Sunday, June 26, 2016

All 'Round Me


And in my moments of grief and groans
the world marches on without me
but not to leave me all alone
it's there, I know, all 'round me.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pride Festival, 2016


With so much bad news
in the news,
shootings,
hatred,
division,
oppression...

with all the bad news
it was a pleasant evening
to gather together with
a few thousand friends
and strangers
and take a stand for
      Love.

Truly, a beautiful day.




Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Muslim Strategy for Peace-making


From an op-ed by Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His next book, "How to be a Muslim," will be out in 2017.

...The hundreds of millions of Muslims who reject extremism must start building out real, institutional alternatives to extremism, with serious funding, talent and commitment behind them. We've spent tens of millions of dollars in the United States, for example, and on what? We have some nice mosques. Most of them are empty most of the week, except for a few hours every Friday afternoon. We built some Islamic schools. I guess that's cool. But on the major metric, we've failed. It feels as if we are more unpopular than ever.
Many Americans want us banned from the country. In the battle for hearts and minds, we're losing. Badly. When Muhammad Ali died, a lot of Muslims I know were despondent precisely because they wondered if we would ever see such a champion again.
We need to turn this around. We need to fight back against extremism. We need to take ownership of the problems, because it's the only way we're going to take ownership of the solution. If you can't criticize yourself, you can't better yourself. If you can't lay out a vision of the future, you're going to live someone else's future.
I'm calling for the chaotic Muslim middle -- too long unrepresented or underrepresented -- not to stand up and speak out, but to stand up and build out. We must design, fund, sustain and expand programs that target the very people extremists are going after. Young men and young women of all backgrounds. These programs would realize a positive vision of Islam. They'd make young people feel like they're doing something. They'd make them feel valuable. Empowered. Capable. Agents.
As a friend of mine likes to put it, these programs should help create protagonists, writers of their own narrative. That becomes the kind of program that young people all over the world want to be part of. They should be so well-funded that we can afford to take people regardless of their personal circumstance. So egalitarian they aim to assist and uplift people regardless of where they come from, what color their skin is, what religion they believe in, or what language they speak. That begin to crowd out the extremist narrative, and extremist ideology.
Imagine if we could send significant numbers of young Muslims to meet their co-religionists and offer them aid and assistance, or to meet people they've never been exposed to, to be taught and to teach. Imagine if we leveraged our resources and our numbers to fight hate, intolerance and extremism. Imagine if young people saw they could help their co-religionists by working with mainstream institutions.
I am tired of simply saying terrorism is wrong. We should know that already. We should be known for that. I'd rather build up an alternative, a Muslim world that doesn't just reject extremism in word, but defeats it in deed, that does more than acknowledge homophobia, and intolerance (and the many other ills we see rampant in some Muslim communities, like anti-Semitism and racism), but actively fights them.
We certainly have the resources among us. We have more reasons to act now than we should...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

An Insane and Hellish Legalism...

Cracked Pot
From Stan, at the fundamentalist blog, Winging It, on the "Regulative Principle of Worship...."

"I'd guess that most of you have never heard of this concept. Don't worry. I wouldn't expect it. Popular at one point, there are now very few churches that subscribe to it and, as you would expect, the rest have mostly put it out of their minds. So ... what is it? You've heard, I assume, of the principle of Christian Liberty. Based on passages like Romans 14 and1 Corinthians 10:23-33, this principle holds that Christians are permitted to do anything that God's Word does not forbid within the confines of conscience. Now, that's an oversimplification, perhaps, and there are lots of considerations, but that's the idea. Well, the regulative principle of worship is like that, except in reverse. This principle says that in worship believers are only permitted to do that which God commands.

The idea, believe it or not, comes from Scripture. The most compelling clue comes from the story of Nadab and Abihu. These priests, sons of Aaron, offered "strange fire" and were instantly burned to death (Lev 10:1-2). For "strange fire"? Oh, sure, the ESV says "unauthorized fire", like that helps. The point is that they didn't violate a command from God; they simply did something in worship that He had not commanded. When Aaron started to complain, Moses told him, "This is what the LORD has said: 'Among those who are near Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And the text says that with that, "Aaron held his peace." (Lev 10:3) 

It looks then like God is concerned with specifics in the worship He receives. Thus, Moses was not allowed to make whatever he thought appropriate for the tabernacle. He had to make everything "after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain." (Exo 25:40) The first two commands of the Decalogue are about the proper worship of God (Exo 20:1-6). Paul warns about "self-made religion" which "have indeed an appearance of wisdom" but "are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." (Col 2:23) Jesus rejected "the traditions of the elders" (Matt 15:1-13) and required a return to "the commandment of God". So it looks like the regulative principle of worship may have a biblical case.

