Look out for terrorists!

Wow, this story is so old I probably shouldn't even post it. But I was skimming the web on Dr. Kärkkäinen after a comment I just made (okay, I was looking for the right spelling) and noticed this article from back in 2004!

Evangelicals and the Christian majority need to realize that when we begin infringing on the rights and freedoms of the "other" (Muslims in America) the snowball will inevitably roll over themselves.

* * *

[Veli-Matti ]Kärkkäinen, along with his wife, Anne, and two daughters, returned to Pasadena on September 5. They had been forced to leave the United States on July 31 when the Department of Homeland Security revoked Kärkkäinen's "special immigrant religious worker" visa.

Immigration officials, now under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, questioned Fuller's tax-exempt status. They ruled that Kärkkäinen's role as a seminary professor was not a "traditional religious occupation." They also claimed that Kärkkäinen, who has two doctorates and two master's degrees and served as president and theology professor at IsoKirja College in Keuruu, Finland, did not have the necessary experience for his position.

...

Since Fuller is an interdenominational seminary, it did not fit under new post-9/11 rules, which require that schools be affiliated with specific denominations. Also, as Fuller does not have an official relationship with the Pentecostal church that ordained Kärkkäinen, he did not qualify as a religious worker.

...

Howard Loewen, dean of the school of theology at Fuller, said that Kärkkäinen's situation "cuts against the very mission and vision of Fuller as an evangelical, multidenominational, global institution." More than 600 of the seminary's 4,300 students are from outside the United States, he said, as are a dozen faculty members.

...

"Ten years ago, we were not so concerned about having international faculty," Corey said. "Now, there is tension between the desire to become a more global institution and the difficulty of getting and keeping international scholars here."

In August, the Department of Homeland Security revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar and Swiss citizen. Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with a terrorist history in Egypt. Ramadan, generally considered a moderate voice, was to begin teaching on August 24 at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

"What amazes me," Kärkkäinen said, "is that the world's most influential country and its administration are obviously unable to make a distinction between threats and friendly, productive immigrants."
* * *

Whose Bible Is It? Formation of the Scriptures...

Bit by bit (outside of class reading) I'm enjoying Whose Bible Is It?: A Short History of the Scriptures by Jaroslav Pelikan. It gives a narrative account of the development, formation and evolution of Jewish and Christian Holy Text, the transition from oral to written, Hebrew to Greek, and so on...

Pelikan is brilliant and concise. When I was learning ancient Hebrew a few years ago, I became keenly interested in how we got these texts in the first place! This has been the most approachable material on that subject, I've found.

"But you don't have to take my word for it..." (said LeVar Burton)
  • "An engaging and highly readable survey of biblical scholarship that tells a fascinating and complex story."
    —The Wall Street Journal
  • "A crisp, remarkably succinct history of the Bible as preserved, interpreted, translated and canonized by the various faiths that believe in it."
    —Los Angeles Times
  • "Outstanding . . . Pelikan takes the reader through the process of scripture building with a fluency and ease that is both accessible and understandable."
    —Publishers Weekly

New Left Media: Palin Book Tour

I've been enjoying a series of video interviews by a group called The New Left Media.

The video below features footage from a Sarah Palin book signing event. I think it's a real problem, but I know any political "phenomenon" could be accused of the same - we all remember the Biggest Celebrity in the World critiques of Obama...

Here's how The New Left Media responds to obvious criticism:

THERE ARE UNINFORMED OBAMA SUPPORTERS, TOO
It has been said in comments that we would find similarly talking point-driven, substance-less supporters at an Obama rally, and we agree. But no politician has emerged on the national stage as undefined and unqualified as Sarah Palin, and her public persona--which is anti-intellectual by definition--discourages substance. Instead, we get winking. One could hardly imagine her giving a complex speech about race in America, or speaking eloquently about our country’s relations with Islam. Not just because she couldn’t write such a speech (Obama has speech-writers, of course) but because she wouldn’t--such necessarily academic discussion is antithetical to the persona she’s created for herself and that her supporters have come to love.

