Saturday, April 30, 2005

Activist judge "doesn't know why"

LG, a 13 year old girl who was about 14 weeks pregnant was denied the right to make her own decision regarding her pregnancy by Florida judge Ronald Alvarez despite delineating understandable and legitimate concerns about going to term:
"I don't think I should have the baby because I'm 13, I'm in a shelter and I can't get a job," the girl said as Alvarez and her guardian ad litem, assigned to shepherd her in the legal system, questioned her.

L.G. laid out different reasons for wanting an abortion.

"DCF would take the baby anyway," she said, but later added: "If I do have it, I'm not going to let them take it."

She also questioned the health risk of carrying the fetus to term.

"Since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then wouldn't you all look at that fact that it'd be more dangerous for me to have the baby than to have an abortion?"
LG had quite a few very good points. Dr. Ethelene Jones who is an expert in obstetrics & gynecology pointed out that an abortion is, indeed, safer than going to term for the girl
"At her age and at her stage of gestation ... her risk of death from an abortion procedure is about 1 in 34,000," said Jones, who has held positions at Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. "The risk of death in pregnancy is about 1 in 10,000."
The girl has been taken for counseling to clinics on 3 occassions where alternatives and risks to abortion were discussed. Yet, when the girl asked Judge Alvarez why she couldn'tmake her own decision he replied "I don't know" (G-d bless her, she responded with "You don't know? You're the judge").

Does Alvarez usually renders decisions without being familiar with applicable state laws or did he just "conscientiously object" to letting the child make a decision he finds morally offensive? Florida State Law allows pregnant minors to make their own decisions regarding their pregnancy (link courtesy of Nick at
743.065 Unwed pregnant minor or minor mother; consent to medical services for minor or minor's child valid.--

(1) An unwed pregnant minor may consent to the performance of medical or surgical care or services relating to her pregnancy by a hospital or clinic or by a physician licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459, and such consent is valid and binding as if she had achieved her majority.

(2) An unwed minor mother may consent to the performance of medical or surgical care or services for her child by a hospital or clinic or by a physician licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459, and such consent is valid and binding as if she had achieved her majority.

(3) Nothing in this act shall affect the provisions of s. 390.0111.
Florida tried to enact a parental notification law, but there is an injunction against it because it is unconstitutional.

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Rush for a change of atmosphere

As Faithful Progressive noted here and here, our (not so) good friend Rush Limbaugh is back in the news for. . . well for being Rush Limbaugh, inventor of lowbrow oral flatulence. Limbaugh recently stated his belief that there are 2 gods, the god of Christianity and Catholocism and the god of the the religious left. Limbaugh himself is a big fan of the former because
"that G-d has moral absolutes. That G-d has right and wrong, that G-d doesn't deal in nuance, that G-d doesn't deal in gray area, that G-d says, 'This is right and that is wrong.'"
That is also a god who has decreed the "sanctity of marriage" and the god of religions that state marriage is for the development and protection of the family (that means you get married and have babies). That is a god that believes crime deserves punishment, and that is a god that does not look kindly on sinners standinging in judgement of others.

Rush Limbaugh, staunch defender of marriage (& protection thereof) and, now, orthodox Christianity (which sees marriage as a vehicle to procreate) has been divorced 3 times and 0 children. He does not honor that which he demands (although this yahoo seems to place the blame for divorce on use of any contraception other than natural family planning).
Matthew 19: 8-9 "Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
Rush "Hang 'em high. Put the drugsters in jail" Limbaugh has made his stand on illegal use of drugs pretty clear:
"If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

"Too many whites are getting away with drug use The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river too."
But when it was discovered he was one of the white folks who'd been "getting away with it," he did everything possible to avoid the punishment he'd impose on others.
2 Peter: 13-14 "They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!"

2 Peter: 18-19 "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him."
Now as he attacks those who a members of non-Orthodox [Christian] religions or members who refuse to judge others and legally impose the dictates and dogma they willingly accept by essentially accusing them of not worhsipping the "right" god, he says he was just interjecting some levity. The joke's on Rush, his god of moral absoultes that does not comprehend nuance would not have a sense of humor and would judge Limbaugh quite harshly for his trangsressions, as well as his unmitigated audacity to stand in judgement of others.

It's the seventh day of Pesach, the day we're reminded of David's song of Thanksgiving. Limbaugh, as usual, knows not of what he speaks. There is not a god of the left and a god of the right (frankly, if there were, why should anyone follow the one he can't respect and admire?), there are, however, too many false prophets.
2 Samuel 22:51 A tower of salvation of His king, who shows mercy to His anointed, to David and to his heirs forever

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The Unconscionable Clause

I'm sure you've read all the debates back and forth about Pharmacists and other healthcare providers not wanting to be involved in abortion, anything they consider to possibly impede implantation of a fertilized ova in a woman's uterus (ova+uterus=female) and anything else they consider to be related to sins of sexual immorality. Last night I posted about Colorado Gov. Bill Owen's veto of a bill that would ensure that rape victims were provided with all the health-care related information due them (including information on/access to emergency contraception or referral to someone who would) as should be required under law and the arguments that contraception (emergency and routine) causes sexual immorality and abortion. Today, this non-feminist took an electronic stroll over to Feministe to come across an interesting little tidbit about how Catholic Hospitals plan to treat rape victims.

Now I understand that the Catholic Church proscribes contraception (except natural family planning) with the belief that sex is a sacred act between a married couple with a primary (but not sole) purpose of procreation. Based on this, it makes perfect sense for Catholic Hospitals not to perform abortions except when a patient presents in an emergent situation with an ectopic pregnancy. It also makes sense that their pharmacies would not stock contraceptives, physicians would refrain from prescribing contraceptives (I'm not sure if they're permitted to prescribe them for treatment of endometriosis or to shrink an ovarian cyst); surgeons would not perform tubal ligations, or any form of hysterectomy on a woman that is not post-menopausal except to save the woman's life (i.e., uterine/ovarian cancer) and choices in fertility treatments would be limited.

