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Posts Tagged ‘Religion

Remembering why they fell…

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Sixty-three years ago, on March 26, 1945, a young Jewish Rabbi with Fifth Marine Division at Iwo Jima gave an especially memorable memorial for the Division’s fallen comrades. This prayer made it into the Congressional Record, and now in this time, amongst all the heated rhetoric, repeating his majestic words seems only fitting. Here is just an excerpt and one upon which to give serious contemplation:

We dedicate ourselves, first to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried here in war. Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helps in her founding, and other men who loved here with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor… together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews… together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or de­spises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men is no discrimination. No prejudice. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy. Any man among us, the living, who fails to understand that will thereby betray those who lie here dead. Whoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and of the bloody sacrifice it com­memorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.


Written by Valerie Curl

August 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM

What would God say?

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A day or so I received this email regarding Glen Beck’s crusade against the “social justice” activities and pronouncements by Churches, Temples, Mosques and Synagogues. I’m proud to have joined the many thousands of people of all religions who spoke our religious teachings against Beck’s idiotic mouthings. I don’t know whether or not he believes what he says – certainly the Mormon Church to which Beck says he belongs does not agree with him – but he stains the true teachings of the three Abrahamic faiths and all others.

Last week in West Virginia, 29 coal miners were killed by an explosion of methane gas. The mine operator, Massey Energy Company, received 57 safety citations in March alone and workers had to evacuate three times in the last two months because of dangerous methane build-ups.

By nearly all accounts, the explosion was preventable. By nearly all accounts, the government agency responsible for preventing it has been rendered impotent. Enforcement mechanisms have been stripped to the point that Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis can simply state: “We don’t have the authority to shut down a mine as easily and as quickly as the public might think.”

We face a clear and urgent problem. The lives of American workers are in jeopardy. Diverse voices are clamoring for change. But not all. How did Tea Party leader Glenn Beck respond to this tragedy? Silence. The Tea Party is a movement ostensibly predicated on advocating for working Americans such as the miners. But when tragedy strikes, leaders like Glenn Beck have nothing to say.

The day following the mine disaster, Beck made no mention of the tragedy on his radio or television programs. He spent not a moment, not a syllable, addressing the corporate practices and regulatory failures that led to the immolation and suffocation of two dozen men a thousand feet underground. He focused instead on pillorying the Administration for their nuclear policy.

We must then ask: to what extent does Glenn Beck really care about solving the problems Americans face? It seems the answer is: little. He is more interested in providing scapegoats and straw men to those who might buy his books – scapegoats like our government and the agency that could have saved those lives. Sadly, so far, the Tea Party is following his lead.

We take a different approach. For 25 years, we’ve worked to create economic opportunity and security for all workers across this country. We support and partner with congregations, religious leaders, and institutions to develop and advocate for solutions that address the needs of Americans. We believe that social justice provides common ground across faith lines, and that, as I wrote in a post at the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, government must play a role in bolstering such efforts.

We stand resolutely in opposition to Beck’s implications that social justice is un-American and that the government shouldn’t be empowered. So, we’ve challenged him. Last week, you may have heard reference to us in an unexpected place: on Glenn Beck’s radio and television shows. (Here are the radio and television mentions in case Beck isn’t part of your regular media diet.)

Indeed, we made national news through our project Haik U Glenn Beck, a website that allows people to respond to Glenn Beck’s comments calling on people to leave churches involved in social justice work. The site, and our innovative “Twitterstorm” which flooded Glenn Beck with more than 3,000 haiku in support of social justice, generated dozens of headlines from USA Today, Huffington Post, and Washington Post to Boing Boing and Newsweek’s blog.

We designed Haik U Glenn Beck to provide an accessible platform for individuals to respond to Glenn Beck’s comments and views and to have some fun, using wit and satire – and thousands responded. Getting Beck’s attention is not the point or purpose of our efforts, but if it helps shift the national dialogue about the validity of his opinions, our efforts are worthwhile.

The government of the United States – constructed of, by, and for the people, as Lincoln so timelessly put it – plays a critical, irreplaceable, and often unseen role in our lives. It is not the cause of all of our problems. Blaming the government to sell books – that’s the problem. Pointing at scapegoats instead of solutions is the problem. We must step in where Beck and his peers step aside. How can we protect and improve the lives of American workers? We strengthen the movements and institutions that help people address the real problems they and their communities face, and advance strategies that will put our country back on track.

