Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Question

A Question.

It seems simple. It seems harmless enough. But we see time and again that powerful people seek to prevent the asking of questions and to discredit, disarm and destroy those who ask questions. Galileo was persecuted by the Catholic Church for questioning the belief that the earth was the center of the universe. Cults and sects worldwide persecute and even murder those among them who question the tenents of the faith. In our own country people are harassed, fired and even jailed for questioning the government. This year several police officers working Border Patrol were fired for questioning the War on Drugs and policies of deporting illegal immigrants.

Why is this happening? It's happening because of the power of a questioning person. When a person asks a question, he may receive an answer. If he receives an answer, he may experience a revelation. If he experiences a revelation, he may spread the word of his epiphany to others and there may be a revolution. This is the power of questioning people. If there are enough people asking enough questions, demanding enough answers, there will be revelations of truth, of fact, of honesty like we have never seen before. And when these realities are exposed to the world there will be a revolution on a grand scale. We will no longer be naive enough to trust our leaders to make decisions in our best interests. We will no longer be content to accept as truth the interpretations of others in regards to our political documents, our religious systems or our social construct. We will cry out for freedom; true freedom that is not contained, not controlled, not contrived. We will demand to see the evidence for ourselves and to make our own decisions based on our findings. We will discover truths about our economy, about our religions, about our policies and about the rights that each of us, as a human being and a citizen of earth are owed. We will be outraged at the injustices that we have long accepted as facts of life, acts of God and out of our hands. We will discover the power that we hold as an army of questioners. We have the power to eliminate poverty, to end cruelty, to perpetuate liberty and freedom for all, regardless of creed or culture of way of life. All we have to do is resolve to take hold of this power and use it. And the way we take hold is to question.

So I question. I question everything. To those who would tell me that my questioning makes me unpatriotic, makes me ignorant, makes me faithless I say, 'No.' In fact, if a person or an institution seeks to shame me into silence for questioning, I believe it that one who is unpatriotic, for our nation was established in order to protect the rights of the individual from tyranny and unrepresented control. I believe that one is ignorant, for to accept a thing without devoting time and research into the evidence supporting that thing is the by far a greater example of ignorance than to "study to show thyself approved." And I believe that one is faithless, for no religion was fraught without battle. Someone questioned the traditions and led a band of other questioners out on a different path.

Ironically, those we herald as heroes in our world have been those unafraid to question the powerful ones. Those who worked against the forces of evil during holocausts, genocides, slave trades and killings. Those stood up and refused to be deemed less of a human because of their country of origin, the color of their skin, their religion or the love in their hearts. Even pioneers of medicine, humanitarians and technological gurus were faced with the choice to do what everyone else was doing or to try something different.

And here we are- you and me. We sit in front of this screen and we have a choice to make. Will we question? Will we refuse to be satisfied with pre-scripted answers that aren't really answers at all? Will we take a chance on the capacity of humanity to free their minds and find the power that we've had all along? Or will we continue to do what we've been doing, wishing things would get better, but taking comfort in knowing it's all out of our hands?

I will be a questioner. I will continue to ponder, to dream and to fight for things to be better than they are today. And this is my question to you:

Will you join me?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Test of Tolerance

Tolerance is a word that gets thrown around an awful lot nowadays. Tolerance of other religions, other races, other lifestyles. Generally, if you are more liberal about life, you will associate tolerance with acceptance and equality. If you are less liberal, you might define tolerance as dealing with the fact that other opinions and other points of view exist, but not necessarily supporting or agreeing with them. In the eyes of the more liberal individual, the conservative definition of tolerance isn't very tolerant at all. And, furthermore, the lack of intolerance on the part of the conservative is, well, intolerable. Pretty much the only thing a liberal individual won't tolerate is intolerance. And all the while the conservative views the pressure to tolerate (AKA support) as discriminatory and unfair.

Of course, this isn't across the board. There are plenty of examples of tolerant and gleefully accepting conservatives and and intolerant and bigoted liberals. In Europe there are many political ideologies which fall into the category of "Liberal Conservatism" which currently refers to a culturally, socially liberal ideology combined with fiscal conservatism. And we've all heard the derisive and hateful slurs hurled by various liberal groups at anyone who opposes their agenda; labeling them homophobes, racists and regressives to shut them down and destroy any hope of civilized discussion of the issue at hand.