CHERRY-PICKING
As for accusations of cherry picking, which are commonly thrown at interview-based videos, it simply isn’t what we did. We interviewed only a few more people than ended up in the video, not hundreds, and what was cut was done for time purposes. The people were selected at random--some offered to be interviewed--and we were only there for 90 mins (it gets dark early and fast in Ohio right now). What didn’t make it into the video was just more footage of people talking about taxes/spending, drilling, and abortion, and we constructed blocks in the piece to represent those issues. Of course the piece was edited to be entertaining (this is YouTube, after all, where the currency is cat videos) but we don’t believe we misrepresented the attitudes of the people at that signing in any way.

This NEW LEFT MEDIA film was produced and edited by Chase Whiteside (interviews) and Erick Stoll (camera).

But you've really got to let the "folks" speak for themselves...

I think this is a problem.

Anti-Queer Legislation in Uganda

I heard on NPR today about THE FELLOWSHIP's political movements in Uganda to illegalize, persecute and even execute homosexuals there.

Coincidentally (or not) my friend Adele, at her site www.Queermergent.com, posted some startling information today concerning homosexuality in Africa:

Queer In Africa


I don't presume that all my readers are egalitarian on the issue of homosexuality, and as I've said before of gender issues, I have enjoyed the luxury of remaining somewhat neutral. In the last year, I have moved from that supposed (and often only illusory) "neutrality," to a much more supportive stance. Queer issues are human rights issues. Homosexuals, like women, First Nations people and other minorities, are "the least of these." They are the marginalized. Jesus came to set captives free.

Who have we prevented from reaching freedom? From equality? From emancipation?

My favorite Lauryn Hill song says, "It's freedom time..."

Christian Meme: Praying for Obama's Death?

I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any liberals who prayed for or advocated for the assassination of George W. Bush. Yes, there was harsh criticism and there were angry words - right or wrong, kind or cruel, that's a freedom to every political and social persuasion in this country.

A bizarre fringe movement within Evangelicalism has been gaining steam on the blogosphere, in chain e-mails, and - until recently - on do-it-yourself t-shirts through CafePress:


On November 16 Rabbi Brad Hirschfield wrote...


Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned. When the call for such prayers becomes one of the most popular Google searches in the country, we should shake, especially those of us who believe in God, prayer and the Bible... Among the world's top Google searches today are phrases that contain the words "Psalms 109 8", and "Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama". For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads "May his days be few, may another take over his position." And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, "May his children be orphans and his wife a widow"...

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks' events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies? How is it that the very same people who would have wanted to curtail access, and rightly so, to the hate-filled, violence-inducing, sermons to which Major Hasan listened, do not cry out against these prayers and those praying them?

...The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree...

What is this double standard we have? This sort of virulent intolerance (juxtaposed with Christianity's own outrage over ironically-parallel Islamic fundamentalism) is exactly why sites like ChristianityMeme.org are so tragically poignant. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of the Christianity Meme, here's some content from their site:

About Christianity Meme
Christianity Meme is an organization of people who wish to expose Christianity for what it really is--a mind virus that controls human behavior to facilitate its own survival. As such, it is a living, but unconscious player in human affairs.

The site's homepage explains:

These pages espouse a point of view about religions in general, but Christianity in particular. Our thesis is as follows:

  • Christianity is a meme--a mind virus that lives in the minds of people and is spread through proselytization and other means.

  • Christianity is a meme about God, but it has no other connection to God.

  • The Christianity Meme has been shaped purely by natural selection--the law of survival of the fittest--as it has played out in human minds. It is a sophisticated product of cultural evolution.

  • Being a "true Christian" infected by the Christianity Meme will subject you to aid its survival through its adaptations that allow it to exert control over human behavior.

  • As a consequence, the more Christian you are the more you are prone to certain kinds of immoral behavior. The Christianity Meme is not bound by the moral principles it carries.
    We seek to expose Christianity for what it is and we advocate a conscious and rational approach to morality in its place.

* * *

Now, if I thought all of that was inherently true, I wouldn't still be a Christian. But the fact that I don't believe it's all true may simply mean the meme has completely brainwashed me to its purposes.

