Sunday, December 31, 2006

Please help me choose the right one

I'm contributing one of my articles from the UPI column to a Best of book and need to pick one (or a series) that would be my contribution. My Ted Haggard piece got the most attention, but it was somewhat time-bound.

Here's the list of my columns. Would you mind letting me know which one you liked best and/or which you think would be appropriate for that kind of book?

Thanks in advance for your help. I have to let my editor know which piece by the 19th, but I'd like to sort it out sooner than that. :)

Bengals fail to win

Pretty much a microcosm of their whole season.... failure to close when it matters. It's not just that they get beat, it's that they lose when given the opportunity to win. And yeah, we hate the Steelers around here.

Bengals record: 8 and 8, no play-off, no glory.

A backwards season with a few high points of celebration. I love 'em, but I'm sad for them today.

In other news: Dave's Detroit Lions salvage a season with a win over Dallas! Who saw that coming?

(I like any team that beats Dallas.)

Tiger Woods to become a dad!

I'm thrilled for Tiger and Elin.

Can Tiger sustain his 2006 streak?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What an ex-Muslim says about his evangelical faith

Rob Asghar, over at The Great American Faith, has written a piece I wish I'd written. He speaks directly, without rancor, but with clarity and concern about the corner of faith I inhabited for twenty years.
In the wake of 9/11, unexamined American triumphalism has done much to convince me that, while a bunch of people claim to have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, the processes of change that I once saw as supernatural were merely natural, relating to how the human mind works.

I was first attracted to the teachings of Jesus as a teenager when the movie “Gandhi” touched on his “turn the other cheek” teaching. Christ seemed to stand the order of things on its head. This was radical and it seemed right. The rest of humanity struggled to fight selfishly and fearfully for their real or perceived rights, while Jesus was focused on something higher.

After 9/11, the evangelical church was the most enthusiastically pro-war bloc of all; this came as a special jolt to someone who had preached to his family that evangelicalism represented something different from other faiths. It was a jolt to see fellow congregants rationalize away any of the New Testament’s clear teaching on cheek-turning, and to do so with passion and zest. A few faithful evangelicals maintained that Christ’s teaching should restrain warfare, but they were theological liberals, not evangelicals. This raised a conundrum: the evangelicals are the ones who speak most dramatically of how true faith in Christ regenerates a person away from worldly concerns, and yet they seemed the most worldly of anyone.

Read more here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Project 365

Have you heard of this?

Lots of my online friends are going to attempt to take one picture every day for a year and log them online.

I'm utterly intimidated by the prospect of making a commitment that requires 365 individual fulfillments in a row! However, I decided not to let that stop me. I'm going to simply contribute a new photo as often as I can, attempting to chronicle some of my life over the next 12 months. And to help me get started, I posted two photos from the last two days to get a bit ahead. :)

I've put my flickr badge in the sidebar for those interested in following along. You might want to try it too and we can all view each others'. I started a Julie Unplugged 365 blog too, but may not use it. I'll see. For now, flickr feels like a better choice.

Let me know if you decide to take the plunge, er, challenge!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

How it looked to an Indian in India

If you ever wonder what it feels like to live in a country that is proselytized with the kind of diligence and thoroughness that India has experienced, this article captures something of the conflicted emotions that would likely result.

Ramesh is a wonderful writer, too. I felt swept up in his memories rather than bogged down. And that's not an easy writing task, trust me.

Five weird things about me

that you might not know from reading this blog. Thanks to Ampersand for tagging me. I don't thank her for tagging Susan and Dave since I would have tagged them both. :)

Okay, here goes (since I splay myself open regularly with blood and bodily fluids leaking from all orifices, it may be hard to pick things truly unknown about me, that are also interesting).

One: I once flew with Jon to Japan to be a maid of honor in a wedding without a Visa...

Said smiling Japan customs man in small white cubicle
while happy travelers were waved through customs and my husband (who had paid for our trip to my best friend's wedding out of his six weeks earnings on a fishing boat in Alaska) lost all color: "Cahn you sho-ten your stay to seventy-two hour?"

Can you spell heart attack? Somehow the arrival of my best friend with wedding dress in her mother's suitcase, some Japanese under her belt and perhaps an under-the-table crate of Saki got us an emergency visa which enabled us to stay for the required 18 day trip and wedding. Phew.

Two: I have perfect feet. (At least that's what Jon says).

Three: Three firsts in one evening at age 16: a concert (Jackson Browne), the smell of marajuana (though I didn't inhale) and the first of too many times I risked my life as a post pubescent female parking at night in downtown LA without protection (The Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, CA). What were my parents thinking?

Four: I'm allergic to cats in America but not Morocco.

Five: All five of my kids were born at home attended by midwives. I love birth and literally wept when I realized I'd never give birth again. Truly the happiest moments of my life.

And now I'm going to tag: Bill, Matt, Steve and Beth!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Guess who?

Would you have guessed Lincoln said that?

In that spirit of surprise, who do you think said the following?

Once again I'm having one of those weeks when I don't read the Bible much; I never quite know what to do about it. I have no feeling of obligation about it, and I know, too, that after some time I'll plunge into it again voraciously. May one accept this as an entirely 'natural' mental process? I'm almost inclined to think so; it also happened, you know, during our vita communis. Of course there is the danger of laziness, but it would be wrong to get anxious about it; we can depend upon it that after the compass has wobbled a bit, it will point in the right direction again.

I'll give some hints throughout the day if they are needed.

Hint #1: Not an American

Hint #2: Brother-in-law was Jewish

Hint #3: Wrote letters we still read today

Hint #4: Knew the cost

Hint #5: Loved Negro Spirituals

Also, how do you feel about the Bible these days? Do you read it? Why? If you are in one of those seasons where you don't read it, how do you feel about that?

Fond Memories of Ford

Of course I'm old enough to remember President Ford, the only unelected president in American history. I remember well Nixon's resignation speech which I watched on my grandparents' television while visiting them one summer in Chicago. I remember Ford's fumbling (ironic that the media would highlight his trips and stumbles given his illustrious athletic history), his genuinely caring look and the healing he offered our country post Viet Nam and Nixon. I always felt a little badly for him, as though citizens saw him as a president who didn't really deserve to be president. Still, the transition of power from Pres to VP demonstrated one thing clearly: our system could withstand a failed president without missing a beat. And that is a comfort, if you stop to think about it.

My other memory of Ford has more to do with the election he lost. I remember the way Jimmy Carter's bigger grin easily beat Ford's apologetic smile in an election where the Republican party had completely lost credibility. I can't help but think about Nixon, Ford, and Viet Nam as we enter into primary season in 2007 during an equally unpopular war and amid controversy about the efficacy of a Republican leadership team... Those Dems seem primed to fill the vaccuum.

I want to add Dave's blog post on Jerry Ford too. Excellent.

What do you remember about Ford? Did you like him?

(Btw, we just passed the mark where more Americans have died in the Iraq war than died in 9/11.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

to all my dear blogging friends.

How could I get through this NFL season without you? (Brian, I almost called you just to commiserate after tonight's botched snap for the final extra point to tie the game.... )

But soon, we'll be done with football and back to the rest of our online lives together. Thanks for enriching mine and for all the ways your blogs have changed me, spoken to me, entertained me.

I hope to write a bit about the previous year later this week and will save more reflecting for that piece. In the meantime, may your egg nog be spiked and may you kiss someone you love under the mistletoe.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why I love Christmas Shopping...

Yeah, okay, the cynics all hate it because, you know, it's materialistic and we shouldn't be happy when we're spending money because that's proof that we're buying into the big bad empire of the US... And honestly, yes, Americans do spend more than anyone at this time of year. Jon and I were noticing that the landscape of our towns is all brand new shopping developments. Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Target, Office Depot, Staples, Dick's Sporting Goods, Costco and lots of insignificant non-chain stores fighting for survival crowd every strip mall and busy street packed with stressed shoppers and aggressive drivers in their parking lots.

No leisurely walks through snowy towns for us. Just flat out races to get iPods and the latest Wii.

Still, I don't care. I love to shop for Christmas anyway.

The check-out lines are long, yes, and it's true that the "Disney Scene It" DVD game was not in the first six stores I checked and when I found it, it was the LAST one and I had to grab it before someone else elbowed past me to nab it and I did actually condescend to purchasing it at Walmart even though I never shop at Walmart and know the kids will cross-examine me about where I bought it...

The thing of it is: I love giving our kids presents. I love to get them things they want, things they need, things they aren't expecting.

