PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information


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is the key, every one must co-exists and how best can we achieve it?I invite your solutions, ranting or blaming will not be published, only solutions.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

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


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?

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


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..

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?

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


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

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

What do you believe?

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.

Have you always been a Christian?

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

Any particular flavor?


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.

Did you actually go up for an altar call?

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.

How long ago?

16, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88

So you got yourself born again?

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.

Do you still attend Trinity?

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.

Do you pray often?

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.

Checking for altruism?

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.

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

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.

Who's Jesus to you?

(He laughs nervously)


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.

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

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.

Have you read the bible?


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

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

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.

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

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.

Those two will keep you on your toes.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

You don't believe that?

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.

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 ...

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.

Do you get questions about your faith?

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.

Do you believe in heaven?

Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?

A place spiritually you go to after you die?

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.

Do you believe in sin?


What is sin?

Being out of alignment with my values.

What happens if you have sin in your life?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

Bin Laden.

(grins broadly)

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

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.

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...

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.

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

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


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

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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hsin-hsin Ming on Faith and understanding

This poem perhaps amalgamates the ideas from Sufi, Kabbala, Buddhist, Hindu and othe mystic tradtion. It is a beautiful expression and I fell in love with this - Thanks to Niki for sharing this. Mike Ghouse

Hsin-hsin Ming:
Verses on the Faith-Mind
By Seng-ts'an, Third Chinese Patriarch
Translated by Richard B. Clarke

The Great Way is not difficult
for those not attached to preferences.
When neither love nor hate arises,
all is clear and undisguised.
Separate by the smallest amount, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

If you wish to know the truth,
then hold to no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect as vast space is perfect,
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting
that we do not know the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness.

Be serene and at one with things
and erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the Single Way
cannot be free in either activity or quietude, in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things
and you miss their reality;
assert the emptiness of things
and you miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it
the further you wander from the truth.
So cease attachment to talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence,
but to pursue appearances or "enlightenment" is to miss the source.
To awaken even for a moment
is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty world
we make real only because of our ignorance.

Do not seek for the truth;
Only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state;
avoid such easy habits carefully.
If you attach even to a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One,
do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
there is no objection to anything in the world;
and when there is no objection to anything,
things cease to be— in the old way.
When no discriminating attachment arises,
the old mind ceases to exist.

Let go of things as separate existences
and mind too vanishes.
Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes
so too do the objects created by mind.

The arising of other gives rise to self;
giving rise to self generates others.
Know these seeming two as facets
of the One Fundamental Reality.
In this Emptiness, these two are really one—
and each contains all phenomena.
If not comparing, nor attached to "refined" and "vulgar"—
you will not fall into judgment and opinion.

The Great Way is embracing and spacious—
to live in it is neither easy nor difficult.
Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute:
The faster they hurry, the slower they go.
To have a narrow mind,
and to be attached to getting enlightenment
is to lose one's center and go astray.

When one is free from attachment,
all things are as they are,
and there is neither coming nor going.

When in harmony with the nature of things, your own fundamental nature,
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
However, when mind is in bondage, the truth is hidden,
and everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from attachment to distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way,
do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to embrace them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise person attaches to no goals
but the foolish person fetters himself or herself.
There is one Dharma, without differentiation.
Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the discriminating mind
is the greatest of mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment, attachment to liking and disliking ceases.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams, phantoms, hallucinations—
it is foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong; finally abandon all such thoughts at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To realize the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen without differentiation,
the One Self-essence is everywhere revealed.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state of just this One.

When movement stops, there is no movement—
and when no movement, there is no stopping.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate state
no law or description applies.

For the Realized mind at one with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and the Truth is confirmed in you.
With a single stroke you are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to you and you hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no need to exert the mind.

Here, thinking, feeling, understanding, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world "as it really is"
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To know this Reality directly
is possible only through practicing non-duality.
When you live this non-separation,
all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.
Whoever comes to enlightenment, no matter when or where,
Realizes personally this fundamental Source.

This Dharma-truth has nothing to do with big or small, with time and space.
Here a single thought is as ten thousand years.
Not here, not there—
but everywhere always right before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small: no difference,
for definitions are irrelevant
and no boundaries can be discerned.
So likewise with "existence" and "non-existence."

Don't waste your time in arguments and discussion
attempting to grasp the ungraspable.

