The vision that I suspect religious groups really fear…

I would recommend you read this whole post from Brian McLaren, where he responds to someone who has decided they can no longer consider themselves his ally because of his acceptance of homosexuality. It is sad, affectionate, understanding, gentle and accepting. I’ve never heard of him before in my life, and despite not considering myself to be a Christian of any stripe—I’m of the Gandhian “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” school—I like this guy. He demonstrates in this response those attributes I would wish to be able to embody myself.

And then there comes the penultimate paragraph, that—from my observation point outside of any religious group, Christian or otherwise—seems to me to cut to the heart of why such groups throughout the ages end up being so petty and unkind:

You ask, if we change our way of interpreting the Bible on this issue (my words, not yours) “- what else will happen next?” Here’s what I hope will happen. After acknowledging the full humanity and human rights of gay people, I hope we will tackle the elephant in the room, so to speak – the big subject of poverty. If homosexuality directly and indirectly affects 6 – 30% of the population, poverty indirectly and directly affects 60 – 100%. What would happen if we acknowledged the full humanity and full human rights of poor people? And then people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses and impairments? And then, what after that? What would happen if we acknowledged the spiritual, theological, moral value – far beyond monetary or corporate value – of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, of seas and mountains and valleys and ecosystems? To me, Jesus’ proclamation of the reign or commonwealth of God requires us to keep pressing forward, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, proclaiming God’s amazing grace to all creation.

That is a vision that, at some rational level, should scare the crap out of anyone. If you’re not intimidated by that idea—of making a categorical choice to love, respect and care for everything—then I can only say that I don’t think you’ve really thought about what it entails.

You have few choices if this is what your religion is building up to, and only one of them—owning up, doing the work, accepting your failures and the failures of others, getting up dusting yourself off and doing it again—is going to leave you a healthy, happy human being. All of the rest of them seem to me to lead to trying to draw arbitrary lines where you say, “We don’t have to care about them“, or “They don’t deserve it”…and once you’ve done that, you’ve impoverished your soul. That’s not a state I think anyone wants to come face to face with.

Because what everyone needs is a stuffed Kali

[“Sanjay Patel”:]’s “Little Book of Hindu Dieties”: has been passed around amongst our friends a lot over the last couple of years.

I was, thus, amused to see someone had created a “plush toy of Kali”: based on his design.


Yeah, things are getting back to normal

After my dental surgery, well, for obvious reasons–well, obvious if I tell you they gave me a prescription for Vicodin–I was in no fit state to post, and then after that started healing and I wasn’t hitting the narcotics so hard, I had a burst of productivity on the Great AnteSpam Rewrite, and then after that started subsiding to a more normal pace, well, the weather turned nice, and I started doing some walking to try and keep off the ten pounds I lost after my surgery–ah, the wonders of not being able to eat anything solid. I should write a diet book.

So, anyway, I’m going for these hour-plus walks more or less every day (how much plus depends on whether I’m walking to “Bean Traders”: and back (about an hour and forty minutes), or just doing the circuit around the subdivision (about an hour and five minutes). And even with the iPod-alike churning through my music collection, I end up doing a certain amount of thinking.

And some of what I think about are things that could be generally lumped under the heading “spiritual”. And so it was that I was walking along today and something occurred to me.

Adam and Eve fell from grace (and were therefore kicked out of Eden) for partaking of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, right? So before they ate the fruit, it seems safe to say they were in a state of innocence, presumably unable to tell Good from Evil, because they had no knowledge of it.

So am I the only one who finds it interesting that the hardcore Christian Fundamentalists seem to spend all their time wallowing in trying to tell Good from Evil? That is, exercising the very facility the acquisition of which was the downfall of man?

I’m just sayin’.

If there was any doubt I was going to Hell…

…I guess my practice of yoga is really only confirmation. I had absolutely no idea (not, in fact, that I cared), but Laurette Willis, Founder of “PraiseMoves”: assures me that “yoga is likely to lead people away from Christ”:

In fact, she links to “another resource”:, that classes yoga as a cult, and “another”: that has several articles discussing its incompatibilities with Christianity.

