Saturday, March 17, 2007

After the Peace Rally in Hartford Connecticut

Yesterday, a winter storm bore down on the Northeast, yet it wasn't enough to stop peace activists from gathering at the Old State House in Hartford, CT.

Besides the speeches and chanting there were some creative expressions of people's desire to bring the troops home now.

Fiona, now 5, held up a sign she had made (with Kim's help) as she stood next to the Peace Snowman that a friend of ours made.

Here is to hoping that everyone has been finding enjoyable and creative ways of expressing our desire for peace.

Fiona and the Peace Snowman, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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We've Had This Debate Before

Note: I originally intended to send the below as an LTE to my local paper. Having second thoughts about that, but posting it here seems like a good idear.

The debate has resumed over allowing openly homosexual individuals to serve in the U.S. armed forces. It is a hotly contested issue based, it seems to me, more on emotion and prejudice than logic. Listening to the arguments from both sides, it occurs to me that one, crucial point is never raised; namely, that we have had this debate before.

When I was a youngster, the debate was whether to allow women to serve on a par with men - on ships, in combat, etc. The argument as I recall it boiled down to this: "You can't have men and women serving together in an integrated unit. They'll spend all their time trying to lay one another and no work will get done. It will be the end of unit cohesion and force efficiency." Today, the public doesn't think twice about the gender integrated armed services.

We have had this debate before. In 1948, Pres. Harry Truman ordered the racial integration of the Army, sparking years of resentment and debate. The argument boiled down to this: "You can't have whites and blacks serving together. You can't expect white men to take orders from black officers. You can't expect white men to work shoulder to shoulder with black men, to trust them in the way necessary in combat. It will be the end of unit cohesion and force efficiency." Today, the public accepts the racially integrated armed forces as a natural, unremarkable part of our society.

I am both visually and physically disabled. As such, I will never be expected to serve in the military. With advances in medical, military, and personal technology, however, in the future it may become possible for some disabled persons to serve. If so, we'll have this debate yet again. "You can't ask normal people to serve alongside the disabled," the argument will run. "How can you depend on the guy next to you when he's blind? How can you depend on the girl next to you when she's mentally retarded? It will be the end of unit cohesion and force efficiency." The debate will rage, the integration will go on; and, by the time the children of its opponents are old enough to enlist, the sight of a blind soldier or crippled airman will be as normal to them as the sight of black, white, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, male, or female service members.

The American public would, I think, agree with the proposition that denying an otherwise qualified person the opportunity to serve in the military on the basis of race/ethnicity or gender is both morally repugnant and legally untenable. Similarly, denying a person the opportunity to serve based on sexual orientation has nothing to do with certain people's religious convictions or certain people's repugnance or open-mindedness. It is a matter of civil rights.

As a disabled person, I stand in solidarity with all those whose rights are denied because of who and what they are; because of a characteristic that "the majority" finds unacceptable, be that having the wrong set of genitalia, the wrong color skin, or the wrong sexual preference. If an individual member of the military disgraces her/his uniform, then remove that member. But, presuming that any given group, as a group, is necessarily unfit to serve surely runs counter to all we stand for as Americans. Moreover, as I have briefly shown, history teaches us that such presumptions do not stand up against practical experience.

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Thousands of Christians protest Iraq war

Via Yahoo News:

Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

Afterward, participants marched with battery-operated faux candles through snow and wind toward the White House, where police began arresting protesters shortly before midnight. Protest guidelines require demonstrators to continue moving while on the White House sidewalk.

More here.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Al Gore to testify before Congress Wednesday

Via Yahoo News:

Former Vice President Al Gore has collected nearly 300,000 electronic signatures asking Congress to take action on global warming, Gore said in an entry on his Web site Friday. Gore said the signatures demonstrate "that hundreds of thousands of people share my sense of urgency" on climate change. Gore is scheduled to testify before Congress about the issue Wednesday.
Click here for more of the article, and here to visit Al Gore's online journal.