After that, of course, the case breaks down..."

I will point out that my response is not, of course, an attack on Stan, but on this human (and nutty-sounding) theory... The "Regulative Principle of Worship..." Also, I will note that Stan does not fully endorse the claim. He merely says he thinks "the case for the regulative principle of worship has merit."

Here we have a "principle" that Jesus never advocated being proposed as a serious Christian tenet. The case is built almost entirely on one obscure passage from the OT, and even there, it does not promote this as a principle, but humans have taken the passage and fabricated out of thin air a principle they extrapolated from this obscure passage something that even Stan notes is the reverse of a more reasonable and consistently biblical theory, the idea of Christian Liberty.

[I will note here that I find Stan's description of Christian Liberty interesting, as taken literally, it would destroy his arguments against gay folk marrying, since God's Word never "forbids" it... it is a human extrapolation. So, presumably if one is going to be consistent on the notion of Christian Liberty, one would embrace grace on the topic of gay folk marrying or transgender folk going to the bathroom in the reasonably appropriate place, rather than the legalism of modern fundamentalist/conservatives.]

Using this approach, all manner of evil and craziness could be promoted as "coming from Scripture."

"There's this line in the Bible where God clearly okays the selling of one's daughters into forced marriages. This comes from Scripture and, thus God..."

No!

"I just read about how God told the Israelites to slaughter all the people of a nation when they invade, so that is how God wants us to deal with our enemies, it comes from Scripture..."

No!

This is the problem with the legalistic approach to using/misusing/abusing the Bible... Merely finding a passage and then, extrapolating OUT FROM that passage a human theory about what God wants (even when God never said so) is a potentially horrible idea. However, as long as you are fine with admitting it is your theory and NOT "God's Word," then okay, so perhaps it lets you extrapolate out bad or irrational theories, but it is clearly your theory and you gladly and humbly admit as much. We might could live with that. But the problem is when one conflates the extrapolated human theory with God's Word.

"It comes from Scripture..."

If it doesn't mesh with the teachings of Jesus, don't offer up an extrapolated theory as being a reasonable Christian tenet. If it sounds crazy and legalistic on the face of it, don't offer it up as a reasonable teaching of Jesus. If JESUS didn't say it, don't say it's a teaching of Jesus.

The idea, believe it or not, comes from a HUMAN head, not from God. It is something that humans are extrapolating out and imposing upon God when God has not said it. That is a bad idea. It is irrational and presumptuous and, quite possibly, even evil. Don't do that.

The one line Stan (and presumably others who might agree) got right is, "the case breaks down."

Indeed, the case breaks down when you move from an amusing "what if this were taken THAT way...?" party game about human theories and the Bible and move to "I've decided this is biblical and thus, what God wants. HEED MY WORD."

Bad, bad idea.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Research on Corporal Punishment...

...or why spanking doesn't work.

A new report on spanking confirms and rather puts a nail in the coffin of the idea of spanking as a good idea. From the University of Texas at Austin...

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are
to defy their parents and
to experience increased anti-social behavior,
aggression,
mental health problems and
cognitive difficulties,

according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking.

The study, published in this month's Journal of Family Psychology, looks at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The researchers say it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.

"Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors," says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. "We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents' intended outcomes when they discipline their children..."

Both spanking and physical abuse were associated with the same detrimental child outcomes in the same direction and nearly the same strength.

"We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors," she says. "Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree."

Gershoff also noted that the study results are consistent with a report released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that called for "public engagement and education campaigns and legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment," including spanking, as a means of reducing physical child abuse. "We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline."
=====

Read more in Science Daily...

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160425143106.htm

Monday, May 16, 2016

One Voice


Pentecost at Jeff St Baptist. 2016


In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is that time shortly after Easter, after Jesus had ascended into heaven and his disciples were sitting around figuring out, "What next?" The remaining followers of Jesus (about 120) were gathered together in a house in Jerusalem on a Sabbath when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This is where Jesus had just been crucified a few days before... these were no doubt very scary, dangerous times for his followers. When the Holy Spirit of God came to the disciples, it was like "tongues of fire" falling down upon them. After this happened, they went out into the city and began to preach about Jesus and, in spite of the dangerous political climate, these sermons served to bring people together.



At my church yesterday, some friends joined together to sing the song "One Voice," which you can see above. Here is what the book of Acts has to say about this special day (sometimes called the Birthday of the Church...)


When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”

Peter’s Sermon

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all HUMANITY;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...’
~Acts 2

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Freedom!


There will come a day
when the very grains of sand
buried within the concrete sidewalks
will shake loose their bonds
and break down the structures that
imprison them
and be free.


I want to be there on that day
with a hammer in hand.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Condolences



Just a few thoughts on this Trump thing...

