Sunday Godblogging

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31–46

God, Sufis, and Garry Wills

The BBC article I quoted in my previous post claims that

Sufis believe that at the core of all religions lies the same truth and that God is the only reality behind all forms of existence.

Whether that’s a fair representation of Sufism I have no idea, but it reminded me strongly of some comments that Garry Wills made during an interview [mp3] with Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum.

Wills’s book is What Jesus Meant, reviewed here by Jon Meacham:

Jesus was neither a politician nor a prelate, and this book’s most significant contribution may lie in its reminder that faith is far too important to be considered solely, or even mainly, in political or ecclesiastical terms. Skeptical of the papacy and of many Catholic traditions, Wills convincingly shows that Jesus was a radical whose essential message to love one another totally and unconditionally is fundamentally at odds with the impulses of those living in a fallen world. Jesus left sundry examples of how one should live not for power but for the poor, not for fame but for forgiveness. But it was God’s own unconditional love for this fallen world of ours that led him to do the unimaginable to save it: he sacrificed his own son. The Passion makes the greatest sense for readers if it is seen as the culmination and ultimate expression of what Jesus had been saying and doing in his few years of public life. “Father, forgive them,” the dying Jesus says from the cross; the Resurrection on the third day, Wills says, bears out the words in the Song of Songs “love is as strong as death.”

I haven’t read the book, but the interview is worth a listen on its own merits.

Sufism in Iran

BBC: Growing popularity of Sufism in Iran:

Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, appeared in the eighth century in present-day Iraq.

Iranian Sufis say Islamic mysticism has become more and more popular in the country in recent years.

No official statistics are available, but Heshmatollah Riazi, a former professor of philosophy and theology in Iran, believes two to five million Iranians practice Sufism today – compared to only about 100,000 before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.

He says Iran is home to the largest number of Sufis in the Middle East.

(Via Robot Wisdom)

Go BRT!

Sierra, the membership magazine of the Sierra Club, published an interview with Jaime Lerner, architect and former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, on the subject of BRT (bus rapid transit) systems.

Jaime LernerJaime Lerner wants to give the bus a makeover. The former mayor of the Brazilian city of Curitiba, population 1.7 million, beats the drum worldwide for BRT (“bus rapid transit”) systems, which transform dowdy bus lines into sleek transportation networks. All it takes, Lerner says, are a few relatively simple modifications—dedicated lanes in the center of the street where transit vehicles run unimpeded, “boarding tubes” where passengers pay fares before their bus arrives, and curb-level entries so they board and exit quickly—and a hefty dose of political will. Today more than 60 cities worldwide—including Seoul, South Korea, with 10.3 million residents—have some version of a BRT. Sierra sat down with Lerner to talk about his experience in Curitiba, the future of public transportation, and the health of cities that depend on it.

Sierra: What about light rail, which many U.S. cities are considering?
Lerner: Light rail is sometimes 10 to 20 times more expensive than a BRT, and it takes more time to implement. But it’s much better than a subway. When you have time and money and are able to subsidize the system, light rail is OK. But when you have to subsidize every ticket, you’re taking money from other social investments. That’s the main issue. You can have a BRT system that’s as good as an underground or light rail, and it pays for itself.

BRT is a fascinating concept, and the interview is well worth reading. There’s more on the site of the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center.

Sunday Godblogging

Has Christianity, in fact, stood for a better morality than that of its rivals and opponents?

Via James Wolcott.

…has Christianity, in fact, stood for a better morality than that of its rivals and opponents? I do not see how any honest student of history can maintain that this is the case. Chistianity has been distinguished from other religions by its greater readiness for persecution. Buddhism has never been a persecuting religion. The Empire of the Caliphs was much kinder to Jews and Christians than Christian states were to Jews and Mohammedans. It left Jews and Christians unmolested, provided they paid tribute. Anti-Semitism was promoted by Christianity from the moment the Roman Empire became Christian. The religious fervor of the Crusades led to pogroms in western Europe. It was Christians who unjustly accused Dreyfus, and freethinkers who secured his final rehabilitation… The whole contention that Christianity has had an elevating moral influence can only be maintained by wholesale ignoring or falsification of the historical evidence.

[snip]

That the world is in a bad way is undeniable, but there is not the faintest reason in history to suppose that Christianity offers a way out… What the world needs is reasonableness, tolerance, and a realization of the interdependence of the parts of the human family. It is to such considerations that we must look, and not to a return to obscurantist myths. Intelligence, it might be said, has caused our troubles; but it is not unintelligence that will cure them. Only more and wiser intelligence can make a happier world.

–Bertrand Russell, “Can Religion Cure Our Troubles?” (1954)

Word: Mill

Lord, enlighten thou our enemies…

Lord, enlighten thou our enemies… sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom: their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength.

John Stuart Mill

Sunday Godblogging

Maintain justice in the courts.

You trample on the poor
and force him to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.

You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.

Amos 5:11-15a

Comments? (update)

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Update: So that experiment failed, too. I tried the wp-spamassassin plugin, but the comment process seemed to hang. Back to manual moderation, at least for now.

Update 2005-06-16. Spam Karma 2-beta and Bad Behavior 1.1.1 installed and working fine–or so it seems.

Sunday Godblogging

Woe to those who make unjust laws…

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Isaiah 10:1-3