B U L L E T I N

Happy New Year!

1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Neither Jews nor Muslims, they are evil men

A few Gazans and Israelis rejoice each other's death, shame on them;
A few Israelis and Gazans are revengeful, forgiveness to them;
A few Gazans and Israelis are hateful to each other, love to them;
A few Israelis and Gazans are messing up others lives, prayers to them;
A few Gazans and Israelis cannot see their mistakes, wisdom to them;

A few Israeli and Gazans Politicians are seeking re-elections, dump them;
A few of us are excited about killing and mayhem, humility to us;
A few of us Justify one side or the other, we shouldn't justify any killing;

To Kill a human is like killing the whole humanity says the Torah and the Qur'aan
To save a life is like saving the whole humanity says the Torah and the Qur'aan
Don't call them Jews or Muslims, they are simply killers individual or enmasse;

The war is not between Israelis and Gazans, it is between evil men and evil men.
May God help each one of us to learn to see the pain of the other and let's be human.

And speak out louder to stop this killing spree.
In pain,

Mike Ghouse

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza Solutions

The Gaza Solutions
Mike Ghouse,
Saturday, December 27, 2008

The world sympathized with Israel for the rockets they endured in their backyards, but when they get on the revenge bandwagon and indiscriminately kill, they lose sympathy. The oppressed ones all around the world including the majority of Israelis and Jews feel the pain of this violence, it flies in the face of our continued efforts to stop massacres, it is time for all of us to speak up. This is not the act of peace making; this is the act of destroying a people.

Continued at: http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Gaza.Solutions.asp

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yes to Heaven; for the Godless and Godloaded

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/12/yes-to-heaven-for-godless-and-godloaded.html

Finally the moderate majority has spoken; yes a significant number of Americans believe that God**(note for my atheist friends below) is God of all people and that everyone will go to heaven if they are good to what surrounds them; life and environment. They made it clear that every religion will have equal access to heaven. In summary, they expressed God is not discriminatory; he (she or it) honors every one regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. What a revelation! Thanks to the Pew survey.

The undefined purpose, or the essence of religion is to bring peace and balance to an individual and what surrounds him; life and environment. You can apply this formula to every faith and it works.

It is sheer arrogance to believe that religion is the exclusive source of morality, which is the internalization of social and cultural values. Whether you are a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Wicca, Pagan or an Atheist, a significant sample of you would behave the same in public in any given city in America when it comes to telling the truth, fidelity and such a good thing as respecting other people’s rights.

To be fearful is as human as to be peaceful, however fear pushes insecurity and insecurity causes one to do weird things, it is in this instance one needs religion (to the ones who subscribe) more than any other time. Life is about balance and God is that balance, and we must not let that equilibrium be disturbed to protect our tail, as it will adversely affect it and would take a long time for recovery.

The conservatives find it safe not to think or look at things from a fresh perspective; they are comfortable in their world and get fearful when a new approach is presented. Then they resort to the idea of annihilating the men behind such ideas and go on a propaganda blitz to decimate their "manufactured" enemy.

Much of the "understanding" of Bible, Qur’aan, Torah or any holy books is produced by such conservative self appointed Guardians. Their role in holding on to the original scripture must be lauded, but their ownership role in preventing an understanding that promotes peace and balance in the society must be questioned, because that was the undefined purpose of religion; peace through justice.

The essence of “follow me” by Jesus, “surrender to me” by Krishna and “submit to my will” by Allah, and similar phrases in different faiths have been grossly misunderstood and projected in literality. Anyone of those phrases mean becoming like me the creator; a being with no barriers, no hate, no malice, no ill-will and willing to hug the rejected ones by the society as that reduces conflicts which leads to peace and justice; the ultimate goal of all religions. Leadership evolves for Atheist or any group for that matter, there is always some one who shares his or her moderation that appeals to the others and becomes a system for the unintended followers.

The conservatives tend to monopolize that message without realizing that no body owns God, religion or their deliverers. Jesus, Krishna, Muhammad and all other teachers gave that message to each one of us, not just Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhist or Zoroastrians. By claiming and owning them, each group has done gross injustice in reducing them from their universal stature to pigeoning them up with in divisive cells. We need to free them from these holes. Religion is about freedom, freedom from hate, ill wil, ignorance.... which binds us and tenses us up till we die or find the release.

The guardians of every faith must muster up the courage to push the “Refresh Button” and work for co-existence and peace. The majority of the public believes and practices in goodness. If we drop the idea of an imaginary enemy, then we can see that everyone will go to heaven. God has not made a deal with any one behind other’s back to do favors to one or the other, if he (she or it) were to do that kind of nonsense, we have not understood the creator or we don’t need him. Creation is about balance and justice and not monopolies and grouping. Religions remove the imaginary fears, if it does not, then one has not gotten his or her religion.

All religions are about goodness, it is our bias that prevents us from understanding it. I can quote Qur’aan on the subject and encourage others to push their refresh button and share their scriptures, you will find them. It is about co-existence, one world, one creation, one cause, one source and one humanity. In the case of our Atheist friends, their understanding of the matter is their scripture.

There is a particular verse in Qur'aan where God assures his grace and heaven to every one who is good to his creation; life and matter. Furthermore he (she or it) reinforces with words like it does not matter if you are a Jew, Christian or any one, you are assured his grace if you care about his creation.

Qur'aan49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him (best in conduct) . Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

Qur'aan, Al-An'am, Surah 6:163-164: I ask whether I should seek any god besides God--when he is the Lord of all things. All people will reap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another’s burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he will resolve your disputes.

If we were to be called to account, each one of us is responsible for the good and bad we do to the fellow beings. No Imam, Rabbi, Pundit or Priestess will have the time to defend us, they have to take care of themselves for their own actions. Prophet Muhammad had said, if any one of you (his followers) were to do wrong to other humans, on such day of accounting, I will stand up for the other person, whether he is my follower or not, it was indeed a strong statement and a warning to be just.

** God is a common word referred to the cause of creation, big bang theory, amoeba splitting event or any other cause that sprang life and matter. God is not a being, God is not a guy sitting with WMD’s or a control freak. When life and matter came into being, there was a balance built into to sustain itself. Matter had the physical balance as in the case of planetary systems, while the life was embedded with the spiritual balance that we constantly strive to keep up with. That balance is love and that is peace that comes through justice. My Atheist friends need to push their refresh button to consider having an open mind towards using the word God as a common name for the cause of creation.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, interfaith, Islam, India, Multiculturism, Terrorism, Peace, Politics and Civic issues. He co-chairs the center for interfaith inquiry of the Memnosyne Foundation, and presides the Foundation for Pluralism a He is the president of World Muslim Congress a think tank with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world and vice-Versa. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website www.MikeGhouse.net Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. Mike's Profile

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas - Kwanza - Zartosht Diso - Muharram - Yalda

DECEMBER FESTIVALS -2008
Christmas - Kwanza - Zartosht Diso - Muharram - Yalda
Summary of other Festivals of December in the link at the bottom of this page
"If your festival is missing, please share it with me and my world of friends"
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Let's learn a little bit about our friends, neighbors and co-workers, and how they commemorate or celebrate their lives. Friendship is an amazing thing, it takes time to know, but when you do, a lot of myths about others disappear - and you find an amazing peace within you for knowing some one from some group, whom you thought otherwise..oh well, you got it. I have compiled, borrowed and added a few notes to learn and share about the following festivals and commemorations. It is not perfect but selected for a lay person to grasp it. For example the write up about Zartosht no-deso is very elementary to Zoroastrians but meaningful to others.
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Please join us to reflect upon the Holocaust and Genocides. Let's make room in our hearts for the precious feelings for human helplessness. Kindly mark your calendars for 7:00 - 9:15 PM on Saturday, January 24th, 2009. Details at: http://www.holocaustandgenocides.com/ or try .org
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Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer on Pluralism, interfaith, terrorism, peace, interfaith, Islam, Multiculturism and India. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy :: Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Khushali, winter solictice

DECEMBER FESTIVALS (2008)

Eid-al-Adha Maha Bodhi day Immaculate Conception Khushali Mother Night Pancha Ganapati Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Zartosht Diso Kwanza - Click the link for a short description of each festival : http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

HAPPY :: HANUKKAH - PANCHA GANAPATHI - KHUSHALI - WINTER SOLISTICE

Coming up :: II Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

Click for details of each festival with symbols:
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Hanukkah_PanchaGanapati_Khushali_Wintersolictice.asp

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scream Bloody Murder, reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

Scream Bloody Murder, reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

You feel angry knowing that the world stood by silently when the Jews were put on the train to the gas chambers; you feel anger when the Bosnian Muslims children were given chocolates and told not to worry and go right behind and open gunfire and massacre them; you feel anger when the Canadian general sends faxes upon faxes to the United Nations to send help, while the UN and USA did not want to get involved and 800,000 Rwandans were massacred, they were even announcing on their radio how to torture pregnant women to pull out the babies… It was a difficult documentary to watch, but you must watch and face the world; you have to do your share to clean your own slate of conscience.

