Archive - Dec 2006
A month or so ago, I got engaged in a conversation on Scott Freeman's site about nonviolence. One of the commenters (an apparently otherwise reasonable, dedicated Christian fellow) said (apparently yelling at the time)"
"I BELIEVE WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING AS CHRISTIANS ABOUT ISLAM AND THE MUSLIMS.THEIR KORAN TELLS THEM THAT THOSE WHO DO NOT AGREE WITH THEM THEN THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO KILL THEM.TODAY THERE ARE MORE THAN 6 MILLION NOW IN THE US AND OVER 2000 MOSQUE. SURAH 9:29 STATES "FIGHT THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT IN ALLAH NOR THE LAST DAY. THEY TEACH JESUS'APOSTLES BECAME MUSLIMS. THEIR INTENT IS TO DESTROY CHRISTIANS AND IF YOU REALLY READ THE KORAN THIS IS MOST EVIDENT."
This got me kind of riled up - that the number muslims and mosques in the US is somehow evidence of an increasing threat. That in one fell swoop, the commenter lumped into one group the millions of law-abiding Muslim citizens of the US into the same category as that tiny, tiny number (remember, we're talking about people currently living in the US) of mentally-deranged jihadists who are poised to harm Christians and the population of the US in general. I wrote in response:
jihadists/Islamists are a minority of Muslims (a tiny or effectively non-existent minority in the US). It is unfair, bigoted, and counter-productive to lump all Muslims in the U.S. into the category of suspicion and threat that jihadists deserve - in the same way that it would be unfair, bigoted, and counter-productive to lump all Christians in the U.S. into the same category of danger that includes racist white-supremacist "Christians", the Olympic-park bomber Eric Rudolph associated with the Christian Identity movement, the militant Christian terrorists in Northern Ireland, etc. Lumping the 2 to 7 million Muslims living in the U.S. into the threat category harms the vast, vast majority of them who are no threat and does not help us identify the tiny, tiny minority who are.
I'm reminded of other xenophobia in the news lately like attaching significance to similarities between Obama's name and other infamous world figures or their Islamic origin (link), CNN's Glenn Beck asking a Muslim politician to prove to him that he isn't working with our enemies, and Virginia representative Virgil Goode's anti-Muslim letter to his constituents (Cenk Uygur make a good point about Goode's statement here). This came back into my mind when I listened to last weekend's installment of This American Life (episode 322, Shouting Across the Divide) (available for free as real audio on the show's web site, for free as a podcast in iTunes).
A Muslim woman persuades her husband that their family would be happier if they left the West Bank and moved to America. They do, and things are good, until September 11. After that, the elementary school their daughter goes to begins using a textbook that says Muslims want to kill Christians. This and other stories of what happens when Muslims and non-Muslims try to communicate, and misfire.
Give it a listen. The story of what happened to Serry's daughter is really disturbing and is the kind of thing that naturally arises from blanket demonization of muslims. If you are either or both of these: a) a patriot dedicated to the ideals of religious freedoms and personal rights that are foundational to our democratic republic or b) a disciple of Jesus who, therefore, values compassion and mercy and treating others with love as you would have yourself treated then surely you'll want to be careful not to do anything to contribute the kind of suffering experienced by Serry's daughter.
Updated: 2006-12-28 I'll provide more precise targets by briefly summarizing what I'm trying to say here, and anyone can specify exactly what is disagreeable and why.
1.a. There are dangerous, violent, radical muslims in the world. Some of them may be in the U.S.
2.a. Radical muslims have attacked us in recent years (for example, World Trade Center attack) and will remain a danger for the foreseeable future.
2.b. Radical Christians have attacked us in recent years (Olympic park bombing, bombing and shooting of abortion providers, maybe even the Oklahoma City bombing though I don't think McVeigh considered himself a Christian) and will remain a danger for the foreseeable future.
3.a. The vast majority of muslims in the U.S. are not violent radicals, but are law-abiding, nonviolent, are not a danger, and are not guilty by association with radical muslims whose actions they repudiate.
3.b. The vast majority of Christians in the U.S. are not violent radicals, but are law-abiding, nonviolent, are not a danger, and are not guilty by association with radical Christians whose actions they repudiate.
4.a. The number of mosques and muslims in the U.S. is not a rational measure of the threat posed by violent radical muslims.
4.b. The number of church buildings and Christians in the U.S. is not a rational measure of the threat posed by violent radical Christians.
5.a. Muslim school children should not be ridiculed and ostracized at school because of their religion (TAL 322).
5.b. Christian school children should not be ridiculed and ostracized at school because of their religion.
6.a. Muslim school children should not be proselytized for Christianity in public schools in the U.S. (TAL 322)
6.b. Christian school children should not be proselytized for Islam in public schools in the U.S.
Peanut Gallery in association with Theatre Guild opened Friday with a well-produced rendition of "A Year With Frog and Toad," a Tony Award nominated musical based on Arnold Lobel's Caldecott Award winning books for children.
The first in Lobel's series of books appeared in 1970 with "Frog and Toad are Friends." These simple "I Can Read Books" were immediately acclaimed for their humor, quirky characters, and depiction of a loving friendship between Toad, a silly fussbudget, and Frog, who is down to earth and eternally patient.
As a musical comedy, these short sentences and chapters are brought to tuneful life as we follow Frog and Toad through a year full of simple adventures.
Here are a few pictures and videos:
On Kenny Simpson's blog a few commenters were sniping at Bono for nagging at us to do something about AIDS in Africa and someone said:
Bono is a good person, but easy to send several million when you make much more than that.
