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We are watching The Secret of Kells. It is absolutely spectacular. Pagan and Christian, mysterious and historical. It is visually rich, the music is beautiful. We only watched one hour of it (or so) before it was B's bedtime wind-down, and I'd gotten chills twice.
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Do we have an internal voice anymore? An interior world that is our own? How many of us edit what is in our own journals so that we might project our best image, or a certain type of image, or please others, or not offend them with our real thoughts? When we have constant information and input flowing in (status updates, advertisements, music or muzak, tv, etc) how can we filter and develop an interior world?

And as women particularly is our interior world valued? Is it only valuable if other people like it? If we get so many 'likes' on Facebook, or some one pays us for our memoir? Our bodies are certainly picked apart. All of our parts must be approved by some external gaze - be it male or female. If a magazine tells us curvy is in then we can breathe a sigh of relief. We can defend our figures based on whatever health fad is in. Do we get to like our selves just because?

How can we embrace our bodies, our embodiedness (flesh, earthiness, corporeality, etc) without being only our bodies? Finding this blade thin balance feels impossible on days when I engage in mainstream media, but is only slightly more possible when I read philosophic or theological texts. Any wisdom gleaned is still problematic - all theory, all big words. And how do we find the razor thin line between personal and physical autonomy, still so necessary in our world, and communal participation, still so necessary in our world? Women especially still struggle in these areas. How can we embrace our desires and hopes, aspirations and ambitions, and also serve and care for others in a meaningful way?

The greatest mystery in life to me is finding the place of balance in all these questions. I think it is one of feminism's biggest challenges in the world. How do we embrace the myriad contradictions that make up our lives? To serve and be served? To love and be loved? To embrace power (such a problematic word in feminism) and yet not be crushed by it? To attain equality with men, but elevate that equality to something that provides freedom for women and men, for all people regardless of class, size, religion, sex, gender, race?

Ultimately, how do we become whole human beings?

Religiously and theologically I think the rise in paganisms and New Age movements speaks to many of these questions. I waver inbetween mono- and poly-theism. My personal practice is FAR more pagan than Christian. And yet to be honest I think that established religions, among them Christianity, have more tools, language, depth and nuance to tackle a lot of the questions. There is so much in the Christian tradition alone that is liberatory and radical, but church feels dead. How do we/I/you find personal meaning and depth and also have community?

The modern struggle of transience v permanence, individual v community, choice v duty, private and public, and so on. We never choose sides, it's always a negotiation. An ongoing negotiation until the day we die, I'm guessing.
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I've been having a long and interesting discussion about religion with a distant cousin. I make no claims to have any of the answers, though I do spend damn near all my waking hours engaged in religious thinking in some capacity or another. What's KILLING me is his inability to reason, while all the time trying to convince me that he's too logical and I'm too emotional. Now, I am very emotional: I get passionate, yes, sir. But in my engagement with him I've been very even handed, perhaps too even. But his refusal to understand that in the world of religion X *and* Y need to be considered not incompatible Truths but simultaneous truths, has me coming off as emotional to him. It's not out of some namby-pamby love-fest that I say this. It's because after practicing and studying religions and spending time with people who believe differently than I do, to assume that only Jesus is THE God is to basically tell 4.5 billion other people to fuck off and die. It's not saying Jesus is MY God, but Jesus is THE God. I know the vast majority of Christians don't see it that way, but that's how it is.

I have spend considerable time in Jewish communities and developing friendships with both cultural and religious Jews (which doesn't make me an expert, merely informed to some degree), I have never ever had a Jew tell me that their God was THE God and boy I'd be a lot better off if I argreed. If I want to join their party, many would welcome me (many would not, since I'm not ethnically Jewish), but the Jewish people are content to worship their god and go on their merry way. They don't need to convince the rest of the world of their religious superiority. I would love to know if the Jewish world sees their God as THE God, or merely as THEIR God - that's a huge difference.