Each thing reveals the One,
the One manifests as all things.
To live in this Realization
is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.
To put your trust in the Heart-Mind is to live without separation,
and in this non-duality you are one with your Life-Source.

Words! Words!
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is no yesterday,
no tomorrow
no today.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who's the real Hindu?

Abstracts from the article “Conversions”

The article " Who's the real Hindu" by Karan Thapar follows my commentary.

The problems with conversions are not religious in nature. If all paths lead to God and all rivers go to the same ocean. What is the problem if some one wants to take a different path?

If you happen to love Gulab Jamun and your friend loves Laddu. Neither of you could explain why one is better than the other. No scientist, nutritionist, dietician, aesthetician, food connoisseur or any one can ever prove that one is better than the other. Your taste buds don't care any explanation; you will continue to enjoy what you have enjoyed. That is the general rule, however, some are willing to expand their horizons and some are willing to change and might find the other desserts more appealing to them. So be it. What is it to me or you if one becomes a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai, Buddhist or an atheist?

Bottom line Let people chose what they want to believe. The market should be free to ideas, go ahead and compete with pleasantness, offer the incentives, give the needy a job, and provide food and shelter. Let it be open and competitive. How does it affect me? It will affect me if they are bad guys, they will be bad guys no matter what religion they wear. Why blame religion? Let's take religion as a conflict item out of our lives and we will be fine. Let religion make us hunger for the knowledge of unknown. Let religion make us search and seek the truth in all the holy books. Let no one own any religion, let any one choose what ever faith they want. Let us be God like, with an expansive mind to enjoy the beauty of every holy book. Accusing Islam or Christianity that they made forced conversion will not do any good now other than frustrating oneself. Neither the people nor their progeny will revert back by force today.

We are living in a different era and we need to spend our energies in building a better world. How does it matter if you want to enjoy Laddu or Gulab Jamun? There is no compulsion on taste buds, if you don't like Broccoli that is your choice; I enjoy Broccoli even if the former President did not like it.

You and I are responsible for creating a better world, not the Government, not the Clergy and not even God*. It is you and I who would create a world where we feel safe to walk home to, to go to work, to be with our family to enjoy our vacation without any fear. It starts with a civilized dialogue in our own neighborhood and in our own City. It is our responsibility Peace and blessings Mike Ghouse

Who's the real Hindu?
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times

Does the VHP have the right to speak for you or I? Do they reflect our views? Do we endorse their behavior? They call themselves the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but who says they represent all of us? This Sunday morning, I want to draw a clear line of distinction between them and everyone else. My hunch is many of you will agree.

Let me start with the question of conversion — an issue that greatly exercises the VHP. I imagine there are hundreds of millions of Hindus who are peaceful, tolerant, devoted to their faith, but above all, happy to live alongside Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Jews. If any one of us were to change our faith how does it affect the next man or woman? And even if that happens with inducements, it can only prove that the forsaken faith had a tenuous and shallow hold. So why do the VHP and its unruly storm troopers, the Bajrang Dal, froth at the mouth if you, I or our neighbors convert? What is it to do with them?

Let me put it bluntly, even crudely. If I want to sell my soul — and trade in my present gods for a new lot — why shouldn't I? Even if the act diminishes me in your eyes, it's my right to do so. So if thousands or even millions of Dalits, who have been despised and ostracized for generations, choose to become Christian, Buddhist or Muslim, either to escape the discrimination of their Hindu faith or because some other has lured them with food and cash, it's their right.

Arguably you may believe you should ask them to reconsider, although I would call that interference, but you certainly have no duty or right to stop them. In fact, I doubt if you are morally correct in even seeking to place obstacles in their way. The so-called Freedom of Religion Acts, which aim to do just that, are, in fact, tantamount to obstruction of conversion laws and therefore, at the very least, questionable.

However, what's even worse is how the VHP responds to this matter. Periodically they resort to violence including outright murder. What happened to Graham Staines in Orissa was not unique. Last week it happened again. Apart from the utter and contemptible criminality of such behavior, is this how we Hindus wish to behave? Is this how we want our faith defended? Is this how we want to be seen? I have no doubt the answer is no. An unequivocal, unchanging and ever-lasting NO!

The only problem is it can't be heard. And it needs to be. I therefore believe the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus — both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout — to speak out. We cannot accept the desecration of churches, the burning to death of innocent caretakers of orphanages, the storming of Christian and Muslim hamlets even if these acts are allegedly done in defense of our faith. Indeed, they do not defend but shame Hinduism. That's my central point.

