Today I had a wonderful wine at L'Ecole - a fairly crowd pleasing lightly fruity, somewhat dry, velvety white wine from... India. (the lunch was excellent as well). My surprise made the wine even better. Here is another review.
I've found the discussions about AOL's releasing search data fascinating. It is as if we are reading modern psalms, cries into the cyber-wilderness. Of course, there are those who seek to satisfy their desire; who seek for financial security, for love, to find old friends. Search Engines have become the ears of God.
If there is a world war, you can't blame Clinton. Note, however, the revealing "consultation" with Israel, as if Israel wags the Dog. Richard Holbrook prints something that conservatives won't admit.
But the United States must also understand, and deal with, the wider
consequences of its own actions and public statements, which have
caused an unprecedented decline in America's position in much of the
world and are provoking dangerous new anti-American coalitions and
encouraging a new generation of terrorists. American disengagement from
active Middle East diplomacy since 2001 has led to greater violence and
a decline in U.S. influence. Others have been eager to fill the vacuum.
(Note the sudden emergence of France as a key player in the current
burst of diplomacy.)
American policy has had the unintended, but
entirely predictable, effect of pushing our enemies closer together.
Throughout the region, Sunnis and Shiites have put aside their hatred
of each other just long enough to join in shaking their fists -- or
doing worse -- at the United States and Israel. Meanwhile, in Baghdad,
our troops are coming under attack by both sides -- Shiite militias and
Sunni insurgents. If this continues, the U.S. presence in Baghdad has
President Bush owes it to the nation, and especially
the troops who risk their lives every day, to reexamine his policies.
For starters, he should redeploy some U.S. troops into the safer
northern areas of Iraq to serve as a buffer between the increasingly
agitated Turks and the restive, independence-minded Kurds. Given the
new situation, such a redeployment to Kurdish areas and a phased
drawdown elsewhere -- with no final decision yet as to a full
withdrawal from Iraq -- is fully justified. At the same time, we should
send more troops to Afghanistan, where the situation has deteriorated
even as the Pentagon is reducing U.S. troop levels -- which is read in
the region as a sign of declining U.S. interest in Afghanistan.
What if diplomats and countries began offering apologies to one another for their mistakes. Who would start? If we apologized to Iran for overthrowing a secular, democratic regime they would be in a bind: the current government is firmly anti-secular, but they rely on the familiar Iranian suspicion of our support of brutal dictators. An honest act of contrition on our part for overthrowing Mossadegh would divide Iranian society, but most important open up room for a conversation. They might then have to respond outside the typical bluster that is a consequence of dis (or mis) engagement. The question is: does repentance and forgiveness truly work? If God can make it work in our private lives, he can surely also command our public attention. Dr. Lehmann writes the Financial Times:
Sir, With respect to the interesting correspondence on the Middle
East, while there are many disagreements, I think all would agree that
(a) the roots of the crisis go quite far back into history, and that
(b) the interventions and impositions by the "west", both Europe and
the US, in the Middle East have been almost invariably negative, both
in their motivations and in their consequences.
we (rightly) urge the Japanese to apologise to the Chinese, Koreans and
other victims of the Pacific war and Japanese imperialism, the west
owes profound apologies to Iran, the Iranians and the Arab people and
societies of the Middle East. Specifically, while the Bush
administration sermonises about freedom and democracy to Iran, should
it not, at the very least, acknowledge that democracy in Iran was
aborted by the UK and the US in 1953 with the overthrow of Mohammad
The US-UK then imposed and strongly supported the
dictatorial monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as shah of Iran
until he was finally overthrown by the Iranian people in 1979. Whether
from the viewpoint of human rights, the post-1979 Islamic regime is
better or worse than that of the shah is somewhat of a moot point.
is important is that the current regime was chosen by the Iranian
people and ultimately it is up to the Iranian people whether it wants
to maintain it or not.
This is not to deny that Iran is somewhat
of a problem. But surely the first step would be for the US and the UK
to accept responsibility for all the political turbulence they caused
in Iran in the previous century, proffer profound apologies, preferably
with some important compensation, especially to all the families with
members who died or were tortured by Savak, the shah's notoriously
brutal secret police.
The Mossadegh affair is emphatically not
water under the bridge. It is one example out of so many in this tragic
region where history lives on (as it does between Japan and China and
Korea) and determines the present and the future, because the past has
not been properly addressed.
Ideally, Mr Blair and Mr Bush should
go to Tehran, ask the Iranian people for forgiveness, and then, as they
say, take it from there.