However, beyond the media, the pundits, the politicians and the activist groups, there are people- ordinary people- both liberal and conservative, as well as those, like myself, who are somewhere in the middle. And we all interact with each other, day in and day out. We generally keep our opinions to ourselves, upholding the tradition of not discussing religion or politics in mixed company. Those of us with more traditional manners, may go years without divulging our true feelings about a single political position, and we may never know where our friends stand on the issues either.

Enter, social media. With the advent of Myspace and Facebook, and more recently, Twitter, we can now disregard these vows of silence and proudly proclaim our love and hate for candidates, or support or disapproval of political issues and our take on religion at large across the Web. People who would otherwise never discuss politics might now feature a presidential logo as their profile picture or post articles covering the political fumbles of a politician they disagree with. And even if they aren't bold enough to do this, Facebook will now announce which articles a user has been reading. A daily dose of Fox news coverage or a dozen articles on marriage equality will give away even a politically silent poster.

But what about the real world? What about people, crossing paths daily? Casual acquaintances, coworkers, friends of friends, teachers, doctors? Now that we can know the politics and religion of every person we meet, how do we fare? How tolerant can you be when you discover that you are the lone Republican in your knitting group? How tolerant can you be as the only Democrat in the PTA? When you now know that everyone in your carpool voted yes on that proposition you adamantly opposed, how do you act?

For me, I feel a deep connection to my beliefs. I believe I'm right. To be honest, we all do. We would believe differently if that weren't the case. But when we now know that people whose company we had enjoyed hold "wrong" beliefs, does anything change?

My social media experiences have brought out the worst in me. I have felt attacked, wounded and betrayed by people simply because they've "come out" politically and I was surprised. Or maybe I wasn't, but the fact that it's now out in the open makes me think they are an activist. A casual liberal or conservative is one thing, but someone who posts antagonistic posts about politician I like, or demeaning blogs ranting about people who support positions I support? That feels personal. It turns out, I'm not all that tolerant. I have to step away from political posters on Facebook and unfollow certain people on Twitter when election season approaches or when a particularly controversial piece of legislature looms.

What about you? If you zeroed in on that one political adversary in your congregation, your classroom, your neighborhood. If they posted articles blasting your party, your position, your candidate. If you knew that they thought the absolute worst of your "kind" would you, could you be okay?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Healthcare- The Uncomfortable Phone Call

I am an Independent. I am a religious person. I have my morals and my values, but I can't call myself a Republican anymore without throwing up in my mouth a little bit. I used to be a Republican. And a fervent one at that. But even as a Rebpublican, I knew that therer were people out there who couldn't afford insurance and were not getting the healthcare they needed due to costs. But, I'm finding more and more people who truly seem to believe that that doesn't happen. People who believe that everyone could get insurance or at least save up money for future health expences if they really wanted to and prioritzed. When I became a Republican, I was all for smaller federal govt, lower taxes and giving local govt the ability to handle things internally. However, I'm seeing more and more Republicans out there who don't seem to understand that the trade off to a smaller federal govt and lower taxes is that it becomes the responsibility of local govt and private citizens to take care of their shit. That means, if you don't want the federal govt. taking money out of your paycheck to feed the poor, THEN YOU FEED THE POOR. If you don't want the govt. taking money out of your paycheck to heal the sick, THEN YOU HEAL THE SICK. That's the trade off- Big Brother won't take your money and give it to the poor, but you, in turn must take care of the poor yourself.

I guarantee if all of a sudden Republicans nationwide started dumping money into free clinics, state hospitals and charities, they started dropping truckloads of food at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and in droves began applying to be foster parents, advocates and mentors, the political climate as we know it would change. And that's how it should be. Republicans sohould be the most giving people on the planet- particularly when their people are in office. When the taxes are low, we should be seeing Republicans taking their former tax dollars and pumping it into their local charities. If you want the right to handle the poor on your own, then take it and do a good job.

