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Posts Tagged ‘haiti’

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  110                                                 Days Blogged: 98

New Mileage: 10                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 817

Two Certainties!

As I ride the bike this morning I am reminded about two of the “certainties” of life.  I recognize the wonderful uplifting and unexpected gifts that life, the universe, the divine places on our paths. Last night I sat in the audience as a local theater group presented a musical called Lying to the Sea Gypsy. The cast was comprised entirely of young actors. They sang and danced with an infectious joy and youthful energy. 

This morning I woke to find the landscape blanketed in a beautiful, pristine covering of snow, highlighting the greens of the holly bushes and evergreen trees.  You can be certain these gifts are always there, even if they are not always recognized or appreciated! 

The second certainty is that life will always deal you “humbling” experiences!  In the last several days I have experienced two such situations.  Perhaps it’s just part of the aging process. You know you‘re getting old when you wake up with an ache or pain and you cannot remember what you did the day before to account for it! Last Thursday I spent some time clearing out brush from the woods near the house.  I don’t remember any problems with my ankle, but Friday morning I could barely walk.  My students got an unexpected day off from my classes as I worked with heating pad and ankle wraps to nurse it back to health.  The best laid plans are just that: Plans. Sometime life intercedes and you can do little more than follow its lead. 

Us versus Them Again!

My ankle pain was not the only humbling experience I was in for on Thursday.  I posted my blog expressing my opinion about solar powered bibles being sent to Haiti.  I received a number of comments, several voiced opinions supporting my position.  However, several of my Christian friends pointed out  that the group Faith Comes by Hearing, is also providing the solar powered bibles and  in fact has  teamed up with a long standing Christian relief organization called Convoy of Hope who is providing much needed medicine, food and shelter to the people of Haiti.  In addition, they noted that the bibles had been requested by Convoy of Hope and other Christian relief organizations.  So my visualization of pallets  of unwanted electronic solar powered bibles sitting on some loading dock, taking up valuable space and “getting in the way” does not appear to fit with the reality of the situation. With a deep sense of humbleness, I noted to one of the commentators:  “Anytime you open your mouth there is a good chance you will show your ignorance!”

What is the lesson here?  Perhaps we should not speak before we have all the facts?  Is it that we should in fact not speak at all and just keep our opinions to ourselves?  Is it that we should speak softly and humbly, don’t shout or scream from our soap boxes, realizing that we may discover later that our interpretation was lacking and needs tweaking?

I went to the site posted by one of the Christian commentators and found an article entitled: Audio Bibles, Haiti and atheist hypocrisy.  It presented the information about Convoy for Hope that I referenced earlier, but went on to make this statement: “Certainly, atheists, being absolute materialists, do not see human beings are anything but bio-organisms and require nothing but bio-organic fuel. Yet the Christian view is holistic and thus…. Provide food for both the body and food for the soul.”  I cringed at this statement!  I’m often called an atheist, because I do not experience the divine as a personal deity.  I know God and have a relationship with God, but in a manner more commonly found in Eastern faiths. I and the other atheists I know have a “holistic” view of not just man, but of the whole world and its many ecosystems.

The effect you were looking for?

 And what about this “atheistic hypocrisy” he mentioned?  He notes: “The fact that for at least the last couple of years atheists worldwide have been literally wasting… donated money not in order to help anyone… but in order to purchase anti-theistic and pro-atheist bus ads and billboards in order to demonstrate just how clever they consider themselves to be.”  I hesitate to respond to this statement with the criticism that it begs to elicit from atheists and all other non-believers: What about donated Christian money? How is it being used?  For ads on billboards that say: “Don’t make me come down there! (from)God.”   Or perhaps it’s used to build higher, larger, shinier monster churches?

This author goes on to note: “Now, they (atheists) suddenly anoint themselves the charity police, complain and condemn based, by the way, on relative-subjective-personal preference based “morality.” Ow! A very sweeping statement, lumping a lot of people (different backgrounds and experiences) into a cut and dried category!  Who is sounding “self-anointed” in this presentation of positions?

While I values each person’s comments and opinions and I certainly feel that we all have rights to hold and express them.  I have to again point out the questions I raised in my last posting: What are the consequences of your stated opinions?  Do they take into account not only individual perceived needs, but those of the “others”, whether they are the survivors in Haiti or a bunch of atheists?  This individual received kudos from others who are/were critical of the atheist’s criticism of the audio bible plan.  I suspect some felt he had “scored points” for his side. But has it brought anyone together who was not already talking (i.e. preaching to the choir), has it helped find common ground between peoples of different faiths or no faith? Let me note that my criticism fits for both sides of this debate, for as I was searching for photos to use in today’s post I came across numerous sites, atheist sites I guess, that associated all Christian churches with hypocrisy, and in one case blasted them for: Believing in a paranoid sky fairy!  Such rhetoric can do nothing but inflame negative emotions.  It feeds into an “Us versus Them” stance that benefits no one in the long run.  We, people of all faiths and philosophies, can do better. We must do this if we are to break out of our destructive cycles.  I will start the process by apologizing to the backers of Faith Comes by Hearing for my uninformed criticism! Anyone else? 

