A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 19, 2007

Public Schools Embrace Islam?

In 1962 the New York State Regents passed a policy to “combat the decline of morals in public life” that called for “moral and spiritual training” as a part of the school day. The Regents introduced a generic prayer to be said by students in the public school as a part of the morning activities. The prayer recites: “

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

This prayer drew criticism from the ACLU, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1963 by a 7-1 ruling. Personally, I agree with the ruling, as it was in my opinion unduly entangling the secular with the relgious world. On the other hand, here we are many years later with this “generic” prayer ditched and on the verge of being replaced with Muslim prayers.

MUSLIM PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK
New York City is about to open a new taxpayer funded “Arabic themed” school in Brooklyn. Khalil Gibran International Academy will be led by Debbie Almontaser a Muslim of Yemeni background. “It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens,” says Almontaser. While some of this sounds good, this school will go a good deal further than those arguably, altruistic goals.

The New York City school’s goal is to focus on Arabic aka Islamic themes in education and eventually to teach half of the classes in the Arabic language. Isn’t it interesting that just recently Oxford University in London, England decided not to teach certain subjects like the Holocaust or the Crusades in the school’s history classes because they might offend some of the Muslim students. Yet, in America tax payers are at the very least facilitating a religion.

A valid question that many have asked if the Muslim religion could be separated from the school. In response to that question Almonstaser said,

“Being that we are a public school, we certainly are not going to be teaching religion.”

Maybe not but they will be facilitating it. I also wonder if the Islamic mandates of prayer, not voluntary mind you, will be enforced or will be disallowed. Will accomodations be made during Ramadan. All of these sound precariously close to an “undue entanglement” of the state with a “particular religion”, and all of this would be unconstitutional.

In Lemon v Kurtzman,403 U.S. 602 (1971) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools (most of which were Catholic) for teachers’ salaries, textbooks and instructional materials, violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. The decision also upheld a decision of the First Circuit, which had struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act providing state funds to supplement salaries at nonpublic elementary schools by 15%. As in Pennsylvania, most of these funds were spent on Catholic schools. The following guidelines were established, and these are the Law of the US.

1. The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive entanglement” with religion.

On the face this school would seem to be in patent violation of the third and possibly the third prong of “The Lemon Test”.

There are other instances of the state becoming “excessively entangled” in facilitating Islamic needs. Consider the policy of Minneapolis Community Colleges. The colleges have installed facilities to enable Muslim students to perform ritual feet washing before daily prayers at the college. Muslims are required to pray five times a day but must first wash their feet. According to President Phil Davis the school is simply extending “hospitality” to their newcomers. However, are such “hospitable” extentions afforded to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or other practitioners of a relgious faith. This practice would seem to be in violation of all prongs of the lemon test.

The question is why are public institution policies so correctly careful to not estabish or facilitate Christianity and Judaism, but are bending over backwards for Islam. I make no secret that I am a practioner of Christianity, however, I am not thrilled with public dollars being spent facilitating and advancing any religion unless there is a clear and legitimate secular purpose being served. These two instances don’t come close to meeting that standard.

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April 17, 2007

Symbolism in Policy Decisions

This is a critical analysis, in draft form that I am writing as part of my boring coursework towards a doctorate.  I put this under a barrage of headings, as it really applies to so many areas.

However, I thought some of you political junkies might find it interesting.

The use of symbols in framing public policy is discussed by Deborah Stone in  Policy Paradox.  The author states (pg. 137) that “symbolic representation is the essence of problem definitions in politics”.  What she may be stating early on in the chapter is that these symbols become part of the framework that policy makers can use to make their intended goals based within a context of reality for the general public.  The author discusses four distinct types of symbols used by framers of public policy: Narrative stories, Synecdoche – or figures of speech – where a part represents the whole, Metaphors, and the purposeful use of Ambiguity in the choice of which symbols are used.

The author states that “policy problems usually have narrative structure, with heroes and villains and innocent victims” (pg. 138).  Of course this provides a framework where the general public can relate to the goals of the policy being sought.  These narratives have the typical themes of stories of decline and stories of helplessness and control.  The author states that the story of decline is typified by the statement, “unless such and such is done, disaster will follow” (pg. 138).  This can be done by using human or statistical information as the characters which anthropomorphize the sought policy.   The second genre mentioned, helplessness and control, typically is used to contrast the problems that helplessness bring about when compared with policies which bring people into a firmer grasp of control of their lives, by means of a public policy.  The author points out (pg. 139) that as these stories move from fate towards control, they elicit hope, which engenders support.  The author later goes on (pg. 144) to describe subtypes of the control story, and these involve conspiracy theory stories as well as stories that blame the victim.  The conspiracy theory story calls for the masses to rise up against the few, while the blame the victim storyteller will urge the few to stand up for themselves like the rest of society.

