Ayatollah Huckabee

Huckabee "I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god.

And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

Thanks to North Coast Cafe. To read NCC's article click on link below.

Link: North Coast Cafe: Ayatollah Huckabee.

Amish Grace, the book

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcends Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher is a wonderful book, well written, informative, and inspiring.

Amish Grace describes the events following the tragedy at Nickel Mines, PA on October 2, 2006, when Charles Carl Roberts IV went into an Amish school and took 10 little girls hostage and eventually killing 5 and wounding another 5 and then killing himself.

The Amish, true to their beliefs, forgave Roberts and his family and invited Roberts widow and family to the funerals of their children and many of the Amish also attended the funeral of Roberts.

These acts of forgiveness, while true to the teachings of Jesus, are rarely seen in our society hell bent on vengeance and retribution. Many questions arose in resistance and denial of the forgiveness of the Amish accusing them of perpetrating a PR stunt, or of being psychologically imbalanced. Yet, Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher trace the history of the Amish culture and demonstrate that their acts of forgiveness are genuine, sincere, and "natural" given their belief system and culture.

Diana Butler Bass, a religion columnist, is quoted in the book as saying, "What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?"

While Bush and his religious right base claim to be Christian, they certainly don't follow the teachings of Jesus, but the Amish actually do and it shocks the world.

This is a lovely, well written, and inspiring book. I highly recommend it to all Americans and to people around the world, especially Christians who profess to follow Jesus. If people who profess to follow Jesus are sincere, they should pay close attention to the example set by our Amish brothers and sisters.

Having lost two children myself to a 3 time drunk driver, I know personally what it is like to loose children suddenly in a horrific tragedy. Other parents have suffered the same loss of children either suddenly or though terminal illnesses. It would be very helpful if we had the love, sympathy, and support of a community like the Amish have created for themselves.

As a Nickel Mines Amish man said on interview, "We were all Amish this week." I wish that we all  become Amish from here on out. Our world would be a much better place. If we all cannot become Amish, at least we would do well to practice their belief in the redemptive power of forgiveness.

Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex

AP reported today, 11/07/07, on a report that abstinence only programs do not curb teen sex.

Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which was based on a review of research into teenager sexual behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

"Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect," said the report.

A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.

This is another example of how ideology and religious agendas have trumped sound public health science during the Bush Administration. Perhaps as we move to a new administration we can once again renew our belief in the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Bush's "faith based" initiatives, while they may have attracted right wing evangelical support, are not founded on sound social policy values.

Link: Print Story: Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex on Yahoo! News.

Pulled From the Wreckage (Of Addiction)

Rev_tamara_lebak On Sunday, September 30, 2007, Rev. Tamara Lebak, Assistant Pastor at All Soul's Unitarian Church, in Tulsa, OK gave a wonderful sermon on addiction and the need to sometimes surrender in life entitled "Pulled From The Wreckage." She even sings a couple of times during her sermon and she has a beautiful voice.

This sermon lasts about 25 minutes and its well worth listening to. Here is part of the blurb describing the sermon from the Digg web site.

Those of us who have been touched by substance abuse are familiar with this sort of interpersonal wreckage: when those we love cannot stop themselves from drinking or using drugs. I have yet to meet a person who has not been affected by substance abuse, whether directly or through a friendship or family member. Tragically, fear and misunderstanding â the stigma we are all so familiar with â keep people from seeking care, limit public support for expanded services, and make it difficult for individuals to rebuild their lives once they are well. I believe that addiction is a disease and that the human experience in modern culture perpetuates a desire to make real contact with others and only offers cheap substitutes for that meaningful contact: drinking, drugs, shopping, video games, television. The holes in our soul cannot be filled by the idols our culture offers to us. Join me this Sunday as I explore the stigma of substance abuse and our common need for contact.

You can access it by going to the Digg web site at the link below.

Link: Digg - Pulled From the Wreckage (All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK).

Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of Unitarian Universalist Association, calls for an end to the Iraq War

It is interesting that even thought President Bush tells the American people that God speaks to him and tells him what to do not all religious people share the same values or views as President Bush's God. It makes you wonder what God people are listening to or what God talks to whom. Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association thinks that the war in Iraq should end as do the majority of the people in the United States. Here is the statement on the UUA website:

On September 6, I faxed a message to every member of Congress telling them, "Not another dollar. Not another life." To make sure they heard me, I am headed to Capitol Hill with my colleague Rev. John H. Thomas, the United Church of Christ's General Minister and President. On October 10 we will be walking into your representatives' offices to tell them to end the war and I want to bring you with me!

I invite you to sign the petition below calling for an end to our reliance on violence as the first, rather than the last, resort and an end to the arrogant unilateralism of preemptive war. Join me in speaking truth to those who have run from it. Please sign this petition and add your voice to 25,000 other Unitarian Universalists who say that security is found in building beloved community, not by dominating others.

I signed the petition and ask that you do the same.

Link: UUA: 25,000 for Peace—Join Rev. Sinkford's Call to End the War.

Weight, the book

Weight is the title of a book written by Jeanette Winterson about the myth of Atlas and Hercules published in 2005. It is almost poetry as it recounts the labors of Atlas who has to hold up the world and Hercules who holds up the world for a brief period while Atlas steals Hera's golden apples for Hercules.

This myth of Atlas and Hercules is a story about choice and duty and their formative influence on one's fate and destiny. In the introduction Winterson writes:

"Right now, human beings as a mass, have a gruesome appetite for what they call 'real', whether it's Reality TV or the kind of plodding fiction that only works as low-grade documentary, or at the better end, the factual programmes and biographies and 'true life' accounts that occupy the space where imagination used to sit. Such phenomenon point to a terror of the inner life, of the sublime, of the poetic, of the non-material, of the contemplative."

I do not agree with Winterson that people have a terror of inner life and so favor their entertainment in pedestrian "reality TV" shows. People tend to be, at least in the United States, very taken with religious myths of all sorts, UFOs, Harry Potter, etc. The Greek myths of old, though, get to the heart of the mysteries of our human existence and after 2500 years they still are as current as ever. Winterson's book, Weight, takes the old and makes it relevant and new again. It is worth the read if you like this kind of literature.

How religion is complicit in domestic violence

Battered_woman On July 15, 2007, Rev. Tamara Lebak, Assistant Pastor at the All Soul's Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, preached a powerful sermon on Domestic Violence. It is not a topic that is often preached on and she does a super job giving an overview of the problem, a personal insight into how it affected her own life, and how churches and religion can be complicit in supporting the problem.

I highly recommend the sermon and you can listen or download it from the Digg web site by clicking on the link below.

Link: Digg - Why Have You Forsaken Me? (All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK).

Governance structure of Catholic church is source of its biggest problems

Cardinal_mahony Predatory priests are not the problem. It is the unaccountable governance structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests operate in their own secret world above the law. They often lead a double life preying on the gullible sexually, financially, and theologically. They do not genuinely care for their victims or families but only to preserve their own status, power, and perrogatives.

According to the Associated Press, the archdiocese of Los Angeles paid out a record setting clergy abuse civil settlement, 660 million, to prevent Cardinal Mahony from having to testify in court.

I wonder why Catholics would continue to financially support a church this corrupt?

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony approved a record clergy abuse payout, opened the files of the Roman Catholic priests involved and looked into the cameras and apologized last week for the victims' treatment. And it still might not be enough to satisfy some.

To fund the archdiocese's share of the $660 million settlement, the cardinal will have to sell property, liquidate investments and cut spending, dismantling part of what he built in more than two decades as the city's archbishop.

Even so, critics question whether the cardinal should have done more to rein in predatory priests in the nation's largest archdiocese. Bishops answer only to the Vatican, which had to sign off on some funding of the settlement, but every church leader needs the trust of the parishioners.

"He acknowledged he made some mistakes, he apologized," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "Now the people of Los Angeles are going to have to weigh the good that he's done over the last 22 years versus the bad things he did and decide whether they can continue to accept him as their bishop."

Last week's deal was made on the eve of a civil trial in which Mahony would have been grilled about why he left some abusive priests in churches without telling parents or police.

Link: Questions Linger About L.A. Cardinal.