Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Right To Not Believe

Soldier Jeremy Hall says he "was ashamed to say that [he is] an atheist..." during his tour in Iraq, but did so when he was directly asked by his commander, after an enemy attack, if he believed in God. For "coming out" of his atheist closet, some of Hall's peers labeled him "immoral", "a devil worshipper" and--OF COURSE--"gay".

After all the love & all the good deeds associated with Religion American Style, I couldn't begin to understand why this soldier can't find it in his heart to believe in God (I hope you can detect facetiousness when you read it!). :-/

Of course, it goes without saying that any of us American citizens has the right to believe (or not believe) in whatever higher being(s) or lack thereof suits us. That right is not removed or diminished when the uniform of the US Armed Forces is put on either; to the contrary, that right is made more real when you place your actual life & limb & blood on the line to fight for that right and all the others we cherish in the Land of The Free. Jeremy Hall has nothing to be ashamed of...unlike those who feel the need to hurl epithets & who obviously delight in bearing false witness against a brother soldier.

Not that I am advocating atheism, but I can see how some people could come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, not every person driven away from Religion will be able to Keep The Faith. So many mistakenly (I feel) believe that Religion=Faith. It took me a while to really understand that Religion & Faith are really antonyms.

This is certainly a case, for me, of "I may not agree with what you say [believe], but I will defend to the end your right to say [believe] it!"

Since that's what Jeremy is doing for the rest of us, I guess that's only fair.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Judgment Matters


Isn't there "a better way to judge our presidential candidates than by the jewelry they wear?"

From Crooks & Liars, regarding the non-issue of Sen. Obama not wearing a US flag lapel pin every minute of every day and his political enemies who think it means he's OBVIOUSLY unpatriotic (funny, but most of the ones criticizing him just happen to have forgotten their own pin whilst they are attacking him), the transcript of Bob Schieffer's commentary on yesterday's Face the Nation.
Finally, today, I watched the ABC debate the other night when that question came up again about why Senator Obama doesn’t wear a flag pin in his lapel. Since no one asked me, here is my thought on all that. I think it’s a nice thing if people want to wear a flag on their lapel. But I believe it more important to keep the flag behind our lapel in our hearts. I feel the same way about wearing my religion on my sleeve. It just fits me better on the inside. When I go to see our local baseball team, I do wear my Washington Nationals baseball cap. But am I less a fan if don’t wear it to work? The truth is I have been known to wear a red, white and blue stars and stripes tie on the Fourth of July. But am I less patriotic when I trade it for my Santa Claus tie at Christmas? Patriotism is no more about signs or pins than religion is about reminding others how pious we think we are. No, the proof in these puddings is not the signs that we wear, but how we act. Wouldn’t that also be a better way to judge our presidential candidates than by the jewelry they wear?
Amen, brother Schieffer, AMEN!

Link to C&L post:

Are you better off now than you were 8 years ago?

From the Democratic National Committee...

Obama's Top Ten vs. McCain's Top Ten

According to the Huffington Post, here are Barack Obama's Top Ten Celebrity supporters:

10. Jennifer Anniston
9. Robert De Niro
8. Chris Rock
7. Samuel L. Jackson
6. Scarlett Johansson
5. George Clooney
4 a. Ben Affleck
4 b. Jennifer Garner
3 a. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg
3 b. Maria Shriver (Caroline's cousin & the wife of
California Republican Governator Schwarzenegger)
2. (The Black Eye Peas' singer)
1. Oprah Gail Winfrey

Link to HuffPo article:

In comparison, who are the Top 10 5 supporters of the republican nominee, you ask? Well, after thorough research lasting many seconds, I have compiled my own list of John McSame Supporters:

10. ?
9. ?
8. ?
7. ?
6. ?
5. That guy who played Delivery Man #2 in Three Men And A Baby
4. Heidi Montag
3. Charlton Heston
2. Sylvester Stallone
Arnold Schwarzenegger (see #3b in the Obama list above)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bo's Going Home

CNN Link to this story:

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- Bo, a 2-year-old black Labrador and specialized search dog, has good reason to be wagging his tail.

The military working canine officially hung up his war leash at a moving ceremony Friday and retired to the good life in Georgia after being wounded in a roadside bombing that killed his handler in Afghanistan last year.

Staff Sgt. Donald Tabb, 29, serving his fourth deployment with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, died February 5, 2007, when his vehicle was hit by the roadside bomb. Bo, who was trained to clear roadways, find explosives and bomb-making materials, survived and has been adopted by Tabb's family.

Willie Smith, Tabb's brother, fought back tears Friday as he officially received the dog.