Last year Johannah asked only for a donation to the Elizabeth Galzier Pediatic AIDS foundation and I gave the gift amount she asked for and then bought her a skirt anyway and she cried. This year, Jacob told us that he has everything he could ever want. He couldn't even think of a list. So he put one game on his Christmas list when pressed to make one anyway, and it was this Disney game.... which had mysteriously gone out of stock in every Target in the universe, including the Amazon toy universe (serious lack of game-age for my boy). I was disconsolate (great word!).

So today Jon and I braved the stores again. We found ourselves wandering the aisles of yet another Target searching in vain for the game I knew was the only thing Jacob did not possess to make him utterly fulfilled and happy, and tore my top open and lamented outloud (as I am wont to do in stores) that EVERY Target in the known Ohioan universe was out of the only Important Game for Christmas, when a woman, who couldn't help but overhear me (despite covering her ears with both hands and two packages), said (to get rid of us, I thought): I just saw it over at Walmart.

Well knock me over! Being a hyper extrovert pays off at Christmas! So we got details about just which of the 17 Walmarts between that Target and our home she meant.

Then we barrelled out the door into the oppressive traffic and inexplicable rain (no snow?!) and headed to the store. Jon dropped me off where, OJ style, I leapt over shopping carts and small children as I skidded to the toy section of the store. And there, nestled between the Friends and Harry Potter Scene Its was ONE remaining Disney Scene It.... Yes, the last one.

And I nabbed it.

And felt like I'd just purchased Jacob stock in Apple (his preferred gift I'm sure, but hey, who can afford it?).

Pleased as punch am I.

Beyond this, Jon and I merrily shopped for the rest of the brood, talking about each child, the wonderful growth in their personalities, their varied interests, their enthusiasm for life and growing up and all that that can only mean to parents. And I thought: We get to do this once per year. What a treat.

Should Christmas be about materialism? Maybe not.

But for us, Christmas is about a concrete act of giving for the purpose of making each other supremely happy. It may mean lots more than that, but if I'm honest, that's what the kids remember and love about Christmas too. Seems like a great way to spend the end of every year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mother Teresa

Kansas Bob has a list written by Mother Teresa that brought me comfort today.

I liked these especially:
What you may spend years building, someone may destroy overnight... build anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow... do good anyway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm Time's Person of the Year

And so are YOU!

Lisa sent me these quotes from the article:

"...look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

...It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter."

I love this! Made my day. I felt validated in the best way - that all the attempts at community, the writing, the reading, the sharing, the connecting to people I would never meet in a hundred years IRL is worth something. That maybe dialog is less intentional and more opportunitistic. Perhaps blundering into the other is better than organized symposiums led by academics, maybe sharing what you really think with the Internet and discovering if what you think even matters is better than smugly contenting yourself with your own opinions and assuming they make sense...

And what about the wonder of YouTube where no one is left out, where we can enjoy what we missed, where people work for nothing to see someone else experience their pleasure? Perhaps a little selflessness is possible in this era of self-promotion after all.

Sometimes we look back wistfully at the days when "young ladies were so accomplished" (ala Jane Austen) with their tatting, rug knitting, piano playing and watercolor painting decrying that no one has the chance to be creative or original any more because of all the expert musicians, photography and mass production of everything we need.

But no one counted on the pedestrian power of technology. Anyone can play today, thanks to the free access Internet and the wonderful platforms designed for Every Person's use. You don't have to be a computer/website expert to play.

The imagination and creativity exhibited in blogs, websites, forums, discussion groups, online videos, photo galleries and more show us a populace hungry for sharing. I love thinking about people putting in creative energy and time just to share a silly video with the world hoping to create a shared enjoyment with someone they've never met.

I remember last year when I stumbled on the forums for Brokeback Mountain what an epiphany it was to discover a community of several thousand equally impacted by that movie. It led to a grassroots campaign to raise money to run a full page ad in Variety Magazine that dubbed the film "Best Picture of the Year" after it lost at the Oscars. We wanted to thank all the creators and actors for their marvel of a film. The result of that move (made possible by friends of the film from around the world who are a part of the forums) led to an interview with Annie Proulx and a response from Diana Osama.

The members of the forums have now created a book which is a compilation of comments by members that describe the film's impact. A few of my remarks made the cut. I feel honored to be a part of that project. The book's been created by a dozen volunteers as a work of love, no pay, and all proceeds going to charity.

That's the Internet. That's why I love it.

Inhale. Sigh. I'm inspired.

What do you love about the Internet? Where do you hang out and what keeps you coming back? And do you agree with Time's Person of the Year choice?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of tests and Christmas

That's me looking happier than I feel sitting in the Xavier library. :)

To ponder:

Why would a Catholic University schedule finals week for the Monday through Friday before Christmas on the following Monday?

Yes, that means I am writing a final this week... and it is not finished. I should have worked on it last night rather than watching the re-coronation ceremony of one Peyton Manning.


Off to study. See you on the flip side.

Update: Finished! All I have left are Works Cited. For those interested in what I'm writing about, I used this article as one example in my discussion of globalization and justice: vis a vis the environment.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Can the bad boy Bengals beat the Colts tonight?

As a measure of just how devoted this city is to its team (come hell or DUI arrest), our little homeschool co-op is holding its winter program tonight... and moved the start time from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. when the parents mutinied and said: We can't miss the Palmer v. Manning bowl on MNFL just for Christmas cheer in the form of 25 little kids singing carols.

Ah, Cincinnati.

This article on does a great job of analyzing why the Bengals may be surging while other teams are fading... maybe their team culture is a little bit different than the usual team because of the risks Marvin Lewis has taken in drafting throw-away players. Who knows? Intriguing theory anyway.

But none of that matters to this city. If TJ and Carson can hook up, if Ocho Cinco can catch a couple in the end zone, if Rudi can shred the Colt defense, if the Bengal defense can keep Peyton off the field, who knows what post-season we're looking at. That's all that matters to Cincinnati tonight.

Update: Hey Jon! Can you add an extra shot of rum to the egg nog? Toss me the Tylenol while you're at it. Anything to numb the pain...

And may I ask: why do teams recover from their disastrous play when they play us? Couldn't the Colts have saved their collapse for our trip to the Dome? Hmmmm?

Guess who's coming to dinner? Everyone!

This week's column is the first in a series that will deal with postmodernity. As I've thought about values, virtues, morality and ethics over the last four years, I've discovered that there are particular qualities that we can cultivate in ourselves that are more suited to navigating postmodern waters than the usual suspects like kindness, honesty, courage and so on. It's not to say that these aren't important. On the contrary, they may be even more important today than ever. But they need an upgrade: honesty 2.0, kindness 2.6 and so on.

Postmodern virtues may in fact be more like adding RAM to your computer - a supercharge that makes the usefulness of the traditional virtues more effective and swifter to access.

Today's article sets the stage for that series.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Four tips for a pretty good marriage

I wrote these the other day as I thought about the wedding I'm attending tonight. Our dearest friends from Morocco and California days are watching their son walk down the aisle. I met this boy when he was 18 mos old and toddling in diapers around an apartment in Fes. Amazing.

He is marrying a lovely young woman and as I thought about the fact that they are about to establish a family whose ties are built not on blood, but on their choice to commit to each other, I couldn't help but wish someone had also shared a few of these principles with me 22 years ago. (In fact, I kept thinking about the fact that while today is an unbelievably happy day in their lives, I know as surely as my dog pees in my living room when it's cold outside that they will both make each other cry and feel pain and anger unlike what they've ever experienced before.... so that made me think: what might have prevented a few of those tears in our own marriage?)

I'd love you to add to the list!

First: Want for the other person what that other person wants.

If one person loves TV and sports, then don't resent it, don't nag it away, don't attempt to manage or control it. Bring the bottle of beer and show interest.

If one wants to buy a new kayak, help that person budget it in and go shopping.

If one wants to travel every year to see best friends, make a plan to see it happen.

If one wants to go back to grad school, to start working, to stop working, to move to a new city, to put the kids in school or take them out, to have more babies, to have fewer....

Listen to what this means to the other person before expressing all the reasons it can't happen. Really hear why this change is critical to that person's well-being. Really look in an exploring kind of way at what benefits to the whole family would come from this change. Look at the emotional well-being that will result for that person before seeing all the reasons it will ruin yours.

Then, begin to imagine you both can have both. How can the primary breadwinner quit a job to do his own thing without losing your home? What can be done incrementally to make that happen?

Where might you move? If moving ends up not being realistic, can you vacation there? Can you move in five years, not this year? Can the elements of the new place be found where you already live? What does moving relieve about the current situation?

Agree to help the other person realize his or her goals, hopes, wishes, wants, interests…

Second: Take responsibility for what you need every day.