In all of the aforementioned instances, Catholic Hospitals make certain exceptions in emergent situations. Oddly, the exception 6 Catholic hospitals in Colorado make in the case of rape is incomplete: physicians will be permitted (not required) to tell a victim/patient about emergency contraception and write a prescription (if asked by the victim/patient) if she has not yet ovulated; if she has ovulated, they are not permitted to discuss emergency contraception. This, one can assume, is based on a belief that contraceptives are abortifacients because they could possibly thin the endometrial lining making it less hospitable to implantation of a fertilized egg (more accurately, by implantation it's now 16 cells and called a blastocyst). The primary mechanism of action of emergency contraception (high dose progesterone) is the prevention of ovulation, so I am quite glad to see these hospitals allowing discussion of and access to EC for women who haven't ovulated (there are many "pro-lifers" who don't approve it's use at all). There are other suspected ancillary mechanisms of actions for contraceptives (it is not uncommon for a drug to be approved as safe and efficacious without the actual mechanism of action being known at all) that include creating an environment in the female genitourinary tract that is hostile to sperm or creates other barriers to fertilization if ovulation does occur. Another possible (tertiary) mechanism of action for some contraceptives may include making the uterus less hospitable to implantation because with chronic use, many women do experience lighter periods due to development of thinner endometrial linings (this is one reason women with endometriosis are prescribed hormonal contraceptives). Bear in mind, the implantation rate post conception is about 40-60% in the best of circumstances, so it's extremely difficult to determine if/when routine use of hormonal contraceptives causes a statistically significant decrease in the implantation rate. This being said, this is an unlikely mechanism of action for EC as the medication is acute use of high levels of progesterone (as I've mentioned in a few places, if a reproductive endocrinologist could correct me and/or clarify the situation, I'd greatly appreciate it). If the providers at these hospitals intentionally omit information about a treatment that could prevent fertilization, they're acting as a de facto agent of the rapist by prolonging the physical trauma and facilitating any resultant pregnancy. If the victim is not provided the information in time, becomes pregnant and decides to terminate, the providers (and the hospitals themselves) are responsible for the forcible creation of a child as well as its "murder" as a matter of policy.

Healthcare practitioners are held to a different standard than other professions for good reason. They are required to provide all reasonably relevant information and information about things that are rare but potentially serious/severe in nature to their patients (and/or their caregivers) to ensure they are adequately informed. As a healthcare provider, you are not permitted to omit information in discussions with patients because you don't approve of what they might do with that information. Patients (or their caregivers) must be able to make informed decisions and provide informed consent; full disclosure (including referral for additional opinions/treatments that may be different than what you think appropriate) is necessary for this to occur - anything else is malpractice. Just as a genetic counselor or OB does not have the right to omit pertinent information about potential treatments/therapies that may impact the decision a patient (mother/couple) makes when the provider believes termination of pregnancy is warranted but thinks the information might lead the patient to decide to continue the pregnancy, a provider does not have the right to withold pertinent information to a patient because that provider believes the patient would decide to terminate the pregnancy (because the provider thinks abortion is immoral).

In cases in which healthcare providers have conflicting interests, they are obligated to fully disclose this conflict of interest, provide factual information about alternatives and allow the patient to make decisions voluntarily without prejudice. Forcing decisions upon patients due to a conflict of interest is unethical and immoral (the only place where this country seems to allow this in healthcare is when the conflict of interest involves someone imposing pregnancy on a woman because the provider does not approve of abortion/contraception). There are ways to avoid these conflicting interests, it is the responsibility of the healthcare provider to avoid them if they stand in the way of the provider being able to treat a patient without prejudice.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Blame it on B

According to a New Republic article, conservatives across the country have a host of reasons for opposing the emergency contraceptive Plan B:

  • Concerned Women for America has stated a concern for the long term effects of the drug
    • they emphasize this concern completely disregarding the fact that it is an acute use drug so exposure is essentially minimal and the fact the drug has been available without prescription in many countries since 2002 (and with a prescription even longer), & there is considerable safety data regarding long-term use of both high and low dose hormonal contraceptive
  • Those who believe that an unimplanted zygote is the equivalent to a living, breathing human being consider all hormonal contraception (emergency and routine) as abortifacients based on the possibility of ovulation and fertilization occuring followed by the resulting blastocyst possibly being unable to implant in the endometrium due to use of these medications
    • I'll need an OB/GYN to explain why they believe a high dose of progesterone will induce abortion or prevent implantation, since progesterone levels decrease if conception doesn't occur and increase when it does (the corpus luteum produces progesterone, so if fertilization does occur one wouldn't expect the sudden drop in progesterone after final dose of Plan B to trigger menstruation if the corpus luteum continues to produce adequate levels of progesterone to make pregnancy viable post implantation)
  • EC will increase risky sexual activity (i.e., sex when pregnancy isn't a desired outcome of sex)
Jessica, at Bush v Choice, commented on the article as follows [emphasis added]:
I'm glad that Cohn points out that women who are suffering most because of the lack of EC availability are rape victims and not crazy spring breakers, as the conservatives would have us believe. But don't crazy spring breakers deserve EC, too? By focusing on victims of sexual assault as the primary users of emergency contraception are we somehow bolstering the argument that "irresponsible" teen girls shouldn't have access to it? Just putting it out there...
Jessica obviously hadn't checked out the comments to my favorite self-described fat Jew's post about Colorado Gov. Bill Owen's veto of a bill that would have required hospitals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception. I know she didn't read the comments earlier because there is no notice about her having a stroke directly related to comments that put the responsibility for being prepared to know about and have access to EC prior to rape (if you have a uterus and are of child-bearing potential you best plan ahead) or hunt down that information and medication when the "moral" healthcare providers intentionally mislead you by lies of omission.

What will become of us if we require police/healthcare providers to provide EC information, access or referrals to those who will provide those things (and/or EC becomes available OTC) to rape victims? Well, if we're thinking as rationally as those who consider prevention of pregnancy as murder, the next logical step will be an alarming increase in the amount of non-marital sexual activity (both consensual and not). After all, if EC is readily available women will be more willing to be raped since there's an easy way to avoid their responsibilities by just aking a couple of pills. ..right?

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005


This morning, in the midst of correspondence with my colleagues in Poland, I quickly checked my calendar to determine if there were any upcoming holidays that would impact our timelines and noted that next Thursday is the Polish May 3rd Constitution Anniversary. I ran a quick check on it and found out the following:
The May 3rd, 1791 Constitution was the first liberal constitution in Europe and the second in the world, after the Constitution of the United States.

Following the American pattern it established three independent branches of government — executive, legislative and judiciary. Throughout the constitution runs philosophy of humanitarianism and tolerance including: perfect and entire liberty to all people; rule by majority; secret ballot at all elections; and religious freedom and liberty.

