor Are Getting Richer, Faster

...and it's not God's work. It's our own and mostly attributed to free trade and globalization. from TCS Daily
In a report out today, The World Bank looks both at current economic growth rates and projections for the next 25 years. The report, Global Economics Prospects 2007 says "developing economies are projected to grow by 7.0 percent in 2006,more than twice as fast as high-income countries (3.1 percent), with all developing regions growing by about 5 percent or more." While these nations have only 22 percent of global GDP they accounted for 38 percent of the increase in global output. And they are expected to increase their share of global output by about 50 percent by 2030.
The net result is that the income of developing countries "will continue to converge with those of wealthy countries. This would imply that countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Turkey would have average living standards roughly comparable to Spain today."

As good as this is the Bank says things could be even better. They believe their projections "are fairly impervious to all but the most severe and sustained shocks" but they also admit that "the possibility exists that the world will be even better than envisioned... thanks possibly to unanticipated technological improvements, more innovation in business processes that allow for an acceleration of globalization and widespread adoptions of good policies within countries."

Their "optimistic" scenario would lead to incomes 45 percent higher than today and a decline of absolute poverty from 20 percent of the world's population to 4 percent. So many people seem to intentionally look for bad news or invent it. It's a nice change of pace to find a report from a world body which says that the future is either bright or very bright.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Shia Revival

Finished Vali Nasr's The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future and found it an excellent short read on the differences between Shia and Sunni variants of Islam. An Amazon reviewer writes,
By creating the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam, we have ignited hopes among the region's 150 million Shiites. Yet, our policy still operates under the old assumptions of Sunni dominance.

It never fails that actions often lead to unintended consequences. In this case, however, Nasr clearly lays out a case that there will be no quick fixes.
I don't think igniting the hopes such a bad thing. I did reinforce my feeling that much of what we Americans know of Islam and the Arab world is shaped by a Sunni prejudice fostered by Saudi Arabia and Aramco going well back into the 1950s.

Also, The Belmont Club on al-Zarqawi's feelings about the Shia Revival,
An interview with al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, shortly before he was killed by a US bomb, shows he hated Iraqi Shi'ites more than Americans. Hated them so much he was willing to start a war with the Shi'ites in the hope that the resulting conflagration would burn the Americans out. "
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Advent Vespers at Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois

Attended Vespers last night and found them a very welcome respite from winter's cold and all sorts of family and work concerns. I suspect it's the idea of our new Associate Minister and I hope he keeps the ideas coming.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

President Bush Meets with His Eminence Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq

I tire of folks who tell me the United States is waging war against Muslims, instead waging a war as allies of Muslims; who also do a good deal of the dying.

Bush met in the White House Tuesday with Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Here's the press release (HT CENTCOM) and some quotes on how the revolutionists sees the revolution going,
The Iraqi situation has been subjected to a great deal of defamation, and the true picture is not being presented in order to show a dark side of what's happening in Iraq. We see the attempts to defame and distort the situation in Iraq not taking into consideration the democratic steps that that country has taken, writing the constitution and establishing a state that depends heavily on the constitution, that it is unified and that it is strong. There are attempts to show the sectarian strife in an attempt to weaken the position in Iraq.

The U.S. interests, the Iraqi interests, the regional interests, they are all linked. Therefore, it is very important when we deal with this issue, we look at the interests of the Iraqi people. If we don't, this whole issue could backfire and could harm the interests of the region, the United States, and Iraq, as well.

Therefore, we believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process. Iraq should be in a position to solve Iraqi problems. We welcome any effort that could enhance the democratic reality in Iraq and protect the constitutional role of that state.

We have gone a long way to establish a democratic and pluralistic society in Iraq. We have given a great deal of sacrifice to achieving the objective. We cherish all the sacrifices that took place for the liberation and the freedom of Iraq, sacrifices by the Iraqi people, as well as friendly nations, and on top of that list, sacrifices by the Americans. We have now an elected government in Iraq, a government that is so determined to combat both violence and terror, a government that it is -- strongly believes in the unity of that government and of that country and the society, a government that deals and will deal with all the sources of terrorism regardless where they come from.

We will work very hard and seek all forms of cooperation at the international level and the regional level in order to defeat terrorism that it is trying to use Iraq as a base in order to sabotage the future of that nation.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for allowing me this opportunity to meet with you. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank the American people and their sympathy toward Iraq, those who helped Iraq to get rid of a brutal dictatorship and to enjoy freedom and liberties. [Baar's emphasis]

Sewell quotes Kerry

She doesn't allow comments but posts on the Iraq Study Group and quotes Kerry,
"Who would want to ask someone to be the last soldier to die in a war that should never have been fought?" (or something to that effect)
Get a copy of Frank Snepps Decent Interval and check the index for Bill Guy and Jim Brown. They were with the Defense Audit Service in Saigon, and were some of the last Americans to leave.

I worked with Brown in the Pentagon in the early 80s, and a third guy; who I'll call CA. CA worked for Brown and left on a baby flight just before the one that crashed killing about 150.

CA told me he never thought the United States would abandon the Vietnamese. Right up until the end he thought the B52s would come in like the calvary and save the day.

We've allied ourselves in Iraq with Arab and Kurd, Shia and Sunni, Muslims, Christians, and Secularists. They die every day in a fight that is just as much ours: a fight for the chance for a liberal and just society in the middle east.

Raïd Fahmi is an Iraqi Communist and Iraq's Minister for Science and Culture. The French Communist daily l’Humanité interviewed Fahmi and he spoke these words to the Peace Movement.
What we need, is for those who support the independence of Iraq, and this country’s development, wherever they may be in the world, to express their solidarity for those who are fighting for these objectives. Unfortunately, stances have been taken by some of these forces which play in favor of political currents which are opposed to democracy. On the one hand, they talk about democracy and secularism, but in fact, they take positions which weaken, rather than reinforce the democratic and progressive trends in the country.
Sewell's words weaken democracy and progressive thought in Iraq. Realism her words may be, but lets not dress them up otherwise. If one can't express solidarity with some noble Comrades, just say so.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP: Bring back Saddam" ...? Human Rights in Iraq and Beyond

Concluding comments to a speech that should be read in full. Via Labour Friends of Iraq.

Speech by the Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP on the occasion of the
Carolyn A. Wilson Lecture 2006

"Bring back Saddam" ...? Human Rights in Iraq and Beyond'
Wellesley College
15 November 2006
So, where do we go from here?

We have acted in the Balkans, in Sierra Leone, in East Timor, in the Congo . . . . and in Iraq.

Many of you are probably wondering, however, whether, knowing what I do today, with Iraq blighted by sectarian division and continued bloodshed, I would have still supported military action in Iraq.