If one person wants the living room vacuumed every day, that's the person to do it. It's not a role that is assigned to a gender. It's a desire that can be fulfilled by the one with the desire.

If the personality of the spouse does not match the expectations on that spouse, get over it. In other words, the husband may never be the financial wizard in the marriage... and neither will the wife. So hire out or bumble along... but neither one gets to criticize the other when a bill is paid late, or no one knows the balance…

Same with things like making dinner, organizing the basement, washing clothes...

One person can't require the other to be what he or she is not. If you are disappointed that your spouse is not a handyman or a housewife, grieve it and then hire out, do it yourself or lower your expectations. Real life is like this.

Third: Ask for what you need/want, take responsibility for it... don't require it, don't guilt the other into it.

I would love to have sex right now because I'm bored and can't sleep. Do you mind?


We haven't had sex all week. Why don't you want to? It seems like you never want to.

Fourth: When you can, give the very thing your spouse needs from you.

There is nothing like saying: I have no idea what to do about dinner! I am swamped!

And then to hear: Don't sweat it. I'll order in Chinese.

So much better than: You knew you'd have a busy day. Why didn't you plan better? We're all starving in here.

It’s great to hear after a long day at work:

You’re stressed after working and need time away from the messy house? Go see a movie, honey. I've got the family covered.

Beta Blogger Comments... answered

Looks like the comments timing out or giving error messages is a bug Blogger Beta is working on. So if you can't post a comment yet, it should be possible soon. The workaround is to log into google and use your google user ID and password.

Or you can email comments and I'll post them.

Or you can lurk. (I am discovering that there is a universe of lurkers....)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Woo-hoo! New MacBookPro

That's right. I'm typing on my new fifteen inch. Silver, fast as lightening and it has this groovy little photobooth gadget (takes your picture using lots of effects right out of the top of the screen).

Yikes - my teeth look like they have glow in the dark gel lathering them.

And yes, those are my new reading glasses, one of the many gifts my forty-fifth birthday gave to me, reminding me that I'm halfway through the journey of life.

Quick beta blogger question

I made the switch but some of my friends say blogger now won't let them post comments, even anonymously. Anyone else have that problem? How do you fix it? My settings are to "anyone" for who may comment.

Btw, if you do want to leave a comment and can't, email it to me and I'll add it for you. The other option is to register with Google.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the end of my online world

as I knew it...

For those who don't know, I used to run a women's forum. Operative term: used to. The original name/community may go on, but my role (founder and moderator/owner) is coming to an end as of January 1. We've been together for seven years; I hosted the first retreat when 13 women came to my house for the weekend having never met in person before. We've met five other times since.

If any of you have planted a church, started a group, organized a book club and it grows into precious friendships, you probably have some idea of the pain I'm in. The worst part, however, has been continuing to invest in people when we don't share the same goals.

I started with a desire to offer mothers at home a way out of the dailiness of household duties. We could talk about books, art, music, movies and faith online. This was back in the early days of online communities. A group of us started out together on a discussion board and it quickly became a popular place to read and chat, argue and laugh. One of the primary planks of my original goals included a desire for diversity - the idea that it would be great to get to know women whose ideas and life experiences were different than mine. I admit to being a bit of a junkie for new stuff. I love to examine and experience difference. It's not enough to me to read about a foreign country, I want to be overwhelmed by it, to live in it, not just visit.

And I was a former missionary. Seeking out worldviews besides mine has been my spiritual DNA since Campus Crusade in college. I've never been a part of the lockdown "enclave" culture of homeschooling Christianity.

As I've changed in my own spirituality, my reasons for wanting to know others has also grown. There's so much mischaracterization of anyone different from us that it seems important to know people on their own terms, to understand them for who they say they are, not who my group thinks they are.

So I had this idea that discussing the humanities in a diverse group of women would lead to enriched lives. In that group, I pictured Muslims, atheists, Jews, agnostics, all sorts of Christians, rich, poor, working and stay-at-home moms, feminists, traditionalists, all colors, and even different nationalities (though I had no idea how we'd find them). I knew it would take time to organize a climate that would be inviting to such a disparate group and contented myself to begin with who I knew: Christian homeschooling mothers.

I know--sounds counterintuitive and it was. Why would I think homeschoolers (the group known for withdrawing from the culture to protect their children) would be open to and interested in the even wider culture of our globalized world?

Well, they said they were... at least, they were as far as other Christianities were concerned.

Over the last seven years, among us, several reformed Protestants have converted to Catholicism, some of the conservatives have left the faith all together, and others have simply modified their understanding of Chrisitanity to include ways of being Christian they had not known or understood before. Lots of parenting and schooling changes occured, some of the women were unhappily divorced, others brought new friends to us that changed our group from mostly Republican to including a few Democrats.

For me, every addition of a new perspective charged me and made me feel I was tapping into this larger world. I brought what I was learning in grad school to the table with me to share and discuss. It felt exciting.

But something happened, particularly in the last four years. Conflict over religious beliefs grew. Rather than being able to hear a perspective and simply understand how it works for the other person, debates about which ideas were more true became common. Those debates at times led to deeply hurt feelings. To cope with the hurt, some members stopped posting in threads about religion or controversial topics (homosexuality, feminism, agnosticism, goddess worship) and some of the agnostics et. al. quit posting all together feeling unwelcome.

Over time, I gradually realized that this group did not ever really buy into the original vision. In point of fact, when I started the group, I was still an evangelical Christian. As I've changed, the anxiety about where I would "take" the group grew and I felt it.

Finally, this past month, I realized that the community needed to be set free from my aspirations. It was extremely painful to say goodbye to my vision and to watch friends I have loved show such relief at having the chance to define themselves away from the desire to know other people and points of view. So many of them have now said proudly and boldly that they never supported my vision, that theological discussions seemed "weird," that they had no interest in nor were curious about what a Muslim or atheist thinks, blah, blah, blah. It's pretty stunning, actually.

What I don't understand is this: How can traditional Christians of either Protestant or Catholic extraction criticize the media, Muslims, atheists, scientists and secular humanists for mischaracterizing Christians when these same Christians don't even want to know those people, or read about their ideas? Why would non-Christians have an accurate understanding of Christians they can't know and who don't want an accurate understanding of them?

And one last question: Have any of you seen an online discussion group succeed at fostering diversity in their conversations? If so, where?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Turn left at the Freedom Center, cross the bridge

and find yourself at the new high-tech Creation Museum:
The museum's aim is to bring Genesis - the first book of the Bible - to life for all ages, and promote the belief that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Everybody who works at the museum has to sign on to the belief that the living Earth was created in six 24-hour days - rejecting the convention most scientists view as fact, that life evolved slowly over millions of years.

To hammer that point home, two smiling children clad in tasteful animal skins, work and play alongside a pair of baby Tyrannosaurus Rex. "You go to some of the major museums and dinosaurs are their teaching icon," said Mr Looy. "We're going to turn that on its head, and use dinosaurs to show that the Bible presents the true history of the world. We have people, and dinosaurs, together."

Yet another great reason to visit me in Cincinnati...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

For the record, let me state: non-stop flights are worth all the extra money. Ask me how I know? We took the slow boat to San Francisco - you know, that direct route from the home of the Bengals to the land of Tony Romo, and then you guessed it, ricocheting back up to San Francisco. Ah the logic of cheap airfare.

Worse, my mom and sister live in Santa Cruz/Watsonville so after the long flights into outer darkness, we still had a ninety minute drive to complete. Fortunately for me, I phoned ahead and a lemon Snapple was chilled and waiting in my mother's ever-ready cooler in the car. Remember that next time any of you pick me up at the airport. Cure for the grouchies.

We had a faboo time that I ought to catalog with adorable photos of nieces and nephew, but I know how tedious that becomes (plus, I hate uploading photos from my digital camera... I don't know why).

So instead, this is just a quick note to say I'm home, I face a ten page written final research paper due next Monday, 30 essays to grade tonight, Jacob's winter holiday performance (also tonight), 300 emails, countless registration payments for my business to log and enter, year end taxes, AND Christmas shopping. So blogging may take a few days to crank back up.

But if you want to talk sports, I'm here. Did you see the drubbing the Saints gave the Cowboys? Made my day! Missed the Bengals but got the report from kids and hubby who watched and Tivo'ed on my behalf. Such devoted family. Love these two losses: Indy and the Pats.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hello from Rainy California!

We had a glorious sunny day yesterday while at the Monterey Aquarium, but we are now an inch deep in rain here in Watsonville.

All is well and the two kids with me (Liam and Caitrin) and having a blast with their cousins. I wish I had something profound to share but alas, no time to think.

