Archive for September, 2013

becktel_s640x427Commentator Bob Beckel was saber-rattling several days ago when he made anti-Muslim comments on Fox’s “The Five.”  The panel discussed the attack by Islamic militants who killed dozens in Kenya’s Westgate Mall. During the show, Beckel declared Islam is “not the religion of peace” and Muslims need to “stand up and say something.” Further quoting:

I will repeat what I said before: No Muslim students coming here with visas. No more mosques being built here until you stand up and denounce what’s happened in the name of your prophet … The point is, that the time has come for Muslims in this country and other people in the world to stand up and be counted, and if you can’t, you’re cowards.”

After reflecting for several days, let’s expand upon Beckel’s statements. Contextually, I believe all religions should “… stand and denounce what’s happened in the name of your religion.” Here are my thoughts:

  • The disgraced mega pastor Jack Schaap, from the First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, had kissed a minor during counseling, claimed Christ wanted the two to be together and had sex with the teen in his office.
  • Pastor Eddie Long settled various sexual impropriety lawsuits out-of-court.  Of course terms were not disclosed.
  • Richmond Outreach Center founding pastor Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar resigned with three other pastors from the church amid an explosive sex scandal on June 5th. All resignations stemmed from Pastor G’s extradition to Texas in late May to face seven felony charges, including aggravated sexual assault of two sisters under the age of 14.
  • Prosecutors dropped a simple battery charge against Creflo Dollar, pastor of mega church in Atlanta, Georgia, after completing an anger-management program for being accused of choking and hitting his teenage daughter.
  • Robert Schuler and family basically financially crashed the Crystal Cathedral. Allegations of the founding family’s misappropriation of funds exacerbated in $50 million debt, causing the church’s bankruptcy.
  • Marcus Lamb, a televangelist and founder of the Daystar television network, the Rev. Marcus Lamb, confessed he cheated on his wife Joni Lamb, who also led the network, in front of his television audience in 2010, saying he was coming clean in the face of a $7.5 million extortion attempt.
  • In 1951, Dr. Hobart Freeman survived a heart attack at age 31. Freeman claimed, “… when genuine faith is present, it alone will be sufficient [to] take the place of medicines and other aids.” In his congregation, diabetics stopped taking insulin and mothers eschewed pre-and post-natal care. Prayer was used to try to bring loved ones back from the dead. Dead babies were laid next to live ones, in hopes the live babies would transmit life to the dead children. Eventually, Freeman was arrested.
  • Catholic sex scandals – Sexual abuse by Catholic Priests were widespread, occurring in cities across the country, including Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Orange County, Palm Beach, Philadelphia and Portland, as well as in dioceses across Europe.
  • The three companies that insure a majority of Protestant churches in America say they typically receive upward of 260 reports each year of young people under 18 being sexually abused by clergy, church staff, volunteers or congregation members. The figures offer a glimpse into what has long been an extremely difficult phenomenon to pin down — the frequency of sex abuse in Protestant congregations.

In reviewing the above stories, one can easily find several problems with Beckel’s approach. First, if we require denunciation of one’s religion, then we must denounce our faith as well. Christians are no more likely to stand up against their own as Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics or any other religion. In the case of Catholic Priests, it took years. Americans pretty much suck at that. However, we must not neglect to state American Muslims did denounce this Westgate Mall tragedy, as did Muslim leaders in Kenya. Secondly, commentators like Beckel tend to attribute the actions of one person(s) to an entire faith. Can an entire faith of Catholics be deemed bad because of some Priests? Aren’t we morally indignant if we judge all Muslims similarly? Third, Kenya’s Westgate Mall terrorists were clear the attack was revenge for the Kenyan government sending troops to fight them in Somalia.

All religions have their dark secrets. And in that sense, all religions are intertwined. When God entrusts his Church to men and women, that trust can be either be a blessing or curse. The vessels of God’s grace can misfire, become flawed, and fall short of the grace He intended. Truth told, for every scandal in a megachurch and for every Jihadist nutcase who commits a terrorist act, I know of countless others who operate in integrity and hold themselves accountable. That’s the virtue of seeing someone from a position of love versus stereotypes.

Don’t let the few cause you to place all in the same category.

a-long-wayAs I traveled through the middle of nowhere the other day, the car’s radio dial rested upon a National Public Radio Program titled, “The Takeaway.”  Part of the show focused upon the procedure to ban books. The show’s host discussed the topic with three guests:

  • Mike Holzknecht, a lawyer and parent who was part of the opposition to the book “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexi.
  • Sarah Pacheco, Public Information Officer for the Sierra Vista Unified School District; and
  • Amy Crump, Library Director at Homewood Public Library in Illinois.

