Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Welcoming Rev. Jacqueline Luck to East Tennessee

I was privileged to participate in the installation of my colleague, Rev. Jacqueline Luck, as minister of the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Gray. It was a great service. I was invited to offer a word of welcome. I post it below:



I begin with a quote from a famous UU, Margaret Fuller:

“Reverence the highest, have patience with the lowest. Let this day's performance of the meanest duty be thy religion. Are the stars too distant, pick up the pebble that lies at thy feet, and from it learn the all.”

Jacqueline, it is an honor for me to be here. I am thrilled to participate in your installation. On behalf of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, I welcome you to East Tennessee.

I hope that you as I have will fall in love with this area. East Tennessee is a beautiful sacred place. Its mountains reverberate with ancient spirituality. You hear this spirituality in the music; you feel it in the fierce independence of those whose roots are firmly planted here; you breathe it in the gentle winds that embrace the oldest mountains on our continent.

It is also a place where many people are searching for authentic spiritual expression in communities that foster growth. Many people are looking for communities in which they can be free to question, to search, to embrace the sacred in all Her manifestations, and to participate in the work of justice and peace. You and I are both fortunate to be ministers in such communities.

In my short time here, I have found more and more people who resonate with the ethos of progressive religion and have been looking for others who share this ethos. Many have given up hope of finding these places. A man who joined our church last year said that he had been living in Elizabethton for 20 years and didn’t even know we existed.

He wrote me recently regarding the importance of communities like those you and I are privileged to serve:

“…[it is] for people who are not afraid of free thought, free will, enlightenment. This stage of my life is the ONLY time I ever wanted to go to church and it is because I finally have validation for the religious perspective that I developed myself in a vacuum. I finally have a community!”

For many people our communities are oases. They are places of healing and refuge.

But they are not only that. Our communities have a larger purpose. We have, I believe, a sacred calling to be agents of peace and justice in our world. To do that we cannot allow ourselves to exist in isolation. We need to link arms and find ways to work together, to share resources, and to be partners in our common task.

I also believe we have a sacred calling to let the people of East Tennessee know we are here. As that sage, Jesus of Nazareth, once told his disciples, “Don’t put your light under a bushel” we should be bold to let the light of progressive religion shine.

I can think of three ways in which we might consider working together in 2008.

In March, our congregation will be hosting a workshop, “Creating a Culture of Peace” that is a 16 hour workshop on training for active non-violence. It is a program for personal and social change. I hope we can be partners in this program.

In September, you will be hosting Michael Dowd, author of the recent book, “Thank God for Evolution!” If there is any way we might help promote and participate in helping you welcome him to East Tennessee, we would love to do that.

Finally, I am hoping that we might find ways to connect our young people. It is not easy being a progressive middle school or high school youth in this area. It is a challenge to provide opportunities for growth and service. I hope we might find a couple of opportunities to connect our youth in 2008.

I didn’t intend to get quite so specific in my words of welcome to you. Yet I didn’t want to give up an opportunity to publicly state my desire and the desire of our congregation to partner with all of you in significant ways.

“Reverence the highest, have patience with the lowest. Let this day's performance of the meanest duty be thy religion. Are the stars too distant, pick up the pebble that lies at thy feet, and from it learn the all.”

At last, in my words of welcome, I close with the wisdom of Molly Ivins. We lost her about this time last year. She reminded us that the cause for peace and justice is not easy. We will face opposition. We may lose more than we win. So we need to see our calling not as drudgery but as a joy. Whatever we do, we need to have fun. I will give Molly Ivins the last word:

So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth.

Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.

29 comments:

  1. I hope she will find fulfillment in her course. Welcome indeed.

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  2. John,

    My heart goes out to you, and your congregation. I'm so grieved. Just sad. Yet, I know there's really absolutely nothing that I can do or say. Ultimately, it's up to God's spirit working in all our lives.

    There is a good book out right now called, "What's So Great About Christianity?" by Dinesh D'Souza. Although, I can't fully agree with everything he writes. I think the church's view of the atonement of the Lord is even more broad, for instance. Still he has tons of good and insightful things to say that really parallel some of the discussions here.

    I'm hoping that you will be open, and take a peek at the book. May the Lord keep you in His care, and fill you with wisdom, love, and discernment in the knowledge of Him.