I will not accept it as an impossible dream!

 Thank you for visiting my blog, if you like what you read or the process we have undertaken please consider joining stationarypilgrim’s e-mail list by clicking on the tab at the upper right corner of this page.  Have a wonderful day!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  108                                                 Days Blogged: 97

New Mileage: 10                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 807

Haiti needs Solar Powered Bibles!

As I ride the bike this morning I find myself pondering the significance of two recent news stories.  One is associated with the tragic suffering in Haiti and the other involving A South Carolina politician. A recent story reported that a Christian organization named Faith Comes by Hearing is in the process of raising $300,000 in order to ship what they call “proclaimers” to the people of Haiti.  These are not tents, or medical kits, or prepackaged meals, they are solar powered audio Bible in the language of the Haitian people. Mr. Jon Wilke, a group spokesman noted that the Haitian people will need the long-term hope and comfort that comes from knowing that God has not forgotten them. The second story concerned recent comments made by the lieutenant governor of the state of South Carolina.  Andre Bauer was speaking to the issue of government assistance to the poor when he made the following comment: “My grandmother was not an educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.  They will reproduced, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”

I believe every person has a right to hold and express their opinions and that people have a right to spend their money where they feel there’s a need. However, in both of these cases it is my opinion, that these individuals are in fact displaying a profound shortsightedness and potentially dangerous bias. In particular, it presents me with a scary prospect that Mr. Bauer, who is the Lieutenant Governor and running for the office of Governor, could be making our laws and deciding who get our social service aid. As I think about these issues I recognize several assumption and premises that guide my personal expression of opinions.

 
 
 

Some consequences don't forgive or forget so easily!

First

, I strongly believe that we have a right to our opinions.  Part of the benefit of being in a democracy is this right to share, explore and listen to other people’s opinions.  Our system is based on the hope that this give and take of opinions will lead to well thought-out choices (laws and programs) based upon a consensus of opinion and objective facts.

Secondly, like the late Senator Monahan I believe “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own fact.”  Some people become confused when loudmouth radio talk show hosts present their opinions as if they were “God given truths.”  Shouting loudly and repeating something over and over does not make it “true.”  This behavior shows that it is YOUR strongly held opinion! I realize that Mr. Wilke and his group feels righteous and good about sending solar powered Bibles to the people of Haiti.  But I ask: Is this what these people need, will these “gifts” meet their most desperate needs? Does this gift have more to do with meeting the needs of the givers than the receivers?  In addition, the last time I checked isn’t Haiti already a Christian nation? But then perhaps it’s an issue of a form/substance analysis because Catholics may not be considered “true” Christians!  As to Mr. Bowers, he has a right to his opinion about what causes the high level of need among our country’s poorer citizens. I disagree with his assessment that feeding them, with the resulting breeding, is what accounts for their growing numbers.  Being a resident of Mr. Bauer’s home state I suspect  that a lack of jobs, drug problems, a dysfunctional education system and state leadership that promotes low wages and employer rights over workers rights/needs may play a more significant role in the growing numbers of our state’s poor.

The third point I’d like to make is that while you have a right to your opinion, you also have a responsibility to both acknowledge and accept that your spoken words have consequences!  I often find that talk show hosts, who get paid to “pontificate,” and some politicians, who can garner both attention and donations (e.g. “You lie!”) simply express loudly what they believe and then later they’ll either make a lukewarm apology (i.e., Mr. Bauer has insisting he wishes he had used a different metaphor and that he “didn’t intend to offend anyone.”), or they disavow any criticism as petty biased partisan politics. The Christian Bible group has every right to spend its money the way it wants, but how do you think the people of Haiti might feel when they receive solar powered Bibles instead of much needed food and shelter.  What’s the message to take away from this gift?  Will they see it as a joyful and heartfelt sharing of the word of God, or an example of a group that has ignored their obvious immediate needs and chosen to tell them what they “really” need?  As the people of Haiti bury their beloved Arch Archbishop and many of their priests and clergy is the humane and loving response to send in automated devices with the subtle message “leave your churches and join us?”

Don't my needs matter?

