Friday, July 30, 2010

My God Bless America

I want to hand it to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of the great state of Tennessee for finally telling us Tennesseans the truth about Islam—it isn’t a religion at all, it is a cult.

At a campaign stop in Chattanooga the Lt. Governor said that “he’s all about freedom of religion,” but one “could even argue whether that being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult or whatever you want to call it”. Damn straight! Islam isn’t a religion, and because it isn’t a religion it merits no protection under the First Amendment. Amen Brother Ramsey!

Of course by his definition Judaism isn’t a religion either. And neither is Evangelical Christianity or Catholicism, both of which want to convert the world and bring it under their respective life stytles and laws. A religion, the Lt. Governor seems to be saying, is a private affair between people and their god, and no religious institution should seek to bring the larger world under its influence or jurisdiction. Amen to that, too.

Like the Lt. Governor, I don’t want to live under Sharia (Islamic Law) or halachah (Jewish law). And I don’t want one Christian sect or another deciding for the rest of us what we can read, or learn in science or history classrooms. I certainly don’t want any religion deciding for nonbelievers and otherbelievers whom we can marry, or to restrict nonmembers from gaining access to medical services or contraceptives or morning after pills because such access violates that religion’s moral sensitivities. I don’t want some religious group determining what sciences to fund, what clothes we can wear, and what television shows we can watch. If they want to impose rules on their members, fine. But if I choose not to be a member, they should not be allowed to force me to live by their rules.

Honestly, Ron Ramsey’s got my vote. Anyone whose got the guts to deny religious status to any religion that seeks to impose its will on the rest of society has what it takes to be governor of one of the fattest and stupidest states in the Union. (Though as rival gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp seems to have suggested—and when challenged ultimately denied ever suggesting it—we Tennesseans may well secede from the Union if Obama’s healthcare bill isn’t repealed.)

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t care what Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, or Rastafarians do in the privacy of their religious institutions and homes, but when they walk on the streets of America they should dress and eat and act like Americans. Real Americans not those faux Americans in Boston, New York City, or San Francisco, but real overweight and undereducated Americans who never met a sausage we couldn’t eat; those Americans who know in their ever expanding guts that the greatest threat to the greatest nation that ever was is freedom and we ain’t gonna have no truck with that. My God bless America.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Jews Three Opinions One Theocracy

The theocratic madness that is Israeli domestic politics has once again pitted the Jewish Taliban against the rest of us over the issue of who is a Jew. In an effort to break the logjam of conversions to Judaism in Israel (primarily caused by Russian immigrants who cannot prove their Jewish status), the Israeli government is seeking to both broaden the number of rabbis empowered to perform conversions and to place the whole matter of conversion (and thus who is a Jew) under the control of the Chief Rabbinate.

The fact that largely liberal nonOrthodox Diaspora Jewry is upset over this should come as no surprise. The government is siding with the Orthodox and legalizing the disenfranchisement of nonOrthodox rabbis and religious institutions. This isn’t new. The Israeli government doesn’t fund nonOrthodox Judaisms even as it does fund Orthodox Judaism (and other religions). The difference is that this pending legislation makes law out of what is at the moment mere custom. If the law passes, nonOrthodox rabbis have no hope of getting their converts recognized as Jews.

Why does this matter? Because being able to convert a person to Judaism legitimizes one’s status as an authentic rabbinic authority. Reform and Conservative rabbis want the same status as their Orthodox counterparts. Why don’t they have it? Because Israel’s parliamentary system is so broken that it requires huge coalitions in order to govern, and hence tiny parties can hold the nation hostage. This is something the smaller rightest religious parties are very good at doing.

Solutions? Here’s one: Israel could try becoming a secular democracy and follow the American ideal (albeit forever threatened by the Christian Taliban) of separating church and state. It is not for the Israeli government to determine who is a Jew, only who is an Israeli, and these are not the same thing at all.

In the US Orthodox rabbis do not recognize as Jews, those Jews converted to Judaism by nonOrthodox rabbis. So what? People who convert to Reform Judaism have no desire to be part of an Orthodox community. And, if at some point in the future they do so desire, they can convert to Orthodoxy. What is the big deal? Let the same thing happen in Israel.

