God’s Politics in Dallas

God's Politics Book CoverLast night, I dragged Layton down to the Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas to listen to Jim Wallis, the author of God’s Politics. Rev. Wallis was in town as part of the Texas Freedom Network’s 2007 Faith & Freedom Speaker Series.

I’ve recently started to read his book, and have found it to be a very well written book that challenges to influence of the religious right, and explains how to overcome the hijacking of religion that has occurred over the last ten years or so.

While Rev. Jim didn’t focus too much on the content of his book, he did cover some parts that I have read (and agree with). First, most societal change has been organized by, or strongly influenced by, spiritual – or faith-based – organizations. As Wallis said, and writes in his book, “Lyndon Johnson didn’t become a civil rights leader until Martin Luther King made him one,” (a reference to the actions by Martin Luther King, Jr. leading up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1966).

Rev. Wallis explained how after he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, that he received thousands of emails from younger people who told Wallis that “they got it” and understood that religion was not something that was only something for those that supported the religious right. Rev. Wallis provides an insight into the other issues that are religious, or moral value issues, like poverty, the Iraq war, and social justice, many of which were mentioned more times in the Bible than other “important (religious right) issues”like abortion and same-sex marriage.

I’m not convinced that Layton enjoyed himself overly at the event, but we certainly were able to have a in-depth conversation about the things we love to talk about in the car ride home. This is something that I value in my friends, the ability – and willingness – to talk about the “taboo” subjects like religion, sex and politics. The conversations are always refreshing, often challenging, but never boring. To my friends, “thank you!”

Diamonds are Forever

Tuesday on NPR, I was driving to work, I was listening to the Diane Rehm show (with guest host Susan Page) and an interview with Lisa Takeuchi Cullen who has written a book on new and wacky death rites called, “Remember Me.” The interview covered some of the stories that Cullen has written about ways people want to be remembered after they have died. They ranged from caskets in the shape of Formula One racing cars to mummification. What really sparked my interest was the story of a father who turned his daughter’s ashes into diamonds. Yes, there is a company – Life Gem – that extracts the carbon from the ashes of someone who has been cremated and processes them into a certified diamond (normally blue or yellow). How cool is that!
Continue reading “Diamonds are Forever”

The God Who Wasn’t There

I just finished watching “The God Who Wasn’t There“, a film by Brian Flemming that “examines the Bible and discusses the history of early Christianity, raising doubts as to whether the New Testament personage Jesus ever really existed.”

I obtained the movie through Netflix, and what intrigued me about this movie was the description that it gave.

Borrowing the lively approach of documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super Size Me, ex-Christian fundamentalist Brian Flemming’s exposé shines an unflinching spotlight on Christianity and the existence of Christ. Flemming interviews religious experts and Christians of varying backgrounds, ultimately asserting that Jesus Christ is more than likely a fictional character based on legend and that Christian doctrine is rife with contradiction.

One of the experts that Flemming speaks with is Sam Harris who has written “The End of Faith”, a book recently read by my friend Bobby.

I enjoyed the movie for what is was. It provides a few references to the inconsistencies that occur within the Bible, along with a better understanding on how similar the story of Christ is to other mythical stories told from earlier generations. The reference to Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” was eye opening, and scary – both at the same time.

Fallen Wiccans

It appears that the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is skirting the boundaries of the Constitution by not providing a religious marker on a fallen soldier’s grave marker. The soldier, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, is believed to be the first Wiccan to have died in the line of duty, and his widow asked for his memorial plaque to have the Wiccan symbol inscribed, like many other markers around that are inscribed with other religious symbols.

According to the Washington Post,

The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths; about half of are versions of the Christian cross. It also allows the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel, the Mormon angel, the nine-pointed star of Bahai and something that looks like an atomic symbol for atheists.

The article goes on to say that an initial request was made to include the Wiccan Pentagram in the Department’s listing of approved symbols nine years ago. Since that time, eleven other symbols have been approved, but the Wiccan symbol is still pending.

Source: “Fallen Soldier Gets a Bronze Star but No Pagan Star”
(Washington Post, July 4, 2006: Page A02)