I know so many Repubicans who not only DON'T help the poor, don't give a rat's ass about the poor, but they also use being a Repubican as some sort of pass to judge, discrimiate and look down on the poor. Passing around letters blaming the poor for sucking up federal aid, looking down their noses as if because they can pay their bills every month, those who can't must be lazy, wasteful leeches. And even more offensive, they drag their religious beliefs into it as well, citing Bible verses warning of the heathen govt. and responding with "Amen" to classist slurs and hatemail.

I've been spending a fair amount of time studying thie new healthcare law and how it will effect my family. I've also been reading the pros and cons as given by people in both parties to see what people are liking and disliking about the reform. What I'm finding are a lot of positive changes that will help a lot of people and actually DECREASE the deficit in the long run. However, I keep reading on the Republican side that it is too expensive and will decrease the quality of care. And when I try to read thru the law to find out where the Republicans are getting the idea that it will create substandadrd care, I can't find anything to support that. On top of that, it seems clear from everything I've read that this plan will save money, so why do I keep hearing the whining about overspending?

Furthermore, when the Republicans handed in their proposal for healthcare reform there were ZERO compromises made on their part to make it a workable plan for both parties. They leave 52 million people without insurance, don't even chide insurance companies for refusing people with existing conditions or anything! And with the minor changes made, we still have a tax increase anyways!

On top of that, the latest poll I read said that while most Americans oppose the new law, the majority of them don't know what the law says. Amazing. Most of them think it will cost more in the long run. False. Mot of them think it will lower the quality of care. How? Show me. Tell me where this idea comes from, because I truly don't see how that will happen. Many believe the govt will be in charge of everyone's healthcare. I'm sorry, but have you read the bill? You shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion on something when you don't even know what the thing is.

My problem here is that I'm all for Republican principle, but what I'm seeing in our modern Republicans would make the GOP forefathers throw up. Being a Republican is not a license to be hateful, arrogant, uncaring, miserly and apathetic to the plight of the poor. On the contrary, the original intent of small govt was to facilitate the ability to give freely to our local brethern and to use our oen charity to take care of situations internally. The Republican model should produce the most giving, caring people in the nation because they would be there in the trenches with the poor, feeding, clothing and caring for them face to face. And, the the model works, there would eventually be less and less poor because they would have been connected to their community, assisted and be able to move and to become productive members of the society.

Where is that? Is there some Republican utopia where this is happening? If Republicans would actually take on the responsibilities obligated by their own political model, I would rejoin in a heartbeat. But what can I say; if individuals and communities want to keep their tax money and leave the poor to fend for themselves, am I supposed to sit by and be okay with that? While the GOP sits around tossing coins at various charities there are Americans dying every day because they don't have access to affordable medical care. Until the GOP steps up and does something about it, the poor have nowhere else to turn but to the Democratic Party. When the "Religious Right" won't feed them, they will turn to the "Godless Liberals" who will.

Ironically, it was the Democratic Party that has historically been the home of the religious American. They were seen as the party who cared for the poor and fought for the underpriveliged in society. Christians, in particular felt peace in aligning themselves with a party who spent money improving life for those suffering. The tide shnged after Roe v. Wade, when the Democrats took up the pro-choice stance. And what conservative holdouts still remained jumped ship when the gay-rights agenda was adopted in the 90s. But the erradication of Christian compassion when it came to the poor took a little longer to happen. At first, many former Democrats tried to walk the fence, but peer pressure and the blatant difference in values made it difficult. After awhile though, Republicans- even poor ones- became comfortable not caring and not doing anything to remedy the poverty in our backyards. And here we are today. Not only are Republicans frothing at the mouth over gay-rights and abortion, but they are actually attacking the Dems for a healthcare reform that would save lives and help the poor- something that their Democratic ancestors would've jumped at the change to support.

Are you moved? Are you angry? Are you embarrassed and ashamed that another religious person has dared to call you out of your greed and apathy? Good. This is not a political ad. I am not a Democrat, nor do I wish to convert anyone to the Democratic side. This is not a personal attack. I don't hate Republicans, as I said, I was one and I still agree with their system in principle. This is not about party affiliation- it is about personal responsibility. Take it, or shut up and let the Democrats heal the world for you. If the GOP doesn't like it, let them put their money where their mouth is.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Circumcision- Read it and weep.