MORE IMPORTANTLY (to me) however, is that critiques of Christendom's abusive, militant, protectionist, often-paranoid and morally schitzophrenic behaviors are too accurate; too-rarely the exception.

I've asked this question before: is the world a better place because of Christianity? For God's sake, our "brothers and sisters" are likening a Christian president to Adolph Hitler, and praying to God for his death!


Someone tell me what the Gospel is.
Someone tell me: Are we better off?


Quick! Someone e-mail me something funny I can post!
I've had way too many negative posts recently...

Another HUGE DOWNER! (a great poem)

So, I'll have to reiterate, I'm doing just fine - but I think it's important to create space for sorrow, suffering, and transparent struggle. Christianity, at it's best, is weak and unassuming - a corporate manifestation of beatitude-leastness. That's where transformative, subversive power comes from (power "made perfect in weakness").

My friend Adele (www.ExistentialPunk.com) posted yesterday's poem, "A Prayer of Anger" on her blog with a raw and painful glimpse into her struggles. I'm so thankful for how real she is.

In the comments of the post, Marika posted another beautiful, gut-wrenching, horrifying, painful poem about Christianity and colonialism (and I'm sure about a lot more than that) that I just HAD to share with you...


Marika posted...

'The Island' by R S Thomas:
And God said, I will build a church here
And cause this people to worship me,
And afflict them with poverty and sickness
In return for centuries of hard work
And patience.

And its walls shall be hard as
Their hearts, and its windows let in the light
Grudgingly, as their minds do,
and the priest’s words be drowned
By the wind’s caterwauling. All this I will do,
Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes
Grow, and their lips suppurate with
Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth
On my altar, and I will choose the best
Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

And that was only on one island.

A Prayer of Anger

A Prayer of Anger, by John Shea... Actually, I'm not angry at all. I feel fine. But we read this poem tonight in class, and I was deeply moved. It reminds me of a book written by my college theatre professor, Tom Gressler, called Occasions of Sin.

Here's the poem...

A PRAYER OF ANGER

No hymn of praise today.
No hand-clapping alleluia

For the All-Good God
And his marvelous handiwork.
Lord
A child has been born bad.
He gangles and twitches and shames
The undiscovered galaxies of your creation.
Why could not the hands
that strung the stars
Dip into that womb to bless and heal?
Please no voice from Job's Whirlwind
Saying how dare I. I dare!
Yet I know no answer comes
Save that tears dry up, skin knits,
And humans love broken things.
But to you who are always making pacts
You have my word on this -
On the final day of fire
After You have stripped me
(if there is breath left)
I will subpoena You to the stand
In the court of human pain.

John Shea


No call for theologizing, here. This a sort of raw, ugly, beautiful truth of a faithful heart speaking faithful outrage to God, for so much that is wrong. I wish more of us were this honest, this brave, and this faithful.

The Wisdom of Woody Allen

A few of my favorite Allen quotes, for your enjoyment...
Peter
  • How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?
  • How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?
  • I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.
  • If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.
  • It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better... while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.
  • Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.
  • To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
  • What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

"Make me an instrument..." Prayer of St. Francis

I did something last night that I haven't done in awhile. I get wrapped up in devil's advocacy, deconstruction, cynicism and "righteous" indignation and it can often separate me from the sense of spiritual connectedness that has so often, and so faithfully, sustained me throughout my life.

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I prayed the Prayer of St. Francis. Not verbatim - I don't have it memorized - but as much as I could remember.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Humility is a lesson we need taught and retaught. Obedience, even moreso. "Obedience" doesn't come natural for me, for my generation or for my culture. Obedience is counter-intuitive, even as I speak words that suggest I value it.

Lord, use me. Make me an instrument. Help me be less of a douche...

Abortion/Healthcare Controversy

So...

