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A Krisis With a Creative Solution

Jul4

by: Nicholas Grant Boeving on July 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A Darwin fish with feet that says "evolve" in the middle.

Credit: CreativeCommons / LaJJoyce.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

This is by far my favorite thing that Darwin never said. But whether he wrote these words or not doesn’t matter; we shouldn’t be so insecure in our need for the intellectual imprimatur of a doyenne like Darwin to see that this textual mutation of his theory is spot on. Adaptability is everything.

Surprisingly, not everybody agrees with this. Some seem hardwired at the genetic level to resist all types of change, which is why we have a vocal minority of scientists who still side with Lysenko on the issue of global warming. Even in the midst of this still-denied “Fifth Extinction”, a change has come upon on us that not even those who still think the letters E-P-A are renegade Sesame Street sponsors can deny: technology.

Why crisis? Because the word means more than you think it does. For the ancient Greeks, the krisis was “the turning point in a disease,” which they derived from a deeper root word meaning “choice” or “judgment.” In other words, crises are opportunities. It just takes a vision to see them as such.

But as history has born grim testimony to, a vision can go either way. The same processes which ended in Nagasaki and Lebensborn produced the polio vaccine and space travel. Albert Einstein recognized that any science without religion was “lame” and as usual (except for the whole spooky-action-at-a-distance-thing) Einstein was right.

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Voicing the Ineffable in Charleston

Jul2

by: Ed Simon on July 2nd, 2015 | 5 Comments »

Does theological language still have any real use? Sometimes a half a millennium of modernity has seemingly taught us that the center not only can’t hold, but didn’t. But theological language is just that, a language: a system of inexact metaphors whose correspondence to a literal reality is constantly shifting.

And yet, is this not the great strength of religious language, of religious stories? Inerrancy is a fallacy, literalism an error, and no more so than with religious language. Rather it is the adaptability of theological language that is its great power, and it is the ever-changing yet continuous historical chain of the emotionally powerful language and stories of faith that allow this vocabulary to still have such resonance, a power which other ways of speaking don’t have. To ignore this power is a mistake.

Religion is a fiction – this does not mean that the social phenomenon of religion isn’t real – it obviously is. Rather it means that the claims and principles of religion are fictional. But there, there is the crux. For if religion is a system of fiction, more of a way of speaking than anything, it still contains the seeds to redeem itself, and indeed, to redeem us. The assertions of religion may be fictional, they may not be real, but the words are potent, and can still contain power in a way that other systems do not.

“Good,” “Evil,” “Salvation,” “Sin,” “Redemption,” even “Heaven” and “Hell.” These may perhaps be literally meaningless words to our dominant paradigms today, but even if God is asleep those words need not lose their meaning. In fact, these may be the exact words we need. If we do not let them control us but rather use them as our own tools of expression they provide a means to encapsulate certain human experiences.

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Before the Dawn

Jul2

by: Kathy Kelly on July 2nd, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Prisoners waiting to be executed. June 30, 2015

Each year, throughout the Muslim world, believers participate in the month-long Ramadan fast. Here in Kabul, where I’m a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, our household awakens at 2:15 a.m.to prepare a simple meal before the fast begins at about 3:00 a.m. I like the easy companionship we feel, seated on the floor, sharing our food. Friday, the day off, is household clean-up day, and it seemed a bit odd, to be sweeping and washing floors in the pre-dawn hours, but we tended to various tasks and then caught a nap before heading over to meet the early bird students at the Street Kids School, a project my hosts are running for child laborers who otherwise couldn’t go to school.

I didn’t nap – I was fitful and couldn’t, my mind filled with images from a memoir, Guantanamo Diary, which I’ve been reading since arriving here. Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s story of being imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2002 rightly disturbs me. In all his years of captivity, he has never been charged with a crime. He has suffered grotesque torture, humiliation and mistreatment, and yet his memoir includes many humane, tender accounts, including remembrances of past Ramadan fasts spent with his family.

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Syriza: Plunder, Pillage and Prostration

Jul1

by: James Petras on July 1st, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An outstretched hand in black and white.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Alex Proimos.

Greece has been in the headlines of the world’s financial press for the past five months, as a newly elected leftist party, “Syriza”, which ostensibly opposes so-called “austerity measures”, faces off against the “Troika” (International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and European Central Bank).

Early on, the Syriza leadership, headed by Alexis Tsipras, adopted several strategic positions with fatal consequences – in terms of implementing their electoral promises to raise living standards, end vassalage to the “Troika and pursue an independent foreign policy.

I will proceed by outlining the initial systemic failures of Syriza and the subsequent concessions further eroding Greek living standards.

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Palestine at the Crossroads

Jun30

by: Stuart Rees on June 30th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A piece of the boarder between Israel and Palestine.

Credit: CreativeCommons / gnuckx.

At its national conference at the end of July, the Australian Labor Party will be voting on a motion to recognize the State of Palestine. The outcome may be symbolic, yet it could mark a shift in a country where politicians of any persuasion have been so intimidated by the Israel lobby that they find it difficult to challenge the stereotype that Israel is a democracy and Palestinians are simply Arabs who can’t be trusted. This cowardly attitude has been maintained because successive Australian governments have tried to curry favor with Washington and do whatever the White House wants.