I assume that the vast majority of us of Christians give a significant fraction of our income to charity, but nevertheless we give less to others (e.g., the poor and needy), usually much less, than than the maximum amount we could give. I guess I'm OK with that, but I wonder what the justification for that practice is in general given what we know Jesus said (to the rich young ruler, for example) and how the first Christians shared liberally to meet needs. I give a certain amount. I could give more. I could give less. How should I decide how much to give?
Take the time to read this lengthy but very interesting article (via Slate's In Other Magazines column) of the same title as this blog post by Peter Singer in the NY Times magazine. A few highlights (but, really, read the whole thing):
For Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the ideal of valuing all human life equally began to jar against reality some years ago, when he read an article about diseases in the developing world and came across the statistic that half a million children die every year from rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children. He had never heard of rotavirus. "How could I never have heard of something that kills half a million children every year?" he asked himself. He then learned that in developing countries, millions of children die from diseases that have been eliminated, or virtually eliminated, in the United States. That shocked him because he assumed that, if there are vaccines and treatments that could save lives, governments would be doing everything possible to get them to the people who need them. As Gates told a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva last year, he and his wife, Melinda, "couldn't escape the brutal conclusion that â€” in our world today â€” some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not." They said to themselves, "This can't be true." But they knew it was.
Gates's speech to the World Health Assembly concluded on an optimistic note, looking forward to the next decade when "people will finally accept that the death of a child in the developing world is just as tragic as the death of a child in the developed world." That belief in the equal value of all human life is also prominent on the Web site of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where under Our Values we read: "All lives â€” no matter where they are being led â€” have equal value."
We are very far from acting in accordance with that belief. In the same world in which more than a billion people live at a level of affluence never previously known, roughly a billion other people struggle to survive on the purchasing power equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar per day. Most of the world's poorest people are undernourished, lack access to safe drinking water or even the most basic health services and cannot send their children to school. According to Unicef, more than 10 million children die every year â€” about 30,000 per day â€” from avoidable, poverty-related causes.
Interestingly, neither Gates nor Buffett seems motivated by the possibility of being rewarded in heaven for his good deeds on earth. Gates told a Time interviewer, "There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning" than going to church. Put them together with Andrew Carnegie, famous for his freethinking, and three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics. (The exception is John D. Rockefeller.) In a country in which 96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being, that's a striking fact.
In an article I wrote more than three decades ago, at the time of a humanitarian emergency in what is now Bangladesh, I used the example of walking by a shallow pond and seeing a small child who has fallen in and appears to be in danger of drowning. Even though we did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond, almost everyone agrees that if we can save the child at minimal inconvenience or trouble to ourselves, we ought to do so. Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong. The fact that in rescuing the child we may, for example, ruin a new pair of shoes is not a good reason for allowing the child to drown. Similarly if for the cost of a pair of shoes we can contribute to a health program in a developing country that stands a good chance of saving the life of a child, we ought to do so.
The rich, then, should give. But how much should they give? Gates may have given away nearly $30 billion, but that still leaves him sitting at the top of the Forbes list of the richest Americans, with $53 billion. His 66,000-square-foot high-tech lakeside estate near Seattle is reportedly worth more than $100 million. Property taxes are about $1 million. Among his possessions is the Leicester Codex, the only handwritten book by Leonardo da Vinci still in private hands, for which he paid $30.8 million in 1994. Has Bill Gates done enough? More pointedly, you might ask: if he really believes that all lives have equal value, what is he doing living in such an expensive house and owning a Leonardo Codex? Are there no more lives that could be saved by living more modestly and adding the money thus saved to the amount he has already given?
Is there a line of moral adequacy that falls between the 5 percent that Allen has given away and the roughly 35 percent that Gates has donated? Few people have set a personal example that would allow them to tell Gates that he has not given enough, but one who could is Zell Kravinsky. A few years ago, when he was in his mid-40s, Kravinsky gave almost all of his $45 million real estate fortune to health-related charities, retaining only his modest family home in Jenkintown, near Philadelphia, and enough to meet his family's ordinary expenses. After learning that thousands of people with failing kidneys die each year while waiting for a transplant, he contacted a Philadelphia hospital and donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger.
The Christmas program at Elliot's school was Dec 7. Elliot was on the front row and specialized in sticking out and patting his big Santa belly. Here are some photos. I'll add some video later.
While we're on the subject of religion on TV:
I've watched the first couple episodes (out of six total) of "One Punk, Under God" (trailer), a documentary/reality series about Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye) on the Sundance Channel. The show follows Jay and (from the World of Wonder Productions web site):
â€¦his Revolution ministry in Atlanta, as he faces the struggles of putting together a new generation of Christian punk rockers.
The 6 episodes will structure around a story arc where Jay examines and tests out a chosen Biblical scripture to discuss in his weekly sermon. We follow as he wrestles with the interpretations in his daily life, and finish the episode with his final sermon, as he preaches to his church members.
The first episode introduced us to Jay and his ministry (the Revolution church meets in a bar/music venueâ€¦The Masqueradeâ€¦in Atlanta) and focused on him coming to terms with his family's history. In the second episode, he struggles with the dilemma that if he speaks out regarding his convictions about homosexuality (he seems to have concluded that homosexuality is probably acceptable and, regardless, that the way the church engages the homosexual community is wrong) his ministry risks losing the significant funding it receives from more traditional/conservative religious groups. In the end, he speaks his mind, and the second episode leaves the viewer wondering what the fall-out will beâ€¦both for Revolution and for Jay's (non-existent) relationship with his father which he's trying to rekindle.
So far I've enjoyed it. Lke God or the Girl (on A&E, I wrote a paragraph about it here) before it, it makes for entertaining viewing and is encouragingâ€¦young, interesting people earnestly trying to make a difference for Jesusâ€¦and finding a temporary home on secular TV.
There's a nice review on Slate.