Category Archives: religion

Intentional Americans

U.S. Flag There are many wonderful things I could say about the HBO documentary “Citizen USA: A 50-State Road Trip“, but here is a quote from newly naturalized citizen and intentional American Zeenath Larsen that captures not just one of the primary reasons people to come to the US (legally and illegally), but a valuable message for US-born American citizens (especially those who think immigrants come to the US just to steal jobs, collect welfare, and commit crimes), the politicians who are looking to influence, lead, and win over the support of the people, and any American who has ever taken America for granted (me included):

“The bottom line is that your country and you have to be on the same page where values are considered, principles are considered, what you believe in. And if that is not the case, then it’s… you may be born somewhere and brought up somewhere, but then you don’t feel that same type of loyalty. Because loyalty comes through ideas, not through the earth, not through mud and trees and hills. That’s the same everywhere in the world. Is there any country in the world that has it enshrined in the constitution that you have a right to be happy?”

And to underline the point even more, note that Larsen is originally from Pakistan. Food for thought– check out the trailer for “Citizen USA” below:

The Daily Show on DC, NPR, Juan Williams

Excellent (as usual) Daily Show segment on the NPR/Juan Williams firing. I already tweeted the hilarious part on DC’s city design/architecture (do you know how to navigate a roundabout?), especially re: all of the columns on the buildings– “… simultaneously magnificent and useless… like they designed the whole thing as a metaphor.” But the best part is discussion between Team Black and Team Muslim, having fun by playing on the irrational fear of Blacks and Muslims, culminating with Aasif Mandvi’s response to the accusation that their behavior only feeds into things:

“If they’re not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?”

Sexual Harassment and You

California now requires sexual harassment training for all supervisors– among other provisions, this means two hours at least every two years. I just finished my two hours and many of the topics covered were issues I covered during the hiring practices portion of my Masters program. However, aside from topics like supervisor duties and liabilities, protected characteristics and what constitutes illegal discrimination, preventing a hostile work environment and how to handle complaints, the training covers some very interesting case studies. As we jokingly said, if it was sexual harassment training, it would be sexual harassment.

I don’t think I’m breaking any rules by sharing some of these case study examples since they are real world examples of sexual harassment litigation, so here’s a little sampling so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about:

One word: priapism. If you don’t know what this word means, you should learn, especially if you’re a guy, and then check out the 2006 case Arrieta-Colon v. Wal-Mart. Props to Arrieta-Colon in winning the case, but talk about awkward.

That may be sexual harassment, but more importantly, it’s sexual assault. There were one or two examples where one co-worker (usually male) continually made unwanted romantic/sexual advances towards a co-worker (usually female)– advances that weren’t just repeated requests for a date or inappropriate comments, but extended to groping, touching, and more. (Specifically, check out the 2006 case Howard v. Winter as one example.) While admittedly there are serious sexual harassment issues, what about the sexual assault? This type of behavior is illegal not only in terms of creating a hostile work environment, but also because it’s a crime. I don’t know about you, but sexual assault trumps sexual harassment.

Spanking. And lots of it. WTF? There were multiple examples of spanking somehow being introduced into the workplace as a sometimes valid, sometimes invalid form of punishment. Check out the 2002 case Yerry v. Pizza Hut of Southeast Kansas. If someone seriously suggested to me to physically hit or be hit, much less spank or be spanked, as a way to punish someone in the workplace, I think my head would explode. And yet, somehow people involved in such cases went along with this treatment. It’s amazing what people don’t understand about their rights, will put up with to keep their jobs or do to avoid confrontation.

And with that, a little video to lighten the mood:

Video: God Is Dead (Kids in the Hall)

More media clip madness: from Katrina to Rita, many out there are wondering if God has forsaken us. Has God decided to punish the US? I doubt it– the wealth and good fortune the US and the American people have been blessed with far outways even the horrible destruction of these natural disasters.

But it does remind me of this clip from Kids in the Hall:

Dignity

It’s strange that Terry Schiavo and Pope John Paul II’s last days are so close together with the Catholic church so often at the forefront of the battle against euthanasia, with the Pope having his own feeding tube inserted in those last days. There are a lot of things I could say about the issues surrounding the Schiavo case– how it’s interesting that we are so quick to perform all life-promoting, life-saving and life-sustaining measures, but we’re always so afraid of facilitating death even a little bit, even if it may be the most humane choice. Even with millions of orphaned children out there in the world, we’ll pump women full of fertility drugs and implant test tube babies, but when she ends up becoming pregnant with eight babies, none of whom will most likely survive to full term, no one is willing to abort any of the embryos, babies, or whatever you would prefer to call them. They say that that they’re leaving it nature, to “God’s plan.” Well, if you had left it to nature, you wouldn’t have been able to have children at all. Situational ethics don’t always make sense.

