Friday, December 4, 2015

See yourself as not separate

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2015 at 3:04 PM

If awakening involves transcending this suffering world, we can ignore its problems. If the Buddhist path is psychological therapy, we can focus on our own individual neuroses. Yet both of those approaches assume and reinforce the illusion that I am essentially separate from others, and therefore can be indifferent to what they are experiencing. If “I” am not separate from others, neither is my well-being separate from theirs. Today this means that we are called upon not only to help other individuals deconstruct their sense of separation (the traditional role of a bodhisattva) but also to help our society to reconstruct itself, to become more just and sustainable—and awakened. 
That's a quote from David Loy from his most recent book, A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World.

According to local poet Robin Izer, Loy "is one of the most prominent voices in the Buddhist arena today offering engaging responses to the climate crisis and exploring how enlightenment, evolution, and ethics are merging to create a new path for sanity and sustainability of our planet."

And Loy's presenting a lecture titled "Why Buddhism and the Modern World Need Each Other" at 7 tonight, for free, in Colorado College's Cornerstone Arts Center.  

Don't expect the author and teacher to go too easy on attendees. On the event flier, he writes: "Will Western Buddhism end up all too compatible with our individualistic consumption patterns, with expensive retreats and initiations catering to over-stressed converts eager to pursue their own enlightenment? 

Hear his answer this evening. 

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What's wrong with this picture?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 1:32 PM

This t-shirt was being sold at the BX at Fort Carson until yesterday. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • This t-shirt was being sold at the BX at Fort Carson until yesterday.

Is this sentiment Islamophobic enough for you?

Believe it or not, this t-shirt was available in the PX on Fort Carson until late yesterday or early today.

Only after Mikey Weinstein with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation got involved was it removed from a store. The photo was taken on Monday. Maybe this t-shirt was made by the same folks who champion Ben Carson for president. (Carson has taken heat for saying a muslim shouldn't be allowed to serve as president of the United States.) Carson and his supporters apparently think there should be a religious litmus test for those who hold public office, a direct contradiction of the U.S. Constitution.

In any event, MRFF, with more than 200 clients at Fort Carson, jumped on the issue and had to go up the chain of command to some human resources department before the PX would require it's removal, Weinstein says.

Weinstein, who's asking the Army Inspector General to investigate, issued this statement:
On behalf of its almost 43,000 armed forces active duty and veteran clients, which includes approximately 13.5% of all Muslim-Americans serving in the United States military, and its 224 clients stationed at Fort Carson, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) expresses unmitigated outrage that the Army leadership at Fort Carson permitted the selling of that virulently Islamophobic and disgusting T-Shirt at its official Post Exchange store. The juxtaposition of that shocking image and text message on that T-Shirt epitomizes the wretched plight of prejudice and bigotry which innocent Muslim-Americans all too often suffer whileso honorably serving in today’s service branches.

MRFF has provided substantial testimony to the United States Congress specifically on this sad matter on more than one occasion.
The fact that this matter happened at Fort Carson, a major military installation which has had so many of its soldiers killed and grievously wounded in the War on Terror, only miserably magnifies the malfeasance of permitting that “Shirt of Shame” to be sold at its Post Exchange.

MRFF demands that the Army Inspector General’s Office in Washington D.C. initiate an immediate and aggressive investigation of this sordid event and that all Fort Carson personnel who either directly or indirectly allowed this travesty to happen be appropriately and visibly punished.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

UPDATE: Weinstein makes new demand of the Air Force Academy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 4:42 PM

UPDATE: The Air Force Academy spokesman says the school will not comment on Weinstein's demand.

———————ORIGINAL POST 4:42 PM WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015 ———————————————————-

Mikey Weinstein, the crusader against religious bias in the armed forces, will ask the Air Force Academy to remove the words "in the year of our Lord" from diplomas for the class of 2016, which graduates in May, he tells the Independent.

Because, he says, "We all know whose lord that is; it's a special seal of approval."
Weinstein: Wants the USAFA diploma changed. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Weinstein: Wants the USAFA diploma changed.
The request comes not from Weinstein himself, but rather from a small group at the academy calling themselves The Spartacus Group, which pretends to be fundamentalist Christian to find a more hassle-free pathway through the academy, where favoritism of Christians is well-documented over the past dozen years.

Weinstein sat down with the Indy on Wednesday at the, well, we're not going to tell you, because the 1977 academy grad lives in a world of high security due to a constant stream of threats of violence against him and his family. His wife, Bonnie, wrote a book about all that. He's had the windows of his house in New Mexico shot out twice, slaughtered animals left on his door step, swastikas painted on his house, and death threats too numerous to count over the years. He's been called everything, to include a liberal, commie, satan-loving, atheist, gay activist. For the record, he's Jewish and prays in Hebrew three times a day, he says.