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Ken Blackwell hired by FRC

Also at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

Guess Ken Blackwell is not going "gently into the night". From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins announced that Blackwell would be joining the Christian conservative group as a "senior fellow for family empowerment."

Blackwell, a Cincinnati Republican who was Ohio secretary of state, will lead FRC's efforts in addressing family economics.

Over the years, we have known and worked with Ken Blackwell on the toughest issues facing families and our country," Perkins said. "We have witnessed Ken's willingness to stand and fight for preserving marriage and defending the unborn. His unwavering commitment to tax relief and conservative fiscal policies has supported family enterprise."

Click here for more.

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Happy 2nd Anniversary, Booman Tribune!

Click the graphic (by refinish69) to join the festivities.

This is an open thread.
Update: Valerie Plame is testifying now. You can watch her live on C-SPAN. It is being live-blogged at Firedoglake.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ecumenical Advocacy Days in D.C.

I wasn't aware that this was going on this week. Via the Episcopal News Service:

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, made the plea: ''Each child is God's own beloved… How we treat each child is how we treat God... Every child needs and deserves health coverage.''

She addressed her words to the 1000-plus members of the faith community present in Washington, D.C., for Ecumenical Advocacy Days March 9-12.. ''God didn't make different classes of children and the U.S. should not continue its current inequitable treatment of children.''

This is the year that the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expires. Funded only through September, Congress must reauthorize the program, cut it or expand it. That reality helped keep participants focused on how to influence Congress.

''This is the time for action,'' declared Lindsey Wade, policy associate with the Children's Defense Fund, to those preparing arguments for the legislators they would visit the final day of the gathering.

Advocacy Days, now in its fifth year, drew the religious community to Washington to lobby for a range of human rights and justice issues. Several days of workshops and training preceded their descent on Capitol Hill.

More than 50 churches and faith-based organizations, including the National Council of Churches and Church World Service, sponsor Advocacy Days. The theme this year, ''And How Are the Children?'' aimed a spotlight at ending child poverty. Speakers addressed domestic and global issues: unaccompanied children crossing the border, fixing the No Child Left Behind program, effects of the Middle East conflict on the region's children; the impact of U.S. security policies on children; effects of debt on Africa's children; escalating violence in Burma and the Philippines and a dozen more.
Click here for the rest.

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Open Thread

This is the same open thread I posted late last night--can't see putting up a new one when this one is far from full. And it *is* still March 15. Just swapping out the picture, since Demetrius has been working on St. Patrick's Day designs.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who gets to determine our "value"?

Originally posted at My Left Wing

I haven't been able to keep on top of all the essays written here. Being on a bit of a break from work, I have a little more time than I did, but I still have to balance my blogging with working on things that can generate income. 'Cause my time off is *never* "paid vacation" time. I say this in order to explain why I miss many essays that I might really appreciate reading, and also to explain why I was so concerned by what I read when I finally did take a look at Why We Don't Write/The Two MLWs. People here actually don't write out of concern that their work will be regarded as "not good enough"? Aw crap! Why would we *do* this to ourselves and others?

And while I'm on the topic, WTF is it with the disparaging of all things "meta"? That tends to be the bulk of what I write, when I actually *do* write. Some of you may be aware that I do transcripts sometimes--for example, I actually transcribed the whole tv appearance MSOC did a while back. I've done plenty of others as well, and sometimes people express amazement that I am willing to go to that kind of trouble. The reason I transcribe is pretty simple. First, I think it's important to make sure people's words *in context* are available. Secondly, it makes me feel like a "useful engine". That's important to me. And a lot of the time it's much much easier for me to mindlessly transcribe something than to actually put together words of my own.