Of course since 90% of Jewish Israelis are nonOrthodox, opening up the Jewish marketplace would be bad for the Orthodox monopoly, and they would fight any such change. But that is life in a true democratic secular state.

The real threat is that the more theocratic Israel becomes, the less Jews around the world will identify with her. Do I really want to support a state that has bus lines that force women to sit in the back of the bus? Do I really want to support a state that lets theocratic bullies determine who can marry whom and how? The more “Jewish” Israel becomes, the less compelling the idea of a Jewish state becomes. This is not a problem that will go away soon.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shocked. Just shocked.

Several posts ago (July 5, 2010) I spoke about my new venture 144KJews. This was a network of Jews who volunteer to fly to Israel in time to certify that it is indeed Jesus who is returning to earth at the end times. All I asked was that each of 144,000 Jews send me $10 to have their names put on the initial contact list.

Normally no one responds to my ideas. Especially when money is involved. I think you think I’m kidding, which I might be unless and until 144,000 Jews send me $10 each. But this time something very unusual happened. I actually got a check! Not for $10, but for $1,440,000!!!!

I’m serious. $1,440,000!!!!

You can imagine how surprised and happy I was to receive this. Or, if you can’t imagine this, invite me to your house, hand me a check for $1,440,000 and see for yourself how I surprised and happy I get.

Anyway, I took the check directly to my bank. The spaces provided on the deposit slip were insufficient for an amount this large, so I went to a teller for help. That’s when things got a bit dicey. It seems that check was bogus. Seriously. Somebody sent me a bogus check for $1,440,000.

You can imagine how shocked and unhappy I was to receive this news. Or, if you can’t imagine this, invite me to your house, hand me a bogus check for $1,440,000, accompany me to the bank, and see for yourself how shocked and unhappy I get when I try to deposit it.

I can’t imagine why anyone would do this. Here I was trying to help by recruiting 144K Jews to attest to the return of Christ, and someone does this. Well, it has ruined my faith in humanity, and now I have decided to let Jesus find his own 144K Jews. Really, Cousin, just do it your own damn self.

Of course, now that I think about it, having $1,440,000 without having 144,000 Jews wouldn’t have done Jesus any good. Sure, the money is nice, but the point was to help out with the Jewish witnesses. I mean what would I do with $1,440,000 anyway?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What would I do with $1,440,000? I’d spend it! That’s what I’d do. Oh, sure, I’d give a couple of bucks to save some starving kids in some godforsaken country where flies stuck to their faces as if their skin were made of flypaper, but mostly I’d spend it.

What would I spend it on? Ice cream. Ice cream and some starving kids. And the new MacAir when it comes out. So Ice cream and some starving kids and a computer. And I’d leave some left over to contact 144,000 Jews if they ever contact me. But ice cream for sure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Imagine Torah

I was listening to "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" today as he interviewed Wendy Doniger and Arshia Sattar, two great scholars of Indian culture. The topic was the recent film interpretations of India's two national epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. What struck me was the sophisticated way these women could enter into and appreciate the text without for a moment insisting on their historicity. The genius of these epics has nothing to do with history. Their wisdom has noting to do with reading them literally. Why can't we read the Bible the same way?

Of course many people do, and universities that teach Bible as literature do this for sure. But the religious world that I live in--the world of Christian fundamentalism and Jewish historicism demand (each in its own way and for its own ends) that the Bible is at least representative of actual historical events.

This is easy to understand in the context of religious fundamentalism, Jewish and Christian: the Bible is the word of God. ‘Nuff said. But why do liberal and largely secular Jews, Jews who have no interest in keeping any of the commandments of God found in the Torah, insist that the Torah is history rather than epic and myth like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana?

My guess is that their sense of identity depends on the historical accuracy of these texts. After all if we Jews weren’t enslaved in and escape from Egypt, and if we didn’t conquer Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, then our claim to Israel is weakened, and our sense of identity brought into question. We have so tied ourselves to history and real estate that we have closed ourselves to the deeper spiritual wisdom that transcends both.