There are many other cases for the west
to seek forgiveness in the region, but the Mossadegh issue has the
advantage of being quite clear-cut and could go a long way to providing
a solution for the current Iraniancrisis. This will be infinitely more
effective than sanctions, let alone warfare.
Ever since Lieberman defeated Lowell Weicker [who gave a 1% chance of running against him again], I've been a stauch antagonist of everthing Lieberman has said. Today is the primary. Slate follows the important bloggers. Lamont is running a strong campaign. I've mentioned before that I am a Weicker Republican.
And of course, I believe we should get out of Iraq. Immediately. Let Iran fail miserably. As it is, they are the only nation that's succeeded in getting what they want.
So last night I am hanging out with a friend from my undergraduate days. We also both lived in Chicago afterward. He was now visiting NYC. Two of his friends, a married couple who are amateur bikers, are deeply anti-religious in fairly predictable ways - the man was English and the other was American, but I had no concrete sense of her upbringing. It seemed vaguely culturally Christian. They were in their 30s.
Next to me was a Very Hot Episcopalian. And smart, too - Harvard undergrad, NYU PhD, blonde and cute and witty. Her parents were prominent fundraisers, who had also done work for big Episcopal organizations. The conversation turned to religion when it was revealed I'm an episcopalian.
The questions and assertions were standard: Religion has done far more harm than good [so you think people are not tribal, territorial creatures naturally?]; People shouldn't be motivated by the fear of God [so you don't think fear is rational sometimes?]; People need to update their thinking with science and progressive thinking [well, do you think theologians and lay people weren't aware of the French Revolution, the Steam engine, germs, the revolution of 1848 and the Paris commune? Secular thinking has been around for ages! Hasn't the church has been engaging it]. It's the fear of death that is the problem [well, isn't that a natural emotion? Is it really possible for human beings to conceive of their own death? Not really. You can't turn your brain off.].
"Why should I go to church?" my friend asked.
"Well, perhaps there is no reason to go to church," I said. "But like any perspective, thinking about God takes practice and attention. One goes to church for mutual support - and to learn the language of faith. And this faith is useful and and accurate way of comprehending the world. It makes our lives better."
Now there was some resistance to this. My Episcopal friend echoed me during the discussion, saying that it was only because we were in the first world that we could address faith so dismissively. She did confess that she was a "Christmas and Easter" Christian, but that she did love the Episcopal Church.
The man would say "Religionists should be more humble!" Well YES, I would claim. That is exactly what scripture says. "Religion should be about moral progress." Well, of course! He would assert, I would parry and retort. I just wish I was a bit wittier.
Many of the people I'm trying to reach are at completely different places than where the church is. They don't know the story of Jesus Christ. They can't even think of a good reason for religion. Their Sundays are liberated for coffee and bicycle rides.
They are immersed in their own power, their own ability to shop and choose and make good. Their ethic is simple and unvarnished: "Do unto others." For them, to speak of Christ is supernatural mumbo-jumbo, or an example of emotional abuse. What will the church offer them? Or do we simply shake off the dust from our shoes?
My friend Imara says to one of them, "I know God. I've met him." Perhaps that is where we begin.
Green Knight beheads that analogy. Quebec separatists cross into Maine, kill three American soldiers and
kidnap two others in a bid to negotiate a prisoner exchange, a demand
rebuffed by the USA. Another five American soldiers are killed after
the ambush. The USA responds with a naval blockade and by bombing
hundreds of targets in Canada, including Ottawa's airport and the
separatists' headquarters in Montreal.
I found a new obsession: M. I. A. - and her album Arular. Sri Lankan rapper, bringing punk, bangra, hip-hop together. Amazing.
I'm clearly late to this.
I'll be listening to this album for a while. Rolling Stone reviews this album saying, "M.I.A.'s long-awaited full-length debut, Arular, is every bit as stunning as "Galang": weird, playful, unclassifiable, sexy, brilliantly addictive." No, I don't understand all the lyrics, but the beats are amazing. If you see a cleric in his new Honda Civic listening to loud beats [the windows will be closed, I promise], this is the album in his CD player.
As Israel bombs Lebanon, and Hizbollah bombs Israel, I consider how Jesus also brought a sword; how he warned of brothers and families dividing.