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  3. Hey Tn--she is really great.

    Grace--Huh?

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  4. Hey Grace,

    You are awesome! I am reading that book right now, and I was thinking about telling everybody about it as well.

    If you have time maybe we could discuss some of the points that Dinesh makes here on the comments section of Rev. Shuck's site, if that is okay with him.

    I really wish I would have read D'Spuza's book before my argument with Flycandler and Mystical Seeker. I really could have made my points a lot stronger with the evidence that Dinesh gives in his book.

    I'm on Part VII: Christianity and Morality now and I agree with most all the points he makes up to this point of the book.

    So Grace, I read your thoughts on ID in earlier blogs. Have you changed your viewpoint on ID since you read this book? I would love to start our discussion there.

    Oh and Rev. Shuck, thanks for welcoming Rev. Jacqueline Luck to East Tennessee. I hope to get the time to visit her churh. I have never been to a church with a women minister. I am excited about visiting it.

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  5. On second thought Grace let's start with your comment:

    Although, I can't fully agree with everything he writes. I think the church's view of the atonement of the Lord is even more broad, for instance.

    What was D'Souza's view on the atonement? I missed that part. And what is the churhc's broad view that you are referring to. That topic is the one that I have the most trouble comprehending. I haven't made my mind up on exactly what the Atonement means in my life.

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  6. Hey John,

    I thought you might like this quote from D'Souza's book by H. Richard Niebuhr, who sums up the credo of Liberal Christians:

    ' "A God without wrath, brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." '

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  7. Hi, Rachel,

    Glad you're enjoying the book. Now relating to the atonement..a deep subject.

    The Christian church teaches that through the dying and rising again of Jesus Christ we are put right with God, and with each other. God was in Christ reconciling the whole world to Himself.

    But Christians disagree relating to all the precise mechanics of this. Over the centuries the church has come up with various theories and analogies to explain exactly how Jesus saves us.

    I think there is some truth in all the theories, but all fall short of the total reality itself, and are crude in comparision.

    Dinesh seems to favor more the penal substitutionary view. I'm more inclined toward the opinion of eastern orthodoxy which would see the atonement more as a "rescue mission." I also am very drawn to the emphasis often seen in Celtic Christianity, as well.

    As Christians, in union with Christ, we are forgiven, enabled to share in the very life of God. And, someday we will be made totally like Him, perfected in our love for God, and for each other.

    I also feel strongly that this is all not based in our own effort, and works, but is totally through our union with Jesus. "Salvation" is a real gift from God.

    All my trust is in the work of the cross, and my heart is for people to be found in Him, in Jesus Christ.

    Dinesh does make a very strong case for evolutionary theory, and ties this into the essential witness of Genesis very well. (Also, as an aside, I was so blessed to hear of the Christian conversion of Francis Collins, a well-respected scientist, director of the Human Genome Institute. Praise God!)

    Rachel, I honestly feel that I have not taken enough time to study this in enough depth, and so I'm not completely decided one way or the other. I want to be open, but not foolish.:)

    But, as you can see from Dinesh's book there are plenty of orthodox Christians who embrace evolutionary theory, and feel strongly about it. For me, this is just not a central issue one way or the other.

    Regardless of anyone's interpretation of Genesis, or opinion relating to the historicity of Adam and Eve, who can deny the reality of sin, brokeness, and evil in the world.

    Even a sincere, honest non-Christian has to agree that we are in a mess together, and have not been able to fix ourselves by ourselves.

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  8. I think it's great that you welcomed her, and that there are places for people, such as the man who joined your congregation recently.

    Hopefully, she'll be welcomed graciously in all quarters. And also, hopefully more people will see that they don't have to abandon a search for God completely, thanks to communities such as these.

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  9. I'm guessing Grace is so sad because you had to gall to hang out with those gay lovin', war hatin', Unitarians John. You ought to know better, some people think you ought only to be haning out with people who believe that every word of the Bible is literal truth and that anyone who does not believe every word of it is going to hell.


    Personally, I'm glad to see another progressive religious voice in this area, we need many more of them. Maybe one day when all preachers are progressives like Jesus was then this world will be a more peaceful, considerate, accepting and loving place.

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  10. Not hold on here, Dr. Monkey. You have definitely jumped to the wrong conclusion. All Christian people ought to be war hatin, and gay lovin. And, I personally believe that we should be willing to hang out with anyone. Who did Jesus hang out with?

