Monday, March 19, 2012


It's been a while since I've posted a music video...

This is Jason Kessler playing a song written by Michael Hedges  called Ragamuffin which appeared on Hedges' 1984  ground breaking CD, Aerial Boundaries.  Kessler is playing a  Lowden F size 12 string guitar built of Honduran Rosewood and Adirondack spruce and is accompanied by percussionist Josh Dekaney and dancer Pallavi Gupta.  just beautiful...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why the Hate?

I have to admit that I've been more than a little puzzled by the political discourse regarding Obama.  Yes, I know political discourse is always marked by exaggeration and hyperbole, but the stuff around Obama has just seemed over the top.  There still are accusations that he is not an American, born in the USA.  There are still prominent folk who claim he is really a Muslim.  There is the constant buzz that he is a Socialist.  Others say that he is the biggest threat to US security in the history of the nation.   Simply put, none of the above is remotely true.  Love him or not, he was born in Hawaii, is not a Muslim, is not a Socialist by any reasonable definition, and is clearly not the greatest threat to US security ever.

Many, especially in the African American community, have blamed the over the top hatred on race.  Many on the right protest that they are not racist and his race has nothing to do with their disdain of Obama.  Now, I know many folk far right of center who would never vote for Obama who are not racist and for whom race does not have any relevance.  Still, I cannot help but think that the depth of invective against him is out of proportion to his policies.  Indeed, most of his policies are literally continuations of those begun under the Bush administration.  If that isn't about race, then what in the world is it?

And then today I saw a photo of a bumper sticker... it had the Obama logo with a circle and a line through it with the tag line - "Don't Re-Nig 2012."  At first I wondered whether it was something made up by an Obama supporter to inflame the base so I googled it.  I found a vendor selling the stickers along with other far right slogans.  If that's not about race, then I have no idea what is.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Government Power vs. Religious Beliefs

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state.  I believe the wall should be so high for government intrusion into issues of faith as to be almost impossible to even see over.  I believe Native American religions that use peyote in a sacramental way should be allowed.  Ditto for Rastafarians (I have to admit I know next to zilch about Rastafarianism so I could be off base here) with regards to marijuana.  I get really uncomfortable even at government interference that requires a Christian Science family to provide medical care for their children.  That is how I feel about these issues.  That is not the way things work.

Today I read an article in The American Thinker by Tom Trinko in which he attacks liberals like Sandra Fluke for wanting the government to intrude on religious beliefs.    Here's an important quote from the article...
What greater crime can one commit against a person than using the force of government to coerce him to become an apostate to the faith he believes in?
Now, I'm not going to argue the issue at hand, even though I believe the Obama administration's solution was perfect and that the real issue for most conservatives has nothing at all to do with using the power of government to offend religious believers.  At it's core, I agree with the statement and would bet that I believe it a lot more strongly than Tom Trinko, although I can't be sure of that.  Here's why the argument doesn't work.  The government does that all of the time and these folk raise no concerns.  The government prohibitions against Native American use of peyote and Rastafarian use of marijuana are simple examples.  
Let me give two personal examples.  I am a pacifist.  I believe that the history of Christianity, the scriptures, and the person of Jesus allow for no other interpretation.  Still, I am required to pay taxes that go to supporting military interventions all over the world.  Indeed, we spend more on the military than basically everyone else combined and depending on how one reads the numbers, as much as 50% of our federal budget is related to "defense."  I am not given a religious option to abstain.  Now, you might say that the difference is personal beliefs vs. institutional beliefs.  The entire Roman Catholic Church stands against contraception.  That argument doesn't fly, though, as there are a number of denominations in the Anabaptist movement, known as "historic Peace Churches" that are officially pacifist.  The force of government is used to coerce us to be apostate to the faith we believe in.  A second example - I do not believe as a follower of Jesus that there ever is a time when capital punishment is appropriate.  Ditto again for the historic Peace Churches.  And again, I/we cannot opt out of paying for such barbarity and are so forced to act in denial of our expressed beliefs.

I would agree that there are times when the government can stop certain religious practices.  I don't care what you believe, the government has the power to curtail human sacrifice.  Bottom line though, that is not what this issue is about.  It has nothing to do with freedom of religion and everything about culture wars and the oppression of women.  And then, there is the fact that Sandra Fluke was speaking on behalf of a lesbian friend with no worry about pregnancy but who uses birth control pills as a means of halting the growth of ovarian cysts... but why confuse a good argument with facts.