The religious community is always at the forefront of these battles against euthanasia, but shouldn’t they be the least afraid of death? That after having lived a good life, after having exhausted what medical technology has to offer, after having hoped for a miracle, when it’s clear that it’s the end, shouldn’t those in the religious community be the most ready to face death, to move on to the next life, the better life? I know that I have been experiencing somewhat of a crisis of faith since high school, but I still believe in God, a God that is kind and merciful and wants to do good things and make the right choices when we can. And I always find it hard to believe that if God has given us so much human ingenuity, talent, intellect and even opportunity to do some of the great things medicine can do to save lives, why wouldn’t he give us the power to ease suffering and facilitate death when necessary?

To be honest, for me, if I’m in a persistent vegitative state for an extremely long period of time, especially if the only thing I can feel is pain, please just let me go because I can’t imagine wanting to be kept alive on a respirator or with a feeding tube for 15, 20 years, silently waiting for the next infection, the next stroke, for my bones to deteriorate, my muscles to atrophy. Let’s say Terry Schiavo really did have basic thoughts and emotions– what would they be? Was she glad that they went all the way to Congress with the fight to keep her alive? Or was she pained by constantly having her sickly image shown broadcast, non-stop, all over television and the Internet? Or was she pained by having to watch her parents struggle and mourn her condition day in and day out? Was she wishing her parents would let her go in peace and if not an afterlife, at least relief from this life?

There are a lot of people who want to give definitive answers to these questions, but to be honest, I don’t really know either. I know what I would want to happen if it were me and I’ll take the necessary steps to make sure my wishes will be known and followed. What other people choose to do is their choice and each unto him and although the law is clear, I don’t know any better than the next person whether Michael Schiavo or the Schindlers were in the right. My only issue with everything is how we have made such a circus out of the suffering of this poor woman. That Congress convenes to vote over the fate of one women who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years while more and more American lives are being lost overseas is unbelievable to me. And even in her death, she is granted little peace or dignity as the feud continues over her cremation, her autopsy, and her funeral.

And while the Pope was not kept alive for over a decade through medical devices, certainly we could have done more to give him some dignity in his last days? As local news broadcasts gave regular updates on the Pope’s health, just skimming the surface of being called “Pope Watch,” I kept wondering why we seem to revel in his suffering. I’m not saying we enjoyed his suffering, that we wanted his suffering, but what is wrong with us that we peer in with such a twisted, morbid curiosity, like watching a car accident on the side of the road? Despite all of the Catholic Church’s problems, no one can deny the great works the Pope and the Church have been able to do. They go places no one wants to go and they do work that no one else wants to do. So, why couldn’t we give him some respect during his last days, to die in more peace and more dignity than we did? What did we think we would accomplish by watching his every failing breath? The greatest tribute we could have given the Pope would have been to follow his humanitarian example and devote even a portion of our days to helping the suffering of others. We fixate on the suffering of the famous, whether celebrity or religious or political leader, but we fail to acknowledge the suffering of the millions around the world who we can help if only we were to look at them with the same interest. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from having watched Terry Schiavo and the Pope’s last days broadcast on television, day in and day out, is that while they may not have been able to be helped during their last days, maybe there are others we could help and the greatest tribute to the sanctity of human life is to value our own days here as an opportunity to make the most of them by devoting them to promoting life and the quality of life for those in need.

The Passion of the Christ

Partly because of the all the fuss, but perhaps more because of my own religious background, I actually decided to go and see The Passion of the Christ. This is a pretty big deal considering the last movie I bothered to see in the theater was Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and my whole plan for this weekend was to get reacquainted with my home and get my life back together. However, it’s been a long time since they’ve made a big screen retelling of the story of Christ and this one, despite all the controversy, looked like it was visually well-made. And besides, what a great title.

We all know “what happens,” so I don’t think I’m ruining anything for anyone, but I think people need to be aware of what they’re getting into when they go to see this film. The film depicts the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, from his arrest at Gesthemane (complete with Judas’s betrayal) to his crucifixion (and briefly, his resurrection three days later). The film is subtitled since all of the characters speak in the language they would have during that time– Aramaic for the Jewish characters and “street Latin” for the Roman ones. Because the movie begins so late in the story and there is little or no exposition in the film, it really helps to know, in detail, the story of the life of Jesus. You can obviously follow what is happening, but the experience is probably better if you know about and understand the significance of things like Jesus’s prediction that Peter would deny him three times, the appearance of Veronica and her famous veil, and in general, how crucifixions happened (so you could anticipate all the gruesome steps involved).

