Dec. 4, 2006
Dec. 6, 2006

Dec. 5, 2006

RELIGION GOES TO COURT AGAIN

By the way, in case you missed it late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on President Bush's so-called Faith-Based Initiative. I've long had misgivings about this FBI, though some of its goals are laudable. Let's pay attention as this case moves through the court.

* * *

THE ABNORMALITY OF MILITANT ISLAM

If you look at the long sweep of the history of Islam, the growing prominence of today's radical element is an abberation.

Sap2That has been my view since 9/11, and I was pleased to have that view corroborated this past weekend by one of the most prominent Jewish voices in America, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. (That's Saperstein on the right, with Paul Uhlmann Jr., a long-time friend of Saperstein and member of the New Reform Temple of Kansas City. Uhlmann introduced him at this speaking engagement at the temple.)

Saperstein was the Krasne scholar-in-residence over the weekend at the temple. And the official title of his Friday evening lecture was "Moderate vs Radical Islam: Implications for Israel, for Jews and for America's Battle Against Terrorism."

Saperstein is a thoughtful and discerning student not only of Judaism but also of other religions because part of his job is to be Judaism's representative to other faiths and to work with other religions to get legislation through Congress.

He noted that when the Prophet Muhammad left Mecca and moved north to Medinah (sometimes Madinah), the latter city had a substantial Jewish population in three tribes. In effect, Saperstein said, Muhammad gained control of the area by defeating the tribes one at a time once it was clear that most Jews "were unwilling to believe that he was the last and greatest of the prophets. . ."

The problem, he said, was that not one of the Jewish tribes "came to the defense of the others. One has to think how different history might have been had at this moment of crisis they had been willing to band together and overcome their differences for the sake of mutual survival."

Despite that start for Jewish-Islamic relations, Saperstein said, throughout most of history, Jews and Muslims have had a quite good relationship -- certainly better than the relationship Jews have had with Christians, whose history is stained with a consistent strain of anti-Judaism.

For sure, he said, the Islamic-Jewish history has not been all "sweetness and light." Under Islam, he said, "Jews and Christians alike were subject to discriminatory, humiliating legislation. There were a handful of instances of persecution and violence but on the whole I think it could be fairly said that in general Jewish life was not only possible, in many places and times it even thrived under Islamic rule. And Jews knew more safety and opportunity than they ever knew under Christian Europe."

Saperstein said the sweep of history shows that a "moderate tradition of Islam" prevailed. Yes, he said, while "it looked at Jews and Christians as second-rate citizens of those communities, it in the main left them alone to do what they wanted. . ."

Throughout Muslim history, he said, there have been "waves of fundamentalism" that have competed with the predominant strain of moderate Islam.

He called today "a remarkable period in the history of Islam. . .but when you think about the sweep of Muslim history, it is actually one of those anomalies in which we have seen the pervasive dominance of fundamentalist tendancies." Similarly, he pointed out, there have been waves of fundamentalism in every religious tradition.

In Islam today, one of the problems is that unlike waves of radicalism in the past, "new technologies allow for these messages and ideas to move instantly across the globe. And countervailing forces, therefore, do not have the same ability to take hold and grow and flourish and offset the power of these fundamentalist ideas."

(Many people, Saperstein included, use the term "fundamentalist" to refer to radical and violent Islam. But I think it's probably not a good word. It comes from a Christian tradition that is well within the circle of acceptable Christian theology and that, in Christianity, has never degenerated into an advocacy of violence. So I prefer such terms as radical or militant Islam -- even though many Muslims would contend that when Muslims begin advocating and commitment violence in the name of Islam they have, in effect, left the faith and should not be considered Muslims.)

Saperstein said that today "there is a willingess to use violence that often attends to extremists groups. . . That puts moderates at a disadvantage in an era when use of violence has become a political and religious norm in venting the frustrations, anger and ideological purity of extreme elements.

"What's the incentive for moderates to stand up if there's good chance it's going to earn them a bullet in the head? That remains one of the central challenges for those who wish to strengthen moderate Islam."

So what can be done?

Here Saperstein said something I've been saying for several years, which is this: "If moderates are to prevail in Islam -- and I believe the future of the world depends on the ability of moderates to prevail in the struggle for the soul of Islam -- they have to do it themselves. It's not something outsiders can do. This is the paradox. Every time outsiders do something to visibly help the moderates, it discredits the moderates in the Muslim Street or the Arab Street, thereby depriving them of the ability to affect the very people that you would hope they would affect."

Still, he said, there are things we can do.