Was life under Saddam, better than it is now in Iraq now, and better than it will be in future?

The post-liberation phase did not exactly turn out as we hoped. There were many mistakes made. I regret particularly that the promotion of human rights was not more central to our strategy.

But too much criticism is levied at those of us who supported the action in Iraq.

Because by acting, we were to a large extent, enforcing up to 20 UN Security Council Resolutions, that had been broken over many, many years.

The world had to show that such abuse will not be tolerated.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the depravity of this regime.

And let us not forget the mistakes of those who refused to get involved. Those who were blinded by short-term economic and political interests. Those who were in Saddam’s pocket.

So yes, I remain thankful for Saddam’s downfall.

And Iraq won’t always be the way it is now. It will get better.

Nation-building is always a long-term exercise, a continuing and evolving process. Look at Kosovo, Afghanistan and East Timor – or further back in history, the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after the Second World War.

So I believe that the recovery from the legacy of Saddam will take time, but it will happen.

For much of my political life, I have gone against the grain.

Deciding whether, when, and how to act, entails making some hard and sometimes very uncomfortable choices.

Sometimes to end violence, force has to be used.

Sometimes to protect the sanctity of human life, lives are lost.

And, if the mistakes made in Iraq, lead to the international community ignoring the need for humanitarian intervention in the future, great suffering will result. The world will become a more dangerous place for all of us.

We cannot duck these issues.

As Winston Churchill said:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

I appeal to you to remember these words throughout your lives. Don’t be frightened to take a stand.

Believe me, it is the true measure of our humanity.

The Independent: Disembowelled, then torn apart: The price of daring to teach girls

The Independent via Power Line, Gay Patriot, and Blackfive
The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

For all the UU's who thought Dick Cheney was the war profiteer

Here's what the chief fund raiser for Illinois's Gov Blagojevich was up too in Iraq. From the Chicago Sun Times,
Federal authorities are investigating an Iraqi power plant deal involving Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former top fund-raiser for Gov. Blagojevich charged with defrauding Illinois taxpayers.
Investigators want to talk to Iraq's jailed former electricity minister, Aiham Alsammarae, about how Rezko landed the potentially lucrative contract, a source familiar with the probe told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alsammarae, who holds dual U.S.-Iraqi citizenship and has a house in Oak Brook, helped Rezko get the deal, another source said.

Rezko and others in the venture were to own the plant and sell electricity back to the Iraqis, but the Iraqi government still was to pay a substantial portion of construction costs, that source added.

Maryam Namazie: 7 women at risk of stoning

Namazie's link is to AI's petition.
Maryam Namazie: 7 women at risk of stoning: "7 women are at risk of imminent execution by stoning in Iran. Sign the petition against it by clicking here.

This outrage has to be stopped now!"

B16: ...the inalienable rights of the human person, especially freedom.

Neuhaus writing on Bendict XVI's visit to Turkey.
During his days in Turkey, all the diplomatic niceties were observed, but Benedict did not back away even 1 inch from the challenge he raised at Regensburg. On the contrary, he repeatedly asserted that religion must repudiate violence, and underscored the duty of states to protect religious freedom.

The last point is a very touchy issue in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, where Christians are less than one half of 1% of the population. Despite all the attention to Christian-Muslim relations, the chief purpose of the Pope's trip was to express solidarity with Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and the symbolic leader of the world's 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. Confined by the Turkish government to a small area of Istanbul called the Phanar, the ecumenical patriarchate is under siege and denied the most elementary rights to own property or conduct its own ministries.

Contrary to some media reports, notably in The New York Times, the Pope did not bless Turkey's admission to the European Union. Rather, he and Bartholomew issued a joint statement that such admission must be conditioned upon respect for "the inalienable rights of the human person, especially freedom. In every step toward unification, minorities must be respected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion."

So was the visit to Turkey a success? If success is measured by clarifying the challenge of radical Islam and expressing solidarity with religious minorities under Islamic rule, the answer is certainly Yes.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Islam and Women's rights: Today it is the Right that has latched on to women's rights.

Pamerla Bone writing in The Austrialian about a conference in New York of Muslim Women you won't find covered in our MSM.
Maryam Namazie, a British-based human rights activist, said recently: "Debating the issue of women's rights in an Islamic context is a prescription for inaction and passivity, in the face of the oppression of millions of women struggling and resisting in Britain, the Middle East and elsewhere. Anywhere they (Islamists) have power, to be a woman is a crime."

Namazie is of the Left. She is the director of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran's International Relations Committee and has been named British secularist of the year. But in general, she notes, the Left, the traditional defender of human rights, is silent about the oppression of Muslim women. The reasons are that political Islam is seen as anti-imperialist, racism is these days much worse than sexism and minorities are automatically to be supported. (Some minority; Islamism is the strongest and fastest-growing ideology in the world.) Change must come from within, say the good liberals. Strangely, no one said that about South Africa's apartheid system.

Today it is the Right that has latched on to women's rights. John Howard was an unlikely feminist until various sheiks began expounding their theories about women's role in society. It was only when Osama bin Laden became a threat that George W. Bush started talking about the freedom of Afghan women. No one cared about the Taliban when all they were doing was oppressing the female half of the population.

Given that a half-billion Muslim women are not going to abandon their faith, the only way they can be liberated is for Islam and women's rights to be reconciled. That is why all power and support - and maximum publicity - should be given to Muslim women reformers.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Archbishop Ncube: Zimbabwe is not a nation at war

More on Zimbabwe via Catholic News Service with a HT to Belmont Club,
Archbishop Ncube, who was in London to raise funds for an AIDS charity, blamed the crisis on the mismanagement of the country under Mugabe over the last seven years.

"Zimbabwe is not a nation at war," Archbishop Ncube said. "It used to be able to feed itself and its neighbors. Zimbabwe used to have one of the highest life-expectancy rates in Africa.

"And these figures cannot just be blamed on AIDS," he added.

He said the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front government, or Zanu-PF, was not investing in medicine to treat AIDS because it was "more interested in importing military aircraft from China than protecting (the) lives of its people."

"We remain in the grip of a dictator. ... We cannot compete for attention in a world fixated by events in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan and elsewhere. Yet we need the international community to maintain pressure on Zanu-PF now as much as ever before," he said.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sexuality and Religion: What's the Connection?: Pope's visit to Turkey

Sexuality and Religion: What's the Connection?: Pope's visit to Turkey

Above Rev Deb's post on Benedict's (B16's!) visit to Turkey. I think B16 is putting Liberal-Religous to shame arguing cases we should be fighting.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Litvinenko's statement: May God forgive you

I knew the US would be tested after the elections with bombings in Iraq, but Litvinenko's and Gemayel's murders creating a perfect storm.