Which brings me back to "meta". (I already said here that I'm going to press forward with this and post it even if it might suck. And the scattered nature of this post is a pure reflection of my state of mind--it's rainy and dreary outside, so I lack focus. It's not a bug--it's a feature!) "Meta" in one form or another is what I *do*. It's how my mind works--I see connections between things. I've had *plenty* of opportunities for "f---ing learning experiences", I reflect on them, and I share my insights. I do this, not because I have some belief that *my* words on an issue are better written, or more valid, or more important than anyone else's. But sometimes someone will read them and find them helpful in some way--maybe it will provide them with one more "piece of the puzzle" that they need. And in my mind, that's the most important work we can be doing here on earth. Reaching out and making connections. Touching other lives in a positive way.

I want to share two more things before I close this rambling essay (for now). The first is a comment I made to one of skippy's diaries at Booman Tribune last month. Yes, it had to do with that damn "Blogroll Amnesty Day" nonsense. And no, I don't normally drop "f-bombs" when I write. But this is an issue I get pretty worked up about...

I have no f---ing patience for elitism. Especially considering how hard I work all day and still find the f---ing time to try to do some social justice activism, which I don't profit from monetarily, simply because I f---ing care about making the world a better place.

It's been a long week. One thing I meant to mention in the context of all of this is that it brings back a memory from years ago, of a fellow receptionist describing an interaction she had with one of the attorneys at the firm where she was employed. He wanted her to do the dirty work of booting some "lesser" attorney out of a conference room or something, and she balked at being put in that position. He boomed back at her, "I'm a $300 an hour man"

I cannot stand that kind of crap. You make more money, you wield more power, whatever, does not make you inherently more worthy. Sometimes it just means you got lucky. Sometimes it even means you stabbed somebody in the back to get where you are.

The second thing I want to share is a piece of scripture from 1 Corinthians. It's one that has been on my mind a lot lately.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Occasionally people will react negatively to any mention of religion--sometimes to the point of belligerently insisting that I "leave the God stuff out of it". I haven't experienced that here, that I can recall, but it's happened often enough in my years of blogging that I *do* hesitate before I "go there".

So anyway, I'm cognizant that some people, because of negative past experiences, are uncomfortable with seeing scripture quoted. And I try to be sensitive to that because, well, because I'm just "like that". Anyway, if you're one of those people, maybe you can try mentally deleting the religion words from the passage above. Because I really think, even as just a piece of literature (an "essay" by Paul, if you will) it is pretty relevant to what I've been trying to say in this post.

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Happy Pi Day!

In addition to being Einstein's birthday, March 14 is also Pi Day: From Yahoo News:

This is a story about love. About inscrutable complexity and remarkable simplicity, about the promise of forever. It is about obsession and devotion, and grand gestures and 4,000-word love letters.

It is about a curious group of people with an almost religious zeal for a mind-numbing string of numbers. Actually one number, made up of a chain that is known — so far — to be more than one trillion digits long.

They are the acolytes of the church of pi.

And once a year many of them gather to talk about pi, rhapsodize about it, eat pi-themed foods (actual pie, sure, but so much more), have pi recitation contests and, just maybe, feel a little less sheepish about their unusual passion.

That day falls on Wednesday this year: March 14. Or 3.14. Obviously.
Click for more.

The Exploratorium web site has a page about Pi Day, and a page of pi links.

Click here for a pi poster:

Upon closer examination 350,390 digits of pi are visible. Each line contains 600 digits of pi. The first 440 most commonly recognized digits are visible from a distance.
And finally, a pi song/video. It's to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie. Here's the web site of the writer. The video only has part of the song, but here's an mp3 of the the whole song, and this link has the lyrics.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Happy 128th Albert Einstein!

Also posted at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

Albert Einstein was born March 14, 1879. In my time zone, this "Happy Birthday, Einstein" post is coming a few hours too early. But in Germany, where Einstein was born, it's already after midnight. So there you go.

Please use this thread to share your favorite Albert Einstein quote, link, or story.

Here's an excerpt from a very well known piece Einstein wrote on science and religion. A lot of people have seen the "blind vs. lame" quote, but I hadn't seen it in context before today.

Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
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Mutual linking

Crossposted at Booman Tribune

The other day I wrote a post entitled "I can't believe it's not a meritocracy!". I guess it could be seen as an "angry" post, but I think it was pretty mild as such things go. It was inspired by Atrios, the founder of Blogroll Amnesty Day, writing a post entitled "Why your blog sucks" Nonetheless, I really don't want to focus on the negative here.

I suppose that post by Atrios after he was the one who initiated the blogroll dump movement ticked me off as much as it did because I've had plenty of real life experiences where that same theme is present. It's as if once you reach a certain level of success, the rules of decency no longer apply. I'm certainly not going to mention specifics, but let's just say I've had many opportunities to declare, "If I ever get in a position of power, that is not how I'm going to treat people!"

Well, I sat this morning with the "compose a post" window open for well over an hour, and still couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted to stay. So I decided to go back to something I posted at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance on February 28, because it sums it up better than anything else I can think to say.

At the risk of being way too adorable, I've decided to go ahead and post this Shel Silverstein poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends

I will not play at tug o'war.
I'd rather play at hug o'war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins

I think I got it in my head after reading Maryscott O'Connor's essay Wherein I Respond to the Response to the Post Article, and I was balking at the notion that, if one is afforded the opportunity to speak to and be heard by a larger audience, one is somehow obligated to speak and behave within certain acceptable parameters. Well, a big part of the reason many of us speak out, is because we do not approve of the way the media-political "game" is played. It's not making things better for ordinary people. It's not making people better able to connect with and learn about each other.

In short, powers that be, your game and its rules suck. I do not choose to spend my time and energy in a vain attempt to becoming a better player of that bullsh*t game. If I do find space in my life for involvement in the political process, my energies will be directed toward changing the game and how it's played.

And I think another thing that brought this poem to mind was the discussion of different approaches to linking. With mutual linking, everyone wins. Even from a purely pragmatic standpoint, it's good for all of us.

Independent Bloggers' Alliance

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Happy Pluto Planet Day

As I previously noted here, New Mexico is declaring March 13 "Pluto Planet Day". Here's the declaration:
48th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2007
Joni Marie Gutierrez


WHEREAS, the state of New Mexico is a global center for astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico is home to world class astronomical observing facilities, such as the Apache Point observatory, the very large array, the Magdalena Ridge observatory and the national solar observatory; and

WHEREAS, Apache Point observatory, operated by New Mexico state university, houses the astrophysical research consortium's three-and-one-half meter telescope, as well as the unique two-and-one-half meter diameter Sloan digital sky survey telescope; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico state university has the state's only independent, doctorate-granting astronomy department; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico state university and Dona Ana county were the longtime home of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto; and

WHEREAS, Pluto has been recognized as a planet for seventy-five years; and

WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is three billion six hundred ninety-five million nine hundred fifty thousand miles from the sun, and its diameter is approximately one thousand four hundred twenty-one miles; and

WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons known as Charon, Nix and Hydra; and

WHEREAS, a spacecraft called new horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that, as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared "Pluto Planet Day" at the legislature.
I really like that "excellent night skies" line. :)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Alachua Update

From the comments. There's some stuff at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance that I was going to post just now, but I decided the Charlie post needed to come first here. --Renee

News from Alachua for friends of Charlie. He is doing well. But has been working 24 hours a day for nearly a year. The work has been difficult but is now starting to pay off as people are seeing through the haze of spin and framing.

The local news blockade has effectively kept this story fairly quiet until now. But even the major media outlets in Alachua County are now seeing through the facade.

Please take a look at the front page story of the Gainesville Sun today and help us spread the word around. Charlie needs our help. You would be proud of the work he is doing. Many of us were skeptical about the role the internet can play in local politics. But he has shown us the importance of community and that includes the wider community that stretches across the nation.