* The U.S. can do a far better job training its foreign service officers about the role of religion in the countries to which they are assigned.

* We can lift up an celebrate stories about places where moderate Islam is dominant.

* Where we can't do something ourselves, we can lean on our Arab and Muslim friends to do what we can't do openly. "We've not used our diplomatic abilities well in terms of making that a priority," he said. In effect, he said, "we have to use surrogates to build civil society in the Muslim world."

Well, he had more to say, including words of caution about a growing anti-Semitism in militant Islam. But I think he was right on target in identifying the need for mainstream Islam to win back the heart and soul of the religion. If that doesn't happen, I think we'll face more 9/11s and worse.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

P.S.: Speaking of Jewish views, I was pleased yesterday when three prominent Jewish leaders joined with a top leader of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), to issue a statement of common understanding after they met at PCUSA headquarters in Louisville. This statement indicates some good progress is being made in restoring solid relations between Presbyterians and Jews after the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church adopted an ill-thought-out resolution in 2004 that called for a phased divestment of investments in some companies profiting from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The 2006 General Assembly essentially righted that 2004 action and the church is moving to restore relations with Jews, many of whom were understandably outraged by the 2004 action, which was taken with essentially no warning to American Jews about what was about to happen.

P.P.S.S.: I'll be giving the sermon at an Advent service at 7 p.m. this Wednesday at Old Mission United Methodist Church on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway, Kan. The service will be a joint gathering of Old Mission, St. Agnes Catholic Church, Roeland Park United Methodist Church, Southridge Presbyterian Church and Westwood Christian Church. Please come if you're interested.

Comments

Mary Behr

Ron, I'm doing it again, writing this on today's blog responding to the one you put on yesterday's. Want to be sure you see it. YOU WROTE: Mary, I will respond here as well. I do not mean to pick on Catholics, but really all Christians. It seems so many of us are members of church, but consistently pick and choose the doctrines and practices we want to believe." etc.
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Thank you Ron, Your whole reply on yesterday's blog really helped me to know where you are coming from. I appreciate your solid thinking on this and it is something to keep in mind when we hit the "hard parts" of the road and are tempted to cafeteria style of practice.

keith

Bill, thank you for the comments on David Saperstein. Indeed, Jews lived within the shelter of Arab/Muslim lands for many centuries, treated with far more respect than found in Christian Europe.

To oversimplify, the past century's rise of the Zionist movement (beginning in the 1890s), World War I and the Balfour declaration, and the partitioning of Palestine charted a path that has led us to today's situation in what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

I really don't want to re-debate 5+ years of American foreign policy, but it's interesting to look back over time and realize that the failures of the British in particular to understand the cultures of Islam and the Middle East are mirrored by the US's own naiveté when we invaded Iraq. Post-World War II reconstruction of Germany was relatively easy in that both sides shared much of a common culture and heritage. In Japan, the Allies were wise (or lucky) enough to leave the Emperor in place, preserving Japan's culture and heritage.

Why bother with interfaith dialogue? Because in an age of instant communication and rapid global travel, your neighbor, co-worker, friend, customer or supplier can be halfway around the world. Faith is one of the primary factors that shape us and our cultures, the way we approach and judge and develop trust in each other.

Patricia

"It's not something outsiders can do. This is the paradox. Every time outsiders do something to visibly help the moderates....."

I agree. Certainly the move to "re-orient" Iraq to Western thinking is the best example of action that turns out to be a radicalizing force.

There are exceptions when it comes to our involvement, however. It's best described as making Muslims and Muslim countries feel "safe". In practical terms, it means that we cease colonial action toward them; work in good faith for peace and settlement of Palestinian/Israeli issues; show our basic respect for them as human beings(no Guantanamo and like actions).

We just simply forget that while we are sitting in our country feeling paranoid because of 9/11 and the death of 2,997, they are feeling paranoid over the death of 4,286 Palestinians and 655,000 Iraqis. They face daily violence.

I have often contemplated if I would be a suicide bomber under the same circumstances: as a response to the perceived genocide of my people. I don't have an answer but perhaps simply don't want to acknowledge one.

Patricia

Thanks for the link on the "FBI". It seems to be hard to find the amounts and numbers it involves, but some sources claim that we're talking about 100 billion dollars.

I also can't find any indication that any of these monies have gone to a non-Christian organization. And Christian organizations with anti-gay agendas regularly receive.

From my perspective, this is a big Bush-payoff machine. I hope the court shuts it down. I won't hold my breath that this Supreme Court will do that. Especially after hearing yesterday's negative comments on affirmative action in the schools.

