Goodbye, Space Shuttle

“By returning and rest we shall be saved.”
— The Book of Common Prayer

Can’t speak for everyone in New England, but for me, there was a large gap in space/time — a period of wu chi like that well described by the master bard who was getting married at Gibraltar while in a parallel event his cosmic counterpart, Neil Armstrong, was playing golf on the moon; “no heaven ... no country ... no religion too” — a time between creations that started its long pause when Ted Williams left Boston in 1960 and finally ended when Tom Brady came to Boston in the year 2000. In between we, the people, left the earth for space.


Rick Perry and Ayn Rand versus Democrats and Jesus

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the latest flavor of the right-wing month, wants to talk about faith and values. Go ahead, make my day.

While Rick Perry savages aid to education and sells short the young people of Texas, has talked of Texas seceding from the union in his imitation of the segregationists of the 1850s, champions policies that will export more jobs to China and causes gargantuan budget deficits that would make George W. Bush proud, let’s talk some Bible.


Big-business religion

Corporations and parishioners are increasingly coming together to spread the word of God and make money. All across the country, churches — once intimate places of spiritual interconnectedness — have been replaced by stadiums of worship that utilize advanced technological innovations to awe, edify and rip off those in attendance.

The jig goes something like this: Corporations underwrite the construction of vast religious complexes that awe people into regular attendance. The preacher's image is projected onto a big screen. His calm baritone is beamed out by state-of-the-art speakers. From all sides, his voice fills the room. The seats shake as he gives expression to the word of God.


One burning question

Why the outrage in Afghanistan over one Florida pastor's burning of a copy of the Quran? Isn't it a form of idolatry in both Christian and Islamic faith to worship objects and symbols? What does it say about the state of faith when the medium corrupts the message?

Radical Islamic groups seem especially prone to exalting symbolism over other moral strictures — such as protecting the innocent and acting justly. Perversely, they seem to find it highly immoral for women to be seen uncovered in public — but not immoral to ruthlessly kill innocent men, women and children in brutal terror attacks.

What does it portend about America’s deepening commitments in the Middle East when it must deal with both partners and adversaries for whom death is preferable to a perceived dishonor?


Are Mormons the Aquarians?

A psychologist in Switzerland who treats people with visions of UFOs suggested once that these images might be understood as messages from the Unconscious: “eyes of God,” “eyes in the sky,” as angels were when the world awaited the birth of the Christ.

But today they anticipate a new age. As C.G. Jung put it in his first psychological study in 1958, UFO visions and cultural images are manifestations of psychic changes that appear at the end of one age and the beginning of another: “We are now nearing that great change which may be expected when the springpoint enters Aquarius.”

And so I was interested in the juxtaposition of two stories in the Sunday op-ed pages of The New York Times: one on alien life by Professor Ray Jayawardhana, to whom it “seems absurd, if not arrogant, to think that ours is the only life-bearing world in the galaxy,” and the other on Mormons by the Times's long-in-the-tooth columnist, Maureen Dowd.


‘Bless me, Father, for I have tweeted’

It’s amazing what we can do with our iPhones: make calls, return e-mails, schedule meetings, file notes, take photos, keep grocery lists, get wake-up calls, time a five-minute egg, check the weather, listen to music, watch a movie, get directions, play games, invest in stock.

But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Now, with the iPhone, you can even save your soul! Yes, the Catholic Church is out with a new iPhone app to help you confess your sins.


Barbaric ‘honor killings.’ Have we returned to the Dark Ages?

Americans have been found guilty of performing reprehensible acts throughout the nation’s history. The Salem Witch Trials are a case in point. Members of the Puritan community in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts were convicted and executed solely on the basis of the testimony of suspicious neighbors and the accusations of teenage girls. And yes, many of them were killed in horrific fashion.

The United States and the greater international community have, for the most part, come to a greater understanding of the value of human rights and the importance of protecting them. Much of this is based upon the individual’s conscience developing to a point where it is strong enough to stand up against the mores of society if it goes against one’s core values and beliefs which are rooted in doing what is best for society overall.


Jesus would be a liberal, right?

On Thursday night I appeared on “The Ed Schultz Show” on MSNBC, answering Newt Gingrich's latest attack on the jobless by suggesting Newt watch “It's a Wonderful Life” and reread the teachings of Jesus, which I offered to send him as my Christmas present.

President Obama is a man of quiet but deep Christian faith. Isn't it odd that every time the president quotes Scripture, he is met by angry rightists who seem to hate (hate is not too strong a word for some of them) that the president quotes the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus?

So let me put this question before the house today: Would Jesus be liberal today?


Where are the moderate Muslims?

Since 9/11, many have asked: Where are the moderate Muslims? Why don’t they stand up and denounce those who pervert Islam to justify violence?
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf exemplifies the type of individual they should be embracing. The man I heard speak at the Fourth Annual Bridges of Understanding Conference, held at the Meridian Center in Washington in early December, bore no resemblance to the stereotype that some have promulgated: that of a stealth Islamic supremacist who seeks to build a “megamosque” to humiliate those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Quite to the contrary, I found him to be polished, engaging, warmly humorous and humble — in a recent interview, in fact, the Imam said that if 9/11 were to happen again, he’d want to be the first to die.


The shameless assault on Christianity by intolerance and greed

You betcha I am talking privately to very senior Democrats about reaching out to the great religions for an enlightened renewal of values. But let me correct Armstrong Williams. America was founded on the idea of religious tolerance and diversity, and Jesus taught again and again about the obligation of Christians to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, treat the ill and help the hurting.

Jesus taught we should sell our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, not that Wall Street bonuses should be huge while we pass tax cuts for the rich while we neglect hunger and homelessness in the land.