This is dangerous. First it is dangerous because it links our identity to a false view of history which will become harder and harder to maintain as the facts become more and more irrefutable. Second it is dangerous because when that history is debunked (as many Israeli archeologists and scholars are doing right now) we will have nothing on which to base our identity as a distinct people. If you don’t believe in the supernaturalism of the Torah—and most Jews don’t; and you don’t feel obligated to adhere to the commandments legislated by this God you don’t believe in—and most Jews don’t, all you have to cling to is a history that is slipping through our fingers like sand through an hourglass. Then what? Judaism dies, and Jews disappear.

But a Judaism rooted in brilliant myth, epic storytelling, and deep and on-going argument over what it means to be human and how to live justly and compassionately is dependent on nothing but the imaginative genius of its people.

The Torah is the Jews’ Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Jews’ Iliad and Odyssey. We should look to Torah for wisdom not law, for insight into the human condition not glimpses of God’s nature. Judaism will die when the imagination of the Jews die. And it is the death of the Jewish imagination that is the greatest crisis of Jewish life today. Judaism won’t die because Jews intermarry or reject halachic rulings and rabbinic authority. Judaism will die because Jews can no longer imagine Torah.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mutant Judaism

My post on misogyny in some versions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism generated a few comments that got me thinking about Reform Judaism as a model for religion in the 21st century.

Reform Judaism was the second mutation of Judaism in the past 3000 years. The first was the Judaism of the Two-Fold Law invented by the early rabbis. This Judaism argued that God gave two revelations to Moses on Sinai, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah that came to be known as the Talmud. While pure fiction, this new Judaism became THE Judaism for the next 2000 years. *

Reform Judaism was no less bold, replacing the authority of God, revelation, and rabbis with the autonomy of the individual. This shift was huge, and accounts for the freedom that Reform Jews have vis a vis Judaism. In Reform Judaism the individual Jew rather than God (Orthodoxy), Torah (Conservative), or community (Reconstructionist) decides for herself how to be a Jew. Of course this also accounts for the low level of traditional observance by Reform Jews, but this cannot be avoided. The failure of Reform Judaism is its unwillingness to radically and continually redefine Judaism (and by this I mean redefine the meaning of God, Torah, Israel, community, and mitzvot) in line with the humanism at its core.

Still, Reform’s focus on the sovereign self is enough for Orthodox Judaisms to claim that Reform isn’t Judaism at all. That is to say there is nothing in the history of Judaism prior to Reform Judaism that lends legitimacy to Reform Judaism. They are correct. That is why Reform is a mutation. Of course the same can be said of Rabbinic Judaism as well, as the adherents to the more ancient and authentic Torah Only school of Priestly Judaism argued right up to their demise at the hands of Rome. Mutations don’t have precedents. That is why they are called mutations.

Judaism is not the only religion to mutate, but it is among the very few that have done so with the sovereign self at the center. Most religions still seek to subjugate the individual to the will of others. Such mutations cannot be planned or staged. Revolutions that shift power from one group of leaders to another are not yet a sovereign self mutation. My own sense of things is that without such a mutation religions will continue to oppress the “other” (most often women) within their ranks and seek to dominate the other (the nonbeliever, heretic, etc.) outside their ranks. What do you think?


* Some argue that Zionism is the second mutation and Reform the third. I am ignoring Zionism here because it rejected religion while Reform did not.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canary Feminism

I find it both ironic and fascinating that the anti-Muslim forces often cite the oppression of women as a cause for resisting Islam. Ironic because many branches of Christianity and the Orthodox branches of Judaism could be accused of the same thing. Fascinating because it suggests that the truth-value of any religion is linked to its treatment of women, something no biblical or Qur’anic text would suggest.

For example, the Catholic Church has just issued new rules that declare the ordination of women priests as a “grave crime,” and the Episcopal Church is caught up in an internal battle over whether or not to have women bishops. Should we resist Catholicism and Episcopalianism because of their treatment of women?

You can find similar issues of control in other Protestant denominations, some of which seek to control women’s dress, their position within the home and church, and their God-ordained submission to their husbands. So for Christians to decry Islam because it restricts women’s freedom is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In Israel the government has instituted a religious bus service that forces woman to ride in the back of the bus, so as to not entice Orthodox men to sexual thoughts (or worse) between stops. And then there is the ruling that prohibits women from becoming rabbis. And let us not forget the extreme Orthodox insistence that married women cover or better yet cut their hair short and wear wigs so as not to entice men. So if we are going to oppose Islam on feminist grounds lets take on Christianity and Judaism as well.