Here's Litvinenko's final testament via IHT,
But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Abortion and Gay Marriage

A post over at the group blog Illinoiz devoted to Illinois Politics....

Not excatly Illinois but these are issues that impact rebuilding the GOP in this State.

A while back, Lexington in the Economist wrote A heretical proposal why overturning Roe v Wade could be good for Democrats.
The main reason, alas, why Democrats will stick by Roe is simply because it is a totem in the culture wars. Why should pro-choice forces surrender any ground? That argument makes sense if you want to defend “choice” right into the ninth month, as some zealots do. But for most Democrats who merely want to keep abortion legal under most circumstances, that right would be more secure if it carried democratic legitimacy.

Embracing the democratic process would send a powerful signal that the Party of the People has rediscovered its faith in the people. Relying on judges to advance the liberal agenda allowed conservatives to seize the mantle of populism. Roe has given Republicans a free ride: they can claim to oppose abortion in the comfortable knowledge that it will never be banned. But imagine if Roe were overturned. How many Republicans would vote for a ban on abortion that only one in five Americans support? The conservative coalition would be split asunder.
Democrats still clinging to the totems when it comes to abortion, and (and with same sex marriage in Mass where they're fighting putting it on the ballot), but Barone blog explains how the South Dakota vote (prompeted I'd wager by having Alito and Roberts on the court) has removed abortion as a litmus test issue,
Prolifers should learn from South Dakota that they aren't going to be able to ban abortion entirely, at least not in any but a few small places. Prochoicers should be noticing that the restrictions that legislatures have been placing on abortion do not prevent abortions from being generally and widely available. Voters even in South Dakota have shown themselves unwilling to agree with prolifers that abortion is morally entirely unacceptable. But voters who have supported restrictions on abortion have shown themselves unwilling to agree with those prochoicers who consider the provision of abortion an unalloyed moral good. The status quo is not acceptable to the rigorous purists among us, and is probably not entirely congenial to most of us. But it seems to be acceptable to the great majority. And so it may be that the abortion issue will be less of a motive force, on both sides, in our politics.
The Republican-Conservative consensus on the social issues should on Scalia's comment,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia railed against the era of the "judge-moralist," saying judges are no better qualified than "Joe Sixpack" to decide moral questions such as abortion and gay marriage.
For me, that's the conservative principle worth fighting for. The lesson for the GOP in Illinois is taking these issues to the voters means first of all not demonizing the opponents and next realizing when the majority decides moral issues; we're going to get middling-resolutions. They may not be particularly moral resolution but unless you're arguing putting these decisions back into the hands of judges, it's going to be the best you can get.

I'd stick with Justice Scalia and put my trust in the people of Illinois.

xp Illinoiz

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Zimbabwe: This cull is not an act of God.

From the Independent via NormsBlog,
The World Health Organisation has plotted this precipitous fall in women's mortality in the former British colony from 65, little more than a decade ago, to today's low. Speaking privately, WHO officials admitted to The Independent that the real number may be as low as 30, as the present figures are based on data collected two years ago.

The reasons for this plunge are several. Zimbabwe has found itself at the nexus of an Aids pandemic, a food crisis and an economic meltdown that is killing an estimated 3,500 people every week. That figure is more than those dying in Iraq, Darfur or Lebanon. In war-torn Afghanistan, where women's plight has received global attention, life expectancy is still above 40.

This cull is not an act of God. It is a catastrophe aggravated by the ruthless, kleptocratic reign of Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980. The Mugabe regime has succeeded in turning a country once fêted as the breadbasket of Africa into a famished and demoralised land deserted by its men of working age, with its women left to die a silent death.
And from Micahael Quinlin on the shift in meaning of the word Cull.
So cull has shifted sense from “selection of the best” to “mass disposal”. Not a good move, you may feel.
Well, the new meaing fits this story.... a mass disposal this is. A disposal we in the west indifferent too, and no act of the Gods for sure.

xp Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, November 12, 2006


We went last night and walked out after the first third. I hope these people successful with their law suit. It was a cruel movie.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Reflection's Alfie Question: How Many Gods?

She doesn't allow comments, so....
Question: "In a room of 300 Unitarian Universalists, such as we are today , how many gods are in this room?"

One. Light comes in many and varied forms, so that we may see according to our needs, predispositions, and cultural conditioning. The problem comes when we think that the shape of our God needs to be the shape of everyone else's God.
But she's lobbing a slow pitch to the faithful here. Ratzinger beat her to the punch anyways.

Forget counting Gods. We'll find that answer for certain. It's the Demons we fight. They're real, abundent, and for certain.

Homeless in Springfield

I know an empty mansion Mayor Davlin could use.

From Illinois Times via the Unitarian Universalist blog: Z's Journal of Thoughts,
“They [homeless] are good for the politicians and the politics in this town,” she says. “It gives them something to talk about.”

“The mayor, the City Council, and the powers that run the city get together, conjure up grand ideas with big words, and throw money to study the problem. They then publish it in the newspaper and pat themselves on the back about how they are solving homelessness.”
xp Illinoiz

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lakoff, Hofstadter, and Rev McTigue at coffee hour

An email to a fellow UU following a chat about Lakoff at coffee hour yesterday.
We chatted about Lakoff yesterday? I'm having a hard time matching names and email addresses.

Here is a link to the column on Lakoff by Jesse Walker in Reason Magazine. Here's the key quote for me,

It would be interesting to see some real research on the relationship between political and family values, and perhaps some day some admirer of Lakoff will confirm, refute, or complicate the correlations the linguist has extrapolated from James Dobson's childrearing manuals. For now, we're left with an elaborate variation on the ancient libertarian joke that Republicans want the government to be your father, Democrats want the government to be your mother, and libertarians want to treat you as an adult. Except that Lakoff's frame doesn't have room for the third option, or for any variations of the left or right that call the parental metaphor into question.

I feel like were being hoodwinked by a guy replaying an old joke and dropping the punch line on us because the reality is everyone wants the government to treat them as adults.

Here is the link to E. J. Dionne's column on David S. Brown's "Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography". Let me quote what I find the key point and a profound failure that's contributed to the decline of Liberalism, both politically and theologically.

Many progressives and reformers, he argued, represented an old Anglo-Saxon middle class who suffered from "status anxiety" in reaction to the rise of a vulgar new business elite. Hofstadter analyzed the right wing of the 1950s and early 1960s in similar terms. Psychological disorientation and social displacement became more important than ideas or interests.

