Monday, October 29, 2012

Weather or Not to Vote

I just spoke with my dad in western Massachusetts. He and my mom are praying that hurricane Sandy doesn't cause too much damage or take any lives. My dad isn't what I could call a religious man—I'm not sure he believes in the efficacy of prayer— but he is an observant Jew who attends morning minyan, so praying does comes naturally to him.

While less religious and observant than my parents, I add my prayers to theirs. And I add one more: that Sandy won't keep them and millions of other voters from voting. My dad (whose first name is Archie and whose last name could very well be Bunker) voted for Obama last year and plans to do the same this year. He likes the President, and doesn't trust Mitt Romney. Did he vote for Romney for Governor of Massachusetts? Let's just say that voting Democrat was new for him.

But this post isn't about my dad's politics but about God's preferences. If, as so many people believe, God is in charge of the universe, Sandy must be part of God's plan. God's very own October Surprise. But did he send Sandy to help Romney or Obama?

When God sent hurricane Katrina slamming into New Orleans it was, so we were told, to punish the city for its liberal stance toward the LGBQ community. The fact that Katrina missed the Gay part of town not withstanding, it is clear that God uses the weather to influence our lives. So who is God trying to help with Sandy? As a devout climatheologian, how am I to read God's weather report?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bra is Great

Sooraya Graham, a devout Muslim and an art student in British Columbia, took a photo of a woman draped in niqab and abaya (face veil and full-body covering) folding a bra while doing her laundry. Needless to say this sparked great controversy: a Muslim woman doing laundry? That must be an insult to Islam. Or maybe it was the bra. I don’t know.

Personally I don’t wear a bra, though there was a time many years ago when I could have used the extra support. Nor do I wear a niqab or an abaya, so really what do I know? Well, I’ll tell you what I know—it is wrong to let men know that women where bras. Just the other day a student wondered aloud after class whether a similarly clad co-ed was wearing anything under her abaya. Enquireing minds want to know. And now we do.

The principle behind women’s modesty (and this is true in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures) is that men cannot control themselves. And there is no limit to how little it takes to set men off. An exposed ankle did it in Victorian times. A naked elbow today can cause a Jewish or Muslim man to go on a rampage.

When I was growing up in an Orthodox shul the woman prayed upstairs behind a wall because the men believed that seeing a woman during prayer would distract the man from praying. God or girls—which really grabs the attention of men?

Of course these men insist this is God’s will, not their own. Given that porn is universal among men of every culture, I tend to believe them. If it were up to men, women would be forbidden from wearing any clothes whatsoever. So God steps in to protect them.

Good for God. Bad for Ms. Graham since her photo was torn down by a fellow Muslim woman who found it offensive. Or maybe good for Ms. Graham, too, in that her work is being talked about globally in a world where most people couldn’t find British Columbia on a map.

So maybe it is win-win-win here. God is honored. The woman who tore the photo down feels good about demonstrating against freedom of speech and artistic license. And Ms. Graham gets her photo to go viral on the Internet.

 Sooraya Graham Bra Muslim

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rape and the Will of God

GOP senate candidate Richard Mourdock (Indiana) believes in God’s will, and because he believes in God’s will what he said about pregnancy through rape isn’t the outrage that his opponents say it is.

What candidate Mourdock said was that he opposes abortion even if a woman becomes pregnant via rape because “it is something that God intended.” Mourdock issued a clarifying statement saying that he didn’t mean to imply that the rape was God’s will, only that the pregnancy was God’s will. But this is a false distinction. If God intended the pregnancy, then God must have intended the rape since there would have been no pregnancy without the rape.

Honestly, there should be no controversy here. If you believe that God runs the universe, then everything that happens is God’s will. If you win the lottery—God’s will. If you develop cancer—God’s will. If you are raped—God’s will. If you become pregnant because of that rape—God’s will. If God doesn’t will something, how can it happen?

Of course you might object, and say that the rapist had free will and could have chosen not to rape, but is this true? Again if the pregnancy is part of God’s plan, then the rape must be part of the plan as well. You can’t have one without the other. So the rapist had to rape, and the egg had to fertilize, and the fetus has to be born.

You may not like this theology, but it is fairly main stream. Mr. Mourdock isn’t saying anything that millions of Americans don’t already believe. If you don’t like this theology, offer an alternative.

Here are two: 1) There is no God and things happen for no divine reason whatsoever; or 2) God’s will is capricious, allowing the free will of rapists who want to rape to trump the free will of women who don’t want to be raped.

If you have other alternatives, please post them in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dante Anyone?

Newsweek’s October 15th cover story states, “Heaven is Real.” The article proving this to be so is by Dr. Eben Alexander who shares with us his near-death experience via an excerpt from his new book, Proof of Heaven. I’m sure there must be a hidden (or not so hidden) message in the fact that last week’s cover screamed, “Muslim Rage.” After all the rage of the few Muslims who are raging is certainly linked to the reality of Heaven as are the actions of those who seem to enrage said Muslims every few weeks or so.

Lest you think I am about to savage Dr. Alexander’s NDE (near death experience) let me state from the outset that I’m not. I believe that NDEs are real, and I have held this belief since studying the phenomenon in the early 1980s. What I am skeptical about is whether or not NDEs prove anything. After all they are NEAR death experiences, and may not tell us anything about post death experiences at all.