I will recommend the "Elle" magazine article about Barak Obama. Read it on the plane. Outstanding. The excitement for Obama builds. He's my age (45) and that feels interesting too.

I know Ampersand has swooningly devoted more than 30% of her blog to Obama, but what about the rest of you? Are you aware of him, entranced by him, smitten with him, worried about him, suspicious of him?

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Heading out west tomorrow

to give those Bruins some love!

Not really.

I'm taking the younger two kids with me to see my niece as the lead in a musical in California (northern). I'll be checking in and hopefully posting some while gone.

See you soon!

Dialog despair

Today I feel like giving up.

I remember talking to one of my professors about conversations I have with friends who are still of the mainstream, traditional Christian theological positions and my frustrations in feeling so often that the conversations were like a one-way valve. As long as the conversations affirm their "truth" (the real truth, not truths), everyone is at peace. As long as I stay curious about their views, we get somewhere. Yet I feel a curious lack of curiosity about mine.

Dialog by definition means being willing to allow for contrary views to sit inside you a bit, to hear how they work for others, to accept a person's reporting of how those beliefs work and so on. You don't have to agree. But if someone says, "Agnoticism makes me happy," we have to start with believing that person, not discounting the experience. Otherwise, the dialog becomes about showing the person that agnosticism is a delusion and the happiness is not real. Take Bart Ehrman... that's exactly what people say. He can't really be happy because he's an agnostic. He can't possibly teach about the Bible because he loves it; he must have an "agenda." Hello, why agenda? Why not the same thing everyone else has - a desire to share what they think, believe, know, understand? And why wouldn't that make him happy?

Dialog means accepting a person's reporting of her experience as true for that person - that the person speaks authentically for herself. Agreement is unnecessary, but risk is. We must risk assumptions. That means the diehard postmodernist must risk the assumption that fundamentalists are mean-spirited every bit as much as the fundamentalist must risk the assumption that postmodernists are by definition immoral, and so on.

Perceptions are about all that can change. I rarely expect anyone's real beliefs to be moved by dialog. But perceptions are huge! If I disagree with someone, but also respect her, I will defend her right to see the world the way she does because I hope she'll also defend my right. And I hope we'll like each other.

So how do we encourage or facilitate dialog? I have tried very hard to restate what others express, using their words, attempting to see their viewpoint without injecting mine into it, even when I don't agree. I work hard to see the internal logic, the beauty, the rhythm, the source of peace or joy that the belief gives even when it has not been that for me. I offer curiosity when I can't offer agreement.

Through online relationships, I feel I've grown to appreciate many beliefs I don't hold - I can see why Mary matters to Catholics, I admire the way daily reading of the Bible and believing the words are from God to "you" personally changes how a person lives, adds depth to a person's experience, allows someone to feel close to God. I understand that believing in God leads to purpose, piety and passion for many people.

Yet so often, I feel that a similar sharing of my ideas, my beliefs, leads to corrections or counterpoints. Rare is the person who doesn't share my beliefs who says, "I can see that you are much happier now and you find meaning and peace in your life through x, y and z." No. The people I enjoy reading are labeled dangerous. The thoughts I have are not allowed to breathe, but require a comment of disagreement - and then the right to disagree is thrown up as the reason for that comment.

These corrections are meant to be gentle or are seen as the offering of a counter point. But the truth is, if someone can't say back: "I get it! I see why you see things that way even when that doesn't fit my understanding of the truth," then we can't be dialog partners, let alone friends. How can you expect my support of you if you can't give it as well?

So getting back to my professor, when I shared all these frustrations and asked what is to be done to encourage dialog between conservatives and liberals, his response surprised me. "Why do you keep talking to them? They don't value dialog."

Well of course he's right, but then I don't see how dialog is a tool for greater mutual understanding. A huge chunk of the world doesn't believe in it.

I feel hopeless today about ever creating a world of peace, let alone maintaining friendships.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The hell with hell

Today's column is up!

No time to edit so it's longish. Ideas are still evolving on this topic. If you have some to contribute, I'd love it. It's my contention that the danger of most human beliefs is the lack of encounter. If we say we believe something without having been overwhelmed by the genuine experience of it (where you get up-ended in your expectations, assumptions and resources to cope), you have not yet experienced it sufficiently to render a judgment.

A corollary: encounter is what transforms, not information, data, facts or beliefs.

In defense of religion

I loved this article by fellow UPI columnist. Ben Daniel is one of my favorite writers there and this article specifically addresses those "new atheists" led by Dawkins. You'll enjoy it.

Here's a taste:
It is true that religion has earned a well-deserved bad reputation for inspiring humans to wage cruel warfare upon one another, but science has enabled us to kill with unimaginable ferocity, and there is nothing particular to science that inspires the forgiveness and reconciliation necessary to make peace. That's the work of religion.

Strange Bedfellows

Rob A over at GAF wrote a terrific op-ed about being Muslim in America. Check it out.

No one wants the Rose Bowl

Isn't is ironic that the two teams (USC and Michigan) playing in the Rose Bowl are disappointed? Thank you, BCS, for making the traditional bowls consolation prizes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

In cliff-hanging upset, UCLA over USC!!!

Just getting my headline ready to go.

UPDATE: OMG!! 1:01 to go with UCLA in control of the ball: 13-9, can this be happening?

Gutty Little Bruins, indeed, Steve!!! Looks like snow in hell tonight.

Upset of the year. Oh yeah. That win makes my football season. Hats off to Dorrell and the whole team.

P.S. Looks like my headline was exactly appropriate, Bill. :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who dey?! Yeah baby, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout

Carson does the jersey proud. Number 9!

Gotta send out big Bengal hugs to Carson and TJ!

Flea flicker play for the TD.

Carson said he knew TJ was open by the crowd! Who knew?! The big surprise, though is the Bengal defense that looked like an entirely different team. They p-owned (as my game playing son would say). Almost shut the Ravens out (a last ditch effort at a TD with just over a minute remaining meant the Ravens got on the board). But then a short, pop-up onside kick sealed their fate. Bengals caught it and kneed the last two downs.

That was all she wrote. We're back in the wild card hunt! Oakland next week.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dawkins calls out weak-willed atheists

to come out of the closet and take a stand for the atheist cause.

(Why do I feel an altar call coming on? Must be deja vu all over again. Shudder.)

"I'm quite keen on the politics of persuading people of the virtues of atheism," Dawkins says, after we get settled in one of the high-ceilinged, ground-floor rooms. He asks me to keep an eye on his bike, which sits just behind him, on the other side of a window overlooking the street. "The number of nonreligious people in the U.S. is something nearer to 30 million than 20 million," he says. "That's more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we're in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people had the courage to come out. I think that's the case with atheists. They are more numerous than anybody realizes."

Dawkins looks forward to the day when the first U.S. politician is honest about being an atheist. "Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists," he says. "Not a single member of either house of Congress admits to being an atheist. It just doesn't add up. Either they're stupid, or they're lying. And have they got a motive for lying? Of course they've got a motive! Everybody knows that an atheist can't get elected."

Read more here.

Atheism is one of the most despised points of view to admit to in polite company. So I hear Dawkins' righteous indignation and would happily join the fray to stick up for our "no belief in God" or "believe there is no God" human family members. Still, Rich lacks style points in my book—a polemicist whose noisy presentation often obscures his substance. Still, I get a kick out listening to what he says, sort of the same way I enjoy clubbing my eardrums with Hannity and Limbaugh on a bleak afternoon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Keisha Castle-Hughes and Mary

So will you go to see "The Nativity" (the feature film about Jesus's parents)? Critics hate it. The story outside the film is more interesting that the film itself, apparently. Keisha (who plays Mary) is living a wayward, updated version of the virgin in real life: she's 16 and pregnant out of wedlock. Chief differences between the two: Keisha had sex to get pregnant and the father is her 19-year-old boyfriend. Oh, and I think we're short a couple of angelic visitations as well.

There's a bit of a bru-ha-ha over why the Pope didn't go to the Vatican's premiere showing. Some "eager to spread gossip" bloggers are saying he didn't attend because of the unwed teen playing the part of Mary. You know, not wanting to support the idea of pregnancy outside of marriage and all.

Ah, but I think that reasoning is too predictable, too cliched. What if he had more artistic concerns in mind and thought: typecast. Okay, I'll knock it off. Just a bit punch drunk after all the debate over on

The whole story got under my skin today. Thing of it is, I just don't know how any of us can speak with such authority about what happened to Mary. Maybe a better title for this film would have been, "There's Something About Mary."