But, most importantly, the constitution abolished the one vote veto powers of individuals who would undermine proposals, for their own dubious reasons.
Later in the day, I snuck a quick peak at Fafblog where, lo' and behold, Fafnir had posted an interview with The Constitution which included a preview of the next School House Rock episode:
I'm a Constitution in exile, just a Constitution in exile,
And everybody's ignored me for a while…
Unlike the US, the Poles get a 4 day holiday week-end to honor their Constitution and we're in the midst of what may be a 4 year run of the Republicans & Fundagelicals trampling on ours. Which country is ass backwards?

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why Plan B may not work for Plan B

When Barr Pharmaceuticals submitted the Rx-to-OTC Emergency Contraceptive Plan B to the FDA, I doubt they suspected that after jumping through hoops and making a novel suggestion in their submission that they'd still be in political limbo.

The FDA, in it's politically charged Not Approvable letter, did not state any safety concern with the drug's use in women 16 and older. Under the circumstances, there was no reason to hold up the approval of Plan B as an OTC any further (except to continue to play politics to appease the religious right). In the face of regulatory action that was considered to be based purely on politics (the advisory committee vote was overwhelmingly for approval), Barr re-submitted with the the suggestion to make the drug available without prescription to patients 16 and older, but require prescription for girls under the age of 16. To facilitate this idea, the suggested a Plan B for Plan B - keeping it Behind the Counter to would prevent girls under the age of 16 from purchasing the product without a valid prescription. The problem with this suggestion is the same problem facing women trying to fill prescriptions for not only emergency contraception, but trying to fill their prescriptions for routine contraceptives (regardless of whether they're for contraception or to treat a medical condition), some pharmacists will refuse to hand over the medication.

Under these circumstances, pharmacists who wish to impose their religious doctrine on women could still interfere with purchase of the products to those who are legally able to do so without a prescription. In order for Plan Behind the Counter to work, the drug would have to be available behind the register/customer service counter where other drugs like tobacco (and alcohol in states that don't limit sales to liquor stores) are available for purchase by anyone able to show ID to verify they are legally allowed to purchase the item. Additionally, there will have to be some assurance that store managers, customer service employees or check-out clerks will not also be allowed to refuse sell the medication when someone legally attempts to purchase the medication.

I doubt this idea would bode well for Karen Brauer's PFLI since the organization's primary goal is to interfere with a woman's ability to practice contraception, not to avoid their own involvement in something that offends their moral sensibilities. Arizona Kmart Pharmacist Dan Gransinger has suggested that pharmacist's lie to avoid filling valid prescriptions in light of AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano's veto of HB 2541. This, he suggests, can help a pharmacist avoid complicity in someone else's sin and inconvenience a patient (or worse). It's not as though these pharmacist's have a problem with lying since they preach that use of contraceptives is committing an abortion (there is a difference between causing the expulsion of an implanted embryo and the rare possibility that a blastocyst will not implant solely due to the possibility of a thinner endometrial lining). Ironically, these beliefs are based on a literal acceptance of scripture, and they conveniently ignore the fact that bearing false witness (aka telling lies) is one of G-d's big 10 and Proverbs has a lot of not too nice things to say about liars:
Proverbs 14:5 " A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies."

Proverbs 14:25 " A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful."
People, both pro-choice and "pro-life", were offended by the suggestion. NARAL took it a step further and wrote to Kmart to complain and ask that Kmart remove Gransinger from managing or working as a dispensing pharmacist at any Kmart. Pro-lifers complain this may be harsh, but if someone feels so strongly about an issue such as this, I don't understand why they wouldn't be willing to accept the personal consequences of their actions. Companies who sell items should do so with the plan they will sell them to anyone who is legally allowed to purchase them (and the prescription is what determines if a person can obtain prescription medications). Would Walmart allow a sales clerk to refuse to ring up the sale of a gun or ammo if the purchase was legal without taking action against the sales clerk? Would they be required to hire someone for the camping & hunting section who would refuse to sell guns based on their moral convictions? I doubt it. If you stock an item for sale, be prepared to sell it. If you don't want to subject your personnel to making decisions or selling something they consider immoral, don't hire them for the division/department that sells those items or don't stock the items.

If pharmacies and pharmacies franchises want to capitulate to religious beliefs that allow some personnel to impose their beliefs on someone who does not share them, they should stop stocking these medications and have the testicular fortitude to make public statements saying as much. Pro-choice folks will gladly stop shopping at those establishments, which will leave more for them to sell to right wing idealogues.

If we now allow pharmacists the ability to refuse to do parts of their jobs based on their morals, don't we have to allow a sales clerk to refuse to sell any item they find objectionable as well? Where will this end? Can a managing pharmacist at a pharmacy that does sell contraceptives require other pharmacists on duty to refuse to fill prescriptions (is that managing pharmacist not complicit in sin if s/he allows those working under him/her to dispense the contraceptives)? Can a an individual impose his/her religious views on formulary decisions for Medicaid? Can an individual at an insurance company notify a pharmacy that a prescription for contraceptives is not covered (or is being filled too soon) to interfere with a person obtaining a refill, just because that individual does not approve of contraceptives? Could it go beyond contraceptives and abortion, spilling into religious based refusal of legal and medically acceptable procedures or treatments?

There is no difference between allowing the religious right to subject me to their religious views and my forcing a Fundamentalist Christian woman to use hormonal contraceptives or have an abortion. Both are reprehensible impositions of one's personal beliefs on another and interference in their healthcare. It's about time the practice of medicine got back to being between a physician and a patient without the local church or politician getting involved in something that has nothing to do with them.

As I've said many times before, the Conscience Interference Clause is not about an individual pharamcist's ability to protect his/her mortal soul, it's about the religious right's unnacceptable demand to be able to interfere in the ability of women to fill valid prescriptions for medications.

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Frist vows to crown Bush King

Reacting to a Democratic offer in the fight over filibusters, Republican leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he isn't interested in any deal that fails to ensure that the Senate votes on confirmation for all of President Bush's judicial nominees.
Maybe Frist has forgotten that this isn't a monarchy and he is a US Congressman, not a member of the House of Lords. There are what, 10, nominees that haven't been confirmed but Frist won't rest until King George (and the Fundagelical Movement) gets everything he demands?
White House press secretary Scott McClellan, traveling in Texas with Bush, said "our view is that Senate Democrats need to stop playing politics and give all judicial nominees an up or down vote."
As I noted last night, the Fundagelicals and Republicans claimed fillibusters were necessary to protect against the "war on Christianity" (that would be Hormel's nomination as ambassador, and we all know he was nominated in a sly Clintonian move to force good Christians to convert to homosexuality if they wouldn't just try it themselves).

