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9 faith leaders on "thoughts and prayers" - and action - after tragedy

Reverend Frank Scott: So what resolution should we make for the New Year?

It's to let God know that you have the guts and the will to do it alone. Resolve to fight for yourselves, and for others, for those you love.

And that part of God within you will be fighting with you all the way.
-- "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972)

Source: Vox, by Tara Isabella Burton


Offering “thoughts and prayers” after such tragedies is so common that it has become a model for performative sympathy and inaction. It’s the title of a satirical video game in which players are challenged to use “thoughts and prayers” to stop school shootings (spoiler alert: it doesn’t work). It’s the title, too, of a particularly cynical BoJack Horseman episode about mass shootings, in which beleaguered film producers find themselves rolling their eyes while they trot out the phrase, again and again, in response to real events as they try to get back to the “actually pressing business of making sure the movie gets made.”

But for faith leaders from a variety of traditions, prayer — particularly prayer after a mass tragedy — is more than a byword for inaction. For some, it’s an opportunity to engage with a higher power, or to express sorrow, sympathy, or solidarity. For some others, it’s the first step toward taking meaningful real-world action. And for others still, it’s an excuse to do too little.

We talked to members of the clergy from different Christian denominations, and faith leaders from religious traditions more broadly, about the role of prayer after a tragedy and what it really means to offer “thoughts and prayers” to those in need. Their responses have been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity (subtitles only, much more at link):

• Prayer can be a powerful grounding force

• Prayer reminds us to reflect on others

• “I want people to stop going to church and start being the church”

• Prayer can move God’s heart

• Prayer is a form of submission to God’s will

• Prayer means reflecting on hard truths

• Prayer and action feed off each other

• Acknowledging the suffering of others is important, even if the phrasing is trite

• God may move your heart through prayer to show you how to act

Read it all at: https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/10/3/16408658/9-faith-leaders-action-after-tragedy-florida-shooting-majory-stoneman-douglas

"50 States of Blue"

"Welcome to 50 States of Blue, a national hub for local news and progressive politics from all 50 states and the District of Columbia."


Points of View Matter

We believe in fairness, accuracy, transparency, and truth, including truths that may be uncomfortable. But we don’t believe in false equivalence, and we don’t believe that a detached, “view from nowhere” air of objectivity is necessarily the best way to serve the public or promote good storytelling.

50 States of Blue unapologetically embraces points of view, especially those of our correspondents. Their personal experiences, political insights, and community connections are tremendously valuable and can’t be found elsewhere.

Our goal is to publish work that is deeply trustworthy, including to people who disagree with us — not because it avoids taking sides or making statements, but because it is always grounded in facts, informed opinions, observations, and critical self-reflection.

We’re incredibly excited to launch this project and watch it grow, and we hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Anything wrong with this map?

Ryan Murphy Heads to Netflix in Deal Said to Be Worth Up to $300 Million

Netflix. Streaming. The old guard IS falling.

Source: CNBC, by John Koblin


On Tuesday night, Netflix announced that it had poached the hit-making producer Ryan Murphy from 21st Century Fox.

The five-year deal is worth as much as $300 million, according to two people with knowledge of the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations. That would be one of the biggest deals ever made for a television producer.


Mr. Murphy’s contract with Fox expires in the summer, and he will make the move to Netflix in July.

The prolific producer behind “Glee,” “Nip/Tuck” and the anthology series “American Crime Story” and “American Horror Story,” Mr. Murphy would have been a key piece in the expanded Disney empire, and Fox executives made several attempts to keep him in the corporate family. Amazon also courted him seriously, which played a role in driving up the price for the 52-year-old writer, director and producer from Indianapolis.

“The history of this moment is not lost on me,” Mr. Murphy said in a statement. “I am a gay kid from Indiana who moved to Hollywood in 1989 with $55 in savings in my pocket, so the fact that my dreams have crystallized and come true in such a major way is emotional and overwhelming to me.”


Read it all at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/new-york-times-digital-ryan-murphy-heads-to-netflix-in-deal-said-to-be-worth-up-to-300-million.html

Where Do You Go When You Die? The Increasing Signs That Human Consciousness Remains After Death

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet

Source: Newsweek, by Kastalia Medrano


Modern resuscitation was a game-changer for emergency care, but it also blew apart our understanding of what it means to be dead. Without many people returning from the dead to show us otherwise, it was natural to assume, from a scientific perspective, that our consciousness dies at the same time as our bodies. Over the last few years, though, scientists have seen repeated evidence that once you die, your brain cells take days, potentially longer, to reach the point past which they’ve degraded too far to ever be viable again. This does not mean you're not dead; you are dead. Your brain cells, however, may not be.