I'm sorry but when I read that the VHP has ransacked and killed I'm not just embarrassed, I feel ashamed. Never of being Hindu but of what some Hindus do in our shared faith's name.

This is why its incumbent on Naveen Patnaik, Orissa's Chief Minister, to take tough, unremitting action against the VHP and its junior wing, the Bajrang Dal. This is a test not just of his governance, but of his character. And I know and accept this could affect his political survival. But when it's a struggle between your commitment to your principles and your political convenience is there room for choice? For ordinary politicians, possibly, but for the Naveen I know, very definitely not.

So let me end by saying: I'm waiting, Naveen. In fact, I want to say I'm not alone. There are hundreds of millions of Hindus, like you and me, waiting silently — but increasingly impatiently. Please act for all of us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obession inspires Jewish group to Join Muslims

Muslims should participate in Jewish events and vice-versa. Staying away from each other will not contribute towards peace-making that both communities so deserve. We have to come together without conditions and learn each others concerns and clarify mis-information and together find solutions. If we don’t, then who? - http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Jewish-Muslim-dialogue-a-necessity.asp

Mike Ghouse

Obession inspires Jewish Peace Group to 'Stand with Muslims'

In late October, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) launched a campaign called “We Stand with You” to show support and stand in solidarity against anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry. JVP asked its members to “stand up as allies to our Arab and Muslim friends, family members, and neighbors” by sending a photo or a message of solidarity to be posted on its website.

Click here to see the pictures and messages from that are being sent every day.
On its website, JVP says:

“In recent weeks, over 28 million copies of the virulently anti-Islam movie Obsession have been distributed to people across the countryincluding every pastor and rabbi in America; the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Arab’ have become synonymous with ‘Terrorist’; and now many openly state that being a Muslim-American or Arab-American disqualifies one from holding elected office in this country.

“A strong democracy requires a majority that stands up for the minority, refusing to remain silent when others fuel the fires of division and hatred. We are appalled by the recent escalation of demonizing attacks against Arabs and Muslims. These are attacks on people we are proud to call our neighbors, colleagues, loved ones and fellow citizens. As Jews and other people of faith, we know too well the price when others remain silent. To our Arab and Muslim friends, we say we stand with you.”

CAIR extends its appreciation to JVP and its supporters and urges American Muslims and other people of conscience to visit the “We Stand With You” site.

Jewish Voice for Peace is “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights.” Click here to learn more about JVP.



Rebutting ObsessionHistorical Facts Topple Film's Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis' Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongeringRabbi Haim Dov Beliak, Eli Clifton, Jane Hunter and Robin Podolsky, Jews On First,

"If you want to get people to fight, you have to make them think there's a threat and they're in danger." Itamar Marcus, Obsession

1. Whose Obsession And With What?The film, Obsession, purports to be about national security issues; but it does not offer the kind of careful analysis that such crucially important topics deserve. Instead, it offers an agenda-driven combination of emotionally laden images, distortions, omissions and, deliberately or not, outright misstatements.

It is our assertion that this film's title, Obsession, works as a command as much as a description. We believe that the attitudes and ideologies appearing to drive the film are mirror images of those that the makers of Obsession impute to what they dub "radical Islam:" a unifying, objectifying fear and hatred of a collection of disparate countries, religious orientations, ethnicities and political cliques that combines them into one powerful, inexplicable, alien enemy — one that, the film hints ominously, includes our Muslim fellow citizens and recent immigrants to our country. At a time of transition and economic pain for the United States, Obsession builds an epic narrative that allows the viewer to project all of his or her real and various fears and anxieties onto one externalized, hated foe.

Most dangerously, the film is structured to belie its ostensible disclaimer of any intention to portray the entirety of Islam as a violent and hateful religion. Stock footage of Muslims bowing in prayer or circling the Ka'aba at Mecca are interspersed with frightening images of gun-wielding youths and speakers who misuse traditional Islamic concepts such as jihad to incite violence. Eerie, "Middle Eastern"-sounding world-beat music sets off both sets of clips.

