Worth Repeating

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in. It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out. It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

—R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview published in the New York Time on November 10, 2012.

Karen Armstrong on the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan


Other than getting the issue of the pre-existence of the Islamic center at it’s present location wrong, Karen Armstrong offers a deeply spiritual and enlightened view of this faux-controversy that has been fanned by Gingrich, Palin and the Fox crowd in this video.

I wonder if Sarah Palin would want to debate the pros and cons of the project with Ms. Armstrong. Or Newt. Or maybe both. I’m sure Karen Armstrong could take both of them on at the same time. I would pay a premium to see that debate on Pay-Per-View.

There’s more Via Open Culture

Ephemeral, Elemental Shelter


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Sukkah City, New York City 2010:

12 Radically Temporary Structures will be built in Union Square Park in New York City, September 2010.


Biblical in origin, the sukkah is an ephemeral, elemental shelter, erected for one week each fall, in which it is customary to share meals, entertain, sleep, and rejoice.

Ostensibly the sukkah’s religious function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but it is also about universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed in architecture. The sukkah is a means of ceremonially practicing homelessness, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted. It calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to take a moment to dwell on–and dwell in–impermanence.

And also

‘Sukkah City: New York City’ will re-imagine this ancient phenomenon, develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site. Twelve finalists will be selected by a panel of celebrated architects, designers, and critics to be constructed in a visionary village in Union Square Park from September 19-21, 2010.

Please visit the Official Website

“Down With (the Very, Very Evil) Facebook”


Some people will kill you — and your family — if they “think” you’re blasphemous.

Pakistan’s government ordered Internet service providers to block Facebook on Wednesday amid anger over a page that encourages users to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.The page on the social networking site has generated criticism in Pakistan and elsewhere because Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. The government took action after a group of Islamic lawyers won a court order Wednesday requiring officials to block Facebook until May 31.

By Wednesday evening, access to the site was sporadic, apparently because Internet providers were implementing the order.

The Facebook page at the center of the dispute — ”Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” — encourages users to post images of the prophet on May 20 to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators of ”South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

There’s more…

A smart and thoughtful comment from my friend Todd Curl:

For me, this is a very complicated and polarizing issue. Being agnostic — meaning I know enough to know that I don’t know everything — I despise religious extremism in any form that it manifests itself. I do, however, try to respect another person’s beliefs as long as they are not infringing on me.

There is fanaticism and extremism in every one of the “big three” monotheistic religions. With Islam in particular, fundamentalists have created theocracies in the middle east, essentially squashing any form of legitimate critique. With Pakistan, a country that has yet to fully become one of these theocracies, a state crackdown on a particular website might be a sign of a theocracy in the making.

I also realize that the creators of this facebook page probably have little understanding of Islam other than the fanaticism they see through a western media lens, and feel like they are pointing out how absurd their fanaticism is. Of course, the U.S. is largely Christian, and many Christians, not unlike Muslims and Jews, view their beliefs as the only true spiritual path and everything else is false.

Despite the large Christian demographic, those who believe it to be a fairy tale, or hypocritical, are able to mock it or be as derogatory or critical as they want, due to more freedoms of expressions that aren’t so common in the Muslim world. Likewise, I doubt the Pakistani Government would have a problem with something critical of Christianity being written or displayed through other forms of media.

Is the Pakistani Government being hypocritical? Perhaps they are, but the divide between the west and the middle east brings about nothing but reactionary words and actions from both sides. Is the facebook page designed to mock Muhammad racist and culturally insensitive? Probably so, but is still acceptable due to western notions of freedom of expression and opinion.

There is no right side or wrong side. It’s complicated and is part of the reason I have no involvement with religion of any sort. Rather than looking at similarities, we focus on the differences, leading to a history of war and destruction under the guise of religion. Everybody loses unfortunately.

You can visit Todd’s blog HERE

A Fish Rots From The Head Down


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The truth will find the light.

