Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Pope, The Preacher, and the Zealot

Recently, Pope Benedict hurled yet another had grenade into the goals of religious cooperation and tolerance. He affirmed a position of dogma for the Catholic Church which stated that only Christians were eligible for entry into Heaven. All others are thereby damned for eternity. I don’t believe he was quite clear as to the whether only Catholic Christians were so eligible --- or Roman Catholics specifically --- so the total count of heathens is as yet untotaled.

For Osama bin-Laden, all infidels (i.e. non-Moslem, and perhaps even non-Sunni Moslems) are damned. For him, these infidels cannot even be left alone in their damnation; they must also be eradicated.

Like the Pope, Pat Robertson damns all non-Christians and excludes them from a Heavenly opportunity. I suspect he also considers Catholics as de facto non-Christians for this purpose. Jews appear to be tolerated by Robertson, at least Israeli Jews, because they are the protectors of the Holy Land where Jesus is expected to make his Second Coming reappearance. He certainly only includes those Christians who accept Pat’s definition of the “right” moral code --- which thereby leaves out a significant percentage of practicing Christians from Pat’s group. And, like bin-Laden, Robertson is not above calling for violence to achieve his version of ethnic cleansing --- assassination of political leaders is deemed OK.

While Pope Benedict’s exclusivity message did not overtly call for violence against the non-chosen, he seems to not understand that such bigoted statements, especially coming from religious leaders, are the first steps toward violent outcomes. It brings to mind his recent insult of the Prophet Mohammed just prior to visiting Moslem Turkey.

When one adopts a belief that his/her religion is not just a personal statement of belief, but it is also divinely sanctioned, that step can clear away any limitations on actions one does in the name of that religion. Which then leads to the religious zealotry we see across the U.S. and the world today.

In his role as protector of his church, Pope Benedict demonstrates that he is not quite up to the job. The specifics and the overtness of their words may vary, but the words of Pope Benedict, Pat Robertson, and Osama bin-Laden all ultimately drive to the same end.

These disturbing words come at the very time when the need for religious tolerance and respect is greater than ever. Faith, and the particular expression of one’s religious practice, are deeply personal and individual, not universal. But the true expression of the humble, compassionate, and moral life transcends over our individual human limitations.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Above the Law?

There are times when it seems very difficult to sit down and write another of these postings. This is one of those times. Not for a lack of subject matter to write about, unfortunately. But for when one feels that the off-course road we are currently traveling does not seem to have a bend, a turnaround, visible up ahead.

I am speaking of the latest successive events by which current government officials signal a complete disregard for being subject to civil law, and being accountable to the American people who placed them into such positions. Most significantly is the degree to which they believe that no one is paying attention to them and their words, and that we do not notice or comprehend the arrogance and deception that they are practicing. To wit:

1. George Bush’s assertion of “executive privilege” as the basis for not providing documents, or documented interviews with his staff, over the firings of U.S. prosecutors. Executive privilege is supposed to protect the ability of a president to get candid and undisguised input from his advisors. In this day and age of the isolation of the presidency, I support such a privilege. However, Bush is claiming such privilege over conversations in which he claims he was not involved, conducted instead among his advisors and executive officers, regarding a question as to whether the actions of a supposedly independent Attorney General were politically directed from the White House. How does one assert executive privilege in that circumstance, except to implicitly confirm “I am guilty of the suspicion, so I need to hide it”? Huh?

2. As discussed in a blog posting before, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales managed to only say one thing in all his hearings about his running of the Justice Department: “I don’t know.” Over and over again. Whether his memory is that bad or he is just that out of touch with his own organization, in either case any corporate leader responding in this manner, or any accused suspect on a witness stand, would already be long gone by now.

3. We then come to the secretive Vice President Cheney. Who has a special over-sized safe in his office to hide his own personal documents. Who refuses to reveal conversations he had with oil company executives to formulate a national energy policy, invoking executive privilege on those discussions. Yet when challenged about his designating and not reporting an overly large number of documents as “secret” in violation of federal rules governing executive officers, conveniently and unilaterally secedes from the executive branch to suddenly become a member of the legislative branch. (No, Congress did not invite him in!) This is not “an intriguing constitutional question to be answered by the courts,” as some pro-administration commentators have claimed. It is absolute and utter nonsense. But it is completely revealing about the nature of the Vice President and his disdain for the law and the people.

4. Lastly, we come to President Bush’s latest maneuver. Commuting Scooter Libby from serving any jail time for his conviction of violating CIA secrecy laws. A violation that had costly consequences to CIA national security plans and agents. This leaves Scooter on probation for 2+ years. All of this maneuvering is in direct conflict with federal rules on commutations, which require a person to already be in jail or served time before one can be commuted! Which thereby puts a wrap of secrecy around Libby from testifying any further during his probation time. Leaving everyone else involved off free from legal danger. A presidential spokesperson said, “We’ll leave all of this to the courts to sort out how it will all work.” Implicitly saying, “Because we don’t care about the messy details.”

Which is most discouraging: That these people act with so little ethical consideration? That they do so continually from one event to another? That they do not realize that all of their conflicting words and actions have been recorded on video for side-by-side demonstration of their hypocrisy? That they fully believe the American people don’t know and don’t care, so that they have the license to continue to speak and act this way?

How could one manage to be a “White House spokesperson” in these times, with your purpose in life to work each day to rationalize these untruths, unethics, and (near?) illegality. Or are these people right in their low opinions about us?