Just Thinking

If faith-based funding is available to any organization without regard to religion or lack thereof, then there's no problem. Then the only thing wrong with the Faith Based Initiative would be the phony name, which I'm sure they'd keep just to get that empty-headed, shallow and ignorant Christian voting block who votes for presidents based on simple labels, empty words, and meaningless, unverifiable professions of faith.

keith

An interesting little article from the Washington Post at http://tinyurl.com/y947ob about the largely Catholic French-speaking Quebecois.
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Bill, thanks for linking to a very interesting "statement of common understanding" from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and leaders from Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism. I was saddened to note that the Orthodox movement was not represented, but not surprised.

keith

JT, why does it always have to be about YOU and your group? When you start ranting about "empty-headed, shallow and ignorant Christian voting block who votes for presidents based on simple labels, empty words, and meaningless, unverifiable professions of faith" you sound like Christians have some sort of exclusive on these qualities.

I demand equal recognition for Jews, and my fellow humans who may be Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists, agnostics, etc. Didn't one of America's first heroes say, "Give me stupidity, or give me depth!"?

Ron

I believe I read somewhere that the United States of America has been attacked by Muslims more than 20 times in the last 20 years or so. I'm also trying to think of a few moderate Muslim leaders in the Middle East. I don't think there are very many. Almost all seem to be the radical, violent type.

Dolores Lear

I do not have any comments on all these differences setting up. It all leads to the Last Days 'Arm'ageddon.

In the Edgar Cayce's readings on Atlantis, the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness divided to make the two sides.

All countries that have the nuclear bomb are the Children of Darkness, I do not see any Children of Light.

Is there finally going to be a movement to follow Jesus and God/HTA, that are against killing, to make the Children of Light, today?


How did the get-together go last night? Sorry I just do not get out at night.
If you set up another meeting, if possible make it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

It would be interesting to see your faces and for you to see a little old woman, less than 5 feet tall.

Peace.

keith

20 attacks in 20 years...should we compare body counts, too?

I don't know much about moderate Muslim leadership, but our media makes no great effort to report on them, and in Iraq we've managed to get numerous moderates killed.

I think on either side of a Western/Islam divide there is room to point at failure of moderates to wrest control of the situation from the extremists.

Just Thinking

Moderates should be as loud and obnoxious as the extremists. So I think that means that moderates should be extremists. Hmmmmm ... now I really am confused.

keith

JT, I'm sure I can qualify as a radically moderate liberally conservative extremist. I know I've got the "loud and obnoxious" part perfected.

Just Thinking

Dolores,

Less than 5 feet tall, eh? Don't you mean it would have been interesting to see everyone's chin?! I would have liked being there, too, but it just was not possible.

Peace to you as well.

Phil 4:8-9
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Dolores Lear

Amen to that JT. We need to start following Jesus, the God of Peace in our Lifestyle, not worship him with praying hands.

Another entry from Richard Dawkins book.

2. "Do we have one God in three parts, or three Gods in one? The 'Catholic Encyclopedia' clears up the matter for us, in a a masterpiece of theological close reasoning: In the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: 'the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God'".

As if that were not clear enough, the 'Encyclopedia' quotes the third century theologian St Gregory the Miracle Worker: 'There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever."

(religion has no evidence of the Trinity) "Perhaps it is the very fact that there is no evidence to support theological opinions, either way, that fosters the characteristic draconian hostility towards those of slightly different opinion, especially, as it happens in this very field of Trinarianism."

There were many Trinity Gods before Christianity, but they were all Father, Mother, and Child. The Trinity that I have been led to acknowledge is the SOL, the Father; the Atom, the Son; and the EMF the Holy Spirit. Without these three, there is no LIFE. This Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever.

This Trinity can only be known when Man has the High Tech Science to know about these elements that make LIFE as we know it. Man Should not worship God but Serve GOD.

Maybe all the problems discussed above could be solved if Man returned to Serving the SOL, instead of worshipping Man Gods in pagan temples made by human hands, and we could all have the One True GOD to Serve.

The Eco System and all LIFE is the Temple of GOD.

Time for Mankind to Unite in the knowledge of the One True Trinity GOD of LIFE, before we destroy all the LIFE on Earth.

We could start with All people that say they accept the GOD of the Bible, whether One or Three 'Persons', to give up their arms, and start being Caretakers of LIFE again, instead of Killers. There are no 'Persons' in the One True GOD of the Universes.

