Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Qué, Tim James?

Lord have mercy on us all! Have y'all seen this campaign ad by an Alabaman gubernatorial candidate named Tim James? He's saying that, if elected governor, he's only going to give the driver's license test in English.

That has got to be the most ignorant tripe I have heard in a loooong time. This guy is actually proud of his ignorance. Maybe some folks in Alabama only speak English, but they certainly don't represent the rest of the population. Furthermore, what he's suggesting is quite illegal. States are required to make public services available to people regardless of their native tongue. This is nothing more than a gimmick designed to make the white rednecks happy.

English isn't even the official language in the USA nor is it even among the original languages spoken here. If we were going to have some kind of law like this, French or Spanish would have a better claim because they've been spoken in this country since before it even became the United States.

Now, here's is the same ad that someone has (hilariously) altered to show just what this policy really boils down to.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gardening Progress in our Front Yard

Today, I worked outside in the garden for an hour and a half. I can't do much when the sun is completely out and there are no clouds in the sky, so I had to wait until this afternoon for the shadows (and sun-block) to provide me with a bit more coverage.

The German was off from work today, so he started gardening around noon. He used his big truck to pull all of the Indian Hawthorn bushes out of the ground. They were lining one side of the driveway, from the house to the street. Unfortunately, they weren't well-maintained and, when we moved in, several of them were already dead and the others were in very poor shape. Even after clearing out all of the weeds, they just didn't grow very well. The leaves were yellowing, indicating that they had some kind of disease. Other neighbors on our block told us that they didn't have much luck with Indian Hawthorn either, so it may be that the sun exposure and soil content make it a poor choice for this area.

They didn't look very inviting, either. The three bushes closest to the house were twice the height of the ones that were closer to the street. They blocked the view of our house from the corner, because of how the houses are situated. Pulling them up allows us to see down the street now and The German is less nervous about the possibility of someone hiding over there at night when we're trying to go inside through the garage.

We have decided to replace them with the same Japanese Boxwood that forms a hedge on the other side of the driveway. It grows amazingly well here. We trimmed it when we first moved in, because it had a real shape to it. Since then, it has taken on a very nice look. The bushes are thick and there are no gaps between them. We have to trim them every couple of weeks or else they will grow non-stop. Hopefully, the ones we plant on the other side of the driveway will thrive there.

We also transplanted some plugs of monkey grass from one area to another. The area in the front of the yard where we have put down rose trees and mulch is lined with monkey grass. In some places, it was kind of sparse, so we filled in those spots with what we no longer needed in another part of the yard. We made sure to include the root system and soil plug underneath the grass, in the hopes that this will help them to adjust to the new spot.

VanGoghGirl picked out some Coopers Ice Plants when we were at the store yesterday. We both agreed that the succulent leaves look and feel like lizard tails. The German planted them today, too. They are right at the beginning of the walkway leading from the driveway to the front door. She'll be able to see them every day when she comes home from school. We put them in an area by themselves, because we read that they can sometimes grow too well, becoming an invasive species that can overtake the plants next to them by using the majority of the nutrients in the ground. We also put mulch around them, to help keep them in spot where we want them.

We have a lot more going on with the side of the house, but I'll write about that later. I felt so good after going out and gardening today, that I might do it again tomorrow if my body allows it. Gardening is good for my soul.

Explaining the Concept of the Trinity to a Muslim Friend

Today, I was posting in a Facebook group designed for Muslims and Christians to engage in dialogue with each other. This particular thread was about the concept of the Trinity that some Christian faiths teach. In this conversation, one of my Muslim acquaintances, a guy named Walim, stated that he'd never been able to get a Christian to explain it to him. I decided to give it a shot and what you see below this paragraph was what I wrote to him. I'd love to hear how others view this issue and the concept of the trinity. It's very interesting to learn about how different people envision God.

Let's say you are a human and you were born with all of the parts that one might say a "normal human" has. You have 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 arms, 2 legs, 1 heart, 2 lungs, 2 eyes, 1 nose, 1 mouth, et cetera. These are all parts of the thing we call "Walim". Now, let's say you get into some sort of accident and one of your thumbs gets detached. Does this mean there are now 2 Walim's? No. It simply means that part of Walim is in one place and another part of Walim is in another place. However, they are all parts of the same being.

