Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wheel of Misfortune

Do you ever wonder what will happen to sinners when they die? I admit that I don’t spend much time on this question, but there are people who do, and I am always interested in the opinions of these folks especially when they have the backing of religious professionals. So you can imagine my interest when the Vatican recently released the following finding: Men sentenced to hell for sins of lust will have their souls pummeled with fire and brimstone, and women convicted of the sin of pride will have their souls “broken on a wheel.”

Honestly my own musings on the topic never came close to these findings, and I am grateful to the Church for making them public. But I do have a few questions. For example, as a man I would like to know if I will be tied to a target when the fire and brimstone is thrown or if I am free to duck and dodge? I am also curious if the soul if flammable or not.

As for the fate of prideful women I am curious as to how a soul, which I assume has no bones, can be broken on the wheel. And it would be helpful to know if the wheel is solid like the ones used by the Vatican during the Inquisition (presumably modeled after God’s heaven wheel of misfortune), or if this is a spirit wheel? And how is the soul tied to either wheel or target?

All of this begs two more central questions: Who invented such a sadistic god in the first place, and why are we so eager to praise him?

I for one find it hard to take seriously any religion so clearly addicted to a god who makes the Marquis de Sade look like Mr. Rogers. What is it about us that we want to worship a sadistic King who takes delight in the eternal torture of his creation? When parents act the way God the Father does we arrest them. How come when it comes to God we send him money?

I don’t believe religion tells us much of anything about the reality God, heaven, hell, and the like, any more than I believe Star Trek tells us much about the reality of alien species. But I do think religion tells us a lot about those who invent it, control it, benefit from it, and allow themselves to be abused by it. What this new revelation from the Vatican tells me is that we humans are one sick species.

Why invent a God who plays with fire and has a fixation on torturing women with medieval instruments of terror? Who is moved to praise this Guy? And why? How much idiocy can people take in the name of God before we finally say, “Enough!”? How outlandish do the claims of religious leaders have to be before their followers simply walk away in disgust?

Given the history of religion and its current track record I cannot help but conclude that we humans have a limitless capacity for religious terror, brutality, and sadism both in this life and the next.

Of course being disgusted with sadistic religion doesn’t make it wrong. I may be destined to play brimstone dodge ball with God for all eternity which is why I’m adding a clause to my will insisting that I be buried in a shroud made of asbestos. Ladies, I suggest you start taking yoga classes to better work that wheel.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Urine or You're Out

Ever wonder how far you’d go to be healed? I started thinking about this after reading about a Hindu group promoting the drinking of cow urine as a way to cure what ails you. The cow is sacred to many Hindus, symbolizing as it does the forces of life and fertility, so it is not such a stretch to imagine that the urine of a cow might be life-giving.

I have two problems with drinking cow urine. First, I’m a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten a cow in decades, and I am concerned that drinking the urine of a cow might be a violation of my vow of vegetarian abstinence similar to my hypocritical choice to eat eggs while refraining from eating chickens. This problem is, however, of lesser import than my second problem, which in fact renders my first problem mute. My second problem is this: Drink cow urine? Are you out of your frackin’ mind?

You can see how my second problem trumps my first. Yet perhaps my response is simply an expression of ignorance and cultural bias. After all I am not a specialist in cows or urine (though my sister collects ceramic cows and I do pee), and my limited training in Hinduism never covered urine drinking. (I know Gandhi drank urine, but who knows what you might drink after fasting for weeks on end?) So maybe there is something more to it than meets the eye.

To find out I placed a call to India to ask some Hindu scholars about drinking cow urine. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone in India, let alone scholars of Hinduism, so I didn’t deliberately call a specific person. No, I dialed the call centers of several credit card companies whose cards I own, and kept calling until I found a very lovely Indian woman named Tiffany. When I asked Tiffany if she drank cow urine she reminded me that “this call may be monitored for training purposes.” She then hung up on me.

I took up a second credit card and within minutes was taking to another Hindu, a fellow named was Devin, who told me he lived with his parents, was finishing college, and planned to come to the States for graduate school.

“Do you drink cow urine?” I asked.

“No!” he said with genuine shock. “Is that required for study in America?”