The frankly anti-Islamic message of Obsession is most apparent when the viewer is being warned about the "danger at home." Undercutting the narrators' assurances that the masses of peaceful, "good" Muslims are not to blame and ought not to feel insulted by any insinuation they might infer from Obsession, is the repetition of the word "infiltrated," and the frightening message that the saboteurs among us may be indistinguishable by dress, manner or any outward sign — save that they are Muslim. To understand why this is dangerous, one need only remember the situation, during World War II, of Japanese Americans and the stigma faced earlier in the 20th century by non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, including Jews. Anyone needing reassurance after viewing Obsession might find it in remembering the degree to which all of those groups have, after all the fuss, helped to shape and become shaped by the culture of our country. (MORE)

Islam and Pluralism in a Global Era


Pluralism continues to be defined differently, to me it is simply co-existence, i.e., accepting and respecting the God given uniqueness of each one of the 6.5 billion of us. Religious pluralism is honoring every which way one acknowledges and appreciates the creator and Political pluralism is living with differences of opinions without fear of the other.

Indeed, in the next two decades there will not be a city in the world where you will not find people of different faiths co-exist, may be in the next hundred years, every street will have every faith represented.

Mike Ghouse

Islam and Pluralism in a Global Era
11/1/2008 - Religious Social Interfaith
By: Dr. Fathi Osman

That human beings are all different cannot be argued. Physically and psychologically no two human beings, however closely related biologically, are exactly the same. In addition to racial and ethnic differences, there are the acquired differences in ideas, knowledge approaches, priorities and judgment, among many other differences, that accrue from the surrounding culture.

Religion belongs somewhere between an inherited and an acquired difference, that is, it can be inherited by succeeding generations from an earlier one, or it can develop from one's contemplation into personal conviction. The fact that religious faith is most commonly inherited collectively rather than developed individually makes the acceptance of religious diversity essential for the well-being of humanity.

A nation-state, even the most harmonious geographic entity, displays diversity in race, ethnicity and religions, as well as acquired ideological and political notions that reflect natural differences in thinking and judgment. Since the world is coming closer together as a result of miraculous developments in the technology of transportation and communication, global diversity has become a fact that has to be accepted intellectually and morally, and secured and sanctioned legally, by all groups throughout the world.

Pluralism is the institutional form that acceptance of diversity takes in a particular society or in the world as a whole. It means something more than moral tolerance or passive coexistence. Tolerance is a matter of individual feeling and behavior and coexistence is a mere acceptance of others that does not go beyond an absence of conflict. Pluralism, on the one hand, requires organizational and legal measures that secure and sanction equality and develop fraternity among all human beings as individuals or groups, whether their differences are inborn or acquired. Pluralism also requires a serious approach towards understanding the other and a constructive cooperation for the betterment of the whole. All human beings should enjoy equal rights and opportunities, and all should fulfill equal obligations as citizens of a nation and of the world. Each group should have the right to organize and develop itself and to maintain its identity and interests, and each should enjoy equality of rights and obligations in the state and in the world.

Pluralism means that minority groups can participate fully and equally with the majority in the society, and yet maintain their particular identity and differences. This particular has to be maintained by the state and the law, first by national law and eventually by international law. Pluralism originally referred only to ethnic and religious differences, but in a democracy ideological and political differences also came to be subsumed under the same term, on the philosophical grounds that there in no single understanding of the truth and thus a variety of beliefs and institutions and com- munities should exist together and enjoy equal legitimacy. Relations should be constructive, whatever the beliefs of a particular group may be regarding the sole and universal truth. The "Encyclopedia Britannica" includes under pluralism both natural- born and acquired differences. Its definition is: "Autonomy enjoyed by disparate groups within a society: such groups as religious groups, trade unions, professional organizations or ethnic minorities." It may be preferable to replace "autonomy" with "the right to maintain a common identity and interests."

Muslims, like adherents of other religions of the world, have to live with non-Muslims within a given country. Muslim citizens of the country can have their ethnic or doctrinal differences with-in themselves or with other Muslims in the world. Muslim unity does not require that Muslims form a single state; even the caliphate always comprised different beliefs and ethnicities. Where one lives may be dictated by geographic or economic factors. A nation-state can be considered from the Islamic point of view as an enlarged family or an enlarged neighborhood, each with its own special interests that in no way detract from the universal relations of togetherness and solidarity required by Islam. Divisions into peoples and other groups with common origin, are acknowledged in the Quran (49:13), and nothing is wrong with it so long as such divisions do not hinder universal human relations and cooperation, and are not abused through chauvinistic arrogance and aggression.

The Quran indicated that God and his teachings should be put above any allegiance to a particular group or land, and so long as this principle is observed, allegiance to one's family and to particular human gatherings and to one's homeland is recognized (9:24). As Muslims live in larger groups and in lands where they can prosper, they have to live with other religions and sects Moreover, contemporary globalism is creating unavoidable interdependence among all humankind, whatever their natural-born or acquired differences may be.