“What’s fascinating is that there is a time, only after you and I die, that the cells inside our bodies start to gradually go toward their own process of death,” Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Newsweek. “I’m not saying the brain still works, or any part of you still works once you’ve died. But the cells don’t instantly switch from alive to dead. Actually, the cells are much more resilient to the heart stopping—to the person dying—than we used to understand.”


Parnia's research has shown that people who survive medical death frequently report experiences that share similar themes: bright lights; benevolent guiding figures; relief from physical pain and a deeply felt sensation of peace. Because those experiences are subjective, it's possible to chalk them up to hallucinations. Where that explanation fails, though, is among the patients who have died on an operating table or crash cart and reported watching—from a corner of the room, from above—as doctors tried to save them, accounts subsequently verified by the (very perplexed) doctors themselves.

How these patients were able to describe objective events that took place while they were dead, we're not exactly sure, just as we're not exactly sure why certain parts of us appear to withstand death even as it takes hold of everything else. But it does seem to suggest that when our brains and bodies die, our consciousness may not, or at least not right away.



“I don’t mean that people have their eyes open or that their brain’s working after they die," Parnia said. "That petrifies people. I’m saying we have a consciousness that makes up who we are—our selves, thoughts, feelings, emotions—and that entity, it seems, does not become annihilated just because we've crossed the threshold of death; it appears to keep functioning and not dissipate. How long it lingers, we can’t say.”

Read it all at: http://www.newsweek.com/where-do-you-go-when-you-die-increasing-signs-human-consciousness-after-death-800443

Faith and Science

We hear the argument that science is not faith-based like religion - because there is no provable, verifiable fact underlying most religion.

Dr. Ejaz Naqvi makes some interesting observations about this:

Scientific Fact: Most of the scientific (and non-scientific) community believes that light travels at 186,000 miles/second.

However the fact is that most of us (if not all of us) have no idea how fast that is.

That it's really incomprehensible for most people.

Most people (I would say over 99% of us) have not independently verified it themselves.

But they have faith in the scientists, so they believe this to be true.

I am in that category.

Scientific Fact: Our galaxy-the Milky Way, has a diameter of about 100,000 light years and that the Sun lies about 30,000 light-years from the center. (A light-year is the distance traveled by light in one year and is roughly 5,880,000,000,000 miles or nearly 6 trillion miles).

To be frank, most of us (if not all of us) have no idea how big that really is.

That it's really incomprehensible for most people.

Most people (I would say over 99% of us) have not independently verified it themselves.

But they have faith in the scientists, so they believe this to be true.

I am in that category.

Are the messengers of God (e.g. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad) and the Scriptures (The Bible and the Qur’an) like those scientists who asked the others to believe in the unseen?

Believing in the unseen God is incomprehensible (to some at least).

Most have not independently verified it.

But they still have faith.

But they have faith in the messengers/scriptures, so they believe this to be true.

If so many of us express such an unblinking faith in science, why would it be such a leap to express that faith in one's religion? Isn't faith in either coming from the same source?

We believe in things we cannot even comprehend because people we trust tell us it is true. That is faith.


A Sunday story.

Do we all have a choice? Speaker Ryan - or Speaker Pelosi?

Infamous Republican incumbent Martha Roby:

Democratic challenger Tabitha Isner:

Why I’m Running

"In the 4th chapter of Ephesians, Paul begs his listener to live a life worthy of the calling to which he’s been called. Since childhood, I have known that God called me to serve, and I have and will continue to spend my life trying to live up to that call. That’s why I am running for Alabama’s Second Congressional District. My political views are firmly tied to my faith, the idea that we are called to feed the hungry and care for the sick and liberate the captive. I believe that we do better by our children and families when we support abundant life for all rather than fearing that there isn’t enough to go around. In these United States of America, we can all enjoy abundant life, but it’s going to require courage and faithfulness to our ideals. We can restore unity and strengthen the bonds of peace, but It’s going to require humility and gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love."

I therefore a prisoner in the Lord beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all gentleness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3


Trump concocted a story about a border agent's death. The truth won't catch up.

Source: Washington Post, by Dana Milbank

This is the autopsy of a lie.

On the night of Nov. 18, Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dying on the side of an interstate in West Texas. There were immediate signs it had been an accident. Martinez’s partner, Stephen Garland (who suffered a head injury and doesn’t recall the incident), had radioed for help, saying he thought he ran into a culvert.

But President Trump and his allies saw an opportunity to whip up anti-immigrant fervor. At a Cabinet meeting Nov. 20, Trump announced, with cameras rolling, that “we lost a Border Patrol officer just yesterday, and another one was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. . . . We’re going to have the wall.” He also issued a similar tweet.


The FBI swung into action, mobilizing 37 field offices, and this week it announced its findings. Although the investigation “has not conclusively determined” what happened, “none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017.”

