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Jews and Muslims together; vet neglect; the easy life in Greece

14 Jul

A small assortment of items:

I discovered a rare, interesting and encouraging case of Jews and Muslims uniting. Both are working together against a regional court ruling in Germany that outlaws circumcision, equating it with bodily harm, a criminal act.

While the court ruled in a regional case with only regional authority, hospitals across Germany are reacting by banning the procedure.

Jews and Muslims, who circumcise their male children, see this as an attack on religion and have found common ground.

From the New York Times:

            “The often very aggressive prejudice against religion as backward, irrational and opposed to science is increasingly defining popular opinion,” said Michael Bongardt, a professor of ethics from Berlin’s Free University who added that the ruling reflected a profound lack of understanding in modern Germany for religious belief.

 

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Prolonged wars drain the treasury because killing is expensive. Equally expensive, with no end date, is the post-war cost of curing – and the difficulty of actually doing an effective job.

In June Bloomberg Businessweek  reported that:

  • 1.3 million disability cases were filed with the Veterans Administration in 2011, a 48 percent increase from 2008.
  • 905,000 cases are awaiting action.
  • 14,320  VA employees must handle the load.

There really is nothing new in this. Since the Revolutionary War, it has become routine for the government to abandon soldiers once they no longer are needed.

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Eating ice cream with a Greek national, I learned a little more about why that nation and its economy cannot climb out of its fiscal swamp. The Greeks just aren’t working very hard, especially in the summer.

Perhaps we all knew this, or at least thought it. But my friend made it clearer, telling me how the Greeks take a fairly long siesta after a hearty and leisurely lunch (the day’s main meal). They nap from 2:30 p.m. until 6 p.m., when they return to work.

A light dinner generally is eaten around 10.

In the summer heat, however, only the merchants who service tourists go back to work after the nap.

Once I recovered from the realization that Greece is basically a part-time nation, I looked at my friend – a U.S. resident undergoing a great deal of stress from multiple layoffs in her family – and asked, “How in God’s name can you leave a place like that?”

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Many clever lines in Woody Allen’s new movie, To Rome with Love.

Here is a rough paraphrase of one. It’s Woody’s character, a father speaking against his daughter’s new boyfriend, a left-wing Italian lawyer who he thinks is a communist.

“I understand being a leftist. I was a leftist when I was young. But I was never a Communist. Never. I couldn’t share a bathroom.”

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To show or not to show … that should be a choice

15 Jun

Comfortable

Also comfortable

By Lanny Morgnanesi.

In high school I had a recurring nightmare that I’d be in class with my pajamas on. It was a horrifying thought.

Today, students wear pajamas to class by choice.

In the office, a man, unlike some woman, would feel awkward in a sleeveless shirt with a low neckline.

I’m not sure about necklines, but an old girlfriend, quite progressive, refused to wear short dresses at the height of their popularity. She preferred to hide what others preferred to show.

Modesty clearly is a relative thing.  It’s about individual comfort and peace of mind.

Knowing this, I’m willing to accept that many (not all) Muslim women choose and are not forced to wear head scarves and even burkas. I believe they feel comfortable in their modesty.

Yet today, those in the west often see the scarves and burkas as repressive, and the women as victims. I think the women would have been victims if they had been force to wear pajamas to school.

This stuff shouldn’t be so foreign to us because the modesty and decorum exhibited in the Muslim world has great parallels in the world of conservative Christians. Both show reserve and good judgment and a concern about how things might appear, avoiding even the appearance of questionable conduct. Similarly, I believe a single Hasidic Jewish woman cannot be alone with a man after dark. Or should I say “doesn’t want to be”?

Some things just don’t seem right to some people, so they don’t do them — Muslims, Christians, Jews and my atheist girlfriend.

Why is it that people who are strong advocates of freedom often want to cheat those who choose restraint? Is that fair? Is that even logical?

I would love to hear your comments.

When faith creates an NBA fan

18 Feb

An old chum called the other day. He’s the kind of guy who has retained the quirks and traits of youth while transforming into something foreign.

We don’t see much of each other anymore; it’s usually by chance at the supermarket. He’s had more than a few troublesome twists in his life, and they seem to get worse with the years.

He doesn’t have a TV and he called to ask if he could come over to watch Jeremy Lin play basketball. Lin is a guard for the New York Knicks; an undrafted, unheralded Harvard grad who came off the bench and is credited with putting his team on a winning streak, and doing it with style. As an Asian-American, his presence in the NBA makes him stand out.