Since King George and the Repugs insist on re-nominating folks that were completely unacceptable in his first administration the filibuster is needed to protect freedom of religion [the inclusive form of the word, not just orthodox Christian denominations] and ensure maintenance of civil rights and the modicum of healthcare the average US citizen currently has access to.

I agree with FP that Billy-boy's profane piety may well work to the advantage of the rational among us. The faithful who, last November, abstained or voted against Democrats because they were irked at the frequently voiced disdain for the religious right are now seeing exactly what it is that's triggered those comments (the "liberal elite" who are openly hostile to religion, even when it's not imposed on them, are another issue - but they are a fringe minority). They are finally speaking up and reaching out, which should help build a strong coalition of liberals and progressives (both religious and secular) as well as bring in some moderates equally desperate to live in a rational and civilized country.

Politicians live and die by the polls, so the Republican lock-step may get tripped up as candidates start looking toward mid-term elections. If the Republicans pay attention to what the majority of their constituents want, cooler heads may prevail. If the right wing doesn't back off from their hystrionics, they may *gasp* lose power.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Pistol-packin' progeny

I tripped over this at Excellence through Mediocrity. What better way to show you're "Pro-Life" than hanging a gun toting fetus from your Christmas Tree or rear-view mirror?

"brown" model wears an attractive beret, and they both come complete with a metal ornament hanger!

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Thanks for the Mammaries

Myanmar mother breastfeeds tiger cubs

According to the zoo "breastfeeding will stop by the end of April or when the cubs start teething — whichever comes first." OUCH!

G-d's verklempt

Courtesy of the lovely & talented Pam Spaulding: it appears as though G-d is having some problems expressing Himself emotionally. Thank heavens for that good Samaritan Jacob Phelps (grandson of Fred) to help Him out
"We wouldn't be here doing this protest if we hated people absolutely," he said. "What we're expressing is not our hate, it's God's hate. That's a pure hate. It's the only kind of hate allowed. I feel this is my obligation to God."
I dunno about you, but I'm sure that if G-d felt the need to express some hate, he'd have no problem smiting the Hell out of the Phelps clan.

If filibustering you is wrong, I don't wanna be right

The Republicans/religious right on the evils of filibustering Presidential nominees:

  • Calling the Hormel appointment "highly inappropriate," Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has threatened to filibuster "every single presidential nomination" to protest the President's sly, though not illegal, recess appointment. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) set a precedent for such action in 1995 in an attempt to insure that Ronald Reagan would refrain from such "recess appointments." Sen. Lott, who originally told reporters he would not support Inhofe's action, has apparently changed his mind. If Lott follows through, this would affect all future Clinton appointments and the 149 appointees now awaiting confirmation.

  • The White House, as always, has attempted to focus attention away from its own actions. Going on the attack, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart accused the Senate in general - and Sen. Inhofe in particular -- of homophobia. Said Lockhart: "This is about Sen. Inhofe, who believes that Mr. Hormel should not be able to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg for one simple reason -- because he's gay" (UPI 6/9/99).

Word of the Day - Totalitarian: "They are totalitarians who accuse everyone that disagrees with them of hatred." [FRC spokeman Steven Schwalm in 1998]

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Freedom Formula; how to repay G-d for what was more than enough

"All who are hungry - come and eat. All who are needy - come and join the Pesach celebration."

There are different kinds of hunger. The text here refers to physical hunger and a need for food and water for sustenance, I referred to this yesterday. In my opinion, the most interesting and special things about Judaism is our idea of tzedakah. The word tzedakah is used to mean charity but it means righteousness; our understanding of righteousness and the dictates of our religion makes them more of a distributive justice, which lies at the heart of all mitzvot. We have what we have by the grace of G-d, but we do not own it. We have not only responsiblities to ourselves and our families, but to others (including strangers):
Genesis 18: 18-19 "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just*, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." * tzedakah u-mishpat (right & just)
Mishpat means retributive justice. The statement in the Haggadah also enjoins those who are needy (those who are aware they are lacking something) to join in our Passover celebration. This is a call to all of those lacking freedom, as well as to those of us already at the table: as long as people are enslaved or oppressed we are reminded there is work to be done on their behalf (as G-d interceded on ours).
Passover is a celebration of freedom that enjoins us to remember the hardship and bitterness that can come from being enslaved and the fight for that freedom. This is the reason the
4 questions (Dr. Seuss version) are at the heart of our seder.

The inaccurately named fundagelical event "Justice Sunday" is scheduled for today. The irony of the title of the event is only second to its timing on the first day of a celebration of freedom. According to the letter Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, wrote to encourage involvement in the event [emphasis added]:

"We now have a President who is committed to nominate judicial candidates who are not activists, but strict constructionists -- judges who will simply interpret the Constitution as it was written. We now have a majority in the U.S. Senate that will confirm these nominees. However, there is a radical minority that has launched an unprecedented filibuster against these outstanding men and women.
According to the President, the prime example of a judge who fits the description is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. According to Scalia, the frist amendment of the US consititution (the one that gurantees freedom of religion) is neutral on denomination not religion - this is his literal reading of the 1st Amendment, which states [emphasis added]:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The amendment does not say ". . .no law respecting establishment of a religion. . ." To go on to make statements that he believes the words say we are a Christian country (or can be one) provided we don't further one specific denomination of Christianity over another is not only interpretting the amendment, it's mis-interpretting it (and doing so to further a specific agenda, otherwise known as judicial activism).
"Many of these nominees to the all-important appellate court level are being blocked, not because they haven't paid their taxes or because they have used drugs or because they have criminal records or for any other reason that would disqualify them from public service; rather, they are being blocked because they are people of faith and moral conviction. These are people whose only offense is to say that abortion is wrong or that marriage should be between one man and one woman."
They are people with a goal of not just maintaining their own faith, but of using their position in the bench to impose their personal beliefs by reinterpreting laws specifically for this purpose. President Bush has had more judges confirmed in his first term than his father, Reagan or Clinton. He had the luxury of filling all of Clinton's nominees that were obstructed by Repbulicans plus newly created seats. All of the judges under contention were initially nominated (and re-nominated multiple times) during that period. Among those nominees Perkins refers to above is Priscilla Owen, who has been shot down multiple times not because she's a Sunday School Teacher but because she engages in judicial activism to the point that Alberto Gonalez complained she intentionally disregards the law to fit with her extreme right-wing agenda, something he called an "unconscionable act of judicial activism." She has been accused on multiple occasions of trying to re-write standing laws from the bench.