I'm really fed up with the mainstream idea that logic means there can only be one big-T Truth. I fear that modern Western schooling has ruined the brains of generations who were taught to find Right Answers - there can be only One! - rather than to develop arguments and think critically. Unless you are in the hard sciences, there is rarely One Answer. I think this is why academics are stereotyped as elitists: because it's very difficult to talk with people for whom there is only One Right Answer. If I had to talk with people like my cousin (who's a Nice Guy) regularly I think my head would explode. This is why people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin give America/politics/conservatives/Christianity such a bad name, because they don't reason. At all. Cuz reasoning and arguing is some Lefty Agenda out to confuse the Average Joe. Of course it confuses the Average Joe - because they went to school where there was only one right answer!! (Excuse me while I go stab out my eyes in the corner.)

I'm starting to wonder if there isn't some religious causation here. In the Protestant Christian world (which makes up the vast majority of America) there is one sacred text - the Bible. It is entirely correct. It is The Right Answer. Everything must be squared with it. There is One God. The Bible says X, so X it is. There is no tradition of critical engagement. No tradition of wrestling or questioning. No understanding that the Bible is a sacred text that grew up in certain times and places and is relevant to certain people. One billion Hindus grew up in a different time, place and culture with different sacred texts? Well, fuck them. They're Wrong. How mind-bogglingly ignorant and arrogant is it that?? Oh, says my cousin, truth is truth. Gahhhhh! Religion is not a hard science! The same rules do not apply as when we determine, say, that the earth rotates around sun.

I wonder too if perhaps (stereotypically) more Jews go into academia because of their tradition with engaging with texts. The Jewish tradition has a long and rich tradition of arguing and engaging with their sacred texts and teachers - Midrash and Talmud come immediately to mind. Perhaps there is less of a need for One Right Answer, and therefore the world of academia, where it's not about Right Answers but more about better and worse arguments, comes more naturally?*

I don't know. All I know right now is that mainstream reasoning seems to be dying a slow, disgraced death. Many people considered themselves religiously well educated if they made it through 5 years of Sunday school. It makes me want to hide under the bed and weep. Or just hole up with other people who can think, like the elitist I am.

*[ profile] hraffntinna and [ profile] msmidge please smack me upside the head if I'm full of shit.
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Feminism: totally relevant. Theology: can be totally relevant. Christianity: certain parts and strains of it can be very relevant. But a lot of times, when I look through the journal articles out there and the books that get published, I just shake my head and think "What the hell does this have to do with anything? Who cares anymore?" Do we really need yet another Protestant take on the Gospel of Matthew? I'm going to say no. I think for my own motivation I need to figure out a way to make my own arcane studies relevant to the greater world or risk boring myself with inanity.
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Some quotes from my reading:

Prayer as a concentration of will and desire is a subversive act. (paraphraase)

"You have to look our for a person with out fear; he is capable of anything."

"A person cannot tell you anything about God as long as he rules over you." (quote from Thomas Muntzer)

Pasg hapus

Apr. 4th, 2010 05:33 pm
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I love Easter. The whole point of Christianity is the resurrection. It's one reason I enjoy the Eastern Orthodox Church: their emphasis on resurrection and less on the crucifixion. I believe in humans' ability to resurrect themselves, not in some far off, 'one day', after the rapture kind of a way, but in the Here and Now sort of way: second chances, moments of deep renewal, catharsis, initiation - all little (and some times big) experiences of resurrection. I like the metaphor of spring, that every year without fail new growth arrives. Today is so perfectly delightful here. While playing with Bennett in the park this afternoon I enjoyed the warmth of the sun, I noticed all the daffodils in bloom, and noticed all the little pink, yellow, white, green buds on anything and everything that grows. I actually got a thrill from hanging the laundry out on the line to dry in the sun. But I don't think this burst of spring captures the momentousness and enormity of the resurrection. I don't mean that last phrase to suggest that it's because Jesus is the One and Only saviour. I don't really believe that any more. He's real AND a symbol. I think he's the saviour and also not the only one. The deeper I dive into Christianity, the more I swim around in my own experience, I find that the only way to interpret Jesus is in the both/and context. Resurrection, transformation, union with the Divine, obliteration of dualistic thinking, renewal, enlightenment, liberation: all these things come to mind when I think of Easter.

I am a little disappointed that I didn't go to church today. I am so ambivalent about attending and participating and committing in the life of a church. I count participating as committing. I make too much of it, this much is true. I'm almost ready to accept that I will always be one of those 'floaters,' those people that church ministers go to conferences to try and figure out what needs they need met or topics they want to hear in sermons so they'll join and tithe and all that. I am perhaps one of the most religious people I know and yet.... I just can't seem to join in.