This thumb that was detached is not superior to the other thumb nor is it superior to any of the other body parts of Walim. However, it is an important piece. In fact an onlooker might look at this situation and wonder why in the world you would allow your thumb to become detached. Maybe there is a really good story behind what happened to your thumb. Some onlookers will see what's before them and decide you must be a really stupid person because you let your thumb get cut off. Now, you have a dead thumb and unless something is done to reconnect it with the rest of Walim, that thumb will remain dead. "What kind of fool allows this to happen to something so important to them?!" they exclaim.

Others will come in and see this situation and wonder why your thumb is lying there and they may take the time to hear your story. They may find out that your thumb became detached, because you were saving a small child from getting their hand cut off by a saw or a knife or an axe that was about to strike them. This explains why you would allow something to happen to your thumb, even though you didn't have to. Those people who take the time to hear what you explain will walk away with a very different conclusion than the one that the first onlookers held. The first onlookers walked away very confused, but this is only because they refused to take the time to listen to your explanation of the situation.

Thus, it is with the Trinity and how Jesus could die and be brought back without there ever being a period where God didn't exist. The Trinity represents how some people envision God.

It is just like when a biologist studies an organism and, for the purposes of learning more about the organism, separately studies three different parts of it. Perhaps, they decide to study the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the digestive system. They can view each of these systems without ever misunderstanding that these three systems, with different, but co-operating purposes, are all a part of one organism. The organism doesn't need to have been born with a little tag inside of its body that says "I am a trinity" in order for the biologist to view these three systems separately.

Now, some biologists will look at the same organism and view it quite differently. They may decide that they don't need to separately study the different systems of organism. Their research may be of a kind that only studies how the organism interacts with the outside world. The fact that they only study the organism as a whole doesn't mean that those who study the systems of the organism separately are somehow erroneous or illogical.

Each of these biologists are viewing the organism based on their educational background, the branch of biology that they are most closely associated with. However, all of these branches are still studying the same organisms.

Thus, it is with the different Abrahamic religions. We are all studying the same God, but because of our background, we tend to view this God in ways that can seem very different to those who only take a superficial look at the religions. I don't see God as a trinity and I never have. This is probably because I grew up in a faith tradition where the people do not envision God that way. I see Jesus and God's holy spirit/active force as divine, but not in the sense that they are God. When I use the word divine, I mean that they are from God.

You belong to a faith tradition where some of the adherents tend to get very nervous whenever they hear the word "divine" used in conversations about Jesus. This sort of thinking (the trinity) is outside of what you're accustomed to, so it seems very bizarre to you. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible for you to gain a very clear understanding of why some see God as a trinity. You wouldn't necessarily have to give up your faith or your traditional way of viewing God to get an understanding of the trinity.

I think that some people are so afraid of thinking in new ways, because they fear that this will mean they have to give up or compromise the beliefs they already hold. However, if someone is secure in their beliefs, they aren't afraid to understand the way others think and they have no need to belittle those that think differently from them. So, it really boils down to deciding what kind of person do we want to be.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Morality of Becoming Catholic

Last night, The German & I discussed our daughter's decision to become Catholic. I have known such great priests that I greatly admire, but wondered if it was immoral to join a religion where so many higher-ups are corrupt.

The fact that pedophilic priests have been shuffled around to different parishes, instead of reported to police, is nothing new. Reports in the media wax and wane, but the problem has never gone away. As a survivor of sexual assault, this concerns me. No, it's worse than that. It angers me. I have absolutely no love for the Pope, not this one or the last one. I feel like the CEO of any organization should be held accountable before the law, if he knowingly allowed those in his company to systemically engage in criminal and predatory behavior. Why should the Pope be treated any differently?

The German and I talked about whether it is immoral to give money to the Catholic church given the possibility that those funds could end up in the hands of those who engage in criminal behavior. He didn't feel that it was. I asked him if he thought it was immoral to join the church, given how much criminal behavior some of the clergy members have engaged in. He reckoned that any organization that large is bound to have some criminals in it, but this shouldn't be held against the vast majority of priests who are not doing these things.