The second type of symbol is synecdoche – or representing a whole by the part.  The author shows how politicians – framers of public policy – use this type of framework to forward policy ideas unto the general public.  The author gives examples public policy in domestic life, in the public welfare arena, and with regard to public safety (pg. 145-147) became examples which symbolic cases were manipulated by political forces, and the author chose to solely use examples where more “fiscally conservative” policies were promoted by this technique to simplify complex problems for public policy consumers. 

            The author proceeds towards the use of metaphors as strategic reference markers by policy makers.  The author demonstrates how to effect change in policy is to treat one problem as if it were another problem by the metaphor of social institutions as being living organisms (pg. 148, 149).  The author outlines further variations of this metaphor by showing that natural laws pervade into social organizations which set limits and provide barriers towards change in society brought about by policy.  The examples cited by the author of trends in society towards oligarchy, futility thesis, and law of unintended results, (pg. 150) are reach represented as in the previous section by more “fiscally conservative” elements of society are the beneficiaries of this type of tactic. 

            The use of metaphor is also brought about by mechanical terms which often form a basis for many policy metaphors.  Terms such as “in order”, “checks and balances”, “balanced budget” are all used by policy makers to give a sense of soundness to their policy views.  Government actions or trends in policy are shown as “getting a foot in the door” or “leading towards a slippery slope” (pg. 151) all use mechanical metaphor to warn against policy changes when there is no real valid reason to oppose the new policy.  Another mechanical metaphor is the ladder, which typifies an escalation (pg. 152).  Still other metaphors, which show policy function of exercising restraint, by terms as “spillovers”, “leaks”, “seepages”, and even “containing Communism”, all use mechanical terms to show how policy, or its change, serves in helping society run more efficiently.

            Another type of metaphor which is commonly employed by policy makers is that of disease (pg 153).  Terms which imply disease, such as, “blight”, “infect”, “breeding grounds”, “dying industries”, all imply deterioration and decline of a society.  The author states, “The disease label discredits opponents and implies the moral rightness of treating them as less than human” (pg. 155).  A more aggressive metaphor than the disease method is when war is declared on some social ill.  Metaphors, such as “The War on Poverty”, or “Waging War on Cancer”, and the author could have easily added the “War on Drugs” and perhaps the “War on Terror”, are all used by policy makers to gather public support for a policy in the sense that it is a campaign within the public’s interest.  The author shows that the metaphor used may also be indicative of the political stance of a policy proponent.  Liberals and conservatives may call a policy a partnership or a giveaway depending upon which constituency is receiving the benefit of the policy (pg. 155). 

            Finally, the author addresses the intentional ambiguity of symbols.  These symbols can easily represent more than one thing to any number of persons, and the author’s premise is that this is not at all by chance, but by design.  The author’s use of humor by using a symbol of an alligator is effective, when she states, “pictures of alligators conjure up very different images on Izod knit jerseys than on T-shirts for the National Wildlife Federation” (pg. 157).  The clear thesis of this section is contained in the passage, “Politics is more like art than science in that ambiguity is central” (pg. 157).  The author’s point is that by use of purposefully ambiguous statements, policies which serve both sides of the political fence can be framed in language which is not offensive to either side politically.  Both sides benefit, as well as the public, at large, by the implementation of policy even if by ambiguous means.  The author provides her own summation of this point by use of an anecdote of trade negotiations between the US and Japan, where both sides were willing to use ambiguity, and leave a good amount of the details unclear, in order to provide the public with a sense of accomplishment and achievement of parochial objectives (pg. 160).  The author’s conclusion is that the use of symbols in all their forms “helps transform strivings into collective decisions” (pg. 161). 

            Policy is formed by various strategies, and is used to form new strategies.  In her closing the author states, “they represent the world in such a way to make their skills, and their favorite course of action) necessary (pg. 162).  The view of the author may appear Machiavellian, but she may well be on target with regard to how symbols are used to frame policy.

