Republicans vs. Religious Liberty

July 14, 2017

Christianity, Islam, Judaism and most other religions require followers to practice hospitality to others, especially to refugees, “the least of these” as Jesus expressed it. However, politicians who claim to believe in limited governmental power also claim the unlimited power to deny religious liberty to believers who attempt to practice their religion in addition to proclaiming it.

Naomi is the Answer

June 12, 2017

Many people believe the Bible is a book of answers. If so, is there an answer to our troubled nation? There are many rules in the Jewish Bible regarding hospitality to the stranger, the foreigner, the other. There are many references to the sins of Sodom and all are about inhospitality to outsiders. In the Christian Bible (Matt. 25:43) Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in.” Therefore, you are doomed to the same eternity as Satan and his angels.
However, those scriptures have shallow roots and few seeds. Maybe a story would be more fruitful.
Because of famine, a Judean family moves to Moab as economic refugees. Does God have an attitude toward Moab? Yes. According to a Psalmist, “Moab will be my chamber pot,” God declared, because they were inhospitable to the Hebrews. (Ps. 60:8) In Moab, Naomi and her husband raise two sons who marry Moabite women. That is a violation of the Mosaic law that forbids Jews allowing sons or daughters to marry outsiders (Deut. 7:3)
In time Naomi’s husband and her two sons die. Naomi decides to return to Judea and tells her daughters-in-law to return to the homes of their mothers. Women had few choices in those days.
One of the widows returns to her mother’s home hoping to be invited in. The other, Ruth, tells Naomi, “Your people will be my people.” Ruth was not an economic refugee. She was trying to keep the family together. Nevertheless, to be politically correct Naomi should have said, “No. My people are exceptional people and you cannot be one of us.” (Gen. 17:7)
Ruth also said, “Your God will be my God.” To be religiously correct, Naomi should have said, “No. No Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God.” (Neh. 13:1) Because Naomi was not politically or religiously correct, Naomi and Ruth return to Judea where Ruth meets Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Boaz was not politically or religiously correct either and the rest is a love story with a religious and cultural convert becoming an ancestor of King David, the glory of Israel, and Jesus the Savior of Christians.
Although the story is set in the time of the Judges, many Christian scholars tend to believe the Books of Ruth and Jonah were written in reaction to the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah that chronicle the return of the Judeans from Babylonian captivity. When they saw the desolation of Jerusalem, they vowed to make Judea great again.                                 First order of business: National Security. Rebuild the wall.
Second order of business: Tribal Cleansing. Ezra called for an assembly in Jerusalem.          Those who did not assemble would lose their property and be exiled. Those who did assemble were told they must separate from those unclean. (Ezra 10: 7-11) To be religiously correct, the returning captives rejected their wives, some of them likely pregnant, and their children. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to the wives and children but we know. We read it in the newspaper every day.
Perhaps Naomi’s way was the better way, the way our nation should go.

A Snake Story Vietnam

May 31, 2017

This is a small part of a book I am writing. I am publishing it with the hope that someone else will remember it and send me their memory of it. This would have been December 1970. Col. Bernard Trainor was C.O. of Force Recon. He went on to become a General, a military correspondent for the New York Times, and a military expert for NBC. The corpsman may have been Doc Truhe.

