nones on the rise

On Tuesday, the following report was released from the Pew Research Center:

 

“Nones” on the Rise

One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation

 

“The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace.  One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.  In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.  Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

 

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

 

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way.  Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%).  More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’ (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.  In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

 

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them.  Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”

 

Without thinking too extensively or deeply, the Intramuralist can easily conjure up a spontaneous ‘amen.’  Religious organizations have focused too much on rules and have been too involved in politics.  Religious organizations haven’t always been good at communicating the grace and forgiveness that accompanies the faith, and…

 

… but wait…

 

Not all “religious organizations” nor “religions” actually contain a doctrine of grace.  And regarding this massive involvement – this too tangled up in politics idea – not all religions respect a government separated from faith.

 

Fascinatingly, therefore, is the study of religion.  Only through objective study do we see that in Islam, for example, there exists no separation of church and state; that’s why many remain legitimately concerned about the rise of Islamic governance, as witnessed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  Yet as we contrast the truths of Christianity, I see a call to respect both government and the faith.  I also see massive, unparalleled amounts of grace called to be applied… given to us… exhorted to give to one another.  Then arises a seemingly huge “a-Ha!” – observing that it’s typically some of the “religious” who are more unattractive than the actual “religion.”

 

Yet as I allow myself to think both more extensively and deeply about the Pew report, I find my “amen” quickly subsiding, unfortunately ceding to an instead, sobering sadness.  One in five.  That could be one person in our households.  Two or three in our extended family.  Five in our small business.  The people that we meet on the street each day.

 

So I continue with objective analysis.  It is then that I become uncomfortable with a promotion of government that in its embracing of constitutional adherence believes any mention of faith is inappropriate.  In other words, I wonder if our government’s often strict separation – as increasingly evidenced in the judicial branch – has swung the pendulum of moderation so far the other way that now not only is there separation between church and state, but we are to give no mention… no credit… no even remote acknowledgement that the God of the universe might actually have something to do with what’s happening on planet Earth.

 

And we wonder why the “nones” are on the rise…

 

I don’t have to wonder too much more nor too extensively nor deeply.  If as a nation, we cannot even mention the importance religion has played in this country, it’s no wonder we have trouble doing the same in our own lives.

 

Respectfully…

AR

yes means yes

So how do we do it?  How do we ensure that our ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ means ‘no’?

 

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them… Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’  When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

 

Why do we have such a hard time telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

 

Or perhaps better said:  why are we so tempted to distort the details?

 

Wouldn’t we have more respect for the person who leveled with us — who didn’t attempt to manipulate the facts and therefore manipulate the impressions we possess?

 

As most of us are aware, last week was the first presidential candidate debate.  It was watched by an approximate 60 million people.  It has also been widely reported that Gov. Romney exhibited a clear, superior performance; in fact, according to Gallup, Mitt Romney won the debate by a jaw-dropping 52-point margin — the most resounding margin since the independent polling company began tracking debates 20 years ago.

 

Now let’s be clear, friends; there is no reason for Romney surrogates or supporters to initiate any attempt at a victory dance.  This was the first of three presidential debates and one vice presidential sound off.  This is also only one of many aspects and incidents that influence the eventual outcome.

 

And yet…

 

Instead of acknowledging Romney’s clear, better debate performance, several Obama surrogates and supporters attempted to steer the conversation elsewhere; they attempted to distort the details.

 

From Obama spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter…

“I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney.”  [… blaming the moderator…]

 

From senior advisor, David Plouffe…

“He [John Kerry, Obama’s debate preparer] couldn’t keep his pupil in the seat… We thought being an older, white rich guy, him and Mitt Romney would have a lot in common. We didn’t take into account that John married money, twice, and Mitt earned his through capitalistic thievery.”  [… blaming the debate coach…]

 

 

Campaign advisor, David Axelrod, blamed Romney.

Filmmaker, Michael Moore, also blamed John Kerry.

David Letterman blamed George W. Bush (with yes, his tongue semi-in-cheek).