The real warning I would give movie-goers would not be about the alleged anti-semitism in the film, but the large amount of graphic violence. Granted, it’s the story of a man being beaten and crucified, so there will obviously be some inherent violence, but Gibson and company have included every gory detail of Jesus’s suffering, from his beating by Roman soldiers shortly before he is sentenced to crucifixion to his pained journey to Golgotha to his actual crucifixion. In other movies with particularly graphic violence, some directors choose to cut away at the last moment, saving the viewers the most gruesome moment and showing them only the “after,” if anything at all. However, as director, Gibson chose to show every single detail as Jesus is savagely beaten and flagellated and as nails are pounded into his hands and feet. Jesus, played by actor James Cavaziel, is extremely bloody and wounded during most of the film. Despite all of the family and children focused previews shown before the film, this film is not for children. I knew what was coming throughout the film and I could barely stand to watch the violence. Numerous people in the audience, including myself, were brought to tears during the most bloody moments of the film.

One of the big lessons the creators of the film seem to be trying to convey is that noone other than Jesus, than Christ himself, could endure and survive the persecution he experienced during those last twelve hours. Whether he survived all of that because he was destined for death by crucifixion or simply by chance is a question of faith, but the film does show us that Jesus’s suffering was no joke. All of the controversy surrounding the film focuses on whether it is anti-semitic, but more than depicting the Jews as the enemy, I think the film depicts all of the people of that time as the enemy. We not only see Caiphas (the Jewish High Priest) out for Jesus’s blood, insisting on his death by crucifixion, but we see a crowd enthusiastically choose Barabbas, a murderer, to be released instead of Jesus and Roman soldiers gleefully beat the Nazarene throughout the film. We see citizens following along as Jesus and two other criminals make their way to Golgotha and as Jesus collapses frequently under the strain of his cross and his injuries, they seize the opportunity to beat and heckle him themselves.

In the end, the film left me horrified with that period in human history itself. Granted, even if you do not believe in Jesus as Messiah, the tragedy is only amplified by the idea that a man who was teaching love and kindness was condemned and killed for it. But even if we forget about who Jesus was for a moment, the real horror is that a human society actually existed where a man, innocent or guilty, could be beaten and tortured like that by the State and religious leaders, that citizens would not only allow but enjoy such a spectacle, and that a system was in place where human beings were actually killed by such a gruesome method as crucifixion. Who knows if we are any better people today– there are most likely places in this world where equally violent and horrible things happen– but The Passion of the Christ, if anything, shows how terribly wrong human beings can be to one another.

Finding God

Growing up, I was a pretty loyal church-goer, involved in and leading youth group activities. When most people look at me, they probably cannot imagine a time when I was considered “religious” or “devout,” but really, it’s true. My belief in God has gotten me through some very tough times, especially while I was growing up when life at home and otherwise was not exactly a picture perfect paradise. Toward the end of high school, I began to grow very disillusioned with the church and the sometimes hateful message that Christians can promote in the name of God. So, over the past seven or eight years, my church-going has dwindled and to the naked eye, people may think I’m just a sinful pagan.

However, I still believe in God and I probably live a better life now than I did when I was practically living at church. Perhaps because how I live my life is no longer about the hard and fast rules dictated to me by my pastors and Bible Study teachers, but marked more by an overarching responsibility to be kind, generous and honest. I can just see my old Bible Study teachers wagging their fingers at me and clucking their tongues at how I’ve lost God because my whole life is not consumed by the idea of Christ as savior. But I find it very hard to believe that even if Christianity was the “right” religion, the God of the Bible, the Jesus of the Bible would turn away people who are kind, generous, and honest, but don’t happened to believe in Christ. All those countless people who never heard of Christianity, who simply grow up where Christians are a voiceless minority, who turn away from Christianity because of all of the ways Christians hate and condemn others– how could God turn away all those good people? If anything, the biggest enemy of Christianity seems to be Christians themselves– they fail to get up and spread the word of the Gospel and when they do, they do it in a way that leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, showing us how hateful and unjust human beings can really be.

This was a big argument I used to have with many of my Bible Study teachers and since they themselves were usually only a few years older, college students helping out at church, they had little to offer in the way of answers. I would always ask, if we believe in the concept of being “saved,” how is it fair that a serial killer could confess and be reborn minutes before his execution and go to heaven while presumably, a man like Mahatma Gandhi, simply because he did not believe in the Christian God and did not repent and atone for his sins in the particular way Christians say we should, would not? Or if the doctrine of predestination is true (since I grew up in a Presbyterian Church), what is the point of evangelizing, converting? What is the point of anything if we were already hand-chosen so long ago?