by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off
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.
Credit: CreativeCommons / roujo.
I noticed with interest and, quite frankly, surprise an article headline on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 8, 2015, which stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarizes in paragraph 5:
“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”
The article goes on to state that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?”. We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.
by: Allen L. Roland on June 11th, 2015 | Comments Off
Once again six combat veterans with PTSD realize their life has really been a QUEST to re-discover the light within themselves- in seven weeks- by participating in Healing The Wounded Heart (Band of Brothers) Workshop # 16. Through the power of love and gratitude their hearts are awakened from a long slumber as they realize their military experience, regardless of their individual trauma, has been another important step of service in preparation for the ultimate service from their soaring hearts: Allen L Roland, Ph.D.
“What happens when people open their hearts – They get better.” – Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
In my role as a volunteer heart centered consultant, advisor and mentor, I have recently assisted in the heart felt inner healing of six more combat veterans with PTSD who found the courage to go within and beneath their pain and anguish and found, in the process, their original innocence, joy and delight as well as a need to be in service from that very same place of love and gratitude, and all within seven weeks.
Make no mistake about it, the keys to the magic kingdom of the soul as well as soul retrieval is gratefulness, and gratefulness and eventually forgiveness ends with our self. Each one of these participants with the assistance of their adjustment counselor complete a Life chart- a chart which clearly shows their whole life, relationships and war experience as a Quest or journey to where they are now.
by: Susan Bloch on June 4th, 2015 | 18 Comments »
At Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, the next generation of peacemakers is learning how nonviolent communication facilitates listening and understanding rather than judgement. Credit: Mandy Price.
“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.
“It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”
Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.
Credit: CreativeCommons / Tjebbe van Tijen.
Imagine this: You read on a Facebook page that people opposing your religion have planned a large-scale protest rally at the major Christian church in your home town on your Sabbath day of prayer. The organizers instruct their supporters to bring posters denouncing Christianity and pictures of Jesus on the cross wearing a Hitler-style mustache with captions reading: “He Deserved To Die,” and “He Was a False Messiah,” because, as stated on Facebook, “…it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Christianity.”
At the protest rally, organizers will be selling and wearing T-shirts announcing: F— Christianity. “Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to Christians,” continued the message on Facebook. Though organizers have promoted the demonstration as a First Amendment “Freedom of Speech” rally, they urge supporters to carry weapons to express their Second Amendment rights as well.
by: David Morgan on June 1st, 2015 | Comments Off
Some people claim, “Environmentalism is just another religion” to rebut people who link climate change to human activity. What about organizations such as Jesus People Against Pollution, which cite Scripture? Are their views grounded in the Bible?
I have no doubt organizations that support environmentalism can find strong scriptural foundations. Care for creation is embedded in the creation accounts of Genesis and in Christians’ responsibility to care for the marginalized in society. I have addressed this subject in earlier “Right or Wrong?” articles titled “Building ‘green’” and “Going green.”
Credit: CreativeCommons / Kris Krüg.
by: Norman Allen on May 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
In condemning Dzhokar Tsarnaev to death, we would do well to remember Cain and Abel. Even after murdering his brother, Cain is shown unthinkable mercy and protection from God. Above, stained glass from the Genesis story in Fairford Parish Church, England. Credit: CreativeCommons / Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s death sentence, handed down on May 15, serves as the grand finale to a year of public discussion about capital punishment. The Supreme Court is considering the potential cruelty of lethal injections, and Kelly Renee Gissendaner lives under a stay of execution in Georgia, prompted by fears of another “botched execution,” like the one experienced by Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last spring. It seems a good time to step back and revisit what the Bible’s authors have to say about that book’s first murderer, and the consequences of his actions.
I found the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, remembering from my Sunday School days that God punishes the murderer with the “Mark of Cain,” a sort of brand that ensures Cain will spend the rest of his days as an outcast. I quickly learned, though, that my memory — or my Sunday School teacher — had it totally wrong.
by: Huma Munir on May 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
"Astronomy teaches us humility and compassion," writes Huma Munir. "Of all human virtues, humility is probably the most beautiful and important."
In 1990, spacecraft Voyager 1 took one last photo of the Earth from 6 billion kilometers away before drifting further into outer space. The Earth stood out no more than a tiny dot against the vast expanse of darkness in the space.
Inspired by the photo, famous astrophysicist and atheist, Carl Sagan, wrote a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. In it, he said studying astronomy can be a humbling and a character-building experience. Though Sagan did not believe in a higher power, his work has greatly inspired me to connect with God, and has led me on a journey of self-reformation.
In many senses, and contrary to popular belief, astronomy is helpful to religious believers.
Firstly, it teaches us that the world is limitless.
Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.
This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.
In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”
In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.
by: Susan Bloch on May 12th, 2015 | 29 Comments »
When I heard the news that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, was recently released from a Pakistani prison on bail, I stared at the TV in disbelief.He had been accused of personally planning and directing the three-day rampage at India’s commercial capital that killed hundreds of people. Yet the Lahore High Court had dismissed the detention orders issued by the Punjab government, claiming insufficient evidence for a conviction. Lakhvi’s meticulously executed plan had destroyed the lives of many deliberately targeted Westerners and Jews. Bullets were sprayed at local bystanders, including commuters at the crowded train station, and anyone who just happened to be in the path of Lakhvi’s well-trained gunmen.
His release made no sense. Confessions of two of the terrorists — recently executed, Ajmal Kasab and American jihadist, David Headley –confirmed that the accused had personally directed the gunmen by satellite phone from a safe house in Karachi. What was the judge thinking?