"I just want to say, having Bo means a great deal to myself and my family," he said.

"Mr. Smith, today you've agreed to take Bo into your home to be part of your family," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Timmins, kennel master with the 6th Military Police Detachment. "You're not just receiving a pet today. Bo is an outstanding soldier, and he served his country with distinction."

Bo and Tabb went through extensive training together, graduating in March 2007 from the Defense Department's Dog Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The dog's specialized training allowed him to be "off the leash at distances up to 100 meters," according to an Army news release.

"It's impossible to spend two minutes with this dog without smiling at least once," Timmins said.

Of Tabb, Timmins added, "The one constant thing he would always tell me is how much everybody loved Bo. And I wholeheartedly believe that a dog takes on a personality of its handler ... because everyone who knew Sgt. Tabb loved him too."

Tabb served with the Military Working Dog section, 6th Military Police Detachment, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Traditionally, a military working dog outranks the handler by one grade. Bo was officially retired as master sergeant. Tabb, an Atlanta native, was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class at Friday's ceremony at the Gwinnett County Fallen Heroes Memorial.

Video of Bo's retirement & adoption ceremony:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What the hell happened to Christianity?

That's what I'd like to know!

Cut & Paste time! This is a commentary from Jay "Revolution Church" Bakker & Marc Brown written for CNN in 2006. I think it's worth a read (link to CNN above):

Bakker, Brown: What the hell happened to Christianity?

By Jay Bakker and Marc Brown
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Jay Bakker, son of former Praise The Lord leaders Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, is minister of Revolution Church and subject of a new documentary series, "One Punk Under God," on Sundance Channel. Marc Brown is a Revolution staff member.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- What the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity.

While the current state of Christianity might seem normal and business-as-usual to some, most see through the judgment and hypocrisy that has permeated the church for so long. People witness this and say to themselves, "Why would I want to be a part of that?" They are turned off by Christians and eventually, to Christianity altogether. We can't even count the number of times someone has given us a weird stare or completely brushed us off when they discover we work for a church.

So when did the focus of Christianity shift from the unconditional love and acceptance preached by Christ to the hate and condemnation spewed forth by certain groups today? Some say it was during the rise of Conservative Christianity in the early 1980s with political action groups like the Moral Majority. Others say it goes way back to the 300s, when Rome's Christian Emperor Constantine initiated a set of laws limiting the rights of Roman non-Christians. Regardless of the origin, one thing is crystal clear: It's not what Jesus stood for.

His parables and lessons were focused on love and forgiveness, a message of "come as you are, not as you should be." The bulk of his time was spent preaching about helping the poor and those who are unable to help themselves. At the very least, Christians should be counted on to lend a helping hand to the poor and others in need.

This brings us to the big issues of American Christianity: Abortion and gay marriage. These two highly debatable topics will not be going away anytime soon. Obviously, the discussion centers around whether they are right or wrong, but is the screaming really necessary? After years of witnessing the dark side of religion, Marc and I think not.

Christians should be able to look past their differences and agree to disagree. This allows people to discuss issues with respect for one another. Christians are called to love others just as they are, without an agenda. Only then will Christianity see a return to its roots: Loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The Apostle Paul describes this idea of love beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

But don't take our word for it; look at what Jesus and his followers stood for in his time and what Christianity stands for today. Then come to your own conclusion.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama & The Gays

You can find Senator Obama's interview with the online Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered (GLBT) magazine, Advocate, at

Personally, it's always good to hear any major candidate speak to the issues affecting people like me. During the primary season, it's more common to see the Democratic candidates speak their minds to us (MOSTLY in support of GLBT people). It will be interesting to see how much communicating is done with us once they have to reach beyond the usual Democratic base. I hope that what our (Democratic) candidates see as fair & right in April doesn't get swept under the rug in October!

I guess I live in hope...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Schadenfreude Anyone??

Found this website called Republican Offenders which documents the shady & illegal dealings & the assorted criminals that make the "Grand Old Party" so darned "Grand"! The list is long (and apparently growing longer), but it only covers the past 10 years (since 1998). This website might be funny if it weren't for the fact that so many of the felons listed there were doing that voodoo that they do while being paid by me & you & using their access to the levers of government to make life better for their friends' bottom line as well as their own! Nothing was too good for anyone with an (R) after their name.

It all just reminds me how Dubya's beloved party worked so hard to make us all think Bill Clinton was so bad. Read some of the entries at & Bill Clinton's shenanigans will begin to look more like the amateur hour.

I just hope & pray that the American people have been watching all this & are not suffering from outrage-overload long enough to send the pachyderms packing in November).

