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Showing posts from September, 2010

An Open Letter to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox

Dear Attorney General Mike Cox,

As a minister, a long-time Michigan resident, and also a University of Michigan alumna, I write to you imploring you to fire Andrew Shirvell for conduct unbecoming a State of Michigan employee.  Every Michigan employee has the right to their own political opinion and freedom of speech, and those must be protected, but Andrew Shirvell’s behavior has undoubtedly gone beyond mere political opinion and into the realm of hate speech, cyber bullying, and cyber stalking in his actions regarding the University of Michigan student body president.  As a state employee, he has lost the public’s confidence that he can perform his duties without bias.  Andrew Shirvell’s behavior is deeply troubling and unethical, and that he considers it within the normal realm of political discourse makes it all the more troubling.  Thank you for already recognizing his immaturity and lack of wisdom.  I hope you will take this matter further in the days to come, and urge you to con…

Wedding Tips - Part 2

(See here for part 1.)

Clergy know that in many cases we're just one more prop in the elaborate affair that is your wedding.  The problem is, we went to theological school for three to five years to learn our profession, and for us a wedding service is a religious ritual.  And it's demeaning to know you're being picked not because of your professionalism but because you have a nice building or because you have the right "look" for the wedding day or will look good in the pictures.  We know you're shopping around based on location and whether or not you like us, but try to hide that a little, please.  Basically, we want to be treated like professionals, and nowhere do we get treated less professionally, sometimes, than weddings.  And don't tell us something like, "Well, we want to be married by a priest, but we can't because it's our second marriage, so we had to come to you, but we'll get this blessed by a priest afterward."  Great-…

Wedding Tips

I only perform a handful of weddings per year, but I've been performing them for over ten years, so that's plenty of time to see some of the best and worst examples of wedding behavior.  And every year lately I've been thinking of writing up this list of dos and don'ts, but I shy away lest a particular couple think it's all about them.  Trust me, folks, it's not.  Everything on here has been done by multiple people, and sometimes it's a colleague who mentioned the particular issue I'm listing.

1.  Entitlement & Importance - Your wedding is important... to you.  For your clergy person it's just another wedding, to some degree.  And for some clergy people who are barred from legal marriage due to lack of same-sex marriage in most states, it can be a bit of a thorn in the side that couples can have a sense of entitlement about their marriage without looking at the bigger societal picture.

2.  Religion - Presumably you've come to a clergy perso…

Qur'an Burning Hits Home

Well, the Florida pastor decided not to burn a Qur'an last Saturday, but somebody in East Lansing did.  While the local Muslim group was out participating in peaceful interfaith work in the community, somebody left a burned copy of the holy text on their property.  Some are calling it free speech, others a hate crime.  Yes, it is symbolic action.  But this Qur'an wasn't just burned on a church's property and left there, it was dumped on the doorstep of the mosque.

I would protect your right to burn a Qur'an or the flag or the Bible or any other heavily symbolic item on your own property, as long as the burning is done within proper guidelines for fires.  Of course, I wouldn't defend your choice as a good one. 

However, that doesn't give someone the right to bring that hateful symbol they've created and shove it in the face of a community that it means a lot to.  As the article linked to above rightly points out, you can't paint a swastika on the wa…

Islam, Fear, and Lies

I recently was in a discussion about Islam where a person said something like, "I had heard that the terrorists were just extremists, and the rest of Islam is peaceful, but then I got some e-mails that said that the goal of Islam is world domination, and that Muslims are allowed to lie about their faith if it serves the goal of spreading Islam, so how can you know what the truth is?"

I was a bit stunned into silence.  And the conversation moved on rather quickly, and before I gathered my thoughts, the moment was lost.  I'm still planning to go back to this person and see if we can have a longer conversation on Islam, one-on-one, or bring a presentation on Islam to this group that was meeting, but in the meantime, I'm, well, blogging...

I actually hadn't heard this particular myth that Islam was focused on world domination and that Muslims would lie to achieve this, so couldn't be trusted.  So I did a web search on "Islam world domination lie" and th…