 

But the most obvious distorter?

 

Former Vice-President Al Gore…

“I’m going to say something controversial here.  Obama arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started.  Romney did his debate prep in Denver.  When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust. I don’t know…”

 

Yes, Al Gore blamed the altitude.

 

Friends, while many of the undecided were undoubtedly influenced, most of us won’t be voting for one candidate or the other solely based on last week’s debate performance.  But note to all:  please have the decency to be honest — to let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ — to refrain from distorting the details in order to serve your own purpose.  “When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”  That was obvious after last week’s debate.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR

throwing trash

Nearing the end of the first playoff game of the 2012 MLB postseason, one of baseball’s historically most controversial calls was made…

 

With 1 out and 2 base runners, the Atlanta Braves were threatening the 3 run lead of the St. Louis Cardinals.  A ball was then hit to short left field, where the shortstop ran backwards quickly to make the catch while the left fielder also sprinted in.  At the last moment, the shortstop backed away, and the ball hit the ground.  No catch.  The crowd went wild!  The bases were now loaded.  Except…

 

Lost in the crowd’s newfound exuberance was that the left field line umpire had called the Texas-league-looking blooper an ‘infield fly,’ meaning the hitter was out and no runners may advance.  The rule exists so that a defensive player doesn’t allow the ball to drop intentionally, in order to catch the runners in a double play.  Hence, after the call, there was little more threatening of the Cardinals’ lead.

 

As said multiple times recently amidst these posts, this is not a sports blog.  We will not be dissecting the perils and pitfalls of the infield fly rule.  Instead, my desire this day is to focus on the crowd’s reaction.  What did they do?  What every disappointed, discouraged, and semi-organized group of people seems to do these days…  as for 19 minutes, play was halted.

 

Bottles and cans went flying on the field.  The crowd went wild once more.

 

People were throwing trash — passionately dispensing their litter all over the field.

 

Here’s today’s zillion dollar question:  when do we ‘throw trash’?

 

When do we dispense litter —  all in the name of passion?  … emotion?

 

After Wednesday night’s presidential candidate debate, we witnessed a lot of trash….

 

“That moderator was terrible… he lied… how dare he pick on Big Bird… the altitude — that’s what caused the problem — that’s why the President looked so incredibly inarticulate…”

 

Yes, when we can’t logic our way out of things, we throw our trash on the field.

 

Watch out, friends, I have bad news for you…

 

When people can’t win on the objective alone, they become emotional; they begin to play dirty; they start throwing trash.

 

After the initial presidential debate — when by all accounts, Gov. Romney soared and Pres. Obama looked lost in thumbing through economic explanation — the Intramuralist sadly predicts, we will be encouraged to throw more trash.  The campaigns are about to start playing dirty.

 

News alert:  if you think that only the Obama campaign will play dirty, you are naive.

 

Also:  if you think that only the Romney campaign will play dirty, you are equally naive.

 

This is the dire state that the American political process has evolved into.  Both the Obama and Romney campaigns will now play dirty.  The President looked terrible on Wednesday.  He looked as if he had little comprehension of economic issues — seemingly articulately lost without without a teleprompter and script; my sense is his campaign will subtly suggest he has little other choice.  The Governor will most likely play equally dirty.  The reality is that dirty, character-smearing politics works.  That’s sad.  It’s sad that the watching public succumbs so easily.

 

Here we go, friends… a month ‘til we vote.  Thank God it will soon be over.  No longer will have to listen to our Facebook friends justify calling one or another any derogatory part of the human anatomy.  I have trouble with that.  It’s disrespectful.  It’s most representative of the name-caller’s own foolishness.  Egad.

 

Watch out.  Just like in Atlanta, self-serving, political operatives will be encouraging us to delay the game… shout profanities… and throw our trash.

 

Respectfully,

AR

your turn

So today is an open invitation…  just like all days, you are free to comment, although today, I want to wholeheartedly encourage you.  This is your opportunity to influence and encourage one another.