Now, Hofstadter was exciting precisely because he brilliantly revised accepted and sometimes pious views of what the populists and progressives were about. But there was something dismissive about Hofstadter's analysis that blinded liberals to the legitimate grievances of the populists, the progressives and, yes, the right wing.

The late Christopher Lasch, one of Hofstadter's students and an admiring critic, noted that by conducting "political criticism in psychiatric categories," Hofstadter and his intellectual allies excused themselves "from the difficult work of judgment and argumentation."

Lasch added archly: "Instead of arguing with opponents, they simply dismissed them on psychiatric grounds."

That's the danger I find with Lakoff's kind of analysis. It's not empirical as Walker points out and simply offers a way to avoid the difficult work of judgement and argumentation of issues by just grouping people as nurturers and authoritarians (which side are you on?).

I stumbled on a glaring example of it with Rev McTigue from the UU Church in Hartford. She was on O'Riley talking about a bill board she and others had purchased in Hartford accusing Sen Lieberman of Torture.

O'Riley asked her define torture and she said she didn't know what it was. Then O'Riley asked her should captured combatants --who are fighting outside the Geneva Convention rules-- be held to the convention requirement of only having to disclose name, rank, and serial number. If there was more that could be asked of them? If there was more that could be coerced and if so, how?

She admittedly had no answer on these questions. She said that and then rambled about what Jesus would do. Which was also vague but it sure sounded like Jesus would be a nurturer and not an authoritarian.

I found her appearance a hugely embarressing failure to articulate a position on a serious issue. (She also wore a clerical collar I wish should would have chucked!) She just avoided the difficlut work of arguing her case.

William Safire wrote early on about the conflicts between Rumsfeld and Gonzales (then a White House counsel) as they argued the same issue early on. They anticipated getting POWs for whom the Geneva Convention wouldn't apply and the issue became what is torture (something wrong that we cannot do) and what is permissible coercive interrogation which is something we can do to those captured fighting outside the rules of war in the convention (if we chose too, maybe we should just hold them to name, rank, and serial number).

The administration undertook a hard debate our own Rev McTigue has failed to sort out herself years later.

It speaks so poorly for us that we're silent or worse: we protest yet have no answers to hard, but straightforward questions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Marilyn Sewell on the Presence of Evil and Pożegnanie z Marią

She writes, Do you believe that there are evil people in the world (aka Scott Peck's People of the Lie)? How do we best deal with them in an authentic, yet self-protective manner?

Read Tadeusz Borowski's Pożegnanie z Marią. One story translated here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Scot Giles is blogging

And it's a very good thing because I enjoyed his sermons back at Oak Park's Unity Temple. Here's his blog.

I served on the board with Scot. That experience convinced me to never again have anything to do with a historical-structure with a cult-following; but Scot's sermons were always insightful.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

David Warren on Islamica's publication of responses to Benedict: We have relgions because journalism cannot tell us what we need to know.

David Warren's conclusion on Islamica's publication of an open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI by 38 leading Muslim Scholars and Leaders.
Islam is thus, in the words of 38 of its most qualified living exponents, not merely "a religion of peace", but more essentially a religion of love -- of love, from and for the one God we all worship; the one true Lord we know by His works, and who is Love in all His actions. For what is done in hatred cannot be done in God's name, and will always be false religion.

Now take this in. In a moment of increasing worldwide violence and tension, Pope Benedict XVI issued a call, echoing his predecessor John-Paul II, for a real dialogue between religions at the highest level of reason. And authoritative spiritual leaders of the Islamic umma responded favourably to this, and declared, in a fine, noble, and open spirit: "Let the dialogue begin!" This is news of very great significance. It should have been the top headline in every newspaper in the world.

But our media -- West and East -- report this, when at all, as some kind of sidebar on the terror war; as if the Muslim leaders had merely accepted an "apology" from the Pope for having hurt some Muslims' feelings.

This is why we have religions. Because journalism cannot tell us what we need to know.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moral Pride

An exchange on it and Nieburhr with A Religious Liberal.

Elizabeth Sifton on Neibuhr's Serenity Prayer

Read Elizabeth Sifton's The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War . My Amazon review below,
A disappointing book. Far too much opinion without analysis on today's politics and aggravatingly few recollections of the interesting people who filled Sifton's youth.

I had to keep repeating the prayer for serenity-of-mind to get through it; hoping I'd find a nugget or two of insight, or a story about some of these great thinkers in Sifton's life, before hitting the back cover.

Stephen Barr on Richard Dawkin's God Delusion

Barr reviews Dawkins latest book over at First Things and saves me the burden of haing to read it.

More evidence to me the argument between evolutionists and ID is between people who never made it past Calculus.
As one moves deeper into nature—to levels about which the natural historian and zoologist can tell us nothing—one encounters not less and less form but increasingly magnificent mathematical structures, structures so profound that even the greatest mathematicians are having difficulty understanding them. This is what Pope Benedict was referring to in his Regensburg lecture when he spoke of “the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, . . . the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature.” It is what the great mathematician Hermann Weyl meant when he said, “[I]n our knowledge of physical nature we have penetrated so far that we can obtain a vision of the flawless harmony which is in conformity with sublime reason.” It is what the great astrophysicist James Jeans meant when he said, “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”

At the foundations of the natural world, we do not find merely slime or dust or some dull insensate stuff. We find ideas of sublime beauty. Dawkins looks at mind and sees atoms in motion. Physicists look at those atoms, and deep below those atoms, and see—or, at least, some of them have seen—the products of “sublime reason,” “a great thought,” a Mind.

In other words, in nature we see a different arrow: It moves from Mind to ideas and forms, and from ideas and forms to matter. In the beginning was the Logos, St. John tells us, and the Logos was God.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi's arrest

…Tell the world that Boroujerdi did not fear death…. He defended an Islam which promotes love and kindness not the Islam that these lot advocate which has brought poverty, corruption, prostitution, addiction ….I don’t want you to risk your lives for me, I just want you to tell the world what happened here,.

The video of his arrest here via PJ Media. The first part of the video is regime cleric asking Boroujerdi's supporters to disperse. The end is Boroujerdi's farwell and the above quote is a partial translation from it.

A little more about him and his arrest over at Open Democracy.

xp at Bill Baar's West Side

Update Aug 9, 2008: The link to the video is down so here is the youtube,

Rev. Kathleen McTigue interview with O'Reilly on torture

Just stumbled while flipping channels on The Unitarian Society of New Haven's Rev. Kathleen McTigue interview with O'Reilly about McTigue's bill board accusing Senator Lieberman of voting for torture.

McTigue admitted to O'Reilly she could neither define torture or agree if captured terrorists should be held to the Geneva Convention's standard of POWs only being required to give name, rank, and serial number when interrogated.