Seeking peace doesn't end conflict - it just changes the location. Those who seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, end up engaging their own brothers and sisters who need outside enemies. Arabs who seek peace with Israel will have to face conflict in their own societies. In contrast, countries who seek war with Israel can keep internal peace more consistently. Iran's president, for example, is able to suppress dissent more easily due to his anti-Semitic ravings. And Israel's victim complex it allows them to continue justifying their activity. And many Arabs see he existence of Israel - as the west being unwilling to fact its own Semitism. You take the Jews. We don't want them here.
Jesus is also aware that war creates meaning, and in parables he is implicitly revealing the consciousness of war. War is a lot like a mass crucifizion. To enter war, simply honor the common, human and pagan (or the religion of empire) ethics of loyalty, honor, pride, victory. We hold close our friends, cheer our soldiers, protect our babies and curse our enemies. It is in these relationships we have what is meaningful.
But this is not God.
Hizbollah might have a story: they protect Lebanon from invaders; they protect the Shia from Sunni oppression; they build infrastructure where the government cannot. They are the only international force that cares for Palestinians, and has resisted Arab complicity in keeping Palestininans weak. But they are not the party of God.
And we might support Israel - a country that is perpetually victimized and insecure; that cultivates its identity by having the entire world as an enemy; that insists it is perpetually misunderstood. We know, also, because they are westerners that they care for their own, their sick, and their weak. They pray for justice, and hold their children tight.
Jesus simply says that we do not determine what is good or evil in war - God is the source of that. Jesus instead reveals how we are held hostage by our own tribalism, the plain sense of attacking and responding because of our own needs, desires and fears. It's cloaked in words of security and justice, but these are our own delusions, our own arrogance at thinking that our side holds the only story God hears.
War is simply us loving our families and hating our enemies. And if that's all we can do, then war is what we'll get. The cross implies that whatever victory Hezbollah and Israel are seeking will be temporary. Hezbollah's victory will never overcome the power of Israel; and Israel can't expect that its bombs will garner sympathy.
We probably know what Jesus would do. I think Jesus would probably protect Israel. He'd return the soldiers. He'd stop Hezbollah from bombing Israel. He'd allow Palestinians to travel freely between the borders of Israel and Jordan. He'd have the Arabs promise not to attack Israel and vice versa. And he would expect that Palestinians would have their own place in the land. But he would also know that peace would create other conflicts, but perhaps those conflicts would bring us closer to the Kingdom than lead us to Armageddon.
But our own lies just reveal how deep is our sin. All the conflict has demonstrated is how well we love our friends and hate the enemy. Yes, we love our families, and pray for our children. But it is our mistake to think that we are the only ones who pray thus.
Our delusion that this war is God's war, God's family, God's life and God's victory gets nailed upon the cross. And what is revealed is that war is about our families, our lives, and finally, our failures.
I might Support Israel (in the most general sense - I think their excuses about civilian bombings are specious and incredible). But I can give no theological or Christian reason why, for there is none except they are friends. In the end, I have my tribe, and so be it. Still, I pray for peace. But that is about all I can do, knowing that I, too, am a sinner. And as a sinner, I want my side to win.
And in humility, I also know that my own side might not be God's.
My question is, why do people who hold these views feel it is OK to
change other elements of the religion (e.g. stoning people who commit
adultery, not allowing divorce, etc...). I'm just wondering how someone
with the anti-gay viewpoint, based on their reading of scripture, would
rationalize/justify holding opinions that are antithetical to a strict
reading of the bible on these other topics.
I'll try to answer, but as I don't think I've ever gotten a really good
response myself [and I'm in CONSTANT communication with conservatives].
I'll give a general explanation. There are two pieces: what
is, I think, in fact happening and how they describe it themselves.
I personally don't think that the issue is really about
homosexuality. I think that it is more about security in an age of instant communication, and the anxieties of cultural change that piggy back upon capitalism.
Global communication allows for signs and symbols to be sent worldwide,
but meaning is still "constructed" locally (for example, what western
progressives might say, gets understood in the south as another example
of imperialism. Homosexuality, is just an example of us giving it to Iraqis, so to speak). The anxieties that people have about the market
and their own relationships gets projected into a very simple
I don't think the presenting issues are particularly new. The big shifts happened when sex, death and property became
divorced, in part, due to economic changes (that allowed some women to
live independently) and technological advances (birth control).
The consequences of sex [a child, or death from childbirth] have
changed, and alongside, the choices of women.
Birth control essentially gave women an immense amount of individual
power, the consequences of which are still being discovered. It's
clearly good for individual women, but since then, the complexities of sexual
desire have still not been discerned well by the church.