Buddhism and Hinduism fair no better, with many Buddhist nuns being forced to play second fiddle to monks, and some Hindu women being sold into virtual slavery to their in-laws, and Hindu female fetuses being aborted to avoid the expense of having to marry the fetus off when she comes of age.

Yes, you can argue that these are cultural problems not intrinsic to the religions themselves, but this is no less true of Islam. Nowhere does the Qur’an demand that women wear the same protective gear as beekeepers, and yet so many do.

But let’s not restrict our concern to religion. Western democratic secular societies are not exactly bastions of women’s freedom. So the more you look the more appealing the idea that women are the canaries in the religious/political/cultural mine. I think the status of women, i.e. the degree to which they are denied the same rights and privileges and status as men in their respective faiths, countries, ethnicities, etc. is an excellent barometer for gauging the morality of those faiths, countries, etc. And I would go even further and hold these religions and countries up to the standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So if you are among those who pretend to some moral high ground by pointing out the oppression and exploitation of women in Islam, please broaden your gaze. Let all of us agree to reject any ideology that denies women the same freedoms it grants to men, and any that denies Universal Human Right to either gender or both.

Whew, I think I just freed myself from every ideology on the frigging planet.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thanks, Glen Beck

Dear Glenn Beck,

I was watching your program last Tuesday when you reminded America that we Jews killed Jesus. It has been a long time since anyone dared to deny history so blatantly and resurrect that anti-Semitic canard. I really missed it.

Of course you did say that Jesus being Christ chose not to return to “make the Jews pay for what they did,” but that doesn’t excuse my people from murdering him. Let me tell you how we did it.

We just couldn’t do it outright. Jews in Jesus’ time didn’t have the power to kill people and crucifixion was strictly a Roman practice. So if we wanted to crucify Jesus we would first have to pass ourselves off as Romans. That took decades of planning.

First we forged Roman birth certificates and put fake birth announcements in Roman newspapers that made Jewish babies look like they were Roman citizens. Then as our people grew into adult Roman citizens we had them run for the Roman Senate and get themselves appointed as governors of various Roman provinces, Palestine being one of them.

Then when Jesus started to annoy us we worked with the High Priest and had Jesus turned over to us so we, pretending to be Romans but really being Jews, could crucify him. We thought this ruse would fool everyone, but clearly it didn’t. Christians started slaughtering Jews to avenge the murder of their God as soon as they could. To put a stop to this we had to infiltrate the Church so that we could get a Jewish Pope elected so he could officially deny that Jews killed Jesus. This took us centuries, and we didn’t pull it off until 1965. But even this failed to fool you.

You are one dogged genius, Mr. Beck. And I can’t thank Fox enough for giving you a pulpit.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Burqas Law

There is nothing so sexy as a woman in a burqa. Sorry, not sexy, seditious. There is nothing so seditious as a woman in a burqa, unless of course it is a woman wearing a nigab.

I know what you’re thinking: “B-u-r-q-a? I thought the letter ‘q’ was always followed by the letter ‘u’.” That’s why you suck at SCRABBLE. But never mind that, the issue at hand is the banning of the burqa (a full body cloak that covers the entire face, with a mesh screen for the eyes), and the nigab (a veil with a slit for the eyes). The ban the burqa movement started in Belgium and spread to France. The ideas behind the ban are three: first, if we cannot see a person’s face they are a threat to national security; second, going around with your face covered is anti-social; and third, burqa wearing women are being forced to dress this way by men, and thus banning it is a matter of women’s liberation.

Now I do think there are times when burqas and other head coverings must be removed. When getting a driver’s license, passport, or other photo ID a full-face photo makes sense. While I don’t oppose Muslim women driving cars (I’m not a Saudi prince after all), I do oppose them doing so in a burqa or nigab on the grounds these head coverings restrict one’s ability to see. If they must cover their faces, and they want to drive, let them drive motorcycles and wear full-face helmets. For you Muslim entrepreneurs out there, here is a great business opportunity: Muslim themed helmets and motorcycles. Very cool.