As I recall, in response to the great tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, a TV program showed a group of Christian college students rebuilding shattered homes in southern Thailand.  It was wonderful to see these American youth pitching in to help those in desperate need.   Then the interviewer asked how they decided which houses to rebuild.  The response: “Oh, we rebuild the Christian homes!”  Again it is their right to send aid in the way they choose, but how do you think the other victims of this disaster, many of them Buddhist or Muslims felt as they watched this preferential treatment.  Do you think they rushed out to join the Christian church simply to get a new home?  Do you think this might have fueled an unsettling feeling of resentment at these foreign people who come in at a moment of great need and do “good work” in the name of their God, but only for “their people?”

Ask - Listen -and you will Understand their needs!

 Again everyone has a right to their opinion, just as I express my opinion in this blog.  But I challenge everyone to think through the consequences of their expressed opinions and actions.  Ask yourself, do my actions and opinions do more than simply meet my need to feel “good” and “self-righteous?” Do my actions and opinions have more far ranging consequences?  Do they meet other people needs, as they define them, or do my actions and opinions drive a wedge between communities, cultures and religions?  Think twice before you speak or act, once for yourself – through your needs, and once for the “others” – through their needs!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  96                                         Days Blogged: 92 

New Mileage: 10                                                         Total Trip Mileage: 751

Before I climbed on the bike this afternoon I checked on the current situation in Haiti. The level of suffering continues unabated, although there is reason for hope.  The response of the people and governments around the world grows daily and help is on the way.  This event has called forth the best qualities of people of all faiths, including their compassion for those suffering and in desperate need of physical assistance.  However, this response has been tainted by talk show hosts and politicians who speak of this unfortunate event in political terms with angry, devisive voices.

Anger holds us back and pins us down!

Every Monday night I watch as my youngest son raises his right hand in a scout sign and takes the Boy Scout oath:”On my honor , I will do my best,  to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”  Recently my oldest son raised his right hand and took an oath to: “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same… so help me God.”

On my honor, I will do my best!

 How can we ask our sons and daughters to swear to be honest and obedient, to put others before themselves even to the point of sacrificing their lives, when at the same time we have individuals who get in front of a microphone and a faceless audience and then spew forth anger, hatred and words of division.

 I spoke recently of Pat Robertson and Brett Hume and their words of devisivensss.  Now Rush Limbaugh has joined in by accusing president Obama of using the current crisis as a way to boost his credibility with the African-American community.  In addition, talk show host Glen Beck stated that he believes President Obama is “dividing the nation” because he has “reacted so rapidly on Haiti” but “couldn’t do the same on Afghanistan.”  Beck notes that this “doesn’t make sense to him.”  I have to shake my head in disbelief at his reasoning and logic.  Does a war that has been underway for seven years demand the same quick decision process that a crisis costing possibly thousands of lives an HOUR demands?  Doesn’t  a war that was underfunded and understaffed for so many years deserve a methodical venting of options and opinions?

He has rights, but do we have to tolerate his smoke?

Several of my of blog viewers made comments about Pat Robertson’s right to share his beliefs that Haiti’s difficulties were in part due to a “pact with the devil.”  One of my viewers noted that he was simply expressing beliefs that fit closely to some Christians’ worldview.  I defend the right of any of these individuals to express their beliefs.  However, I take exception to the timing and the ultimate  consequences associated with these comments.  We have a right to speak our minds, but we also have responsibilities that go with those rights.  I believe it is unfortunate that these individuals, who sit in front of microphones find it necessary to say bombastic and troubling things, for the purpose of creating controversity with no apparent thought of the consequences such comments may produce.  In fact, Rush Limbaugh in a recent discussion with the caller noted that he prides himself on the negative reactions he generates and that he purposely produces a “media tweak of the day.” He professed that he “enjoyed “ the outrage he created and that: “when people start squealing like pigs is when I know I’ve hit a home, I love upsetting them!”

Several years ago I sat in a meeting of a group who was angered by the actions of the local school board.  The woman leading the group got up and proclaimed: “ Look at how angry the other side is with our statements and protest, we must be right if they’re that angry!”  I thought then, as I think now listening to Rush Limbaugh, don’t they realize the  absurdity of their reasoning?  I’m sure I could make some bombastic statement about things they value (e.g. religious beliefs, political ideology, the performance of former presidents) that would have them “ up in arms.”  Does that mean what I said was necessarily true… No!

Words can sooth or create wounds!

Bombastic inflammatory remarks certainly get attention and they can arouse emotions but they also “poison the well” of public discourse and drive wedges into our communities.  All of the great religious teachers say that what we speak is important. We are told to not bear false witness, and not express negative thoughts and emotions. We are told that our actions matter, and that the ends DO NOT justify the means.

Let our words calm, not inflame!

