Believing in both a benevolent God and Trump in the White House

A virtuous Facebook friend posted “Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump” from three reverends (Right, Very, and Plain) at the National Cathedral.

The content is conventional:

The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent.

But the authors are presumably believers in a benevolent and omnipotent God. Here was my response:

If God hates Trump (and why wouldn’t she?), why did God allow Trump to be elected?

I’m wondering how it is possible for this trio of reverends to simultaneously believe in their powerful and benevolent God and also in the existence of President Trump.

Full post, including comments

Immigrant-Employing, Gay-Loving, Muslim-Respecting

From a July trip to Washington, D.C.:

This particular outlet of Nando’s Peri-Peri is in Chinatown. Note that while Christianity and Judaism are respected to a lesser degree (smaller font) than Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism are not respected at all.

If Bernie Sanders makes the 15-block trek from the Capitol, he will be pleased to see that the restaurant promises to pay equally, regardless of “ability”.


Full post, including comments

Happy Mother’s Day to the Virgins

I’ve been listening to (excellent) lectures on Classical mythology by Professor Kathryn McClymond. One thing that I learned is that Remus and Romulus were described in some Roman sources as having been born to a virgin who was miraculously impregnated by a god (Mars). There may also have been a solar eclipse on the day of their birth. It turns out that the story of a virgin birth is older than the New Testament. Signs from the stars and a virgin birth were markers of future greatness for a variety of young heroes in the ancient world.

(The full course is “Great Mythologies of the World”, available from Audible.)

So Happy Mother’s Day to all of the readers who identify as mothers, including the virgins!

Full post, including comments

Was there a golden age of religious coexistence?

“Religious Minorities Across Asia Suffer Amid Surge in Sectarian Politics” (nytimes), first three paragraphs:

The deadly attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday highlighted how easily religious coexistence can be ripped apart in a region where secularism is weakening amid the growing appeal of a politics based on ethnic and sectarian identity.

In India, the country’s governing right-wing Hindu party is exploiting faith for votes, pushing an us-versus-them philosophy that has left Muslims fearing they will be lynched if they walk alone.

In Myanmar, the country’s Buddhist generals have orchestrated a terrifying campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.

(the reader who did not scroll to read the entire article would infer that Muslims were the victims of the recent sad events in Sri Lanka, according to the NYT.)

This is the “news” section of the paper, not “opinion.” There is an implicit factual assertion that there were some good old days of religious coexistence. Everyone in Asia had one of those “coexist” bumper stickers:

Is this assertion true? The “two-nation theory” that led to the partition of India (millions killed and/or displaced) started in the 19th century.

Has secularism “weakened” in the region since 1947 when 14 million people were displaced on the theory that Muslims should not have to live among Hindus?

Full post, including comments

Passover thoughts on slavery in Egypt

From lectures that I’ve heard by scholars of Ancient Egypt, U.S.-style plantation slavery was not common in that society. A person referred to as a “slave” in Ancient Egypt may simply have been subject to paying a 20 percent income tax, for example, that “free” citizens were not subject to.

As noted in Wikipedia, there is minimal support for the historical truth of the Exodus story in the (otherwise excellent) written records of Ancient Egypt.

Suppose that Jews were indeed once “slaves” in Egypt, i.e., subject to higher-than-usual taxes. How would they be doing in modern times? PwC says that Egypt has a personal income tax rate that tops out at 22.5 percent. Compare to Israel at 50 percent and the U.S. at potentially over 50 percent (broken up into 37 percent federal and 13.3 California state income tax, for example).

Is this sort of like the founding myth of the U.S.? We tell K-12 children in our government-run schools that we started at war against Great Britain because of cruel and high taxation yet now the UK has lower taxes than the U.S. in a lot of areas, e.g., for entrepreneurs whose total tax bill of 10 percent in the UK will be lower than their state tax bill alone in California.

Oh yes, as long as we’re talking about Britain and Passover, as the Labour Party would say… “Happy Passover to readers who are practicing Jewcraft!”

[Separately, what about creating a Shmura Cheez-It Matzah cracker? Everyone likes Cheez-Its, right? And they’re not all that bread-like.]

Full post, including comments

New York Times tells Muslims how to be Muslim

“Brunei’s Royal Barbarity and Hypocrisy” is from the New York Times Editorial Board:

The oil-rich sultanate imposes harsh Shariah law on its subjects, while members of the royal family enjoy lives of conspicuous luxury.

Brunei’s cruel, inhuman and degrading penalties are not a relic of history, like the sodomy laws that stayed on the books of American states well into the 20th century, but the whim of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, who has ruled the Lilliputian nation since 1967 and ranks among the most ludicrously wealthy people on earth. He has long pushed his predominantly Muslim nation toward a conservative and restrictive form of Islam, and he first announced the new penalties — which, in addition to death by stoning for gay male sex, include amputation for theft and 40 lashes for lesbian sex — six years ago.

Besides the barbarity of the penalties, there is the danger that the law could nudge neighboring Islamic giants Malaysia and Indonesia toward tightening their own national or regional versions of Shariah laws targeting homosexuals.