While the program was interesting, I became fixated upon the segment discussing censorship, including of the book “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexi.” In truth, I never heard of this banned book, so a quick internet search revealed a few schools who’ve banned this publication.

According to well published sources, censorship may have begun around 2010 in Stockton, MO where a resident(s) supported banning The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian for containing material too mature for children. The New York Daily News reported middle schoolers at Public School 114 in Rockaway, Queens, wouldn’t be reading Sherman Alexie’s prized illustrated novel either. The school caved to pressure from at least one angry parent and phone calls from a tabloid (newspaper). The book was also removed from reading lists in Oregon and Washington as well. It was banned by Washington’s Richland School District—until board members actually read the book and reversed their decision.

In Stockton, MO, local media outlets indicated the author’s book may not have reflected community values. And while specific citations remain elusive, reports indicate supporters citing “… Biblical references.” Stockton residents also listed book descriptions of masturbation, sexual language and foul jokes, along with themes encompassing racism, alcoholism and violence.

Man … that must be one badass book.

Some may justifiably argue that not every child is emotionally mature to handle the content. Thus, it should be a parent’s decision of how much information is provided to their children. Fair enough. While those with such opposing views may have a point, I remember a similar badass book a lot of parents freely give their children.  Here are just a few themes:

  • 4 Kings 2:23-24 – Don’t make fun of bald people or two female bears may eat you
  • Genesis 38:8-10 – Neologism – hidden reference to onanism, an archaic term for masturbation
  • Judges 19:22-30 – Unwilling to let guests be rapped, so owner throws his daughters to the crowd
  • Found in: 1 Kings 18:25-27 – David kills two hundred men to gather foreskins
  • Exodus 33:23 – Exhibitionism, God exposed his back parts to Moses
  • Numbers 22:28-30 – A talking donkey
  • Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” So (1 Chronicles 1) Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enosh, Enosh begat Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered … etc., etc. Question, who did Cain and Able marry? Maybe … sisters?
  • Genesis 19:30-36 – Lot has drunken sex with daughters (i.e., incest)
  • Genesis 29:21-28 – Jacob takes a job where payment is a woman (so much for women’s rights)
  • Judah 38:8-10 – Judah said to Onan, go marry your brother’s wife and get her pregnant
  • Genesis 38:15-16 – The prostitute I has sex with turned out to be my daughter (i.e., another quality relationship)
  • Solomon’s Song: A complete sexual love letter
  • 2 Kings 6:24–7:20 – Cannibalism
  • Exodus 21 – Gives advice on how to sell your daughter (so much for women’s rights)
  • 2 Samuel 11 – King David’s Adultery and Murder of Uriah just to get Uriah’s wife
  • Ephesians 6:5 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ (So your master is Christ?)
  • Leviticus 19:20-22 – If a man rapes his female slave … the woman gets punished and the man’s sins are forgiven
  • 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 – God over Christ, Christ is over man, and man is over woman.  After all man was not created for woman, but woman was created for man
  • Judges 21:12 – Basically, young virgins are considered a spoil of war and can be taken for the use of the victors
  • Deuteronomy 25:10 – Ladies, a man has an obligation to produce a child for his widowed sister-in-law (ladies, I guess you just have to deal with it)
  • Mark 10:29 – Man who leaves his house, wife, brothers, parents, or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will receive special rewards

In complete transparency, I admit to having never read Sherman Alexi’s book. And in truth, I’ll be damned if I could find any published articles reflecting Stockton, MO’s community values. A Google keyword search of “Stockton, MO community values” revealed little. But I didn’t spend a lot of time researching either.

Still … should one go to their local community and demand the Bible be banned from all schools and public libraries? I mean the “Good Book” does have “… hidden references to masturbation, rape, murder, sexual language, racism, alcoholism and violence.” Or should we just allow future generations to ask their parents how to properly spill their seed on the ground (“onanism?)”  Bet you never hear that sermon Sunday morning. Ah … there’s nothing like having your children snuggle up with a good book on a rainy day!

Seriously, let’s stop hiding and call it what it is: censorship. And some forms of censorship can be filled with cocky snide remarks, intemperance and self-congratulatory smiles. When this occurs, it’s a play to the gallery. While some believe proper censorship protects the community, many forms of censorship are simply subjective intolerance and self-imposed righteousness.