You know, I am sometimes amazed that certain stripes of Christians are allowed to use computers because having to, say, type, distracts them from their necessarily constant focus on The Lord.

And yet again, our “real” media seems out to lunch.

While my antipathy for religious fundamentalists both foreign and domestic is, I suspect, pretty obvious, what gets less airtime is then fact that I don’t actually have a problem with religion–examples of people who are given strength and purpose and compassion and belonging by their faith are all around me.

But, let’s face it, it’s the wingnuts who get most of the airtime in the mainstream media. Fortunately, we have PBS.

“NOW with Bill Moyers”: April 30 show included a segment discussing the large number of Christian pro-choice organizations who showed up at the March for Women’s Lives.

bq.. MOYERS: You no doubt read or heard something about that huge March for Women’s Lives in Washington last weekend.

A single photograph captured it for me. Hundreds of thousands of people, spread across the mall in the heart of the nation’s capitol marching for choice. We took a closer look, and found something that the press all but ignored. Many of these people were there on faith. Our report is produced by Naomi Spinrad.

MOYERS: They came from all over the country to join the largest demonstration for a woman’s right to choose ever held in the nation’s capital.

Despite the sheer size of the crowd, this day was more than a matter of numbers. For thousands of these people, coming here was a pilgrimage. They came as an act of faith, a witness to deeply held beliefs about religion and conscience.

On the fringes of the march were their old adversaries from the religious right, who say the Bible teaches that abortion is murder. The mainstream media often seem to think theirs are the only religious opinions that count.

p. Yeah, it’s the first I’d heard of ’em, too. But it makes me happy to know that they’re out there–and sad that you don’t hear more about them; I guess reporting on moderation and conscience doesn’t sell enough clothes detergent, or whatever.

Movement to canonize Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible

If I had not heard it on the BBC World Service first, I would have assumed that discussions of “canonizing Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible”: were some kind of silly joke.

Not so. In fact this apparently represents a significant schizm in the Russian Orthodox Church.

This weekend I went to an “exhibition of Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the North Carolina Museum of Art”: with my wife and some friends. One of the larger installations is a bas-relief commissioned on the death of “Henry Whitney Bellows”:, a Unitarian minister.

One of my friends remarked that this was from the time period when Unitarians actually believed in something–and I chipped in with my standard line about Unitarians, “Well, something other than ‘Be Excellent to one another’.”

I hope, in retrospect, that it was obvious I didn’t intend to actually denigrate Unitarians by this–Bill and Ted references aside, I have a great deal of respect for people who maintain some sort of faith but don’t seem to see it as an “us vs. them” contest for dominance and hegemony. As an agnostic myself, I don’t begrudge people their faith except when they are unable to see that I do not choose to share it, and respect my ability to make that choice.

I was raised a nominal Christian

That is to say, I was raised in a military family that spent the majority of my youth in the Southeastern United States, where Evangelical Christianity has a significant influence, and although my parents were not themselves particularly devoted to organized religion, members of my mother’s family were, so I was exposed to it now and again–so I end not knowing if, say, I was ever baptised, though I would be suprised if I wasn’t.

Anyway, I certainly haven’t considered myself a Christian since I could make an informed choice, and since leaving college I have been pretty open about it–while your average Christian and I certainly would certainly share a number of values, I suspect we would differ on many things as well, including _why_ we hold those values.

Still, I live in North Carolina and Billy Graham country is just a bit up the Interstate, so I’m sure that an awful lot of the people I interact with here would identify themselves as Christian, and perhaps even as Evangelicals. Normally that doesn’t even show up on my radar screen–as I said, we share a lot culturally, and although I’ve rejected a portion of that culture, I’ve hardly rejected all of it–but then I read something like “this”:, or I remember the fact that Jerry Falwell claiming “that September 11th was his God’s judgement on America”:, and it absolutely scares the piss out of me.

As spectacular as September 11th was, it was hardly the first instance of domestic terror the US has ever experienced, and a lot of that prior work was done by just that sort of nutjob, who thinks his Christian God has told him to “bomb an abortion clinic”: or something moronic like that.

I wonder if those sorts of crimes will be ruled as terrorist actions by this all-too Evangelical government we seem to have elected?