April 16, 2007

Hating the Haters

A thought provoking post by Neil responding to “Why do Straights Hate Gays” which was written by Larry Kramer the founder of ACT UP.

The tone of Neil’s post was saying I don’t hate you, but I’m not crazy about some of the things you stand for. Mr. Kramer’s editorial, written in the LA Times, brings many arguments, some more persuasive than others depicting societal hatred of homosexuality. Both sides score some points.

A thought provoking post, and I see my nods for this blog for the “TB Award” not the illness, paid off! )
Neil is correct to assert that you – and I think this means sane people in society – don’t hate anybody, and no one can know what is in the human heart other than the actions that you take. Even wishing to maintain the current social atmosphere vis a vis gay marriage etc. is not inherently hatred, but it could be perceived that way.

By the same token, the author makes good points concerning hate crimes, which are a reality, and while going down, are often visited upon subgroups because of their differences from the mainstream. Some of those who also may oppose this groups assertions of rights, often are disinterested in the truth that these people are “singled out because they are gay”. Indifference may not be hatred, but it isn’t a leap to see it as such.

Change is never easy, and our society is changing with its views towards homosexuals. They are a part of our community at large, and are at the very least entitled to civility and respect. They are also entitled to fair equittable treatment by the law and should be afforded the same rights as any citizen. Marriage is not a Constitutional right, and requires a license.

The method that societal changes should come about are by the legislature and by the heart. The course that many of the changes seem to be coming about is via the courts, which if these are Constitutional issues are fine, but if not, they are improper.

Let the legislatures, and hopefully the affirmations of equality in the eyes of the law, and under heaven work out needed societal changes. Both sides need to work on this, not just gays nor just straights.

April 13, 2007

Russia and Guatamala Join China on Adoption Scams, OOPS, Bans

I’m not an expert on adoption, but when something smells like crap and has maggots all over it, I know that there is a garbage heap around. Guess what friends, adoption policies reek pretty badly right now.

Well, two gret peoples, the Chinese – who are models of humanity and the enligtenment of the spirit of man – just ask any Tibetan, and the Russians – who seem to miss the good ole’ days of Stalin – and if you think I’m kidding you should read their news – have been joined by a third, that country of forwardness, Guatamala, in making adoptions of the children that were until about 24 hours ago about as special to them, as the $4.95 Blue Plate Special at La Greasy Spoon’s Diner is to the editor of Gourmet Magazine. Now, here’s the question class, Guess which three countries were the top three in popularity with those in the United States for adoptions; you got it, China, Russia, and Guatamala.

China has put some rather strict restrictions for adopting children from their country. Before I go much further, I will risk the ire of Adoptees, Parents who wish to adopt and the political machine that is funded by adoption agencies, and state at the very start, I “know” that adoption means many things to many people, but is run by some of the most corrupt agencies, with the most obscene practices to procure children – yeah, I said procure – and then bid them off to the highest bidder. Banking on the despair that many adults feel from either a sense of unfulfillment due to not being able to have a child, or the laudable concern which makes adults jump through the hoops of these corrupt governmental agencies at home and abroad, and the equally corrupt for profit business that adoption has become.

China has numerous children that need to be adopted, particularly female children. In part due to the draconian policies set forth by their 0 growth mandate. One could argue, and probably correctly, that allowing these children to be born is better than the forced abortions which take place daily, many by placing an injection of fermaldehyde in the brain of the newborn as it passes through the birth canal. In light of China’s barbaric treatment of these unwanted pregnancies, and with the equal disregard to civil liberties, particularly in Tibet, they typically portray, it is hard to understand some of the requirements that were put into play concerning adoption. Some of them are understandable, but the age issue of any parent being over 50 is a bit of a stretch, considering the average life expectancy in America is 75 for males and 78 for females. Of course gay couples can’t adopt, but don’t feel bad, the overweight, and even those with facial scars can be eliminated from the pool. Besides, what do you expect from a government that has made the repression of its own people, and many of their new people – former sovereign states, about as fine an art as the sad history of man has known.