When boarding an airplane people must be identified and burqas and nigabs make this impossible, so they must be removed. But once we get full body scanners at all airports we might be able to ID people without removing anything.

If I were a Muslim woman I wouldn’t normally wear either a burqa or nigab. But, with the passing of these laws, I would do so as an act of protest. And if this law comes to America I plan to pull a Scooby-Do and wear multiple layers of what will be illegal religious garb from different religions so that as the authorities pull of one layer they will confronted by another and then another. Ultimately they will get down to my foreskin–free Jewish penis. Let them take that from me if they can!

———————
PS: I recently learned that the full body airport scanners actually cause penises to fall off, so there goes my last line of protest.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gods Bless America

I was proud of my Murfreesboro community yesterday when hundreds of citizens turned out 98 degree heat to silently (mostly) support the expansion of our local mosque and the right of Muslims to worship as they choose. True there were three hundred or so marchers trekking from a local church to the town square to oppose both the mosque and Islam, but still this was civil democracy at its best: Two opposing groups staring each other down, chanting clever slogans at one another, and joining in a USA USA chanting contest that just brought us all together as one big unhappy family.

So many of us on both sides carried cool signs. All but one we hand made. The one exception was mine. I took my banner idea--an American flag with the words of the 1st amendment replacing the stripes and symbols of the world's religions replacing the stars- to a graphics design company and had them make me a full color banner complete with brass grommets. My banner won “Best In Protest” or it would have if there was such a contest. Runner-up was a sign from the other side that read, “Muslims Kill Converts! Tell it.” I love subtlety.

Anyway the pro-freedom of religion people gathered at the town square about thirty minutes before the anti-Islamic folks arrived. We were asked to meet them with silence, and we did. As they came onto the square they were greater with peace signs, posters that read, “All You Need Is Love,” and silence. Fearing for their lives the leader of the anti-freedom of religion marchers called to his followers to “Ignore the hate.” Maybe he meant to say, “Ignore the heat,” which was either a comment on the weather or on LeBron James’ decision to play basketball in Miami.

In any case the only thing that troubled me was the use of Israeli flags and references to Jews by the anti-Islam crowd. There is a sense that being pro-Israel is somehow being anti-Muslim despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Muslim Israelis. We Americans are supposed to support Israel because she is a democracy like us. But the definition of democracy so many on the right use is closer to a Christian theocracy than anything Tom Jefferson or James Madison envisioned.

One anti-Muslim protester challenged us to think about how many Jews Muslims had killed. I don’t know why this idea was supposed to move us one way or another since I could identify only two Jews among the 1000 people at the dual and dueling protests (me and my son; I’m so proud). And, if Jewish body count is a concern, it should be noted that Christians have slaughtered more Jews then have Muslims, that Christianity has promoted Jew-hatred for 2000 years paving the way for genocide against the Jews by the Nazis and post-Nazi pogroms in Christian Europe, and that there are millions of Christians who hope to see the entirety of my people wiped out when Jesus returns (may it not be speedily in our day). So, if I have to choose between Islam and Christianity, I’d go with Islam.

All in all though it was a great day. No one really talked with one another. No one learned anything about the other. And we all got to chant USA USA. Gods bless America.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daughters of Wisdom

As those who have read my book The Divine Feminine know I have been a devotee of the Divine Mother for many years. I speak with Her almost daily as part of my regular spiritual practice. I did not seek out this spiritual path, it was thrust upon me, but I find it deeply moving, comforting, and rich with wisdom and insight. My understanding of the Mother comes through the Hebrew and Greek Wisdom Literature written by Jews over several centuries. Books like Proverbs, especially chapters 1-9, Ecclesiastes, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Pirke Avot, and the Gospel of Thomas.

Each year for the past few years I have had the honor of spending time at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. Wisdom House is the spiritual retreat center of the Daughters of Wisdom, an order of nuns founded in the 1700s. In between my teaching duties, I spend time reading, walking the center's labyrinth, and sitting in the chapel and gazing upon the most astounding statues of Mother Mary I have ever seen. I recite the Hail Mary for a while and then simply settle into quite. Her love for me (and the world) is palpable.