McTigue dodged the questions and did not do us proud, as a faith of razor-sharp reason.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Say what? liberal religion needs to reimagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant.

A Luthern friend who calls herself a traditional Christian (not a conservative because that's too linked to the secular and politics) read Mike Hogue's call for a reformation of Liberal Relgion and asked,

Bill, I don't understand what he is saying here, "liberal religion needs to reimagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant."

How would he define historically faithful? And, how does a person marry the culturally relevant with the historically faithful since they are often diametrically opposed?

Hogue wrote back,
I would argue that the idea that the histories of traditions, Christian or otherwise, have little contemporaray cultural relevevance is a symptom of our late-modern historical chauvinism. History has a great deal to teach us. Especially in a time of the increase of global dynamics, it would reward us to investigate the world's religious traditions as carriers of global impulses, inquiring into their constructive possibilities venues for the increase of intercultural understanding, justice, and love.

I think it is crucial to recover a sense of humility before the historic narratives and symbols of the traditions that form us. No tradition, if it is a genuine tradition of thinking, is ever static but is always dynamically bringing its historic resources to bear on contemporary issues. The contemporary cultural anemia of UUism is in some measure the result of many in our movement abandoning the cognitive and practical moral depths of our historical roots.

More specifically, I think contemporary UUism needs to recover, and through recovery to integrate, the insights of the humanistic and theistic patterns of thinkng that are at the roots of religious liberalism. That UUism seems to have spun off from its historical theological framework, and embraced an the politics of identity as its reason for being, is a particularly pernicious instance of the charge that liberal religion is culturally capitulative rather than culturally prophetic. The liberal religious life, if true to its original prophetic origins, needs to be about much more than appeasement of our existential definitional anxieties. If we're not a constructive cultural-political movement, engaging the politics of culture from distinctly liberal theological perspectives, enacting church in a particularly liberal prophetic way, then we'll continue to shrink ourselves into obsolescence.
Culturally capitulative rathar than culturally prophetic is exactly the problem CUUMBAYA surfaced here.

Mike Hogue on recovering the roots of Religious Liberalism

Some quotes from email exchanges with Mike Hogue, Assistant Professor of Theology, Meadville Lombard Theological School.

I quoted Hoque,
I think contemporary UUism needs to recover, and through recovery to integrate, the insights of the humanistic and theistic patterns of thinkng that are at the roots of religious liberalism.
and I asked,
How exactly, does one go about the recovery? How does a lay person, a Church member; go about that?
He wrote back,
I have several ideas. Keep in mind that there are multiple spheres in which this recovery and reintegration needs to take place: individual, communal, and institutional. What I take you to be asking about are what individuals and particular church communities can do. Within these spheres, I think it would be helpful to encourage reading/discussion groups around a couple of issues.

First, at the most abstract, consider the question "what is theology"? If theology is systematic critical reflection about ultimate concerns, often construed symbolically as "God," what are the various ways of construing ultimate concern? Asking the question in this way, I think, opens the meaning of "theology" to a great deal of comparative work, rather than isolating it to reflection on and within particular traditions. But, one needs also to ask, what are the sources for our ultimate commitments? Are they sourced strictly in individual experience? In the traditions we inhabit? In rational inquiry? In sacred texts? And third, in what ways does the object of our ultimate concern organize our lives? Are we actively faithful to such ultimate concern? Do our lives correspond in behavior and character to the commanding meanings of our sacred center? Asking "what is theology" and addressing these three angles on the question (what "are" our ultimate commitments, "where" do they come from, and "how" do our lives correspond to these commitments ) are important basic moves in reflectively engaging our religious and spiritual depths. I think, too, that through such engagement it will be likely that theists and humanists will discover that each has much to learn from the other and that neither pattern of thinking exhausts the insights of the other. In other words, they can be complementary ways of being religious.

Second, to guide this kind of deep individual and communal dialogue, it might be good to have some focal texts. I would recommend reading pairs of books together, such as John Dewey's "A Common Faith" and some of James Luther Adams' writings, as collected in "The Essential JLA". First of all it is crucial to understand what each is really saying, reading the books charitably as best as one can for the authors intent, asking questions about the contexts out of which each author was working, and how these may be shaping his insights and questions. Second, initiating a conversation about the internal consistency of each vision presented and then pursuing their pragmatic moral effects if lived.

Just some very rough thoughts about this...

In my "intro to liberal theology" class I organize lectures and readings around particular tensions within the liberal religious tradition, pairing one thinker with another and using each to interrogate the other. The aim of this is to lead students through the kind of integrative recovery of seemingly disparate patterns of theological thinking in order to enrich their own theological self-understandings.
Mike gave me a plan. It's got the pieces I need; that fit with my way of thinking (which may set me up for a charge from some wag that they see little thinking in anything I blog!), but the dialectic process of contrasting two opposites, two conflicting thoughts, to get a synthesis, is how I prefer to think about all things.

Mike also outlines an approach to recover Religious Liberalism based on history. Which takes me to my next quote from our exchanges.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Safia Amajan killed

via Normsblog.

A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, declared that Ms Amajan had been "executed". He said: "We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."

Ms Amajan had taken over the post of women's welfare officer soon after Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, fled with the fall of his regime. With the return of the Taliban, as the "war on terror" moved on to Iraq, aid workers - foreign and Afghan, men and women - were intimidated into leaving the region.

Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee. Her secretary, Abdullah Khan, said: "She was very brave. She was also very hard-working. She was always trying her best to improve education for women."

As well as defying the Taliban, Ms Amajan made the mistake of being successful in what she was doing. In Kandahar alone she had opened six schools where a thousand women had learnt how to make and then sell their goods at the market. She was also instrumental in setting up tailoring schools for women, with some of the products making their way to markets in the West.
And more here and here.

Benedict and the Pagans

Lee Harris in The Weekly Standard writing Socrates or Muhammad? Joseph Ratzinger on the destiny of reason. It's strange tha we UU's who count the pagans among us should overlook what Ratzinger's up too. He's outflanking us.
St. Clement argued that Greek philosophy had been given by God to mankind as a second source of truth, comparable to the Hebrew revelation. For St. Clement, Socrates and Plato were not pagan thinkers; they prefigured Christianity. Contrary to what Tertullian believed, Christianity needed more than just Jerusalem: It needed Athens too. Pope Benedict in his address makes a strikingly similar claim: "The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance." This encounter, for Benedict, was providential, just as it had been for St. Clement. Furthermore, Benedict argues that the "inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history." For Benedict, however, this event is not mere ancient history. It is a legacy that we in the West are all duty-bound to keep alive--yet it is a legacy that is under attack, both from those who do not share it, namely Islam, and from those who are its beneficiaries and do not understand it, namely, Western intellectuals.