It’s strange how liberal conservatives are in applying the First Amendment and how conservative they become in applying the Second.

pastor-andrew-hamblin-of-tabernacle-church-of-god-in-lafollette-tenn-preaches-while-holding-a-snake-above-headCable television is filled with stupid shows, from The Kardashians, truTV’s World’s Dumbest …, Bill and Giuliani, Housewives of Beverly Hills, Atlanta or whatever city, Bad Girls and a host of others. Accordingly, someone at the National Geographic Channel decided “stupid” was good TV fodder, so they started airing “Snake Salvation,” a reality based television show oozing in “double stupid.”

The promo reads accordingly,In the hills of Appalachia, Pentecostal pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin struggle to keep a 100-year-old tradition alive: the practice of handling deadly snakes in church.” Snake Salvation pastors are one homily away from being another Darwin Award winner, a website recognizing individuals contributing to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization via their own (unnecessarily foolish) actions.

The series follows Pentecostal Pastors Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Kentucky. Coots has been a long-time mentor to Hamblin and inspired him to start his own snake-handling congregation. (Note to self: be sure to always get a good mentor.)

From what I understand, these whack jobs believe God commands them to dance around with Diamondback Rattlers and other assorted venomous snakes, following the Biblical teaching of Mark 16:18:

And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

I believe these types of pastors are missing, that in theory, we are not to put the Lord to the test (Exodus 17:2; Matthew 4:7). Yeah. I know, I know. The human race seems to challenge that concept on a daily basis. However … just as Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, so we are to not intentionally put ourselves in situations requiring God’s miraculous intervention. First Corinthians 10:9, while not speaking directly of snake handling in churches, says it best: “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.”

The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone’s faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one’s faith, it’s simply wrong. We read the Buddha’s instructions, which advises testing things for oneself and seeing it as an invitation to believe or not.

One does not have to go looking for a snake in an effort to prove their faith. I don’t believe that’s what God’s about. Live your faith by helping the unemployed get employed, feed the hungry, help the homeless, help a child study for a difficult math test, love your wife and honor your employer and coworkers.

For snake based faiths, pastors and members alike, your actions are deeply rooted in ignorance.

o-GUN-CONTROL-PSAS-MOMS-DEMAND-ACTION-570For some strange reason, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” decided the nation required the National Rifle Association’s perspective of the recent Navy Yard shooting. And true to form, LaPierre argued recurring themes: (a) The facility “was largely left unprotected;” and (b) there weren’t enough good guys with guns to stop it.

I’m positive that I will be considered some liberal whack job, but LaPierre’s comments seem to say that the only way to stop a disaster is to have more of the very things that helped caused the disaster in the first place.

The suggestion that primary school teachers be armed is idiotic. One teacher couldn’t overcome a sudden attack, so maybe we have the NRA arm the students. Why not make it an elective course? And once schoolchildren are protected, maybe shooters will go nuts in coffee houses. Thus, as an added service, your local brew place can advertise patrons are protected by a 9mm Colt SSP semi-automatic double-action pistol.  Discount shops and big-box stores can follow suit.  Gosh, the USA can become the new ‘old west.’

Stepping aside from LaPierre’s repugnance, the gangs in Chicago that spray city streets with untold violence and death most likely are not legal gun owners. Aaron Alexis had a record of gun violence and a history of mental illness, as did Georgia shooter Michael Brandon Hill, Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza and Colorado shooter James Holmes. While there is no telling whether increased psychiatric help would have resulted in a different fate for their victims, it’s clear the state of mental health care in the United States needs significant support.

The number of people who have PTSD victims overwhelm the current support system. Returning Veterans and families are overwhelmed. Those suffering from the disease often live in a state of “intense fight of flight.” There appears to be tremendous trouble in diagnosing and treating soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder. Confusing paperwork, inconsistent training and guidelines, and incompatible data systems have hindered the service as it tries to deal with behavioral issues. It’s a crucial issue: after a decade of war, soldier suicides outpace combat deaths.

Rather than focusing on arming everyone, maybe it’s time to discuss specifics such as cuts to mental health and its impact on services. The Washington Post reported states cumulatively cut over $1.8 billion from their mental health services from 2009 to 2011. Another report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors put the number as high as $4.35 billion from 2009 to 2012. Funding for these other services never quite caught up with the needs of patients who used to be confined to institutions. As a result, the prison system has in many ways become the de facto safety net for the mentally ill. A 2006 Justice Department study found 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of local jail inmates suffered from some form of mental health problem. More broadly, more than 60 percent of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder and 70 percent of children were not receiving the mental health services needed, according to a 2011 Kaiser Foundation report.