1. I don't think Trump is a Republican, not in the normal sense of the word. I don't think he strictly speaking holds to Republican or conservative values.

2. That is not to say that I think he's a Democrat or liberal... God forbid!

3. I think Trump is most likely a charlatan, a PT Barnum, loudly and proudly proclaiming "There is a sucker born every minute! And I'm here as living proof of that!"

4. That is, I think Trump is in this not for political ideals, just for himself. He'll say just about anything because he knows there's a certain apparently large percentage of the population that will believe just about anything, if you frame it just right and say it with enough bluster and demonize any who disagree with you.

5. This makes Trump potentially dangerous, because you just don't know what he'll do next and he's beholden to no groups, no community, no others but himself and that's all he needs, he thinks. It could well be this whole thing was a joke, to show how gullible a certain percentage of the population is, and how they'll go for anything if the right "leader" shows them the way. As Trump said himself, he could kill someone and his supporters would not stop supporting him. That's dangerous.

6. So, all that to say that the main problem in this Trump candidacy is not Trump himself, he's just an megalomaniacal con man. No, the problem is that so many people could fall under his spell. That's what is scary in all this.

7. Having said that, I'm not worried that Trump will win. I'm certain he's unelectable. Just because there is a large portion of the mostly "conservative" camp that will support him does not mean that there's anything like a majority who'd vote for him across the board.

8. Early on in this election cycle, when Trump was just beginning to establish himself, some GOP spokesperson said that he hoped Trump would be the nominee, just so that he'd get trampled in the general election and hopefully purge the GOP of this wing of their party. Not a bad idea, except that there's a chance that it might just kill off the GOP instead of rebuilding it. Sometimes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes, it kills you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day


     Softly, she whispers
and - leaning into the wind -
              softly, I listen

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When I Walk...


When I walk
I do so not for the purpose of traveling
but for the purpose of
introducing my feet
to the world

Saying, with each step,
Hello path
where will you lead today?

I'd like to make my feet
world-wise
and hope that some of that wisdom
may pass on to me.

And so, I'll walk
until my education is complete
and then
when I've learned as much as
my feet can stand
I'll return home
and rest

and begin my studies again tomorrow

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Easter 2016


Easter at my church, above. Celebrating and embracing life and grace, below...

"The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.

His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.

Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.

I had just rounded a corner when his incouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.

The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there."

~Annie Dillard

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beware the Bias


I recently heard and read in a few places people (conservative people) saying, "HEY y'all who support 'transgender' people and kids, you should look at what the EXPERTS are saying..." and they then proceeded to cite the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) who have come out with a study entitled, "Gender Ideology Harms Children..." and they begin citing some of the findings of this study.

Hmm, I thought. That's odd, I had not heard anything about professional doctors making this suggestion, not from the AMA or the APA... it struck me as odd that the professional organization for pediatricians was coming out with a study like this. But, having an open mind, I looked into what the experts were saying.

It was then that I realized that these were "experts," not experts. The ACP is NOT the big association of pediatricians that I assumed it was by the name. The well-recognized and long-lived pediatrician's association is the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP has been around since 1930 and has over 64,000 pediatrician members. They publish peer-reviewed research and have a staff of 390 people. The AAP has NOT come out in support of these "findings," that's the ACP.

And who is the ACP? They are a splinter group that formed out of the AAP to promote traditional and religious views of family. They were founded in 2002 and have between 60 and 200 members (not all of whom are pediatricians, I read). They have no peer-reviewed research. They welcome members who agree with their religious/moral views up front. Which is to say that their research is "validated" by people with an agenda to promote a specific bias.

This, of course, is not science. Scientific organizations have no faith creed you have to agree to at the outset. That is anti-science.

A TINY group (less than 1% the size of the AAP, mind you) with an agenda publishing "studies" that validate their pre-held biases is akin to tobacco-funded doctors coming out in favor of smoking, with "studies" that back up that bias. If you are dedicated to a religious/moral view going in to your research and your peers will only validate research that supports that pre-held bias, that is not science.

Beware groups that use science as a tool to further an agenda - especially so blatantly - and that does not have peer-reviews for their studies. That is not science, that is religion.

Also, beware any political groups/people who have traditionally decried "the so-called experts" who suddenly begin trumpeting "Hey! Science is right and validating what I believe!" They aren't dedicated to facts, science or truth. They are dedicated to an agenda. Which is fine if that's what they're dedicated to, but they should be clear on that point up front.

*Side note: I am not saying that scientists are free from bias. Of course, they aren't, they're human with human biases. But there's a difference between having a bias but still being dedicated to going where the data leads while being open to peer-review as a check against any possible biases... there's a difference between that and using science to try to validate your views. Again, that's religion (and in a negative sense), not science.