Today's Easter started with sun salutations. It has involved hiding the eggs I dyed red in beet juice, once in the living room and once at the park. Bennett loved it. He's eaten an ungodly amount of eggs today. It will end with burritos.

I wish all of you a blessed day, regardless of what you do or don't celebrate.
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We keep waiting for some one to save us. Some external force to sweep us off our feet, swoop down, legislate, give us a magic cure. A magic diet for our body issues, the True Love that will relieve us of our loneliness or dissatisfying relationships, the make over that reveals we were beautiful all along, the audience that confirms our brilliance, the Saviour that will come down from heaven and restore our Faith and Truth. But these are external forces of salvation. No one can make us feel beautiful, worthy, or powerful if we don't believe these things first. We have to realize those things on our own. No one can save the world if we don't. Who else is going to care for this earth if we don't? Who else is going to stop war, injustice, and grief if we don't?

We save ourselves and each other. THAT is what Jesus revealed (among a few other things). We are of worth. Matter and spirit are entwined. God is with/in us. He wasn't a substitution. We sacrifice ourselves all the time, just usually we are sacrificing our hope, our self-worth, our joy at the altar of deception and duality. What do I let deceive me? We save ourselves every time we embrace wholeness, every time we move from a place of love - not frilly fantasy love, but the Love of Self-worth and Joy.

This spring let us resurrect ourselves and one another from the constructs of our fear, our loneliness, the things that separate us from our fullness and one another. I love Easter/the Resurrection. If sin is the separation from God/Divinity, the Incarnation reveals to us that that separation is false. The image of God is inside each of us, so who are we not to be beautiful? Not to be loved? Not to be bold? Not to be powerful?

Field trip!

Mar. 5th, 2010 09:43 am
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I am going to St. David's Cathedral tomorrow. The chapel and one of the church history classes is taking a 'pilgrimage' there, so of course I signed up! We're getting a tour, a lecture from the professor going with us, walking to St. Non's Well, and then our choir is singing the evensong. Yay! I am excited.

And I may even get to see [ profile] riva_asherah.
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About church. I know. Not surprising. It is the story of my life. Now that I no longer feel a desire to Belong to Christianity I find that there is more room for me to enjoy it and participate. I like going to the school chapel on a Sunday morning. I like singing and I like the hour to sit quietly and meditatively smelling incense and thinking about divinity and being child free. In fact, I'd even go from time to time if I wasn't singing.

But the choir. It's awful. Two weeks ago I was running late and sat in the congregation listening. Oh man, the choir blows. There are more sopranos than anything else and one of them goes sharp and bright all the time. I'm sure I add something nice. But it's really uninspiring putting in two extra hours a week and sounding like crap. And it's no fun barely learning music. I don't know. It's still singing. It's also the best group in Lampeter. Lower my standards and be a part of a nice community?

As you can tell from the time stamp, I'm skipping church this morning. There's a second service tonight and normally I'd be super excited about it: evensong. But our chanting sucks. Suuuuuper uninspiring.
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Every day is a vacation. That's how it felt this morning. Bennett ran up to me with his shoes five times this morning - a clear sign if ever there was one that he wanted to play outside. Seeing as how it was dry and somewhat sunny, we went to the park. He stomped in puddles and tried to talk to the pony on the other side of the fence. Then we walked around town and he stared at the huge lorry full of trees. It was really free and fun and cheery. We wake up whenever we wake up, we have a loose schedule, we don't really have to be any where, and small town life encourages meandering and 'stopping by' for a chat and a cuppa. I feel like every day is a vacation.

Mold. We have a serious mold problem. Black mold. Creeping across our bedroom ceiling, up a corner of the living room wall, and behind Adam's desk in his office. In general, the mildew is growing apace around the windows. I am sure this is why I am sick again. It's so damp in our house that my sinuses aren't drying out and we all have coughs. In fact, it's so damp that our gas fireplace and our lighters won't light. It doesn't feel that damp, but it must be. We're trying to convince the landlady to cover the costs of a large dehumidifier. If she declines we will look into moving.

