Thursday, December 23, 2004

Rhetoric about Iraqi elections doesn't justify the slaughter

(This letter was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on December 27, 2004.)

After Tuesday's rocket attack that left 22 dead while at lunch in a mess hall, Bush responded with rhetoric about the upcoming elections in Iraq and democracy. He said, "It's such a hopeful moment" ("Bush Sees Hope in Iraqi Election: He Says Mosul Carnage Doesn't Outweigh Prospect," Dec. 22).

My wife was so angry and upset to read his comments that she was in tears thinking of the families of those soldiers. How can the president be so arrogant and callous to think that this ideology justifies the continued slaughter? I wonder if he would say that if one of his daughters were among those who were killed.

In the same article, Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted telling reporters that the administration never expected the violent level of insurgency against U.S. troops. The administration thought they would greet us as liberators and throw flowers. If administration officials underestimated the violence, how is it that they are so hopeful of successful elections?

The majority of Americans now disagree. A majority of Americans now say the war with Iraq was not worth fighting and more than half want to fire embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of that conflict, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released last Monday.

With events in Iraq likely to get worse, the grand neo-con project to reshape the world is in near terminal crisis.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

God Is Not A Republican... or a Democrat

Politics and religion have torn this nation apart. Especially after the re-election of George W. Bush. This country needs mending.

Although I consider myself to be a religious person, I'll be the first to admit that most wars have been started in the name of religion. Rarely has this nation been so divided since the civil war. During those times, the wedge issue was slavery.

Now, it's religion. On the left, Progressives, or Liberals, claim that religion has been hijacked by the right. They say the right has used religion to divide the country with wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Religion can be used for good and evil. It can be used to unite or divide, but certainly it is not God's will to divide people, unless they are acting against His will. Progressives have been silent on issues of faith, but the greatest movements of social change have been grounded in spirituality. Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement is a great example of this. Although many on the left say that religion should be private, and not be used as a moral compass to guide public policies, but they should consider where we would be, had King not brought his faith to the forefront of his movement.

There is a growing movement now among Progressives and non-sectarian spiritualists to bridge the divide in this country by talking to Republicans about issues of moral values, by offering alternatives to abortion like adoption reform, and focusing on the problems of heterosexual marriage rather than blaming the breakdown of family on gay marriage.

Although many of those who voted for Bush said they did so on the grounds of such "moral values", the other half of the country feels disenfranchised, because they think there are much more important moral issues. Religion does not have a monopoly on morality. God is not a Republican, or a Democrat.

Progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis are organizing on a grass roots level to find common ground with the religious right and force administration policy makers to re-examine it's priorities. His base is very broad, because he is broad-minded. Wallis is a Christian, but he also wants to include other creeds- even agnostics. In his book, he raised questions like "What is moral about lying in order to get into a pre-emptive war? What is moral about torture? What is moral about destroying the God's creation, the environment? What is moral about being pro-rich and cutting funds to help the poor?" There are at least 3000 verses in the Bible that deal with poverty. So, I would say that a compassionate discussion of poverty is more important than ramming one or two verses from Leviticus down our throats in order to create more division, hatred and homophobia in this country.

The great American scholar Ralph Waldo Emerson lauded the wisdom of the India, especially the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He said "The Bhagavatam is to be read on one's knees." In the preface to a translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada, a contemporary saint and the founder of the modern "Hare Krishna" movement wrote, "Human society, at the present moment, is not in the darkness of oblivion. It has made rapid progress in the fields of material comforts, education and economic development throughout the entire world. But there is a pin prick somewhere in the social body at large, and therefore there are large-scale quarrels, even over less important issues. There is need of a clue as to how humanity can become one in peace, friendship, and prosperity with a common cause."

To that end, I am starting this blog, which will discuss issues of progressive politics, interfaith dialogue, and how to inject spirituality into all aspects of our culture.