William Galston on Lakoff's Chico Marxism

Galson reviewing Lakoff's new book over at Democracy. Not theology but UU's the only folks I know who've bought into Lakoff.
To the Berkeley linguist-cum-Democratic guru, what matters are not the facts, but the frames through which the facts are viewed. As he assures us in his new book, Whose Freedom?, "frames trump facts"–that, if facts are inconsistent with frames, they will be ignored. In his view, what ails progressives is that conservatives are far more aware of their guiding assumptions and more self-conscious about using language to "frame" issues to their advantage–regardless of the facts. To regain effectiveness, then, progressives must fight fire with fire. Instead of arguing the facts, Lakoff says, they must substitute their frame for that of the conservatives and reclaim the concept of freedom–in his words, "America’s most important idea."

Lakoff is entirely correct in placing freedom at the center of American identity and politics, yet like Chico, he ignores reality and only endorses as facts the assertions that are consistent with his worldview. Whose Freedom? could have been a provocative book from one of the few members of academia with real influence on Democratic leaders; instead, it is a jerry-rigged polemic built to fit Lakoff’s political agenda. And that’s a shame, because progressives can–and should–enter the debate about what freedom means in America today.

Lakoff’s analysis–as previously laid out in his best-selling Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–has proved appealing to many Democrats. Its underlying message is reassuring: Forget about rethinking anything except your rhetoric; there’s nothing wrong with the party that a more self-conscious and aggressive articulation of the progressive frame can’t cure. Indeed, Lakoff dominated the post-2004-election post-mortems and was showered with invitations to brief Democratic lawmakers and strategists.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sam Harris and Liberal Denial

Harris not my favorite guy but he's more right than wrong here.
I am here to report that liberals and conservatives respond very differently to the notion that religion can be a direct cause of human conflict.

This difference does not bode well for the future of liberalism... correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.
I shouldn't have been so hard on him at Church. But it was never right to get so bent-out-of-shape about Elmer Gantry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Martin Marty's editorial on Benedict

Marty gives us a perfect example of how some Liberals just doesn't get it on extremists Islam. Here's his comments in today's Sun Times on Benedict's Regensburg speech.

We live today not in the time of Christian Crusades and Inquisitions, but in a time when the pope is needed as a bridge-builder, a linkmaker. Having quoted claims seven centuries old that only "evil and inhuman" things were new in the program of the prophet and in the name of Islam, it will be harder for the pope to have dialogue with the Muslims who do good and human things. Some on the Muslim and American right seem to be craving a war of civilizations, a war about which we know only one thing: Both sides (or the many sides) would lose.

Rather than point to the "evil and inhuman" nature of Islam's, Judaism's, Christianity's, Hinduism's, Buddhism's and other holy wars, the pope will serve better if he can still find dialogue partners in search of the good and human.

All is not lost. Yet.
Ratzinger's fails as bridge builder.

Yet Marty has not a word on the extremist Muslim clerics calling for Benedict's murder. They get a pass. The standards Marty uses to judge the Pope just don't apply to Muslims. The violent demonstrations, a murdered nun, the calls for the Pope's murder don't even qualify for Marty's criticism or suggest to Marty we may be up against a foe who's not going to be appeased.

A few weeks ago, two reporters forced at gun point to convert to Islam. Danny Perl never had an option to convert, but beheaded after saying I am Jew.

I wonder what Marty would do in similar situation. Or what his pastoral guidance would be to a Luthern soldier should they find themselves captured. Build a bridge to the terrorist holding the sword over ones head?

Liberal religious wonder why our Churches bleed members. It's because people listen to mumbo jumbo like this from Marty and tell themselves something has indeed been lost here. Evil has gone right over Marty's head. He ignores the rest of the world.

Marty doesn't take the hijacking of Islam by the likes of Assad, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad seriously. Maybe he doesn't think it's worthy of him.

xp Bill Baar's West Side

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why does Rev Sinkford not speak out in support of Benedict?

Here's the offending paragraph from Benedict's Regensburg speech.

If Rev Sinkford can speak out against Judge Alito as a threat to civil liberities seems he should not remain silent on those inciting hatred of Benedict for what sounds to me a very liberal defense of reason and faith.

We forsake our own Liberal tradition if we can't join in defense of Benedict against a minority of Islamic thugs who incite Muslims for their own political gains.

We should not remain silent here. When those kidnapped reporters forced to convert to Islam on pain of death we're confronted with a kind of assualt on civilization that makes our own disputes in the US pale in comparison.

Again, the quote from the speech,
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

Victor Davis Hansen: Oriana Fallaci, RIP, the Pope, and a Sad Age

Writes a pessimistic post,
Radical Islam is, among other things, a patriarchal movement, embedded particularly in the cult of the Middle-Eastern male, who occupies a privileged position in a society that can be fairly described as one of abject gender apartheid. Islamism is also at war with the religious infidel, not just the atheist—and, in its envy and victimhood, fueled by a renewal of the age-old hatred of the Christian.

But so far, with very few exceptions other than the lion, Christopher Hitchens, the courageous William Shawcross, and a few others, the Left has either been neutral or anti-American in this struggle. And few Christians in positions of influence and respect have publicly defended their faith and the civilization that birthed it.

Candor, after all, can get one killed, exiled, or ostracized—whether a Danish cartoonist, a Dutch filmmaker, a Wall Street Journal reporter, or a British-Indian novelist. So here, ill and in her seventies, returned Ms. Fallaci one last time to take up the hammer and tongs against radical Islam—a diminutive woman of the Left and self-proclaimed atheist who wrote more bravely on behalf of her civilization than have most who are hale, males, conservatives, or Christians.
But I wouldn't give up on the United States. Here's Samantha Powers writing on the Save Darfur rally,
Sunday’s rally, and the anti-genocide movement it embodies, is essential. Without it, the Bush administration would reflexively focus on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and leave Darfur to be managed by its in-house humanitarians. U.S. pressure—applied at a far higher level and in a far more sustained manner—has made a profound difference with Khartoum in the past, leading it to expel Osama bin Laden and to make essential compromises with rebels in the South. But, at this juncture, U.S. pressure is not sufficient to do the job, and other countries must be brought around. And, for that to happen, the burgeoning endangered people’s movement must spread beyond U.S. shores.

Walking away from the rally in Washington, a British friend of mine shook his head and said,“You’ll never hear me say this again, but today made me want my kids to grow up American.”When I asked why, he said,“What happened today could never, ever happen in Europe.” Europeans fond of denouncing both the Rwandan genocide and American imperialism had better prove him wrong.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Middle Ages were better

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami speaking in Chicago,
On Saturday afternoon, Khatami took a campaign line from former President Ronald Reagan.