“No, no, “ I assured him. “But I thought Hindus drank the urine of cows and I wanted to know if you found it soothing and healing because I don’t want to try it unless it really works.”

Devin was silent for a moment and the call was taken over by a man who identified himself as Mr. Prahadamananda, whose name sounded so unlike authentic Hindu names like Tiffany and Devin that I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a Hindu and maybe wasn’t even speaking to me from India. In any case Mr. P. insisted that I was wasting the time of his employees, insulting his faith, and in need of an identity theft protection service that my credit card company was offering at a special introductory rate.

I explained to him that as a Hindu he should know that my identity was entirely fictional and illusory in the first place, and that there is no protection from maya. Mr. Prahadamananda said nothing, and continued to say nothing for such a long time that I finally realized he was no longer on the line.

I gave up calling after that, so if you’re interested in drinking cow urine you will have to call your own credit card company.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Outer Critics, Inner Adversary

I am teaching a course in Mussar, the Jewish ethical training system. One of the Mussar teachings is that each of us contains an Inner Adversary (Yetzer haRah) perfectly tailored to our own psychology, and designed to challenge us to grow ethically at every state of our moral development. It is as if we were each born with an inner moral coach who comes up with tests designed to both test the quality of our present level of attainment and push us toward an even higher one.

While I find the idea intriguing, I must admit that I tended to take it in a somewhat abstract and even off-handed manner. Perhaps because I did so my Inner Adversary decided to work overtime.

Over the past seven days I have received more hate mail that at any other time in my writing career with the single exception of the essay I published in Spirituality & Health magazine critical of The Secret. Most of the mail was from people angry over the way I am teaching a three-week introduction to Islam for Jews.

The basic criticism is that I am whitewashing Islam, making it respectable, when, in fact, it is the greatest threat to Jews, Americans, and democracy in the 21st century. I was called a self-hating Jew, and anti-Semite, a Muslim sympathizer, and a terrorist collaborator.

I admit to being na├»ve when it comes to people’s responses to my work, and I admit to being shocked, hurt, and not a little frightened by the venom I sensed in these emails. The synagogue hosting this seminar has hired an off-duty police officer to help insure that things do not turn physically violent.

At first I was just stunned and upset by what was happening. Then I remembered the Inner Adversary and, without putting too fine a point on this, began to see this as the work of Yetzer haRah. In other words I set up the conditions that would invite the responses that would force me to look at what I was doing.

Regarding Islam and the teaching of religion in general, I always present the religions I teach in their best light. I want people to learn something positive from these traditions. I also believe that each religion contains gems of wisdom from which all can benefit. So I teach each religion as the best and brightest followers of that faith see that faith. Once we have a sense of that, however, I can and do turn to the darker aspects of the faith.

I also got two letters from a very thoughtful and passionate man responding to my earlier post “I am not Open-Minded.” This gentleman found my basic philosophy empty of any intellectual value whatsoever. I posted both letters in the comments section of that blog entry so you can read them for yourself.

I read his two emails carefully, hoping that I might see where my logic is faulty, and where I need to rethink what I think. The truth is I am still convinced that what I say is not only true, but also compelling.

This of course doesn’t prove either point. All it proves is that I am failing to grow from the efforts of my Yetzer haRah. I’m sorry about that for two reasons. First because it might mean I have reached my intellectual plateau, and, second, because it might mean my Yetzer haRah will try harder.

Disagree with me all you want, but be nice. I bruise easily.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Religion-Science Smackdown

Monday is Religion Day at USA TODAY and this week’s paper featured an essay by Henry Brinton on honoring religion and science. The gist of Pastor Brinton’s piece is that religion and science answer different questions and therefore should not be in conflict. Religion, he says, speaks to why things are the way they are, and science speaks to how things are the way they are. If this were true there would be no conflict. But it isn’t true, at least not when speaking of the three Abrahamic religions. (The Buddha demanded from the beginning that people test his truth claims for themselves.)

To speak of science this way is to ignore the implications of science and the scientific method. Science isn’t simply a collection of facts about the mechanics of the universe; it is a philosophical stance toward that universe. Science insists that anything that cannot ever be tested and potentially disproved is irrelevant. (This leaves room for many hypotheses that may not be testable today but are open for future testing when such testing becomes possible).

