On 20th Anniversary of King Federal Holiday

January 16, 2006

Advocates Cite New Challenges to Civil Rights Leader’s Social Justice Vision

By civilrights.org staff January 13, 2006

What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have made of the dramatic images of tens of thousands of poor families abandoned at the Superdome and in the Convention Center in New Orleans, and of thousands of families stranded on Interstate-10 without food or water?

How would he have responded to a ballot initiative that would end affirmative action initiatives in higher education, employment, and contracting in the name of a “colorblind” society?

What would he say to those who claim that what is widely viewed as the most successful civil rights law ever functions now as punishment for the South’s past crimes? >>More

Tags: Accomplishments, Challenges, Civil Rights, Dream, Equality, Hurricane Katrina, Leaders, Love, Martin Luther King, New Orleans, Spiritual
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On Martin Luther King Day: giving ourselves to the struggle

January 15, 2006
by Todd Huffman, M.D.
The Free Press, January 7, 2006

Next (Ed: This) Monday the mail will stop, the banks will close, and schoolchildren will delight in an extra long weekend all in honor of Martin Luther King, a man whose legacy the lessons of which Americans seem slowly to be forgetting.

Network news programs will show footage of King “the slain civil rights leader” telling the world from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 of his dream of racial harmony. Viewers will be reminded of King the great and nonviolent warrior fighting Bible in one hand and Constitution in the other against desegregation and for voting rights in Jim Crow Alabama. And the obligatory sixty-second homage to this great man on his national day will conclude with the familiar images of King lying dead on a motel balcony in Memphis.

What will be missing is any reference to the final three years of his too short life. After gaining passage of federal civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King spent his last years fighting his most uphill battle, against the nation’s indifference to poverty. That today such indifference persists undeterred by decades of soaring affluence is proof, if any were needed, that King went home to God many years too soon.

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A Journey Into Buddhism – Part 9 Compassion

January 9, 2006

by Elizabeth J. Harris

Part 9 – Compassion

Kataragama is a place of pilgrimage in the south of Sri Lanka, holy to both Buddhists and Hindus. In 1989, I went to their annual festival. On the final night, as elephants, drummers, and dancers were slowly and gracefully moving along the path between the shrine to Lord Kataragama and the Kiri Vehera, the Buddhist temple, with its milk-white dagoba, two powerful grenades were lobbed into the crowd, made up mainly of poor villagers but containing one political dignitary. About fifteen people were killed and many more were injured, especially in the rush to escape the sacred area. It was the time when the JVP, the People’s Liberation Front, was attempting to seize political power through the gun and the death threat.

At Kataragama, religious devotion was shattered by blood in a pattern not unfamiliar in Sri Lanka. Both Hindus and Muslims have also been attacked when worshipping. Political concerns and religion have touched. In this context, the inter-religious encounter that I began in 1986 as a student of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, also became a journey into suffering and painful political reality, which included the violent death of friends and sharing the fear of those who were threatened. An important question for me at this time was how to cope with the suffering around me without being destroyed, how to empathize with others and deal with my own fear for the safety of dear ones.

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What the Bible Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality

January 8, 2006

by Rev. Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce

LIKE YOU, I TAKE THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY!

Many good people build their case against homosexuality almost entirely on the Bible. These folks value Scripture, and are serious about seeking its guidance in their lives. Unfortunately, many of them have never really studied what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality.

We gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians take the Bible seriously, too. Personally, I’ve spent more than 50 years reading, studying, memorizing, preaching, and teaching from the sacred texts. I earned my master’s and doctoral degrees at a conservative biblical seminary to better equip myself to “rightly divide the word of truth.” I learned Hebrew and Greek to gain a better understanding of the original words of the biblical texts. I studied the lives and times of the biblical authors to help me know what they were saying in their day so I could better apply it to my own. I’m convinced the Bible has a powerful message for gay and lesbian Christians — as well as straight Christians. But it’s not the message of condemnation we so often hear.

I’m not expecting you to take my word for it, though. I ask only that you’d consider what my research has taught me about the passages used by some people to condemn God’s gay and lesbian children. Then decide for yourself…

MY FIRST PREMISE:

Most people have not carefully and prayerfully researched the biblical texts often used to condemn God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.