I thought about this and a thought ran through my head. Maybe being Catholic is like being a citizen of the United States. I pay my taxes even though I know that they may be used to prop up systems of oppression that I do not agree with. I pay my taxes, because I know that they are also used to provide needed services to millions of people. I don't feel like I need to renounce my citizenship and move to another country, just because I have no love for many of the actions taken by our government.

Right now, I know several people who are working to become US citizens. I know that each of them have reasons that they want to be here, but that doesn't mean one should assume that they agree with everything that the US government (or its citizens) do. I think that may be how I should look at those who decide to become, or already are, Catholic.

I know for a fact that my daughter doesn't give two figs about Pope Benedict XVI. Her love for the Catholic church seems to be tied to several things. First of all, Catholicism is a part of her heritage. Her bio-dad's family is Creole. They have Sicilian roots, too. In New Orleans, the culture of the Sicilian-American community is wrapped up in its traditionally Catholic background.

The German's ancestors were Catholic, too. He has many fond memories of the Bibles and religious icons that his grandmother gave him and his sisters. His mother was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church. A few years ago, when VanGoghGirl started expressing an interest in her roots, my mother-in-law brought over a box of mementos that her mother had put away for her. VanGoghGirl was mesmerized by the contents of that box. Inside of it, there were little prayer books, pictures from the holidays, baptismal gowns, and even a family Bible. After that, I don't think anyone could have stood between her and her fascination with the Catholic church--not that I would try.

I have always told my daughter that she was free to pursue whatever religious or spiritual path that she felt drawn to. I have no intentions of reneging on that policy. This has mostly been on my mind because we are getting closer and closer to the time when she will start taking classes to begin the process of becoming a Catholic. I want to understand her decision, so that I can figure out the best way to support her, even though I am not a Catholic. I wrote this because I would love to hear from others who have views about this topic. I want to get as much input as I can and consider this from as many angles as possible.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Note to Christians who Support the National Day of Prayer Event:

Matthew 6:5,6 says "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The National Day of Prayer event isn't just inappropriate because this is a secular society; it's also un-biblical.

That is all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mississippi Goddam!

I remember when I moved out to Baton Rouge and I learned about the desegregation order that had just been lifted a year or two before. I had no idea that there were still parts of the country that were still involved in segregation cases. I'm not talking about situations where schools had slowly become segregated again after the end of what has come to be viewed as the Civil Rights era. These are cases that stretched back to that period, areas that had never followed through with the laws abolishing so-called "Separate, But Equal" policies.

This time, the Justice Department had to take a Mississippi school district to court over several violations of the desegregation order that was issued nearly 40 years ago.

In 2007, lawyers with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division contacted the Mississippi school district to monitor its compliance with the 1970 desegregation order. The action revealed two alleged violations.

The district was allowing more than 300 students – most of them white – to transfer from their assigned schools to a predominately white school, the Salem Attendance Center, outside their residential zone, according to court documents.

The second alleged violation involved grouping white students into a few designated classes at three other schools in Tylertown. The action created a significant number of all-black classrooms at each elementary grade level, documents say.

Mississippi is continuing to thumb its nose at the laws of this country. If you'll excuse me for using two clichés that reference noses in same paragraph, I should point out that Mississippi has always been a place that's willing to cut off its nose to spite its face. It seems that the white people in that state are absolutely content being the laughing stock of the entire United States. The state produces a consistent stream of news stories that make it possible for the white people in other parts of the country to pat themselves on the back and claim that they don't engage in racism.

Well, most people of color see through the lies that white Americans tell us and themselves. Still, Mississippi does stand out because of how egregiously it flaunts its systemic racism. The lyrics of Nina Simone described the situation clearly way back in the 1960's and they remain as true today as they were then.

Friday, April 09, 2010

My Garden Updates

My African daisies are perking up again. The English ivy that I re-planted seems to be enjoying the sunlight, now that it is outside. The lilies seem to like the shade beneath the patio cover. The little greenhouses aren't showing much growth yet, though. The tulips have come to the end of their life-span; it's time to dig up the bulbs and store them until autumn.

The German is still trying to coax the grass to grow while keeping the weeds under control. He put the fountain together yesterday and it's really quite lovely. He's going to have to adjust the pump a bit, though that can wait while we gather the supplies we're going to use to put down paving stones this weekend.