Continued: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Scream-bloody-Murder-reflection-on-holocaust-genocides.asp

Friday, December 5, 2008

Essence of Eid-al-Adha, a Muslim Festival

If we take time to learn about each other, myths start fading and goodness finds seeding; apprehensions will also start loosing ground and peace of mind takes root. Indeed, the essence of the other being appears to be similar to ours.

I am pleased to share about the Muslim Festival of Eid-al-Adha this week, in the coming weeks you may enjoy reading about Hanukkah, Immaculate Conception, Khushali, Mother Night, Pancha Ganapati, Winter Solice, Kwanza, Zarthosh deso and Kwanza. You are welcome to share some good pieces about these festivities to share with others. My focus will remain on holidays in all religions and a few cultural celebrations.

A Listing of festivals for December 2008 is available at:
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

Note: This article is a compilation of various writings.

Essence of Eid-al-Adha
Mike Ghouse,

Continued

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 2008 Festivals

Continue: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

Do unto other religion


The Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." In Hinduism it is expressed; "Do not do to others what would cause pain to you." In Islam, "Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself," and so it goes in the various faith traditions.For the Green Rule we are paraphrasing the Golden Rule by saying: "Do unto the Earth as you would have it do unto you." We have looked to the same sacred teachings to reveal similar expressions of care and concern, only in choosing our quotes we have extended the plea for compassion to include all of our neighbours human beings, animals, birds, trees...Each Green Rule was also chosen to acknowledge the natural world as an essential phenomenon through which we may better come to know the divine and our oneness with it

Monday, December 1, 2008

Terror in the Name of God

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/12/terror-in-name-of-god.html

The evil acts go on in the world because of good people doing nothing about it. It is time for people to speak out. If the good people don't speak, then we are letting the others run our lives.

The bad guys that are terrorising have nothing to do with religion, no matter what religion they want to claim they belong to, we should not fall into their trap of giving them the luxury of hiding behind a religion. They are criminals and need to be punished for their acts. Religion has nothing to do with their evil acts. Every religion bans individuals to do harm to others.

In case of these terrorists, we should not give them the luxury of calling themselves Muslims. The Qur'aan says "the best among you is the one who does good deeds" and the Prophet affirms to his daughter, "you have to earn your way to God's grace through your good deeds" the good deeds are how you treat and take care of others. That is the essence of every faith.

Islam is about freedom from clergy, freedom from politicians, freedom from dynastic rule and taking indiviudal responsibility for one's act. Each one of us is indiviudally responsible for our good or bad deeds and we are the only one to answer God not the Imam, not the Mulla, not the King or the President.

If each one of us can do our share of good without keeping a score on what others do, or not do, we can hope for a better world.

Here is an article by Yogi Sikand, whom I have come to respect for his fairness and fairly good assessement of situations. What is your take? Please keep your opinion to 200 words or less.

Mike Ghouse
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Terror in the Name of God
By Yoginder Sikand

"Never forget that the life of this world is only a game and a passing delight, a show ….the life of this world is nothing but means of deception:. (The Quran, Al-Hadid: 20)

"There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (Baba Guru Nanak Sahib)

According to media reports, it is possible that the recent deadly assault on Mumbai was masterminded by the Lashkar-e Tayyeba, a Pakistan-based self-styled Islamist terrorist outfit. Whether the attacks were indeed the handiwork of the Lashkar, as is being alleged, or of some other agency, such as the CIA and the Israseli Mossad, as others believe, remains to be fully investigated, but there can be no doubt that radical Islamism, like radical Hindutva, poses a major threat to peace and security in both India and Pakistan.

What makes such terror-driven self-styled Islamist groups thrive in Pakistan? It would appear that the very foundational myth of Pakistan, the so-called 'two nation theory' on which the country was founded, is itself conducive to militaristic interpretations of Islam. In a mirror image of the thesis propounded by the early ideologues of Hindutva—that the Hindus and Muslims of India were two entirely different nations and that the latter could live in India only if they agreed to turn Hindu or else be stripped of all civic rights—the ideologues of the Pakistan movement claimed that the Hindus and Muslims of pre-Partition India were two irreconcilable nations that could not live together. On the basis of this specious argument, they demanded a separate state for the Indian Muslims. This is how Pakistan came into being.

Thus, the very basis of the Pakistan movement was the myth of undying hatred and hostility between Hindus and Muslims. This so-called 'two-nation theory' remains the official ideology of the state of Pakistan, and is taught to every Pakistani child in school through carefully doctored textbooks. To question the theory, as many Pakistanis privately do, is considered a punishable crime and as akin to sedition. Accordingly, the Pakistani state has, since its inception, seen its survival as being crucially dependent on actively promoting as well as indirectly abetting anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments. As movements for autonomy in provinces increasingly restive of Punjabi domination mounted, first in the erstwhile East Bengal, and then in Baluchistan and Sindh, the Pakistani state came to increasingly rely on an instrumental use and cynical manipulation of Islam and on the bogey of Hindu or Indian domination to ensure its survival and increasingly threatened legitimacy. Naturally, this expanded the space and scope for groups, not just the Lashkar, but scores of others as well, who claimed to speak in the name of Islam to whip up anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments. For them hatred of India and the Hindus were considered as among the defining features of Pakistani nationalism.

The rise of the Lashkar and similar self-styled jihadist groups thus cannot be understood in isolation from these broader political processes. These groups received a major impetus under the American-backed and hugely unpopular military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, who cynically backed radical Islamist groups to win public support as well as to pursue the CIA-funded war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was at around this time that self-styled Islamist groups began entering the political arena in a major way, setting up political parties and fighting elections. This led to all sorts of compromises, to widespread corruption and to rapidly escalating militancy by different Islamist groups competing with each other to prove to the electorate their purported claims of representing and speaking for Islam. The more obscurantist a group's approach was with regard to a whole host of issues—women's rights, the Kashmir question, relations with India and so on—the more ardently 'Islamic' it considered itself to be and it presented itself so to the public whose support it sought to win.

Under Zia, several dozen radical Islamist groups were liberally funded by the Saudis and the Americans in the war in Afghanistan, but soon these went out of control. They turned against their American patrons and started dreaming of exporting their self-styled jihad to the rest of the world. Some of them, including the Lashkar, even went to the extent of calling for the establishment of a global so-called Islamic Caliphate and for conquering the entire world under the 'Islamic flag'. Whether or not the leaders of these groups actually believed all this bombastic rhetoric no one can say, but it certainly appealed to vast numbers of youth, particularly from impoverished families, who were fed on a steady diet of fanciful tales about the luxuries they would wallow in if they died or were 'martyred' in the cause of what was presented to them as a divine mission.

These groups went on to serve what were seen as the strategic interests of the Pakistani state, as for instance in Kashmir, where they were sent to battle Indian forces as well as Kashmiri nationalist groups struggling for a sovereign Jammu and Kashmir, which would be independent of both India and Pakistan. Since Pakistan was a crucial ally of the West, America chose to remain mute in the face of these developments. Likewise, these groups were solidly backed by the Pakistani state in its desperate effort to install the pro-Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and this also received American support. The Lashkar set up several training camps in Afghanistan and gave the Taliban considerable military and moral support.

It is thus the consistent assistance given by the Pakistani state to self-styled Islamist groups that has allowed them to flourish in the country, so much so that now, when the Pakistani state has itself begun to face an immense threat from these very groups, it finds itself helpless. It is an indicator of how powerful these groups have become in Pakistan that even though the present government might want to clamp down on them it cannot do so. Large parts of Pakistan are today characterized by extreme lawlessness where the writ of the state does not run. Decades of cynical manipulation of Islam by the Pakistani state for the narrowly construed ends of Pakistan's elites have now led to a situation where even if the state wants to curb these self-styled Islamist groups it finds itself helpless. Powerful sections within the Pakistani state apparatus, including in the ISI and the Army, are fiercely averse to taking any action against these groups, and are said to be consistently providing support to them.