He stopped in Colorado Springs on his way to a family event somewhere else in Colorado, and we'll leave it at that.

Weinstein, 11 years after establishing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, reports his organization now has 42,345 clients, 402 of them at the Air Force Academy. Most are Christians.
Spartacus, he says, contacted him to request he make the case on the diploma issue. This issue arose at Trinity University of San Antonio, Texas, a Presbyterian school, in 2010 when Muslim students petitioned to have it removed. We're checking on how the request was resolved and will update when we learn more.

Anyway, Weinstein says this group of cadets realizes that "in the year of our Lord" is a traditional phrase, but then, so was "Bring Me Men" over the terrazzo until the Air Force made the academy replace those words in 2004 amid the sexual assault scandal with the Air Force motto: "Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence In All We Do."

We've asked the academy for a comment on Weinstein's request, which has yet to be submitted, and will update if and when we hear something.

Meantime, Weinstein says the academy continues to be a cauldron of religious influence, with "para-churches" still active through the academy's SPIRE program (Special Programs in Religious Education). These include Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry, the Navigators and the Officers of Christian Fellowship, he says.

He also says it wasn't long ago that an academy staffer wrote 1+3=4 on the classroom board, explaining to cadets that one savior, plus three nails equals forgiveness. Another staffer put a big red heart on a classroom board this past Valentine's Day with the words, "Jesus Loves You," he says.

"There's a deafening silence from Michelle Johnson," Weinstein says, referring to the lieutenant general who currently serves as superintendent.

Although Johnson, he says, claims to have made a commitment to diversity and mandates training in religious sensitivity, then why does the diploma still carry this phrase, which some see as offensive or not reflective of their belief system?

Because, he continues, the academy is a hotbed of "fundamentalist Christian fascism and totalitarian oppression and tyranny."

"Fish in an aquarium never see the water," he says.

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy, on the other hand, has been responsive to MRFF's concerns, Weinstein reports, despite Caslen himself being an evangelical Christian. "He realizes there's a time, place and manner to follow the 'great commission,'" he says, referring to the New Testament directive to go and make disciples of all nations.

"We haven't had a single issue, because he understands this," Weinstein says.

Before dashing off to return dozens of phone calls and emails, Weinstein's parting shot is a quote of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, who said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

He adds, "As long as I breathe, my goal is to be the demander to the commander."

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Former Dem leader to give talk on Palestine

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 10:13 AM

Many were surprised when Christy Le Lait, the leader of the El Paso County Democratic Party for six years, recently stepped down.

Le Lait is moving to Florida to be with family and try something new. Before she leaves, you can say your goodbyes to her on August 10 when she leads a talk entitled "An Atheist Democrat in Palestine." Should be interesting.


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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Klingenschmitt manages to anger his own party

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 2:54 PM

Rep. Klingenschmitt
  • Rep. Klingenschmitt
They say that no press is bad press, but Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, may beg to differ.

When Klingenschmitt, who likes to call himself "Dr. Chaps," is not legislating, he's preaching on his online ministry, Pray in Jesus Name. The show's deeply offensive content about LGBT people and women (among other people and topics) has long been noted — like that one time he called a 6-year-old transgender child a demon — but apparently, didn't prevent Klingenschmitt from being welcomed into the Republican fold at the State House. (It did, however, get his ministry added to the Southern Poverty Law Center's anti-LGBT hate list in 2014.)

Anyway, Klingenschmitt recently crossed a line even most State House Republicans couldn't ignore when he claimed that an attack on a pregnant woman, in which her nearly full-term baby was ripped from her womb, was a "curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open.”

This didn't sit well with the woman in question, Michelle Wilkins, who lost her baby. She returned Klingenschmitt's $1,000 donation to her family. Apparently, it also didn't sit well with House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, who removed Klingenschmitt from the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee as punishment. Others were also upset. Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, drafted a letter stating that he believed Klingenschmitt's interpretation of the Bible was in error. Even Klingenschmitt has apologized for his statement and taken a six-week sabbatical from Pray in Jesus Name in order to focus on his work in the legislature.

Klingenschmitt has a few defenders who say he shouldn't be punished for speaking his mind on his own time — something Klingenschmitt also maintains. But others say the legislator hasn't been punished enough and that he should resign his seat. Not surprisingly, progressive group ProgressNow Colorado is in the latter camp.

