Evolution may favor religious diversity, but the tail does not wag the fish.

Friday, July 29, 2005

TIKKUN'S Michael Lerner issues call for National Conference for Progressives of Faith

"The Tikkun Community contends that it is equally valid to demand a 'New Bottom line' in which institutions get assessed as rational, efficient, and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power but also to the extent that they maximize love, caring, ethical and spiritual sensitivity, and enhance our capacity to respond to other human beings and to nature with awe, wonder, and radical amazement."

In July’s TIKKUN, editor Michael Lerner calls progressives of faith to a national conference held in California this month and in Washington DC in February. Citing the effective collusion of conservative politics and Right Wing ideology, Lerner joins up with "God's Politics" author and Soujourner editor Jim Wallis to challenge the relationship of Church & State, re-examine the perceived antagonism between the Left and spirituality, and to move toward better leveraging progressive faith values.
Speaking as a Catholic and a progressive, I sometimes feel out of touch with this type of movement. My faith has never been out of step with, apart from, or silenced by my politics. At the same time, I never embraced the selectivity of right wing politics fueled by what I considered to be an exclusivist or narrowly triumphalist expression of Christian faith.
I support the notion that progressives of faith ought to be able to articulate their ideas of the common good, ought to advocate for the poor and least amongst us, and ought to be able to express those convictions and vote their conscience without feeling hamstrung by secularism or a materialistic market-values society.

However, I thought this had always been the case. In another TIKKUN article, we are reminded that decades earlier TIKKUN called for a “meaning value” approach to counteract the flatness of a materialistic economic value, for example. This approach isn't to "Just say NO" to the Religious Right, or to "out-spiritualize the Religious Right" (as Karen Hanretty scoffed for We Care America).

From a political perspective, it is helpful to observe the deep tension in the Left between political position and religious persuasion. But from my perspective, this is shameful because it leaves the incorrect impression that liberals or progressives are synonymous with “godlessness.” This is not true. I saw "People of Faith for Kerry", I know Catholics to be both Democrats and Republicans. I know other people of faith who are equally devout and hold opposing political beliefs. In short, the history of memory that reminds us of “meaning values” ought to also be deep enough to avoid this simplistic divide as well. Van Jones writing for AlterNet, chimes in with a similar line of thought, reminding us that the civil rights movement came most forcefully not from secular pundits, but from the people in the pews and the churches that emptied onto the street.

God is in our midst, once again. And while I am confident of the value religion has for politics of either side, I am even more certain that chaining it to politics runs the real risk of making religion itself "godless" in its orientation.

Sen. Frist To Modify Bush Position Over Stem Cells

Comment by Jay Cuasay

'I am pro-life,' Mr. Frist says in the speech, arguing that he can reconcile his support for the science with his own Christian faith. 'I believe human life begins at conception.'
But at the same time, he says, 'I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported.'

Sen. Frist's proposal seeks to modify Pres. Bush's original compromise that limited stem cell research to the already existing lines "where the life or death decision has already been made." There were less stem cell lines than originally thought and the viability of these lines for future research was thought to be weakened by the low number.

Extending that same permissibility of logic, Sen. Frist wants future research to encompass additional cell lines, typically from fertility clinic frozen embryos, where adult donors and the clinics had already similarly "made the life or death decision" to have such embryos destroyed. Sen. Frist also supports the less controversial adult stem cell research and other unproven methods of research that do not destroy human embryos.

While I follow Sen. Frist's logic in asking for a modification in the original bill and see where it might cause political friction, I hardly see here a nuanced battle or compromise between faith and reason. I see instead an acceptance and transfer of "life and death" powers to those entrusted with embryo fertilization. This does not coincide with Sen. Frist's simple invocation of "Life begins at conception" and instead speaks about the tremendous power we hold to place human life under our purview to extract what research and medical advances we can.

It is Frankenstein in reverse. And it is not an easy issue. See my Embryonic Stem Cell Research post on C I A for additional commentary. But in brief, such issues place American values of self determination on equal footing as issues of the origins (or as I've observed) at least the end contribution and meaning to life.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pope Benedict suffers issue of divorced Catholics

Comment By Jay Cuasay
CNS STORY: Divorced Catholics must be welcomed in parishes, pope tells priests:

July 25: while vacationing, Pope Benedict spoke to a group of 140 priests, religious and deacons regarding divorced Catholics and Eucharistic celebration saying, "Given that it is the sacrament of the passion of Christ, the suffering Christ embraces these persons in a special way and communicates with them in a different way. They can feel embraced by the crucified Lord who falls to the earth and dies and suffers for them and with them."

"Priests and parishioners must share the suffering of those excluded from the Eucharist", he said, "but they cannot act in a way that casts doubt on the unbreakable bond of sacramental marriage.

It sounds to me like this description pits the efficacy of two sacraments against each other. By doing so, the transcendent is rendered rather earth-bound. This is no longer the very brokeness of humanity lifted up to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, but rather an infinite suffering of finite means. At the same time, I acknowledge the singular union in which one's "Amen" can be true.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NYT's Kristof Sounds Off on Darfur

Comment by Jay Cuasay
All Ears for Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt - New York Times:
"The BBC has shown that outstanding television coverage of Darfur is possible. And, incredibly, mtvU (the MTV channel aimed at universities) has covered Darfur more seriously than any network or cable station. When MTV dispatches a crew to cover genocide and NBC doesn't, then we in journalism need to hang our heads."
There is something to be said about today's media making the world that much smaller, manageable, or communicable--and community oriented. It's ironic too that MJ, who helped push the anthem "We are the World" would end up distracting us from paying attention to genocide in Darfur or that "compassionate conservatism" and African aid, might not also be up to par with the kind of "shock and awe" we'd like to accomplish in our foreign policies.

I think because we can change channels, and because there are so many channels, and ways to get access to channels, the focus has moved to self-selection and media on demand. Less focus has been on content. What do we see or as Kristof argues, what (more) should we see?

We should be activist Couch Potatoes. Radical Channel flippers, rising up...The "whole world is watching" and that is not enough.

Fides et Ratio

I needed a more conventional place to post writings and musings that could cover a wider range of topics. Although I still tend to keep an eye on culture and politics, this blog has the possibility of being less confining and more informal than my other blog postings.
Please feel free to visit C I A, (Communications Interfaith Activism), for more articles and postings devoted to that aspect.