Of course this is not the usual confession a rabbi makes, but then I haven't been a usual rabbi for a long time. For me Mary is one of many incarnations (Western and Eastern) of Lady Wisdom (Proverbs Cht. 8). I don't believe She is God in any dualistic sense. God is Reality, embracing and transcending all things, so She is no less God than you and I are God. Indeed Proverbs tells us Wisdom is the Daughter of God, and not God in the absolute sense. I understand Wisdom (Chochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) as the equivalent of the Tao, the way God is God in the world of form. Knowing Her is knowing the way of things and how to live in harmony with them.

Anyway, I have just returned from Wisdom House, and want to thank the sisters for making me feel welcome. I also want to encourage you to check out their website (www.wisdomhouse.org) and their order, and consider attending one or more of their programs. I will be back at Wisdom House in August of 2011 to offer a series of talks on Jesus as a Jewish Wisdom Sage.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

An Open Letter to My Neighbors

I am a lover of God and a student of religion. I do my best to understand the nature of religion, and how it justifies the worst of which we are capable, as well as call us to the best.

There are people of faith on all sides of an issue. Religion is what we interpret it to be, even as we deny we are interpreting; and God says what we choose God to say, even as we deny we are choosing. This denial makes us vulnerable to those among us, both religious and political, who hope to rise to power on a wave of fear. Their current target is Islam.

I, too, am afraid of Islam, but no more than I am afraid of Judaism and Christianity. All three religions are steeped in blood, and follow a God prone to anger, violence, and hate even as He calls for compassion, justice, love, and peace. Worse still, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are mutually exclusive faiths; only one of them can be true, and each measures truth in body counts. Read our holy books, read our histories, read the daily news. But none of this excuses the demonization of Islam and our Muslim neighbors.

If you want to keep yourself, your family, and your country free from theocracy don’t opt for muscular, xenophobic, fear-based, and hate-filled rhetoric disguised as Christianity and draped in the American flag, but stand up for the First Amendment. It is freedom of religion that has kept us free from theocracy. Repressing religion only empowers it. Welcome Islam to our community, and demand transparency from every faith.

I challenge all believers to take up the hard work of cleansing their respective faiths of the hatred and violence embedded in them. I call all believers and especially the clergy to an Abrahamic Reformation, one that helps us deal with and heal from the shadow side of monotheism by cleansing ourselves and our religions of fear, hatred, and violence, and find ways of disempowering the fear, hatred, and violence in our sacred texts, customs, and institutions.

Let us encourage our clergy to gather together and produce guidelines for interpreting our respective religions that make compassion and justice our primary concern. Let us state unequivocally our opposition to terror, violence, and oppression of peoples, persons, and the planet; let us state unequivocally our support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and let us measure our religions against those rights, boldly changing what we teach and what we practice whenever they come into conflict with those rights.

Let us show the world a new way of being religiously diverse, one not rooted in fear or kumbaya, but in humility, honest dialogue, and the First Amendment as the best antidote to theocracy and political demagoguery.

Monday, July 05, 2010

144KJews

I’m looking for a few good Jews; 144,000 of them in fact. These Jews are to be “bond–servants of God” (Revelation 7:3) and will evangelize the world in the Name of Jesus Christ when He returns to earth sometime in the next few decades. We will gather on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem to welcome Jesus upon His return, and to sing a song heard from heaven that only we Jews can sing (Revelation 14:2-3). What is that song? Read on.

God needs 144,000 Jews, “children of Israel,” (Revelation 7:4) to evangelize the world when His Son returns. Jews, not Christians; odd isn’t it? But then we are His Chosen, and Jesus is one of us, so maybe it isn’t so odd after all. If this is what God needs, I for one am more than willing to help. And so too, I hope, are you.

I know this may be challenging for some Jews. After all we Jews don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah. But that is why our testimony to the contrary is so necessary. People who see Jesus in a rust stain or slice of pizza are hardly credible witnesses. And, honestly, if Jesus does return, descending upon Mount Zion from the heavens accompanied by an angelic host, would you still have a problem proclaiming Him Messiah? So keep your Judaism, hold to your doubts and skepticism, but come on board just in case. God needs you.