Then we would have the Children of Light to Overcome all the Nuclear weapons and waste, that is killing our Home Planet and Us.

May Peace, and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love, return to our Earth Home, and Fallen Man again become the Equal Brothers/Sisters Crew of LIFE on Spaceship Earth.

thePriest

Dear Dolores, yes indeed Edgar Cayce's readings on Atlantis did say there was a division during the end times of the lost continent between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. According to Cayce the Children of Darkness missused Atlantian Technology in an attempt to generate more power for themselves literally. The Children of Light opposed it but were forced outside the policital power structure of Atantis. This technology was pushed too far and it caused the contintent to come apart and sink. The last caticlism was about 10.5K BC, corrisponding I believe to the Great Flood in the Bible. What is interesting is that according to Cayce, the Children of Light and Darkness would return in our current times. It is to Cayce's credit as the American Prophet of the 20th Century that we can recognise the same conflicts of selfish/amoral use of Technology vs. aturistic/moral use of Technology now face us today.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Edgar Cayce, These issues have been the critical ones of the late 20th Century and are proving even more important in the 21st: Nuclear Weapons, WMDs, increased survalence of citizens without probable cause for making money and increasing control over individual lives, nanotechnology, genenic engineering for comercial reasons (food, drugs, medical Tx), Psy warfare tech used for policial (War on Terror) and financial control purposes(Ads), control of the media Tech for socitial elete purposes, US military tech (DU warheads, smart weapons, sat. & UAV survaillance, Project HAARP, wars for control of the oil supply and its distribution), not to mention global warming and nonsustainable use of environmental resources.

As a Minister of the Gospel I note that all of us have our stewardships over what we have and how we live. Since all of physical creation is the Maker's, we don't "own" any of it, and we can't take it with us when we leave here, we are in the final analysis just borrowing it from the Maker so that it can be reloaned to our decendent as well as to all life that will have time limited shared sojourns here as well.

It seems to me a much more primary issue than questions about the theology of the Trinity.
Techology is a nutral thing, it is just the "tools" of mankind, as such it can be used for good OR ill. I commend to all reading this the words of the Prophet: "Chose ye this day whom ye shall serve...".

Dolores Lear

Thank you thePriest.

You explained Cayce and Atlantis comparable to what is happening today.

"Chose ye this day whom ye shall serve..."

That is what I am about. We should Serve GOD/Life, not Worship the Man Gods of religion and myth. See what we have done to our Home Planet! We are ruining it again just as Atlantis did with their terrible crystal (laser).

The USA has the laser technology in the works, just aa Atlantis had and it caused the Noah/Atlantis Planetary Flood by breaking the Ice-Crystal Canopy.

Now we are breaking the Ozone Canopy that will destroy the green element need for Life as we know it, and along with this, we have set up the Nuclear waste pollution along with all the other pollutions and oil spills that 'will' cause the Judgement Day Planetary Fire.

The only thing that will Save us is Jesus and our HTA, as the
Bible explains in Revelation, that will happen before the Planetary Fire Judgement, that will finish destroying the Eco System set up by our HTA.

Life that is Colonized on Earth, can be destroyed once by water and once by fire and then Life as we know it cannot exist without the two ultra-violet canopies, set up at Colonization.

They Only type of Human Life that can Live Forever is the Eternal Asexual Pure-bred Physical Life of the Man Gods and Angels, in the Bible, that do not Kill. They can escape their planet or universe and go to a new one with their Balanced High Tech that joins atoms together, and does not divided them as we have done on Earth.

Those Man Gods that killed in the Bible were the Noah/Atlantis Society, of Unbalanced High Tech Heterosexual Mis-bred Humans like we are today.

There is Eternal Physical Life After Birth. Is there really this type of Life After Death?

Peace, and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love to Heterosexual reproduced Fallen Man.

Patricia

"It would be interesting to see your faces and for you to see a little old woman, less than 5 feet tall."

We really missed you, Dolores, and wished you were there. It was a terrific gathering. My offer still stands to provide a ride, if we meet again in the future.

thePriest

Patricia, thank you for thinking of me and asking me to come. Unfortunately, I had urgent family ministry to attend to, that could not be avoided. However, my prayers go with you all.

daniel

I feel that much of what has said is lost in the reality of what the agenda is of modern extremist. Most of them are bent on either our forced conversion or destruction. Until the agenda's of Ososma bin lauden and the President of Iran changes he have no choice but to relize that we either fight them now in Iraq and the middle east or we will be fighting them later over here. We should consider ourselves lucky that the Sunni's and Shia's are so against one another.

Dan

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