But is the Pakistani state serious in its claims of being determined to take on Islamist terror groups that have mushroomed across the country? It appears not, just as the Indian state has not taken any serious steps against Hindutva terror groups in India. The Pakistani government claims to have banned the Lashkar, to have frozen all its assets and to have put its leaders under arrest. But ample indications exist to suggest that, in actual fact, the Lashkar is being permitted to operate freely after being conveniently allowed to change its name and re-christen itself as the Jamaat ud-Dawa. The Jamaat ud-Dawa's website is freely accessible on the Internet, relaying incendiary, hate-driven speeches of its senior leaders, who seem to be under no control whatsoever. The Markaz's magazines in English, Arabic and Urdu continue to be published, with a reported circulation of several hundred thousand. On a visit to Lahore three years ago I chanced upon a bookshop in the very heart of the sprawling Urdu Bazaar that specializes in Lashkar literature that spews venom and hatred against India and the Hindus, but also against a whole host of Muslim groups that the Lashkar does not consider genuinely Islamic—including the followers of the Sufis, the Barelvis, the quietistic Deobandi-related Tablighi Jamaat and the Shias, all of which it brands as 'enemies of Islam' or their 'agents'. And, I was told, despite the fact that the Lashkar was officially 'banned', it still operated from its headquarters in Muridke, not far from Lahore, and also managed several dozens of centres across the country under various names. Is one to imagine that the Pakistani government is so weak in the face of radical groups as to be unable to close all these institutions down?

In this context, the question arises as to why Pakistani civil society has been unable to effectively challenge the venomous (and what I, as someone who has studied Islam for the past two decades, regard as a wholly distorted) version of Islam that is propelled by self-styled Islamist groups such as the Lashkar. This issue is particularly intriguing given the fact that radical Islamist groups have consistently received only a relatively small share of the vote in successive elections, indicating that their hate-driven vision of Islam does not appeal to the majority of Pakistani people.

There are several reasons for this, among the most salient being the fact that the liberal, progressive middle class in Pakistan is very miniscule, the country still remaining largely feudal, tribalistic and extremely patriarchal in its set-up and ethos. Efforts by the few liberal Islamic scholars that exist in Pakistan to articulate progressive interpretations of Islam on a range of issues—including women's rights, relations with non-Muslims and relations between India and Pakistan—have generally met with stern opposition and even violence from Islamist outfits, with some of these scholars being forced to flee for safety to the West. The sheer fear of being killed for publicly opposing radicals and their perverted brand of Islam keeps numerous progressive thinkers in Pakistan silent, thus perpetuating a vicious circle in which the radicals are allowed to go unchallenged. Furthermore, the state has consistently denied space to progressive Islamic scholars, fearing their potential for dissent from the official view, seeing the radicals as more pliable and amenable to manipulation. This explains, for instance, the fact that despite its bombastic 'Islamic' credentials, Pakistan is yet to produce any well-known Islamic intellectual who has sought to deal creatively with the manifold demands and challenges that modernity poses. The status of Islamic, in addition to social science, research in Pakistan is woeful, and this can be explained, in part, by the fear on the part of the establishment of voices of dissenting scholars that might challenge ruling myths. The fact that Pakistan spends less than 2 per cent of its budget on education and that numerous Vice-Chancellors of Pakistani universities are retired army generals are indicators of this mind-set.

Terrorism—and this includes terror resorted to by non-state actors as well as by the state—today poses a grave threat to the peoples of both India and Pakistan. Islamist and Hindutva terrorism feed on each other, while posing to be each other's most inveterate foes. I recall reading some years ago—I cannot recall where, though—the perverse pleasure that a senior Lashkar expressed when the BJP-led NDA government came to power. Syed Maududi, the chief ideologue of the Jamaat-e Islami, who can be considered the major architect of modern-day Islamism, is on record as having declared that he would prefer India to be an officially Hindu country to being secular because that would further his case for the 'Islamic state' that he dreamed of establishing in Pakistan. Islamist outfits in Pakistan find ready fodder for whipping up anti-Indian and anti-Hindu passions by pouncing on acts of terror and anti-Muslim violence spearheaded by Hindutva groups in India, often abetted by the state. Likewise, gruesome acts of terror committed by Pakistan-based Islamist groups are quickly seized upon by Hindutva forces in India to further demonise Muslims and to build their Hindu vote-bank. Hindu and Islamist terror thus enjoy a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship while claiming to oppose each other. This obvious fact must be recognized when conceiving responses to the challenge of terrorism in our region.

There are no easy solutions to the predicament we find ourselves in today. But there is surely at least one thing that we must do, and this was suggested to me by the noted New Delhi-based Arya Samaj scholar, Swami Agnivesh, who has consistently been speaking out against all forms of terror, including in the name of Islam and Hinduism as well as state terrorism. The most effective way to challenge terrorism in the name of religion, Swami Agnivesh suggested, is for Muslims to denounce and stiffly oppose terror engaged in by self-styled Islamic groups who claim to speak in the name of Islam, and for Hindus to do likewise with regard to terror spread by militant Hindu groups. Sadly, today, the approach of many of us to the phenomenon is selective and skewed, with many Hindus denouncing only the terror unleashed by self-styled Islamist groups, and many Muslims denouncing only acts of terror masterminded by Hindu groups. At the same time, many Hindus and Muslims continue to turn a blind eye to, or even support, forms of terror being perpetrated in the name of the very religion which they claim to follow.

And there is something else that we need to do as individuals, and I have found that this simple principle works wonders even at a very personal level. It might sound 'unfashionable' or even 'purile' for those who do not find any place for God in their lives, but for millions of people in India and Pakistan who do believe in some higher force, no matter what they name it, it would strike an immediate chord.

This principle I owe to Rano Devi, a landless Dalit labourer from the Bhil tribe who had been released through the efforts of a human rights' group from slavery-like conditions in the estate of a powerful landlord. I Rano met while on a visit to Sindh in southern Pakistan three years ago. A powerful woman she was—dark and tall, and walking proud and erect. A courteous hostess, she welcomed me into her one-roomed hovel built on a scrawny patch of land that a social activist friend of mine had provided her and plied me with milk-less tea and a roti, which was all that she could afford.

Rano told me her story, of how she was enslaved by a landlord, who happened to be a Muslim, and who kept her for four years in shackles. Then, after a protracted legal battle, she was released through the efforts of my friend and his comrades, all of who happened to be Muslims.

She went on to enunciate a simple but very compelling principle thus:

'Live for your religion, don't die or kill for it. Express your religion through love and service, like the brothers who rescued me did, not through oppression, murder and mayhem, for that is a heinous crime in God's eyes. After all, we are all accountable for all our actions to God. To Him we shall return after we die, when He will decide our fate till eternity based on our deeds in this world'.

'If we were to realize that this world is temporary and that real, eternal life starts after death,' Rano continued softly, tears welling up in her eyes, 'and if we were to constantly keep this in mind, perhaps people would dread to misuse God's name for un-Godly acts'.

And there was another thing that Rano said that inspires me as I write these lines:

'We call Him Ishwar, and Muslims call Him Allah, but He is one and the same', said Rano. 'There are good people in every community, just as there are bad people, too. Just as that landlord who enslaved me claimed to be a Muslim, the brothers who freed me were also Muslims. And there are both good and bad people among Hindus as well. Remember that, brother. It is only when good people in every community join hands that this Hindu-Muslim problem or the problems between India and Pakistan can ever be resolved'.

That sage advice from this impoverished Pakistani Dalit woman is, to my mind, a basic premise we need to start from in our joint struggle against terror in the name of religion and national chauvinism.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Celebration of the life of “America’s Imam”,

Celebration of the life of “America’s Imam”, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed

Imam Warith Al-Deen Mohammed is one of the most distinguished Muslim leaders in the United States, who passed away on September 8, this year. He has been the spiritual leader and inspiration of the Muslim community in general and African American Muslim community in Particular. It is indeed a great loss of leadership. Warith Deen Mohammad is recognized worldwide as a leading Islamic thinker, philosopher and a religious leader. Continued: http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/11/celebration-of-life-of-americas-imam.html

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terrorism in India, solutions invited

Terrorism in Mumbai, India.

Terrorism has raised its ugly head again, and has wreaked havoc in the financial capital of India; Mumbai. Over 90 People have been killed as of now.

All day long, I have been holding myself from re-acting and coming up with solutions.I hang my head in shame that we have not done enough to contain the menace of Terrorism. The question keeps popping in my mind; have we done enough or those criminals way too smart for us? Do we need to focus on blaming or finding solutions?

We need to come up with close partnerships between Citizens and Law enforcement to smell these rats and take a pre-emptive action. We should consider neighborhood town hall meetings, and we need to make sure every community within the neighborhood is represented. It has to be a grass root effort. Inclusion is the only chance to assure a genuine partnership and sustainable grip on crime.