The three Abrahamic religions are not about proof-tests but proof-texts. A matter is true if it appears in or can be made to appear in the holy book of your choice. Jesus is God because the New Testament says he is. Jesus is not God because the Hebrew Bible doesn’t say he is. The Bible Code was a very popular method among some Orthodox Jews for proving that the Torah was true because it showed that the Torah predicted Hitler and the Kennedy assassination (among many other historical events). It quickly fell out of favor when Christian decoders proved that it also predicted Jesus. Adherence to fixed belief rather than a willingness to undergo rigorous testing is the hallmark of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Religion and science offer two very different worldviews. Science is rooted in naturalism, religion in supernaturalism. Science can’t disprove God (God is not testable), but doesn’t need God to explain reality. Religion can’t prove God (God must not be tested), but doesn’t need proof in order to insist that people believe; indeed belief is irrelevant if a matter can be proven.

Nor can religion be confined to abstractions about “why” or lovely pronouncements about loving one’s neighbor as oneself. If religion were only about universal meaning, justice, and love we would have no conflict between religion and science or between one religion and another. But religion demands more than this. It demands loyalty to a set of untestable propositions that elevate some people over others and sanction horrendous acts of violence against those others either in this world or the next. In this sense religion is more like politics than science, more about power than truth.

Science doesn’t need religion to make sense of the world. Nor does science need religion in order to find life-affirming values that transcend human whim and ego. The more science reveals the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life the more it finds scientific justification for an ethic based in mutual caring and support. True, science can be used for evil ends, but so can religion. Neither of which suggests that science and religion are without ethics, only that people ignore ethics when they no longer serve our purposes.

Similarly, religion doesn’t need science to explain the world or to live in it meaningfully. Hence the Taliban, Creationism, and any other fundamentalist faith that ignores or denies the facts of science. So what if they would never get to the moon or split the atom? Getting the heaven is the point of life, and compared to that going to the moon is a distraction.

I understand that many people want to keep religion and science separate. It makes life easier if we compartmentalize things this way: I can live as if the earth orbits the sun six days a week, and pretend that it doesn’t one day a week. What’s the harm? I can live off the oil produced by dinosaurs millions of years ago, and yet insist that in fact there were male and female brontosauruses on Noah’s ark some few thousands of years ago.

But I don’t want reductionist science or ridiculous religion. I don’t want to compartmentalize reason and faith. I want science and religion to work together and the challenge the reductionist tendencies of each. I want priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, swamis well trained in the fundamentals of science, and scientists engaged in the exploration of spiritual potential.

For me religion and science are different languages, different ways of speaking about reality. And as with all languages the each have their brilliance and their blind spots. Science speaks in facts and numbers, religion in myth and metaphor (though some scientists are discovering that metaphor is necessary for them as well). Science is prose, religion is poetry. Science would never posit, “My love is a red red rose” but that doesn’t make the statement false, just metaphoric. Science can help me understand the grandeur of a tree; religion can help me experience its magic. Science can reveal the majesty of the heavens; religion can help me feel its love. Should we separate poetry and prose, or simply recognize them as being unique unto themselves?

Science is like the score of a great symphony; religion is the act of playing that score or listening to it being played by a fine orchestra. They compliment one another. Can we separate the score from the music? Of course not.

The battle between religion and science is silly. It only happens between reductionist fundamentalists in both camps—people who wish to see their way as the only way. At the Science and Spirituality Forum I help direct at Middle Tennessee State University we invite people from all fields to offer their various understandings of life from their various disciplines not to decide which is right, but to discover that all are incomplete and in need of the others.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Open-minded? Not Me.

During a talk on Judaism delivered at a synagogue last week, I nonchalantly mentioned that I thought of myself as a humanist. I went on to define this as someone who assumed that all systems of belief were of human origin reflecting human biases, concerns, and limitations, and that religion told us more about the worshipper than about the object of their worship. I said that this is why I am so comfortable in interfaith settings—not because I believe all religion is true, but that I believe no religion is true.

