The Cost of War, One Breath at a Time.

This piece was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on December 18, 2006.  It headlined the UPI website’s religion section that day as well.  A slightly shorter version of this commentary will air this holiday season on the Perspectives program on KQED FM, a public radio station in San Francisco.

Toward the end of the first week of Advent, when I should have been writing a sermon on the life and ministry of Saint John the Baptist, I found myself surfing the web to a site that gives a real time, running total of the cost of the ongoing war in Iraq.

The total cost of the war—some 350 billion dollars—is a number so large that it is emotionally meaningless to me, but I spent a good deal of time contemplating the speed at which the war’s tally increased by tens, hundreds, and thousands of dollars—amounts of money to which I can relate.

The counter moved too fast for me to get a good measure of the rate of war spending using the sweep hand on my wristwatch, so I used a more elementary and less scientific method, and here’s what I discovered: the United States’ taxpayers spend twenty thousand dollars on the war every time I take a breath. Continue reading

Difference In This World

Posted here are lyrics to a song, “Difference in this World” written by my brother, Morgan Daniel. Though he wrote the song in 1996, I first heard it sung over Thanksgiving. I liked the song and asked my brother to send me the lyrics. Here they are.
They could silence my voice
They could turn out my lights
They could censor my songs
And strip all my rights

They could clip all my strings
They could cross all my wires
They could chop up my guitar
to kindle their fires

But they won’t waste their time on me
No, I’m not worth their time, you see
But some place in my heart
I wish I were a part
Of a conspiracy, wish that
They kept a file on me, wish that
They were losing sleep
Trying to keep
Me from making a difference in this world.

They could speak out against me
They could slander my name
They could falsify records
To back up their claim

They could bug my apartment
They could tap all my phones
They could finish me off
And dance on my bones

All that I can do
Is pray and hope that you
Love me despite who I am…not

They could act irritated
They could feign despair
They could blink like they noticed
Just pretend like they care

Bailey v. Potter: Wonderful Economic Morality

Under a slightly differnt name, this post was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Form on December 11, 2006.

Like many Americans, I would have a hard time considering a holiday season complete without a viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the sentimental wallop that’s delivered at the end of the film. Even though the whole bit about Clarence the Angel and his wings can get overly saccharine, I still get misty-eyed by the movie’s reminder that every life is important and that, in the words of the inscription on Clarence’s tattered volume of Tom Sawyer, “no man is a failure who has friends.”

There is, however, more to the movie than its happy ending. Continue reading

Defending Religion

This column ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on December 4, 2006. It also headlined the main UPI website’s religion section that day.

I no longer feel the need to defend God. It seems to me that God is fairly well beyond the reach of human ill-will, and even if God were not so remote, God hardly would need my help in the face of a human assault on the Divine Person.

But religion is different. Continue reading