We also need to trace the logic, if there is one and understand this menace that has hit our country from the early Nineties. Prior to that, we did not have much in those terms.We have to condemn death and killing of even a single individual, the criminal must be punished. We must be blind in our condemnation. Blaming is the easiest thing to do, just have to run the mouth or the key board and it is done.

Finding the long term sustainable solutions is the key, every one must co-exists and how best can we achieve it?I invite your solutions, ranting or blaming will not be published, only solutions. We don’t have much time in a day to waste it.

Click the link to write your suggestions: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6736957828074326611&postID=3337763694029112663

Thank you.

Mike Ghouse

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christian Muslim Dialogue

Why I Went to Meet the Pope

We must return to the factual reality of the past.. The West has been shaped by Muslims, just as the Muslim world has been shaped by the West; it is imperative that a critical internal process of reflection begin, notes Tariq Ramadan.

London - Now that the shock waves touched off by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at Regensburg on 12 September 2006 have subsided, the overall consequences have proven more positive than negative. Above and beyond polemics, the Pope’s lecture has heightened general awareness of their respective responsibilities among Christians and Muslims in the West.

It matters little whether the Pope had simply misspoken or, as the highest-ranking authority of the Catholic Church, was enunciating church policy. Now the issue is one of identifying those areas in which a full-fledged debate between Catholicism and Islam must take place. Papal references to “jihad” and “Islamic violence” came as a shock to Muslims, even though they were drawn from a quotation attributed to Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos.

It is clear that the time has come to open debate on the common theological underpinnings and the shared foundations of the two religions. The appeal by Muslim religious leaders, “A Common Word”, had precisely this intention: our traditions have the same source, the same single God who calls upon us to respect human dignity and liberty.

These same traditions raise identical questions concerning the ultimate purpose of human activity, and respect for ethical principles.

In a world that is experiencing an unprecedented global crisis, a world in which politics, finance and relations between humans and the environment suffer from a cruel lack of conscience and ethical integrity, it is a matter of greatest urgency that Christian-Muslim dialogue turn its attention to both theological issues and to those of values and ultimate aims.

Our task is not to create a new religious alliance against the “secularised” and “immoral” world order, but to make a constructive contribution to the debate, to prevent the logic of economics and war from destroying what remains of our common humanity.
Our constructive dialogue on shared values and ultimate goals is far more vital and imperative than our rivalries over the number of believers, our contradictory claims about proselytism and sterile competition over exclusive possession of the truth.
Those dogma-ridden individuals who, in both religions, claim truth for themselves are, in fact, working against their respective beliefs.
Whoever claims that he/she alone possesses the truth, that “falsehood belongs to everybody else…” has already fallen into error. Our dialogue must resist the temptation of dogmatism by drawing upon a comprehensive, critical and constantly respectful confrontation of ideas.

Ours must be a dialogue whose seriousness requires of us, above all else, humility.
We must delve deep into history the better to engage a true dialogue of civilisations. Fear of the present can impose upon the past its own biased vision. Surprisingly, the Pope asserted that Europe’s roots were Greek and Christian, as if responding to the perceived threat of the Muslim presence in Europe.

His reading, as I noted after the lecture at Regensburg, is a reductive one.
We must return to the factual reality of the past, to the history of ideas. When we do so, it quickly becomes clear that the so-called opposition between the West and the Muslim world is pure projection, an ideological instrument if you will, designed to construct entities that can be opposed or invited to dialogue, depending on circumstances.

But the West has been shaped by Muslims, just as the Muslim world has been shaped by the West; it is imperative that a critical internal process of reflection begin: that the West and Europe initiate an internal debate, exactly as must Islam and the Muslims, with a view to reconciling themselves with the diversity and the plurality of their respective pasts.
The debate between faith and reason, and over the virtues of rationalism, is a constant in both civilisations, and is, as such, far from exclusive to the Greek or Christian heritage. Neither is it the sole prerogative of the Enlightenment.
The Pope’s remarks at Regensburg have opened up new areas of inquiry that must be explored and exploited in a positive way, with a view to building bridges and, working hand-in-hand, to seek a common response to the social, cultural and economic challenges of our day.

It is in this spirit that I participated on 4-6 November in Rome, and in a meeting with the Pope on 6 November. Our task was to assume our respective and shared responsibilities, and to commit ourselves to working for a more just world, in full respect of beliefs and liberties.

It is essential, then, to speak of freedom of conscience, of places of worship, of the “argument of reciprocity”; all questions are possible in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect.

Still, it is essential that each of us sit down at the table with the humility that consists of not assuming that we alone possess the truth; with the respect that requires that we listen to our neighbours and recognise their differences; and, finally, the coherence that summons each of us to maintain a critical outlook in accepting the contradictions that may exist between the message and the practice of believers.

These are the essential elements to be respected if we are to succeed.

Tariq Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies and senior research felldow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and at Lokahi Foundation in London. He is also president of the European think tank, the European Muslim Network (EMN), in Brussels. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews. It originally appeared in TariqRamadan.com.

Muslims beware; Kaaba and Wikipedia Blunder

MUSLIMS BEWARE
Kaaba and the Wikipedia Blunder
Mike Ghouse, Dallas, Texas

I cannot believe Wikipedia is taken as a gospel by so many, every word in it is taken as the ultimate truth. You will discover it's danger in the following report. A statement is made "While destroying each idol, Muhammad recited [Qur'an 17:81] which says "Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for falsehood is by its nature bound to perish."[28][29] . A few of my Hindu friends have assumed that Terrorism has it's origin in the above act, of course the very same statement is a fodder to the Neocons, who rejoice and pass it one to every one with a comment, "I told you so, Islam is an intolerant religion".

Continued: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/WorldMuslimCongress/Articles/Kaaba-and-the-wikipedia-blunder.asp

Indians, Pluralism and Parliament of religions

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/11/indians-pluralism-and-parliament-of.html

Indians, Pluralism and Parliament of religions
----------------------------------------------

Chandra Siv comments on “Questions to fellow Indians” Moderator Response follows

Dear Mike,

Let's not lay blame at the idiot Politicians for making an idiot of each one of us (Indians).

Unfortunately, Mankind's tallest Religious Leaders over the last century, since the First Parliment of Religions was held in Chicago in 1983 have not agreed on a fundemental principle -Equality of all Religions. Each of these tallest leaders of their respective faith have claimed ownership on the uniqueness & one and only way or path to Salvation for their faith.

- Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

-- "And We did not send any messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed unto him (saying): 'There is none who has the right to be worshiped but I (Allaah), so worship Me (Alone and none else).'" [Al-Anbiyaa:25]

The Parliament of Religion, a coming together of significant religious figures, some ordained, some not, from multiple denominations and spiritual traditions -- Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Taoism, as well as African religions and other native groups -- is an even rarer and surely more difficult occurrence than any of the other attempts at interreligious collaboration. It is, nevertheless, a clearly crafted one. Six themes order the agenda: human rights; essential needs; creative engagement with the public arena; understanding and cooperation; sacred practice; and community and life.

In a society that has never been more unified and more fractured at the same time, religion is a major factor in the making of war as well as in the keeping of the peace. The parliament itself, after an initial assembly in Chicago in 1893, never met again for 100 years.

The functions of the Parliament of Religion, according to its governing body, the World Council of the Parliament of Religion, is to "promote understanding and cooperation among religious and spiritual communities around the world." It is a first public step in the global response of religion to major questions, And the public is responding. Scholars, ideas agents, activists are religious leaders from around the globe are scheduled to offer over 700 workshops, seven major plenary assemblies and multiple cultural and liturgical experiences culminating in a "Call to Guiding Institutions" to adopt a common global ethic.

Dialog, critical reflection on the major issues facing the human community with an eye to determining

The Parliament of Religion may well be an impossible task. It may even be, if women religious leaders are as invisible there as they are in most religious gatherings, an anachronism. On the other hand, it may be the first dawn of hope in the cusp of a new millennium. The question is, is the Parliament of Religion a sign of things to come as borders collapse and interdenominational contact becomes more a fact than a project? Or is this just one more religious jamboree with all the historical overtones of factionalism, fundamentalism

The reason for doubt on any Interfaith Initiative is the below compilation of motives as to why folks indulge in Interfaith initiatives. The broad-based assumption of many, many, Indians have on intefaith-initiatives is that such programs are there to further cross-religion "understanding" and "peace" and "harmony". Is this really True?

a) In recent times (post 1947), the 1st major initiative for interfaith dialogue came from Vatican in 1960s. The motive for these dialogues was clear: to promote understanding of Christianity amomgst the non-believes so that they over a period of time, become more open, flexible and receptive of Christian ideas. Here is what their official position on interfaith dialogue:

"The Christian who wishes to enter" inter-religious dialog must "first of all be a firm believer (Christian). ...as "interreligious dialogue is a deeply religious activity". It is a tool to promote Christianity.