Our last night harbor was selected while there was light to examine the area for likely paths of V.C. patrols, safest ways to escape if detected, a rally point if we separated, and to settle in a close circle in the best cover so that it would be harder for V.C. patrols to stumble upon us. Every Marine was in reach of the Marine on either side to silently alert him or to wake him if he snored.
“There’s a snake in here with us,” a Marine whispered our last night in the bush. “Pass it on.” That got everyone’s attention. What kind of snake? There are about a 140 species of snakes in Vietnam and 30 are venomous. King Cobra? Bamboo viper? Krait? Rhinoceros Viper? As the ground cooled, the snake would seek warmth and a Marine body on the ground was the ideal place to find warmth.
We got up cautiously and quietly and looked at the snake. It was bigger than any snake I had seen in a zoo or circus. Should we run far enough to escape it in our dreams and settle into another harbor with snake on our minds? The Team leader wanted to take the snake back for display in the Recon shack. That meant killing it but no one wanted to get close enough to kill it with a Ka-Bar. A shot meant running at least a mile because the shot would attract attention. It was hard to pinpoint the source of a shot in the mountains and the area was supposed to be relatively safe from V.C. other than couriers or unarmed bearers but once a shot was fired all illusions of safety evaporated faster than the sound that reverberated across the valleys.
The corpsman shot the snake in the head with his .45. That was the beginning of trouble. A sturdy Marine grabbed the snake to carry it over his shoulder but the dead snake had a mind of its own. Three Marines wrestled with the snake trying to stretch it out and carry it like a corpse. That also was unacceptable to the dead but lively snake.
I’m sure the leader was thinking about debriefing. “You jeopardized the mission and the team by killing a snake to mount in the Recon shack and then you ran off and left it when you had one night and a wakeup before extraction?”
The corpsman produced a large canvas bag and it took all hands to put and keep the snake in the bag with all hands and arms free of the coils. The sturdy Marine threw the bag over his shoulder and without a word or gesture we ran after the leader keeping our interval until the sturdy Marine signaled a stop. We were going to have to take turns carrying the heavy snake. And it had bitten him through the bag and his uniform.
The snake wasn’t venomous and didn’t have fangs but it had teeth that held prey until it could squeeze the life out of it. The corpsman looked at the bleeding bites, put some ointment on them and told the sturdy Marine to report to sickbay after debriefing. All hands stretched out, held down and calmed the dead snake with whispered curses and heavy breathing until the corpsman skinned it, rolled up the hide, stuffed it in the bag and handed the bag to the nearest Marine.
We moved quietly away from the remains two or three hundred yards and went into our night harbor knowing that the remains and the smell of blood from the skin that was still with us would attract carnivores. Possibly a tiger.
Later I was told that the snake was 17-feet-long and the skin was mounted in the Force Recon Shack. To put it in perspective in April, 2017, in Indonesia a 25-year-old man was swallowed by a 23 -foot python.

Pro Life Pretenders

January 27, 2017

Charles Camosy, Professor of Ethics in Fordham’s Theology Department, chided Sister Simone Campbell, spokesman for “Nuns on the Bus”, for calling “Pro-Life” proponents “Pro-Birth”. Once a baby is born it’s abandoned to the mercy of air, water, food and environment polluters and other merchants that put profit before life..

According to Reuters (7-14-05) Unborn US babies “are soaking in a stew of chemicals,” including mercury, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group based on tests of umbilical cord blood that reflects what the mother passes to the baby through the placenta. That stew of 287 chemicals includes 180 that cause cancer in humans, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. A Government Accountability Office report said the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the powers it needs to fully regulate toxic chemicals. “Pro-Life Pretenders” is the more accurate name for those want to weaken or eliminate the EPA.

Professor Camosy wants a Catholic religious (sharia) law to become a federal law that favors the “most vulnerable” but denies religious freedom to others. Dr. Camosy believes the most vulnerable in a pregnancy is a zygote (fertilized egg) although more than half of zygotes are not implanted. That 50+ percent would be the most vulnerable of the “vulnerable” because have no possibility of life. Yet, no one. including Camosy, proposes any effort to save them. They receive no religious rites and are treated as body waste without protest. Are they to be favored over a family? The mother loses her life, the children lose their mother and the father loses his wife. The family seems most vulnerable to me.

A nun suggested a federal law requiring a father to donate a kidney in exchange for a kidney for his fetus, baby or child should it require one. That seems a good law. The baby, fetus, child is clearly most vulnerable. Most fathers can live an ordinary life with one kidney and he would have some skin in the law. The law would be less prejudiced if the father were required to donate whatever could be transplanted—heart, lungs, liver, skin. So far, no Pro-Life Pretenders in politics, ethics or religion have made any effort to include the father in protecting the “most vulnerable.”

If it’s about “life” or “most vulnerable” which is more vulnerable, the father or the mother?