The goal of the Fundagelical movement and their pet Senators (DeLay, Frist & Santorum) is to not only turn this country into a Totalitarian Christo-theocracy but to do so in a subversive manner because they realize that in order to do so legally, they'd need to re-write the US Constitution (and even moderate to moderately Conservative Republicans) will not support that agenda. They wish to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting Christians by claiming that anyone that is not in agreement with strict Orthodox Christian Scripture is anti-religion or is trying to destroy Christianity. Their platform is that the US is and has always been a Christian Nation and that activists judges have reinterpretted the Consititution to say otherwise. John Adams, the 2nd President of the US explicitly stated otherwise in the Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli [emphasis added]: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries" (the article was removed after the treaty was broken in 1801 and the treaty renegotiated in 1805).

What the fundagelical movement wants to do, in the name of G-d and religion no less, is to have the government legislate based on their particular religious beliefs. Abiding by the doctrine and dogma of their own religion is not enough, they seek to ensure everyone else does so as well (they can't force us to believe as they do, so they insult our religions to try to force us to live by their religious dictates). This is the antithesis of the central ideas on which our nation was founded. The Puritans came to escape a liberal religious environment when they wanted the right to be punitive, many more came to escape a punitive religious environment (what the Puritans considered liberal, the rest considered punitive). Granted, the Puritans weren't too happy when folks could escape their punishment and find acceptance elsewhere; these modern day Puritans (fundagelicals) are pretty much the same, except they fully intend to do what the originals could not: make every one else fully accountable to their religious dictates. This is completely unacceptable and it's not only the atheists and secular people who are fighting back.

One does not have to be a supporter of Conservative, Orthodox Christian dogma to be a person of faith and good moral convictions. Religious people from different religions and denominations around the country are organizing to fight and speaking out against the hijacking of religion. Religious leaders are decrying the unholiest mix of religion and politics.

Declarations of faith and actual faith are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive. Faith for show is hypocrisy. A show of faith is made in how you live your life, how you seek redemption and make restitution, how misphat and tzedakah are part of your life and how you go about achieving justice.

Two years ago, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center suggested 8 flourishes for Passover and a link to a seder supplement for economic rights from Rabbis for Human Rights. By honoring these traditions during our observance of Pesach and, as applicable, in our daily lives we have a formula to engender freedom.

We sing Dayenu at the Seder because each of the gifts G-d bestowed upon us would have been enough individually. Each additional gift reminds us of His generosity and grace. Anything G-d does for us is enough and we owe it to Him and the world to show our appreciation by doing for others as He has done by us. We can sing Dayenu to Him but must not think we can stop helping others when there is more to be done; we owe no less than to merit to conduct additional feasts of freedom in the future.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lies of omission can get yer ass in trouble with the FEC

Billy's PAC gets it's hands slapped. Gives new meaning to the words Yom Tov!


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Closer to G-d in Deed

Yesterday morning, Faithful Progressive had the distinct pleasure to awaken to a slew of comments on his post about John Kerry's statement on faith & values. Much of the debate in the comments was related to whether faith alone is enough for salvation (among Christians) or whether faith must be coupled with deeds. The answer is abundantly clear in Judaism, the impact of one's actions (especially one's treatment of others) is a major theme not only in holidays but in daily life. This week's Torah portion (Leviticus 16:2-34) contains an extremely detailed description of Yom Kippur (yeah, I know, Pesach starts tonight so the reference may seem odd to you but this really is applicable). Yom Kippur, as you probably know, is the day we atone for our sins; on the days leading up to it, we try to make things right (or as right as they can be) by apologizing to those we've hurt and accepting apologies from those expressing remorse for their actions towards us. Deeds matter, not just actions related to sins against G-d but our actions towards others.

Our actions are an insight to our hearts & souls which reveal the sincerity of our faith. Yom Kippur is only one day of the year, but that doesn't mean we should wait to change our ways and make amends (where necessary) on an ongoing basis as we are judged on an ongoing basis. In a summary to this week's Torah portion, Rabbi Daniel Bronstein of Social warns us that "no matter how charismatic, no matter how skilled, and no matter how successful in serving a cause--a leader's ethics matter." Tom DeLay told Tony Snow that the ethics probe into his activities has brought him "Closer to G-d." As Rabbi Charles P. Sherman indicates in his commentary on the portion, honest introspection and resolve to change (not scapegoating) is what can truly bring us closer to G-d.

As I mentioned earlier, Pesach (Passover) begins at sundown tonight. The first night (first 2 nights for Orthodox & Conservative Jews outside of Israel) we have a Seder (literally "order") which is a Feast of Freedom. We begin the Seder with the words:

    "All who are hungry - come and eat. All who are needy - come and join the Pesach celebration."
    • In the United States alone, 13 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger. []
    • Every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation and the large majority are children under the age of 5. []
    Those who are less fortunate will not be helped by those words alone, they cannot eat our sentiments. Mazon is a Jewish response to hunger that works to help people in need regardless of their background, the organization has an annual Passover Project that is coordinated with synagogues and social outreach groups; World Manna is another organization working to end world hunger; and America's Second Harvest is the nation's food bank network. Please consider donating to one of these (or another) organization. You can also help by going to the Hunger Site, click daily to give a cup of fortified food to a hungry person.

    I'll address the second sentence and the incongruity of the current political climate (especially the timing of the inappropriately titled "Justice Sunday") tomorrow. In the meantime, please go here to voice your concern (I adapted my statement in Faith Forward's Affirmation project and plugged it into the text they provided) and/or check out Social Justice Sunday on Building the Beloved Community.

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    Friday, April 22, 2005

    Papal Missive to Karen Brauer

    Dear Karen:

    I have recently advised Catholics in Spain as to the appropriate way to handle those evil homos trying to get married and ruin the world. My advice was wise (I am Pope, you know) and believe it can be universally applied by all Catholics who are employed by evil-doers who are not only willing to be complicit in sin but want to drag you to Hell with them. I told Catholic officials in Spain to be prepared to lose their jobs rather than co-operate with the law.

    I see you have already lost your job at Kmart for interfering in the dispensation of weapons of murder, and think you should amend the stand you and the members of PFLI take to include either quitting your job to avoid working at any den of iniquity that actually sells those products of destruction or let them fire you for refusing to fill immoral prescriptions on the basis of your religion (if they fire you, you may still be eligible to collect unemployment). Now I understand that some of your Evangelical members may have problems taking advice from a guy who "holds a false and unbiblical office" in a "false church that teaches false gospel" but, since we're on the same side, I'll forgive them for that (that Mohler guy is another story). I'm sure you will your exceptional gift of logic to talk some sense into them and they too will know I am right.