 

What issues are driving your vote this November?  What concerns you?

 

My desire this day is to have you write the blog.

 

The ground rules are this:

1.  As always, be respectful.  That means no disparaging terms describing any candidate, person, or people group.

2.  Be brief.  In order to have an interactive discussion that informs and challenges, let’s try not to talk too much, but rather, get to the point.  Sometimes we say more with fewer words.

3.  Be factual and specific.  Too many people base their concern (and their vote) on perspectives beginning with “it seems like” or “I feel.”  The oversight with that approach is that individual experience often trumps truth. I would encourage you as much as possible to be factual and objective, remembering that a subjective approach has significant potential to distort reality.

4.  If sharing any external link, utilize an objective source.  Hence, nothing from MSNBC or rushlimbaugh.com, for example, qualifies as objective.  And…

5.  Be witty.  It’s actually not a ground rule.  I just appreciate wit.

 

Ok, friends, comment.  Drive the discussion.  What issues concern you most this coming election?

 

Respectfully,

AR

an imperfect church… imperfect people

I couldn’t stop thinking about one tangent comment from Sunday’s post regarding divisiveness:  It’s “not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.”

 

I realize that many will quickly quip how we can discern in totality who God is and what he wants from his people.  That’s an excellent question and an even greater pursuit.  It’s also a question that we probably can’t answer in entirety.  Yet the lack of answering in entirety should not dissuade us from attempting to answer.  Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.

 

I believe wholeheartedly, no less, that the contemporary American church is often an imperfect reflection.  So are the European churches.  Asian.  African.  Churches and people… we are each imperfect.  And we are incapable of being pure substitutes for divine reality.

 

God is not reflected well by those who embrace terrorism.  For those who believe that the killing of the infidel somehow merits eternal reward, such is inconsistent with the Creator of the world — the Creator, thus, too, of the people being mercilessly destroyed.

 

God is not reflected well by those who have physically or sexually abused others within the church.  For those who have gut-wrenchingly misused the intimacy and respect forded by church authority, especially with young men and women, such is inconsistent with the One who calls us to respect all life.

 

God is not reflected well by those who in the name of God shout hatred…

 

… nor by those who turn a blind eye to one side so they can remain focused on the other…

… nor by those who believe either the Republican or Democrat parties are all good (after all, they, too, were created by imperfect people)…

 

God is not reflected well by those who are arrogant… compassionless… unforgiving… and self-focused.

 

No, this idea that we need to spend so much time focusing on self is not representative of who God is.  My sense is God is much more humble than any of us could ever be.

 

The challenge, therefore, with “all of the above” lies within how we process what we see.  The watching world often forgets that the church is imperfect..  that all of God’s people are imperfect… that you and me are imperfect.  And in that forgetting we still make conclusions as to who God is and what he wants from us because we say, “I don’t want to be like that!”  “I don’t want anything to do with that!”  But yet, those conclusions are based upon imperfection.

 

Nowhere, friends, is it logical to derive conclusive, impassioned opinion based on what’s imperfect — or perhaps better said, based on what may be inaccurate.  Imperfect people — and thus inaccurate representations — are inherently incapable of modeling for us always and consistently who the Creator of the world actually is.

 

So what are we to do?

 

One, we must refrain from defining who God is based on so much emotion and individual experience.  How we feel doesn’t always necessarily line up with what is good and true.

 

Two, we must pursue God.  If there is a God out there who wants something from his creation, then I want to figure that out.  I’m sensing something along the lines of, “If he loves me and created me, then he probably wants me to love him back.”  Seems like a wise place to start.

 

And three, we must keep asking questions… even the tough ones.

 

Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.

 

Respectfully,

AR

division

Some things never compare to childhood learnings.

 

I was perhaps barely a teenager… in that age when you’re growing up, observing adults, aware of when things just aren’t pure and good, but also not quite certain how to process the lack of purity and goodness.