So inter-faith dialog is God's way of bringing non-Christians way to your door, and you have to expose them to God's path.

b) Most of the Protestant organizations have used these guidelines more or less as the get involved in inter-faith dialog activities. Thus, in brief, the over-arching motive of the Christian leadership sees inter-faith dialogs as a tool to subtly promote Christianity.

c) Post these developments, the combined leadership of Catholic and Protestant faiths went one step further. They have used interfaith forums to advocate the idea of "religious freedoms" and "freedom to convert" as a cornerstone in inter-faith strategy. For instance, George Bush recently spoke at a mega-interfaith summit (11/13/2008) where he aruged: "We strongly encourage nations to understand that religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society".

e) The Muslims have taken upon themselves to hop on to the inter-faith train, as launched by Vatican in 1960s so as to further their own agenda. Two examples come to my mind. The first one is a directive by CAIR (Center of American-Islamic Relations, an org which also reportedly funds extremist orgs) which promotes its own set of inter-faith initiatives so that others are able to understand Islam better (euphemism for conversion). Just this year, the most fundamentalist nation on Earth, S. Arabia, officially launched its own hi-profile interfaith conference (led by none but the King of S. Arabia) in November. He started on his Interfaith yatra by calling a meet of 57 Islamic nations "to lead a new age of scientific, economic, and cultural achievements that would echo the golden age of Islam from the 9th through the 13th century, and reach out to other faiths to avoid a clash of civilizations" .

d) One Semitic group, which is not clear whether it should participate in inter-faith dialogs is the Jew. The more traditional Jews, "refuse to participate in interfaith dialogues because they believe that Judaism's prohibition of proselytism, combined with other religions' "missionary zeal", creates an unbalanced power dynamic such that the "dialogue" effectively becomes a monologue. However, other sections of Jews, who believe in converting others to Judaism do participate in inter-faith dialog.

Equality of all Religions should be the Foundation for all Interfaith Dialogue, Can this forum be the first to pioneer the slogan "Equality of all Religions" and build a movement that spreads this message all over???? or are we not there yet????.....

Chandra Siv

# # #

Moderator: Dear Chandra, I am responding to your questions, it is really a full time subject and takes up a lot of time. We already have a forum for this “Foundation for Pluralism” . Once in a while we have posted about different religions, indeed, I have posted the essence of each faith and each festival regularly. You are new and have missed quite a lot, but you must have at least seen the recent postings on Ramadan, Diwali, Rosh Hashanah and Paryushan. You can to go the website www.foundationforpluralism.com . It has got a lot of stuff about every beautiful faith.

Let me address a few key points you have raised, there is hope and I have written towards the end.

The Parliament of religions ….have not agreed on a fundemental principle -Equality of all Religions

Most people agree on it, a few don’t, and every thing negative you hear about religions is from a very few. Less than 1% of each group. There are more good people than bad people on this earth its 99:1. Unfortunately that group is the most vociferous ones.

- Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

There is a beautiful sentence in Bhagvad Gita –“ finding the truth is one’s own responsibility” although Pope is regarded as an authority on Catholicism, he was selling his version to his buyers as do most clergy in every faith. Jesus’ message was simple; love the mankind, treat others as you would want to be treated. Most people follow it, a few don’t, that is the formula of life. Pope was addressing the political aspect of his congregation and not the religious essence of Christianity

"And We did not send any messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed unto him (saying): 'There is none who has the right to be worshiped but I (Allaah), so worship Me (Alone and none else).'" [Al-Anbiyaa:25].

This is the tragedy of life, again Bhagvad Gita comes to our rescue, finding the truth is one’s own responsibility. There are 60 sentences in Qur’aan that have been deliberately mis-translated and put on the net, without checking the veracity of it. Even the USC has done the same.

You can access correct translation by Mohammad Asad by going to http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/ or go to WorldMuslimCongress.com and find the world Qur'aan Search on the right panel. You can go there any time and this is what you will find. Al-Anbiya (The Prophets) 21:25 and [this despite the fact that even] before thy time We never sent any apostle without having revealed to him that there is no deity save Me, - [and that,] therefore, you shall worship Me [alone]! The first Quran was translated in 1042 and the European kings paid the translator to deliberately paint Muslims in bad light, so their subjects hate the other and they get to consolidate their own powers. The even called it a Mohammadan cult to create hate. Most of the hate and wrong information comes from that false foundation. I have the information on it, if you want to understand it.

When Bhagvad Gita says, finding the truth is one’s own responsibility, one of its meanings is, that the truth removes hate and ill-will, which means mukti to the soul and peace and tranquility to the being.

Do you see the difference? I will be happy to explain if you want to clarify the misunderstandings.

Function of world parliament of religions is to "promote understanding and cooperation among religious and spiritual communities around the world."

It is a good function and and most people practice it and a few don’t. Most Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists…and others follow their religion, of being good to others. A few don’t. The problem is not religion, nor the World Parliament of religions, it is the I N D I V I D U A L S that are bad no matter what religion they wear.

The reason for doubt on any Interfaith Initiative is the below compilation of motives as to why folks indulge in Interfaith initiatives. The broad-based assumption of many, many, Indians have on intefaith-initiatives is that such programs are there to further cross-religion "understanding" and "peace" and "harmony". Is this really True?

No doubt there are mal-intent people out there in the name of interfaith, but an overwhelming majority of people do it for the good of mankind’s co-existence. Is there any job, any trade, any organization that does not have bad people?

I ran a radio program for two years called “wisdom of religion- all the beautiful religions, it was an hour a day” The beauty of every religion was presented, as Muslim myself, I presented 1 hour a week for Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and then others were allocated, but all got equal opportunity. There are Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Christians like me who honor and respect other faiths. Get out and meet them in the interfaith groups. The hateful guys are just a few… yes very few out there. A majority of us are good people. I did a workshop on every religion last year. And Now we are looking to build a campus where every faith will be taught.

"The Christian who wishes to enter" inter-religious dialog must "first of all be a firm believer (Christian). ...as "interreligious dialogue is a deeply religious activity". It is a tool to promote Christianity.

Yes a few use it as a tool to promote Christianity, but a majority of them are to promote respect and tolerance for each other. Attend ten events, you may find two to be businesses, attend 100 events, you may still find those two, but 98 to be good ones. I am very much a part of the interfaith movement.

The Muslims have taken upon themselves to hop on to the inter-faith train, as launched by Vatican in 1960s so as to further their own agenda. Two examples come to my mind. The first one is a directive by CAIR

Every one should, that is the right thing to do. You have forgotten the Indian history; The Rishis from different traditions used to gather to discuss a variety of traditions and experiences; The ancient Indians (American) used to meet in the pyramids, the would come from all over the Americas – from Chile to Alaska and exchange the knowledge in their campus to take it back to their native tribes and share it.

The first official king in the world to have done the interfaith work in the world is Akbar, who had translated great work of Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagvad Gita into Persian and Arabic Language. He regularly discussed Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism in his counsel. Then there was another interfaith model in Spain , the Jewish people call it the golden period of Jewish history.

Let’s go further back – Prophet Muhammad initiated the Madinah pact, first of its kind in the world around 612, where Muslims, Jews, Christians and others would practice their faiths and had the freedom to do so. There is a lot of misinformation out there to malign Islam and create hate… and of course, there is money in it for some bad people, they will continue to do it. We need to look at the history with an attitude of co-existence.

Equality of all Religions should be the Foundation for all Interfaith Dialogue, Can this forum be the first to pioneer the slogan "Equality of all Religions" and build a movement that spreads this message all over???? or are we not there yet????.....

Yes it is and we are on the verge. Again it is like the nuclear power, mostly it is used for peaceful purposes, it is also used to kill people. Who is evil, the Nuclear power or the individual using it?

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Manod Padhi comments - Can a Muslim be Savithri and a Hindu be Ahmed?

No

Our given names are not only names but they also reveal our religion and family.

If any one proud to reveal his religion, in addition to his family - then at least first name or last name should be changed suitably to match the common names written in their religions scriptures.

Chinese in America change their names after embracing Christianity.

Here is the latest..
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/michael-jackson-converts-to-islam/78674-8.html

London: Pop singer Michael Jackson has converted to Islam and changed his name to Mikaeel.

The 50-year-old star pledged his allegiance to the Koran in a ceremony at a friend's mansion in Los Angeles , the Sun reported.

Moderator: Manoj, Name is a name, no one owns it, nor is it my dada ki property or your Nana ki property. We Indians are opening up now, for a long time, we were stuck up with names, we were too small in our minds. Thank God, the new generation is changing.

