Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are We Afraid of Islam?

There is no question that there has been much discussion and many comments in these past several months from a variety of people concerning Islam.  Much of it began when it was announced that a group of Muslims wanted to open a cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City.

Then, of course, we heard about the attempt on the part of an evangelical pastor to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.  Just where do we stand as Christians and Jews or people of other religious persuasions (or none) on the topic of Islam?

There is no question that Muslims in New York have a constitutional right to build a cultural center wherever they can obtain property and have the financing to do so.  Whether they should build it within several blocks of Ground Zero is the question.  I believe that if they would bring more discrimination against Muslims by doing it they might want to reconsider.  But they have a right and should be able to exercise that right.  I was pleased to see how well received a similar cultural center has been accepted here in the Capital District of New York.

What are we afraid of?  People need to remember that those who perpetrated the attacks against the U.S. at the World Trade Center were "radical" Muslims - people who had twisted the message of Islam to meet their own needs and hatreds.  Muslims were also the victims of 9-11.  There are extremists in any group or religion who tend to alter the basic beliefs of the group to their own ends.  We should not let the actions of people like this to change our attitude toward the larger number of peace-loving and God-fearing members of a group or religion.

"Islam" means "surrender."  Perhaps we need to reach into our own hearts and surrender any prejudices we may have against those who practice Islam.  We are all God's children no matter what name we use to call on him.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tony Blair

I just finished reading a great book - A Journey: My Political Life - by former English Prime Minister Tony Blair.  I found it a most interesting read and would recommend it.

Tony Blair was a progressive Prime Minister succeeding to that role after several years of domination of English politics by the conservative or Tory party (one of whose Prime Ministers was the famous Margaret Thatcher).  The book outlines Tony's struggles to rebuild the Labour Party and trying to infuse change into the political scene.  He was elected PM in 1997 and won two more elections, resigning from the post in 2007 during the middle of his third term.  He is now involved in a number of international efforts toward peace one of which is a Faith Foundation through which he hopes to see the world's religions working together toward peace and harmony in the world.

While one may not agree with all of the policies or political stands he took in his political life, he comes across as a genuine individual whose primary concern was for the welfare of the people he was called to serve and his country.  I think what he says toward the conclusion of his book speaks of the life he has led and continues to lead:

My new life takes me around the world.  There is a common theme to what I do.  My theory of the world today is that globalization, enabled by technology and scientific advance, is creating an interdependent global community, in which, like it or not, people have to live and work together, and share the world's challenges and opportunities  The drivers behind this are not governments, but people, and it is an unstoppable force.  Its consequences, however, are a matter of choice.  We can choose, in the face of this force, to co-exist peacefully, to be tolerant and respectful towards each other, to rejoice in the opportunities now available to us, and try to share them.  Or we can see globalization as a threat, as displacing our traditional way of life and culture, as undermining our identity.  The first leads to a world at peace; the second to conflict.  Both choices are an offer.

Would that politicians and world leaders would heed these words; they could mean so much to our world if they were heeded.  Thanks to Tony Blair.

The New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are in a race to the finish to see if they will top the Eastern Division of the American League (they are now 2 1/2 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays - their closest competitors).

I admit to being a Yankee-phile and look forward to them winning another pennant and hopefully another World Series.  But let's look at a little history.  I wasn't always in favor of the Yankees.  Some years ago I did not want to see them succeed; I thought they were too rich and could buy their way to victories, etc.

What changed my mind?  It's rather not what changed by mind but who.  Two people became part of the Yankee organization and those two helped turn my loyalty around to supporting the Bronx Bombers.  The two are Joe Torre (former Yankee manager) and team captain Derek Jeter.  Both are to me examples of quintessential gentlemen who work hard and play hard but are good examples of what good sportsmanship is all about.  There was some diminution of my affection for the Yankees when they failed to offer Joe Torre a reasonable contract a few years ago which saw him leave and become manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But Torre is still loved in NY (witness the reception he received the other evening at the ceremony for the unveiling of the Steinbrenner monument).

Derek Jeter is a remakable baseball player - both offensively and defensively.  He no doubt will someday be placed in the Hall of Fame but still has some good years of playing ahead.

So thanks to Joe and Derek for helping me to like the Yankees and let's hope they go on to victory again this season!

What Is CMT?

CMT - Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder (named for the three physicians who discovered it in 1886) is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy.  It affects over 2 million persons worldwide and is found in both males and females and all ethnic groups.  It is a disease of the nerves that control muscles (unlike Muscular Dystrophy which is a disease of the muscles themselves).  It is slowly progressive and causes loss of normal function and/or sensation in the lower legs/feet as well as hands/arms.  It is not usually fatal or known to affect life expectancy but can become severely disabling.

Why do I write about CMT?  At age 13, my youngest daughter was discovered to have some kind of neurological problem.  It was not until she was 25, however, that the diagnosis was confirmed by her primary physician.  She now wears leg braces to assist her in walking and recently had to begin using braces for her wrists because of the degeneration of the nerves in her arms and hands.  She can no longer work in her chosen occupation - teaching (for which she obtained two master's degrees).  She has a very upbeat personality but there is no doubt that the disability has affected her overall well-being.

This week (September 19-25, 2010) has been designated as National CMT Awareness Week.  It is hoped that through more awareness of the disorder funds can be raised to assist in research to find effective treatments for the disorder.  If you wish further information about CMT, you may contact the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association at 2700 Chestnut Street, Chester PA 19013 or visiting online at

What Do We Do With the Poor?

In Psalm 113 we read:  Who is like the Lord, our God enthroned on high, looking down on heaven and earth?  The Lord raises the needy from the dust, lifts the poor from the ash heap, seats them with princes, the princes of the people...(NAB)

If God has a preferential option for the poor can we do less?  It has been both disheartening and heartening over the past few days to read about the various reactions to poverty in our nation and in the world.  In a story the other day in the Washington Post, it was pointed our that there was little reaction from politicians in Washington over the news that now one in seven Americans is living in poverty - what has been called a "national emergency."  Yet the reaction on Capitol Hill reflects what the writer calls "a stubborn reality about the poor - they are not much of a voting constituency."  It would seem from this reaction that what many are saying about our elected representatives may be true - they may be more concerned about their election chances than worrying about a segment of the population that are not usually in the voting mainstream.  One representative put it this way:  "Politicians ten to talk to people who get involved."

It was also disheartening to hear a comment made by a candidate for major public office in this state that New York (supposedly under his leaderhip) would no longer be a haven for "the poor and the disenfranchised..."  Where are the poor to go?  Are they no longer welcome in New York (or other places where folks may feel the same way)?

The heartening news has been that the United Nations has been conducting a summir on global poverty in an attempt to meet the goals set out in 2000 - the Millennium Development Goals.  These goals set the year 2015 as a target year for aiding the poor throughout the world by asking nations to commit to aid the poor.  Of course when there is an "open mike" for world leaders to make their points it is unfortunate that some have chosen to focus on international disputes rather than focusing on the issue of poverty.  A pledge from French President Nikolas Sarkozy should be well received by those concerned with dealing with poverty in the world.

God has a preferential option for the poor - where do we stand?

Monday, September 20, 2010


This is my inauguration into the world of blogging.  I hope to share some thoughts, views, etc. as I go forward.  Please let me know your feelings and thoughts about what I may share.  Thanks.