I’m not Transgender

January 5, 2017

In 1964, the Dallas Theater Center’s production of my adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying to the stage was selected as the United States’ entry at the Theater of Nations Competition in Paris. Almost immediately the U.S. Ambassador to France, Chip Bolton, called to say that the French loved President Kennedy and publicity combining Dallas and “As I Lay Dying” would be seen by the French as a play about the assassination of Kennedy. The name had to be changed, he insisted. On a transatlantic telephone call I changed the name to “Journey to Jefferson”.
Jean, my late wife, and I went to Europe with the cast. We knew all of them, including “Miss Iceland’, having worked with all of them in the Dallas production. Our first landing in Europe was Brussels. Most of us immediately headed for the rest rooms. The ladies’ room was first and the men’s room a short distance away. We separated by gender and immediately came face-to-face inside. It was a large rest room and most of us looked around for our place. What we saw were young and old, male and female citizens of many nations and colors in a unisex rest room, the first we Americans had ever seen.
We were apprehensive at first but laughed about it the next day with jokes about recognizing each other by our socks. The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, failed in 1982 because of scare ads declaring that if the amendment passed men and women would have to use the same rest rooms. Terrifying indeed. Today there are unisex rest rooms everywhere and sometimes they are the only rest rooms.
Last summer, in Houston I saw signs asking, should men and women use the same rest rooms?, reviving the old scares that females would lose protection, families would be destroyed, young women would be drafted, traditional America would be lost. All because of transgendered people that five years ago most Americans had never heard of and most citizens still do not understand.

Star Wars Missile Defense

September 9, 2016

September 4, 2016, the San Antonio Express-News published a Tribune News Service report that the Pentagon gave Boeing a $2 billion performance bonus although the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMD, formerly known as Star Wars) “failed to destroy their targets in six of eleven tests.” If a student gave the wrong answer on six out of eleven questions, that would be failure. If a teacher had several students who missed six out of eleven questions, the teacher would be fired.

Although it has never worked, the GMD is still regarded as the correct answer. On 9/11, Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to introduce a new national security policy with the GMD missile defense as a cornerstone and terrorism as an afterthought. (Washington Post (04/01/04) Her speech was interrupted by 19 hijackers.

There is a bright side. Reagan pledged that when the missile system worked he would give it to the Soviet Union (about halfway in the Reagan-Mondale Presidential Debate). If the missile defense worked, a President Trump might fulfill Reagan’s pledge and give GMD to his friend Vladimir Putin.

Christie Goodman: Everyday Theology: Like a Mother WrenGood lesson from a good Mother ren.

June 29, 2016

There are several milestones in a child’s life that parents celebrate: sleeping through the night, taking those first steps, going to the restroom on their own, making their own breakfast, first da…

Source: Christie Goodman: Everyday Theology: Like a Mother Wren

Dominating of Women

June 28, 2016

Most religions and many ethicists declare that the key ethics test for any society is how the strong treat the weak. That is why glacially the lot of women has improved during human history. Because men are physically stronger men have dominated women and have required birth on demand. The Gospel of John alludes to it…”not by the will of man.” (John 1:13) The New International Version softens it to will of the “husband”, but the Greek is clear: “by the will of man.” It has been in my lifetime that it became possible for a husband to rape his wife. The legal definition of rape excluded wives.

In the 21st Century the domination of women is less by fathers and husbands and more by male-dominated organizations such as religions, governments and employers whose religious beliefs trump the religious freedom of employees, especially women employees. Before 1854, when the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary became doctrine in the Catholic Church a fetus that did not have a human form could not receive religious rites. When the pope became infallible in 1870, the Immaculate Conception became dogma. Mary was the mother of Jesus but she could not be the “Mother of God” until she was freed of original sin at conception.

Thomas Aquinas disagreed with the concept because if Mary were sinless she did not need a savior. Neither the Orthodox Church nor Protestants accept the immaculate conception because there is no biblical base for it. Many Protestants, including Fundamentalists, believe “Mother of God” is sacrilegious or blasphemy.