Savithri is a beautiful name – Indonesian Muslims keep that name, The Arab Christians use the name Ahmed. There are many names that are common – Sahil, Roshni, Reshma…there is a whole list of common names. Sita and Hind are Arabic female name as well. If we get out of the small rat holes of our minds, we will see a larger universe. Neither Islam, nor Christianity nor Hinduism or Sikhism have stamped the names to be Muslim, Christian or sikh…. We have made it for our convenience and that is fine.

No one should regulate a name. We need to grow up and get freedom from such things. Let’s learn from the American Culture, they value a name with what it represents.

If Michael Jackson became a Muslim, It does not make a bit difference to me or you or any one in the world. Let some celebrate some feel sad. Why should they and if they do, what is our problem?
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Original Posting: From: Mike Ghouse
Subject: Dallas Indians :: Questions to my fellow Indians
To: "Mike Ghouse"
Received: Thursday, November 20, 2008, 7:31 AM

Questions to my fellow Indians Let me ask you a few Questions;

An overwhelming majority of us Indians are good people; only a handful are confuse and are behind in learning to be open and enjoy the life.

Is there anything wrong if you enjoy Gulab Jamun and me to enjoy Laddu?
Is there anything wrong If I worship Shiva and you worship Krishna?
Is there anything wrong if you eat roti and I eat chawal?
Is there anything wrong if you wear dhoti and I wear a pantaloon?
Is there anything wrong if I worship Jesus and you worship Allah?
Does any one of these acts affect you?
Can a Muslim be Savithri and a Hindu be Ahmed?

Does some one own these, does someone has copyrights to these... should I prevent you from keeping a name Matthew? Who am I to do that?

What is my problem if you eat Jamun, worship Jesus, wear Sherwani and call yourselves Sukhdev?

Let's not get fooled by the idiot politicians (not the good ones though) who make an idiot out of you and I and make us hate each other. Is it worth it?

This is a question to every Indian, and not to a Mexican, Japanese, Pakistani, Saudi, French or Nepalese or a Sri Lankan, it is about us, others don't matter to me, first us.

Let me be the first to say this - I respect every Indian no matter what he wears, who she worships, whatever he eats, and I will not keep a score if you do it or not, it is up to you. Peace and co-existence is each one's responsibility. If you want a better India, you do your share.

Mike Ghouse

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rabbi Adam Raskin on Obama

A Jewish Response to the Election of Barack Obama
Rabbi Adam J. Raskin, Congregation Beth Torah
Shabbat Lech Lecha; November 8, 2008; 10 Cheshvan 5769

Moderator's Note: I believe this is a sermon by Rabbi Adam Raskin where he has honored his teacher for bringing upto him the lessons in humanity. I really liked this one, as my teacher from my Grade school continues to inspire me. Indeed, in my 6th grade class, some where around 1961, he invited an African Man from Kenya, who was attending the Bangalore Agricultural college to share a little bit about his country, I faintly remember his words "my country is my country"and oddly I remember, he very much looked like Obama's father. We were exposed to multi-culturism and multi-faith at that age. I am not sure, they still do that in India. Thanks to Mr. Abdul Hakimm my teacher for opening the world to me.

Dear Mr. Marcelino:

You were my fifth grade teacher some 25 years ago at Brady Middle School. I wouldn’t
be at all surprised if you didn’t remember me—I’m pretty sure I didn’t stand out
academically in those years. I did want you to know that I thought of you recently. As I
was watching the returns come in from this historic presidential election, I had a
flashback of sitting in your classroom listening to phonograph records of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. I remembered what a profound impression it
made upon me, as well as your gifted teaching about Black history in America. This all
came flooding into my consciousness as I watched Barack Obama become the first black
president of the United States. As I looked on the Orange City School District’s website,
I was so happy to see that you are still teaching. I hope you are still playing those
recordings to your students—though nowadays I imagine they are amplified from your ipod
rather than a phonograph. I hope your students are still listening that speech, and
that you are still inspiring successive generations of students as much as you inspired me.
Today I am nearly 35 years old, married, the father of 3 children and living in Dallas, TX
where I work and serve as a Rabbi. I hope you are well and as impassioned a teacher
and human being as I remember you over two decades ago.
Warmest regards from your former student, Adam Raskin

My thumbs typed this message on my Blackberry just a few days ago to my
beloved fifth grade teacher. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was truly unusual to have
an African American male teacher in a predominantly Jewish elementary school. But the
Lord truly works in mysterious ways—as a young boy being raised by a single mother, I
was provided a daily male role model in this enthusiastic teacher, Mr. John Marcelino.
Moreover, Mr. Marcelino, who taught every subject with skill and stamina, truly shined
in the month of February. February, for several decades has been designated as Black
History month in our country, and my African American teacher taught this group of
upper middle class Jewish kids about black history from the Civil War to Reconstruction,
from segregation to the Civil Rights movement. We learned about and read the works of
Fredrick Douglas, George Washington Carver; Visages of Booker T. Washington,
Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Henry Louis Gates, Thurgood
Marshall decorated the classroom. I only now realize that the average fifth grader may
not have gotten this kind of an education! But I am so grateful that I did, and I wanted
my former teacher to know it. From those mind-expanding lectures in my fifth grade
class, to when you could hear a pin drop as the phonograph needle crackled along the
surface of the record, and we tried to picture ourselves standing on the National Mall on
that March day in 1963, those memories fed my amazement as I watched the unfolding of
history before my very eyes this past Tuesday night.

When God spoke to Avram, the transcripts of that conversation are recorded in
our parasha this morning, God invited Avram to leave behind not only the physical
domain of his life, but also the intellectual and spiritual confines of his father’s house.
We don’t know much about Avram’s father Terach, but the Midrash is quick to point out
his idolatrous practices. We don’t know much about Ur Kasdim, Avram’s home town,
but the Midrash instructs us that Avram’s awakening to monotheism and the ethical
demands of his new faith was so threatening to the local king that he sought to kill Avram
in order to silence him. So God says to Avram: lech lecha, mei-artzecha, umimoladetcha,
u’mibeit avicha, el ha’aretz asher ar’eka: Go forth from your native land,
from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you…And so begins the journey of
the first Jewish family.

Ramban, Nachmanides, reminds us in his 12th Century commentary that at the end
of last week’s parasha we already learned that Avram had left his father’s house. You
may recall that the end of parashat Noah says that Terach, Avram, Lot, Sarai all set out
together from Ur and traveled toward Canaan, settling temporarily in Haran. Since the
Torah does not use language repetitively, Ramban asks, what is there to learn from the
instruction to leave his father’s house that appears again at the beginning of our parasha?
Ramban says God’s message to Avram here is “hitracheik od mibeit avicha,” which
means, distance yourself from your father’s house.

I take this in the ideological rather than the spatial sense. All the assumptions and limitations on the way people thought back in Ur need to be left behind. Part of Avram’s call to greatness is to learn to think and imagine the world differently from his ancestors. And here’s the kicker, it is by virtue of his willingness to go beyond the boundaries of his ancestral realities, that Avram
will become Avraham—that is the father of a great nation…A nation that will bring
blessing to kol mishpachot ha’adamah to all the families of the earth. I love how Genesis
speaks of humanity as family. Rather than the balkanization of how we view each other
today, Genesis imagines a human family with common ancestry and mutual concern. In
fact, I believe this is part of the narrative between Jews and blacks as well. Julius Lester,
the African American writer and poet who converted to Judaism once said in an
interview: “Blacks assume that Jews are white people. And blacks don’t understand that
most Jews don’t think of themselves as white.” In an essay by New York University
Professor Hasia Diner, she writes that Jews saw themselves as “cultural bridges between
the white and black worlds because they understood them both.”1 As people who
internalized the narrative of our own slavery, and people who perpetually knew the plight
of victimhood, there has been a historic alliance, a historic sense of responsibility that
Jews have felt for the plight of blacks. And when a black president coming to power with
78% of the Jewish vote it says to me that beyond the Jeremiah Wrights and the Louis
Farrakhans of the world that this visceral connection still exists--And I believe that
Barack Obama feels the connection as well. I know many of you have had concerns
about Jewish interests and Israel’s security in this election. I have felt those concerns as
well. We will remain vigilant in our advocacy for these causes, and I believe we will
have a president and an administration sophisticated and thoughtful enough to hear us
and to be our allies.