Our perpetual virgin is so shrouded in dogma, layers of narrative, veneration, doctrinal development (and deconstruction), mythology, reported appearances, and thousands of years of devotion (as well as equally passionate and devoted repudiation by hardcore Protestants) that no one can think straight about her.

Talk about a taboo topic! Who can challenge the nativity?

So I'm curious. What do you, my esteemed readers, believe about Mary? Was she a virgin? Ever after as well? Did she really ride a donkey into Bethlehem and give birth in a stable? Did she and Joseph receive angelic visitations?

And will you see the film?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Black youth continue to be target for NYPD

I wish I could write a light-hearted post tonight. I can't. I feel ill.

I sat in traffic on the way back from Xavier, stomach twisting with bile, as I listened to Sean Hannity rail on Charles Barron (NY City Councilman) calling Barron a racist. Barron stated with passion that New York City must not be surprised if there is an explosion in the black community if justice is not served after the recent shooting of 23 year old Sean Bell (the night before his wedding). NYTimes article.

Barron attempted to explain to the bone-headed Hannity (while Hannity used his "shout-over-the-caller" technique) that what happened was evidence of institutional racism. Hannity clearly has not been to college in 25 years as he did not seem to know what institutional racism is. Simply because Hannity could cite a black and Latino police officer among those who shot the 50 (that's right 50) rounds into Bell and his two friends, he cannot assume color-blind justice at work.

As Barron patiently pointed out (with quite a bit of self-control, I might add - I, otoh, was in danger of swerving off the road in a rage), the racism is not in the individuals but is systemic within the NYPD itself. Police departments in large cities typically see black males as automatically dangerous. They are predisposed to assume so. Add to it that in the history of police shooting young adult black men, they are never convicted of criminal over-reaction. Even high profile cases end in the police getting off.

I remember my professor of black theology, who grew up in New York, saying that in 100 years of records, and after all the shootings of NYPD against black youths, no convictions against the police have ever been won. Not one (according to him - I tried to do research but am failing to come up with it). As Dr. Clark would say to the police, Every time you shot you were justified in pulling the trigger? You didn't mistake a cell phone for a gun, ever? You didn't slip up and let fear make your decision rather than protocol even once in 100 years?

How many young blacks have to die for mistakes, for the assumption that they are dangerous?

The Cincinnati riots of 2001 were caused by the fatal shooting of 19 year old Timothy Thomas (he was shot in the back). We had another shooting of a 14 year old in October.

I lived in Los Angeles during the travesty of the Rodney King trial and the riots that followed.

For Hannity to think that there isn't a generalized fear of blacks among whites (whether police officers or civilians) that translates into misuse of force is to choose to be deliberately ignorant of the facts.
Between February 1995 and April 2001, fifteen black males under the age of 40 were killed by police, while no other males from other races were killed by police (during apprehension, chase, confrontation or while in custody in cruisers).[1] Police reports reflect that nationwide in the United States, whites resist arrest at a rate far less than blacks, however, during the time span cited, regardless of the crime or whether or not white suspects resisted, no whites died in police custody.

The disproportionate death rate, although often cited as the most dramatic, was not the only aspect of the charges. A local independent magazine, City Beat, published research that an "analysis of 141,000 traffic citations written by Cincinnati Police in a 22-month period found black drivers twice as likely as whites to be cited for driving without a license, twice as likely to be cited for not wearing a seat belt and four times as likely to be cited for driving without proof of insurance." National trend or localized anomaly, the lawsuit was based on a disproportional number of arrests, citations, and deaths. Some note that the number of deaths during confrontations with police is relatively proportional for a city the size of Cincinnati but the focus of the lawsuit was on the fact that only Blacks died during that span.

Despite all the situations which led to the deaths of the young black males, no police were ever found guilty through any civil or criminal trials; in only one case were the police officers involved reprimanded and given extra training (Death of Michael Carpenter by Officers Michael Miller, III and Brent McCurley). Wikipedia entry about Cincinnati's race relations and the riots.

The truth is, whites don't fear the police generally speaking. We expect to be treated fairly. I don't know a single white person who has ever been mistreated, shot at or killed by a police officer. Consequently, the stories in my head about police are that they can be trusted to do their jobs correctly.

What stories do inner city blacks tell each other? What do they know?

I remember when OJ was let off the hook after his trial. I lived in L.A. at the time and we all sat stunned as jury member after jury member declared that they believed the LAPD had planted evidence against him. What? Were they insane? The LAPD was this incredibly reliable police force—trustworthy and honest. So we thought.

Only a year later did it come out that the LAPD planted evidence routinely to convict suspected criminals. It hit me with force (like a shot in the back) that the jurors saw the police as untrustworthy and out to get them. The glove that didn't fit? Yep! Evidence planted. Fit with the stories they knew.

How incredible that in the same city where Rodney King's trial was moved to Simi Valley followed by no convictions which outraged the black community, the OJ trial was moved from Santa Monica to downtown LA and rendered a verdict equally incomprehesible to whites.

In light of all the black theology over the last few weeks, and the discussion of racism in Michael Irvin's comments and Michael Richards as well, it seems bitterly disillusioning to hear of Bell's death at the hands of police. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called American Skin "41 Shots" based on that shooting in New York City from a few years ago. He sang it on tour, here, the year that Cincinnati was boycotting businesses over the Timothy Thomas shooting. Catch the refrain:

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret
(It ain't no secret)
It ain't no secret
(It ain't no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
Your American skin

That's just it. When I say listen to communities, this is what I'm talking about. We have totally different narratives at work inside us, inside our skin. Even my professor was stopped for a "routine" driver's license "check" within two weeks of moving to Cincinnati. He wasn't speeding. He drives a nice car. He was wearing a suit.

That has never happened to me or Jon. But we're white.

I almost posted about the tasering event against the Iranian student at UCLA last week but the video was so upsetting, I let it go. How ironic. Sean Bell didn't get tasered. He got killed. On the eve of his wedding. Nice going NYPD.

One more article. This one is worth reading.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Royale: A Bond for every man (and woman!)

Finally some eye candy for the ladies! Ay-yi-yi!

Funny thing is that blondes are usually not my thang. See handsome photo of my formerly brunette hubster.

Still, aside from Daniel Craig being effin' hot, the movie was the perfect Bond movie. Casino Royale is the story of how Bond came to be a "00." Judy Dench has the right feisty touch which creates the tension of whether or not this blustering Bond will ever get the finesse necessary to be certified by the dame. Craig lends vulnerability to the role which adds interest (read: I want to tame and soothe you, Mr. Bond!). And to show just how far this poor James must claw to the top, we see him enter his first driving scene in, wait for it, a Ford. I did the requisite double take.

When this Bond gets in fights, cuts and scrapes litter his face for a respectable length of time, as though he had actually been in a fight which caused cuts and scrapes. Novel idea! In fact, there are even moments when this Bond is not downright gorgeous... I know! So not Bond! For one frame, I thought his ears looked like William Macy's. (Sorry Daniel.) And yet, there is something essentially sexy about a Bond who is not all champagne and caviar, but has flappy ears and makes mistakes and shows hubris that costs him.

And well, those scenes on the beach... yes, they were too long for Jon, but too short for me.

The movie opens with an unforgettable sequence that pays homage to Parkour (click here for movie clips). Parkour is the French name for "urban gymnastics." Learned all about it from my son who is a part of a Parkour group in Cincinnati. Apparently the opening action/chase mirrors a famous Parkour sequence in the movie Banlieue 13 (District 13) by David Belle, Parkour's most famous innovator.

Every action scene held my attention which is a feat in itself. Usually I get bored after the third car is blown up. This time, the novelty of Parkour, the stairwell fight, the surprising car chases, the bad guy's eye that bleeds... it all held up.

Lastly, I've gotta give props to Eva Green, the first smart, complex Bond girl... ever. One reviewer said she had depth and I agree. And great hair.

If you need an escape from the humdrum life in the 'burbs, go see this movie.

If you have kids to take to the movies, you could do worse than "Happy Feet." It's not perfect by a long shot, but the musical numbers that pay tribute to Stevie Wonder, Queen and Diana Ross are winners.

Congratulations to Bengals, Skins, Chiefs

fans who read here! Woo-hoo. Good shows all around.

Bengals: 30-0... that's right zippo! We're not all that cocky, though. Thursday night is Ravens here at home - short week and the Ravens are dominating our division. So...

And sorry about Dave's Lions. Just not their year. Ugh.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Irish go down in flames

And this Bruin has nothing but respect for Pete Carroll. What a coach.

Dare I ask it? Is Brady Quinn over-rated as a QB?