ProgressNow Colorado Calls For Gordon Klingenschmitt’s Resignation

DENVER: After nearly a week since video surfaced of Colorado Springs Representative Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s outrageous remarks on the horrific assault on a pregnant woman in Longmont, ProgressNow Colorado, the state's largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Republican leadership to call on Dr. Chaps to resign.

“Enough is enough,” said said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Republican leaders in the House and Senate have had almost a week to hold Klingenschmitt accountable, and there he is, still representing Colorado’s 15th House District despite his offensive behavior.”

On Monday, House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso removed Klingenschmitt from one of his two committee assignments, saying it was one of the “few tools” he had for discipline [Denver Post, 3/30/15], prompting fellow Republican Justin Everett to call the move a gesture to “save face” on the House floor today.

State Sen. Owen Hill, another Republican from El Paso County, took the additional step on Monday to send an email calling for Klingenschmitt’s resignation.

Yet silent on the whole matter is Senate President Bill Cadman, a fellow Colorado Springs Republican, who represents Klingenschmitt’s district in the state Senate.

“There is more the legislative leadership could do if they just had the courage to do it,” added Runyon-Harms. “Every day that Klingenschmitt is in office is an insult to the people of Colorado.”

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Lamborn: My big fat abundant life

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Lamborn is third from the left. - TWO C'S PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Two C's Photography
  • Lamborn is third from the left.

Congressman Doug Lamborn
is sending out Christmas cards that contain a photo of his family at a wedding (who got married isn't stated) with the headline, "It's a Wonderful Life..."

On the back is a seasonal greeting and then this: "...I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. — Jesus Christ."

The piece, mailed to an undisclosed number, was paid for by Lamborn for Congress. How much was spent isn't known, because the expense isn't discernible in his latest campaign finance filing, through the period ending Nov. 24.

The card came to us anonymously through a recipient/constituent, who took Lamborn and other lawmakers to task for not being more sensitive to those who don't have as much as they. Lamborn knocks down $174,000 a year as a congressman.

A note from the constituent made this observation: "Mark 8: 2-9 in my view, humble as it is, would be a good Bible verse for our wealthy elected officials to share." That verse states: "Jesus said to His disciples: 'My heart is moved with pity for the crowd...' He took seven loaves and a few small fish, blessed them and distributed them. About 4,000 people ate [and were filled]."

The constituent then noted the following prayer as one that lawmakers like Lamborn might want to ponder:
Oh, God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry. When I have work, help me to remember the jobless. When I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless. When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer, and remembering, help me to destroy my complacency and bestir my compassion. Make me concerned enough to help, by word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Lamborn has taken up the cause not of the poor, jobless or homeless, but rather Christians. Last week, he spoke on the House floor in favor of a resolution regarding Christmas.

"Nine out of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas," he said, noting there has been a "troubling effort to remove symbols and traditions of Christmas" from public spaces.

For example, he said, an "anti religious organization" in Colorado filed a lawsuit last year against "school officials" for their involvement in Operation Christmas Child. (No lawsuit was filed, actually.)

Though he didn't say, it appears Lamborn was referring to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's opposition to the Air Force Academy urging cadets to participate in that Christmas Child  effort. MRFF's founder Mikey Weinstein says no lawsuit was filed. Rather, he adds, "All we did was force the Air Force Academy to move the program under the chaplains and away from the commanders for the obvious constitutional reasons."

Here's an account from MRFF in November 2013 of what happened:
Yesterday, we were contacted by 120 cadets and 12 faculty members — 132 total, out of whom 118 are of the Christian faith, either Protestant or Roman Catholic. They reported that senior Cadet Commanders were issuing memos to the entire Cadet Wing (USAFA student body) urging cadets to vigorously and enthusiastically participate in “Operation Christmas Child,” a project of internationally-infamous Islamophobe Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization. Ostensibly meant to bring a bit of “Christmas cheer” to children in disaster areas and war-stricken nations, this missionary program masquerading as an innocuous charity uses deliveries of toys and toiletries as a Trojan horse to sneak Graham’s fundamentalist Christian ministry of Jesus Christ into “heathen” nations such as Japan, Libya, Haiti, and Iraq.

MRFF immediately jumped into action against this blatantly unconstitutional memo - and it wasn’t long before an official letter of apology was emailed to the entire U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Wing on behalf of the Cadet Wing Vice Commander (the second-highest ranking cadet at the Academy).
Lamborn's speech went on to call groups such as MRFF a "vocal minority" and to note, "These petty efforts by groups offended by the religious significance of Christmas violate the freedom of religion our forefathers provided for us in the Constitution.... I have introduced a resolution to protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas for those who celebrate the holidays. We cannot allow those who choose to take offense to shut down the religious celebration of every other American."