I found it fascinating to observe how much my daughters were caught up with this
election. On the first day of early voting I took Mia with me to the polls. Although the
computerized touch screen was ultra modern and easy as can be, I kind of wished there
had been a paper ballot and that long lever that you used to have to pull from one side to
another to register your vote. There is something very satisfying and reassuring about
pulling the lever and hearing your ballot get punched. Nevertheless, we stepped up to the
screen together, and Mia actually touched the screen for me…hopefully I didn’t get
disqualified for that. I wanted to nurture her interest in voting and democracy, and she
was so excited to have “voted” on that day. On Wednesday morning Mia was eager to
tell me that she had figured out that she and Sasha Obama are the same age. What I was
struck by in the words of my 21st century child was her interest in what she, a religious
Jew, a rabbi’s daughter, in Dallas, Texas had in common with an African American,
Christian kid from Chicago, not what she observed to be different…though the
differences between them are obvious and numerous. This is the dawning of a new age
indeed. In Thursday’s edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof ended his
column2 by reflecting on Martin Luther King’s speech to the Hawaii State Legislature in
1959, “two years before Mr. Obama was born in Honolulu,” where King “declared that
the civil rights movement aimed not just to free blacks but ‘to free the soul of America.’
Mr. King ended his Hawaii speech by quoting a prayer from a preacher who had once
been a slave, and it’s an apt description of the idea of America today: ‘Lord we ain’t
what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank
God, we ain’t what we was.’”

In recognition of the fact that today, in November of 2008, ‘we ain’t what we
was,’ I conclude this drasha with the following benediction…Regardless of what we
think about Barack Obama’s specific policies or positions. Regardless of whether we are
Republicans or Democrats…in simple recognition that in America today, ‘we ain’t what
we was,’ I offer this prayer. And as I do I ask you to remember those who were once
slaves, brutally and forcibly kept as property rather than persons against their will; those
who were lynched and hosed right here in America’s cities and towns; those who were
prevented—by law— from voting and participating in the political process; those who
were looked at suspiciously as they shopped in stores or walked along sidewalks in
certain neighborhoods; those who had to sit in the back of the bus, drink from different
water fountains and use separate bathroom facilities...all right here, in the United States
of America. And I ask you to recall the many brave people of all races and creeds—
many of them Jews—who worked and struggled and even died to make right these
fundamental wrongs so that today in American we can say, ‘we ain’t what we was:’
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam she’hechiyanu, ve’kiyemanu, ve’higiyanu
laz’man hazeh…Praised are You O Lord Our God, who has kept us alive, and given us
strength, and enabled us to contemplate our past and look toward our future and say with
conviction at this historic moment in our nation, “we ain’t what we was,” and thank God
for that! And let us all say…Amen.

References: Kristof, Nicholas. “The Obama Dividend.” The New York Times, Thursday, November 6, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's Fascinating Interview

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/11/obamas-fascinating-interview.html

At the bottom of this essay is a list of articles that I have written on Obama.

Ever since, I read Obama's article on Faith and Politics that my friend Bernie forwarded to me at beginning of the last year, I have become a fan of Obama and have done my share in working for his election campaign, held rallies, written over a dozen pieces supporting his candidacy while writing 20 plus pieces showing that McCain or the other Republican candidates are not the right leaders for our nation at this point in history.

I have been listening to his speeches and writings, and spiritually I relate with him and perhaps I can write his speeches. I was excited when a few friends had nominated me to be his Religion Advisor.

Now in the interview below, which took place in March, which I had missed, he mentions his mentors – who are my mentors as well.

Obama has the largest embrace of all humans; he will not exclude any one from his embrace.

If God was a being and was to land on the earth, he (she or it) will be addressing all of us;

God will not discriminate you whether you are an Atheist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Hopi, Inca, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Oloriyo, Pagan, Shinto, Sikh, Toltec, Wicca, Zoroastrian or some one else.

God will look to you as a human from the planet earth. He may even go the extent of identifying you as some one who followed the beautiful systems delivered by Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Mahavir, Muhammad, Nanak, Bahaullah and other great spiritual masters.

When Jesus said follow me, Krishna said surrender to me, Allah said submitt to my will, and other masters have said similar things, they all meant for us to become like God, who loves us all.

We are blessed to have Obama as our President, the man who will follow Jesus,
Jesus was not a bully and Obama will not be one,
Jesus embraced all including the socially unacceptable at that time
Jesus created a model of co-existence, Obama will follow in his foot steps.
Jesus cared for all, so will Obama.
Obama is the closest follower of Jesus our nation has witnessed in a leader.

Jesus was not a threat to any soul, so would be Obama, regardless of your race, ethnicity, color, size, profession or any other identifier, Obama will have no bias towards you.

We hope Obama will bring the world together based on the common goodness we share.

Mike Ghouse
_______________________________________________

Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani
Tuesday November 11, 2008
http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/11/obamas-interview-with-cathleen.html


The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication.

Because of how controversial that interview became, Falsani has graciously allowed us to print the full conversation here.

Falsani is one of the most gifted interviews on matters of Faith, and has recently published an outstanding memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. To get a free download of the audio book, click here.

* * *

At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter (I am now its religion columnist) at the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee joint at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, to interview him exclusively about his spirituality. Our conversation took place a few days after he'd clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won. We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called "The God Factor," that eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (FSG, March 2006.) Because of the staggering interest in now President-Elect Obama's faith and spiritual predilections, I thought it might be helpful to share that interivew, uncut and in its entirety, here.

--Cathleen Falsani

Interview with State Sen. Barack Obama
3:30 p.m., Saturday March 27
Café Baci, 330 S. Michigan Avenue

Me: decaf
He: alone, on time, grabs a Naked juice protein shake


FALSANI:
What do you believe?

OBAMA:
I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences.

I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10.

My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.

And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.

(A patron stops and says, "Congratulations," shakes his hand. "Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.")

So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

And so, part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe - I'm 42 now - and it's not that I had it all completely worked out, but I'm spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values.

FALSANI:
Have you always been a Christian?

OBAMA:
I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.

FALSANI:
Any particular flavor?

OBAMA:
No.

My grandparents who were from small towns in Kansas. My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist. This was at a time when I think the Methodists felt slightly superior to the Baptists. And by the time I was born, they were, I think, my grandparents had joined a Universalist church.

So, my mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve. We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a church lady.

As I said, we moved to Indonesia. She remarried an Indonesian who wasn't particularly, he wasn't a practicing Muslim. I went to a Catholic school in a Muslim country. So I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and at night you'd hear the prayer call.

So I don't think as a child we were, or I had a structured religious education. But my mother was deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions, and talk to me about them. And I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good.

And, so that, I think, was what I carried with me through college. I probably didn't get started getting active in church activities until I moved to Chicago.

The way I came to Chicago in 1985 was that I was interested in community organizing and I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement. And the idea that ordinary people could do extraordinary things. And there was a group of churches out on the South Side of Chicago that had come together to form an organization to try to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had closed. And didn't have much money, but felt that if they formed an organization and hired somebody to organize them to work on issues that affected their community, that it would strengthen the church and also strengthen the community.

So they hired me, for $13,000 a year. The princely sum. And I drove out here and I didn't know anybody and started working with both the ministers and the lay people in these churches on issues like creating job training programs, or afterschool programs for youth, or making sure that city services were fairly allocated to underserved communites.

This would be in Roseland, West Pullman, Altgeld Gardens, far South Side working class and lower income communities.

And it was in those places where I think what had been more of an intellectual view of religion deepened because I'd be spending an enormous amount of time with church ladies, sort of surrogate mothers and fathers and everybody I was working with was 50 or 55 or 60, and here I was a 23-year-old kid running around.

I became much more familiar with the ongoing tradition of the historic black church and it's importance in the community.

And the power of that culture to give people strength in very difficult circumstances, and the power of that church to give people courage against great odds. And it moved me deeply.

So that, one of the churches I met, or one of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.


FALSANI:
Did you actually go up for an altar call?

OBAMA:
Yes. Absolutely.

It was a daytime service, during a daytime service. And it was a powerful moment. Because, it was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it not only gave shape to my faith, but I think, also, allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.

FALSANI:
How long ago?

OBAMA:
16, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88

FALSANI:
So you got yourself born again?

OBAMA:
Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

I think that, particularly as somebody who's now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

FALSANI
Do you still attend Trinity?

OBAMA:
Yep. Every week. 11 oclock service.

Ever been there? Good service.

I actually wrote a book called Dreams from My Father, it's kind of a meditation on race. There's a whole chapter on the church in that, and my first visits to Trinity.

FALSANI:
Do you pray often?

OBAMA:
Uh, yeah, I guess I do.

Its' not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.

One of the interesting things about being in public life is there are constantly these pressures being placed on you from different sides. To be effective, you have to be able to listen to a variety of points of view, synthesize viewpoints. You also have to know when to be just a strong advocate, and push back against certain people or views that you think aren't right or don't serve your constituents.

