Claiming that Apple Corporation knowingly and deliberately copied the look and fee of it’s well know tablet, the Etch A Sketch, the Ohio Art Company has filed suit to keep the iPad from being sold in the United States. When asked why they were not also suing Samsung, maker of the Galaxy Tab, a spokesperson for Ohio Art said they weren’t concerned about losing business to Korea but have been pissed off about Chinese toys for some time now. -AP
That Romney would turn to close associates and his son’s business partners for campaign assistance or a trip on a private jet is not unprecedented. President Obama acted similarly when he paid millions of dollars to David Axelrod’s political consulting firm during the 2008 campaign.
But, as they were back then, questions have been raised about both the type of relationship resulting from these expenditures and whether it is ethical for candidates to use donor money in this manner.
“It is not illegal, but it sure doesn’t smell right when it comes to politics,” said Bob Edgar, chief executive of Common Cause, a national nonprofit advocacy group that first raised concerns about Romney’s Solamere connections to the Boston Globe.
“They themselves have become wealthy by using Romney’s political activities over the past few years,” Edgar said. “I think the general public would question: a. what is this all about, and b. How much is Spencer Zwick making off of Romney, both with the equity firm but also continuing to help him in the development area?”
Like most Christians who went to church last Sunday, I found myself listening to the familiar story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9, But for the first time this jarring line leaped out at me:
“His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22) NRSV
Now, in Protestantland most people are probably reading out of the NIV, which has politically sanitized this verse to say “Jewish leaders” rather than just the “Jews”. But in the ever popular King James bible it is even worse than my NRSV:
“These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”
Just in case anyone missed it, the Early English authors used the words “the Jews” twice, to ensure that we all understand who the bad guys were. You could almost forget that the blind man and his parents were Jewish too. Or that everyone in this particular passage were Jewish, last but not least, Jesus himself.
Am I nitpicking here? Is this just a bit of trivia? Well, not when you consider that throughout the centuries this is how Jesus, his disciples and his adversaries have been depicted, I don’t think you can deny that this Johannine depiction of “the Jews” has shaped much of the Christian world view. Even to this day, as seen in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” or the Millinialist’s championing of Israel for the purpose of advancing Armageddon, antisemitism is thread throughout the fabric of the church. To the detriment of all Christian and, of course, to the detriment of our Jewish neighbors. And to the detriment of world peace.
“Hell is the absence of God”. This is a pithy definition that many Christians find attractive. It shoves under the rug any suggestion that God might have created Hell as a place of eternal torment and punishment for human disobedience. Since God will not force us to love ‘him’, we must make the choice ourselves, or so it goes. And what Christian would not choose the presence of God in Heaven? If God is omnipresent, if “he” is everywhere, then his absence is ‘no where’. Hell is the last death, annihilation. This makes the bitter pill of damnation a bit easier to swallow.
But Jesus is suggesting something else, that God is not in Heaven but may actually spend a lot of time in Hell. Many of his followers readily choose to spend time in Hell, living with and helping those who cannot escape, at least not on their own. Classic examples are Father Damien, Dorothy Day, Albert Schweitzer, Corrie ten Boom, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. Thousands, if not millions, of others, have forfeited comfortable Sunday church meetings, choir practice and Bible study to devote their time and energy in the service of the sick, the poor and the imprisoned. This is where they find God. This is where they lead others to God. Not through pseudo-evangelical proselytizing about Hell and Heaven. Not through fear and intimidation, but through self-sacrifice and love.
The other day I suggested that, to many Evangelicals, both progressive and fundamentalist, if you took away Hell you would take away their vision of Jesus. Hell may even be a more important tenet of the Christian faith than Jesus, because without Hell what is there for Jesus to save us from?
But maybe there’s another way to look at Hell, a way that is not so doctrinaire but more holistic. Maybe the closest we can get to God is in Hell, though not by reflecting on our own pain but through focusing on the pain of others. No gains or rewards, no divine pats on the back. Just encountering the beauty and presence of God in some of the vilest and most horrifying cesspits of the world. Why else would anyone willingly live their lives with those people, in those places? A love of God that I can only imagine.
Perhaps this points us to what Heaven ( or more accurately, the Kingdom of God ) might look like. It’s not a place where we go when we die and it’s not a return of the mythical Garden of Eden. It’s not something God gives to us for being good, but a world that we must earn by working towards eliminating our man-made Hells. Of course, the chances of this happening does not look good, but some amazing people are busy making it happen, one piece at a time.
At that time Jesus and his disciples entered a prosperous land. Hearing of his arrival, many of the people came to hear him speak. Thousands gathered around him.
” I bring you good news. God loves you, all of you. You have no need to fear or worry. Eternal life is yours. Peace and happiness are at hand. “
The crowd began to murmur. They didn’t understand what he was saying.
“How is this possible? How do we get this eternal life you speak of ?” they asked.
Smiling, Jesus spread his arms wide. “Just follow me. I am living this life right now. I have come to share with you the Way of eternal life and how to be in tune with God. You may hear all kinds of people on television pitching their self-help programs, but there is good reason there are so many of them. They don’t work. Not for long. But follow me and I can assure you of eternal life.
” OK, so what’s the catch? How much does this cost? What kind of sacrifices do I have to make?” a man asked.
“There is no catch” said Jesus. “This life is free. No fees. No purchase necessary. No sacrifice.”
“Alright”, another shouted. “Tell us. What is this secret?”
“Simple” said Jesus. “Love each other as much as you love yourself and love God with all your heart. The only way to love God is to love others.”
“How do we do that?” someone asked
“Always put the needs of others before your own” Jesus said. ” Visit the sick and imprisoned. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take in the homeless. And -very importantly – forgive everyone, especially your enemies.”
“That’s crazy!” someone shouted. “We don’t live in some sort of dream world. We have families to take care of – we can’t just bring bums and vagrants into our homes!”
“I have to worry about my kid’s college tuition!” another shouted “I can’t buy clothes for a bunch of slackers. Let ‘em get jobs and buy their own.”
A woman stood up, shaking her fist. “What kind of fuzzy-wuzzy crap is this? Love your enemies?! I guess you expect us to love all those elitist god-haters that want to destroy this great nation? You just want us to open our arms to foreign heathens as they pour into our country, taking our jobs, speaking their own languages, praying to the wrong gods and plotting violent revolution? You’re just a sissy wing-nut that hates his own country!”
The angry crowd turned their backs and began to leave, grumbling and shaking their heads. Nervously, Jesus glanced around. Looking up, he smiled and suddenly jumped on a nearby boulder, waving his arms frantically.
“Wait! Wait!” he cried. “There is another way! A better way! Come back. Give me another chance.”
Most ignored him but some turned back. “This better be good”, they said. They sat down on the grass and waited.
Jesus sat down in the middle of them. ” OK, the other stuff was good, but that was only half the story. This is the real deal. You see, there are these two places called Heaven and Hell….