Alachua makes waves by doing things its own way
Sun staff writer

ALACHUA - The public comment period of last Monday night's city meeting started as many others do - with people lining up behind the podium to criticize or praise a recent decision by city officials.

Residents quoted Maya Angelou, Thomas Jefferson and Florida election laws to back up their points. They cheered and booed other speakers' comments. Some called city officials everything from incompetent to ignorant. Others thanked them for bringing positive change to the community.

At issue was the city's decision to disqualify the three people who challenged two incumbent commissioners in the city's April 10 election for what city officials said was incomplete paperwork. That decision would have essentially called off the election.
See more here.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gonzales must go

I just saw this in the comments:

P.S. Write your Senator to demand Gonzales step down.
Shelley | 03.11.07 - 12:12 pm
And it reminded me that there really should be a front page post about that.

From Think Progress: Sen. Schumer Calls For Alberto Gonzales To Resign
Truth2Power Project: Impeach Gonzales Movement Creeps Forward one more Step

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When labels fail us

Originally posted March 6. But I hadn't posted it here. Since it touches on religion and references a discussion that took place on this blog, I decided to go with this as a Sunday morning post.

The other day I was talking to a coworker about plans for the weekend. I mentioned that I might be asking my atheist husband to take Daughter in Ohio to church (where she sings with the choir) so that I could attend my own church. She asked, "You have an atheist husband? So do I!"

I then decided that I should clarify a bit. After all, I had just used the word atheist as a sort of shorthand, to indicate that I was asking a Rather Big Favor of him, since he normally doesn't go to church. I don't think he calls himself an atheist, or even an agnostic. Come to think of it, I don't really know what he would put on a form that asked for religion as part of the demographic information.

But the fact that I am not sure what he would call himself, if asked, does not mean we don't have conversations about matters of faith and belief. We actually have such discussions on a fairly regular basis. It's just that labels don't tend to come up much when we do. Labels often have the effect of magnifying differences rather than helping us find our common ground.

In our almost 20 years of marriage, I have come to learn that Demetrius is someone who thinks pretty seriously about the big questions, even though he doesn't identify with any "name brand" religion. Here's something he wrote earlier today, in a discussion here.

Well... An Infinite Being (I can't believe in a finite God) would perceive cause and effect, action and reaction simultaneously. So, for God to create all there is (exactly as it is) by setting up a few simple rule before the Big Bang isn't such a crap shoot. Why build the Universe atom by atom when I can just tell the atoms how to behave and send the Universe out to build itself? Wouldn't every part of that construction have some key into the whole? Our pursuit of knowledge of the Infinite is only natural.

"...we are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out." - Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

That's not religious thinking in the traditional sense, but it certainly is a thoughtful approach to examining life's mysteries. Over the years I've seen the way Demetrius thinks through these things, and have also seen how his understanding of the Big Picture guides his understanding of moral behavior. If you understand yourself as interconnected with All That Is, hopefully your behavior toward others will reflect that. And in his case, I believe it does. And that impresses me more than someone who identifies as Christian but whose behavior is the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yet, I know there are people who explictly state that they prefer to do business with a Christian-owned company, thinking that will assure them a certain ethical standard.

But on the other hand, I have seen plenty of evidence in my years of blogging that some people make automatic negative assumptions about people who identify as Christian, or Evangelical Christian, or Roman Catholic. That's not fair either. Nor is it reasonable to demand that, if one is the member of a particular religious group, one must spend all sorts of time "denouncing" every wrong that has ever been perpetrated by a member of that religion.

My conclusion? One that I think should be self-evident: any one piece of information about an individual, whether it be religious affiliation, race, where they went to school, etc., tells us very little about who they are. You can fill in a bubble on a form, or answer a question on a survey and say that you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Humanist, or what have you. But I really don't know what that means to you unless I ask you, with a genuine curiosity, and with the willingness to check my assumptions at the door.

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