Singing. Of course the constant sinus baloney is ruining my singing voice. I have The Solo on Sunday and my voice is a mess. There are other solos, but apparently the opening verse to Once in Royal David's City opens to the whole shebang - I stand in the doorway, holding a candle and then the choir follows in behind me singing the second verse. It's a Thing. I don't care, but it's important to other people and I'd like to not suck.

Bennett attended church for the first time on Sunday. The church I sing at had a Christingle service. I don't understand the name, but it's a children's service. It was brief, only mildly obnoxious, with horrid "children's" hymns. The good part was that all the kids were given oranges with ribbons and candies stuck on them and a white candle in the middle. Then, the lights were turned out and the candles lit one by one. This orange is the Christingle, and Bennett LOVES his. He knows how to blow candles out so he was tickled to have his own. We light it every night before dinner. All the other kids ate their candies before the candles were even lit! But B had no idea what they were, so they're still on his orange! I figure he'll learn about sweets soon enough.

This town is small. The whole thing could fit inside of the neighborhood I used to live in. And Temescal had ten times as many people. And it's a small town in that we went to a party last night and met [ profile] readthisandweep's neighbor. She was talking in vague terms about her neighbor and I knew who it was straight away. Her first response was, 'Oh you must be the American she was talking about!'

Work. I turned in draft one of my paper. I plan to turn in some more tomorrow. I think I am a tedious, redundant writer. I remind myself that this is the first set of drafts. More work is still to be done. But go me.

I think that about covers everything. Life isn't exciting here. Just really pleasant. And damp.
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Of my sickness and the five questions meme?

From Erinya )
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Just when I was starting to feel good - no, great! - I am hit with the creeping sick again. I noticed it first in the shower. Sick breath, even after a good toothbrushing, is disgusting. I have it. And now my neck is getting stiff and achy (ouch, ouch!) and my head is beginning to hurt and all I want to do it sleep. I am eating garlic, sleeping 8-10 hours a night, taking vitamins, gargling with salt water, and drinking herbal tea - what more can I do? I guess just adjust, keep resting. But I gotta get back to my work. I've taken 10 days off from school work of anykind. I really, really needed that. I've read a novel. I've not even felt guilty. I think I needed that the most. It's been so hectic for so long that concentrating on deep and meaningful stuff was impossible. But argh. The sick. This is the only time I ever miss a microwave. I want to heat up one of those buckwheat/rice pillows and drape it around my neck. Big sigh.

In other news.... the home health nurse came to our house today. This is nothing like Kaiser's post-NICU nurses. All care for children under 6 are home visits. Hot damn. And I have mentioned, free, haven't I? We got along with our nurse and Bennett was in fine form. He even made a complex sign sentence! He signed "more, please, eat." Yay for communication!

In an hour I am meeting a friend for lunch. W and I met on a ministry program in Ireland 13 years ago. I think it's been 10 or 12 years since I've seen him. I have found memories of driving around Ireland together, being silly. He now lives in Cardigan, Wales, and he's driving over to see me. He's a wonderful person, flaky at keeping in touch, and an evangelical Christian. Last I heard he was planning to visit the Grand Canyon on one of those Creation Tours - where they look at God's marvel that was created only 6,000 years ago. I mean.... what do you say to that? All I can think of is, Huh.
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Starting to feel the lack of close friends nearby. This must mean I'm getting settled in. I'm also pretty tired of running so much energy - energy to figure things out, energy to be present with all the change and a little boy who's teething molars and is SUPERHIGHENERGY and must nurse ALLTHEDAMNTIME, energy to sit still for several hours a time and think Deep Thoughts, energy to run more errands, energy to muster self-care.

Most evenings we just sit around and watch tv altogether. We're on a Glee and Avatar kick here. I really want Glee to work its kinks out. There is so very much to love about it, and hot holy shit can they sing. But the writers have bitten off a little bit more than they can chew. We just finished episode 5, so I'm hoping this is just first season kinks. Hope springs eternal.

And what is there to say about Avatar? It may be the perfect tv program. Bennett even has his own hand sign for it. He walks up, makes the sign and points to the computer room. Do you think a stuffed Apa exists? (pauses to google that - why, yes, they do!)