    Also, it's been my experience that most mainline churches are very welcoming to anyone who wants to ask honest questions, and explore the Christian faith. We don't conduct orthodox, litmus tests at the door.

    There are some churches that even hold seeker type Bible studies, and discussion groups deliberately to reach out to the unchurched.

    But, although I think there are Christian people in the unitarian church, probably for political reasons, this is a denomination that truly rejects the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ. I can tell you as an institution that the unitarian church is no more Christian than "chalk is to cheese."

    I don't know where you are at spiritually Monkey, but as Christians should we affirm and praise the ministries of those who are proclaiming a different gospel because we all happen to agree politically or socially?

    I mean there is alot that I can admire, and agree with in Wicca, and Druidry. We can have great discussion together. But, I would not as a Christian minister go over, and affirm the ministry or participate in the installation of the local grove leader or pagan priest.

    Of course, it maybe that this woman is an exception to everything that I'm sharing, and then I'm willing to retract all of this big time, and eat humble pie.

    And, I definitely would want to welcome her as a neighbor, and potential friend. But, this is very different than what I'm seeing in John's post, and even more sadly the implications behind it.

    Again if I'm misreading anything here, I am totally willing to stand corrected, and will accept any flack that comes my way.

    Respectfully and sorrowfully,
    Becky.

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  11. Of course folks could always just go to the UU website or attend a service and find out for themselves.

    Grace wrote:

    "But, I would not as a Christian minister go over, and affirm the ministry or participate in the installation of the local grove leader or pagan priest."

    You as a Christian minister, would not. I as a Christian minister just might.

    Blessed Be

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  12. Hey Rachel,

    You quote Niebuhr:

    ' "A God without wrath, brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." '

    I have heard that quote many a time. And I might have a better feeling for it had it not been used to slam me by folks who don't think I am religious enough for them or for God.

    But I can tell you a little bit about crosses. Since we are on the topic of Unitarian Universalists, they were the ones executed by the Calvinists.

    It is modern UUs who have taken the lead on social justice issues, anti-war, religious tolerance, stuff that gets you persecuted by the true believers.

    They may not affirm all the theological gobbledygook that others insist you must affirm, but from what I have seen, they live the reality of the cross.

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  13. **I can tell you as an institution that the unitarian church is no more Christian than "chalk is to cheese." **

    Actually, given what John describes them as, I would say they are the most "Anointed-one like" of us all. If someone denies Jesus as God, and yet takes up one's cross and follows the way Jesus provided, then that person is incredibly Christ-like. Doctrine does not determine how one is praised, nor does it determine who is aligned with God -- such as the Samaritan.

    No, this has nothing to do with earning one's way to salvation. But works are taken into account by God. Not on their own, no. It's the motivation behind those good works that are evaluated. If you do good works to earn a reward, then the work itself is selfish. Without the reward, the work would not come. If you do good works because it is the right thing to do, with no thought of yourself or rewards, then you are following the path Jesus laid out.

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  14. Hey John, I didn't realize Niebuhr's quote was being used to slam anyone, I believe D'Souza just put it in there to sum up the basic tenets of many liberal Christians. Personally, I am searching to find out if I am truly this liberal, and if I want to raise my son with a view such as this.

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  15. Hey Rachel,

    That quote does not describe the positive aspects of progressive/liberal Christianity. I am sure you have seen the eight points of progressive Christianity and you saw our mission statement in the bulletin today.

    I think one of the things you might consider in regarding a church home for you and your son is to make a list for yourself of what kinds of values you have and would like to your son to see enacted in a community.

    Then you can check out the various communities as to how they correspond to your values.

    I am glad you are with us and checking us out!

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  16. One,

    There is a difference though, I think, in trying to follow a moral and ethical way of life like Jesus described, and actually knowing, and following Jesus as Savior and Lord, being found in Him.

    Are people wholly following Jesus Christ who have mocked or rejected His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, One? (There is a reason why the UU is not part of the National or World Council of churches, by no means fundamentalist or even conservative organizations.)

    My intention is not just to put down the Unitarians, One. I'm certainly grateful for any good, humanitarian work that they do.

    And, it's surely more than about a list of correct doctrine. For me, it's about the truth of the gospel, and what that all means in our lives.