Asking whether the world was better off than it was in the 400 years before the Renaissance, Khatami answered by saying there is 'too much material and materialism.'

The result, Khatami said, is a world of 'insecurity.'
cross posted Bill Baar's West Side

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Drug use, fabrication of alcohol, homosexual activity

Those were some of the charges in the arrest of the Iranian Poet Ali Akbar Saidi Sirjani .

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visits Chicago this weekend and will be speaking to various religous leaders while here. They should speak truth to power and ask President Khatami about the questions Iranian dissidents have asked about Sirjani's death in prison.

His daughter Sayed said,
Sayeh, daughter of Iranian poet Ali Akbar Saiidi Sirjani who died in an Iranian jail 12 years ago, accused Khatami of being her father's "murderer" and asked the former president to take part in a public debate over his responsibility in the repression of the opposition in Iran.
And Iranian Woman wrote,

The US State Department has issued the visa for Khatami, and Reverend Peterson is inviting him to The Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation. Reverend Canon John L. Peterson at or (202) 537-5745

Khatami's team MURDERED Saidi Sirjani in 1994. Khatami became the president of the Islamic Republic after this Murder and the system continued killing intellectuals and WHO EVER had a secular belief.

Also the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization on criminalization of homosexuality in Iran including some paragraphs on Sirjani's case.

Gov Blagojevich's Human Rights Commission should be standing in front of that Mosque in Streamwood asking why.

cross posted at Illinoize.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pew's study on Politics and Religion

The 16-point plunge over the last three years startles me.
The Pew Research Center's annual poll on religion and politics, released last week, shows that while 85 percent of voters say religion is important to them, only 26 percent of Americans think the Democratic Party is "friendly" to religion. That's down from 40 percent in the summer of 2004 and 42 percent the year before that—in other words, a 16-point plunge over three years.
xp at Illinoize

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jesus rode a donkey

Jim Brown writing on the political summit at Iliff Theological Seminary.
The political summit at Iliff Theological Seminary in Denver drew Democratic Party leaders, academics, pollsters, and members of the clergy. According to Associated Press, some of the participants said Democrats do not need to change their position on abortion or same-sex "marriage," but need only to emphasize the morality of helping the poor or protecting the environment. A table at the conference was stacked with new books from the religious left, and bumper stickers that read "Jesus rode a donkey."
...the sponsors of the conference may have outdone themselves this time. "Here, in this case, we have the Democratic Party of Colorado actually holding an event on the campus of Methodist Iliffe Seminary there in Denver, brainstorming on how to attract religious people into the Democratic Party," he points out.

"I really would be hard pressed to think of any examples where the Republican Party has convened a similar event at a conservative seminary."

Friday, August 04, 2006

In God We Trust

Bush declares the 50th anniversary of In God We Trust as our National Mottoe although we've imprinted it on our coins since the Civil War.

Note we say we trust in God; we don't say God's with us.

A good read as to why we made that distinction (and Unitarians and Universalists were part of the it) is Harry Stout's Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War
In this bayonet charge on romantic notions of the Civil War, Yale religious history professor Stout addresses a difficult historical question--What is the source of the unique "civil religion" of American patriotism?--by attempting to answer an equally difficult and potentially painful moral question: Was the American Civil War a "just war?" --from Brendan Driscoll's review on Amazon
I think Kennedy got God's place in politics just right in his second inaugural when he ended with,
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
I don't think Bush out-of-step with Lincoln or JFK's thinking on this one. Not at all. It's our Civil Religion forged back in the Civil War.

Michael S. Hogue: Liberal Religion dysfunctional and unfaithful to its purpose

Hogue nailed this PDF on the home page at Meadville Lombard.

Here are the first four paragraphs. Strong stuff but in a nice Dutch tradition appropriate to a school founded in part by a Dutchman.

Now where Hogue is taking this reformation will be interesting to see,
Liberal religion is in crisis! It always has been and always will be, for crisis is part of the essence of liberalism as a place between extremism and complacency. But our current crisis-nature is nonetheless distinct.

Rather than standing against the hypermodern hubris of our North American individualism, liberal religion is entrenched within this same ethos. Rather than mediating the religious and political extremes in our world, we are paralyzed by our own internal divisions and do not have a theologically purposive vision with which to move beyond them. Instead of witnessing to the constructive increase of justice, love, and wisdom through interfaith community, our public footprint is much too small and we seem to be a register of the world’s religious and moral conflicts rather than a constructive example.

Our crisis is a tragic one, for it turns on an ironic reversal through which our strength, genius, and virtue has become our weakness, our arrogance, and our tragic flaw. As a result, we are failing our historic and contemporary prophetic tasks.

To move beyond our tragic condition, liberal religion needs to re imagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant. And doing this depends upon heeding the summons to a New Reformation. For as the powerful hierarchy of the medieval Roman Catholic Church had become dysfunctional, unfaithful to its purpose, so also have we.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reinhold Niebuhr and Billy Graham

Andrew S. Finstuen writes the The Prophet and the Evangelist in July/August 2006 issue of Christianity Today.

I'm struck that the Evangelical read all of Nieburhr but Nieburhr didn't reciprocate. A problem I find with my UU framing discussions were it seems most get their Conservative Theology via the television.
For example, Graham startled the Protestant world with his admission in 1958 that he had read "nearly everything Mr. Niebuhr has written." Graham apparently meant what he said. As late as the 1980s, Graham claimed: "Look, I need some more Reinhold Niebuhrs in my life. I would say Reinhold Niebuhr was a great contributor to me. He helped me work through some of my problems."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Joliet UU's Rev. Emily Gage reviews How the Other Half Worships

In today's Chicago Tribune Book section Images of religious life among America's urban poor are a revelation. She reviews Camilo Jose Vergara's How the Other Half Worships .
Over a period of 30 years, Vergara photographed, visited and interviewed pastors, deacons, ministers and members of these various communities. Along with the images there is a kind of oral history, with insights and reflections from the worshippers and church builders. There is a quality of unvarnished realism in these quotes. Bishop B.J. Luckett of Plain Truth Mission Church states succintly:

"I got shot through my neck during the course of a robbery. I became a preacher very quickly after and never looked back."
One reason I have no quarrel at all with Evangelicals. There's often that unvarnished realism among them that makes their whorsip more humanistic.

cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Doug Muder: Red Family, Blue Family -- the sermon

We discussed this sermon by Doug Muder last night at UUSG's Framing the Discussion discussion. I found it troubling sermon on many levels.