Every other American?

From Weinstein:
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has truly outdone himself in terms of the breadth and depth of his Constitutional dereliction and his vituperative evangelical Christian sectarianism. Lamborn is a breathtakingly ignorant, World Class(less) fundamentalist Chrisitan bully, surpemacist and brazen bigot. He is even a disgrace to the gutter dwellers he is often compared to.

Firstly, it’s not the business of the United States military to mark, as he seems to imply, the “humble birth of our savior on a holy night 2,000 years ago.” Let me remind readers that those who serve in our armed forces solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; it is NOT their role to uphold one or another particular religious faith (or no faith) or its associated holidays and rituals.

Secondly, if Lamborn was implying that it was the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) which filed a lawsuit to prevent the participation of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child (OCC), then that implication is absolutely false and is the product of either woeful ignorance or deliberate calumnious deceit. What did happen was that MRFF filed a complaint on behalf of 132 Academy personnel, the vast majority of whom were Christian, urging that participation in the OCC evangelical Christian fundamentalist charity be placed under the auspices of the Chaplain Corps, and not the Cadet Wing or other USAFA command leadership.

Lastly, MRFF is not a parochial atheist organization (about 96% of our nearly 40,000 armed forces clients are Christians themselves), but is a Constitutional civil rights organization devoted to stopping fundamentalist Christian predators like Rep. Lamborn who are quite literally 'hellbent' on seeing that not only civilian legislatures but the draconian spectre of military command influence is used as a crude and blunt instrument for unconstitutionally forcing helpless subordinate service men and women to accept their own sectarian, bigoted, and fundamentalist biblical worldview.

We asked Lamborn's spokesman how much in campaign money was spent on the Christmas card and how many were mailed, but haven't heard back. We'll update if and when we do hear something.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sangre artwork going into the 2015 Catholic missal

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Cash's "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe." - SANGRE DE CRISTO ARTS CENTER
  • Sangre de Cristo Arts Center
  • Cash's "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe."
"Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" a painting by Marie Romero Cash that belongs in the permanent collection of the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, has been chosen as one of 21 images to go into the 2015 Roman Catholic Missal.

The missal, which is used in masses around the world, and according to Sangre, is mandatory in the United States, contains prescribed prayers, chants and other sacred instructions. Cash's work was chosen by the Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved by the Holy See in Rome. It will be used in the section devoted to the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, set for Dec. 12.

Cash, a New Mexican artist, has created religious art since 1975, including commissions from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe to create the 15 Stations of the Cross that was followed by a similar, smaller commission from Albuquerque's The Cathedral Church of St. John.

Cash's work was donated to Sangre by Bishop Arthur Tafoya as part of a group of 63 santos (images of saints or angels) he gave to the museum in 2011. It's part of Sangre's hefty collection of such artwork. "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe (who appeared before Juan Diego in 1556, according to the official Catholic account) in vegetable paint on wood with a tin frame. Sangre will put it on display in 2015, with a copy of the missal.
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Monday, December 1, 2014

Updates on Mikey, Klingenschmitt

Posted By on Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 3:36 PM

We've reported for many years on Mikey Weinstein and his campaign to uphold the U.S. Constitution's ban against government-sponsored religion in the military.

He's written a couple of books about his exploits, and now his wife, Bonnie, has come out with a book as well. The book is actually a compendium of hate mail she and her family have received due to Mikey's activities. The book is being promoted with billboards, like this one pictured below in California.

The sign was rejected by two billboard companies, Weinstein tells us, as being too inflammatory and vulgar, but a mobile billboard service agreed to display it.

Static billboards were also purchased that carry the same image of Bonnie Weinstein with the words: "What in God's name is happening?"

Speaking of Weinstein's exploits, last week, his attorney sent a letter to Gordon Klingenschmitt recently asking him to stop praying for Weinstein's and his family's demise as he has in the past, which gave rise to a federal lawsuit. That case was dismissed, because Weinstein couldn't prove that the prayers were directly tied to some of the threats and attacks on his home, such as when someone scrawled a swastika on his home. Then, Klingenschmitt sued Weinstein for defamation. That case is pending, which gave rise to this letter on Nov. 19:

Pretty interesting that Klingenschmitt now is complaining of getting threats against him. As reported by the Gazette earlier this month: "Maybe that includes me. Maybe I need to tone down my rhetoric, but there have been liberals who throw rhetoric at people of faith and I think are stirring up these crazy people on the left. They are inciting violence."