That’s what we do every day. As always, thank for your partnership in these efforts.


Simon Greer
President and CEO, Jewish Funds for Justice

*Jewish Funds for Justice

Written by Valerie Curl

April 16, 2010 at 8:41 AM

Is this the United States of America envisioned by Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison?

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Is this the kind of nation our forefathers pledged their lives, their sacred honor, and the fortunes for? I don’t know about your ancestors, but mine fled England and France to escape exactly what these “good” Christians are carrying out.

Christian Hate Group ‘Repent Amarillo’ Terrorizes Texas Town, Harassing Gays, Liberals, And Other ‘Sinners’

Hate Groups in America

An evangelical Christian hate group called “Repent Amarillo” is reportedly terrorizing the town of Amarillo, Texas. Repent fashions itself as a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, “spring break events,” and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a “Warfare Map” of its enemies in town.

From the Texas Observer:

They’ve posted a “Warfare Map” on the group’s Web site. The map includes establishments like gay bars, strip clubs and porn shops, but also the Wildcat Bluff Nature Center. Repent believes the 600-acre prairie park’s Walmart-funded “Earth Circle,” used for lectures, is a Mecca for witches and pagans. Also on the list are The 806 coffeehouse (a hangout for artists and counterculture types), the Islamic Center of Amarillo (“Allah is a false god”), and “compromised churches” like Polk Street Methodist (gay-friendly).

As I’m preparing to leave the Grisham house, Russell announces that CNN has called and asked for a live interview. In January, Repent caused a stir when the group rolled out BoycottHouston.com, a Web site that urges economic sanctions against Houston because the mayor is gay and a large Planned Parenthood building is being built. In the Bible, Jesus commands his disciples to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the nations. It remains to be seen whether Pastor Grisham’s slightly less uplifting message will resonate outside the High Plains.

Regardless of the morality questions involved, one has to wonder why militia-clothed young men find it acceptable to run around any town, enforcing their will and ideas on other law biding citizens. I wonder what has happened in this country over the last decade that everyone has to conform to one religion, one style of living, one ideological thought, and one way of being.

This new brand of evangelical thinking is not what Jefferson envisioned.

What happened?

Written by Valerie Curl

March 6, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Government vs. the modern Promotion of Christianity

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My son-in-law and I enjoy many animated but mild conversations on the Constitution and the intent behind the Founding Fathers wording of the Bill of Rights. As a committed, devout Mormon and strict Constitutionalist, I suspect his gift to me this year was meant to alter my mind regarding the First Amendment. Or maybe he just wanted to give us something else to discuss.

A year ago, I told him the Queen Elizabeth I outlawed violent persecution of Catholics as revenge for what her sister had done to Protestants by saying that the practice of religion was a matter of conscience. Her words more exactly were that she would not peer into a man’s conscience regarding religion.

So, this year my son-in-law gave me Steven Waldman’s book, Founding Faith. In the book, Waldman uses historical records to elaborate on the faith of the Founding Fathers to explain the religious foundations of the United States and how the First Amendment came into being.

According to Waldman’s research, the U.S. was Christian at its’ conception. I doubt there is any disagreement of this fact as the early settlers were all from England – and later from Germany, Holland and other Northern European nations where one form or another of Christianity was practiced. However, many Christian sects – Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Quaker, Congregational, Catholic and others – were practiced and/or violently discriminated against in the colonies. One has only to look at Catholic France to see the extreme violence practiced against Calvinist Huguenots (French Puritans) to understand the enmity that existed between varying Christian sects.

Waldman records that enmity as having existed in the colonies as well: popish Catholics being hated overall; Quakers being considered too anti-American in their pacifisms or too fond of Blacks; Baptists as not legitimate; Massachusetts and Connecticut approving only Puritan Congregationalists, and so on.

In each colony, each dominant religious sect sought to preserve its dominance even as the Revolution proceeded. However, Washington, leading an army of religiously diverse men, recognized that choosing one religious sect over another would be disastrous to the army…and to the country he was fighting to build. Thus, he sought to eliminate religious sectarianism in the ranks of his Army as well as during his years in public office.

