Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jessica Handler's new book "Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Sharing stories of personal loss can be difficult and telling them well so that they benefit both the writer and the reader is even more difficult. Jessica's book helps the writer find that perfect balance.

This is Jessica's second book. Her first was her memoir "Invisible Sisters." I would be a big fan of this excellent book even if I wasn't mentioned near the end of the book.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do they dance at your church?

This happened when I was in high school. A black girl who I didn’t know asked me, “You’re Jewish, aren’t you?”

She was really beautiful which was intimidating. I wasn’t used to pretty girls talking to me who didn’t have to. I was used to people asking me if I was Jewish. The question that usually followed was, “What do Jews think about Jewish?” So, I had mixed feelings about this beautiful black girl talking to me.

“Yes, I’m Jewish,” I replied.

“Do they dance at your church?”

I didn’t see that one coming.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I heard that Jewish people dance during church services. Is that true?”

The only time I remembered dancing during a service at my synagogue (I didn’t bother to point out that we attend synagogue instead of church) was on Simchat Torah. I had mixed feelings about the holiday because it celebrates coming to the end of the Torah scrolls (finally) and starting from the beginning again (what?). I explained that Simchat Torah was the only holiday that included dancing as part of the service, but normally we didn’t dance at all.

“I thought ya’ll danced in circles at your church,” she said.

“You’re thinking of when we dance the hora. We only do that at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and only in the social hall after the service.”

“Oh, I see,” she said thoughfully.

I was feeling good. I had just had a conversation with a pretty girl and hadn’t sounded like a complete idiot. But her original question nagged at me and I just had to ask.

“Don’t they dance at your church?” I asked.

She smiled. “Oh yes. We dance all the time.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

God's Laws vs. Man's Laws

Biblical Law is seen by Fundamentalists as a way to inject Judeo-Christian moral values into our society by replacing Man’s laws with God’s laws. Really? Are we really ready to make the Ten Commandments the law of the land? Has no one considered the consequences?

Let’s start with Adultery. You make that a crime and you’re looking at a whole bunch of politicians facing hard time.

What would be the punishment for taking the Lord’s name in vain? My guess is that it would be a misdemeanor with a fine based on how you took His name in vain. Maybe say $100 for every “God damn it” and $500 for something really offensive like “Jesus H. Fucking Christ on a stick!”

Let’s not even go into making idols. What don’t we make into idols? Yes, this is where the American Idol comment should go, but I know you probably already thought of a good one, so why should I try to top it?

My favorite is the First Commandment: Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before ME! This to me is the basis of the covenant between Man and God. God is saying that you go straight to the source for enlightenment. No middle men. And though we were created in His image, we have to take on faith that He is there for us and we are here for Him even though we have never seen his face. Simple and to the point. But then the Christian religion throws in Jesus. Isn’t that putting someone before God? You can try to explain that it isn’t breaking the first commandment because of the Trinity and that Jesus really is God and His Son and that the carnal mind will only truly understand this paradox in the Kingdom and and and…

But let’s be honest here. Jesus is a God placed before God and for the literal minded “persons of faith” who say that if it’s in the Bible than it’s true and not open to interpretation, then you are breaking the First Commandment. If we added Biblical Law to our judicial system, what would be the punishment for that?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fear of a Christian Nation

In 2001, after Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court was forced out of office for putting a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama State Judicial Building, Roy loaded his monument on the back of a flat bed truck and took it on tour. Did Roy think that carving the Ten Commandments in granite would somehow give the words more gravity than they would on a simple piece of paper? Surely he knew that only religious fanatics like himself would be impressed by his virtuous road show.

When the flat bed truck pulled up in Georgia, the Atlanta TV news crews were there to get the best soundbites from fundamentalists with the thickest country accents. A comment from a chubby man with a bushy mustache and wearing a baseball cap and glasses caught my attention.

“In America,” he explained with more than a hint of righteous indignation, “you’re free to be a Muslim, a Jew, or a Satanist as long as you remember who’s in charge and understand that this is Christian Nation.”

I didn’t mind being lumped in with the Muslims, but how did the Satanists become part of our Axis of Non-Christian Religions? Do Satanists even get the same tax exemptions as other religions?

The man’s statement shows why I fear America ever becoming a true Christian Nation. How free would I be if I’m supposed to remember that Fundamentalist Christians are in charge of my life because I insist on continuing to pray to the wrong God?

The debate over whether America is or should be a Christian Nation goes back to the birth of our country. I believe the Founding Fathers didn’t want us to be a Christian Nation because religious freedom could only flourish if all religions, like all men, were treated equal.