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Christian Practice · I’m in Regina, Saskatchewan with family for the holidays. Someone said “Let’s go to a Christmas Eve carol service” and five of us did that. We went to Lakeview United, where “United” signifies the United Church of Canada, the biggest Protestant denomination up here. It was uplifting and pleasant and sort of sad. Disclosure: I’m not Christian at all; but still ...
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Jing ’an Temple · Its sprawling golden roof, all curls and curves, dominated my hotel’s neighborhood visually. This is impressive since its neighbors are towering skyscrapers and gleaming malls. I wouldn’t say it really belongs on Shanghai’s must-see list, but there were some awfully nice pictures to be taken inside ...
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Graven Images · San Cristóbal hill (Cerro San Cristóbal) rises 300m above Santiago, Chile. On the hill are a park, a zoo, a Japanese garden, and some really great views when it’s not too polluted, but the summit is about that old-time religion, in this case Catholic. Pope John Paul II rode the funicular to the top and gave a mass, in 1987. I rode it last week, along with some French hipster tourists, in the car with the best view, which still has a plaque about John Paul ...
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The Old Testament · Our son, now 9½, still enjoys having something read to him at bedtime. So, having finished Huck Finn, we’re doing the Bible. He’s never been to Sunday School, so this is his first exposure. We’re working our way through Exodus and I’m developing a real attitude problem about that particular God ...
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Honen Again · I’ve written before about the Honen mission in Lahaina on Maui, but I’ll never visit this island without dropping by ...
 
Tab Sweep — World · Welcome to the 2008 dispatches-from-the-front flow ...
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1921 Church · Here are three shots of the oldest Swedish Lutheran church in Canada, which you’ll find down a side road off a side road that doesn’t go anywhere else ...
 
Blasphemy · If you’re going to publish blasphemous pictorials about Middle Eastern prophets, the least you can do is be funny, as in Jesus and Mo. The quality is up and down, but I liked this one. Actually, I do have two serious comments about the Danish-cartoons/Muslim-riots story. First of all, a lot of people in Arab dictatorships genuinely have no notion that a press can be independent, so getting mad at the whole country is a little less loony than it sounds. If a Syrian paper published something nasty (actually, I suspect they probably do), it would be entirely appropriate for reasonable people to get mad at the Syrian government. Second, I have advice for religious people who don’t want their prophets or deities or symbols blasphemed against: curb your crazies. Let’s run through some newsmakers in recent times who claimed to be faith-driven. On the Muslim side, there’s Mohamed Atta, President Ahmadinejad, and various other racist crazies; for the Christians, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and their legions of smarmy grasping ditto-heads; and for the Jews, Baruch Goldstein and Yesha’s “transfergenocidaire-wannabes. The Christian batshit-loonies differ from the others in being apparently less murderous but vastly more hypocritical. To all the excellent Christians and Jews and Muslims out there: I know you exist. But you’re vanishing from view behind the cloud of mucky dust being raised by your lunatic fringe; as of right now, in the twenty-first century, when someone claims to be deeply religious, that’s grounds for suspicion of bigotry, greed, and a predisposition to homicide. Which is one reason my little boy isn’t being taken to church, for the moment.
 
Christmas Eve · Three pictures and a famous story ...
 
No Religious Courts · Ontario, the province in the middle of Canada that’s the biggest and richest, was coming under pressure from Muslim community activists to allow “voluntary” use of religious tribunals in civil family-law cases. There are a couple of obvious problems with this. First, some aspects of Muslim religious law are profoundly incompatible with modern Canadian values, which tend to regard women as persons more or less equivalent, legally, to persons who are not women. Another problem is that the Muslim world does not exactly have consensus on exactly what Sharia law says, let alone what it means. On the other side, there were two arguments, one bad and one plausible. The bad argument was that the choice of religious courts was “voluntary”. I put the word in quotes for a reason; to an oppressed women in the grips of a semi-closed immigrant culture, the right to opt out of Sharia would be theoretical at best. The second argument is that it turns out that Ontario apparently already allowed Jews and Catholics to opt for religious tribunals, and given that, it’s really tough to say “no” to the Muslims. In a refreshing outburst of sanity and fairness, the Ontario government simply banned all religious tribunals. I can’t imagine anything more sensible; if living in a civilized society means anything, surely it means one rulebook for everyone, regardless of which God they believe in. Unsurprisingly, at least some of the Jews and Catholics are irritated. They get no sympathy from me, and good on the McGuinty government. [Update: informed follow-up from Rob.]
 
Buddha and the Insect · We were visiting the Honen Buddhist Mission in Lahaina, and found the great Buddha there untroubled by small things ...
 
Three Chapels · The Brussels airport has three chapels all in a row: Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic. I found myself walking back and forth spending time looking at each, and now you can too, without going there ...
 
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