Personally, it’s obvious America has problems with our tolerance for gun violence. While I am not proponent of eliminating the second amendment, anyone supporting the two following scenarios needs serious mental health care:

  1. The only way to solve or reduce mass shooting is to arm a whole lot people; and
  2. That step number 1 is actually a great idea.

SinelessLast week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote he was “a little bit disappointed” that Francis hadn’t addressed abortion since being elected.  Pope Francis acknowledged that he had been “reprimanded,” but responded:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

To me, the more important statement made occurred several months ago.

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?

Having been personally condemned by the Catholic Church, I concur with Pope Francis that the church’s pastoral ministry cannot be insistently obsessed with a disjointed multitude of doctrines. The church must find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to crumble, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.  The Catholic church should be thinking we are the home of all, not just small group of selected people.

Someone recently queried my thoughts of homosexuality and abortion. To dodge the question, I carefully stated neither is a true, ‘black or white,’ ‘yes or no’ answer. But in truth, I genuinely sail my ship to a more holistic path.  So when I look at someone who may have had an abortion or someone who believes that gay and lesbian couples should have similar rights, I often think of John 8:7, “…let he who is sinless cast the first stone.”

Like Jesus, I won’t condemn a woman or homosexual relationship. It’s not because I am some free thinking whacked out liberal nor is it because I condone either. The real truth of what I see is that the men and women who make such black or white arguments are hypocrites. And hypocrites use the Bible to drive home hatred, bias and ignorance. As such, Americas’ churches are filled with such hatred. We believe more in hatred and guns than love and integrity. Don’t believe me? Then research Scott Lively, the Westboro Baptist Church or Terry Jones, who was recently arrested with thousands of kerosene-soaked copies of the Muslim holy book in his possession.

The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken, to realize one’s true nature, putting an end to suffering. Pope Francis has thrown an olive branch of sorts by making it abundantly clear that we need all members of society. Not because there is some magic in numbers or the loss of time and dignity spent fighting personally partisan issues.  But more so because all of us are interconnected. We always have been and always will.

timthumb.phpApproximately 49 million Americans live in a situation where getting fed isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Additionally, 75 percent of food-stamp participants are families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. In spite of all that, some legislatures are advocating significant cuts in government programs assisting low-income families. Two hundred sixteen (216) House Republicans who voted for the agriculture bill decided move funds farm subsidies, with no food stamps component at all. And all 216 Republicans voted for it.

In truth, American taxpayers currently spend more than $20 billion per year on farm subsidies. The vast majority of these funds flow to the largest and wealthiest farming operations. The US General Accounting Office reported that in 2011 more than 50 farms received over $500,000 in crop insurance premiums. Many of these farms also obtained additional benefits from other subsidy programs, such as the Direct Payments program.

Under the Direct Payments program, payments to land owners and farms are unrelated to their actual production or crops raised. In other words, farmers receive the payment even if they have a great year with crop prices near record highs, as they are now. Additionally, many of these farming operations are organized as partnerships that typically own multiple farms and thousands of acres of cropland. The families associated with these partnerships are much wealthier than the average American household.

The full text of the legislation is not yet available, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has dropped hints as to where the additional $19.5 billion in cuts might be found. In a memo distributed to House Republicans on September 3rd, Cantor hopes the bill “restores the intent of the bipartisan welfare reforms adopted in 1996 by ensuring that work requirements for able-bodied adults without children are enforced—not waived—and eliminates loopholes exploited over the last few years to avoid the program’s income and asset tests.”

Here’s what that means: any able-bodied adult without dependents who do not meet the revise SNAP requirement are only eligible for three months’ worth of food stamps every three years. The current Republican proposal would eliminate any federal waivers of this revised legislation. This will cause approximately 4 million people to lose full eligibility and prohibit states from relaxing some of the federal government’s other eligibility rules, as most currently do.

Looming cuts to federal programs and shrinking state budgets mean that charity will have a bigger void to fill.  To bridge the divide, it has been suggested that private churches and charities to somehow nearly double their current food assistance. While Republicans prefer charity to taxes, local charitable organizations will be unable to meet the demand. In other words, doubling current food assistance via private charities is basically impossible.