I'm an oddball. I get that. But I'm nothing if not studious. But here's the truth about religious, biblical circumcision.

When I was pregnant with Ziva I began to become concerned about circumcision. I believe that it goes against G-d's will to prevent our bodies from functioning. For this reason I do not believe in chemical or surgical birth control. So the more I read about circumcision destroying the foreskin, the more conflicted I became. How could a G-d who made us perfect comand us to destroy something on our bodies? Sure, there are biblical references to piercing ears and noses, clipping nails and shaving heads, but these things didn't destroy the body's ability to function. Brit Periah did.

My very wise online friend Zipporah led me to the truth about ancient circumcision. Here it is: Original, biblical circumcision did NOT destroy the foreskin. It didn't. It was meant to be an identifying marker- a sign of the covenant and never a destructive tool. On the 8th day, which we now know is the time at which the baby's blood develops the ability to clot, the mother would haold the boy as the father (or later the mohel) would gently pinch up the foreskin and whatever rose above the very tip of the penis would be quickly cut with a razor sharp blade. It was quick and no more painful than piercing the ears. The recovery time was rapid, the pain subsided quickly and most importantly, the foreskin was still functional.

As a quasi- gentle, attachment parenting type I get to listen to and read tons of uneducated, pontificating and melodramatic hate-speech involving circumcision. Particularly offensive, are the people who are acually bigoted enough to tell Jews and other circumcising religious people to "get a new religion." As expected, none of these people have bothered to educate themselves about circumcision. Do they know the history? Do they know about the different methods? Do they have any understanding of the practice at all other than the dogmatic haters proclaiming it as "barbaric" and calling for illegalization of the practice? Generally, no. And the case could certainly be made that many of these rabidly anti-circumcision parents do equal or greater damage to their children with their dismissal of absolute truth, morality and a god of some sort. Studies show that children who grow up with ANY KIND of religious community are less likely to commit crimes. And the evidence of long-term damage done by circumcison? We're still waiting on that. Some studies indicate the sex is better with a foreskin (an issue resolved if we return to the ancient method) but do we see deep, psychological trauma? No. So while I do not believe that full-circumcision (Brit Periah) is the biblical method, or a kind thing to do, I certainly am not willing to vilify those parents for doing it.

And if you weren't tired of reading yet, here is a historically supported statement (not even coming from a pro-circ stance, by the way) regarding ancient circumcision and the medical version we see today.
KEY POINT: The original Jewish ritual left most of the foreskin on thepenis.