When my wife and I married in 1953, our Southern Baptist pastor warned that if she became pregnant she should not go to a Catholic doctor or a Catholic hospital because they would sacrifice her life to save a fetus. Our married friends heard the same from their pastors. Southern Baptists believed that was deplorable prejudice toward women.

In response to Roe v. Wade, Fundamentalist icon W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, declared, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from the mother that it became an individual person, and it always has, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.”

In 1980 Fundamentalists took over the Southern Baptist Convention and many Fundamentalists including Southern Baptists began to believe that ensoulment happened at conception. There is neither a biblical nor a scientific reason for that belief. More than half of fertilized eggs are not implanted and are flushed from the body, yet each is more sacred than the life of a pregnant woman? And how are they treated? Like human waste. No religious rites. No protesters demanding they be saved. What kind of morality is that?

Furthermore, there is no big bang, no “moment” in conception. There are a half dozen processes that must occur before an egg is fertilized and the processes take about 24 hours. Approximately half of those implanted will never become a live birth. Protestants base their beliefs on the Bible but beginning in 1980, Fundamentalists began reading the Bible in a new way. Adam was made in the image of God but had no soul until God gave him the breath of life. (Gen. 2:7) In the parable of the Valley of Dry Bones, the bones grow sinew, flesh, skin but are not alive until they are given breath. (Ezek. 37:9)

The Bible requires abortion for some sins. (Num. Chapt.5; Lev. 20: 20, 21) The prophet Hosea prayed for God to punish wayward Israelites with abortion.(Hosea 9:14) When God wanted to punish the Midianites all the women were killed; neither pregnant women nor their fetuses were spared. (Num. Chapt. 31)

If men fight and one hits a pregnant woman causing an abortion, then he must pay the father for the loss of his property. If the woman is injured, it is eye for eye. (Ex. 21: 22-25) When God established the value of persons pregnant women have no greater value than sterile women. Infants have no value until they are a month old. (Lev. 27:1-7) When God commanded a census of the Levites, only males a month old or older were to be counted. (Num. 3:14, 15) Babies less than a month old didn’t have personhood.

Unless a man has a good life and proper burial, abortion is better. (Eccl. 6:3) The Apostle Paul wrote “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural (animal), and after that the spiritual.” (I Cor. 15:46) The writer of Hebrews stated that Levi existed in the loins of his great-grandfather. (Hebrew 7: 9-10)

The Fundamentalist position is based on 1 Tim. 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.“ If women did not submit their uterus to the control of their father, husband or a male-dominated organization like a church, state or corporation then women would control reproduction and women would sometimes have authority over men if they said no. If men maintain control of reproduction, that means birth on demand.

Deserting an Illegal War

March 14, 2016

June 28, 2007, The Associated Press reported that America faced a desertion crisis in its military. “Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80% increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003”. A deserter is one who intends to remain absent from the military permanently, or leaves his unit to avoid hazardous duty during times of war. More than 20,000 military personnel have Dropped-From-the-Rolls (deserted) since 9/11.

Also, June 28, 2007, under the banner, “Military makes little effort to punish deserters”, AP reported that “174 troops were court-martialed by the Army last year for desertion—a figure that amounts to just 5% of the 3,301 soldiers who deserted in fiscal year 2006. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey acknowledged that the Army “has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat,” but some deserters are simply allowed to return to their units, while the majority are discharged in non-criminal proceedings on less-than-honorable terms. “The Pentagon does little more than enter deserters’ names into an FBI national criminal database,” the AP reported.