    Yours in Christ,

    Pope Benedict XVI

    PS/Atrios has a lot to learn about Papal Power

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    A Christo-theocratic coup: trying to clog the wheels of justice with wingnut butter

    Today's LA Times has a very interesting (and rather disturbing) story concerning the plans Fundagelical leaders James Dobson & Tony Perkins appear to be making with Senior Republican Lawmakers (House Religious Dictator Bill Frist and House Morals & Ethics Chairman Tom DeLay). The LA Times has obtained audio tape of the meeting in which Dobson & Perkins met to strategize interference with the Judicial Branch of government by penalizing jurists for rulings with which the Fundagelical movement disagree and using Congress (and the leverage of certain Congressmen?) to unseat specific judges, entire courts and confirm specific judges ostensibly pledged to their cause (otherwise known as "activist judges") on the bench in an effort to change laws and re-write the Constitution without going through the necessary ordeal legally required to re-write the Constitution. Dobson and Perkins have been working very closely with both DeLay and Frist, and public comments (and threats) coming from the Senators sound suspiciously similar to those made by Dobson and Perkins. The taped discussion implies Republican complicity with their plans which appear to include skipping the long and arduous process of trying to impeach judges (who've committed no impeachable offense) in favor of stripping funding of specific courts, disbanding them and recreating courts more to the group's liking. According to a taped statement by Perkins, he'd attended a meeting with "Congressional Leaders" in which they delineated such plans:
    "What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them"
    There is a reason our government is set up with 3 independent branches with the ability to ensure appropriate checks and balances are maintained. The US constitution outlines the branches, what falls under their domains and applicable checks and balances. In order to make such a drastic change in government (one that holds the Judicial branch fully accountable to the Executive and/or Legislative branches of the government), the Constitution would have to be amended. Collusion with a branch (or members of a branch) of government to gain control of another branch that involves interference with tax monies meant to fund the courts would seem to be a crime against justice as well as the government as it is subversion of the system. The actions/statements documented in the LA Times article imply some of the elements of treason (as well as complicity of certain members of Congress) and crimes related to treason including:
    1. Breach of allegiance - these are citizens plotting to control (or overthrow) one arm of the government which is indicative of a lack of allegiance to the government
    2. Overt act of betrayalw/intent to betray - the tapes would represent evidence of their plans to overtake the judicial branch (this would apply even more to the Congressmen involved as they have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution)
    3. Mutiny - plotting to unlawfully take over command of a part of the U.S. government
    4. Sedition - communication intended to stir up treason or rebellion against the government
    5. Subversion - systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working from within and/or the crime of committing acts in furtherance of such an attempt
    The only thing more frightening than how far off the ledge the Fundagelicals have gone is the fact they've taken some pretty powerful politicians with them.

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    Cranio-anal inversion and the brain damage caused by resultant hypoxia

    You know someone is completely full of themselves when they refer to themselves as Dr. so-and-so. I can understand a physician or other healthcare provider with a web-site used to dispense healthcare information naming that site Dr. so-and-so dot com, but Mike Adams is a criminology Professor whose site is (you guessed it) Like most people who feel the need to use their title to fluff make themselves out to be an expert on whatever they choose to speak about, Adams is a bit of a pompous ass.

    Earlier this week, Adams posted about his recent visit and speech at Gonzaga University. Now, I have no problem with him farting out moronic comments ("But I won't talk about any of these things-especially the National Day of Silence. In fact, I would like to start a National Year of Silence. Imagine going twelve months without hearing some guy with a lisp decry the high cost of grooming his miniature poodle.") while his head is stuffed firmly up his ass.

    The crux of his piece had nothing to do with his visit or speech on campus but a lame attack on a year old communique sent by Gonzaga Religious Studies Professor Robert Egan that said [emphasis added]:
    "George W. Bush's proposal that we pass an amendment to the United States Constitution banning gay marriages (is) the first such amendment which would actually single out a specific group of American citizens for the explicit purpose of denying them their civil rights, in this case their right to marry whom they choose, their right for equal protection under the law, and their right to protection against illegal gender discrimination."
    Adam's, in his infinite wisdom (he is Dr. Adams, you know) felt compelled to include an author's note that would show how completely ignorant Egan was and highlight Adams' own brilliance. The problem is, Adams missed the boat [emphasis added]:
    "(Author' note: It is unclear whether Professor Egan is yet aware of the status of the Mormons' request to "marry whom they choose." The constitutional status of that request was only determined recently, I am told)"
    It appears as though Adams doesn't exactly understand Egan's statement. If I'm being honest, Adams doesn't even come close to showing any comprehension of the statement at all (possibly due to his being light-headed from inhaling all that gas). Egan was talking about an attempt at amending the consitution to ensure that a specific group of individuals does not have the right to marry. Laws against polygamy do not allow anyone to lawfully be married to more than one person at a time; thes laws are applied equally to everyone regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, hair color, religion, etc. Morman's, like all other Americans, can marry whom they choose; if they decide they want to be married to another they can divorce the first spouse and marry a new. The same cannot be said for gay people who want to get married to their partner but are not legally permitted to marry that one person solely because the couple is gay. Maybe if Adams got more fiber in his diet, he could build up enough pressure to dislodge his rather large head from his rectum.

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    Thursday, April 21, 2005

    Pharmacists fill gift orders, not prescriptions for treatments

    conscience (noun)

    a) The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together
    with the urge to prefer right over wrong
    b) A source of moral or ethical judgment or pronouncement
    c) Conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
    I have to say that I believe that nobody should be forced to take a job in which they are required, in the course of their employment, to do something they find morally objectionable. If you know the routine tasks of a job in accordance with the standard job description for that position would entail (legal) tasks you cannot, in good conscience, perform an employer should be allowed to use that refusal as a legitimate reason for not hiring you and/or for termination of employment.

    In order to protect Pharmacists, Karen Brauer's organization, Pharmacists for Life International has set forth as a “Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause.”

    The rights of conscience of any person being a duly licensed pharmacist, who shall object on personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds to the performance of any act in the normal course of professional performance or dispensing, shall be respected.