I'm not going to understate how complicated the issue of abortion is, for me. Not just because my background was conservative evangelical, but because the history of the Christian church has been pretty consistently against abortion, from the 1st Century C.E. I can't just let that ethos go, and the idea of being "consistently pro-life" (pro-women, pro-welfare, anti-death penalty) does resonate with me. But that doesn't "solve" or answer the question for me, by any stretch. I believe in women's rights, and don't believe in legislating morality (unless it's for the protection of others... ah, yes... I know how you feel). It's hard to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Especially if their shoes happen to be more painful to walk in (as is often the case). So I remain conflicted - which is a luxury I'm aware that I have as a man, middle class and with good medical insurance. Neither side - neither irony - is lost on me.

But I do find the rationale of today's block of any public access to abortion, via the proposed healthcare plan, a little jarring - after all:

  • I'm against war. Why should I have had to pay taxes to fund the murder, rendition and torture of thousands of people - including civilians?

  • I'm against the subjugation of women. Why should my tax dollars have to help underwrite the exemptions of those fundamentalist churches propagating misogyny (who subversively and dishonestly engage in rampant politicking) because they are - supposedly - non-profit?

  • I'm against the outrageous incarceration of a third of black men in America. I don't like having to pay to support racially oppressive policing.

  • I'm against the enforcement of anti-marijuana laws (heh, yes, insert jokes here). I think my tax dollars are wasted on weed when they could be fighting meth and crack and contemporary Christian music.

I'm against a whole lot of things that my tax dollars go toward, but all of those things happen to be legal. That's the "curse" of living in a society with laws.

I'm sure someone else could argue this far better than I can. I'm sure plenty of you could argue against me quite effectively. But something about all this, today, strikes me as wrong - the wrong method and venue for this debate.

Armstrong & Tutu: Compassion must unite us...

A great treatise (even if you don't believe everything theologically asserted here... which is fine) on our need for common ground, common acceptance, and active love, compassion and reconciliation between nations and religions. I love the heart of ecumenism.

(CNN) -- We have called on the world to sign up to a Charter for Compassion.

Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves into the place of the other and it lies at the heart of all truly religious and ethical systems.

The charter, which will be unveiled Thursday, November 12, has been composed by leading thinkers in many different faiths. Thousands of people have contributed to it online. It is a cooperative effort to restore compassion to the center of religious, moral and political life. Why is this so important?

One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community, where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace.

Religion, which should be making a major contribution to this endeavor, is often seen as part of the problem. All too often the voices of extremism seem to drown those that speak of kindness, forbearance and mutual respect. Yet the founders of every single one of the great traditions recoiled from the violence of their time and tried to replace it with an ethic of compassion.

The great sages who promoted the Golden Rule were nearly all living during periods of history like our own. They argued that a truly compassionate ethic served people's best interests and made good practical sense.


When the Bible commands that we "love" the foreigner, it was not speaking of emotional tenderness: in Leviticus, "love" was a legal term: It was used in international treaties, when two kings would promise to give each other practical support, help and loyalty, and look out for each other's best interests. In our global world, everybody has become our neighbor, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity.

When asked by a pagan to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg, Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, replied: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah -- and everything else is only commentary." His Holiness the Dalai Lama put it even more succinctly when he said: "My religion is kindness."

Click here to read the whole article...

We Exoticize, and then Marginalize...

A friend of mine quickly added (via e-mail) to my last post: "don't forget to add RACIST" to the misogynistic and homophobic undertones of the "dudes" at Deadly Vipers.

He sent me this link, which includes an incredible segment of a lecture on the way we continue to marginalize anyone who is "other"...


Here's the second. It's even more shocking. You should watch them both...

Looking for "Manswers?" No thank you...

No message in this. Just the sort of slick, hip, homophobic, misogynistic garbage that passes for "Relevant" Christianity today.

From Deadly Viper on Vimeo.

Their actual website, and manifesto = horrifying.

I'm so glad I'm a sissy.

Psalm 32:3 (my bones wasted away)

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long."
- Psalm 32:3

Last night I began a conversation that I should have had years ago. Like the psalmist, I had bottled up my feelings and allowed it to eat away at me and loved ones. In my heart, I wanted vengeance or justice too badly to seek resolution.