But, what I want to talk about here is the kind of Heaven Dr. Alexander encountered. Unlike the four-year-old boy who also went to Heaven via an NDE, and who saw Jesus sitting right next to God (Heaven is for Real), Dr. Alexander’s Heaven seems to be Jesus–free.

Dr. Alexander rode into Heaven on the back of a butterfly and accompanied by a beautiful young woman. Makes sense: Dr. Alexander was going through a profound transformation, and what could be more symbolic of such a process than a butterfly. And the woman who accompanied him is his equivalent of Dante’s female companion in Heaven, Beatrice, or my own experience of the Divine Feminine called Chochma, Sophia, or Wisdom. What shocked me was the message this Woman imparted: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.”

Heaven’s message is unconditional love, fearlessness, and absence of sin. This is not the mainstream Christian message coming from most of my local pastors. Yes, they say, God loves you; in fact he loves you enough to have his only son crucified on your behalf, but his love is contingent on you accepting his son as your Lord and Savior. There is nothing unconditional about love, regardless of what Dr. Alexander’s Lady Friend says.

As for fear, there is no religion without fear. If we weren’t taught to fear God’s wrath we would spend much time placating him with psalms, confessions, and supplications. And as far as not being able to do wrong, if it were true that we can’t sin, then Jesus died in vain.

So what is the Heaven Dr. Alexander saw? It is the Heaven of the new age, the Heaven of the Nones who cannot imagine a Heaven bounded by theology, the Heaven of post-Christian America where the average person, regardless of faith or the lack thereof, can get into Heaven on the back of a butterfly in the company of a beautiful woman. Of course eternity in any Heaven seems inexorably dull to me (eternity itself spells boredom), I was pleased to read of Dr. Alexander’s experience and hope his book get a wide read as it may be an antidote to the restricted Heavens of so many others. What I really hope for is a book about a person NDE in Hell. Dante anyone?

Monday, October 15, 2012


My post on the Crossakkiah ® resulted in more than a few choice emails being sent to me privately. I appreciate the feedback, and only encourage some of my readers to look up the word “satire” in the dictionary. But passion is passion, and I do my best to learn something from the mail I receive. Mostly I learn that many people are idiots, but sometimes I learn something more.

In this last batch of irate emails, I discovered another money–making gem. “Rather than insult the Religion of Christ, why not insult the pagans and their satanic unholy day, Halloween?” Why not indeed?

The Crossakkiah®, like the Menorament® that inspired it, blends Jewish and Christian symbols for Christmas. Why not do the same with Halloween? So here are some products I may bring out for next year:

Pumpkrist ® is a jack-o-lantern on which the face of Jesus magically appears when you place a lighted candle inside the hollow plastic pumpkin. I could also call this Jes-o-lantern®. Tell me which name you prefer. A version of the Pumpkrist ® with Mary’s face on it might be called Our Lady of the Orange Vegetable®.

I haven’t got a Jewish version of the Halloween pumpkin yet, but I welcome your suggestions.

Handing out and gorging on candy is the central ritual of Halloween, and candy is easily made over in our image. For example, Kit Kat bars could be melted together in the shape of a Cross, and an “r” can be added to Payday wrappers so you can handout Prayday bars.

Again I’m drawing a blank when it comes to Judaizing Halloween candy, but I’m sure you can submit something. Just use the comments section as my email is crammed with Crossakkiah ® hate mail.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I’m flying to Atlanta on Friday morning, and skimming the SkyMall catalog. I never find anything to buy in the catalog, but I always find something I wish I had invented. A colostomy bag that filters urine through a lemon processor connected to a lemonade dispenser hat with disposable cups hanging off the earflaps—why didn’t I think of that?

Anyway the item that caught my eye this trip was the Menorahment or Hanukkah Tree Topper®: a plastic Star of David attached to a wire coil that fits over the top of any Christmas tree. According to SkyMall this is a “must-have for interfaith marriages.” I assume they meant “interfaith couples” seeing as interfaith marriages need nothing other than a bride and groom of differing faiths, and someone to officiate at their wedding. The purchase of the Menorahment guarantees that an interfaith couple can “celebrate the warmth and wonder of both Hanukkah and Christmas.”

I have a few problems with this item. First it is a Star of Davidment and not a Menorahment. A menorah (or more accurately a hanukkiah) is a nine-branched candelabrum and has nothing to do with a Star of David.

Second, while I have no problem with consenting adults marrying whomever (or even how many ever) they wish, I do have a problem with the assumption that interfaith marriage always means a Jew marrying a Christian. Is there no warmth and wonder for a Jain who marries a Buddhist?

Third, there is no such thing as a Hanukkah Tree, so a Hanukkah Tree Topper® is absurd. The only reason to put a Jewish Star on a Christmas tree is to honor the religion of Jesus, though this may be offensive to many who follow the religion about Jesus.

And fourth, why put a Star on top of a tree rather than a Cross on top of a hanukkiah? The official candelabrum of Hanukkah has eight candleholders, one for each night of the festival, plus a ninth holding the candle used to light the other eight. Why not make this ninth candleholder in the shape of a Cross? Given that Hanukkah and Christmas can be weeks apart, having a Crossakkiah ® as your official Hanukkiah Topper ® and a Menorahment allows the interfaith couple to botch both sacred occasions equally.

The more I think about this the more I am convinced that the Crossakkiah is my ticket to fame and fortune (who needs warmth and wonder?). So don’t be surprised if next Autumn’s SkyMall catalog features one these bad boys for the holy days.