 

My family attended a small midwestern church.  It was a special place to my family; but during this particular time, we had a pastor who seemed to be struggling.  It was obvious from my teenage perspective that his leadership was questionable.  Some seemed to revere him; others, well, were seemingly unoffensive with their words, but yet, I knew something was off.  Even at a young age, I discerned that our pastor’s authority was questioned by a significant many.  His leadership was not entirely effective; in fact, it seemed only effective with somewhere near half the congregation.

 

Sometime thereafter, I remember our pastor making several emphatic, controversial statements from the pulpit.  Again, something seemed off.  Then through a series of events that were somehow hidden from an observant teen’s eyes, the pastor did something that to me — simply put, even in my elementary understanding — felt wrong.  In order to continue his professional tenure — knowing his leadership was significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the body, he articulated a refusal to resign.  Granted, as a kid, I’m not sure it was necessary he resigned; he was an honorable man.  But what happened next was also not necessary…

 

He asked us to vote.  To vote on whether he should stay… or he should go.

 

Friends, that vote served one purpose and one purpose only; it divided the people.

 

This post is not about my childhood pastor.  It’s also not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.  This post is about how and why sometimes our leaders intentionally employ division.  Just like my childhood pastor, he chose to divide the people in order to survive.  I wonder if that is happening again now.

 

As Pres. Obama said recently on “60 Minutes, “I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in a political slugfest… I haven’t fully accomplished that.  Haven’t even come close in some cases…  My biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.”

 

Some days I wonder if Pres. Obama has increased the division.  I must thus also wonder, just like my old pastor, if the division has been intentional.  A few observations…

 

One, Pres. Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric regarding unifying our country was so inflated, it has been impossible to obtain…  “There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America”…  “I’m in this race not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation”…  “We will remember that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea:  yes, we can.”

 

And yet, it is no secret that at times the President has pointed out what divides us…  Black vs. White… Republican vs. Democrat… Wealthy vs. All Other Classes.  He also has pursued divisive policy.  For example, as he prioritized health care reform even when our economy was flailing, he did so behind closed doors on a partisan basis with no majority, public support.  Unity was irrelevant.  Hence, from my limited perspective, division has often been encouraged in the past four years, especially nearing elections.  I thus ask why.

 

Truthfully, I can’t answer that question.  When Obama came to office with a contagious message of hope and change, I was impressed.  I wanted the tone to change.  I wanted us to change our spending patterns; and I wanted to change the divisiveness that has existed in the USA ever since lobbyist restrictions were eased during the Carter administration.  I looked forward to greater unification, lesser partisanship, and decreased government intrusion.  But that’s not what hope and change have evolved to be.

 

I can only surmise that just like my childhood pastor, the President believes the division is somehow necessary to maintain his current professional tenure.  Knowing his leadership is significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the nation, something must be done to spark his supporters’ passion — even if that means intentionally dividing the United States of America.

 

The Intramuralist will always be seriously disappointed — regardless of party — in any who utilizes a strategy that intentionally divides in order to propel one’s own election… as some things never compare to childhood learnings.

 

Respectfully,

AR

a price tag on integrity

Some days I wonder… can you place a price tag on integrity?  Is there something for which integrity will be sacrificed?

 

I caution you not to answer too quickly.  My keen sense is that far too many of us actually — but subtly — perhaps even unknowingly — allow a price tag to be placed.  The tag seems to slip so easily on.

 

We observe, in fact, the small things, the actions and words that may seem minute, but are yet, fairly reflective.  My wonder thus centers around how even the “little things” chip away at one’s character… at seemingly good people… at even you and me…

 

For example, in the most recent Monday Night Football game — also known as an incredibly poor display of accurate officiating — with all due respect to the replacement refs, who truly aren’t experienced in this area (but are finally done, thank God!) — the Seahawks won the game on a last second ‘Hail, Mary’ heave.  The disgrace is that all replays showed a Packer in possession of the ball.