Russia’s entry into this foray is puzzling, particularly when one considers the extreme duress that children who are adopted from this lovely corner of the world encounter due to the typical lack of basic care, the high degree of unreported serious medical deficiencies of these children, and the high amount of these children who demonstrate the most severe disassociative disorders of all adopted children, and make no mistake, through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, adopted children go through hell on earth in many instances. Another disturbing trend in Russia is the growing number of black market mothers who are being systematically raped and then having the offspring shipped off to couples in the US with few questions asked, and a large amount of dollars passing hands. The fact remains, that couples in the US will do almost anything for any baby, and many seemingly will do quite a bit more for a “white” baby, regardless of how many questions don’t need to be asked. This is not to blame the prospective parents, unless they are doing something unethical, as their hurt and need are the fuel to corrupt fire that burns so brightly. Russia, must be trying to compete with China, darned, they’re so competitive with each other, in winning the bad boys of history award. Hey, you have to be good at something, so if repression doesn’t work out for the #1 spot, why not repression with policy corruption thrown in. It’s sure to be a winner!

Guatamala, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, has seen a bumper crop of adopted children, and yes, again the metaphor was purposeful, head to the US in recent years. And when a couple in the US holds that bundle of joy, they should remember that:

About 4,700 Guatemalans, mostly babies 1 year old or younger, were adopted by U.S. families last year — compared to about 3,800 in 2005.

Critics say the process is fraught with anomalies. Among them: some cases of birth mothers being pressured to give up their babies for cash; growing numbers of falsified birth certificates; reports of outright baby thefts; and even deaths from lack of care while children were in private orphanages awaiting adoption.

Opponents also complain that there is little judicial oversight and that lawyers known as ”notaries,” acting as baby brokers, charge up to $30,000 per child.

So, some change was coming, and probably is overdue. It would be good if Guatamala followed international guidelines promoted by International organizations such as The Hague, as President Bush pointed out in his recent visit to this poverty stricken country. However, this is a cash industry, to a nation that is desparately poor, and its clients are equally as desparate. Do you think that the brokers involved don’t know this? Of course not, they are the reincarnation of Mother Theresa. Sorry, not all of us fell off the watermelon truck.

Not to be outdone by the despots, crooks and other bottom feeders of the world, the adoption many of the adoption agencies here in the “Good Ole USA” put their own odor to this pile of wreaking trash. This is typified by the coercion which is typically applied to young mothers or expectant mothers in the US. To my knowledge, abortion and adoption are the only contracts that a minor can enter into without the consent of the parent. Something is diabollically wrong with both of these matters, as they are concerning one of the most primal rights of a human being, the right to reproduce. This is not a polemic against abortion or adoption, but do you think that a 16 year old girl in either of the situations who feels forced into one of these Sophie’s choices needs to have the guidance of an adult that loves her? For one minute, I will not believe that the vast majority of adoption agents – that can typically secure over $35,000 for a white American born child have the “best interests of the mother or child in mind” when they offer “counselling” often without parental notification. Their hands are covered in dirt and they also reek of garbage. The practices used are coercive at the least, and criminal at the worst. Yet, the same thing goes on daily. Abortions for girls under the age of 18 multiply to the tune of nearly 4,000,000 in the same time span that has seen slightly over 3,000 servicemen die in the Middle East. I’m not saying the two are equivalent – as I don’t believe an embryo is a human being – I just love pissing off the left and the right – but I will say that someone is profitting, and it’s not the kids by the abortion industry. The same charge can be levied to the self proclaimed saints of the adoption industry. This is a big business worth well over 1.4 Billion dollars a year. That’s Billion with a B, and not to sound like Professor Harold Hill but B is the first letter in Bull****.

Meanwhile, red tape and having 50 states having their own rules, indeed many states have various rules by county, keeps young children who are American by birth unable to be adopted. Again, I don’t feel adoption is a panacae, and trust me, I know this to be the truth, but one step to simplify the process would be to have consistent rules, and probably the one agency with enough clout to make it stick are the Feds, but those who know me, know that I’m an odd type of Republican in that I don’t knee-jerk and say Government is the problem. In some areas, where the private sector, and foreign governments are about as ethically pure as Ted Haggert playing a visit to a local massage parlor, it may be time for an agency without economic interest to end the madness.

Hopefully someone will read this post, and even offer a comment of rage or even better voice agreement. It’s time for some sanity in this most feckless and the chattel world of human trafficking, err, adoption.

April 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Christianity,Church,Inspirational,Philosophy,Quote of the Day,Religion — avoiceofreason @ 3:48 am

I don’t understand my own actions.  That, which I want to do, I am incapable of doing, and I do the very thing that I hate.