    Further, such a refusal to perform any act or the omission of any act based on such a claim of conscience, shall not form the basis for any claim for damages or any recriminatory or discriminatory action against such a person. Any such person making such a claim of conscience, or who states a willingness or intention to make such a claim of conscience, shall not be denied employment, or discriminated against in any manner related to employment because of such a claim of conscience.
    People who believe certain medications are tools of murder and who will under no circumstances fill valid prescriptions for these medications and/or refuse to return or transfer them should not be in a position in which they are required to do so. Brauer, who is quite the producer of Wingnut Butter™, completely misses the point of conscientious objection. PFLI members and their ilk have not been drafted against their will to work in a pharmacy that stocks and dispenses medications you find objectionable, they have chosen to accept a job and work as a dispensing pharmacist at place of employment that fills prescriptions for medications including hormonal contraceptives.

    If filling a valid prescription for any particular medication/class of medication is morally objectionable to you (especially if you will not return or transfer a valid prescription) you should not only avoid accepting a job that has filling/transferring of valid prescriptions as part of the routine job description, you should not take a job at any pharmacy that stocks any medication that falls into the category of morally objectionable medications.

    People make these decisions every day: a vegan chooses not to become a butcher or go into a field in which (s)he would have to conduct research using animals or uses any animal product; someone who objects to sex outside of marriage does not become a prostitute or embark on a career as a porn star (I guess they could, if they only engage in sexual activity with their spouse on film).

    The term conscientious objector was coined to refer to those who refuse to serve in the military due to their moral/religious objection to the bearing of arms which could potential lead to them intentionally being put in a situation in which they have to use weapons in an act of violence against another human being. A CO doesn't get to join the service with stipulations that they get a cushy desk job state-side and never have to worry about being called upon to do what other servicemen are doing. A CO can't be a CO in one war, but not another because (s)he feels it's OK to perform the duties in the war personally considered less objectionable. Just like those in the examples above, a CO is not going to seek employment as a cop due to the possibility of engaging in those activities they consider morally objectionable to the point they could not serve in the military.

    Now, as the PFLI folks insist that they can be great dispensing pharmacists but just want to refrain from dispensing contraception, they need to consider limiting their employment to pharmacies that do not stock the medications they will not dispense. If they are legally permitted to refuse to perform a routinely required task at a pharmacy that does fill prescriptions for contraceptive agents and must not be refused a job (or fired) for this refusal of conscience, we have opened the door to forcing other employers to make the same exceptions for employees on religious grounds. Can a Catholic priest who converts to a non-Christian religion refuse to to give communion because he no longer believes in the divinity of Jesus without losing his job as a priest? Should a Rabbi who converts to Christianity be permitted to keep his job and preach the NT as fact at shul? Does an Episcopal priest have a legal right to avoid censure and requirement to recant if (s)he references Druid liturgy?

    What PFLI supporters are demanding defies reason. They demand the right to interfere in the practice of medicine (refusal to fill, return and/or transfer valid prescriptions) and engage in evangelical/pastoral activities in the course of their job which is not part of the standard job description for a Pharmacist.

    Karen Brauer would have filled a prescription for Viagra happily. "I helped a whole lot of old married men get lucky," she said.

    But, if that man's wife came in with a prescription for birth control pills, she would have gotten a very different reaction. If the prescription called for a heavy dose "morning after" contraceptive, she would have refused to fill it. If it was for the traditional monthly pills, she might have filled it, but at a price.

    "I'd work on them every month. I'd say, 'Hey, when are you going to get off the pill?' " said the Catholic pharmacist who serves as president of Pharmacists for Life International

    They can keep a career as a pharmacist without working at a pharmacy that does not stock contraceptives (they cannot refuse to return valid prescriptions under any circumstances, that is illegal interference in the practice of medicine - but they can post big signs to indicate they do not stock contraceptives on moral principle, which can help them avoid the potential for that problem). Their employment is voluntary, they can accept or refuse any job offered to them and they should refuse any job at a pharmacy that fills prescription for contraceptive agents.

    The statement at the bottom of PFLI's “Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause” explains [emphasis added]:

    The Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause was adopted and approved by the PFLI Board of Directors in 1988. It was the first -- and remains the only -- one of its kind for the profession of pharmacy. It uniquely addresses the needs of pharmacists for recognition of their sincerely held religious, moral and ethical convictions which preclude the misuse of the gift of medications in manners contrary to the God-given dignity of the profession. Nothing less will do.

    Any attempt to dilute or weaken the Conscience Clause does a disservice to the profession as well as an injustice to the many pharmacists who have courageously fought to have the Conscience Clause implemented in their workplaces. For standing by their principles, many of these brave professionals have paid the price of ostracism, calumny, vilification, persecution, reprimands, censure and dismissal.

    Now these pharmacists may think they're filling some gift order, but the doctors who right the prescriptions and patients who use them consider them healthcare. As for the "brave professionals", they'd be brave if they refused compliance with illegal activities in the course of their jobs. Refusing to perform routine requirements of a job and interfering in the healthcare of a patient is insubordination and a legitimate reason for censure and termination of employment.

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    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    The lightbulb is ON

    Sleep deprivation (and, possibly, the lunch I drank) have caught up to me, how do I know? I know because I have an idea. A dead brilliant idea at that. I have developed the perfect compromise to the the current religio-political environment in the US:

    We the "unfaithful" will allow the christo-theocracy supporting religious right to legislate morality based on their religious doctrine. In return for this, they will allow us (the "unfaithful") to legislate religious doctrine & practice (for all religions) based on our personal beliefs.

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    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    The Unenlightenment

    I've been in meetings with some European colleagues (3 Russians and a Belgian who lives in Spain) all day and just got home. I'm tired, I'm cranky and now that I know who the new Pope is, I'm a bit depressed.

    Last night, at Dinner, we all discussed the papal elections (we were also joined by two American colleagues who are Catholic) including our preferences of the front runners, as well as our concerns. They all expected Ratzinger, I thought the whole Nazi youth might cause some problems for him as the Vatican made a big deal about JPII apologizing for the less than stellar behavior the Catholic Church has shown to people of other religions, especially Jews. Any time JPII woudl reference the Holocaust and Jews got upset, we'd hear about how JPII and the Vatican itself really weren't slapping the face of those victimized by the Nazi regime - we were oversensitive, they were reaching out to us. JPII suggested Pope Pius XII was worthy of being put on track for sainthood, people world-wide (Jews especially) considered it as proof that the Vatican was, as always, disingenuous in their stated remorse and assertions they want a respectful relationship with Jews. It's always seemed that JPII just didn't get it, worse yet that he (and the Vatican) didn't care.