Compared with the original allegations, the findings got little attention. There was no corrective tweet from Trump or the others and no retraction by Fox News, which buried the FBI’s findings with brief mention. Fox News, which had previously reported immigrants to be guilty of rape allegations that were later dropped, continued to report the border union’s claim of assault “despite FBI finding no scuffle.”

It has been more than 300 years since Jonathan Swift wrote about the utility of falsehood: “If a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect . . . like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”

Read it all at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-lied-about-a-border-agents-death-the-truth-wont-catch-up/2018/02/09/02941b9a-0db7-11e8-95a5-c396801049ef_story.html

Alabama Congressional races 2018: Here's who is running

Alabama 2018 election qualifying ended yesterday!

For reference: http://www.al.com/expo/ERRY-2018/02/8c2c505bba/alabama_congressional_races_20.html

Of note: Roy Moore is not running for anything!

Former US House Rep. Blue Dog Democrat Bobby Bright is running against his nemesis Rep. Martha Roby (R) in the Republican Primary - he just switched parties.

No Democrat is running for Lieutenant Governor, even though present Governor was Lt. Governor when "LuvGuv Bentley" resigned. There is no Lt. Governor in place today, no incumbent. If you wanted proof of how screwed up the Alabama Democratic Party is, look no further.

*UPDATED CORRECTION*: Democratic candidate Dr. Will Boyd IS running in the Lt. Governor's race!


On the other hand...

5 qualifying Democratic candidates are women running for US House!

"The primary election is June 5 with a July 17 runoff date. The statewide general election is Nov. 6."


70,000 Alabama jobs said at risk if NAFTA talks crash

Source: AL.com, by Lee Roop

President Trump has threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) now up for renewal, but north Alabama business leaders were warned Thursday that he may also tear up 70,000 Alabama jobs if he does.

Jobs. They are why Alabama citizens should care about the negotiations under way to renew the deal among the U.S., Canada and Mexico originally signed 24 years ago, the business leaders were told. When the deal was made to cut or end duties on most products and parts moving between the three countries, all three wanted it.

"Now, we have two countries that really want it and another one that's saying they probably don't want it," Mexican Consul General F. Javier Diaz told reporters afterward. "That's a very different thing."


"A lot of people think that what we are trading with each other is finished goods," Diaz said. "Yes, we sell avocados and you sell bourbon. That's great."

But the real relationship is more complex, he said. "For example, every car that is done in North America, the cars are actually (made) partly in Mexico and partly in the United States. Out of every Mexican product that is exported to the world, 40 percent of that product is American content. If you compare that to China, the percentage of American content in a Chinese product is 2 percent."


Read it all at: http://www.al.com/news/huntsville/index.ssf/2018/02/70000_alabama_jobs_said_at_ris.html

No, Atheist Friends, The Bible Isn't Just "Fairy Tale."

Just another perspective!

Source: Patheos, by Benjamin L. Corey


For example, in the Hebrew scriptures we find a wide array of genres that all center around a theme: the birth and development of a people group that came to be known as ancient Israel. Most of it was written in hindsight (I believe most was written in the post-exilic period) as they looked back at where they had come from. From this literature we see how they viewed government, what bronze age nomads considered good laws, how they viewed the divine, which surrounding cultures they clearly hated, and which ones they were happy to borrow from as they grew in their individual identity.

Within that, do they also include some myths (sacred stories that aren’t literally true)? Some legends (popular stories that can’t be historically authenticated)? Yeah, of course. That’s the kind of stuff we expect to find in ancient literature like this.

As we move forward we find them writing about their wars, and see that just like those around them, they grossly exaggerated their victories (as I demonstrate in this 2 minute video of an artifact I stumbled upon in Amman, Jordan). We also see them write beautiful poetry and wisdom, two more literary genres found in the 66 book library. We find them talking about their national problems, their struggles with leadership and how establishing a monarchy backfired on them, and even have an entire book dedicated to things they complained about.

Then we move into another interesting genre – the prophets. No, these weren’t exactly future tellers, but more like the social justice advocates of their day. After the wars, their culture became like ours- the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer, so ancient “prophets” came along to tell them that such selfishness actually pisses God off. One of them even told people that God hates religious people who mistreat the poor and vulnerable, and that they make God want to vomit. (These guys often got killed, FWIW.)

And, of course, we have the Greek Scriptures, where some Jews started a new religion that became known as Christianity. In here we see fans of Jesus who wrote about his life and teachings, followed by a collection of letters written to different churches around the world– each one addressing different cultural struggles and issues they were having as they began to establish this new religion. The Bible even ends with a truly strange genre – Jewish apocalyptic literature – which was a specific genre that was geared towards giving people hope when struggling through rough times, but is notoriously complicated to interpret in modern times.


Read it all at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/is-the-bible-just-a-fairy-tale-and-do-atheists-have-an-unsophisticated-approach-to-literature/

And the movie genre!

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