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha stated “Hunger is the worst illness.” When people go hungry, life becomes degraded.  The body loses mass and withers and the prognosis for chronic hunger is grim: debilitating illness accompanied by early death.

We cannot end hunger unless we end poverty. Some food bank programs do a good job of alleviating hunger but we as Americans do little to end poverty. Private citizens have a big role to play. “We can’t rely on the government for all of this.”

In giving food, one gives five things to the recipients: one gives life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity.  In giving these five things, one in turn partakes of life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity, whether in this world or in the heavenly realm.”

~ Anguttara Nikaya 5:37 ~

————————– Updated 9/19/2013 ————————–

The Republican-run House of Representatives voted to cut spending on food stamps for the poor by $40 billion over 10 years on Thursday (September 19, 2013), defying a veto threat from the White House in the name of fiscal reform. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the driving force behind the legislation, said it was “wrong for working, middle-class people to pay” for abuse of the program, whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years. Democrats pointed to nonpartisan estimates that the bill would end benefits to 4 million needy people in 2014.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 7.07.54 PMWith a 109-49 count, the Missouri House voted to change Missouri’s motto to the “Shoot Me State.” In essence, the highly conservative Missouri State House overrode Democrat Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of house measure HB 436 (federal gun law nullification).

The latest Missouri measure would declare invalid any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.” Federal authorities who attempt to enforce those laws could face state misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Similar penalties would apply to anyone who publishes identifying information about gun owners.

In essence, the legislation:

  • Declares any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri;
  • Allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal authorities who attempt to enforce those laws;
  • Allows state misdemeanor charges against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner; and
  • Would lower Missouri’s concealed-gun permit age to 19 instead of 21 and allow specially trained teachers or administrators to serve as a “school protection officer” able to carry a concealed gun.

Does anyone really believe it’s a good idea for Missouri or any state for that matter to start declaring which federal laws it believes it has to follow and which ones it doesn’t? Do individual Missouri towns, for example, get to decide which Missouri laws it wants to follow, nullifying any state law it chooses to disagree?

The Missouri legislation goes on to specify some, but not all, of those federal acts which would be “rejected” by Missouri, and considered “null and void and of no effect:”

  • Such federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations include, but are not limited to:
    • The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1934;
    • The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968;
    • Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any registering or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any registering or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of any type of firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and
    • Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.

The main problem I see with Missouri legislators and the citizens who elect them is ignorance. Because of personal bias and ignorance, legislators project their fear and turn those who are different into enemies. Politicians know that once you demonize gun control advocates and federal law enforcement, they become less human, allowing one to inflict a certain amount of future pain without guilt or shame.

Politicians who seem to know what they’re doing as they spew contempt, consciously provoking their citizens with fear and hate are enthralled by conflict and power. From a Buddhist perspective, this level of ignorance appears to have a purpose, but ends only by leading to further suffering.

~ “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.” ~

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche

—————————————– 9:33 PM Update —————————————–

Missouri State Senate fell one vote short of approval.

Child Re-Homing

abuseIn a powerful expose, Reuters news reported on a relatively unknown, yet repugnant process called “private re-homing.”  Re-homing is an underground network of for adopted children. Often times, there are no attorneys or child welfare officials present. The current family simply signs a notarized statement declaring strangers to be the child’s new legal guardians. More often than not, it will be the first and the last time couples would meet.

In their series, Reuters reported upon a Tennessee woman who claimed her adoptive parents gave her away to new parents at age 14, she and 17 other adoptive kids in found her new home  “nightmarish” were sometimes forced to dig their own “graves” in the backyard and scrub the floor with toothbrushes.

My limited research revealed private re-homings often bypass the government, the only vetting of prospective families is done by parents who want to get rid of children. This practice increases the risk children could fall into the hands of dangerous people. For instance, Reuters found more than half of the children described as requiring some sort of special need. About 18 percent were said to have a history that included sexual or physical abuse, with some being re-homed into sexual predators.

Contrary to the conservative rosy view of adoption, the dark side of adoption is never mentioned.  In true adoption, there are many different players. And, like any other aspect of adoption, child welfare and placement is extremely complex, messy and a legal nightmare, not to mention the emotional and psychological fall-out. But re-homing children is abandonment. Unfortunately, re-homing remains largely unregulated and underreported. Also, it is not limited to international adoption, but permeates all forms of adoptive placement.