Speaking of Klingenschmitt, who was recently elected to a House District seat from El Paso County, he lost his case last week with the Court of Federal Claims in which he was seeking full pension benefits.

Klingenschmitt has claimed he was court martialed for praying in Jesus' name, but in reality, the court ruled, he actually was punished for wearing his uniform to a political event in violation of a direct order not to do so. As the court ruled:
The Order did not limit Dr. Klingenschmitt’s right to engage in any religious practices (including presenting an opening prayer at the event or invoking the name of Jesus in his prayer). It simply prohibited Dr. Klingenschmitt from engaging in this activity while wearing his uniform at what was clearly a political event and not, as Dr. Klingenschmitt seems to suggest, a bona fide religious service.
In the way of background:
Klingenschmitt graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1991 and served in the Air Force for 11 years before becoming a Navy chaplain in 2002. In 2006, he was found guilty of disobeying an order by wearing his uniform to a political protest at the White House in March 2006, according to the Washington Post. Simultaneous to that, Naval officials recommended his "involuntary release" from the Navy "due to lack of career potential," the Post reported at the time. The New York Times reported in March 2007 that he had been honorably discharged. A letter from the Judge Advocate General's Corp. to Klingenschmitt barred his "access onto all military installations within Navy Region Mid-Atlantic" after Jan. 31, 2007, according to Klingenschmitt has been quoted widely that his discharge after 16 years cost him a "million dollar pension."

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Congressional panel takes up religion in the military

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Weinstein: Will speak to Congress. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Weinstein: Will speak to Congress.
For the first time, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been asked to testify at a congressional hearing.

The MRFF's founder and chief Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., will testify on Sept. 19 at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Here's the notification he received from the House:
Mr. Weinstein, in follow-up to our phone conversation, the Military Personnel Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) and ranking member, Susan Davis (D-CA), are holding a hearing on religious freedom in the military on Friday, September 19th at 8 a.m. in 2118 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is expected to last from 8-10 a.m., and we expect to have 3 other witnesses from outside organizations testify. There will be no government witnesses at the hearing.

We appreciate your consideration to agree to testify. A hearing invitation letter will be sent to you, which will include the details of submitting a written testimony, along with your disclosure form. We ask witnesses to keep their oral statements to 3-4 minutes to afford greater interaction and dialogue among members. In addition to the subcommittee members, we expect members of the committee to attend the hearing, along with potentially members not on the committee given the interest in this topic.
Weinstein says he understands he'll be one of at least four witnesses.

"This gives a voice to those in the military who don't have a voice," Weinstein says via telephone. "We currently represent more than 38,100 active duty members, including 379 cadets, faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy." Most identify as Protestant and Catholic, he says.

"This is a victory for our clients and our staff and for the U.S. Constitution," he adds. "I'm honored for being given the opportunity."

Weinstein recently spoke at Duke University and is slated to speak on Sept. 26 at Patrick Henry College, an Evangelical Christian-based school in Purcellville, Va., in its newsmaker series.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ted Haggard criticizes handling of Sheriff Maketa controversy

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 4:59 PM

If you’ve been waiting for New Life Church founder Ted Haggard to weigh in on the current Sheriff Maketa controversy, the wait is over.

Banished from his own church in 2006, the scandal-ridden pastor has been preaching the gospel of tolerance ever since. In a blog posted last week titled “Should Sheriff Maketa Resign?” Haggard likens Maketa’s treatment in the press to his own.

“[Media outlets] influence us to the point that we wrongly believe we know enough about a subject to have an informed opinion,” writes Haggard. “However, many of us who have had first hand knowledge of a situation and then contrast the facts we know with news accounts, too often, find the press inept."

For those who haven’t been following the story, the El Paso County sheriff is being investigated for allegations of giving preferential treatment to subordinates with whom he's accused of having intimate relations. In a video distributed to sheriff's office employees over the weekend, and made public by the Gazette, Maketa admitted to having "engaged in inappropriate behavior in the past," but said again that he has no intention of resigning.

Haggard's post (written before that video came out) essentially cautions against a rush to judgment. Besides editorials calling for the sheriff to resign, which have appeared in both the Gazette and the Indy’s sister publication, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, county commissioners last week asked Maketa to step down.

“Once the facts are established, we all support accountability and justice,” he writes. “We have a system for that, but if we are not careful, we all might unintentionally participate in the dismantling of that system by returning to, in effect, lynch mobs. Even if the accused is guilty, shouldn’t someone protect them from the crowd until the facts are established?”