The late Edward Wallerstein won an American Medical Writers Award forgathering much of the historical evidence in "Circumcision: An AmericanHealth Fallacy" [NY: Springer 1980]
Later, Wallerstein wrote of the minimal ancient practice in a 1983 article:
"Originally, the surgery involved only cutting the tip of the foreskin.This was changed in the Hellenic Period to prevent [Jews from]elongat[ing] the foreskin stump in order to appear uncircumcised."[Wallerstein E. Humanistic Judaism 1983;11(4):46]
Wallerstein's research is supported by The Jewish Encyclopedia whichindicates that a Jewish "rage for athletics" occurred around 175 BCEwhen the Seleucid king Antiochus IV offered citizenship to those whoadopted the athletic Greek way of life.
Jason, high priest of Jerusalem, offered to increase his tribute toAntiochus IV if he wouldbuild a Greek-style gymnasium in Jerusalem. The gymnasium was built.
As Jews began participating in the nude games, "devout Jews" (a minorityof Jews) found to their horror that a partially exposed glans (i.e., a"mini"-circumcised penis) was considered vulgar. Compounding the horror(of this minority of "devout Jews") was the fact that many Jews -including perhaps Jewish priests - were stretching their "mini"circumcisized foreskins so as not to appear circumcised.
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia:
"[D]evout Jews began to look upon the exercises with horror, especiallybecause most of them were practised "in puris naturilibus" and theCovenant of Abraham had become an object of derision. Nevertheless, fora time at least, the rage for Athletics spread even to the priests...[See Athletics in Singer I (and 400 others, eds.) The JewishEncyclopedia. New York: Ktav 1901.]
"...[T]he consequence was [the] attempt to appear like the Greeks byepispasm ('making themselves foreskins')... [See Circumcision in SingerI (and 400 others, eds.), 1901]
Forty years later (134 BCE), the high priest of Jerusalem, JohnHyrcanus, forcibly circumcised the Idumeans, "leading them to think theywere Jews." [Gribetz J, Greenstein EL, Stein RS. The Timetables ofJewish History. New York: Simon and Schuster 1993. Judah Gribetz ispresident of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.]
It was during this period that Jewish priests apparently decided thatstretching the foreskin was wrong and threatened the extermination ofthose Jews who stretched their foreskins:
"The Book of Jubilee (xv. 26-27), written in the time of John Hyrcanus,has the following: '...God's anger will be kindled against the childrenof the covenant if they make the members of their body appear like thoseof the Gentiles, and they will be expelled and exterminated from theearth.'" [Charles, The Book of Jubilees iv.-ix. iii. 190-192, underCircumcision in Singer I (and 400 others, eds.) The Jewish Encyclopedia.New York: Ktav 1901.]
But Jews of this period apparently construed the "no stretching" decreeto mean that it was all right not to circumcise; for when the son ofJohn Hyrcanus took power in 104 BCE (by imprisoning his mother andkilling his brother), he forced circumcision on the residents of Galilee- "many of them Jews." [Gribetz 1993]
The shift to total foreskin amputation is believed to have occurred onehundred years later, after the unsuccessful Bar Kokba uprising againstthe Roman Emperor Hadrian (who had completely outlawed circumcision):
"In order to prevent the obliteration of the "seal of thecovenant"...the Rabbis, probably after the war of Bar Kokba (see Yeb.l.c.; Gen. R. xivi.), instituted the 'peri'ah' (the laying bare of theglans), without which circumcision was declared to be of no value ( 6)." [See Circumcision in Singer I (and 400 others, eds.), 1901]
"Thenceforward [total foreskin amputation - the laying bare of theglans] was the mark of Jewish loyalty." [See Circumcision in Singer I(and 400 others, eds.), 1901]

It seems insane - but it's true: God originally/allegedly toldJews to leave most of the foreskin on the penis - and rabbis are ignoring Him..

Monday, June 14, 2010

Messianic Mess

Why are there so many crazies in this damn movement? I kid you not- half of the people who come to this Way from Christianity only do it because they want to spout their loony tunes propaganda to unsuspecting searchers. The one benefit Christianity has over this movement is that they are established enough in their ways that if someone comes in with some supposedly newfound truth they won't give him the time of day. That is also, however their greatest weakness.

Let me give it to you metaphorically: There is a mountain. And the very top of this mountain is Truth. For those of us on the mountain, we all claim to want to reach the top. But for most people they will get a quarter of the way, a thrid of the way- maybe halfway up the mountain, and they'll set up camp and refuse to budge. They're comfortable and they can look down and see people who are lower than they are and feel good about themselves. And if someone comes along and points out the highest peak looming overhead, they'll run the guy out of the camp without hesitation. The problem is, for every guy pointing to the top of the mountain, there are 50 others pointing to another random peak. Most of us are just circling the mountain, going up and down and never actually getting anywhere near the top. There are so many distractions. Messianics get hung up on the Name, the identity of the lost tribes, prophesy and how much Christianty and Judaism they want to hang on to. It's riduculous. There are bigger issues. Not that these things aren't important, but important enough to kill each other over? I think not.

After all the crap that's gone on in this state, I will never be surprised by the arrogance, pride and inability of Messianics to be flexible. But I'll still be annoyed by it.