Devastating new evidence against the Pope.

The Times, They Are a-Changin’


in the Episcopal Church, where I got married:

The Episcopal Church has approved the election of a lesbian assistant bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles.The announcement Wednesday makes the Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore the second openly gay bishop in the Anglican global fellowship.

Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno says the approval demonstrates the Episcopal Church does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

There’s more…

Missing Someone You’ve Never Met


Selma Heschel March
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (2nd from right) in the Selma Civil Rights March with Martin Luther King, Jr.

After a recent work-in-progress screening of the documentary “Praying With My Legs” at the Washington Heights Film Club in New York City this past September, a member of the audience approached filmmaker Steve Brand. The feature-length documentary by Mr. Brand examines the life of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “scholar, mystic, devout Jew, human rights activist and one of the most powerful and inspiring voices of the religious left in the 20th Century.”

“I never knew him, and now I miss him,” the stranger told Mr. Brand. I recognized the sentiment — perfectly worded — from the time I first saw an early cut of “Praying With My Legs” and was introduced to Rabbi Heschel’s legacy.

Steve Brand. Photo- Michael Labbe
Filmmaker Steve Brand. Photo by Michael Labbe

I recently asked Steve Brand — a good friend of mine, I’ll say at the outset, in the interest of full disclosure — if he remembered when he first heard of Joshua Heschel?

No, but I first “encountered” him when I saw the Carl Stern interview with him on NBC’s “The Eternal Light” in early 1973.  It was unplanned, just switching channels, and this remarkable presence showed up and I became glued to the TV.  The interview aired very shortly after Heschel’s death.

I also discovered this passage written by Mr. Brand about the extraordinary man at the center of his film project:

I discovered what an amazing life he’d led: marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Selma, protesting the Vietnam War (at risk to his livelihood), making a difference at Vatican II, even meeting with the Pope to address age-old enmities and misperceptions. And the way he would speak truth to power!, whether to presidents, the Pope, McNamara, Kissinger, doctors, rabbis, evangelists; you name it. What an appealing, funny and charismatic character Heschel was — with his impossible white beard and long hair, which led people in Selma to talk about a rabbi who looked just like God.

A “series of cosmic coincidences” compelled the filmmaker to make a documentary about the life of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. To Mr. Brand’s “shock and amazement,” he discovered that no one had ever made a film about the Rabbi. So he decided that it would be his “privilege to rectify that.”

One of the questions I posed to Steve Brand was what attracted him to the teachings of Heschel. Here’s his four-part answer:

His concern about having a real spiritual life, not prayer by rote, but a true engagement and cultivation of an awareness of how miraculous what we consider ordinary hum-drum existence actually is; that even the “ordinary” is infused with an ineffable quality that can lead us into radical amazement; his attention to that which leads to faith, that makes it possible; that is universal in humankind.

His belief that no religion is an island; that we must strive to work together and respect — even honor — the differences that divide us, as opposed to demonizing the other.

His teaching that with every new life, an expectation enters the world, that God is in search of man/humankind to live a life consistent with being created in the image of God, however we choose to interpret that (for him it very much tied in to a life of human rights activism).

His idea that life consists of polarity,  a constant struggle to live in the tension between two seeming opposites, whether it’s justice and mercy, structure and spontaneity, temporality and abidingness, good and evil.

I also asked what has been the most revelatory or moving discovery he had made since embarking on the Praying With My Legsproject.
The continuing experience of people being incredibly moved and inspired when encountering him for the first time.  The discovery that, even 40 years after the original event, someone can be brought to tears by recounting the deep impression that Heschel made on him, being “touched in a place where we all find our center.”
The same deep impression made by Heschel — and Mr. Brand’s documentary of him — on the audience member at the Washington Heights Film Club in New York City this past September.
Editor’s Note: You can support the documentary Praying With My Legsat America’s Giving Challenge through November 6th. Here’s the link to the Facebook Cause Page.