    As an aside, as far as I'm concerned anyone who would physically attack and persecute other human beings based on their social and political or religious views is not a true believer, but an agent of Satan. The Devil knows how to quote the Scripture, and parrot correct terminology, too.

    God have mercy!!

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  17. Grace,

    **There is a difference though, I think, in trying to follow a moral and ethical way of life like Jesus described, and actually knowing, and following Jesus as Savior and Lord, being found in Him.**

    All I can do is again point to the Samartian -- in using the parable today, he would be the one with the incorrect doctrine, which would in turn be not knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. That is the person who was praised. The sheep/goats: the people weren't praised for their relationship with Jesus, or knowing Jesus correctly. They were not praised for their faith. They were praised for their actions. There are instances where the faith of people saved them, per the words of Jesus, far ahead of when he was crucified. That faith was certainly not in the work of the cross. It's even more of an interesting contrast when comparing the times Jesus says someone's faith saved them, compared to what he said about his blood shed on behalf of others.

    And again -- this is putting the focus on beliefs. We are to know those who are found in God based on how they live their lives. If you say that those who lead a moral/ethical life don't necessarily know God, then what you are saying is that we cannot judge anything by actions -- which means that we can't judge if *anyone* is known by God, including those with correct doctrine.

    **Are people wholly following Jesus Christ who have mocked or rejected His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, One? **

    There are a multitude of ways of mocking this, or rejecting this. Someone can say that they don't acknowledge the crucifixion, and yet live a life that shows they haven't. What has been rejected is a tainted Christianity, and those in progressive churches, or unitarian universalist churches, are trying to find a connection to God that can no longer be discovered in that type of Christianity.

    And if it means that one mocks or rejects a doctrine that has lead to human suffering, human oppression, limitations on freedom and if that is found in how the crucifixion is presented, then that is what you do. You find God, you see God's grace in your life, when you put others first.

    I read a story on another blog, where a Christian pointed out to the church that if every single Christian renounced Jesus and became Jewish, then the Nazis would no longer be able to persecute the Jews. The church refused. The man who presented this scenario did in fact renounced Christianity and accept Judaism, in order to be with those who suffered.

    Out of the two pictured, who was the more Christian? The ones who clung to doctrine, or the one who specifically renounced Jesus in order to highlight the atrocties committed against the Jews?

    It would be the latter. That man truly gave up his life -- his eternal life -- in favor of the oppressed.

    **it's surely more than about a list of correct doctrine. For me, it's about the truth of the gospel, and what that all means in our lives.**

    I think for many of us, we aren't seeing that distinction in what your words. For me, it does seem that you do come back to the correct doctrine, because only those with the correct doctrine can be properly known or forgiven by God. If someone doesn't have that list that you hold to, then according to your perspective, that person has an incorrect relationship with God. Under this viewpoint, the truth of the gospel is correct doctrine and really only correct doctrine, because actions or results become meaningless, if we can't use them as criteria. And we can't, because per your words above, not everyone with an ethical/moral life have God's grace.

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  18. ((One))) I've come to a loss of words. Somehow despite my best efforts, I'm not able to break through this barrier of misunderstanding between us.

    How can someone come to Jesus without any true knowledge relating to Him, or to their own need? That's all that doctrine is really, just propositional truth. But, it's not doctrine that saves. Jesus saves.

    It doesn't sound to me that this man renounced Jesus in His heart. It was because He knew Jesus that He made this decision. We can't turn our relationship with the Lord on and off like a water faucet.

    Would it help if I shared my personal faith journey? Will you tell me something of your background, and how you came to your beliefs?

    I definitely think we need to keep each other in prayer. And, this doesn't mean I think "you suck", either One. I actually think you are a pretty stand up guy for hanging in here with all these discussions. :)

    You have a kind and patient spirit.

    God bless!!

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  19. **How can someone come to Jesus without any true knowledge relating to Him, or to their own need?**

    This depends on how one defines salvation. In the Tanakh, salvation was certainly not being saved from any sort of hell concept as described in Christianity. It was a request for healing, or for God to liberate His people from oppression. It would've entailed healing from self-habits as well, yes. But it wasn't as indivdualistic as Christianity makes it out to be. It was a communal thing.