Polls show that a clear majority of Australian citizens support the human rights of all Palestinians and regard it as imperative that Palestinians should have a homeland of their own.

Given that the Labor Party could form a government at the next election, its representatives need to catch up with public opinion. They need to become far more aware of the living conditions faced by Palestinians such as those living on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and in Lebanese based refugee camps.

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Hoping for Rain- Biblical Understanding of Cosmic Order, Human’s Nature and Drought

Jun27

by: Rabbi Belle Michael on June 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A photograph of Lake Mead (Arizona/Nevada) in the midst of a drought.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Chris Richards.

As we all heard, 2014 set record for being the hottest year in a decade; in fact scientists say that every year in the past few decades set a record for being the warmest year. We know it for fact now; our planet is getting warmer each year.

Some scientists are still trying to figure out the causes for Global Warming while others study the effects of Global Warming on extreme weather events such as heat waves, hurricanes and droughts. As to the drought in California, so far no scientific link between Global Warming and the drought was found. Research has shown contradicting evidence and thus, contradicting conclusions.

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Weeding Roses in Kabul

Jun26

by: Martha Hennessy on June 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

Doves released in Afghanistan as they observe the 2007 International Peace Day.

Peace doves fly on the grounds of the historic Hazrat-i-Ali mosque, in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. The doves are part of a campaign launched by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in observance of the International Day of Peace in 2007. Credit: CreativeCommons / United Nations Photo.

June 19, 2015

Kabul–Outside the windows of the room where I sleep, here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteer (APV) women’s community maintains a small walled garden filled with roses. The community plants tomatoes, cilantro and greens. An apricot tree grows in one corner, a mulberry tree in another. The prayer call, chanted from a nearby mosque, awakens me just before dawn. Light appears in the sky around four, and soon after, the doves and neighborhood children begin to stir. Normal activities and routines persist here in Afghanistan, despite the decades of war and impoverishment. Military helicopters roar through the skies as sounds generated by ordinary work day tasks fill the air: the whine of a machine cutting sheet metal mixes with a jingle played by an ice cream cart rolling down the street.

Zarguna, Khamed, and Zahidi host Kathy and me in this house of peace. Because of intensified security concerns, we step outside only occasionally, generally once a day, to visit the APVs Borderfree Center. During my last visit here in 2013, we were much more relaxed about walking through the neighborhood for errands.

The youth, now studying in secondary schools and universities, run several thriving projects and teach at the Borderfree Center for street children.

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Sacred Activism: A Meditation on Inner Transformation

Jun25

by: Shaikh Kabir Helminski on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A bay at sunset.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Yetto.

To be a contemplative is to focus the heart on the Absolute Reality that gives meaning to life; to be a spiritual activist is to be engaged in the social world without losing the perspective of that heavenly Absolute Reality.

To be an activist is also to be a realist, to realize that many people are tied primarily to the materialistic plane, the secular world, the outer appearances. And yet no sane human being is entirely without a sense of values, an inner life which, if we are honest, is the key to happiness.

The contemplative faces that inner world of values directly and draws strength and wisdom from it, but no human being is devoid of those inner values, no matter how confused, egotistical, or negative they may be.

The gap between the religious world and the secular world seems to be growing larger; both sides seem to lack a way to communicate with each other. This is one of the greatest challenges of our times. The secular world views the many disparate beliefs and the conflicts among them and wants no part of it. The religious world, suspicious of the freedoms claimed by the secular world, looks at the erosion of values and morals and sees religion as something that can protect the moral nature of humankind.

But there is a third perspective, and this may be the hope of the future. This third perspective recognizes the limitations of all religious beliefs, but without discarding the core values of spirituality. It also recognizes how much the secular world sacrifices to the idols of consumerism and materialism. But it respects secularism for not imposing a single interpretation of belief upon society and for allowing the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle.

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Canonize Junipero Serra? Really?

Jun23

by: Matthew Fox on June 23rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Alter for Junipero Serra.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon.

American peoples learned of Pope Francis’ decision to canonize Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) during the papal visit to the United States in Fall. Serra is the Franciscan missionary who oversaw the colonial system of missions in California. The news of his prospective canonization is sad for what it says about Church ignorance – after all these hundreds of years – of Native American accomplishments; it is also sad for what it reminds us about the history of Christian missionizing. A Native American from California recently wrote me that “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

It is particularly sad that the first American pope ever, one who has caught the attention of millions for his efforts to cleanse the church of its sins and society of its “narcissism” and social and economic inequities, and who has actively sought the perspectives of the faithful, would be so blind to the history of indigenous peoples on two continents, and deaf to the protests of indigenous and non-indigenous Christians alike. And it is sad that as many nations and peoples await the pope’s encyclical on Eco-theology and Climate Change that still another stake would be driven into the indigenous legacy of respect for nature that is so central to their spiritual tradition and to the survival of the planet as we know it today.

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For the Sake of Heaven

Jun23

by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Close up of a flame.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oliver.

According to reports, when a young stranger walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday night, the senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, invited the young man to sit next to him so that he would feel welcome. It was literally an article of faith that the church should embrace the young man, though he was not a regular member of the community, though he was white in a historically black church. These things didn’t matter to Pinckney and the other members of the Bible study group that met that night. What mattered to them were tenets of faith and the standards of their community, a congregation built on the premise of inclusion, particularly inclusion of the marginalized and rejected.

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