St. Paul

April 7, 2007

Idiots on Parade, Westboro Baptist Church and War Protesters, MainStream America

These two groups of idiots on parade deserve each other. One could hope that they were locked in a small room with each other for long periods of time.

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This blog has often mocked idiots on parade, they merited it.

However, the ultra Right also has their own group of idiots, and this group of “people” are just as bad, if not worse than the linked idiots. Fortunately, this group, though well known is not well populated. If you are in the mood to get angry watch this video of these pure a**holes of the week. These “people” momentrarily made me ashamed to be associated with Christianity, then I remembered, their beliefs of hatred have nothing to do with Christ.

Then again, the idiots on the Left also like to brainwash their children in the ways of hatred. Maybe these two famlies can do lunch.

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And it seems letting kids become future idiots on parade is not just left for the politically minded, but is key to developing good sportsmanship.

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Hopefully all of these people will get a Darwin Award, and keep their genes out of the future gene pool.

April 6, 2007

Cultural War Against Easter: Part VII War and Peace

You still need to be in the framework of about 100 to 400 AD. Things are changing, not just in the political climate, towards the end of the timeframe, due to Constantine’s doings, but also in the social frame. In short, the edict of toleration soon gives way to social preference, and then legislative preference, and the Christians end up on top.

However, this change was happening throughout the Empire of Rome prior to Constantine’s and later Emperors policy changes towards the new religion. For the past 300 years this religious movement has radically altered the social fabric at a community level. The liberalizing effect of the belief system toward relationship of father to son, mother to daughter, husband to wife, leader to the masses, is making inroads into a culture that has often been clothed in opression, in an Empire which is mostly opressive. The gods are also that way. Feckless creatures these gods, who act in a manner much like the worst parts of human nature, and yet demand to be pleased. Contrast that with the image of a God that wishes to have communication with man. That is not angry with man. The first words that God speaks to man after a 400 year silence is “Fear not”. God is not angry with us. The message takes root.

Are there cultural clashes? Yes in a way, but not as much as would be think. Christianity is a bit different in that it is not ritualistic. It also is remarkably inclusive in its cultural tolerance. St. Paul had written about that when admonshing Gentile believers to not associate culturally with Judaism, that Christianity is not exclusive, but for all. Other incidents that would certainly raise eyebrows, probably as much today as back then are reported by St. Paul. Imagine a butcher shop that is owned by a pagan, and he offers animals to gods, then puts the meat on sale. Can you imagine the moral dilemma if someone admitted to buy that. I can just see the raised eyebrows of self-righteousness in full pose. Yet, St. Paul says that there is nothing wrong with doing so, but if it is offensive to some, perhaps it shouldn’t be done. Interesting that the concept of tolerance is combined with moderation and self sacrifice. However, the meat is just that, meat. St. Paul goes on to say how he adopts the mannerisms and cultures of all, so that he might win them to his message. He insinuates that cultural mores are neither right or wrong, but that what is important is dedication to a set of underlying principals. St. Paul is the first advocate of multi-culturalism in that he sees the value of culture, and that these mores do exist and this is a cause of celebration, not despair.

So, what’s the deal about Easter? First of all Easter is in basis a pagan holiday that was modified to fit the Christian message. The Teutonic goddess Estre was adopted by most of the Roman Empire, and was associated with fertility. Among the practices of this worship were placing ornamented eggs in the dirt to bring about fertility of crops. The new life of spring – the chicks and bunnies – were symbols of her bringing new life to the world. Many of the same attributes are brought to Persephone – but for some reason the old girl Estre really had quite a following. Actually the concept of the eggs didn’t start with Estre, but is predated by Mesopotamian worship of Astarte – whose worship was also copied in Egypt. Candidly, I find these celebrations by our ancestors quite wonderful, and am not in the least offended by them. When Christianity became en vogue, the cultural aspects of the people diffused and took on Christian symblolism. To me, this is one of the greatest appeals of Christianity that it doesn’t really destroy culture, but assimilates cultures with the basics of its own faith and allows for synthesis of religion and culture.

The mixture of the cultures was vitally important to Christianity – and not to play what came first the chick or the Easter egg – must be measured in the historical context of the Early Church. St. Paul, who was a zealot Jew, forged the spreading of the Christian message to non-Jews and immediately began practices which disassociated the new faith from the old faith. By discouraging circumcision, by allowing Christians to purchase and eat meat offered to pagan dieties, St. Paul set about the synthesis of the Christian message and ethos into the contemporary world of his time. Consider that he said I become all men that I may win some men to Christ. This is not situational ethics, this is multiculturalism, and those who would oppose multiculturalism from a “Christian ethic” are about as far removed from the principals of the teachings of St. Paul – as well as his practices – as Pluto is from the Sun.