    This also doesn't explain the Samartian, and why he was praised as very Christ-like. This doesn't explain why Jesus said that people's faith had saved them before there was ever a cross or sacrifice to believe in. They didn't even "know" Jesus properly, as God. Yet they were saved. The way to God was already open.

    It also entails why there's a "need" in the first place. If it's because God demands perfection from an imperfect creation, then that is an unjust demand. If it's due to some sort of Original Sin ... that also doesn't make sense, because given everything we scientifically know of the universe, death has always been a part of it. The universe was created to be exactly as it is. That includes everything in the universe, including us.

    This *also* depends on how one defines knowledge. To you, it seems that someone knowing God is defined by a set of doctrines. To me, knowing God has nothing to do with a doctrine-set. Do you not find it interesting that in the two creeds -- the Apostles and Nicine -- we don't see the two greatest commandments? Or that there's nothing in there about what an "Anointed-one like" life should be like? That it always, always, always comes down to believing correctly? I see in the gospels a Jesus who calls us to follow him. Not worship him. Take up a cross and follow. That is the very Jesus I have a hard time seeing in the creeds.

    But one can come to God simply in a multitude of ways. In the sheep/goats parable, the sheep knew Jesus by how they related to the hungry or those in prison. They didn't need doctrine. They just had to follow a path of love, and they knew God. If an atheist is sincere in following justice, or love, or living a life of self-sacrifice, then the movitation in the heart is the desire for a life that's higher than selfishness. You don't need to put God in the box of "Trinity" or "Allah." If you know love, or mercy, or justice, or light -- you know God. If a cross or sacrifice is needed to forgive or save, then both become conditional. It's no longer an unlimited option. If it comes down to doctrines, then salvation becomes conditional. And that's exactly what Jesus was preaching against -- it wasn't about doctrine or even a blood sacrifice. God's justice rained down on everyone. People simply must hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they will be filled.

    **But, it's not doctrine that saves. Jesus saves. **
    Only if you accept the doctrine, though.

    **It doesn't sound to me that this man renounced Jesus in His heart. It was because He knew Jesus that He made this decision.**
    But if someone who was never a Christian also made this denial for the sake of others, you would say that the person willfully rejects God. So I am again left with the fact that the actions are not weighed objectively, they are weighed based on a belief set. To you, the man still believed correctly in his heart, so he was okay.

    (I'm also not sure that every Christian would believe you, givne that he would've verbally denied the Resurrection and Jesus as any sort of influence). I do happen to think it was the greatest sacrifice of all, in terms of verbally relinquishing eternal life.

    **Would it help if I shared my personal faith journey? Will you tell me something of your background, and how you came to your beliefs?**

    Perhaps. But I wouldn't say we should do it here, and clog up John's blog. :)

    **I actually think you are a pretty stand up guy for hanging in here with all these discussions. :)**
    "Stand up woman," actually :)

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  20. Yikes, One,

    Sorry, why did I think you were a guy??

    I'll be back later to talk some more. Want to give your post more thought, and prayer. :)

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  21. I do have to just throw in my usual disclaimer about Dinesh D'Souza. He is a far-right pundit employed by the Hoover Institution who makes his money making outrageous statements.

    The most heinous of late was last year's The Enemy at Home, in which he sympathizes with the cultural leanings of Al Qaeda and argues that the internationalists in the American left (and right, though he doesn't blame them as much) and their push for "universal human rights" (including campaigns against female circumcision, immolation of widows--sati--in D'Souza's native India, voting rights for women, etc) are at fault for radical extremism and 9/11.

    Even Michelle Malkin was horrified.

    ---

    On John's friend's installation, kudos to you, John. My best friend in high school is a UU, and I learned more about morality, integrity and grace from him than from any of my conservative "Christian" classmates. I can empathize with the UUs' reluctance to enforce creedal standards, even if I disagree with the route they've taken. They are a people who honestly love and want to serve God.

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  22. The statistic I used to hear was that about 10% of UUs consider themselves Christians. I don't know if that statistic is still accurate.

    There are some UU Christians out there in the blogosphere. I sometimes read their blogs. There was a book published a couple of years ago that was a collection of statements of faith from various UU Christians. I think everyone realizes that UUism is not specifically a Christian denomination. You can be a UU Christian, a UU Buddhist, a UU pagan, a UU atheist. UUism is about process and community rather than about a specific faith tradition.