 

I am struck by the reaction from the Seattle Seahawk faithful… specifically from coach Pete Carroll…

 

Carroll said as he viewed the play, the Packer defensive back had the advantage in the air, but “when we finished the catch we had the ball, and they had the ball too, so it’s simultaneous…  They called it and the league backed it up, and game over, we win.”

 

Carroll is obviously loyal to his team.  Well done, coach.  Yet to act as if he saw something that few outside of suburban Seattle saw is disingenuous.  It discredits him.  “Little” as his comments may be, the skewed perspective sacrifices his integrity.

 

But why?  Why would someone allow a price tag to be put on integrity?

 

Friends, this blog is not about sports nor about Pete Carroll.  Carroll has led several teams well.  My question is why Carroll would act as if he knew something the rest of the watching world did not… that only he knew the complete truth?  Would he even, possibly, lie?  Perhaps he considers the skewed perspective only a “little lie,” yet such only serves as a dart in his integrity.  The bottom line:  why would one sacrifice something so meaningful — and so difficult to get back?

 

Carroll obviously had something to gain.

 

Skewed perspective is rampant — almost so frequent that we oft fail to notice…

 

Another example… each month Pres. Obama announces his “jobs created” numbers.  Now granted, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office, the Intramuralist is not one who believes government is the creator of jobs.  My strong economic sense is that it’s a far more accurate explanation to say that government makes the conditions “ripe” or “less ripe” for jobs to be created, with the private sector providing the majority of employment opportunity.

 

Nonetheless, each month the administration announces the jobs government has “created” under their leadership.  The inherent, arguably disingenuous challenge is that also each month, jobs have been “lost,” as a specific amount of jobs must be new each month solely to keep pace with the birth and immigration rates.  Thus, to announce what’s created as opposed to the net gain or net loss serves as an inaccurate picture of the economy.  Why would any announce only the “created jobs”?  Why would they not acknowledge that half of the employment picture is omitted from that perspective?  … a half that changes the perception of what is actually true.

 

I return to 3 predominant questions — questions not just for candidates and coaches, but also, for each of us…

 

Would we ever sacrifice our integrity — even with the “little lies” or omissions?

Is there a point at which a price tag can be placed upon our character?

And are we most tempted when we have something to gain?

 

Yes… yes… great questions…  even more challenging to answer.

 

Respectfully,

AR

silenced

Perhaps you’ve noticed…  If you’re a fall football fan (and please don’t quit reading if you’re not — as I promise this message is not about sports), there’s been an unusual development that supposedly we’re not allowed to talk about… or at least those closer to the source have been silenced.  For example…

 

Two timeouts were given to the San Francisco 49ers, who had no timeouts.

 

A 20 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was given to the Washington Redskins, even though such behavior only merits 15 yards.

 

An Oakland Raider was hit in the head, helmet to helmet, which is illegal contact; the player was carted off the field and subsequently hospitalized; no penalty was called.

 

And last night the Seahawks beat the Packers on one of the most ambiguous, controversial, shakiest touchdowns ever called.

 

Pass interference has been constantly questionable.  Officiating has been completely inconsistent.  Incomplete passes have somehow evolved into fumbles.  In other words, far more than footballs have been fumbled.

 

As those of you who are sports fans are well aware, the NFL referees are on strike, having been locked out by the league.  Replacement refs are currently officiating games.  Note:  since most large conference college refs are bound to their conference, the replacement crews were recruited from smaller college divisions, the United Football League, Arena Football League, and — yes — even the Lingerie Football League.  These referees do not necessarily have the skill nor experience to do what we’re asking them to do.

 

We are asking them to officiate… to be in charge… to preside over an event in which large sums of money are involved… to lead.  But yet, they just don’t seem totally qualified.

 

Question:  what are we to do when leaders aren’t quite qualified to do what they’ve been called to do?

 

… to manage people?

… to oversee all operations?

… to comprehend the financial aspects?

 

Are we able to acknowledge weakness, especially when our leaders may or may not be qualified?