Speaking of spiritual stuff, I sang in chapel with the choir today for the first time. How boring is the Anglican service? Snoozefest. Some of it is really beautiful. I really like the priest, he is sincere and smart and has a wonderful speaking voice. But why must Anglicans be so serious and formal all time? And why do the readers sound like they're reading a dry academic tome? Especially when reading about shouting for joy at the wonders God has made! It was the first time in.... I can't even remember, that I attended a non-Orthodox service. Of course, it's been a long time since I went to church period. I realized sitting there today that I can't even 'translate' the creeds anymore. I am not 'over' Christianity, not by a long shot, but I am certainly no Christian anymore.
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I am totally in love with this blog.
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Thanks to those who pitched in about Bennett's horrid night. I think it must have been gas, because today he was fine. Just tired and recovering. No signs of fever, so I am ruling out an ear ache. He's been eating solids regularly and had eaten some brown rice yesterday. Perhaps he was having a hard time digesting it.

Bennett had three solid naps today AND went down at 7.30. Seriously, I should throw a parade. He's still down three hours later. I think the key to good sleeping is making sure he gets more stimulation and excitement in his day. Adam stayed home today since he's working on Sunday, and he suggested we all go for a walk around Lake Merritt. A great idea!

We hopped the bus on our street that takes us with in a block of the lake. We snooped in a magic shop and then had sushi for lunch. Bennett sat in a booster seat scooted up to the table. I was skeptical since he loathes high chairs, but this worked! He fed himself sticky rice from a plate, making an enormous, delightful mess.

Next we walked around the lake commenting on the architecture and me fiddling every 5 feet with B's sun hat. Adam wore him in the still-too-big backpack carrier that he picked up at a swapmeet last weekend. Bennett didn't seem to mind. He took 3 naps in it! We stopped at park and met a friend who needed a break from her law firm. Then we went and looked at birds at this bird park on the edge of the lake. We saw mostly sea gulls and pigeons, but lots of ducks and geese and two Black Crowned Night Herons, which are larger than you might think. We also saw this amazing pelican-like bird, but I can't find it online anywhere.

We stopped in at the brand new cathedral for the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, The Cathedral of Christ the Light. This place is spectacular. It seems to me to capture the history of Catholicism in a single building. The spare, cold stone reminds me of the earliest, simplest churches, pre-romanesque style cathedrals. The wood added warmth and some how reminded me of the Celtic influence of nature based Christianity. The side chapels, also spare, have original paintings of the holy family, that look to me like late-medieval in their rich colors. The shape of the building is in the shape of the fish, but strikes me as a mandorla, the curves almond shape that often surrounds Mary and sometimes Jesus. The mausoleum downstairs is also breathtaking. The whole thing is incredibly modern and quite thrilling, frankly. Except for the crucifixes. I can't stand those.

The last excitement of the day was taking B to the children's play ground near the lake. He went in the swings for the first time ever and loved it!

Lastly, I was able to help a friend tonight. It feels good to offer tangible help, rather than just sympathize. I am tired and plan to crawl into bed with my sleeping boy.
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This article on the Vatican, excommunication and 9 yr old pregnant girls is devastating. Were I not fighting dizzy to function at work today I would write something articulate and scathing.

Pope Ratzinger/Benedict is a horrible man for sticking by policy. Black and white rules do not help those in grey situations.

I would rant but really I want to weep for the child. Not the children terminated, they never knew what hit them, and it's doubtful at four months that they even had consciousness. I mourn for the girl, who lives in a world where for choosing her own health, mental and physical, she is excommunicated from her faith community, where her rapist is still allowed to be a communing member of her faith community, where those in power think her life and body are merely vessels and contain no worth in and of itself, where rape at all exists.

This world is fucked up beyond measure. The Vatican is morally corrupt.

It is heartbreaking. I'm too tired to rail today, so instead I mourn.
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Today was the day I went in to two of my friend D's 10th grade theology classes at an all boys' Catholic high school and talked about abortion in a social justice context. I was nervous. It's been years since I've been in the classroom, I haven't been sleeping well, I just wasn't as prepared as I normally would like to be, and well... it's a Catholic high school.