More reflections on the game: Did it seem to you that the commentators worked especially hard to pretend this game was a "great game" and a "close game" when it has been clear since halftime that the Trojans had the whole thing sewn up?

They tried to say Booty's confidence was shaken. Spare me. ND showed a little heart with the interceptions, but they have been short circuiting in the scoring department for the entire game.

Dare I admit it? I may have to root for the Trojans to go to the BCS Championship. I don't think anyone else can give OSU a run for their money. Still, the Bruins have their shot at USC next week and I know I won't abandon my Bruins until after that game.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all

I may or may not blog this weekend, but wanted to send out warm wishes to all you early morning Friday shoppers (I am not one). Go forth, and find deals!

I'll be working on college apps with my daughter and then on Saturday, will be preoccupied with the USC-ND game (rooting for the Irish while my husband roots for SC... yes, this Bruin still shares his bed, amazingly).

So unless I have a burst of energy before then, see you on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm getting Googled in Arabic script!

(I don't know if this is Arabic or Farsi, but isn't it pretty?)

Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick: Cutting Edge Social Commentary

So you've probably all heard the scuttle-but about Michael "Kramer" Richards and his Mel Gibson-like racist tirade at a Comedy Club last week. He apologized at the behest of Seinfeld on Letterman the other night. (Don't you love the word "behest"?)

I first heard of the story on ESPN radio. Colin Cowherd stepped out in front of the train that would surely come and stated that the apology was not adequate to overturn the outrage expressed in Richards' comments. There are some words, some types of name-calling that can never be taken back. He identified what is wrong with Richards' rant: the deep-seated contempt in every sentence. That level of racism cannot be tolerated, nor can it be taken back through an apology.

A caller to his show (southern, white) got on his high horse and challenged Colin: When black comedians hammer whites, why don't they draw the same kind of national furor? Selective racism?

At this moment, Colin went into my personal hall of fame. Paraphrased: Listen, blacks have endured hundreds of years of oppression and subjugation at the hands of white people. Don't tell me that we have to allow that kind of garbage because Chris Rock calls white people "Krackers" in his comedy routine. Chris Rock and any other black comedian can say whatever they want about us for a couple hundred years. We owe them that much. But whites may NEVER cross that line, ever, because of our history, because of what we did. Click (phone call terminated), his rant followed.

For those with morbid curiosity, the original clip of Richards' stomach-turning remarks is below:

YouTube (It is obscene and offensive: be ye forewarned).

Surprisingly, Dan Patrick (The Big Show on ESPN radio) had the strange misfortune of being on Letterman's show the same night as Richards and watched from back stage as the entire apology unfolded right before he went on the air to "chat" with Dave. Dan was mortified, as are we all. Yet what I liked about hearing Dan address this topic is that he has consistently called out whites (and blacks... as you'll see) for their thinly veiled racist attitudes and remarks.

For instance, Dan criticized sports writers when he noticed that they tend to describe black quarterbacks as "great athletes" whereas they admire white QBs for being "smart and hard working." And then he asks, "Why?" and leaves you hanging with your discomfort.

He went on to say that when a black athlete is interviewed, a white commentator will often remark: "He was well-spoken" whereas when a white commentator interviews a white player, no such remark is made.

Michael Irvin (former Dallas wide receiver -thanks Ish) on Dan's Big Show on Monday claimed that Tony Romo (Dallas' QB who replaced Drew Bledsoe) must have had some great, great, great, great Grandma who "got it down in the 'hood' or the barn or something" with a black man to account for Romo's talent. Dan Patrick challenged Irvin, asking if that is the only way Romo could be a good athlete. Irvin laughed and moved on. Dan and Keith Olberman were utterly perplexed and said so once the interview ended. Listen here. Ugh!

What stands out to me about all this racial stuff is: These sports guys seem to get it. At least, they see the issues, and say so.

Sports guys! Making social judgments. Do you think being in a world where blacks and whites must get along and where respect and admiration runs deep between the races might just help a wee bit? Sounds like it. After years of Rush, Hannity and Glenn "I'm really white" Beck and their poor attempts to cover up racism when it shows up in their constituencies, I love listening to these sports guys.

In other sports news: UCLA is hot in basketball (beat KY last night—which means a lot more to me now in KY's shadow than it did in Westwood).
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute scored 18 points despite playing the final 8½ minutes with four fouls. He scored six of UCLA's last 10 points, ignoring the foul trouble to go inside for the first four points and then throwing down a dunk on the break to make it 69-65 with 25 seconds to play.

This has to be their year. Has to be! (Right, Steve? - chief Bruin in the blogosphere)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Black theology's gauntlet

Today's column continues my series on black theology. I will be winding it up next week, I believe. I have another blog post to publish about women and being heard so I'll do that after this one has been up for a little bit. The column didn't get published until tonight.

This week has been an odyssey of seeing how difficult it is to listen. It's also been an exercise in frustration at times in not feeling heard. Clearly those experiences influenced today's column.

My UPI column will be posted later today

I'm heading off to co-op so no time to blog. I started one yesterday that I hope to finish tonight. In the meantime, have a great morning.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I can't look.... those Bengals...

I'm listening on the radio instead of watching on TV. Little comfort.

Still, the pundits who declared the points would rack up like a slot machine couldn't be more wrong. This is a defensive battle by two weak defenses. Crazy.

Update: Woo-hoo! 31-16 That's what I'm talkin' bout!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

But the real football story is... Cincinnati!

The University of Cincinnati (commonly referred to as UC out here - not to be confused with University of California schools) is eating undefeated Rutgers' lunch and dinner!

We are so stoked! Noah is a student, Jon teaches there and well, hey. We don't have any football teams in Cinci apart from UC. So this is a big deal. UC has had the toughest schedule in the NCAA (according to all the pundits). They're 5 and 1 at home. But what's most interesting is that they've played well against teams like OSU and Louisville, even though in the end they lose.

To beat Rutgers would be such a feather in their cap. Score right now: 27-3.

Update: Did I really write "feather in their cap"? Blech. Rinse, spit.

Update #2: UC rolled over Rutger's: 30-11. They stole the show, the dance, the night. Nick Davila, UC's QB, has not started a game... ever. Grutza (starter) was injured and Davila showed up unannounced and made it happen. Talk about storybook fairytales. He's a senior, from California, transferred from a junior college, has never started a game and it was senior night. What a night for him and the whole program!

And Cincinnati... Trivia question: why do sports casters always take a trip to Skyline chili when they do Cincinnati sporting events?

A Bruin Affair: Rooting for OSU

Corona with lime? Check.
Overpriced Boar's Head Deli meats? Check.
Jungle Jim's famous assorted olives from the bar? Check?
Flat screen TV? Oh yeah!

As an exiled southern California in midwestern diaspora, I've been sentenced to years of rivalry irrelevance. Usually when UCLA plays USC, I'm stuck watching someone like Kent State versus Ball State. (Happy to report this year that it looks like ABC may bail me out and show my beloved rivalry game.)

Back when Terry Donahue coached the incomparable UCLA Bruins and Rick Neuheisel wasn't betting on basketball but was throwing great passes, the Rose Bowl was an annual celebration of Pac-10 dominance and the Big-Ten represented (to me) a bunch of middle-aged balding white guy alums who flew in from Wisconsin or Michigan to get a couple of days in the sun while we beat up their team. Or so I thought.

Now that I'm in the land of the Big Ten, I've discovered just how good this conference is, how tenaciously loyal the fans are, and I have to pony up and admit, my pale skin betrays a genetic connection to the middle west, after all. (Both parents raised in Chicago and my father is a Fighting Irish alum!)

Today, I realize after seven years wandering in the midwestern wilderness, the Michigan-Ohio State game actually means a little bit to me. I've caught the Buckeye bug and am looking forward to rooting for Troy Smith to take out the Wolverines. I can't believe I care! (Fortunately I don't care that much. I can't take another Bengals loss tomorrow...)

So, enjoy the big game. We will.

Also, just wanted to say: Peace on Bo's soul. What an icon! Michigan may have the emotional edge today as a result.

Update: Buckeyes win! And now we can hold on to the hope that Troy Smith will win the Heismann. He is one smart, fast, creative QB.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Mark Driscoll Firestorm

Mark Driscoll has "apologized" for his insulting remarks about women made in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal. The most offensive are these:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

I was first linked to these comments by a friend who is not an evangelical and who had never heard of Driscoll. I read them and dismissed them as the rantings of a self-indulgent up-and-coming pastor who liked to make wise-cracks as insider jokes to his buddies.

Alas, the Internet did not render the same verdict. All kinds of responses have been launched at Mark. TallSkinnyKiwi has a good summary of the varieties of reactions to the offending remarks.