Later during the Congressional Convention, men like James Madison, Geo. Mason and Baptist leader John Leland, who fought against religious discrimination in their home states, led the way to prohibit the national government from becoming involved, in any way, in religion. “At the Massachusetts convention, the Reverend Isaac Backus declared that religious tests had been the ‘greatest engine of tyranny in the world’ and praised the revolutionary new document (the Constitution sans Bill of Rights) for recognizing that ‘Nothing is more evident both in reason and Holy Scriptures, than that religion is ever a matter between God and individuals; and, therefore no man or men can impose religious test without invading the essential prerogatives of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘After Pennsylvania ratified…. Watching from the side, Dr. Benjamin Rush noticed a rabbi [heretofore Jews having been banned in every colony from property ownership, business, and schools] and two Christian ministers marching arm in arm and thought it a perfect symbol of the Constitution’s ban on religious tests.’ “

But as Madison found when he returned home to Orange County, VA, the Constitution did not go far enough to secure the people’s right to religious freedom…or what was commonly called “freedom of conscience.”

What Madison had learned throughout his education at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), an evangelical seminary known as both a citadel for republicanism and a haven for dissenting Presbyterianism, and in his travels was that religion was an individual choice – a matter of conscience for each person – and that no other person had the right to abridge that freedom of conscience. To him, the practice of any religion was a God given freedom of conscience. Thus, to say that government had the right or authority to tax or promote one religious sect over another was an abridgment of the freedom of conscience. It was his belief that religion was best served when government stayed out it completely.

What Madison sought from Congress, as he had from the Virginia Legislature earlier in his political career, was an assurance that government would not be involved in the sponsorship or promotion of religion in any way. Even though having been a Christian, he believed that religion was best served if government had no part in it. In this, Thomas Jefferson, who held a mild Christian attitude, influenced Madison. Jefferson believed in Christianity, as did all of his political contemporaries, but he held some purely anachronistic views, i.e. that Jesus was not born of a virgin or was The Son of God. He did believe that the philosophical views of Jesus were the best that had passed down through the ages of the human race.

Jefferson firmly believed that Christianity was best when government left it alone. That is, when government played no part in its recommendation or assistance or promotion.

While this ideology was commonplace in Franklin’s Pennsylvania, it was fairly new and different in Virginia and elsewhere in the colonies – in Massachusetts and Connecticut, in particular, where government sponsorship and taxation promoted and paid for a particular brand (sect) of Christianity.

As a result of Madison’s travels to Pennsylvania and potentially his tutelage from Jefferson, Madison developed the ideal that government – any government, whether national or state – should very strictly stay out of the realm of religion.

Thus, after Madison put the First Amendment to the House of Representatives, he agreed to New Hampshire Representative Samuel Livermore’s rewording: “Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” After much argument in the House and the Senate, the final wording is as we know it today: “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Moreover, he believed that religion, if left alone without government help or assistance of any kind, would thrive and grow based on it’s own great merits…and that if government interfered or chose to assist it in any way, religion would weaken as had the Catholic Church in Europe. Madison, as most of his contemporaries, was a student of the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening. They understood the religious arguments of previous generations as well as those of their day. And they also knew that when government became involved with religion, by choosing one religious sect over another, that people died: when the rights of the minority are sacrificed to the majority, people suffer.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison argued this point, and in particular that government –keeping religion in mind – should prevent the majority from denying the rights of the minority. Given the violent religious discrimination Madison witnessed in Virginia prior to becoming a member of congress, he firmly believed that religion was best served when government was prohibited from partaking in religious delegation or general designation for the populace.

As he decided from first hand observation, when government becomes involved with a particular religion or religious sect, the majority ends up practicing extremes of cruelty against the minority. Thus, it is best for religion that government, whether national or stare, divorce itself entirely from religion of any sort. Only then will parishioners of religion, of whatever name, enjoy the choice of freedom of conscience. Only when government, in its entirety, is separated from religion will religion thrive.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 1, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Merry Christmas! Let a new world begin.