You can read the blog in its entirety here.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

India revisited: the good work continues

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Editor's note: This posting was edited on May 2 to remove information not intended for public circulation.

When reporting in Kolkata, India a few months ago, for our "Trading Places" feature, in connection to Yobel International, I spent an afternoon with a very remarkable couple from New Zealand named Paul and Sarah Beisly

For reasons ranging from the pre-mature timing of the Beislys business launch to my own editing of the overall narrative for conciseness, I opted not to include the Beislys story in my final draft — knowing that I'd eventually tell part of their experience here. 

That time has arrived, thanks to The Loyal Workshop (Facebook page coming soon) now being much closer to launching, as a fair-trade shop following in the fine footsteps of nearby Freeset, with whom the Beislys have spent much time volunteering and preparing for their own business. 

Just as Freeset works to liberate women from the sex trade in the Sonagachi neighborhood, The Loyal Workshop has slowly and patiently been forging relationships inside of another Kolkata red light district called BowBazar with intent to employ women with dignified labor.  

The Beislys aim to launch with a leather satchel line which will be assembled by area women and sold internationally at shops like Yobel Market. (Contact Yobel directly in future months to find out if and when The Loyal Workshop's goods will join Yobel's ethical leather lineup.)

For more background about the couple, and a little more backstory about how
The Loyal Workshop founders Sarah and Paul Beisly, modeling prototypes of the leather bags they intend to begin selling soon. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Loyal Workshop founders Sarah and Paul Beisly, modeling prototypes of the leather bags they intend to begin selling soon.
 they came to be working in Kolkata: 

They initially ventured to India for the first time in 2002 and visited FreeSet, then both went to bible college, becoming youth pastors for six years. For the next three years, they moved into a destitute government housing area in New Zealand, mentoring 10 young adults and " trying to figure out what it means to love god and our neighbors in that context," in Sarah's words. 

While pastoring, they'd lead student trips periodically throughout Asia, including back to India, where they began to develop a vision for longer-term engagement in the area. They've now resided in Kolkata for a little over two years, having spent another year in Bangladesh doing language study. With financial support from back home, they've since been volunteering at Love Calcutta Arts and Freeset to "just to really understand how business works here and what life is like for the women," says Paul. 

While at Freeset's pastoral arm, named Tamar, the couple describes "sitting with the women in their community and learning about what things they like to talk about, which questions aren't rude to ask, all those sorts of things."

They've also made a number of brothel visits and simply spent time being on the streets in BowBazar to forge relationships. 

Describes Sarah: 
It takes a lot of visits to build trust. The first time, with one particular lady, she won't look me in the eye or acknowledge me, and the second time she might look me in the eye. The third time she might have the courage to say hello and then after the 10th or 15th time, we told them about [a possibility to] leave the trade. We're like, 'We're starting this business in your area for the women on the line so you can have a choice of freedom' and they look at me like, 'This is good. I'll wait for you, I'll quit the trade.'
Back in January, as our Yobel Exposure Trip team enjoyed a lunch in the living room of the Beisly's small flat they were living in, prior to moving into BowBazar, I surveyed the couple's bookshelf, easily identifying influential materials. 

If you desire to learn where a couple finds the courage to haul their two toddlers to India to live amongst the poorest of the poor, look no further than writings by Mother Teresa (internationally revered for her work in Kolkata, where we volunteered for a day at the Mother Teresa Center), Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, author of Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.

Alongside India guidebooks and the Hunger Games series (yes, it is everywhere), inspirational films like Born into Brothels, Tree of Life and Invictus were found. 

I recall asking the couple how they mentally face what appears to be an insurmountable task and maintain hope and optimism — particularly after a lengthy and scary illness near 2013's close faced by Sarah, which left her bedridden for five weeks — and the following is what they collectively offered during ensuing conversation, playing off one another's answers. Just as the words offered by the aforementioned, notable figures have provided inspiration to many, for decades now, I personally, as a reporter in an immersive experience, found the Beisly's comments below to be quite impactive, regardless of and with respect to their religious belief.

 ... Right off the outset that goal is an impossible task for us — like, we can't do that — we have to rely on god. We want to see god transform every area of these womens' lives: the trauma they've suffered, the relational breakdowns, the stigma in society, health issues. It will take a miracle — we come with an impossible task. We just do the small little things that we can do and rely on god for the big stuff. ...

