Memorial Day Observed

Having somewhat critical of how many Americans observe Memorial Day, I thought it fair to say what I have done to remember the dedication and sacrifice of those who have died in service to our nation. Beside a great deal of introspection and not a little prayer today I also held the hand of my son, William and listened to the song “The Green Fields of France,” whose lyric is copied below. Continue reading

Memorial Day: An Uneasy Observance

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 28, 2007.
Memorial Day can be a difficult observance for me. Memorial Day is meant to be an annual event honoring the dedication and remembering the sacrifice of those who have died serving our country in uniform. I have no problem reverencing and expressing my sincerest appreciation for such selflessness. My struggle with Memorial Day is that I cannot think upon the sacrifices that have been made without recoiling at the thought of what our nation requires of those willing to serve. Continue reading

Jerry Falwell 1933-2007: an Elegy in Prose

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 21, 2007.

Nineteen years ago, at a concert on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, I had the pleasure of hearing the Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn make a comment that has, in the intervening years, come to embody everything I have ever wanted to say about the late Jerry Falwell and his life’s work.

Introducing his song, “The Gospel of Bondage,” which was inspired by what then was considered to be the “new religious right,” Cockburn said of Jerry Falwell and his followers, “They scare the hell out of me and also irritate me, because I’ve gotten tired of saying, ‘Yes, I’m a Christian, but I’m not one of them.'”

Well put. Continue reading

The Sanctity of Words

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on May 14, 2007.
Last week the FBI uncovered a plot involving a handful of roofers and pizza deliverers from suburban Philadelphia who, according to the allegations, were planning an attack on the United States Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

If the government’s case against the would-be militants sticks, it will be a fine example of what actually keeps Americans safe in the post-nine eleven world. It was not the invasion and occupation of Iraq but the sleuthing of gumshoes in the Garden State which thwarted the evil machinations of this small, violent anti-American cell. Score one for the good guys. Continue reading

Message in a Lotus Shoe

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 7, 2007.
I am the father of two daughters. A few weeks ago, as a way of honoring my Chinese-born daughters’ cultural heritage, a woman in my congregation gave my family a shoe that originally belonged to a Chinese immigrant to California whose foot had been rendered impossibly small through binding.

For a thousand years, until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, small feet were prized in China as a mark of great feminine beauty. In pursuit of this unnatural standard of beauty, parents would bind their daughters’ feet, eventually folding the balls of the feet so that they touched the heel. It was painful and crippling.

It’s hard to recognize beauty in something created to support such painful oppression, but the shoe is beautiful, and it came to us with an amazing story. Continue reading