It is important to remember that we must “do no harm.” The Buddha’s advice to parents is clear – support your children to become generous, compassionate, virtuous, responsible, skilled and self-sufficient beings. Each moment presents us with an opportunity, and it is up to us, as individuals, to choose how we will think, speak, or act. Each of these actions will determine our happiness, not only in the moment but in the future. This is the basic teaching of karma, or cause and effect.

In these moments, we as a society, regardless of faith, must stand together to fight against such repugnant behavior.  Children, regardless of how good or bad they are, cannot be bartered among families.  We can and must do better than this. There must be a better way.

51aKGSNmlOL._SX300_On September 12, Burn Notice closes its doors for good. In its wake, the characters will have to finally do what most of us have haven’t: move on. I seriously doubt the show’s creative genius, Matt Nix, intentionally made Burn Notice to mirror life, but from a Buddhist perspective, some of the show’s life lessons are spot on.

First of all, Burn Notice epitomizes the Buddhist theory of “attachment” and “suffering.”  The notion of knowing the truth would never bring redemption. Yet so many of us in the world today are attached to knowing every detail or delusionally lost that revenge will somehow bring redemption. In truth, a lot of people in Michael Weston’s life would be more adjusted had they simply learned to move on.  In truth, all of us have been there. Some us are still there. There’s no valor in death so don’t forget to live.

Secondly, the Buddhist precept of “Do No Harm” oozes throughout each and every season. Simply put, many us of believe that doing things for the wrong reasons to only make things right is acceptable.  In season three’s “Enemies Closer,” Michael quoted, “After a career spent doing bad things for good reasons, it’s hard to say exactly where you draw the line. You might not know exactly, until someone asks.” In the final season, Michael broke the trust of his true love, denounced family as well as killed both friend and foe.

Symbolically, these scenarios occur in everyday life.  From a Biblical perspective, there is a set of laws concerning ethics that has been given by a higher authority. Yet many of us pretend to befriend coworkers, supervisors and claim the love of committed spouses. But secretly we plot. And affirming our own personal righteousness, we slay our lovers, destroy our coworkers and crush those whom we hate.  If we examine ourselves honestly, what are we really aiming for? Most people are not really aiming for enlightenment. They’re not even aiming for liberation. Most people just want to make their samsaric situation – their normal everyday lives – a little bit better. But violating key human principles neither brings justice nor reinforces divine love.

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” These seem to be among the hardest commands in Scripture to carry out. The foundational plot line of Burn Notice in many episodes involved Michael and his friends helping to protect someone else—from clueless civilians of every variety to retired spies. Nobility is not particularly spiritual or even morally grounded, aside from the “good triumphs evilscenario.

In truth, the one all encompassing lesson is simple. Sometimes, the only way to find yourself, is to lose yourself to the service of others.

With that, as a Buddhist, I ask you to go find yourself.

Internal Pollution

ohio_frackingWaste-water from the controversial practice of fracking appears to be linked to all earthquakes in an Ohio town that had no known previous earthquakes. The first earthquake recorded in Youngstown, Ohio occurred 13 days after fracking began, with tremors ceasing shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011. In addition, dips in earthquake activity lined up with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and other times when injection at the well was temporarily stopped.

Unfortunately, we tend to see ourselves as the smartest of all beings. Accordingly, being “wise ones,” we have misused, abused and destroyed species of animals, forests, mountains and natural resources. Additionally, our environment is seriously polluted because our internal environment (i.e., our mind) is seriously damaged. Bottomless greed pushes us to quench our unceasing internal fire, leading to destruction and environmental damage.

Early Buddhist legends detail many legends, prayers and stories that specifically dealt with humanity’s correct relationship with nature. All elements of nature were viewed as part of a unified structure. Each natural element had its own spirit. Accordingly, harmoniously co-existing many Buddhists performed ecologically sound practices, including avoiding digging the earth in certain places, defiling rivers, cutting trees, destroying the roots of grasses, disturbing the nests of animals or, generally killing of animals unnecessarily.

We do not have to abandon our desire for research, or the attainment of knowledge and truth. We can seek these worthy elements of knowledge while living in harmony with all beings and with nature. We must emphasize the interconnectedness of all elements of nature – both in the visible and the invisible worlds, teaching about the organic and the non-organic world and the relationship between the two. Greed ultimately brings harm. And that failing to recognize the consequences of our environmental impact will cause numerous ecological catastrophes.

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