The challenge is knowing when to gather in Jerusalem to welcome Cousin Jesus. This is where I come in. I am creating a new foundation called 144KJews. Our mission is to gather together 144,000 Jews willing to welcome the Messiah when He comes.

Membership in the foundation is limited to Jews, and dues are $1 annually. Members will receive monthly updates on the coming of the Messiah, access to our Clock of the Second Coming which will visually depict how soon the return can be expected, and the opportunity to purchase a variety of cool 144KJew stuff—lapel pins, bags, tee-shirts, hats, etc. I will work with various airlines to help members get the lowest airfares and hotel rates, and for those who wish to travel the country, I will run two-week tours prior to the Second Coming.

But wait! That’s not all! Members of 144KJews will also be taught the song that only Jews can sing when Jesus returns. (Hint: it’s in a minor key.)

Because some of my best friends are Christians, I will also create Friends of the 144KJews. Membership in this supporting organization will receive the same updates and access to the Clock of the Second Coming, but they will not be taught the song nor be allowed to stand with us on Mount Zion. Membership in Friends of the 144KJews is $10 per year.

Before I invest too heavily in this venture, I would like to hear from you as to your interest in this foundation. Specifically: If you are a Jew, would you join and send me a dollar? If you are not Jewish, would you join Friends and send me ten dollars?

If some of you have Jewish friends, please pass the word on to them and see if they are interested.

Thanks, and see you on Mount Zion!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Flags are Flying

Flags are flying today. I like that. I believe the United States is a glorious experiment that has not yet failed, though I worry it may. Not all of my neighbors agree. One fellow is flying his flag upside down as a sign that the country is in grave trouble.

Section 8a of the United States Flag Code states, "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

We are in danger, but not yet in extreme danger. Our democracy still functions, albeit with Congressional votes going to the highest corporate bidder. A majority of Americans elected President Obama in a fair democratic election in 2008, and a majority will either re-elect or reject him in 2012. This, alone, demands that the flag should be flown right side up.

I suspect my neighbor doesn’t agree. If an election doesn’t go his way, he feels he has lost his country, and may march with placards reading, “We want our country back.” Losing an election is not the same as losing your country. Indeed, holding elections where one party or another can lose is what democracy is all about. What these supposedly freedom loving people want is a single party country like Communist China. How ironic.

But I may be na├»ve. Is there any real difference between Republicans and Democratics? Aren’t they both in the pockets of their respective corporate overlords? Isn’t this what the Bank Bailout and the BP disaster show us? Isn’t this what the rehiring of Xe (Blackwater) mercs means? Private companies and private armies have far more power than I do, even with my vaunted freedoms and democratic vote. So maybe my neighbor is right. Maybe the experiment has failed. Maybe I am just too slow to see it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Religion True and False

It is so refreshing to read an honest, straightforward, defense of religion. Case in point, Fr. Thomas Crean’s essay in the April/May 2010 issue of Philosophy Now magazine.

Fr. Crean begins with the assumption that judging a religion good or bad depends on whether or not that religion is true or false. For example, the Catholic Inquisition, which tortured and killed thousands in the name of doctrinal purity, is good if the doctrine of the Church is true, and bad if it is false. This makes perfect sense.

Thousands of Jews, among thousands of others, died at the hands of the Inquisition. Their crime? Not being Catholic, or, in the case of those Jews forced to convert to Catholicism before being tortured by the Inquisition, not being Catholic enough. Now if Catholicism is merely a figment of the imagination of Catholics, and hence false, murdering people for not adhering to it is wrong. But if Catholicism is true then those who deny it or pollute its teachings are a danger to the salvation of all humanity, and their murder is justified. How can you argue with this?

According to Fr. Crean, religion is powerful and morally neutral. Good people of faith will use their faith to do good in the world, evil people of faith will use that same faith to do evil in the world. If so, what good is religion at all?

What do you think? How do you know if your religion is true? What does the truth of your religion allow you to do vis a vis the false religions demanding equal standing in the community of human religions?