Celebrating religious freedom: 10-9-12
Converting Israel's Jews? 10-11-12

Thanks, Spiro T. Agnew: 10-10-12

I am pretty sure that many of you, like me, commemorate this date each year as the anniversary of the 1973 resignation of Spiro T. Agnew (pictured here) from the vice presidency after he pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion.

AgnewIt's a good annual way to remind ourselves that unless our politics is built on some foundational ethics we'll wind up with a banana republic led by knaves.

Some years ago I happened to be in Washington, D.C., for a week writing Kansas City Star editorial page columns from there, and was lucky enough to be there on an Oct. 10. It also happened to be a week when George H. W. Bush was president and he and Congress reached such an impass on budget negotiations that the government shut down for several days.

So I wrote a piece about how having a shuttered government was no big deal on any Oct. 10 because one still could wander around to the great Spiro T. Agnew Memorial Resignation sites. For instance, to commemorate the day I stood out front of the White House and look toward where Agnew took bribe money in his office there. Then I went to the federal courthouse in nearby Baltimore to see where he pleaded no contest to tax evasion charges. Then I went to the motel in Virginia to see where the deal for his plea and resignation was worked out by careful prosecutors who were the real public servants in this case.

It was a fabulous tour, though I had to be my own tour guide.

Well, Agnew is far from the only crook we've ever elected to office (I'm looking at you, Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency less than a year after Agnew, his vice president, quit), and there's the lesson. We need elected officials who live on a solid rock of ethics and we need fair and persistent journalists who will let the public know when they stray from that foundation.

Spiro T. Agnew Resignation Day seems like a date we might wish to turn into Ethical Government Day each year -- just to keep all this in mind. After all, Agnew was not useless. He still can be used as a bad example.

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A new study shows the number of Americans who say they follow no religion has grown, and such folks now make up about 20 percent of our population. The common term for such people now is "nones," meaning that given a list of religions to pick from they pick none of the above. I'll have more to say later about this and the shrinkage of Protestants to below 50 percent of the population by some estimates. But the reality is that we live in a time of fairly rapid changes demographically and religiously, and if you're paying attention to all that, none of these figures should come as a surprise.

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Green Thoreau

The Green Thoreau, edited by Carol Spenard LaRusso. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Henry David Thoreau, New World Library has published this revised edition of a book that collects -- carefully and interestingly -- Thoreau's thoughts that primarily focus on his love of nature and humanity's duty to protect Earth. Thoreau, of course, is best known for Walden, which describes his experience living outside Concord, Mass., in a small cabin he built at the edge of Walden Pond. But he contributed much more than that in the way of insightful writing and thinking, and the editor of this slim volume has divided those thoughts into eight categories, nature, technology, livelihood, living, possessions, time, diet and food and aspiration. If it's been a long time since you sampled Thoreau, this is a lovely place to start, especially now when so many people of faith have committed themselves to the kind of ecological sense that Thoreau preached in the 19th Century.

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P.S.:  Swami Chetanananda and author Philip Goldberg will speak at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at at Regnier Hall on the KU Edwards Campus, 12600 Quivira, sponsored by the Vedanta Society of Kansas City. The topic for this, the fourth Arjun Kumar Sharma Memorial Lecture, will be “Vedanta and the Spiritual Yogas in America.” The next day at 10:30 a.m., Swami Chetanananda and will also speak at the Vedanta Society, 8701 Ward Parkway. Both programs are free. For more details, click here.


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