Brandon Hughey, a deserter who moved to Canada, told Scott Pelley (60 Minutes, 12/06/04), “I felt (war) was necessary if (Iraq) did have these weapons, and they could end up in our cities and threaten our safety”. While Hughey was in basic training, he received little outside news, but he did learn that a soldier who obeyed an “order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” (

After basic, Hughey learned “that they found no weapons of mass destruction. They were beginning to come out and say it’s not likely that we will find any—and the claim that they made about ties to al Qaeda was coming up short, to say the least. It made me angry, because I felt our lives were being thrown away as soldiers.…”

Hughey’s lawyer, Jeffry House told 60 Minutes, “People should have a right to say, ‘I’m not fighting in that war. That’s an illegal war…And anyone who says soldiers should go to jail if they don’t fight in an illegal war is persecuting them. The United States is supposed to comply with treaty obligations like the U.N. Charter, but they don’t”. Making war for regime change is a violation of the Charter. “When the president isn’t complying with the Geneva Accords or with the U.N. Charter, are we saying, ‘Only the soldier who signed up when he was 17—that guy has to strictly comply with contract? The president, he doesn’t have to?’ I don’t think so. I don’t think that is fair.”

Army Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, said he doesn’t object to war and volunteered to go to Afghanistan but considered war on Iraq illegal. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, serving in Iraq would make him party to war crimes. Already low-ranking soldiers at Abu Ghraib who had tortured, abused and degraded POWs had been called “bad apples” by the president, stripped of rank, dishonorably discharged, prosecuted and imprisoned for following orders the president had authorized.

Maj. General Taguba was assigned to investigate the horrors of Abu Ghraib but was not allowed to investigate anyone at a higher rank than himself. He knew immediately that Military Police had not invented the torture and degradation that included rape and sodomy. These prisoners were not suspected terrorists but POWs in a war that permitted no Prisoners of War. After he was ordered to retire Taguba wrote that the rot was not in Abu Ghraib but in the White House.

The Army turned down Lt. Watada’s request to resign and charged him with two counts of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman (for public statements) and one count for Missing Movement (refusing to deploy to Iraq). (Gannett, 8/05/08)

Eric Seitz, Watada’s civilian attorney said, “What the Army has clearly tried to do with these charges (of Conduct Unbecoming) is send out a message to those in the military, that if you criticize the war and if you criticize the decisions that were made to bring the United States into this war, that you, too, could be charged with disloyalty, contemptuous remarks and disrespect for higher officers, and in this case, specifically in this charge, the President.” (Democracy Now, 7/7/06)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals (August 12, 1945) said, “For the first time, four of the most powerful nations have agreed…upon the principle of individual responsibility for the crime of attacking the international peace…And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”

“In 1953, the Department of Defense adopted the principles of the Nuremberg Code as official policy” of the United States. (Hasting Center Report, March-April 1991)

Over the prosecutor’s objections, Seitz and Watada’s military lawyer, Capt. Mark Kim, called three witnesses to question the legality of the war: University of Illinois Professor of international law Francis Boyle, Former United Nations Undersecretary Denis Halliday, and Army Colonel Ann Wright (ret.), who retired from the state department in March 2003, in protest of the coming invasion. All three testified that the war was illegal because it was not authorized by the U.N. Security Council, and that Congress approved the war on the basis of faulty intelligence. Therefore Watada was within his rights to refuse participation in it. (Seattle Post Intelligencer, 8/18/06).

Watada was court-martialed in February 2007, with the case ending in a mistrial when Military Judge John Head ruled that the military justice system could not resolve whether the deployment order was unlawful. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/7/07) After the mistrial, the Obama Justice Department asked the court to drop the case which would require the Justice Department to decide whether the war on Iraq was a war crime. Among the organizations supporting Watada were the ACLU, Iraq Veterans against the War and Veterans for Peace.

“What was approved was basically his request to resign in lieu of a general court-martial for the good of the service,” said spokesman Joseph Piek at Ft. Lewis, Wash., where Watada has been working at a desk job. (LA Times, 9/19/09)

It seems an unfair burden on a young recruit who may be a high school dropout, does not have the information that the chain of command has, and may be under fire to make moral choices in a “preventive” war.

If the military justice system and the Justice Department can’t decide whether the war on Iraq is legal, how can any member of the military who refuses to fight in a war he/she believes is illegal be charged with desertion?

Sharia Law Coming

December 31, 2015

WARNING: Sharia law is sweeping the country and many public schools are requiring students to learn arabic numerals and use them in class assignments. Please call or write your elected officials at both the state and national level and demand that roman numerals become the exclusive numerals used in Christian America.