I just have such a sense of the fact that its not our work, it's god's work. He's at work restoring his will and he's doing this beautiful miraculous thing of taking a broken wheel and working in the most dark, horrible places and restoring life and giving new hope and that it is his work, and he's inviting us to be a really tiny part of it. And that's a privilege. We can't own it. We can't assume that we can fix the problems in Calcutta. ... It's just coming back around to a daily reminder of how much we need him, a reminder of the fact that we can do nothing apart from him. That's the feeling I get constantly when I visit the red light areas. There's nothing I can do. Like, it has to be Jesus, and it's quite nice having that reminder because it takes the pressure off us. It's not actually about us. The minute we start to think that we are the answer, that we start to think we can figure this out and fix the problems, then we mess peoples lives up and burn out and have to go home. ...

To view India or Calcutta's problems on the macro scale is just absolutely frightening and completely crippling. But maybe from a different perspective, if we come here and live amongst the people, it becomes us loving our neighbor, and I can do that. I can show them love in various ways. That I can do, and maybe in that small act of love there can be a greater wider impact, but that's out of our control. ...

Nothing worth doing is going to be easy, it's so true. Our culture that we come from is all about seeking comfort — the path of least resistance. So we seem very freakish to do this, but really the gospel was not about choosing the easy option.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

UPDATE: When it comes to the Bible, Colorado Springs is nothing special

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 10:32 AM


Update, 11:18 a.m.: wrote me to offer some hope: Colorado Springs is ranked 16th on its list. Now that's more like it.

"Note that we’re measuring different things," writes the website. "The ABS/Barna survey is measuring Bible reading and agreement that the Bible is accurate, while our data shows overall usage regardless of how the reader feels about the Bible’s accuracy."


Colorado Springs, we need to talk. The American Bible Society recently released a study showing which 100 U.S. cities "embrace the best-selling book of all time" and the Colorado Springs/Pueblo area came in 56th. FIFTY-SIXTH — five places away from Portland, for Chrissakes, and behind Austin, New Orleans and Detroit. (More reasonably, Denver checks in at 81st.)

Now, you might reason that the liberal bastion to the south dragged us down in the rankings, but c'mon people — we're Colorado Springs! Cited in every article ever composed as the home to Focus on the Family, New Life Church, Compassion International and any other Jesus-y organization you can throw a 501(c)(3) designation at. We're supposed to crush this shiznit.

Stealing our thunder are those Bible-thumpers in Chattanooga, Tenn., which led the list, followed by Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.

"Along with ranking the most and least Bible-minded cities, the study also found that an inverse relationship exists between population size and Bible friendliness," says the society. "Of the top 25 Bible-minded markets, only three have a population of greater than 1 million households: Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Dallas."

[Don't make a rural-America joke, don't make a rural-America joke, don't make a rural-America joke ...]

"Not surprisingly, many cities in the East Coast continued to rank as the least Bible-minded in 2013," it says. "Among them: Providence, R.I.; Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.; Boston; and Portland, Maine."

So there you have it. We're just middle-of-the-road when it comes to daily dips into the scriptures. Nonetheless, as befits our superior ranking: Buffalo, we'll be praying for you.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Dobson hates the homeless: Christmas edition

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM


With all the good things happening in the past few weeks, we plum forgot about some of our "mixed" blessings — for instance, the fact that the good doctor, James Dobson, is still emitting thoughts and phrases.

It seemed possible he had slowed down during the cold winter months, but it looks like the only thing that can stop the J-D-Train is a drunk, homeless guy. That, and running low on money, for it's the latter reason that Dobson has reached out to his flock. Before that, though, let's see where we start in his Christmas newsletter:
As I often do at this time of the year, I want to share a special story that I think you will appreciate. Perhaps you will want to read it when you gather with friends and loved ones. It is titled, “A Baby’s Hug” (author unknown).
What follows is a story of some judgment-y assholes eyeballing a dude's crotch in a restaurant somewhere.
We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. 
Joked the Son of God.
The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. 
Said the Christ Child.
My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum ...
Quoth God's eternal and everlasting love.

The storyteller keeps warming to their descriptions of vagrancy — "avoid any air he might be breathing," "very old smelly man," "grime, pain and hard labor" — until the  little kid jumps on the homeless guy, leading our author to the natural conclusion that Christians should share their kids, like God did.