And Christianity isn't immune. The things they fight about are equally petty. Styles of worship music, translations of the Bible, women in ministry? Oh, come on. How about actually trying to be imitators of Messiah? That is what Messianics and Christians claim to be doing. I wonder then why instead we spend most of our time bickering and complaining about the state of the whole lot.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Me, The Moderate

I shy away from labeling myself, becauuse generally don't don't believe enough of any principle to call myself as adherant. Politically, religiously and in most of my beliefs about parenting, marriage and social issues I fall somewhere in the middle of the road. So I guess I could call myself a moderate... Sort of.
For the most part being a moderate has made me socially acceptable in many arenas. I am not dogmatically for or against most positions and because of this I can generally find some common ground with anybody.
But internally? That's a different thing all together. My beliefs often times place me in the middle of two opposing views and rather than helping me blend in, I appear wishy washy or even- G-d forbid- like a poser. Seriously, a non-Republican Messianic? A "sort-of AP" mom? It's tough sometimes.
And what makes it worse is the amount of demonizing and hyperbole and assumptions that fly around so casually. Everyone has an image in their mind of the type of person who believes differently than they do. Maybe they're ignorant or stupid. Maybe they were raised wrong. Maybe they just need someone to point out the error of their ways. And everyone talks as if everyone in the room agrees with them. Like there is an unspoken rule that if you agree with me here, you must agree with me everywhere.
I've been run out of forums for preaching the moderate gospel. For trying to humanize the "other side." And I've sat in silence as my own beliefs were flamed and scorned by a roomful of "likeminded" people.
Here's a real doosey: Attachment Parenting + Mini-Circumcision + Judaism +Jesus = a complete clash of passions. In AP circles it's accepted practice to refer to circ as "barbaric," "inhumane" and as mutilation. No on thinks twice aboutproudly condemning the lot of ignorant parents who do it, regardless of their reasons or strategies. Likewise, within Judaism and Messianic Judaism (for the most part) there is little understanding or acceptance of mini or partial circumcision. It's seen as an all or nothing deal and people wonder why anyone would question the tradition. Not to mention adding Messianic to Judaism- that's a taboo all on it's own.
Even in the simpler things- I recently commented on a comic and attached blog metaphorically eye rolling formula samples saying, "Formula samples never helped anyone." The whole basis of the blog entry was to ridicule and shame those of us lazy and ignorant enough to feed our babies "poisonous" formula instead of breastfeeding. The assumption being that it's all simply a matter of priorities and not an issue of ability. And how many times has a friendly religious conversation suddenly hopped into politics with some happily verbal person casually and passionately prophesying the end of the world with the current president in the role of Anti-Christ. Really? Did I SAY I was a Republican? Did I not read the fine print when I became Messianic? Being that person in the middle of the road sometimes just get's you run over.
So what do we do? I guess nothing. Dodge traffic? Keep my mouth shut? Seethe in silence?

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Well, we've been struggling a lot. Nursing started out fine, but after the first full day and night of Aliyah wanting to stay latched on 24/7 I asked my midwife for advice. She said to get a pacifier and give that to her when she just wants to suck.The next day (after using the pacifier) she refused to nurse on one side. I have one fab. nipple and one wonky one and she was not interested in the weird one. No dice.So I call a lactation consultant. She comes over and watches me try to nurse Aliyah on the left side and gives me a nipple shield. Okay, great. Now she's nursing on that side, but she refused to get on the right side as well now without the shield. Grr. On top of that, weight was still dropping.So we started pumping. I got on herbal supplements and kept nursing and pumping. Weight kept dropping. We got formula to supplement so we were doing expressed breastmilk and formula with an SNS. Weight still kept dropping.We get her off the shield and I started waking her up every 2 hours to nurse. Weight still kept dropping. At our last weight check Aliyah was 8 lbs 8.5 oz down from her 10 lb 1 oz birth weight. So now we're on special weight gain formula, I'm still pumping and nursing and every second she's awake I'm trying to get her to eat. So fun.Anyways, keep your fingers crossed for us. The LC said she was impressed that I was still keeping with breastfeeding. I'm impressed too. It's crappy that it's so hard. I hate using stupid formula and I hate watching her weight drop. It pisses me off because my biggest regret with Ziva was not nursing her. On the plus side, I now feel a lot less guilty about not nursing Ziva because I now know that the challenges were not because I slacked off, but we're more likely all the stuff I'm dealing with in regarts to milk production, my reduction surgery and the like. I can at least stop beating myself up over it.Bluh. There it is.