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Today is the celebration of Christ’s birth for the approximate 2.1 billion people on this small, blue planet who follow the Christian religion. (Christianity is the largest of all religions, exceeding number 2, Islam, by 600 million.)

On this day in the Western World, we open a horde of presents, eat vast quantities of food, drink too much celebration, and silently worry about what the next year will bring. I warrant that few of us, though, think about the many millions worldwide who have none of these things this holiday season: the many millions who have lost their jobs as a result of a deep recession caused by greed in the financial and real estate sectors; the many millions who have lost their homes because of the treachery practiced by unscrupulous mortgage bankers and brokers; the many millions who lost everything as a result of unexpected, and overly costly, medical care; the many millions worldwide who lost even their ability to buy food for their families.

Today is not just a day of glorious inebriation, it is a day to remember what this day is really all about. Not just the man for whom it is named, but the message he espoused.

The message that put him on the cross: love thy neighbor; give generously to the poor and sick; turn away from hate and jealousy; be just (honorable and ethical) in all you do throughout your life; think about others before yourself.

More than anything now, in these most difficult times, we need to build “community.” Community is an old fashioned idea of sharing and helping and creating friendship. It is coming together for the common good.

In a world wracked by anger and hatred and fear, it’s time to let go of prejudice. It’s time to open ourselves to our better selves and work for a world “community” as well as a local “community.” Government cannot do it all. Nor should we expect government to do it all. We all have a responsibility to our neighbors–to each other.

As this day is celebrated, my wish is that the next year will see a renewed mentality that creates “communities” to bring hope, wellness and happiness to the many millions who currently are suffering and worrying and praying for help. My wish is that those who have here-to-fore lived their lives only for themselves, to gratify their own egos, will experience an epiphany–an epiphany of the heart and soul.

So, Merry Christmas, World! May this day usher forth a new day in the human psyche, one that brings forth an actualization of the messages spoken by Jesus.

Written by Valerie Curl

December 26, 2008 at 1:46 AM

Rabbi speaks out in defense of Colin Powell and condems “Obsession” DVD

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In an article for the Shalom Center, Rabbi Arthur Waskow praised Colin Powell for his thoughtful commentary when Powell endorsed Obama for President. “The correct answer is, he [Obama] is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: ‘What if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America.”

Powell was appealing within and beyond the actual America to that patriotic vision of America that sings, “O beautiful for patriots’ dream that sees beyond the years/ Thine alabaster cities gleam — undimmed by human tears.”
The atmosphere of fear and hatred toward Islam has actually increased in the US during the last few years. Why? Partly because it has been deliberately stimulated. But partly because of what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” Most people who do something that runs against ordinary rules of decent behavior want to believe there is some extremely important reason to do it. So if you spend almost a trillion dollars and send thousands of Americans to their deaths and thousands more to lose their legs, arms, eyes, genitals, minds, and souls — all in order to kill Muslims who are not terrorists, do not have weapons of mass destruction, and are citizens of a weak and defenseless nation — it becomes imperative to see Muslims and Islam – without distinctions — as extremely dangerous. Not quite human. Not real Americans. Not one more thread in the lovely multi-colored fabric of American democracy.

And of course the fear and rage had a root in the actions of a small number of terrorists who did claim Islam as their justification, even though the mainstream organizations and leaders of Islam and the vast majority of Muslims in the world condemned the terrorist attack.

But this disorganized fear and rage would have remained disorganized, inchoate, ineffective, if some organizations had not whipped it up.

Enter a DVD called “Obsession,” which a month ago was mailed as a free embedded ad to the readers of more than a dozen major newspapers.
“Obsession” is an attempt to make not a band of terrorists but all Islam the enemy. Bad enough in itself; even worse that it was deliberately sent to millions of homes through newspapers in the major “swing states” of presidential politics. It was an attempt to transform religious fear and ignorance into religious hatred, and hatred into an election tool.

I suppose the people who did this hoped that if they could change some votes in those key states they could save America and the world from leaders who were thoughtlessly “soft on terrorism” or “blind to the threat of Islam.” They may even have thought not that their ends justified their means but that their ends and means were in ethical coherence. But those who stirred racial hatred in the 19650s and ’60s thought they were saving America from the disaster of cultural “mongrelization” in a soup of racial inferiority. And the McCarthyists of the 1950s thought their stirring fear and hatred of “subversives” was saving America from the disaster of Communist espionage and take-over. And those who imprisoned Japanese-Americans in the 1940s thought they were saving America from the disaster of widespread sabotage. (All of these folks probably hoped to increase their own power as byproduct; but who doesn’t?)