As you may know, biblical ignorance is an epidemic in the United States. A recent study quoted by Dr. Peter Gomes in The Good Book found that 38 percent of Americans polled were certain the Old Testament was written a few years after Jesus’ death. Ten percent believed Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Many even thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles.

This same kind of biblical ignorance is all too present around the topic of homosexuality. Often people who love and trust God’s Word have never given careful and prayerful attention to what the Bible does or doesn’t say about homosexuality.

For example, many Christians don’t know that:

  • Jesus says nothing about same-sex behavior.
  • The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality.
  • Only six or seven of the Bible’s one million verses refer to same-sex behavior in any way — and none of these verses refer to homosexual orientation as it’s understood today.

Most people who are certain they know what the Bible says about homosexuality don’t know where the verses that reference same-sex behavior can be found. They haven’t read them, let alone studied them carefully. They don’t know the original meaning of the words in Hebrew or Greek. And they haven’t tried to understand the historical context in which those words were written. Yet the assumption that the Bible condemns homosexuality is passed down from generation to generation with very little personal study or research. The consequences of this misinformation are disastrous, not only for God’s gay and lesbian children, but for the entire church. The apostle Paul says, “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” By reading this little pamphlet, you are taking Paul seriously. >>More


A Journey Into Buddhism – Part 8 Buddhism and Social Justice

January 8, 2006

by Elizabeth J. Harris

Part 8 – Buddhism and Social Justice

Among such humans, brethren, there will arise a sword period of seven days during which they will look on each other as wild beasts; sharp swords will appear ready to their hands, and they thinking, “This is a wild beast,” will with their swords deprive each other of life.

These words from the Pali Canon come towards the end of the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta of the Digha Nikaya. Here the Buddha describes the process whereby a society slides into a state of absolute anarchy and violence, reaching the point where all respect for the preciousness of human life is lost and humans kill each other without guilt or remorse. Stealing appears first, then murder; false speech and sexual promiscuity follow. Religion is undermined; respect for elders disintegrates; human life loses its worth. It is a horrifying picture of growing bestiality that is as relevant today as it was when first spoken.

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A Journey into Buddhism – Part 7 Detachment and Compassion

January 7, 2006

by Elizabeth J. Harris

Part 7 – Detachment and Compassion

A Christian missionary in Sri Lanka once said to me with great sincerity, “The Buddha image speaks to me of coldness, of non-involvement, of a turning away from life. I prefer the image of Jesus Christ with his robes dirty with the sweat of the poor.”

One stereotype of Buddhism is that it supports a withdrawal from the suffering of the world, a renunciation of active involvement with society. An inter-religious conference I attended a few years ago stays in my mind because one of the western participants insisted that outward-moving compassion was not an important part of Buddhism. My encounter with Buddhism forces me to challenge this stereotype. I did so at that conference and I continue to do so. It is outsiders — European observers and those seeking an escape from the world — who have projected onto Buddhism the encouragement of indifference to the agony within human life. It does not rise from within. Buddhism certainly speaks of destruction, renunciation, and detachment, but it is detachment from all those things which prevent compassion from flowing — from possessiveness, competitiveness, and selfishness. Viraga, one of the Pali words translated as detachment, actually means “without raga” — without lust, without possessive craving — not without concern for our world.

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A Journey into Buddhism – Part 6 The self in Buddhism and Christianity

January 6, 2006

by Elizabeth J. Harris

Part 6 – The Self in Buddhism and Christianity

Sri Pada, in Sri Lanka, is over 7,000 feet high and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. At the summit is a huge footprint, claimed variously to be that of the Buddha, Adam, and Lord Shiva. From December to May is the pilgrimage season. Each night during this season, thousands of devotees climb up an illuminated, lengthy ascent of steps. From a distance, the dark shape seems to have a diamond necklace thrown down its side. Sometimes the crowd is so large that pilgrims have to pause at each step they climb. The pressure on the leg muscles is incredible. An elderly Buddhist friend of mine climbed on such a night. She told me that the only way she could force her legs through the ordeal was to say of the pain, “This is not mine, this is not me.”

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