    Personally, I was never that attracted to UU church services because I was seeking a means of worshiping God rather than having the notion of God intellectually analyzed and deconstructed, which is pretty much what you are likely to hear in a UU church if the word God even gets mentioned.

    That being said, I do admire the intellectual openness and tolerance that is often found in UUism. It may not be my cup of tea, but some people are devoted to it, and more power to them. And, as One Small Step points out, it is by your fruits that ye shall know them, and the UUs have plenty of good fruits. That is what really should matter--not what religious tradition you happen to adhere to, but how you live your life. This is something that UUs particularly seem to understand.

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  23. Hi Flycandler,

    I'm glad you are back. I'm hoping you will be my friend for a while.

    You and I have two different idealogies about the world.

    It seems that you are okay with big government pushing their beliefs and values on everyone else in the world. It seems you are for globalization and an international rule of law.

    Have you ever thought that maybe the Islamic states do not want our secular ways of life. Have you ever read anything on Middle Eastern Government? They are a theocracy, similar to Democracy, except where God's Law is the Law of the land.

    It's not that I don't love the freedoms I enjoy here in America; it's just that I don't think they should be pushed on people. That is why I am for limited goverment at the local and state level. More people can be free that way.

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  24. Hey, same here, Rachel. Some of my best friends are the ones I disagree with the most.

    His dictis, I don't appreciate having words put in my mouth. I never said anything about my favoring "big government pushing their values and beliefs on everyone else in the world" or globalization, though I do support the idea of the rule of law generally.

    Look, I've traveled to every inhabited continent except Africa and Australia (looking to correct that in the near future BTW). I have experienced a great diversity of cultures. There is, however, a basic fundamental level of human rights that has to be protected. I personally think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does this quite nicely, as does the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, or (with one caveat) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act. Most often in the developing world, it is women who are treated brutally and without basic rights that everyone should be entitled to: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is wrong for girls to be murdered by members of their own family on suspicion that they had the wrong boyfriend. It is wrong for young women to be forced to burn alive once their husbands pass away. It is wrong for young girls in Africa to have their clitorises savagely ripped from their bodies using broken glass. Torture is wrong. Genocide is wrong. Slavery is wrong. These are ideals I won't compromise, and I don't think the world should either. This isn't a first-world-versus-third-world issue. This is about "the least of these" and how we protect the most vulnerable in our midst.

    If speaking out against torture, genocide and slavery have made Osama bin Laden upset with the west, then good. I don't want the things that would make him happy and I'm frankly surprised that D'Souza even dares to make a case for it. If a liberal commentator made that argument, s/he would be on trial for treason.

    Ultimately, we in the United States, as well as many of our friends around the world, are the ultimate owners of our government. The government is accountable to We the People, and if enough of us make enough noise, any politician worth his/her salt will get out in front of the parade with us.

    I don't think it is the job of the United States to force Middle Eastern countries into democratic regimes by use of military force. It's a bad idea and stable democracies rarely develop. Germany and Japan were the exceptions, and then only because of the Marshall Plan. South Korea, Greece and Afghanistan are perfect examples of what usually happens.

    However, we do need, as a global community, to encourage the natural development of democratic governments. Turkey is an example of a Muslim country that has a secular, democratically-elected government. It is by no means perfect, but its efforts to meet the criteria to join the European Union (another scary international organization) have caused the Turkish government to expand human rights and reform its economy. As recent events have tragically reminded us, Pakistan was a democracy until Dubya's friend Pervez Musharraf staged a coup. Even monarchy is not the rule in much of the Muslim world--with the exception of Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf states (save Yemen)--most are republics. They are often imperfect or seriously flawed, but it means the structures are in place for real democracies if the people of those countries want it enough.

    And yes, I do think that all God's children deserve the blessings of liberty, no matter how mixed a metaphor that may be.

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  25. One,

    Here's my personal e-mail,

    romebecky@yahoo.com

    If you want to talk, and share more please don't hestitate to get in touch.

    God bless.

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  26. Flycandler:

    Thanks for your reply. I am sorry for putting words in your mouth. It's just that this topic of globalization and American Imperialism is something I really would like to talk about with someone who appears to maybe have a different point-of view on things. I am hoping that through dialogue we can scratch through the lies and reach some common ground on the issue.