I also hope that, if the Dems get the chance to clean up after the GOP party's over, that they, too, remember why they're there. More of the same felonious finagling committed by the donkeys would bring a similar deserved fate.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.: January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lotta people but it seems the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gone

Didn't you love the things that they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free
Some day soon, it's gonna be one day

"Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion & the Belmonts

Today, April 4, 2008, is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King died that day, the victim of a bullet to the head, on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee while visiting in support of striking sanitation workers.

Jesse Jackson, who was with Dr. King at the time of the shooting, confirms that the last words spoken by Dr. King were to his friend & musician Ben Branch, who was to perform at a gathering later that evening. Those words, according to the 2006 book,
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, were "Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty." It was his friend, the great, Grammy-award winning gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who sang the song, his favorite hymn, at his funeral at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he is buried.

James Earl Ray subsequently confessed to Dr. King's murder on March 10, 1969.

Below is a couple of clips of speeches given by Dr. King. The first one is part of the final speech that Dr. King gave the night before his death at the age of 39. Next is a clip of an anti-war speech given by Sen. Robert Kennedy, who also assassinated in 1968--2 months & 2 days after Dr. King's death. Another shorter clip of Dr. King follows that.

Dr. King helped to introduce hope & the very concept of freedom to people of every different color & every walk of life, many of whom may have known the literal meanings of the words "hope" & "freedom", but who had never been personally familiar with the ideas that the words represent.

In the song, "America The Beautiful," I am reminded of the man who set all of us free:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

There is no way to properly describe what this world lost when Dr. King was taken from us. For so many--then & now--he was the very symbol of the potential our country had/has to be so much more than we think we are.

Even in death, he still reminds us today that what the world sees on the outside is the least of who we really are as beloved children of God.

Because of all he did for the Kingdom of God on earth while he was still here, he still speaks of his dream & of his undying hope for his beloved country & of his eternal belief that it is right that will make day.

In his historic refusal to give up fighting the good fight, he still gently prods all who care about equality & justice to keep seeking the Promised Land.

Sometimes, it seems we still have so far to go, but, in Dr. King's honor, & because we really have no choice but to do the right thing, we must never allow ourselves to tire, and we must never take our eyes off the prize that Dr. King & so many others have earned with their precious blood. We must gently, yet steadfastly, continue that good fight even when we feel we have no fight left. It's what Dr. King did & it's what any lovers of liberty must do.

Dr. King: "All we say to America is, 'Be true to what you said on paper.' If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions; maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the Freedom of Assembly. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Speech. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. So just as I say, we aren't going to let any dogs or water hoses turn us around; we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around."

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountaintop, and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So, I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy: "I don't think any of us will be satisfied in the United States until that war is brought to an honorable end and American soldiers are brought back here to the United States."

Dr. King: "One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done."

"It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, 'That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not...'"

In the interest of complete historical accuracy, the remainder of Dr. King's last quote follows here: "...I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.' That’s the question facing America today."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Trick Played by Gmail?!?!

What a GREAT IDEA!!! Send an email retroactively with a date all the way back to as far as April 1, 2004??? But you only get 10 per year because, as Gmail rightly notes, using it more often, "would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless."

I have to admit that I believed this for about 14.5 seconds...

Til I read under their "How Does It Work" section that, "Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality..."

The testimony from beta users like "Miriam S., a delivery girl" was pretty good:

"The entire concept of 'late' no longer exists for me. That's pretty cool. Thanks Gmail!"

The best testimony I saw, though, was from "Todd J., Investment Banker":
"I used to be an honest person; but now I don't have to be. It's just so much easier this way. I've gained a lot of productivity by not having to think about doing the 'right' thing."
I don't know how, after reading that, I thought this could be an April Fool's trick. After all, since when would an investment banker (or any banker) have EVER been an HONEST person! Puleeze!

In all honesty, Gmail did a great job with this one!!!

Kudos to my beloved email provider!!!

Thank God for Wealthy Widows Who Want To Remain Anonymous!

I know that Matthew Budge & his family got a lot of prayers around the county & the world once the Texas TV station played his story.

Well, it seems that, as James 5:16 says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," because, according to WFAA TV (see link below), "a wealthy widow who wants to be anonymous" has come to the family's rescue & has offered to pay all the fees! I am quite sure she's not doing it for the hurting family, but for the obviously near-indigent apartment complex that needs the money so desperately (please note extreme sarcasm in that last sentence)!

So, it seems that my aforementioned outrage has now been replaced by thankfulness that the world still has at least one or two "righteous" men (and women!!)!