How can we ask our youth to embrace the oaths they recite, even to the point of giving their own lives for the causes of our nation, if we can’t display those same virtues towards each other?  We ALL, whether labeling ourselves conservative or liberal, must find a way to express our opinions without purposely creating anger and divisiveness.  I pray for the people of Haiti and for the brave rescuers.  I pray for the demagogues who wrap themselves in their self-righteousness, collect their big paychecks and turned a blind eye to the suffering they create. May the Divine open their eyes to see a path toward love and compassion. 

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  94                                      Days Blogged: 91 

New Mileage: 8                                                      Total Trip Mileage: 741

I once had a student tell me that he thought the world would be a much better place if there was no religion! I told him I could not disagree more. I view religion as a double edged sword.  Clearly it may serve a very positive function within an individual’s life.  It may help to give their life meaning and a sense of direction.  It also serves a very important function within our communities. Many of our important national and world leaders like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Dali Lama arose from within the ranks of religious citizens. In response to Haiti’s devastation many religious groups are stepping forward with assistance.  Whether they are responding to Christ’s or Buddha’s commands to providing comfort and aid to the less fortunate and those in need, they are stepping forward.

Words have consequences!

 The other side of this sword is the fact that the religious beliefs and actions of certain individuals and groups can be turned into potential instruments of bias, divisiveness, hatred and some might even say evil.  Religion can be used to drive a wedge between people rather than become a device to bring together our communities.

Most recently two examples of this negative side of religious beliefs have come to light. The first occurred several weeks ago, when in response to Tiger Woods’ adultery, commentator Brit Hume of FOX News suggested that Tiger Woods should turn to Jesus to deal with his sins because the Buddhist faith does not offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity. He suggested that Tiger should “turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”  As you might expect this statement has created a firestorm of protest from both Buddhist leaders as well as within the liberal Christian community.  Robert Thurman, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University notes that “it is insulting to Buddhism to indicate that it does not care about its own believers and followers.”  He notes that adultery is as much a sin in Buddhism as it is in Christianity and that the ethics are the same in both traditions.  There are clear philosophical differences between Buddhism and Christianity.  Buddhism believes that a person must look inward and that the problem is something he’s got work out for himself, while Christianity believes that only a potent “creator God” can bestow redemption.  I have no problem with Brit believing what he believes but his statement that Tiger should “lose his faith” and that this faith is inferior or somehow lacking is an insult to not only Buddhists but to anyone who does not hold to a Christian viewpoint. This approach does not foster deeper understanding and acceptance of others within our community.  The fact that his views were aired on a network that prides itself on being “fair and balanced” just adds insult to injury in my view.

The second and I believe somewhat more egregious example occurred in response to the terrific destruction in Haiti following the recent earth quake. I’m referring to Pat Robertson’s statement in which he noted that “something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. They were under the heels of the French you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’”  Pat Robertson then goes on to note that Haitians need to have a “great turning to God” in response to this earthquake. It has been noted that this is not the first time that the former Republican presidential candidate has made controversial comments in the wakes of disasters he was quoted as linking Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks to a legalized abortion and the presence of the gay agenda in our country.

While Pat Robertson has every right to make his statements, the questions for me are:  What good do the statements server?  Do they help the Haitian people in their moment of need?  Do they help our response to the disaster?  Do they simply represent a “holier than thou” or a “we’re right and favored by God and you’re wrong” exclusionary religious rant?  Is he trying to help quell questions from his followers about why or how could a “just and caring God” do this to these people?  

Are your words and deeds like candle offerings to the divine?

How helpful is it in our preparing for natural disasters or dealing with terrorist threats to make blanket statements in which we tie the occurrence of these disasters to social political causes (e.g. abortion, gay rights). Do you help people who have a “pact with the devil?”  How do we compromise and find common ground on issues like abortion if any kind of support is seen as bringing God’s punishment and damnation upon us?

One of the blessings of our great nation is people’s right to speak their opinions. However, I believe that there are responsibilities that go with this gift and that one of these is to work toward a greater sense of community, toward solutions that bring people together not drive apart. You can label it “fair and balanced” all you want, if it is derogatory, inflames passions and drives wedges into our communities then I believe we may be heading toward a path fraught with EVIL consequences.

Haiti is suffering!

As I prepared to post today’s blog my partner pointed out to me an editorial by the NYT writer Ross Douthat in which he notes that Brit Hume’s comments have fostered a much needed religious discussion.  I agree that such discussions are needed, however, I would suggest that they not be started by commentators who present one sided and insulting statements. I would suggest starting with a balanced two sided presentation of the topic in question.

Please hold the people in Haiti in your prayers as they struggle to survive and rebuild!

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