Perhaps the message of the transformation of Easter from pagan holiday to secular excuse to buy candy hides the real message; grace. Hopefully, the cultural war will stop, and may we learn to see that in fact, the bumping together of the cultures makes wonderful new traditions, which benefit all.

But I’m still not buying a chocolate Easter bunny.

April 5, 2007

Cultural War Against Easter: Part VI That Crazy Constantine

Take yourself back in time to about 400 AD.  Your civilization, whichever it is, is going through major changes, because there’s a new sherriff in town and his name is Constantine.  Constantine is one of the most understudied characters in the history of the world, and in proportion to his influence, he is by far the most understudied.  While historians love to talk about Alexander the Great, who was probably the greatest military mind in history, and Julius Caesar, in my class I refer to him as the original Dr. J, and others, by the sheer impact upon history.  Some have said that Constantine’s influence came close or matched that of Augustus, but they really got the order wrong.  Constantine outdid them all.  As a matter of fact, his legacy results in about one-half of the way the world believes.  Because the spread of Christianity has another trinity other than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is Jesus who started the movement, St. Paul who spread it beyond its borders, and Constantine who established and codified it as a part of world culture.  Now, this  essay is not just about Constantine, it’s about religion, politics and culture.

Constantine did not believe in our Constitution, and that’s cool, he wasn’t around.  As a matter of fact, he quite actively believed and understood the role that religious beliefs can play in a society.  There are many detractors from Constantine, and they may score their points, but in the balance, the reason the Christian faith enjoys the status it does in Western Culture is in fact squarely on the shoulders of this man.  I’m not going to debate whether Constantine was a true believer, and whether the conversion of his army prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge was genuine or political; it doesn’t matter.  Constantine’s policy of toleration for all relgious beliefs serve as a bright spot in the oft dark history of mankind.  Later on he became an active patron of the Christian faith, and formulated the Council of Nicea, which synthesized the various beliefs about Christianity by gathering the best leaders and minds of its time to come about with a unified code, upon which all could agree by construction of The Nicene Creed.  No doubt, this model served the Founding Fathers of the US well, in the Congresses which drafted and signed the Declaration and the Constitution of the US.  For one of the first times in man’s history, we see the power of collaboration of great minds, sponsored by the state.  Truly, a step in the right direction.

Another step in the right direction under Constantine was the reformation of Rome and the vast amount of building that he undertook throughout the empire, particulalry in Rome and in Constantinople.  More importantly, are the social changes which took place under Constantine, and this is not limited to the emergence of Christianity, and the blending of Christian and pagan cultural expressions.  Constantine set about the model, of the ethos of Christianity towards the formation of state policy.  Here are some of the mandates brought about under his rule:

313 – Exemption of the Church from State duties and taxes

313 – Edict of Tolerance

321 – (The ERA of the Ancient World) Officially recognized the rights of women to own and inherit property, which typically was unheard of in the Ancient World.

321   Made the practice of “Patricide” illegal

321   Changed the legal standing of females in the state

321   Abolished the practice of abductive marriages in the Empire

321   Enforcement of incest laws

321  Abolishment of state sponsorship of gladiatorial events

325   Abolishment of slavery started in certain provinces throughout the Empire

325 – Council of Nicea

Constantine emulates the positive role that a religious ethic can have towards to formulation of progressive, ethical, and in the best sense of the word, humanistic policy.  Culturally, this is paramount and along with Constantine’s policies was the normal cultural fusion of Christianity and paganism into what is now accepted as the traditions of the Christian faith.

Constantine, the world could use another leader like you.  And I for one don’t see you as “The AntiChrist”.

Cultural War Against Easter: Part V Art For Christ’s Sake?

Have to love it when you find someone who is on the same page with you.

Pistol Pete made a great post about this topic.

In celebration of Holy Thursday, All Soul’s Episcopal church in downtown Manhattan will unveil a contemporary ice sculpture based on Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. It’s called The Next Last Supper.

“We want to capitalize on the buzz with the chocolate Jesus,” said Pastor Ima Airettick. “We also want to carve away our tradition and shape it into something relevant, something that people today can digest.”