Honestly, I hardly care any more what some guy in a church says about women, Christianity, or sex. What I found more intriguing was the way sincere requests for apologies within the emergent movement were first, dismissed and then side-stepped in that "poor excuse for an apology" letter, and more fascinating still, how many men rushed to Mark's defense. Had these comments been made about a race or ethnic group (blacks or Mexicans) or made by Muslims, I think Christians would consider them insulting and ignorant. Why Mark gets a pass is beyond me.

Humorous response: The People Against Fundamentalism are rallying the troops! Using their mad fundamentalist skill set, they will picket and protest Mark's "misogynist" remarks in front of his church on Sunday... you know, to show them the Truth and to Rescue women from not being smart enough to recognize how dangerous Mark really is to them.

What's up with sex?

Bilbo has a post with lots of questions about sex and he needs answers! :) If you have time and interest, pop by and give him help sorting these out.

Sound familiar? (Moderate Muslim Manifesto)

Faith and Public Engagement

In the public sphere, I increasingly come back to what business it is of the state or the community--especially a community living as a minority--what the sexuality of a member of the community is.

Secondly, the other question I come back to is "What kept Umar up at night?" Was it whether someone might be engaging in homosexual conduct? Or whether a woman in his realm might not be conforming to the religion's requirements of "Hijab"? Or whether anyone--including, very clearly women, homosexuals, or even sinners and kafirs--would go to bed hungry? Which one of those did the second Caliph, one we often refer to as (not bringin The Prophet into) the greatest administrator Islam has had, think Allah would ask him on the Day of Judgement about?

And then I have difficulty going beyond that in terms of public policy. Should we be talking about whether anyone is dying of hunger in Afghanistan, or whether there are any apostates of homosexuals in Afghanistan or in downtown Toronto? Which one will Allah ask me about on The Day of Judgement?
(from: ifaqeerwikispace)

Ifaqeer in comments led me to his various sites and I've been enjoying reading the way the debate in Islam is being conducted through the various links he offers.

If you replaced the names of the groups with names we know: does Jerry Falwell speak for Christianity? Are we to be more interested in whether a woman speaks in a church service (Mark Driscoll) or with feeding the poor (Jim Wallis)? How much should the state be influenced by Christian morality and belief systems?

My oh my! I feel like a huge door flew open! Good stuff.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reza Aslan: Xavier

I don't have a photo from Tuesday night (wasn't there) but this one approximates what he looked like behind the podium (watched the video yesterday).

Reza spoke both to our class and then lectured to the community Tuesday night. One word describes his treatment of Islam, terrorism, the current relations between the west and the east:


Finally an academic who gets it. Finally someone who understands both Islam and the scope of the difficulties within it.

I’ve had an uneasy relationship to both Islam as a religion and to Muslims. While I’ve come to love and value Muslims I know personally for their hospitality and the simplicity of their devotion to God, I’ve also developed a fear of Islam in general. That fear was accelerated by 9/11, not caused by it. Having lived in Morocco during the Gulf War and for several years before that, I saw firsthand how utterly other their form of faith and identity were to the way we in America saw ours.

I resented the way women were treated as possessions and sex objects, I couldn't comprehend the way most Muslims were non-practicing yet very defensive and evangelistic, and it appeared to me that the faith itself encouraged a superiority rooted in shame that led to a twisted self-image.

Fundamentalists seemed on the brink all the time of being set off... leading to violence. The government worked over time to ferret them out to head off those kinds of demonstrations.

Moroccans resented the west (even as they admired it) and their resentment looked all the way back to the Crusades, included the European colonialist period, and extended itself to the American-backed corrupt leadership of the Arab world which enabled both Wahabism and secularist versions of Islam to thrive, both of which common Muslims rejected as being out of step with “true Islam.”

Reza Aslan described a Muslim's relationship to America as "Yankee, go home, and take me with you."

Even though the public party line in a country like Morocco had to be support of the king (or find yourself in a dark cell on the back side of the Atlas mountains for 25 years), the subtle yet palpable sentiment underneath the public declarations of loyalty was yearning. Moroccan Muslims yearned for a day when they could see their most perfect of faiths rise to a level of control over society that would lead them into a brighter tomorrow, where problems like hunger, economic hardship, unemployment, the vices of the west and apathetic Islamic practice would fall away.

Sound familiar? Anyone who has spent time in triumphalist movements or hyper fundamentalist Christianity knows what I'm talking about. There's an ideal form of the faith that if practiced purely, will lead to a kingdom on earth! That's similar to how many Muslims talk about Islam. The problems in the Muslim world are never with the religion; they are always located in its imperfect practice (particularly as tarnished by state leaders who are not legitimate Muslim leaders).

Reza Aslan gave language to the uneasy experiences I had. Until now, Riffat Hassan, Karen Armstrong and other lecturers usually gave some kind of apologetic for Islamic violence, or distanced the "true" Islam from the extremists without actually unfolding the tumultuous internal conflict of the Muslim world. I've usually left those meetings feeling like Muslims hold the west responsible for negative stereotypes and the exploitation of the Arab world for oil as the reasons for extremists... and they sort of wipe Islam's hands of any relationship to those more embarassing manifestations of the faithful.

Aslan certainly pointed his finger at the west when necessary, but he emphasized that the reformation under way has little to do with us, really. It has everything to do with seizing a moment in history and becoming something more than they've ever been. I finally get it.

I've got a fatwa for you!

In keeping with the theme of the week, Aslan stated that fatwas (via the Internet) are now a dime a dozen and the faithful can shop for the ones they want to follow (sort of like scanning the bookshelves in a xtn bookstore for the "right" parenting book or the right way to pray... you decide, rather than relying on a papal bull or encyclical). No relying on clerics to issue how to practice the faith; you can pick the fatwas you want to follow!

Here's for a sample of how the Internet is changing the face of Islam. combines the latest news events with fatwas (see lower righthand box as you scroll).

Gives some substance to the ideas Aslan is expressing: reformation, baby, and we get to watch it happen.

Better yet: Reza Aslan in his own words!

I still have to write that paper, but now I have help! I found the lecture in article form on the website of the Boston Globe. This article was written in September and is the mirror image of the lecture he gave here in Cincinnati. I would much rather you read his comments about Islam than mine. He is passionate, articulate and I have a hunch, states ideas you have never considered or thought about. His opening paragraph alone was news to me. Why hadn't I heard of this conference denouncing violence in the name of Islam? Why didn't I know that only clerics are supposed to issue fatwas, not radicals like bin Laden?

So please read this article (posted in entirety below). Then we can chat! :)

The Boston Globe
The war for Islam
Osama bin Laden may go down in history not only as the murderous criminal who declared holy war on the United States, but also as a radical figure in what has come to be called the Islamic Reformation--the epic struggle to define the faith of over a billion people.

By Reza Aslan | September 10, 2006

ON JULY 6TH, 2005, in an unprecedented display of intersectarian collaboration, 170 of the world's leading Muslim clerics and scholars gathered in Amman, Jordan, to issue a joint fatwa, or legal ruling, denouncing all acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam.

This belated attempt by the traditional clerical institutions to assert some measure of influence and authority over the world's Muslims was surely one of the most interesting developments in what has become an epic battle to define the faith and practice of over a billion people. Never before in the history of Islam had representatives of every major sect and school of law assembled as a single body, much less come to terms on issues of mutual concern.

Yet what made the Amman declaration so remarkable was not its condemnation of terrorism-since Sept. 11, 2001, similar statements have been issued by countless Muslim organizations throughout the world, despite perceptions to the contrary in the West. Rather, it was the inclusion of an all-encompassing fatwa reminding Muslims that only those who have dedicated a lifetime of study to the traditional Islamic sciences-in other words, the clerics themselves-could issue a fatwa in the first place.

This statement was a deliberate attempt to strip Islamic militants like Osama bin Laden of their self-proclaimed authority to speak for the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.

But if these clerics thought they could exert their authority over the militants, they were mistaken. The following day, July 7, four young British Muslims obliterated themselves and 52 bus and tube passengers during the height of rush hour. The London bombers, like the perpetrators of similar attacks in Madrid, New York, Tunisia, Turkey, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, Egypt, and, most dramatically, Iraq, believed they were heeding bin Laden's call for global jihad.

No wonder, then, that since 9/11 bin Laden has taken on an almost mythic stature in the world's imagination as the undisputed leader of a unified global network of Islamic terrorism (more properly termed ``jihadism"). Indeed, in President Bush's mind, bin Laden is a modern-day Hitler or Lenin. But in the minds of many scholars of Islam and observers of the Muslim world, bin Laden is not only a murderous criminal; he has transformed himself into one of the principal figures of what many now call ``the Islamic Reformation."