The congregation froze at this remark, and the host rabbi leaped up to say how wonderful it was that I felt free enough to share my thoughts, and by doing so proving just how welcoming Judaism is to a wide range of opinions. As the rabbi put as much distance between my ideas and his as possible, I was once again surprised at the seeming rarity of what is to me common sense.

During the question and answer period people sought to reject (as opposed to rebut) my humanism and reaffirm their theism, and I did my best to honor their beliefs. I am always happy to clarify what I believe and inquire with real curiosity into what you believe, but I never argue. And because I don’t argue many people complimented me on my open-mindedness.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but the truth is I am not open-minded. While I rarely get upset when someone disagrees with me, the reason I don’t has nothing to do with being open-minded. Put it this way: I am convinced that the moon is a rock. If you insist it is made of green cheese, I won’t argue with you, but the reason for not arguing has nothing to do with my willingness to entertain the possibility that you are correct in your assessment of the moon. I won’t argue because arguing with someone who believes something so outlandish is simply a waste of time.

Applying this to religion, I do not for a moment imagine that any book is divinely revealed; that any religion is anything other than a human creation serving the socio-economic and political desires of those who created it and gain power and authority from it; or that any idea about god is God.

Do I believe in God? God for me is Reality, the IS-ing of things: that intrinsically creative process that manifests as everything and nothing. God is neither to be feared nor worshipped, but wondered at and marveled over and lived with deep humility, courage, and chutzpah. God is an ever-surprising, irreducible, uncontrollable, celebration of creativity worthy of the deepest respect, awe, reverence, humility, and even love.
God isn’t anywhere or anything; God is everywhere and everything. God doesn’t choose, reward, or punish. God isn’t conscious of me. On the contrary: I am a way God becomes conscious of God. Is any of this Jewish? Not exclusively so, but the language of Judaism works as a way of articulating my beliefs.

For example, I am convinced that Reality is an intrinsically creative process (In the beginning God created, Genesis 1:1); that Reality is a multi-pronged evolutionary experiment in life creation (I will be what I will be, Exodus 3:14), with a penchant for sentience (Let us make humanity, Genesis 1:26); that consciousness pervades all reality (the whole world is filled with God’s glory, Psalm 72:19); that some sentient beings are capable of discovering and consciously participating in the moral nature of Reality as humans perceive it (Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly, Micah 6:8); that the religious geniuses of all time have discovered and articulated the same ethic: Love your neighbor as your self (Leviticus 19:18), and that over time such people continue to expand our understanding of neighbor to ultimately include all reality (Love the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 6:5).

I also believe that just as birds build nests, and beavers build dams, humans make music, art, literature, science, ethics, philosophy, religion, and contemplative tools that sharpen our awareness of the grand play of life. This is why I love what I do, and am blessed to be able to do it. Just don’t imagine my joy at learning the myriad ways we humans make sense of reality has anything to do with being open-minded.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Valentine’s Day is February 14th and one billion Valentine cards will be shipped worldwide. One billion affirmations of love and affection! Add to that tons of candy and perhaps a few diamonds and we have a celebration of love that might actually shift the consciousness of the planet. Unfortunately all it does is feed the profit margin of greeting card companies.

The only thing I know about Valentine’s Day is the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago when Al Capone’s Italians gunned down seven of Bugs Moran’s Irish. I always assumed this was contrary to the spirit of the day, but it turns out I was wrong. There are three saints called Valentine who vie for the honor of being THE Saint Valentine and all three of them were murdered: Valentine of Rome was martyred around 269 CE, Valentine of Terni was killed during the persecution of Christians in 197 CE, and a Valentine about whom nothing is known except that he was martyred in Africa. So blood and murder rather than candy and diamonds are the real traditions of the holiday.

How did we get from martyrs to lovesick chocoholics? I’m coming to that. But first I think it is important to note that the original love celebrated on Valentine’s Day was love of Christ. These three Valentines were killed because of their love of their Lord and their faith. Jews, Christians, and Muslims love their martyrs. There is something about dying for one’s religion that speaks powerfully of… what?

What idea would I be willing to die for? This is a very different question than its corollary, what idea would I be willing to kill for. I’d being willing to kill you for disagreeing with me about the merits of mint chocolate chip ice cream, the musical quality of the Beatles White Album, and even which Dr. Who is the real Dr. Who. But die? No thanks. I’d rather live to think another thought another day.