Anyway, Dobson loves this story, because it reminds him of all the gross homeless people he's ignored in his life.
 It reminds me of our trip to London a few years ago. ... Sitting there in the shadows was an old, unshaven derelict who was obviously drunk. Well-dressed theatergoers were passing him by without a glance. Then I saw a mangy German shepherd snuggled beside him. The dog didn’t care that his “friend” was a bum whom polite society would consider worthless.
Since Dobson apparently did nothing for the bum whom polite society would consider worthless, we're left with canines and little kids as the best examples this newsletter can come up with of people living by the words in Proverbs 19:17, or Matthew 25:40-45 or Luke 3:10-11. Which, bizarrely, Dobson gets, but, you know, doesn't.
Dogs and babies are often more likely to show compassion for the downtrodden and lonely than those of us who have been abundantly blessed. The mother of the baby in our story felt convicted by her revulsion for the old man. Perhaps there is takeaway value here for the rest of us. May I suggest that we think carefully about the message she wrote?

The train-wreck of an analogy keeps going. We start with the known premise that money given to panhandlers is often used for drugs and cigarettes; continue with Dobson's admission that homeless people gross him out — "But is it right to look the other way until the light turns green? I’ve done that many times." — and finish with the thought that people in need are in need of religious tracts.

The purpose of sharing these thoughts with you this month is because they lie at the heart of the Family Talk ministry. ... I hope you have our mobile app on your smart phone and are telling others about how they can listen to solid programs with the click of a button.
I must close by telling you that our contributions during the summer and fall of 2013 have been far below our needs. It isn’t difficult to figure out where that leads. It is likely that this shortfall in income has been caused in part by economic uncertainty and the utter foolishness of Obamacare.
"We're not getting any money and it's probably because of Barack 'The Great Muslim Satan' Obama and it's not hard to figure out where this leads ... so maybe give us all your money."

Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Colorado evangelical leaders head to Washington, D.C.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Will Stoller-Lee
  • Will Stoller-Lee

Christian leaders from across the nation plan to be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. They'll attend an Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform, which is being billed as an "unprecedented, nationwide evangelical gathering on immigration will show a unified evangelical voice echoing a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families and upholds human dignity."

A number of influential evangelicals, including the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, have broken with their allies on the Right to advocate a more humane approach to the starving people who risk their lives to come to this country to wash our dishes and pick our fruit.

According to the Colorado Evangelical Immigration Table, the state branch of a nationwide reform effort we wrote about last June, a number of Coloradans will be in D.C. tomorrow for the rally.

On that list of evangelicals are Colorado Springs' Yolie Lalama of One Child Matters, and Fuller Theological Seminary director Will Stoller-Lee.

We first interviewed Stoller-Lee for a story that examined the Christian responsibility when dealing with the immigrant; and how far the Republican Party has strayed from that calling, despite its touting of the cross.

Here's what Stoller-Lee told us in 2011:

"The Bible is pretty honest about the issue of immigration," notes Stoller-Lee. "God's people have been exiles a lot. It is the story of the exodus. Shortly after Jesus is born, his young family is forced into exile. It's not like this is a minor theme."

Throughout the Old Testament, God instructs the Israelites to be kind to the immigrant. In Leviticus, as in Exodus and Deuteronomy, God is clear that "when a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt."

And here is his recent statement on the current immigration reform being debated in Congress:

As the Director of Fuller Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs I will be joining a group of pastors and ministry leaders from Colorado attending the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform on April 17th in Washington, DC. I am looking forward to meeting with Rep. Doug Lamborn and other members of the Colorado delegation to encourage them to work together toward a truly bipartisan solution. The tone of this divisive debate has changed significantly in the past 6 months as business leaders and politicians have looked for constructive ways to work together on a political solution that is both just and compassionate. At the same time this is a justice issue that demands that people of faith reflect biblically and prayerfully on the how to welcome a new generation of immigrants to our society, and our churches. I began this process by reading through scriptures as part of the "I Was a Stranger" campaign. In the process I have discovered a new group of brothers and sisters who have enriched my journey of faith.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lamborn wants an apology, for Christians

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Congressman Doug Lamborn
  • Congressman Doug Lamborn

According to this article from the thoroughly un-biased, Congressman Doug Lamborn is demanding an apology from the Secretary of the Army:

“This is astonishing and offensive,” read a draft of the letter written by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). “We call on you to rescind this briefing and apologize for its content and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism.”

Apparently, according to the article, "Lamborn is referring to an Army training session conducted last year that featured a presentation listing Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of extremism — alongside Al Qaeda and Hamas."

The article continues that a lieutenant colonel in the Army allegedly wrote an email calling the Colorado-based Family Research Council and the Mississippi-based American Family Association hate groups.

If true, this officer in the Army isn't alone in identifying the two anti-gay organizations as such — both groups are considered "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Read the full article here.

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