I'm not sure what the writer of Proverbs meant when he wrote, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love..." I don't know the context of that dichotomy. But open rebuke, offered in humility and personal confession (because we're all a mess) is powerful and cathartic.

This morning I woke up without a headache for the first time in months. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up without pain.

When I think about this relational dynamic (forgive the anonymity) that has plagued and haunted me for so many years, I suddenly (today) don't feel the shortness of breath and tightening in my chest that comes with all-too-common anxiety attacks.

Psalm 51:6 reads, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place," and I realize how untruthful I have been with myself. I clung to my perceptions of justice to protect myself from twisting the knife that cuts to grace... if that makes sense. Transcendent grace can tear us apart when it goes deeper than our little personal graces are comfortable with. We celebrate God's grace until it defies our individual sense of justice.

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." When I kept silent, it was because I didn't want to forgive.

Forgiveness doesn't happen overnight, either. I've got a long road, and it will likely involve much greater understanding of my own complicit behaviors that contributed to sick, dysfunctional relationships. That, too, will twist this knife.

For today, though, I'm thankful for no headache.

Naomi Wolf: The End of America

Just watched the documentary based on Naomi Wolf's book The End of America. Many of you will find little here that is surprising, but the film is powerful and disturbing. Wolf presents information that most of us are at least partly aware of in such a compelling way, it's worth watching even if you already have a clearly-developed opinion on the Bush Administration's practices and policies.

Frankly, I had been of the mindset that "going after" the previous administration for its crimes was an unnecessary and potentially damaging endeavor. In part, I was concerned that it would be politically unfruitful for the Obama Administration, and thus not worth the effort. But I've been a fan of Naomi Wolf for some time, and she's got me on the bandwagon now...

10 STEPS THAT CLOSE AN OPEN SOCIETY

1. invoke an internal and external threat.

People who are afraid are willing to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.

2. establish secret (unaccountable) prisons where torture takes place.

In a secret system, the government does not have to provide any proof of wrongdoing by those it holds, so it can incarcerate anyone it wants.

3. develop a paramilitary force.

A private military force – under the exclusive direction of the “commander in chief” with no accountability to Congress, the courts, or the public – blurs the line between a civilian police force and a militarized police state.

4. surveil ordinary citizens

People who believe they are being watched are less likely to voice opposition. To scare a population into silence, the government need only monitor the activities of a few to make everyone fear that they are being surveilled. Every closed society keeps a “list” of so-called opponents it tracks.

5. infiltrate citizen’s groups

Spies in activist groups put psychological pressure on genuine activists by undermining their trust in one another. They may also disrupt legal activities, undermining the effectiveness of group efforts.

6. detain and release ordinary citizens

Detention intimidates or psychologically damages those arrested and also lets everyone know that anyone could be labeled an “enemy combatant” and “disappeared.”

7. target key individuals

People are less likely to speak out when those who are highly visible, like journalists, scholars, artists, or celebrities, are intimidated or have the livelihoods threatened. Targeting those who are especially visible makes it less likely that people will speak out and robs society of leaders and others who might inspire opposition.

8. restrict the press

The public is less likely to fi nd out about government wrongdoing if the government can threaten to prosecute anyone who publishes or broadcasts reports that are critical of the government.

9. recast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason

People who protest can be charged with terrorism or treason when laws criminalize or limit free speech rather than protect it.

10. subvert the rule of law

The disappearance of checks and balances makes it easier to declare martial law, especially if the judiciary continues to exercise authority over individuals but has no authority over the Executive branch.


The End Of America - Trailer from IndiePix on Vimeo.

“My sense of alarm comes from the clear lessons from history

that, once certain checks and balances are destroyed, and once

certain institutions have been intimidated, the pressures that

can turn an open society into a closed one turn into direct

assaults; at that point events tend to occur very rapidly, and

a point comes at which there is no turning back to

the way it used to be.”

- Naomi Wolf


The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot




At best, I may be an inconsistent patriot of our nation-state, but I believe in freedom of speech and ideas, and freedom from oppression, and I'm at least aware enough to recognize America - at it's best - can be a protector of those freedoms.

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