But it might be wise to have one day each year set aside to explore where love turns bloody. And this is where the romance comes in.

There is a legend about another Valentine who was rejected by his mistress. This Valentine was so distraught that he took a knife and cut out his own heart and shipped it (still beating!) to his lover as a token of his undying love.

Lots of questions here. How did he manage to cut out his heart, take a coach to the local UPS (or the equivalent of his day), stand in line for who knows how long, wait to have the heart (still beating!) boxed, gift wrapped, and addressed, and still have the strength to pull out his purse and pay for the shipping? And why did he think his girlfriend would prefer a bloody heart (still beating!) to flowers? If this is the kind of taste he had, she was probably right to dump him. And why would this kind of behavior catch on? How many men cut their own hearts out before someone invented the Valentine’s Day card instead?

But the big question is why did this guy become a Saint? He wasn’t a martyr. All he did was commit suicide. You don’t need Jesus for that. At least the other Valentines died because someone else hated what they loved, rather than kill themselves because of what they loved. If the latter had caught on Christianity would die out in a generation.

So, lots of problems with this holiday. But I am not ready to give up on it yet. I just want to get back to tradition.

Here are some suggestions. First, a great seasonal home business would be to make a plastic wind-up beating heart (like plastic chattering teeth) that people could send to their loved ones. Second, more religiously minded people might sell chocolate relics of the Valentines (bones, teeth, hair, still beating hearts) to be given as gifts for the holiday. Third, those with a more secular humanist bent could donate their heart to an organ bank in the name of their loved one. The recipient of the heart would be required to visit the designated loved one every Valentine’s Day. Nothing says “I love you” like a visit from the heart of a dead lover.

My own preference, however, is to spend the day thinking about for what and for whom I would die. I know most of us would be willing to die for our kids, but those of us who actually have children can probably remember moments when we wanted to kill them, so let’s not be too smug.

Anyway, Happy Valentines Day.

Sayings of the Juddah

I never pass on stuff like this, but I just got this from a Buddhist friend of mine and thought it was hilarious. So I am passing it on. Good Shabbos to all of you.

Sayings of the Jewish Buddhist

If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.

Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems. What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.

There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.

The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as a wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. (You might want to see a specialist.)

The Torah says, Love your neighbor as yourself. The Buddha says, "There is no self." So, maybe we're off the hook.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Religion and Truth

Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons, wrote a very moving and, to me, troubling essay in today's USA TODAY. The basic idea is that too much truth when it comes to religion is a bad thing.

At issue is Rod’s journalistic examination of the sex abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church. It drove him out of Catholicism and into Eastern Orthodoxy. “After I left Rome,” Rod writes, “I made a deliberate decision not to investigate scandal in the Orthodox Church of American (OCA), my new communion.” To his credit Rod says the decision bothered him, but he needed a safe haven and would have one even at the cost of truth.

This is what I found so troubling. If the only way I can remain loyal to a community is by turning a blind eye to evil and falsehood, then I cannot help but question my need for that community.

I assume that power corrupts, and absolute religious power corrupts not only absolutely but existentially. So I steer clear of any religious institution that demands such power for itself. I want a religion that frees me from slavery not one that enslaves me. If the institution is corrupt it is also corrupting, so why would I want to belong to it? Why would I endanger my family by belonging to it?

Rod argues that while it might seem a good thing that the Catholic sex scandal was brought to light, “it’s not such a clear-cut issue.” He fears that by shining light on religion we lose the magic. Just so! Magic isn’t real. When a magician tries to con you into believing what he is doing isn’t simply entertainment but revelation demanding absolute loyalty, it is vital that light be shined on the scam.

But not all religions are like this. True, as Rod says, no institution is perfect nor should we expect it to be, but the more transparent an institution is the less damage it can do. And I am not limiting my concern to religious institutions as Rod does in his fine essay. I think all religious teachings can benefit from daylight: historical and scholarly exploration. If religion is sleight-of-hand and only viable in the half-light of half-truths then I want nothing to do with it.