    So today, we're all standing around and we were told the election is final and the former Nazi youth is Pope. From the looks I got from my European colleagues, I could tell my face showed my disappointment - our 2 American colleagues couldn't understand why I'd give a fiddler's fart about who was chosen for Pope (the Europeans, of course, understood). How to explain that the religious right is creating an environment that is ripe for bringing our own version of the pogroms or inquisition to North America; there are signs of resurgence of massive anti-Jewish activity in Eastern Europe, Russia in particular; and now a Pope with a less than friendly history. I got home, check out Faith Forward's affirmation project (to cheer me up), check a few other blogs and figure Lindsay Beyerstein's probably got something interesting to say about the latest Pope Benedict. She, of course, did not disappointment. The info in her post, however, disturbed the Hell out of me.

    FYI - the Europeans aren't too happy about Pope Benedict either. They also give the US about 5 years til we become a third world nation (I said closer to 15) if we continue our current political course (the Russians have volunteered to put me up if necessary).

    On a happier note I can highly recommend Siam Restaurant in Lambertville, NJ (BYOB, no credit cards, excellent food and the waitresses were total sweethearts).

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    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    The Fundagelicals & I share Emergent concerns

    A little less than 2 months ago, Dignan posted about the Emergent Church movement, Brian McLaren's writings in particular. Having spent a bit of time trying to explain that Christians can accept the most basic tenets & practices of Judaism and remain Christian but that the reverse is not true (the most basic tenet of Christianity being the divinity of Jesus and many Christian practices run counter to basic Jewish precepts) despite what "Jews for Jesus" claims, I found myself fixated on a statement attributed to McLaren in a review of McLaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy":
    "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all?) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it's not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many 'Christian' religious contexts, either."
    I experienced something less than warm fuzzies in response to the statement. My initial reaction was that this was a very politely worded reference to the "soft sell" techniques many missionaries use when targeting Jews and I stated as much when I commented on the thread. Dignan dissented, stating McLaren seemed an unlikely proponent of something that nefarious. I thought about it and reasoned that it could be possible that the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck due to the current pro-christotheocracy movement and the atmosphere of paranoia it's created.

    It's quite possible that McLaren was alluding to the fact that the ministry of Jesus incorporated a lot of things from Jesus' own religion (Judaism) as well as ideas/beliefs from other cultures/religions to which he was exposed. There are, as we all should know, common themes and beliefs that are consistent between Eastern and Western religions, as well as pagan ones and the basic moral beliefs of atheism. Maybe that was the gap McLaren was trying to bridge. It's the same one progressive Christians bridge with those of other religions daily, and it's based on an understanding that while there are differences in the religions (or lack there of), the ultimately effect they're trying to achieve is helping people to become better human beings, to accentuate the positive, provide room for growth in a mutually respectful productive environment, and to stand in judgement of ourselves (not of others).

    I shot McLaren an email asking him if he would be so kind to indulge me, and shed further light on what he meant by the emphasized language. Little did I know that the Fundagelicals (as Brandon calls them) had taken note of the comment and had become extremely concerned. The Kentucky Baptist Convention disinvited McLaren from speaking at their evangelism conference. In an interview with the Associated Baptist Press, McLaren suggested the controversy was one of semantics. He wasn't saying that he doesn't want people to convert, he was saying that it wasn't necessary for them to "affiliate with the Christian religion."
    "This is a very well-known reality in missiology," he added. "Many Southern Baptist missionaries are building disciples in communities of disciples ... that are meeting in homes or other places, but they are not affiliating with the Christian religion and disaffiliating with their own religion.

    "This is especially the case in Muslim countries. They're affiliated as followers of Jesus but for a whole number of reasons, they are not saying, 'I'm an affiliate of the Christian religion.'"
    Lest the previous statement mislead you to think he's referring to those who convert but aren't open about it and may publicly pretend to still be adherents to their previous religion because it's dangerous, he goes on to say:
    "The issue," he insisted, "is that people confess Jesus as Lord. I'm interested in helping people actively be disciples of Jesus as Lord."
    He does go on to say that Jesus is the saviour (exclusively), which means there is no other way to salvation but through Jesus and accepting him as Lord. [I'm not bashing this belief or anything, I fully expect anyone who calls themself "Christian" to believe in the divinity of Jesus]. Based on these statements, McLaren needs to be very clear in disavowing the understandable conflict in his original statement.

    While one can remain Christian and incorporate substantial parts of Jewish doctrine (especially since Jesus was Jewish and Christianity is based on Judaism), the same can not be said in reverse. The Jewish notion of Ha Moshiach is not one in which the messiah is a divine being (Moshiac literally means annointed; the messiah will be an annointed king). Similar statements can be made for the incorporation of other religions and while remaining Christian, but not being Christian and that other religion at the same time. To imply otherwise is irresponsible, and disrespectful to Christianity as well as other religions.

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    Sunday Showdown

    PinkDome thinks a Texas proposal to require race (and ethnicity?) to be displayed on the front of a driver's license isn't quite the best idea. The rationale for the proposal is that it would help a judge determine if the cop was using racial profiling to pull you over. If this is the real purpose, wouldn't it be more effective if they made the officer write down what (s)he thinks your race/ethnicity is?

    Morambar (another fine Texan) has a great idea for those able to get to Kentucky for Jihadist Sunday: GO! Get there early, bring your camcorder (maybe Witness could spare a few?) and a beer - it's cheaper than going to a bad horror flick.

    Speaking of horror, Michael Bérubé informs us that the Day of Truth (the Conservative response to the successful Day of Silence) may not go far enough. A dismal 40% of Americas gay teens are physically harrassed, a sinfully low rate by any estimation. Thank Heaven I took the time to read the comments as well. If it weren't for the brilliant Postmodernist, I would be complete unaware that abstinence is much more fulfilling than old-fashioned dry humping.

    What would a day be without House Morals & Ethics Chairman Tom DeLay keeping something (well, anything but his father) on life-support well beyond it's expiration date?

    Brother Jeb thinks anyone who feels threatened should be able to meet [perceived] force with real [including deadly] force, even at a ball game. Does this mean employees, escorts and patients at women's clinics should feel free to lock-n-load? The actual law itself does reference the requirement for a reasonable belief, but considering the new form of logic utilized by Conservatives some of us dirty liberals may have to take advantage of lax gun laws (guns don't kill people; people kill people, guns just make people significantly more efficient at doing so - and efficiency is a good thing).

    NYC, that blistering den of iniquity is getting cleaned up. One of America's favorite past-times, Smut, will be limited to adult-only zones. I guess good, moral politicians will have to go elsewhere to get some action.

    Thanks to Benjamin, I had nightmares about this family reunion. . . maybe I'll skip the Seders this year (my hottest cousins are girls and I'm afraid of what they next "logical" step might be after that).

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