Collective Punishment in Gaza: A Question of Morality

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Form.

As I write this column, Israel’s military has called up reservists and has prepared tanks and artillery units for a possible land assault into Gaza. This follows a weekend in which the same military dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza, killing or wounding hundreds of Hamas militants; dozens of civilians also are among those killed or wounded.
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A Christmas Homily from Foothill Presbyterian Church

Just before worship last Sunday I discovered a beautiful poem about Mary becoming pregnant by God’s spirit. The scriptures for Sunday’s service were all about Mary and so I read the poem at the beginning of worship:

Know that the wheeling heavens are turned by waves of Love:
were it not for Love, the world would be frozen, stiff.
How would an inorganic thing transform into a plant?
How would living creatures sacrifice themselves
to become endowed with spirit?
How would the spirit sacrifice itself for the sake of that Breath
by which Mary was made pregnant?

For me this is a surprising poem because, while I believe it captures the beauty of the mystery of Mary’s divine conception of Jesus—and by extension, communicates much of the wonder of Christmas—the poem was not written by a Christian. It was composed something like 750 years ago by a Sufi Muslim poet named Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad, who wrote under the penname, Rumi. Continue reading

Salvation by Credit Card?

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Fourm

Last week, on November 24, 2008, the Federal Reserve pledged to infuse 800 billion dollars into the United States’ economy in an effort to jump start the nation’s credit markets.

Let me be the first to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the economic principles driving the world’s current financial woes, and for that reason I have a hard time forming an opinion about the various stimulus packages being proposed and adapted. I’m glad there are people out there who know a thing or two about monetary sums that for me are objects of feeble speculation. From where I sit, 800 billion dollars might as well be Sasquatch. Reasonably sane and trustworthy people tell me that both exist, though I’ve never seen either one, and I’m not sure how either would interface with the world I inhabit.
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