And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I'm on track and where I think I'm off track.

It's interesting particularly now after this election, comes with it a lot of celebrity. And I always think of politics as having two sides. There's a vanity aspect to politics, and then there's a substantive part of politics. Now you need some sizzle with the steak to be effective, but I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important. It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

FALSANI:
Checking for altruism?

OBAMA:
Yeah. I mean, something like it.

Looking for, ... It's interesting, the most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.

FALSANI:
What's that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?

OBAMA:
Well, I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience.

That's something you learn watching ministers, quite a bit. What they call the Holy Spirit. They want the Holy Spirit to come down before they're preaching, right? Not to try to intellectualize it but what I see is there are moments that happen within a sermon where the minister gets out of his ego and is speaking from a deeper source. And it's powerful.

There are also times when you can see the ego getting in the way. Where the minister is performing and clearly straining for applause or an Amen. And those are distinct moments. I think those former moments are sacred.

FALSANI:
Who's Jesus to you?

(He laughs nervously)

OBAMA:
Right.

Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.

And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.

FALSANI:
Is Jesus someone who you feel you have a regular connection with now, a personal connection with in your life?

OBAMA:
Yeah. Yes. I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

FALSANI:
Have you read the bible?

OBAMA:
Absolutely.

I read it not as regularly as I would like. These days I don't have much time for reading or reflection, period.

FALSANI:
Do you try to take some time for whatever, meditation prayer reading?

OBAMA:
I'll be honest with you, I used to all the time, in a fairly disciplined way. But during the course of this campaign, I don't. And I probably need to and would like to, but that's where that internal monologue, or dialogue I think supplants my opportunity to read and reflect in a structured way these days.

It's much more sort of as I'm going through the day trying to take stock and take a moment here and a moment there to take stock, why am I here, how does this connect with a larger sense of purpose.

FALSANI:
Do you have people in your life that you look to for guidance?

OBAMA:
Well, my pastor [Jeremiah Wright] is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for.

I have a number of friends who are ministers. Reverend Meeks is a close friend and colleague of mine in the state Senate. Father Michael Pfleger is a dear friend, and somebody I interact with closely.

FALSANI:
Those two will keep you on your toes.

OBAMA:
And theyr'e good friends. Because both of them are in the public eye, there are ways we can all reflect on what's happening to each of us in ways that are useful.

I think they can help me, they can appreciate certain specific challenges that I go through as a public figure.

FALSANI:
Jack Ryan [Obama's Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race at the time] said talking about your faith is frought with peril for a public figure.

OBAMA:
Which is why you generally will not see me spending a lot of time talking about it on the stump.

Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I'm a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root ion this country.

As I said before, in my own public policy, I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.

Now, that's different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it's perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values tha tinform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.

A standard line in my stump speech during this campaign is that my politics are informed by a belief that we're all connected. That if there's a child on the South Side of Chicago that can't read, that makes a difference in my life even if it's not my own child. If there's a senior citizen in downstate Illinois that's struggling to pay for their medicine and having to chose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer even if it's not my grandparent. And if there's an Arab American family that's being rounded up by John Ashcroft without the benefit of due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same. I think sometimes Democrats have made the mistake of shying away from a conversation about values for fear that they sacrifice the important value of tolerance. And I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive.

FALSANI:
Do you think it's wrong for people to want to know about a civic leader's spirituality?

OBAMA:
I don't' think it's wrong. I think that political leaders are subject to all sorts of vetting by the public, and this can be a component of that.

I think that I am disturbed by, let me put it this way: I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God's mandate.

I think there is this tendency that I don't think is healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.

FALSANI:
The conversation stopper, when you say you're a Christian and leave it at that.

OBAMA:
Where do you move forward with that?

This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

FALSANI:
You don't believe that?

OBAMA:
I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That's just not part of my religious makeup.

Part of the reason I think it's always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that's by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest commong denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.

FALSANI:
Do you ever have people who know you're a Christian question a particular stance you take on an issue, how can you be a Christian and ...

OBAMA:
Like the right to choose.

I haven't been challenged in those direct ways. And to that extent, I give the public a lot of credit. I'm always stuck by how much common sense the American people have. They get confused sometimes, watch FoxNews or listen to talk radio. That's dangerous sometimes. But generally, Americans are tolerant and I think recognize that faith is a personal thing, and they may feel very strongly about an issue like abortion or gay marriage, but if they discuss it with me as an elected official they will discuss it with me in those terms and not, say, as 'you call yourself a Christian.' I cannot recall that ever happening.

FALSANI:
Do you get questions about your faith?

OBAMA:
Obviously as an African American politician rooted in the African American community, I spend a lot of time in the black church. I have no qualms in those settings in participating fully in those services and celebrating my God in that wonderful community that is the black church.

(he pauses)
But I also try to be . . . Rarely in those settings do people come up to me and say, what are your beliefs. They are going to presume, and rightly so. Although they may presume a set of doctrines that I subscribe to that I don't necessarily subscribe to.

But I don't think that's unique to me. I think that each of us when we walk into our church or mosque or synagogue are interpreting that experience in different ways, are reading scriptures in different ways and are arriving at our own understanding at different ways and in different phases.

I don't know a healthy congregation or an effective minister who doesn't recognize that.

If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn't have to keep coming to church, would they.

FALSANI:
Do you believe in heaven?

OBAMA:
Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?

FALSANI:
A place spiritually you go to after you die?

OBAMA:
What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.

When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I've been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they're kind people and that they're honest people, and they're curious people, that's a little piece of heaven.

FALSANI:
Do you believe in sin?

OBAMA:
Yes.

FALSANI:
What is sin?

OBAMA:
Being out of alignment with my values.

FALSANI:
What happens if you have sin in your life?

OBAMA:
I think it's the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment.

FALSANI:
Where do you find spiritual inspiration? Music, nature, literature, people, a conduit you plug into?

OBAMA:
There are so many.

Nothing is more powerful than the black church experience. A good choir and a good sermon in the black church, it's pretty hard not to be move and be transported.

I can be transported by watching a good performance of Hamlet, or reading Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, or listening to Miles Davis.

FALSANI:
Is there something that you go back to as a touchstone, a book, a particular piece of music, a place ...

OBAMA:
As I said before, in my own sort of mental library, the Civil Rights movement has a powerful hold on me. It's a point in time where I think heaven and earth meet. Because it's a moment in which a collective faith transforms everything. So when I read Gandhi or I read King or I read certain passages of Abraham Lincoln and I think about those times where people's values are tested, I think those inspire me.

FALSANI:
What are you doing when you feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually?

OBAMA:
I think I already described it. It's when I'm being true to myself. And that can happen in me making a speech or it can happen in me playing with my kids, or it can happen in a small interaction with a security guard in a building when I'm recognizing them and exchanging a good word.

FALSANI:
Is there someone you would look to as an example of how not to do it?

OBAMA:
Bin Laden.

(grins broadly)

FALSANI:
... An example of a role model, who combined everything you said you want to do in your life, and your faith?

OBAMA:
I think Gandhi is a great example of a profoundly spiritual man who acted and risked everything on behalf of those values but never slipped into intolerance or dogma. He seemed to always maintain an air of doubt about him.

I think Dr. King, and Lincoln. Those three are good examples for me of people who applied their faith to a larger canvas without allowing that faith to metasticize into something that is hurtful.

FALSANI:
Can we go back to that morning service in 1987 or 88 -- when you have a moment that you can go back to that as an epiphany...

OBAMA:
It wasn't an epiphany.

It was much more of a gradual process for me. I know there are some people who fall out. Which is wonderful. God bless them. For me it was probably because there is a certain self-consciousness that I possess as somebody with probably too much book learning, and also a very polyglot background.

FALSANI:
It wasn't like a moment where you finally got it? It was a symbol of that decision?

OBAMA:
Exactly. I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.

-END-

Cathleen Falsani is author of Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. To get a free download of the audio book, click here.
____________________________________________________
STUFF ON OBAMA:

01. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-brings-tears-of-Joy.asp
02. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/America-Bragging.asp
03. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2007/03/obama-next-president.html
04. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-should-attack-McCain.asp
05. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-Religious-Advisor.asp
06. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-a-perfect-union.asp
07. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-the-shepherd.asp
08. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Obama-Rally-in-Carrollton.asp
09. http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/03/obama-is-the-right-candidate.htm
10. http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/03/obama-for-president.htm
11. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/02/obama-power-of-words.html
12. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/02/obama-safety-issues.html
13. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/02/obama-preaching-hope.html
14. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/02/democrats-choice-obama.html