Indeed, their means and their ends did cohere. Repression born of fear will breed more repression born of hatred. There are two grounds to challenge their practices: the ground of caring for truth, and the ground of caring for love.
Speak out against the obsessive fear of Islam. Speak out to highlight the most important line in Colin Powell’s interview. Speak out to political candidates, urging them to speak in all sorts of houses of worship if they speak in any. Speak out to the publishers of the newspapers that carried “Obsession” as an ad, asking them whether a DVD about the “International Jewish Conspiracy” would have found so quick acceptance, no matter how much the money offered their shrinking bank accounts. Speak out to their editors and columnists as well, asking them to critically analyze the film. Since the producers of “Obsession” have started circulating a follow-up film called “The Third Jihad,” be proactive in addressing the future as well as the past.

Above all, do not leave the defense of Islam’s dignity and honor to Muslims alone. Christians and Jews must make clear that their own celebration of the One affirms the diversity that alone can express the Infinite.
The speaking out and the listening, even beyond our concern with truth, must flow from our concern for love. For the love that all our traditions teach: love your neighbor as yourself. For the deep and loving understanding that the Quran teaches: God brought into the world different cultures and communities not for us to hate and despise each other but to lovingly know and deeply experience each other in our diversity.

With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace —


Written by Valerie Curl

November 3, 2008 at 4:50 PM

Corruption of the American Ideal: The Politics of Hate and Religious Superiority

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The hatred, racism, and xenophobia still being fostered, through direct mail and robo-calls, by the McCain campaign and the Republican Party is dangerous to our great Country. Those tactics state, by their very existence, that is acceptable, all in the name of winning an election, to distort the truth, incite fear, and develop dangerous hatreds.

I was a small child in the deep South prior to Civil Rights. I remember the hatred visited upon the “other” — the Blacks who sat in fear on their front porches as my White family drove down their streets after Church on a hot, sunny afternoon. I remember Afro-American people who could not get a job other than janitor, cleaning woman or garbage man just because of their skin color. I remember learning that Black people lived in rumbled shacks without doors or windows because those shacks were the only places they could find to live. I remember being told that I could not play with Black children because they carried dreadful diseases that I would catch.

Everything – EVERYTHING – I learned in that deep South regarding race spoke against the Christian teachings I was taught in Baptist Church each Sunday. I was taught Jesus loved the little children, all the children of the world. Race, creed, culture, religion and ethnicity did not matter. It was the essence of people’s hearts that mattered. Jesus loved everyone.

As an adult, I learned that homosapiens — human beings — originated in Africa. Each and every person living on the earth today has only to look back at his/her furthest ancestors to discover that they were Black. As a result, skin color becomes irrelevant. We are all kin beneath the skin. Even Shakespeare, in the 1600s, acknowledged the sameness of all humanity: “…if you prick me, do I not bleed?…”

Thomas Jefferson wrote that this country welcomed people of all faiths: Christian, Jewish, Hindus, and Muslims. If Jefferson can accept people of all faiths, then why, after 200 years of this nation’s inauguration, cannot we?

Our Constitution is strong enough support us all, regardless of race or religion or ethnic background. Espousing hate for any group, however innocent that group may be, is not only anti-Christian, it is anti-Constitutional and anti-American.

As emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It is incumbent upon each of us – nay, required of each of us – in order to fulfill the dream of America…the finest dream of our founding fathers…and the hope of the world to set aside our prejudices to do as Jesus admonished us to do: love our neighbors.

The prejudicial, false claims and hatreds sponsored by the Republican Party against Sen. Obama must be excoriated by anyone who claims to be a true American and a patriot. Anyone who loves this great Country should denounce the hatreds being fostered in this campaign by the Republican Party, regardless of whether you lean left or right. Stirring up hatred is not acceptable for either political party.

Hatred is un-American and anti-Christian.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 17, 2008 at 4:42 AM

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