Pope Francis and Climate Change: Some Critical Questions

For the many of us – clergy and laypeople, academics and plain citizens, in the U.S. and throughout the world – who for decades have been saying that the environmental crisis calls for a religious perspective and an activist religious response Pope Francis’ bold words are a wonderfully welcome addition. At least three things give those words special weight: first, as the years pass the reality of both global warming in particular and the other dimensions of the crisis (including the vast scale of pollution, species loss, and environmental illness) have become increasingly clear. Second, Pope Francis has established himself as a humble, intelligent, and authentic spiritual leader. If political conservatives resent his critique of capitalism, and cultural conservatives wish he would condemn homosexuals, an awful lot of other people (Catholic or not) see him as a man trying to live up to the traditional Christian virtues of love, forgiveness, and humility. Third, and perhaps most important: Francis is clearly and unambiguously (for the most part, at least, skirting population control) calling a spade a spade: he rejects consumerism and unfettered capitalism, anthropocentrism and turning the earth into “an immense pile of filth.”

Fifty Shades of Jihad

Of course “we” are not like “them”. The democratic, secular, it’s all about your choice West is not the woman-hating, veil wearing East. Unlike the endlessly controlled, honor-killed, and uneducated women in Arab countries, in the Grey story the victim gets to sign a contract.

Our Climate Futures: Take a Look

Forecasting the future is typically impossible. However, here are two scenarios of our future: as the oil eventually runs out, as the storms and droughts and social disequilibrium vastly increase, as so much of what we thought was guaranteed fades away, what will life be like?

Are Passover and Easter Just Celebrations of Violence?

Surrounded by the usual code words for these holidays – “freedom from slavery” for the first, “resurrection and new life” for the second – this question may seem at the least silly and at worst an exercise of blasphemous anti-religiosity.
Yet it is actually a serious question. Consider that while freeing the Jews all, yes all, the Egyptians’ first born – from that of the Pharaoh to the Pharaoh’s servants to the Pharaoh’s pet cat – had to die. And consider that Christianity seems to require the suffering and death of an innocent.

About Death, II

Rather, I take comfort in having been here at all. That the universe came into existence, and that the combined forces of particles, atoms, gravity, the strong force and the weak force, molecules, cells, DNA, evolution, weather patterns and the like have enabled me to exist.
These are the forces so much more powerful, creative and long-lived than my own little self. These are the forces to which I feel compelled and privileged to bow in gratitude.

Amour, Death, Song

Perhaps that is all we are: just a song sung by the universe. Does a song – does my ego – really want to last forever? Thankfully I’ve grown a bit since I was seven, and now I think not. We – I – will end, and if the song is as sweet as ripe cherries there might be a faint wish from us or others that there be a little more. But if we live with awareness and gratitude, compassion and love, we will face the end of the song with grace, knowing that the composer and performer is not us, but forces vastly larger, more creative, and (almost) infinitely more enduring.

What difference does it make if torture works?…and a few other questions…

What difference does it make if torture works? Is that all we need to know about it? Is it possible that we shouldn’t torture people even if it does work? By analogy: We could probably eliminate a good deal of the Taliban – at least for a while–if we carpet bombed regions they control. Once we were clear that it ‘works’ – why not do it? So what if we kill some innocent people. After all – the point is to accomplish what we set out to do. Therefore, if torturing a few people, or many people, gets us the information ‘we’ want, that’s all we need to know, right?