Obviously the term ``reformation" has certain unavoidable Christian and European connotations that are simply not applicable to the complex sociopolitical conflicts plaguing much of the Arab and Muslim world. And any comparison of people and events in the 16th century to those of the 21st century must come with the caveat that historical analogies are never simple and should be handled with care. But the Christian Reformation, it should be remembered, was, above all else, an argument over who has the authority to define faith: the individual or the institution. In many ways, this same argument is now taking place within Islam, with similarly violent consequences.

Despite common perception in Europe and the United States, bin Laden's primary target is neither Christians nor Jews (both of whom are referred to by Al Qaeda as ``the far enemy") but rather Islam's traditional clerical institutions along with those hundreds of millions of Muslims who do not share his puritanical worldview (``the near enemy") and who, as a consequence, make up the overwhelming majority of Al Qaeda's victims.

. . .

To be sure, unlike Christianity, Islam has never had anything like a ``Muslim pope" or a ``Muslim Vatican." Religious authority in Islam is not centralized within a single individual or institution; rather, it is scattered among a host of exceedingly powerful clerical institutions and schools of law.

This authority, it must be understood, is self-conferred, not divinely ordained. Like a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim cleric is a scholar, not a priest. His judgment on a particular issue is respected and followed not because it carries the authority of God, but because the cleric's scholarship is supposed to grant him deeper insight into what God desires of humanity. Consequently, for 1,400 years Islam's clerical institutions have managed to maintain their monopoly over religious interpretation by maintaining a monopoly over religious learning.

That is no longer the case. The last century has witnessed dramatic increases in literacy and education throughout the Arab and Muslim world, giving both Muslim men and women unprecedented access to new ideas and sources of knowledge. The result has been a steady erosion in the religious authority of Islam's traditional clerical institutions. After all, most Muslims no longer need go to a mosque to hear the words of God; they can experience the Koran for themselves, in their own homes, among their own friends, and increasingly, in their own languages.

Over the last century, the Koran has been translated into more languages than in the 14 centuries previous. Until recently, some 90 percent of the world's Muslims, for whom Arabic is not a primary language, had to depend on their clerical leaders to define the meaning and message of the Koran. Now, as more and more Muslim laity, and especially Muslim women, are studying the Koran for themselves, they are increasingly brushing aside centuries of traditionalist, male-dominated, and often misogynistic, clerical interpretation in favor of a highly individualized and more gender-neutral reading of Islam. By seizing the power of interpretation from the iron grip of the clerical institutions, these individuals are not only actively reinterpreting Islam according to their own evolving needs, they are shaping the future of this rapidly expanding and deeply fractured faith.

To see how this radical ``individualization" of the Muslim world is affecting traditional notions of religious authority, one only need visit the magnificent city of Cairo, the cultural capital of the Muslim world. For more than a millennium, Cairo's famed Al-Azhar University has served as the center of Islamic scholarship. Within its hallowed walls, generations of male scriptural scholars (the ulama) have labored to construct a comprehensive code of conduct, called the shariah, meant to regulate every aspect of the believer's life. There was a time when Muslims from all over the world consulted Al-Azhar's revered scholars about everything from how to pray properly to how to properly dispose of fingernail clippings. No longer.

Today, if a Muslim wants legal or spiritual advice on how to live a righteous life, he or she is just as likely to pass over the antiquated scholarship of Al-Azhar for the televised broadcasts of the wildly popular Egyptian televangelist Amr Khaled, who is not a cleric and who has never studied Islam or Islamic law in any official capacity. Nevertheless, through his weekly television program, in which he dispenses his sage advice on religious and legal matters to tens of millions of Muslims throughout the world-from Detroit to Jakarta-Amr Khaled has utterly usurped the role traditionally reserved for Islam's clerical class.

And he is not alone. The Internet-whose role in the Islamic Reformation clearly parallels that of the printing press in the Christian Reformation-has now made it possible for many Muslims to draw upon the opinions of not only their own clerical leaders, but also of a host of Muslim activists and academics who are propounding fresh and innovative interpretations of Islam.

Fifty years ago, if a Muslim in, say, Malaysia, wanted a legal ruling on a disputed topic, he had access only to the religious opinion of his neighborhood cleric, whose word, at least to his followers, was essentially law. Now, that Muslim can troll the vast databases of or, both of which provide ready-made fatwas on every question imaginable. He can send an e-mail to Amr Khaled (, or to Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (, or to any number of Muslim scholars-clerics and nonclerics alike-who are more than happy to spread their influence beyond their local communities. And because no centralized religious authority exists in Islam to determine whose opinion is sound and whose is not, Muslims can simply follow whichever fatwa they like best.

Welcome to the Islamic Reformation.

. . .

Of course, much as the Christian Reformation ushered in multiple, often conflicting, and sometimes baffling interpretations of Christianity, so has the Islamic Reformation created a number of wildly divergent and competing interpretations of Islam. Perhaps it is inevitable that, as religious authority passes from institutions to individuals, there will be men and women whose radical reinterpretations of religion will be fueled by their extreme social and political agendas.

It is in this sense that Osama bin Laden can be viewed as one of the Islamic Reformation's most influential figures. In fact, generations from now, when historians look back on this tumultuous time, they may compare bin Laden not to Lenin or Hitler, but rather to the so-called reformation radicals of Christianity-men like Thomas Muntzer, Jacob Hutter, Hans Hut, or even Martin Luther-who pushed the principle of religious individualism and militant anticlericalism to its terrifying limits.

Like his 16th-century Christian counterparts, bin Laden is concerned above all else with the purification of his own religion. Al-Qaeda is, after all, a puritanical movement whose members consider themselves the only true believers, and believe all other Muslims are hypocrites, impostors, and apostates who must be convinced of their folly or abandoned to their horrible fate.

Bin Laden has shown he is willing to use any means necessary to purify Islam of what he considers to be its adulteration at the hands of the clerical establishment. While his tactics are immoral and horrifying, his justification for the use of violence is not so different than that used by reformation radicals like Martin Luther, who defended the massacre of his Protestant opponents by claiming that ``in such a war, it is Christian and an act of love to strangle the enemies confidently, to rob, to burn, and do all that is harmful until they are overcome."

But what most connects bin Laden and the Reformation radicals of the 16th century is his deliberate attempt to seize for himself the powers traditionally reserved for the institutional authorities of his religion. Luther challenged the papacy's right to be the sole interpreter of the Scripture; bin Laden challenges the right of the clerical establishment to be the sole interpreters of Islamic law. That is why he repeatedly issues his own fatwas, despite the fact that, as the Amman declaration sought to remind Muslims, only a cleric affiliated with one of Islam's recognized schools of law has the authority to do so.

Even more striking is bin Laden's fundamental reinterpretation of the Koranic concept of jihad. What was once considered a collective duty waged solely under the command of a qualified clerical authority, has, in bin Laden's hands, become a radically individualistic and violent obligation totally divorced from any institutional power. In short, bin Laden's vision of Islam is one that is devoid of institutional control, where anyone can issue a fatwa and anyone can declare jihad.

It is this conscious recasting of religious authority that has made bin Laden so appealing to those Muslims, especially in Europe, whose sense of social, economic, or religious alienation from their own communities make them yearn for alternative sources of leadership. In his speeches and writings, bin Laden warns these disaffected Muslims not to listen to their own clerics, whom he considers incapable of addressing their needs. In fact, he claims that following the leadership of these ``takfiri," or ``apostate" clerical authorities (by which he means those who disagree with his interpretation of Islam), is ``tantamount to worshipping [them] rather than God." He then defiantly takes upon himself the duty traditionally reserved for Islam's clerical class of ``enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong."

It is a clever manipulative trick: convince Muslims to stop obeying their clerical authorities, while taking upon yourself their traditional clerical duties.

The struggle to define religious faith, as we know from Christian history, can be a chaotic and bloody affair. And the Islamic Reformation has some way to go before it is resolved. It may be too early to speculate how much bin Laden's radical individualism will influence Islam in the coming years. But it is important to note that bin Laden's voice is but one among the chorus of voices clamoring to define the Islamic Reformation.

There are millions of individuals who, by seizing powers of interpretation for themselves, are developing new and innovative interpretations of Islam: some promoting peace and tolerance, others promoting bigotry and puritanism. Who will win this war for the future of the Islamic faith remains to be seen. But once begun, the struggle cannot be stopped.

Reza Aslan is a scholar of religions and the author of ``No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam" (Random House).