Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Guns & Churches

Should vulnerable church communities be protected by armed security guards?

David Gushee reflects on this question in his RNS blog today:

He points out that nearly all synagogues and temples in the US and elsewhere have hired armed protection--and for good reason.

I agree with him that hiring armed security for endangered congregations is better than encouraging church members to carry weapons.  In states that permit open carrying or concealed carrying of guns in public places, some people have been advocating armed congregations--in sharp contrast to how Jesus conducted his life.

It's hard to imagine a Wednesday night Bible study for 20 people or fewer regularly employing security guards--except at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where I think people might indeed need that protection now to feel safe.

On the other hand, members of that congregation have demonstrated such an unusual attitude of forgiveness toward their attacker that even they might refuse armed protection.

Certainly Jesus would not have wanted armed guards protecting his ministry.  If he were preaching today, would he travel with bodyguards?

I would vote against using guns to protect worshippers if the decision were being made in a congregation where I worship.

At Brentwood Presbyterian Church, where I am a member in Los Angeles, the possibility of an attack is extremely slim.  

Here in Telluride, my pastor in Telluride Christian Fellowship (a multi-ethnic congregation) is an African-American.  

It's conceivable that some nut could decide to come in and shoot for racist reasons, but it's inconceivable that our congregation would ever choose to hire armed security guards.

Orthodox Women Rabbis--Of Course!

Thank you to Gilla Nissan for sending me this news item from The Times of Israel.

A cohort of four new rabbis--two men, two women--were ordained in Jerusalem on June 9 at Har'el Beit Midrash.

Of course Modern Orthodoxy is inclusive of women as rabbis, according to Rabbi Herzl Hefter, himself a graduate of Yeshiva University in New York City. 

"It's the normal thing to do," he says.  

The new rabbis include Rahel Berkovits and Meesh Hammer-Kosoy.  

The article cites a number of previous ordinations in the US and elsewhere of women as Orthodox rabbis and predicts that soon there will be 100 Orthodox women rabbis in the US.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Austin, thanks for posting this serious response to the church shooting in South Carolina.

Yes, I and my friends and family and church must uproot racism and recognize that "racism... is denial of blackness as an equal and authentic image of God."

We must also work on control of guns, especially handguns and bullets.  

It's a crime to allow someone to sit in a church for an hour with a concealed lethal weapon.  

I suspect that God hates our misuse of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

We need to get in line with God's will on guns.  Surely God does not want every crazy person from Sandy Hook to Charleston to have access to weapons that can kill many so easily.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

In Memory of Argentina's Disappeared

Thank you to Jennifer Elliott of the Department of Religious Studies at CSU Northridge for telling me that the website for the documentary Our Disappeared/Nuestros Desaparecidos appreciated my post of September 2008 about watching the film.

They quoted from my post on their website under the "Comments" section.

What an inquiring mind Jennifer has--hearing about this documentary, checking out its website, and then skimming all the comments about it.

This is an illustration of the World-Wide Web:

1) Draw a line from Argentina to Los Angeles (the film being shown in LA in 2008 and me watching it).
2) Draw a line from Los Angeles to Argentina (a web person there reading my review and putting it on their website).
3) Draw a line from Argentina to Northridge (Jennifer reading the documentary's website in 2015).
4) Draw a line from Northridge to Santa Monica (Jennifer telling me about the use of my post).
5) Draw a line from Santa Monica to Argentina (me posting on it again).

That's a web of lines right there, not counting all the people who heard about the film and watched it from 2008 to now as a result of the web.

Buy or stream Our Disappeared from the website above--it's well worth your time and attention.

During the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, people were snatched off the street for the slightest possible offenses--reading a fashion magazine or reacting to the kidnapping of a friend.  Then they were murdered.

Videla died in 2013--read about him:

Read about the alliance between him and the US--President Ronald Reagan was one of his key backers:

The documentary reviews the cases of some of those kidnapped by interviewing family members, in some cases the children of the person killed.

My 2008 post about the film, including two people's comments:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers PEACE Day

I don't like Mother's Day.  It tends to be hypocritical, honoring women one day a year and exploiting their generosity the rest of the year.

It also makes me uncomfortable because my mothering has not been all sweetness and light, the way cards and messages describe mothers on this day.

Here's a tribute by LA Times columnist Sandy Banks to Dayna Bennett, a woman in Palmdale who truly deserves some attention--and donations--on this day.

Dayna's fundraising page for her handicapped adopted daughter is at

My third complaint against this super-holiday as it is now practiced:  

Julia Ward Howe founded it as a day to remember women's losses of their children in war and to work for peace so that more mothers' hearts are not broken.

Code Pink works for this kind of action by women, on Mothers Peace Day and every day.  --video with Emad Ahmed Khassar telling her story.

Give me this kind of Mother's Peace Day or give me nothing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Exploitation of Nail Salon Workers

If we only knew the high personal cost of the goods and services we enjoy...

In the case of nail salon employees, we now know.

This service should be only for the elderly or others who cannot do their own nails--and then, the employees should be tipped well and inquiries should be made about whether the employees were trafficked and whether they have a living wage.

There was also a report on this problem in the LA Times.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Life at 22 weeks?

Another painful article appears in today's New York Times, this time about pre-premies, some of whom survive and may grow up to lead normal lives.

A new study of thousands of premature births reports that out of 78 babies given medical support to keep them alive after birth at about 22 weeks, 18 survived.

Of those 18:
7 had no apparent moderate or severe impairments--as toddlers.
6 had "serious problems such as blindness, deafness, or severe cerebral palsy."
5 had problems somewhere in between.

Parents desperate to have a child may want that baby no matter how seriously impaired he or she may be.

But when the child becomes a young adult, will he or she have a decent chance at life?  How many will develop physical or mental problems after the age when this study ended?

"At 22 weeks, in my opinion, the outcomes are so dismal that I don't recommend any interventions," comments Dr. Jeffrey M. Perlman, medical director of neo-natal intensive care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Yes, there are implications for the debate over when legal abortions can be done--the Supreme Court has ruled that states must allow abortions when the fetus is not viable outside the womb.  If "viable" becomes 22 weeks or 20 weeks, that affects women's choices.

We should set aside the abortion debate, however, when considering whether to try to save babies estimated to be at about 22 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period.  (Because ovulation and conception occur a week or two after menstruation, the fetuses are actually younger than 22 weeks.)

In setting medical care guidelines, we should think only about the parents and the pre-premies they want to save.  

No two cases will be alike, partly because women don't always know when their last period began.

As a parent, I hope medical centers will not try to save these very tenuous young lives.  

The gift of life can so easily become a burden for young people competing for social acceptance and economic survival.  Ten persons aged 15-24 took their own lives out of every 100,000 in the US in 2013.

Steering a child around the obstacles of alcohol, drugs, crime, peer pressure, and violence is hard enough when the child has excellent health.

The quest for pre-premie life at any price--financially, physically, and emotionally--does not make sense.