“I don’t remember you being a basketball fan,” I said.

“I’m not,” he answered. “But this guy is a sensation … and he’s a Christian.”

I paused.

“Aren’t most of the NBA players Christian?” I asked.

He paused.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the dominant religion in America is Christianity. I assume the majority of the NBA players are Christian.”

“Jeremy Lin practices his faith,” my old friend said.

My inclination was to start an argument, asking if it was his Christian duty to judge the entire NBA.

But I didn’t.

I let it go and told him I’d to be happy to watch the next televised Knicks game with him.

“As long as it’s not on Sunday,” he said. He won’t watch TV on the Sabbath. (Would he think less of Lin for playing on the Sabbath?)

Afterward, I pondered his use of the word “faith,” which from my perspective on language I find odd. Why do Christians and member of other religions need to have faith? In the secular life we either believe something or we don’t, or maybe we admit we just don’t know. A Republican who claims lower taxes spur economic growth doesn’t require faith.

He or she simply believes it.

Why can’t Jeremy Lin and my friend just believe in what they espouse – that Christ is the divine savior who rose from the dead? Needing faith suggests doubt.

“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true,” Mark Twain said.

I have no doubt in my spiritual beliefs. That’s because they are my own. I’ve no need to take the dogma of others and cram it into my value system. I’m comfortable discarding what I don’t like or what doesn’t seem logical.

My religion is my own. I’ve crafted it.

In a piece I’m writing, I recommend others do the same. And I offer my view of a creator who has put the universe in motion based on a complex probability formula that ensures both free will and a pre-determined outcome.

The plan operates on its own, like a machine. There is no divine intervention. No corrections or adjustments. God does not help the Jews in battle.

After all, why would a perfect being have to intervene in something it created perfectly? That suggests imperfection.

Comments on this idea are appreciated and could help with the direction of my writing. I’d especially like to hear from Christians, of which I claim to be one.

Go Jeremy Lin!

What keeps a dictator in power?

13 Jan

“Mercy and truth preserve the prince.”

— Biblical proverb

Providers of order, not freedom

The Bible promises good things, mainly that the wicked will fall and the righteous will stand. It says the first shall be last and the last shall be first – but it doesn’t say when.

Prophecy, it seems, requires patience.

 

Please read on, then let me know the fallacy of my musings.

The Arab world and the Arab Spring are clear examples of a great shift in a once-passive acceptance of dictatorial princes. A change of will turned passivism into activism, which the princes could not withstand. Few things are more powerful than these kinds of mass movements.

 

Even so, less-demonstrative methods also can effect change.

A wide-spread lack of confidence in a leader, one it is exhibited, can be enough to challenge a regime. Roman emperors would go to great lengths and expense to keep public opinion on their side. They supplied free bread to all citizens, as well as entertainment (the famous “bread and circuses”) and built public works to garner love, respect and reputation.

Without strong citizen support, emperors, dictators and princes risk having an ambitious second-in-command engineer a coup or even assassination.

Of course, there is no guarantee the new regime will do better in the Mercy and truth department, but there usually is an attempt at some improvement.

The strength and permanence of a dictator often lies in his or her ability to maintain order. In so many countries, order is more desirable than freedom. I was once asked by a citizen of a totalitarian country, “Does you wife have the freedom to walk safely and unthreatened down a city street, alone, at 3 a.m.? Mine does.”

Excellent point.

It is said that during the panic of the Depression, America was willing to accept, and even longed for, the use of dictatorial powers by the chief executive. They wanted a return to order. Fortunately, FDR refused. Americans like order but appreciate freedom much more.

Perhaps one day the Bible proverb with become prophecy and no prince will rule without Mercy and Truth. Until then, Arab Spring or not, the world will most likely have many more dictators than it needs.

Your thoughts, please.

Thoughts on a Christmas morning.

25 Dec

What would our country be like today if the teachings of Jesus were truly part of our cultural life? For a moment, let’s not complicate things with religion and divinity. Just think of the teachings. Would we allow high unemployment and poverty? Would our economy flourish or sink? Would Christian equality fetter the ambitious? Would a refusal to make war result in a stronger nation or a vulnerable, perhaps occupied nation? Would we all be happier and at peace with ourselves, even if we had to live with less? Maybe living with less is the secret to happiness.

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