 

After week 2, with the replacement refs’ errors becoming more frequent and glaring, the NFL decided to step in, responding to the escalating complaints.  How did the National Football League respond?

 

Senior league officials called the owners, general managers, and coaches from all 32 teams, telling them that they expect better treatment for the referees; they will no longer permit the perceived disrespect.  NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said, “We’re not going to tolerate it,” affirming that flags, fines, and suspensions are possible for coaches and players who violate this instruction.

 

Coaches and players cannot be disrespectful… even with questionable, inconsistent, and fumbling officiating.

 

At the onset of this post, I claimed this message would not be about sports; it’s not.  This is about how we react to ineffective — or unqualified — leaders.

 

In no sense would the Intramuralist advocate intentional disrespect; however, what strikes me in the NFL’s response is not so much the disrespect, but rather, the perception that the referees cannot be significantly questioned or disagreed with; their lack of qualification is not a permitted topic.

 

Such causes me to think of one of the more glaring challenges in leadership today, for leading has become more about rhetorical promise than actual capability.  We aren’t good about saying, “Here’s what I’m gifted at; here’s what I’m not.”  We aren’t good at accepting significant, challenging questions.  We love to speak of strength — but we rarely acknowledge individual weakness.  We don’t like to admit that one we believe in may not be thoroughly qualified.

 

That includes those that should or shouldn’t be in government — and those that should or shouldn’t be a referee… even in the lingerie league… especially at last night’s Packers/Seahawks game.

 

Respectfully,

AR

sensitivity or respect

It began approximately 35 years ago…

 

A unique, fairly sensational photograph was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition.  The 1987 photo focuses on  a small cross… with Jesus Christ nailed to the boards.  Christ and the cross are then submerged in the “artist’s” urine.

 

One more detail…  The competition was sponsored in part by American tax dollars, as the National Endowment for the Arts was involved in the funding.

 

Having been since damaged after being exhibited in multiple international museums, the artwork — entitled “Piss Christ” — is returning to Manhattan this coming Thursday.

 

Interesting.

 

Meanwhile, across the globe, Muslim extremists are fighting and protesting and engaging in anti-American, violent behavior.  In Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Libya, Kashmir, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan… tens of thousands of protestors are burning American flags and effigies of President Obama.  There’s startling video of children in Pakistan, out on the streets, shouting “Death to America!”  The outrage — and extent of the outrage — is troubling indeed.  Some days the possibility of world peace seems so incredibly unattainable and far away.

 

The American government’s response has been fascinating.  They continue to focus on a brief video made by one American.  They have denounced the video that some purported to have spontaneously fueled the protestors’ passion; however, most intelligence now acknowledges that the initial 9/11 Islamic attacks were intentional, planned, and possibly coordinated; the video was not the primary instigator.

 

Our government, no less, has denounced this video.  Pres. Obama and Sec. of State Clinton have even appeared on Pakistani television — paying for commercials that publicly share their stern denouncement; they do not approve.

 

The truth is, the Intramuralist doesn’t care for the video either.  While I will always advocate for a factual analysis of faith — noting what’s inherent in any religion that prompts such erratic, brutal behavior — I will also advocate for a respect for all religions.  Let me be clear; respect is not the same as acceptance as equally good and true.

 

The challenge for me today then is this…

 

Our government has clearly denounced any disrespect for Islam.  Since his early days in office, Pres. Obama has been very supportive and consistent in reaching out to the Islamic world.  America is not at war against Islam.  We are not.  We are at war against terrorism — which in this instance, has been initiated by Islamic fundamentalists.  Pres. Obama has attempted to mend many of the misconceptions within those efforts.

 

Yet in what seems to be a very intentional approach, I remain fascinated…

 

We denounce the video that seemingly disrespects Muslims.  And yet… we are quiet about something labeled as “art,” that defiles the Jewish Messiah in Manhattan.

 

Our government is quiet.