As women became more powerful, it was a matter of time when gay men
found that they had more liberty. By and large, the Episcopal
church has essentially moved along with the culture on this - and the
Episcopal church represents, I think, a pretty good example of the
confusions that people have. Most people (and I think this
means the entire culture, actually) haven't figured out exactly what
these changes mean for us.
It coupld be a cultural divide. My Indian mother- who was
both an aristocrat and a communist, had lots of gay friends. But she said to me,
once, "I just could not live with you being gay. Its probably my
last inherited bigotry from my Indian culture." It was
interesting that she recognized it. There are about 7 Indian pastors in the diocese,
and one of them said to me last year, "I just don't understand
homosexuality. I just don't get it. I don't know what to
make of it." Simply put, the cultural divide is just too vast. We should respect that.
I often hear the following: Conservatives point out that the
"plain text" says that church tradition has been unanimous that male gay sex is an "abomination" or unnatural. They
then argue that scripture has the tendency of becoming less rigorous
liturgically [thus Christians give up many of the Jewish rituals] but
more rigorous regarding sex. This argument allows them to
avoid the more serious issues in the OT like Usury or keeping the
When a conservative says "2000 years" he is just repeating a fact -
yes, the church has pretty much objected to homosexuality. But
there are couple reasons why this isn't good enough. Hearkening to the past is a bias rather than a
truth. There is no reason to assume that older is better:
it is simply a perspective that most people, before capitalism, had. But in the end" we've always done it
that way" is a mediocre way to begin an ethic. Scripture seems to offer
a better way: is it beneficial [as Paul noted - all things are
lawful, but not all things are beneficial]?
Of course, there are numerous arguments also why the liturgical / moral
distinction is incorrect, and the argument about sexual ethics being
"more rigorous" has more to do, I suspect, with record keeping and the
need of the state to have an easy welfare system [a good idea, perhaps,
but very utilitarian]. Jesus was strengthening the marriage vow
because he was reminding the people that men had hard hearts when they
But the crucial reason conservatives offer - the "best" one - has to do with
primacy and idealization of the unity and difference of two
sexes. Scripture and church tradition seem to have a fairly
consistent metaphor about the bride and bridegroom being symbols, for
example, the people and the land, or the church and Jesus Christ.
To dismiss this metaphor is to trivialize what God intends [which is
for us to procreate and have children] for us, and the wisdom of most
humanity regarding the natural use of our genitalia.
This is the theological standpoint of the most credible biblical
scholar, Robert Gagnon, who opposes homosexuality. Scripture does
assume, as does anyone who lives, that male and female are pretty
important parts of human identity.
The best response to this is, "No shit."
Personally, I think that the description of church tradition being
uniformly anti-gay is probably correct - to a certain point. This
is probably because homosexuality was conflated with sexual greed and
exploitation. The question then is, what is the purpose of our desires? Christian evolutionists like Joan
Roughgarden are challenging the notion that our genitalia are made for
procreative purposes first - they might be made, for example, for joy
(as, actually the Archbishop of Canterbury argues in one of his earlier
essays titled, The Body's Grace).
The other sense by conservatives is that the Episcopal Church,
generally, has abandoned something called "The Faith Once
Delivered." I can't really explain it to you, because I
don't quite understand it myself. It seems to have a very
supernaturalistic, puritanical understanding of what the church is for
(say, "saving souls" - admirable, but highly reductionistic). It might be that the Nicene Creed seems to
be said, but not literally believed, by most bishops or priests.
What is true is that the church has decided that the creed has nothing to do with sexuality. They might be right that most bishops and priests interpret
scripture in a fashion that would be unrecognizable to those in the
What they err about is that bishops and priests are saying things
different than what was thought 100 years ago. The church has had
a "liberal" theology for at least 70 years. Perhaps what is
changing is that now lay people are reading the same things that I
My own view is that the battle for full inclusion of gay and Lesbian
people in the Episcopal church has been won by progressives. Most dioceses in the Episcopal church ordain competent gay
clergy, quietly. Our actions - distressingly for most conservatives - have moved much faster
than our theology. Unfortunately, this tends to also irk liberals who get upset when most bishops are simply trying to hold their diocese together. Of course, as conservative priests get a lot more nasty and start challenging moderate bishops, these same bishops will realize that they have to draw a line somewhere.
As the men in the Anglican tradition dissolve, an interesting counter
current is happening. The women from all 38 provinces of the
Anglican church are regularly meeting. If you follow the work of
the Anglican women, you'll note that they are talking about other
issues. And they have said very clearly that homosexuality
distracts us from issues of poverty.