For a long time consensus was regarded as important because the goal was to achieve uniformity in beliefs and human values.

"Aquinas in the Middle Ages," as Nicholas Rescher writes, Regarded consensus on fundamentals as a condition assured by God: Kant in the 18th century considered it as something rooted in the very nature of Reason; Hegel in the 19th century saw it as guar- anteed by the spirit of cultivation working through the march of history ever enlarging its hold on human society; Habermas in the 20th century sees is as inherent in the very nature of communications as an indispensables social praxis. By contrast, many present-day writers invest social consensus not with confidence, but with hope.

Rescher argues that abandonment of consensus is impossible, and defends pluralism in cognitive and social theory against dogmatic uniformity, and indicating that in the face of differing views, it is still appropriate to take a committed and definite position. Pluralism should not allow people to fall into the trap of "relativistic indifferentism." He emphasizes that, if natural and ration- al diversity cannot be escaped, "a sensibly managed social system should be so designed that a general harmony of constructive interaction can prevail despite diversity.. [and] that different can be accommodated short of conflict This requires acquiescence in difference ... and respect for the autonomy of other." 1

Given that "the truth is one," one might think that reaching the truth would automatically produce consensus, but Rescher underlines the problem of connecting the truth to consensus by reversing the question, asking if we achieve consensus, can we be sure concerning the truth about which the consensus has been achieved? As he rightfully says, "The appeal of a consensus approach to truth is easy to understand. But its workability is something else." He reaches the conclusion that "consensus is thus no highway to truth, and no substitute for an objective criteriology," although it may be a useful epistemological instrument. Rescher calls attention to the fact that "the realization of a consensus among inquiries requires extraordinarily unusual conditions - conditions of a special and particular sort which are not in general met in the difficult circumstances of an imperfect world." Thus, "The empirical basis of our factual knowledge is bound to engender a variety of cognitive positions through the variation of experience here on earth." Accordingly, Rescher emphasizes: "the pluralism that a sensible empiricism engenders in the light of such variable experiential conditions is rationally justified. The unavailability of consensus and the inescability of pluralism are realities of the life of reason.

Such an inevitable cognitive pluralism should not, however, be construed as encouraging indifference, nor should it put the faith of any believer at risk, since "one can certainly combine a relativistic pluralism of possible alternatives with a monistic position regarding ideal rationality and a firm and reasoned commitment to the standards intrinsic of one's own position. ' 2

Political pluralism holds that power and authority should not be monopolized by a single group, order, or organization, and that all citizens should be allowed to compete legitimately or to cooperate. If pluralism is unavoidably determined in cognitive matters, it is more essential when it comes to natural-born differences. Pluralism in religion recognizes the multiplicity of religious groups, and the rights of belief, expression, assembly, and legit mate activity for every individual, for each religious group within the group and for the group as a whole. Unless human under- standing and cooperation supersede both inborn and acquired differences, "holocausts" and "ethnic cleansings" will continue, and on a global scale will breed either ceaseless conflict or self- imposed isolation. Multiethnic countries may always face the horrors of civil war, terrorism, or secession, which cripple the country and pressure the whole world. When pluralism becomes a conventional national and universal principle, inborn and acquired differences will enrich the intellectual, moral and material assets of humankind through constructive interactions from all parties.

The divine messages from "the Lord of All-Being" (The Quran 1:2) can be invaluable in conducting their followers toward a universal pluralism. However, because parallel texts in the divine sources may sometimes seem to differ because they originally responded to different circumstances, the believing masses may fail to understand them in their entirety. Instead of making a distinction between the general principle and the particular situation, they may be inclined for individual or collective reasons in given circumstances to adapt chauvinistic and confrontational attitudes. Hermeneutics should provide the proper interpretation of God's message in its entirety there by protecting believers from distorting divine guidance through that kind of selectivity and one-sided-ness, that creates a false impression of exclusiveness and generates unethical behavior, discrimination and injustice.

Dr. Fathi Osman is a retired professor of Islamic Studies and has taught in several universities in Muslims World and the West. Among these universities are Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Houran University in Algeria, Ibn Saud University in Saudi Arabia, International Islamic University in Malaysia, Temple University, USC, and Georgetown University in America. He is also author of several books.

The above essay has been taken from his book "Contemporary Issues: An Islamic Perspective"