 

I don’t totally get this, truthfully.  I mean, I know there are partisan faithful who talk so loudly on radio and TV that they try to influence the rest of us in this area.  I get kind of tired of hearing them.  (Yes, I often fast.)  But it seems to me there is some sort of added sensitivity of the Muslim world and faith that our government does not freely nor generously extend to other religions…  I don’t understand how our government called the shooting in Ft. Hood by the Muslim man “workplace violence,” but the Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee by the caucasian man was instantly referred to as “terrorism.”  Aren’t they both terrorism?  Can’t we call them that?

 

What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid of how the extremists will respond?  Are we trying to ignore the violent extremists — and attempting to promote Islam as always peaceful?  And if the government is wrestling with how to truly separate church and state, shouldn’t they be supporting both the Muslim video and the defiling of Jesus Christ in the name of free speech?  … or denouncing both?  Why one and not the other?

 

I don’t understand.  I don’t understand whether this is actually respect or hyper-sensitivity.  I’ve simply observed that the treatment is not the same.

 

Respectfully,

AR

media fast

In a society where subjectivity is masked as objectivity…

 

… where opinion is offered as news…

… where persuasive rhetoric is free-flowing…

… the following story disturbs me…

 

Dozens of emails have been uncovered between the Department of Justice and Media Matters.  Public Affairs Director Tracy Schnakler and Media Matters staffers planned and discussed how to attack reporters who covered potential improprieties in which the department’s reputation was in question, such as the Black Panther voter suppression case and the “Fast and Furious” gun operation scandal.

 

Here’s the problem:

 

Media Matters is a subjective, partisan advocacy group.  It started with millions in donations from liberal philanthropists connected to the Democratic party.

 

The Department of Justice is to be an unbiased branch of government, funded by our tax dollars.  There is no ethical reason for an objective government entity to coordinate efforts with a liberal advocacy group.

 

Hence, with less than 50 days prior to the election, the Intramuralist must again encourage you (if you dare pay attention) to receive your news from a “newsworthy” site.  If your primary news comes from The Huffington Post, you are being seduced by liberal rhetoric.  If your primary news comes from The Drudge Report, you are being enticed by a conservative slant.  Opinions that come from these sites do not qualify as news; we cannot fool ourselves by thinking otherwise.  I often find their sensational headlines to be embarrassing, especially if thought to be equated with good, responsible journalism.

 

As said here previously, we encourage being as “least skewed” as possible, as paying attention to “skewed” sites does not make any of us an informed voter; it only makes us a manipulated one.  We thus recommend 2 sites for nonpartisan information:

 

www.realclearpolitics.com

 

www.rasmussenreports.com

 

Both of the above sites offer extensive liberal and conservative opinion, and no slanted opinion is manipulated to appear as if it is something it is not…  unlike The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.

 

Let me therefore respectfully challenge all Intramuralist participants — acknowledging that in the next 2 months, partisan faithful will be charging after us, caring not if they distort the truth; their goal is only to obtain our vote.  Truth is lesser in importance.

 

My challenge, therefore, again comes comparable to fasting…

 

Those who embrace fasting as a personal discipline speak of its many benefits.  Most prominent among them are good health, minimization of toxins, and a strong renewal of a pure mind, thereby allowing their bodies and brains to function more effectively.   Persons who regularly fast attest to thinking more clearly and feeling better about themselves.

 

If we were to “fast” from skewed news sources for the next 50 some days, I wonder…  would it minimize the “toxins” from our brains?  Would omitting the hereby identified propaganda and persuasive rhetoric assist us in thinking more clearly?  That is, what would happen if we agreed to eliminate the employed rhetoric which allows us to mythically believe we are receiving accurate news?  … which emboldens us into thinking we are informed voters?  … and which allows us to think our passions and perspectives are potentially, possibly, self-righteously pure?

 

I prefer functioning effectively.  I prefer minimizing the toxins… minimizing the Huff Posts, Drudge’s, and opinionated journalists on TV.  They are not news.  Thus, I’m becoming a new fan of fasting… starting now… for at least the next 50 days.

 

Respectfully,

AR