Necessary Therapy was given an exclusive sneak preview at the sculpture.

The part of Jesus is played by a pregnant bearded woman, sitting Buddha-style on the table. She has her arms around Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump. Others depicted in the sculpture include Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, Paris Hilton, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Yoko Ono, Osama bin Laden, Anna Nicole Smith, Oscar Wilde and the cartoon character Dilbert.

”Why Dilbert?” we asked the creator behind the sculpture, who goes by the = symbol. = replied, “We want to be inclusive of the animated world. Besides, Dilbert is a big draw.”

The part of Judas Iscariot in the sculpture is played by Jesus. When asked about this, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Isn’t Holy Week all about making fun of Jesus? We’re just doing our part to add to the celebration.”

Sad to see the hatred of some towards the Christian faith. There is making fun, and responsible satire for self-reflection and then there is what is shown above.

Cultaral War Against Easter: Part IV – The Angry Atheist

First a short disclaimer, I don’t see atheists as my personal enemies, I see them as the loyal opposition. Sadly, many of the aforementioned see me, and those who follow religious principals as the enemy. How unfortunate. Before those of you who may be atheistic and wandered into this valley of pernicious Christian dogma – though some of the more zealous in their faith call this a den of relativism, which makes me hopeful that I’ve offended both extremes, consider this wonderful image which is so typical of the angry atheism I see about:

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Now, I don’t mind a joke at all, and I also don’t mind poking fun at religion. However, this one goes a bit far, and this is among the more milder forms of hatred towards the concept of religious identity that is so often portrayed by the “Angry Atheists”. Now, many would say this is the “liberal left”, trying to destroy the Christian culture of the US. Christian culture, I’m not so sure about that. Look at the news, and the types of attitudes that run about the US, and let’s be careful before we start comparing America to some sort of Christian panacea. I also know that many atheists have a sense of decency, and are in fact like the vast majority of other people, other than that God thing, heck many of them are libertarian, and I’m not going to try and prove my basis of faith to you. Remember, I don’t hate you, you’re just the loyal opposition. However, I do suspect that many who would wear this type of stuff, actually have a mind frame that is probably way left of center, and by the way can you who are slightly to the right of center leave us centrists and sometimes liberals who really share 90% to 99% of the values you share alone, and stop blaming “Liberalism” which has become a dirty word with cultural hatred. You see the angry athesists are just as hateful as those who do acts of violence on the behalf of God, and the number of Christians who do these acts is VASTLY overstated.

Now, just to show that I don’t mind satire being used with regards to my own faith, here’s an icon a rather like, even though it is surely likely to offend some. I present to those of you previously unenlightened with “The Buddy Jesus”

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I don’t have one of these in my car, but I’ve thought about it.  And, honestly, while I don’t ever mean to demean my belief in the divinity of Christ, I am constantly more amazed and connect to the concept that Jesus really was one of us, and therefore he gets it.  I would tease those who I love, and confess, I have a deep abiding love for Jesus, my Lord, my saviour, my best friend, and my brother.  He gets my teasing, and somehow I have a feeling he’ll one day get a good amount of getting even in eternity, and I have no doubt that he’s better at pulling pranks than I am.  He has more clout!

However, this movement is forged by out and out angry atheists, who certainly have a right to not believe, but stop being killjoys goes a little bit beyond the often needed satire.  It’s good to see and maybe make fun of the specks or beams in your own eyes after all.  Here’s a memo to you atheists out there, No one is lining up to “make you convert”. At least I hope so.  Candidly you have have your own mind and a free will, and on behalf of Christians who may have offended you by actling like A**holes, I apologize, but they really aren’t the majority of us, even us Evangelicals. However, you have to understand that you are culturually in the minority, and just deal with it.  That’s they way life goes, and cultural minorities have the dominant culture sometimes cramp their style.  

For those angriest of the atheists, for people who don’t believe in God, you certainly seem to hate him enough.  Be more apathetic about the whole concept and that may set a better example of your enlightenment. We promise we won’t make you bow and kneel and have Christ enter your life, and I think that the vast majority of people of faith will treat you civilly and respectfully.  Please, do not use that line, “It’s hard to believe people who think you’re going to hell, really respect you”.  Remember, You Don’t Believe In It.  At least – and since you are sooooo intelligent this shouldn’t be a problem – be consistent, and then work on being civil.

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