Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Known Universe by AMNH

Kind of puts Laestadius in perspective.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to the Pale Blue Dot

Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas, readers. I hope you enjoy this video. Please reach out to strangers over the holidays . . . those of us who have left a faith community know that the holidays can be a lonely time, and the smallest of gestures can be an enormous comfort. Be well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does Religion Subjugate Women?

President Jimmy Carter addresses the Parliament from Parliament of Religions on Vimeo.


From a Speech by Jimmy Carter to the Parliament
of the World's Religions, Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 3, 2009

Most Bible scholars acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures were written when male dominance prevailed in every aspect of life. Men could have multiple sex partners (King Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines), but adulterous behavior by a woman could be punished by stoning to death - then, in the time of Christ and, in some societies, 2009 years later.

I realize that devout Christians can find adequate scripture to justify either side in this debate, but there is one incontrovertible fact concerning the relationship between Jesus Christ and women: he never condoned sexual discrimination or the implied subservience of women. The exaltation and later reverence for Mary, as Jesus' mother, is an even more vivid indication of the special status of women in Christian theology.

I have taught Bible lessons for more than 65 years, and I know that Paul forbade women to worship with their heads covered, to braid their hair, or to wear rings, jewelry, or expensive clothes. It is obvious to most modern day Christians that Paul was not mandating permanent or generic theological policies.

In a letter to Timothy, Paul also expresses a prohibition against women's teaching men, but we know – and he knew – that Timothy himself was instructed by his mother and grandmother.

At the same time, in Paul's letter to the Romans, he listed and thanked twenty-eight outstanding leaders of the early churches, at least ten of whom were women. "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church … greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus … greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you… greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was … greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them."

It is clear that during the early Christian era women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers, and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

My own Southern Baptist Convention leaders ordained in recent years that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors, chaplains in the military service, or teachers of men. They based this on a few carefully selected quotations from Saint Paul and also Genesis, claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin. This was in conflict with my belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God. The Roman Catholic Church and many others revere the Virgin Mary but consider women unqualified to serve as priests.

This view that the Almighty considers women to be inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or tradition. Its influence does not stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue, or temple. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views and set a new course that demands equal rights for women and men, girls and boys.

At their most repugnant, the belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo. It also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair and equal access to education, health care, employment, and influence within their own communities.

...we are calling on all those with influence to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices – in religious and secular life– that justify discrimination against women and to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of equality and human dignity.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bike Lanes a Religious Threat?

Check out this article about Hassidic Jews getting PUBLIC bicycle lanes removed because Spandex-wearing bicyclists were a "threat to their religion." I've been told that OALCers have been successful in removing sports and theater programs from public schools their children attend. Is there a difference?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Finlandia

Thanks to Vanhapiika for sharing this link. My grandfather grew up near Savonlinna, I'd like to think he heard this in concert and that the rousing music fixed his resolve to avoid conscription in the Russian Army. Although one could argue that leaving for America (e.g, draft-dodging) is not the sentiment intended!

Finlandia became so popular that it could only be performed in disguise under false names. This video says it was labelled "Impromptu" to avoid the Russian censors. According to Wikipedia, "Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous, a famously flippant example being Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring.

Far from the country and context that gave it birth, I would grow up singing the Finlandia Hymn as "Be Still My Soul" (without musical accompiment, of course) in the OALC. The lyrics were written in 1941 by a non-Laestadian Finnish poet.

Since then I have heard the hymn performed many ways. I love the version by Joan Baez, and cherish the memory of a dear friend playing the tune on bagpipes. However, I have yet to experience the power of a live performance by an orchestra. What about you? What are your connections to Finlandia?