Saturday, July 29, 2006

Melvin Lipman, President of the American Humanist Association, in central Ohio today

Yesterday I saw this article in the Faith and Values section of the Columbus Dispatch...

Humanist leader to speak here

"We feel now more than ever there’s a need to assert ourselves to stop this creeping theocracy from taking place, to let the public know that religion has no monopoly on morality," the president of the American Humanist Association said.

Lipman, the 69-year-old leader of the country’s largest humanist group, will be in Columbus this weekend for several events, sponsored by the Humanist Community of Central Ohio.

Humanists are atheists, he said, but they feel a responsibility to lead ethical lives for the good of society.

While polls show that millions of Americans don’t believe in God, Lipman said public officials ignore them because they are afraid to speak out.

"When you speak to anybody, it’s politically incorrect to be anti-gay, it’s politically incorrect to be a racist. . . . But it’s perfectly OK to say, ‘I hate atheists,’ " he said.
I was able to attend and record the event, and I have started a transcript of it here.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Right’s Values Agenda

A press release by Bob Shemansky. The date on it is July 19, but I haven't opened my e-mail for a few days. It's been a crazy week. -Renee

While we balance on the brink of yet another conflict in the Middle East, the Bush Administration would rather talk about gay marriage. As oil prices skyrocket ever higher, the Republican Party wants to talk about flag burning. Instead of dealing with the increasingly deadly war in Iraq, the Republican Congress wants to take on the burning issue of how we say the pledge of allegiance.

Today President Bush vetoed a bill that would expand stem cell research. This will happen, despite calls for passage from Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two men who are hardly known for being “liberals” or, for that matter, even voices of moderation. One of the most honored and respected voices in the Republican Party, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who watched her husband fall victim to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, this week issued a statement saying, "Time is short, and life is precious, and I hope this promising research can now move forward." But these pleas for reason have fallen on deaf ears. The President, for the first time in his 5 ½ years in office, has used his veto power not to stop runaway budget deficits or halt multi-billion dollar pork-barrel projects, but to stop a bill that would expand life saving research.

Later this week and into the fall, House Republicans will again debate a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. They will do so despite the fact that it has already failed in the Senate. So what is their rationale? According to Representative Phil Gringrey (R- GA), this bill ---and I’m not making this up --- “is perhaps the best message we can give to the Middle East and all the trouble they’re having over there right now.”

Think about that for a moment. The “best message” we can give to the Middle East is that the American Congress wants to bash homosexuals yet again, insert itself into the private lives of this nation’s citizens, and negate the authority states have historically had to regulate the institution of marriage. Yep, that will certainly defuse the crisis in Lebanon and hasten the end of the Iraqi civil war so we can finally bring our brave troops home.

In truth we all know what these hot button issues bills are about. They are not about doing anything constructive on the great issues of the day. They are about politics, pure and simple. The Gay Marriage Ban and bills like it are being trotted out because 2006 is an election year, and since Republicans can’t talk about anything on which they have been successful; since they can’t talk about how they’ve united us, they will talk about things designed to divide us even further.

Personally, I believe the voters are smarter than that. I think they’ll see through these smokescreens. And come election day ---in the immortal words of The Who ---I think the voters will make it clear that they “won’t be fooled again.”

Bob Shamansky is a lifelong Central Ohio resident, lawyer, and local businessman. He served as a Special Agent in the United States Army’s Counter Intelligence Corp during the Korean War, and as a Member of Congress representing Ohio's 12th Congressional District from 1981-1983. He is facing Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Genoa Twp.) as the Democratic nominee in the 12th Congressional District.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Religion and Science

I've been listening to another radio interview with Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop Elect of the Episcopal Church. This one was on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Given that religion and science are supposedly at odds with each other in America today, I am of course fascinated to hear the perspective of a bishop who worked as a scientist at a university.

Christy George: You came to religion as a scientist--you came to your calling in the church as a scientist. What do you think are the underlying issues feeding things like the fight over evolution?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think part of it is a shift in cultural, moral views. Do we live in an Enlightenment world view, or do we live out of a postmodern understanding. Are we willing to live with a variety of faces of truth, or do we insist that there is only one possible understanding of truth and that any human being can possess that understanding.
More from that interview here.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Politics: the "art of living together in community"

At work yesterday I was talking about the whole Episcopal/Anglican kerfuffle, and a couple of my coworkers found it amusing that the Anglican church, which is known for having split from the Catholic church in the first place over "issues of human sexuality" is supposedly heading for schism over such issues now. I need to read more about the cultural issues behind all of this so that I understand it better. But I agree with Katharine Jefferts Schori that we need to get back to the business of mission too...

As I've mentioned below, she recently did an interview with Diane Rehm on NPR, and I've transcribed some of it. In the most recent segment I've posted, Diane Rehm asked Katharine Jefferts Schori if she feels able to speak out on political issues, or if she is restrained in some way.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I've made major statements about the Federal Budget the last time around, and on immigration issues. The church has a voice to contribute to the conversation, and I think it's essential that we do so. Obviously, if we're a nonprofit organization, we can't promote one particular candidate or one particular political initiative. But we have a responsibility as Christians to express our moral understanding of the implications of actions of Congress, and our government, and I think we need to do more of that work probably than less.
I think the work around Millennium Development Goals has been a politically motivated initiative in the large sense of what that word "politics" means. I understand it as the art of living together in community. We are called to transform the world around us as Christians, into something that looks more like the reign of God. And the last time I checked, I don't think the hungry are all being fed, I don't think the ill people are all being provided with healthcare. We have work to do.
More here.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Katharine Jefferts Schori on the Diane Rehm Show

Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori did an interview on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR last week. I've transcribed some of it here.

It's a girl!

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Musings on the 4th of July

On my way home from the gym a few days ago, I noticed a new sign in front of a local church. You know--the kind of sign where someone can rearrange the letters for a new message each week. (Create your own here.) I'm invariably alone in the car on my way somewhere when I will see a new message that is just so dang outrageous that I have to talk back to it--out loud. Especially the ones that purport to be "quotes" from God, "You think it's hot here?" or "Don't make me come down there!"

*Down* here? You mean You're not *already* "down here"? What gives? I thought You were everywhere"!

But other signs just catch my attention, inspiring me to turn them over in my mind for a little while. And sometimes I turn them enough times that they end up meaning something entirely different from what the writer most likely intended.

Yesterday was one of those times. The sign I saw, just a few blocks from my house, said "America, you must be born again." Their 4th of July message, apparently. But here's where *my* mind went with that...

July 4 is traditionally thought of as our nation's birthday--the country having been "born" on that day back in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The current administration likes to use the holiday to reinforce sentiments like "support and thank our troops--by blindly supporting our agenda." But when you stop and think about the what a radical document the Declaration of Independence really was--and still is--you can't help but realize that its message is diametrically opposed to the "Shut up and wave your little flag" brand of patriotism.

So, thinking of it that way, comparing the America of 2006 with the ideals upon which this nation was founded, I find myself embracing the message, "America, you must be born again". I know--that's *not* the message the church people had in mind when they put up the sign. But that's what I got out of it. I couldn't help but smile to myself at the irony of that.

America, you must be born again. But, could we please do it without the bloody revolution? I've got kids to think about, you know. How about we just spend some time remembering our roots?

We made a flyer with quotes from our founding fathers (and mothers). Here are a few of them...

George Washington
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Thomas Jefferson
War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.

James Madison
The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

Benjamin Franklin
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Click here to get your own printable flyer. If you don't have a color printer, it still works pretty well in black and white. Feel free to share it at any Independence Day festivities you attend today.

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