My friend D: we met at grad school, his undergrad is in Latin and Greek, his master's is in Patristics (early Church fathers), he's an Eastern Orthodox convert, and he's goofy and brilliant too! I am very honored that he asked me to come in and talk to his students. Before I go into what I said (I know some of you will be very interested, others not so much), I want to say that I was soimpressed with the school and the students. Who knew that a classroom of 15 yr old boys could be engaged and respectful in such a discussion?? They never once mocked each other for their opinions or ideas. Of course, not everyone seemed enthused or contributed - I mean, they are 15. But in comparison to my two years spent working primarily with 15 yr old boys in a public school, I was beyond impressed.

Personally, I have some issues with private school. But over the course of the morning I found myself thinking, "Wow, I would totally send my son here!" The grounds are nice, the faculty I met were open and friendly, the school's motto is "A De la Salle graduate is a man of faith, integrity and scholarship" - character traits I can get behind. The Catholic order that runs the school focuses on social justice. Catholicism, while not my favorite partly because of their strong adherence to dogma, is a very broad denomination. Some orders, like the Jesuits, focus on teaching, some on serving the poor, some on priestly duties; there is a whole array of emphases and attitudes in the Catholic Church. D had told me a little about this particular school and that the 10th grade theology curriculum was all focused around social justice. I think this is unbelievably cool. So while the official Catholic Church stance on abortion is unequivocally "NO, and no birth control either!" the curriculum for this unit encourages broader discussion about the issue. I can only dream that public schools would allow this sort of discussion around the topic!

So what did I talk about? )

Overall, it was a really successful and enjoyable day. I'm going back next Thursday to speak to D's third theology class. I look forward to it.
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On Dec. 6th Mitt Romney gave a speech in Texas on faith and what it means to his campaign. (For the full transcript of the speech go here.)

I've been mulling over this speech for a couple of days now. Before the speech many pundits were guessing that it was going to be like Kennedy's speech (which I've only ever heard once) in which he says being Catholic will not get in the way of his being president. This speech was nothing like that.

I'm annoyed that Romney even needs to make a speech about faith. His being Mormon is a concern for many (me included, and I'll own up right now that I have a large, mostly irrational problem with Mormonism and I'm not proud of this prejudice). But this speech is also in response to Mike Huckabee's harping on religious values. I'm annoyed that we would pick a president based on their religious affiliation and not on their policies and record - or not vote for some one based on their religious affiliation.

Now, I don't for a second think that faith and politics are separate. Anyone who thinks that personal beliefs do not inform, inspire and direct a person's public behaviour and actions is completely naive. I damn well hope a person is consistent and strong enough to put their beliefs into action. But to make faith - and particularly, increasingly Evangelical Protestant Christianity - a tacit prerequisite for public office is infuriating and wrong. Romney's time out to reassure people that he's a Christian takes time out from the pressing issues of the economy, poverty, environment, health care, the war, etc. And all of those issues are moral issues. Morality does not begin and end with which book one claims as scripture, or with abortion or homosexuality.

To get back to Romney's speech specifically, this paragraph was perhaps the most telling and the most disturbing to me:

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

NO. Freedom does not require religion. Freedom is one aspect that I believe comes from the best that religion can offer, but it is not an automatic requirement or benefit of religion. History reveals a pretty mixed bag in this regard. This argument is taken to it's inevitable next step suggesting that secularism is the inner enemy. By repeating over and over again the religious heritage of the United States is one of Christian faith Romney is essentially saying that the US is a land for Believers - for monotheistic believers. That while no single denomination should rule, we all agree on the same basic principles. Right? He mentions Christians, Jews and Muslims. He makes no reference to Hindus, Pagans, Baha'i, or anyone else. Do not these people also care about the "morality" of caring for the earth, the poor, their families, paying the bills? Don't atheists and agnostics care about these things? It is self-righteous and myopic to think that monotheism has the lock on morality.

When a candidate for president is asked how their faith will impact their presidency, there is only one right answer: As president of the United States I will serve every citizen and uphold the Constitution.

By EVERY citizen I mean the Jew, the Christian, the secular believer, the Pagan, the Muslim, the Hindu, the atheist, and any one of whatever stripe.

End of discussion, end of debate.


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October 2010



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