Muder has the sermon posted on his blog and I posted a comment.

I'll try to forward it to some conservative Chrisitans I know because Muder does make some assertions about them and it would be worthwhile getting their feedback.

I'll try and return with more comments either on Doug's blog or here. Depending on how it flows.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Everybody believes

Three quotes from Richard John Neuhaus writing in First Things in a review of Adam Kirshs's review of Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.
These are thoughts I save and thing about for months. But for me, believe isn't too important; the response to truth claims... a person's actions are though. Everybody believes. It is a question of what they believe, and why. The atheist makes a breathtaking leap of faith in believing there is no God, since he could not possibly have all the evidence pertinent to arriving at that conclusion.
One need not go so far as the early Karl Barth who insisted that Christianity is not a religion, but it is obvious that one is not, or should not be, a Christian because he believes in religion. Rather, he has by reason, authoritative testimony, and the gift of faith, accepted the claim that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.
The question is not whether one believes in believing or believes in religion. The question is how one responds to the truth claims proposed by traditions of thought–Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.–that are conventionally called religions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fixing Unitarian Universalism

Chalice Chick started the thread here and others have picked up on it: A People So Bold!, Scot Wells, and Liberal Faith Development (who conservatively advises caution).

Fausto commented here ...most UUs who don't find much worthwhile in the UUA simply ignore it most of the time, but the online ones happen to be talking about it right now. In a couple of months we'll probably be talking about something else.

He could be right but I wonder if the rise of the bloggers has changed that.

But I just finished Douglas A. Sweeny's The American Evangelical Story. Sweeny noted,
They [Evangelicals] accomplished these things [the evangelical movement] with the help of a new communications network that linked evangelicals living in Europe and North America. Historians refer to the eighteenth century as the great age of letter writing. In God's providence, evangelicals could now stay in touch with one another quite easily, and they did, exchanging tens of thousands of pieces of correspondence. This was also the time of the rise of British magazines and newspapers, media used by Christians both to promote the cause of revival and to inform interested parties about God's work around the world. In fact, several Protestant leaders founded their own periodicals to convey intelligence regarding the progress of the gospel. Famous examples include George Whitefield's Evangelical Magazine, Thomas Prince's Christian History, Jabes Robe's Christian Monthly History, and John Wesley's Arminian Magazine.
Maybe a Great Awakening among UUs is at hand.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I need someone to say ‘thank you’ to

St. Thomas Aquinas called beauty "the splendor of order," and the church father St. Gregory of Nyssa saw beauty as God's uncreated energy. But there is nothing exclusively Christian about the insight that God and beauty are inseparable, and that creating beauty is one of humanity’s most noble endeavors. “Whichever way I turn I see the face of God,” says the Koran referring to nature’s loveliness. As a journalist covering the burgeoning dialogue between theology and science I found that, of all scientists, astrophysicists from every culture were most inclined to acknowledge God’s existence.

When asked about this phenomenon they usually respond that the breathtaking beauty of the universe leaves them no option. “Why do I believe in the Creator?” a Hindu cosmologist asked rhetorically. “Because,” he went on, “I need someone to say ‘thank you’ to.”

From Uwe Siemon-Netto's new blog. I've wondered why Physics seemed excempt from America's Science vs God debates and thought the Calculus requirement for Physics just weeded out most players in the debate (it got me). But I like the Hindu cosmologists response above. I know for certain I have a need to say 'thank you' for much.

cross posted to Bill Baar's West Side

Monday, January 02, 2006

Jonathon Last: God on the Internet

Last in First Things writing on God Blogs and the internet.

Long esasy I've read and will reread, but two quick quotes on authority and the disappearance mystery because of the net,
Another concern is how the Internet is demystifying religion. One of Joseph de Maistre’s pet theories was that the authority of the Church depended in large part on mystery. Blogger Mickey Kaus recently wondered if the notion of mysterious silence on the part of religious institutions has become outmoded: “If you were a respected authority you used to be able to get away with maintaining a meaningful silence. Now you’ve got to be blogging in your own ‘unique voice’ about every little thing that comes up, or else some ambitious lesser authority who posts more frequently will steal your flock.”
Whether or not authority suffers from the disappearance of mystery, certainly the power of ritual is diminished by having every conversation in the sacristy broadcast for public consumption.
And his conclusion on the internet and its lure towards thinner and thinner air.
A tool for co-laboring. That’s the most we might hope for. And in the days of Pope Pius XIII and ceaseless politicking and Spiritual Weightloss, even that much seems a pipe dream. The great blessing of the Internet is that it lets people find each other. Of course, this is the great curse of the Internet as well—for not only can model-train collectors share their joint enthusiasm, but so can anti-Semites, child molesters, and gang members. But even at its best, the Internet is a weakening of reality, and with its consumer satisfactions, politicizing impulses, and substitutions for the body, it constantly lures us up into thinner and thinner air. Isn’t religion supposed to enrich the world around us instead? Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church.

Taft on Unitarian Faith

Taft on Unitarian Faith, below true for me but I would drop the word Christian. An interesting perspective from a Unitarian, former US President, and guy who did indeed in the Phillipines serve as chief executive for four years of an Oriental people more than seven millions in number-Christians, Mohammedans, and Pagans.

Taft was writing of a faith triumphent, and success can be one's worst foe.

I think Unitarianism was successful, and it's the wrestling with the aftermath of success, where it's fallen.

Now UU's now find themselves struggling with this post.

Anyways, here's Taft's closing paragraph.
I have come to the close of my remarks. The creeds and dogmas that attached themselves to the religion of Jesus, needed perhaps in securing its spread among the nations and its triumphal march to a better civilization, have encountered the searching freedom of scientific intellectual inquiry, and have shaken in the minds of many, not, the essential principles of the Christian faith as we Unitarians believe them to be, but the incidental tenets of a rigid theology. In order that the craving for religion and a study of man's relation to God should still act as an inspiration to human self-elevation and moral progress, Unitarianism offers a broad Christian religious faith that can be reconciled with scientific freedom of thought and inquiry into the truth, and rescues from religious atrophy and indifference an element of society that must be influential. Indirectly, too, it has liberalized the requirements of other churches so that they retain in their laity and under elevating religious influence an important part of the community that otherwise might drift away. These are the good things that Unitarianism has done and is continuing to do.

Paths to God

This isn't the Roman Catholicism shown me in the 1960's growing in south Oak Park, Illinois. Not sure what it means for Liberal Religion when the Grand Inquisitor talked like this,
How many ways are there to God?

As many as there are people. For even within the same faith each man's way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ's word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.
p32, Salt of the Earth