Rod asks a very important question, “How much reality must we choose to ignore for the greater good of our own souls, and society?” My answer is simple: none. If my religion cannot stand up to reality, who needs it? If my faith doesn’t help me engage reality but rather demands that I ignore reality, who needs it? A religion that ignores reality is just escapist fantasy, no different than watching TV or reading a good novel. And, as many atheists will insist, that is what religion is. But I think there are exceptions.

While I do not believe it is possible to package the truth, I do believe it is possible to point us toward it. That is what religion should do, both theologically and institutionally. If a religion has to lie in order to survive, it is time for that religion to die.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Resurrection Diet

I’m fat. I could be fatter, of course, but given my body mass index and all that, it is safe to say I’m fat. I’m not happy about this and I work hard between snacks to do something about it, but still…

I used to worry about being fat, but no longer. What changed my mind? New revelations about the coming resurrection.

Newsweek magazine reported on a movement among some Christian and Jewish scholars to get Americans to believe in the literal fact of a physical resurrection at the end of time. (My clocks are off, so I’m not exactly sure how much time is left before the end of time, but I assume there is still time for a quick run to pay homage to my earthly lords Burger King and his Dairy Queen before I meet the King of Kings).

What does all this have to do with being fat? Everything. According to religion scholar Paula Fredriksen, author of “Augustine and the Jews”, “Our bodies will be the very same as the ones we had in life, but buff and beautiful.”

Buff and beautiful! I have never been buff and beautiful, but if this is what God has in store for me, well Halleluyah!

Lest you think that resurrection isn’t part of the Jewish playbook, let me remind you that the Talmudic rabbis made resurrection one of their few faith requirements. They said that anyone who doesn’t believe in resurrection in the World to Come has no share in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 50a). True, this is not a very persuasive argument; after all if you don’t believe in the World to Come in the first place being threatened with not having a place in it isn’t very compelling. But it does show that they took the idea seriously.

And then there is Maimonides who made resurrection the thirteenth of his list of Thirteen Principles of Faith: "I believe with complete (perfect) faith, that there will be techiat hameitim - revival of the dead, whenever it will be God's, blessed be He, will (desire) to arise and do so. May (God's) Name be blessed, and may His remembrance arise, forever and ever." That last part just shows what a suck-up Maimonides was, but facts are facts and Jews are supposed to believe in bodily resurrection. And I for one am going for it.

Here’s my plan. Given the hard economic times more and more people are going to become poor. It is a fact that poor people eat more fast food than rich people. It is also a fact that fast food makes you fatter than slow food. So there will be more and more poor people who are getting fatter and fatter. I think I can capitalize on this.

I’m going to start selling a new program called the Resurrection Diet. There’s no calorie counting or exercise involved. It doesn’t matter how thin or fat you are in this life, after all this life is temporary. “Eternity in the buff bod you always wanted” is my slogan. All you have to do is get resurrected. And all you have to do to get resurrected is to believe in the resurrection.

The Resurrection Diet is simple: People will send me ten dollars American and I will send them a copy of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith. You can eat what you want, lie around watching television, just swear allegiance to the Thirteen Principles. That will get you into the resurrection and the buff and beautiful bod that comes with it. It’s easier than The Secret!

But wait! That’s not all! Even if you don’t believe in the Thirteen Principles you still get resurrected. Yes you will spend eternity in your buff and beautiful body doing Bikram Yoga® in hell, but we will throw in Sham-Wow® towels to help keep the sweat out of your eyes so you can ogle all those other dead beauties.

But wait! There’s more! If you send me the money now, I will send you two copies of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles. That’s two copies of the Thirteen Principles plus the Sham-Wow® towels all for ten dollars plus shipping and handling.

But wait! There’s even more. The first million callers may also receive my perhaps never to be published book, “Left Behind, Right Behind, Tight Behind: Having the Butt You Want in Heaven.”

Call now. Operators are standing by.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Putting the Nut in Donut

Sometimes the left just goes too far. In this case its hatred of the unborn has sunk to new lows as that noted left-wing god-hating company Krispy Kreme uses its irresistible donuts to lure unsuspecting Americans into supporting abortion rights. Here’s the story:

Seeking to capitalize on the excitement surrounding Inauguration Day, Krispy Kreme announced that it was giving away a free donut on January 20th. While giving away anything for free is clearly anti-capitalist, this isn’t what was so offensive about the Krispy Kreme move. In advertising their free donut scheme the company said they were giving the donuts away as a way of “honoring Americans’ sense of pride and freedom of choice.”