The biographies of the authors do not suggest any expert knowledge of Islam or Shariah law. What qualifies these folks to tell Muslims in Brunei how to organize their lives in accordance with Islam? Is this “Amerisplaining”?

Also interesting… “The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point” (nytimes), from the same newspaper that said, three months ago, Donald Trump had manufactured a crisis. Now it seems that the “crisis” started five years ago:

The very nature of immigration to America changed after 2014, when families first began showing up in large numbers. The resulting crisis has overwhelmed a system unable to detain, care for and quickly decide the fate of tens of thousands of people who claim to be fleeing for their lives. … The country is now unable to provide either the necessary humanitarian relief for desperate migrants or even basic controls on the number and nature of who is entering the United States.

Trump is on the wrong track, as usual:

Mr. Trump has insisted on simply trying to stop people from getting into the country in the first place — a policy of deterrence that not only has failed but has made the problem worse.

Only a rookie would try to stop people from crossing the border into the U.S. by trying to stop them from crossing the border!

Full post, including comments

Bulletin board at the Lutheran chuch

From University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square. Small sign to fit small window:

Why don’t black lives matter enough for a big banner down the side of the building?

Ever wonder about the difference between “use” and “utilize”? This sign should help:

Concerned about starving Venezuelans? It is the “hundreds of thousands of federal workers” whose paychecks are delayed for whom you should worry. Also that “this President [has made] numerous statements disparaging our fellow human beings, fellow people of the faith, and all of them children of God.”

Turns out that the God’s Jewish children living in Israel (perpetrators of “colonialism”) might need to be disparaged…

[Martin Luther himself proposed “First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools … This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians …Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. …” It seems that the majority of Lutherans were supporters of Hitler and National Socialism (not to be confused with the Democratic Socialism espoused by Bernie Sanders and AOC). This church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which periodically makes the news for its anti-Israel positions (example). Maybe they can’t forgive Israel for executing fellow Lutheran Adolf Eichmann?]

Need help changing your gender so that you can qualify as an LGBTQ (but not “IA”?) minister?

Some final notes:


Full post, including comments

Can any migrant from an Islamic country obtain citizenship in a Western country by saying “I renounce Islam”?

“Saudi teen lands in Canada after fleeing family” (CNN):

A Saudi teen who fled to Thailand to escape her allegedly abusive family has arrived in Canada after being offered asylum there. … Qunun had flown to Thailand from Kuwait to escape her family, saying she feared they would kill her because she renounced Islam.

Could this work for anyone willing to say to a Western official “I don’t think that there is a God”?

The U.S., Canada, Australia, or the European nations are required to offer asylum to anyone with a reasonable fear of persecution, right?

A lot of countries do not allow residents to commit blasphemy or apostasy. See Wikipedia on Freedom of Religion in Saudi Arabia, for example, or this page on how anyone who questions a major religion can be imprisoned for five years in Indonesia. Why couldn’t any of the 264 million folks who live in Indonesia move to Canada or the U.S. tomorrow, saying “I question the truth of all six recognized religions and I could be imprisoned for this if I were to be returned to Indonesia.”? How could a government official in Canada, for example, ever prove that such a declaration of disbelief was false?

Why would anyone from a country in which denying the truth of Islam is punishable bother with any other strategy for obtaining legal residency in a Western welfare state?


Full post, including comments

Jews of Cuba and Cuba-Israel relations

I’d forgotten how prominent Cuba once was on the world stage, but our guide in Havana reminded us that Cuba and Israel are still on bad terms. Wikipedia notes that Cuba was a military ally for Egypt and relations were broken off by Cuba in 1973, when the countries were at comparable levels of economic development. Apparently not enough has changed in the intervening 45 years for relations to be reestablished!

Our guide said that roughly 1,500 Jews remained in Cuba and that most were elderly, the young Jews having emigrated to Israel. These facts are consistent with Wikipedia.

It makes me wonder what the point of having physical embassies might be. If relations were established tomorrow, could it really make sense for cash-strapped Cuba to set up and run an embassy in Israel where almost everything costs more than in the U.S.? Similarly for Israel, why pay someone an Israeli wage to sit around Havana and drink mojitos when almost any conceivable issue between two nations could be negotiated at the UN in New York and/or via Skype?

[A fellow guest at dinner shared her theory that all of the casinos in Cuba were funded with “Jewish money” and that, following the revolution, this money was used to build Las Vegas (see also the Wikipedia history of Las Vegas). That’s one of the beauties of cruising, in my opinion. One is exposed to a much broader range of people and opinions than at home. (This theorist was an African American from Connecticut, retired from a government job.)]

Full post, including comments

Christmas versus Hanukkah

Massport enabled a direct comparison of religions with this display at Logan Airport:

10′ Christmas tree and 10″ menorah. That settles it! A hearty Merry Christmas Eve, then, to all readers who celebrate!

If you prefer Islam to Christianity you’ll be pleased to know that Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has added Islamic verses and symbols to their Christmas Tree:

(“There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God” from the Saudi flag, which also features a sword in case there is a need for beheading.  I think the green crescent and star is for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but the white stripe doesn’t belong. The red flag is for Turkey.)

Full post, including comments