    I want to reply to your latest comment, but it will have to wait until tomorrow night. But, I did want to say something about your earlier commen:

    "The most heinous of late was last year's The Enemy at Home, in which he sympathizes with the cultural leanings of Al Qaeda and argues that the internationalists in the American left (and right, though he doesn't blame them as much) and their push for "universal human rights" (including campaigns against female circumcision, immolation of widows--sati--in D'Souza's native India, voting rights for women, etc) are at fault for radical extremism and 9/11."

    I came across the review of this book about four months ago. I was disgusted and apalled by it too when I saw it. I can't stand how the right-wing media has distorted this issue. It's just another issue that they use to distract the populace from the real truth of what is happening in the world.

    I am just beginning to read a book now called, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Robert A. Pape. In the book, Pape provides overwhelming evidence to support the claim that the terrorist hate us because the American Military Forces are occupying their soil. He also provides data to show that suicide terrists attract more followers in lands where more American prescence is found.

    I want to read another book called Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson, which makes similar claims.

    What are your feelings about the American Empire? I mean do you think it is fine for America to use its troops to police the world?

    I will read your earlier response real closely tomorrow and post some comments on it tomorrow night.

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  27. I personally think that empire is a bad idea all around, for everyone from the emperor to the citizens to the poor occupied schlubs. I also think it is fundamentally incompatible with the Gospel, and this is (obviously) a recurring theme in John's ministry.

    The reason I support international organizations like the UN is that they offer every country a voice, and democratically, the Security Council can decide whether or not to provide peacekeeping forces in times of true humanitarian crisis. It's not a perfect system (the structure of the Security Council itself is frozen in 1945), but history has shown that a truly international cooperative force is more effective in these kinds of situations rather than a single occupying nation. That's what helped make the first Gulf War reasonably successful, and it's why Bush repeatedly kept claiming the existence of a grand Coalition of the Willing (which aside from the US and the UK was mostly countries like Palau). In reality, Iraq has become a British occupation in the south (this will change thanks to PM Brown) and American everywhere else.

    The way to make the UN better is not for one of its most important members to withdraw. It's for us to get even more involved and active and push for the real reform started by Kofi Annan. The UN was in large part an American idea, and certainly wouldn't have come to fruition were it not for the hard work of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. In a time where international cooperation is so crucial to our national security, we need institutions like the UN now more than ever.

    I'd also add to your reading list Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy. Phillips is the guy who wrote The Coming Republican Majority back in 1968, and his predictions largely came to pass. In this book, he documents brilliantly the rise and fall of the Spanish, Dutch and British empires and notes the startling parallels with America today.

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  28. Hey Flycandler,

    I think we pretty much want the same thing for the world--peace! I hope the UN can create this for the world like you say they can. I just need more faith. They have done a superdeedorific job at it so far and I hope they keep up the good work! I wonder what it would take to reform them? Would it be easier to just start from scratch and implement the programs you suggested with a new International Community Peace Program?

    I'm just pessimistic, and I only see things getting worse, such as the Amercian economy collapsing, triggering other economies to collapse throughout the world, our Bill of Rights stripped, more poverty, more wars, and global starvation. But hey, that's the human condition: we are here to suffer!

    You might be happy to know Hillary is winning in NH right now. :-) I'm for Hillary. I want free health coverage, and pay bonuses for being a good teacher. What do you like about her?

    I'm also full of shit.

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  29. Senator Clinton is by no means my first choice, but should she win the nomination, I will campaign and vote for her. It's no secret that I think that all of the Republican candidates are bad choices for America (though Congressman Paul is the least worst of the bunch).

    As far as the UN goes, I think that we as a world community would be stupid to dismantle the structures it has in place for international cooperation and development. Starting from scratch would be a fruitless exercise, as many nations wouldn't even bother participating. Other parallel institutions, like OAS and ASEAN and even arguably NATO are becoming increasingly toothless and irrelevant. The EU is the one exception, and I think it's mostly due to economics. Yes, the UN needs further reform (I hope Ban Ki-moon can continue the largely successful efforts of Kofi Annan), but I think it is telling that politicians who love to trash the UN usually have no idea how the UN actually works or what it does. I can guarantee you one thing: the surest way to make the needs and desires of the United States irrelevant to the UN is for us to withdraw from participation.

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