Americans and “freedom of choice”? How dare they! Everyone knows that freedom of choice is code for abortion rights. Krispy Kreme was supporting the murder of the unborn. Or at least that is what the American Life League believes. Its president Judie Brown said, “Choice is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of freedom of choice is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights.” Take that you donut sucking God haters!

Krispy Kreme was quick to deny any intent to link donuts with abortion, but the facts are the facts. First donuts are sort of shaped like diaphragms. Second… well, there is no second but the shape of a donut is bad enough. And when you realize that donuts have holes and crullers are shaped like uh, you know, the male member or p#n#s, it is clear that Krispy Kreme is pro-sex, anti-abstinence, as well as being pro-abortion.

So kudos to the American Life League! But why stop with creaming Krispy? I say let’s go after every organization that supports choice starting with the United States government. From this day forward I am urging all Americans who love zygotes to demand an end to beef labeled "USDA Choice". I am also demanding that Americans boycott the Choice Hotel chain, Healthy Choice food products, voucher systems promoting school choice, and Citizens for Healthy Options in Children’s Education (CHOICE) and their efforts to improve school lunches which, for all I know, probably includes substituting Krispy Kreme donuts for Sloppy Joes. And this is just for starters.

By November of 2012 I hope to see all references to choice removed from every book, dictionary, company, agency, and institution in these God fearing United States. There is only one way to end abortion and that is to make sure that no one is free to choose anything. I hope you agree.

[By the way, if you know anyone at Dunkin’ Donuts please see if you can get them to financially support me in this anti-Krispy Kreme effort. It will be good for their business.]

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Gay Gene

Today I learned that Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, gave the invocation at the pre-inaugural “We are One” concert hosted by the Obama’s at the Lincoln Memorial. The fact that I didn’t know there was such a concert, and was not invited to attend the concert let alone offer a prayer at the concert probably doesn’t concern you. It should, but it probably doesn’t. The fact that Robinson’s prayer was cut from the broadcast of the concert does concern you. And it should.

With all the controversy surrounding the inaugural invocation given by Rev. Rick Warren, noted enemy of all things gay, one would think that Bishop Robinson would be big news. But it seems to have been, shall we say, kept in the closet. The HBO broadcast of the event chose not to include it (true), and Fox News refused to even mention it saying, “There is no such thing as a gay Gene” (not really true but you know it could be true if I hadn’t made it up).

This is troubling, but understandable. Rick Warren usually wears Hawaiian shirts and Obama’s grandmother lived in Hawaii, so featuring him makes sense. And Rev. Joseph Lowry, contrary to many who believe he was asked to pray because he was black, was invited because he could speak in rhyme (as opposed to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also black, whose “God damn America” prayer is free verse). Obama prefers rhyme, that choice makes sense as well. But other than the fact that almost every gay person in America supported Obama with cash and votes, the President has no real ties to the gay community.

I get that our President (and every president) is a politician, so I understand why President Obama would want to snuggle up to the Evangelical Christian community who didn’t support him while taking the Gay community for granted. After all I watched every episode of West Wing. But, had he followed my advice, the President could have pleased both communities.

My suggestion to the Inaugural Planning Committee was to kill two birds with one stone and invite evangelical pastor Ted Haggard to speak. That way the President could kiss the butts of both pro-lifers and homosexuals at the same time. The fact that they once again failed to listen to me aside, Bishop Robinson’s prayer blew the other two out of the water.

Because most of us were prevented from seeing Bishop Robinson give his prayer, I am reprinting his text here. The prayer was taped by Sarah Pulliam, who is, ironically, a reporter for the notably not gay-friendly magazine Christianity Today. Here is Bishop Robinson’s prayer:

“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears — tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless this nation with anger — anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort — at the easy, simplistic answers we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience — and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

And bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words — we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

Amen.

Now that’s a prayer! It almost makes me want to become an Episcopalian. Or at least gay.