Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cancer, Healing, and the Meaning (Or Lack Thereof) of This Life

"Cancer" is one of the five worst words in the English language.  It sounds ugly.  It has ugly, death-ish connotations.  It evokes images of some alien life taking over one's body.  It has two c's that make different sounds, which is lame and annoying.  And when you learn that a young, healthy loved one has cancer it is so devastating.  You find yourself doing verbal somersaults to avoid saying the word out loud, as if by saying it you will make it worse.

So I recently had the occasion to give a loved one a priesthood blessing related to a cancer diagnosis, and as I've contemplated mortality and healing I've started having a lot of questions which I've never thought about before.  After that blessing I went and read Elder Oaks' talk from the most recent conference called "Healing the Sick".  The takeaway point, I think, is the following:
From all of this we learn that even the servants of the Lord, exercising His divine power in a circumstance where there is sufficient faith to be healed, cannot give a priesthood blessing that will cause a person to be healed if that healing is not the will of the Lord.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Religious Freedom and the Ground Zero Mosque

The Eleventh Article of Faith states: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

I stated in my last post that my evolving three pillars of Things I Care About The Most In Politics are peace, a healthy sustainable environment, and moral/religious agency.  I think if we safeguard these three things we can live in a pretty great world for a long time.  Of course the three are intimately intertwined.  War is usually based on scarcity of resources (the environmental aspect) or religious conflict.  If we could focus on cleaning up our religious conflicts and our environment, sustainable peace would surely follow.

Unfortunately, there are many right here in America who want to restrict the religious freedom of anyone that worships different than they do, thus creating more conflict and less peace.  The latest and most public incarnation of this bigotry is the uproar over the plans to build a mosque and Muslim information center a few blocks from ground zero.

The opponents of this mosque truly believe that those who died on 9/11 would be dishonored by the mere fact that Muslims would have a place of worship so near ground zero.  The only way this thinking makes sense is if you believe that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of al Qaeda and the extremist factions that want to harm the United States.  This is, of course, absurd and bigoted.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Probably Time For A Little More Optimism Around Here

In the latest iteration of how we treat our planet, we have now released probably between 50 to 100 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and we're probably only about halfway through the the release.

It is the sort of disaster that just makes you sick.  Birds and dolphins and fish are dying and people are losing their livelihoods.  We care so much about cheap energy that we are willing to downplay or ignore even the most heinous risks to get it.  Doing the hard things and making the hard decisions for our long-term good is not a particularly strong attribute for us, and the gulf oil spill is the perfect reminder of that fact.

And this applies to more than just the environment.  Israel and Palestine won't make the hard decisions in order to come to peace.  The same goes for many other nations, including America, which value short-term benefits and military force over long-term solutions and true and lasting peace. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's Time to Condemn Israel and Require More Concessions for Peace

What came first, the Palestinian terrorism, targeting of civilians, and suicide attacks on Israel chicken or the Israeli targeting of civilians and brutal oppression of Palestinians egg?

The latest escalation of the problem occurred over the weekend when Israeli commandos stormed a humanitarian aid ship headed for Palestine and killed at least ten civilians.  The ship was attempting to violate an Israeli embargo of Gaza.  This horrendous act is just Israel following the script, though.  The next few scenes will inevitably go something like this:  Palestinians will react to the killings at sea with protests and violence; Israel will react to Palestinian protests and violence by entrenching further, demolishing a few buildings, tightening their grip on Palestine and the decades-long embargo leading to even more soul-crushing poverty and desperation; Palestinians will resort to suicide bombings and terror; Israel will crush a Palestinian uprising.  The rest of the world will have some harsh critiques for the script but allow the play to go on.

* For some reason I'm having difficulties embedding the video, so go watch it on Youtube here.

Glenn Greenwald, of course, does a masterful job outlined just why this latest attack is so repulsive, and the inept handling of the situation by the Obama administration, which refuses to join countries like Russia, Turkey, Brazil, France, Spain, and China in condemning the attack.  This was a boat in international waters delivering badly needed food, medicine, and building materials to Palestinian civilians who live in abject poverty and under dictatorial oppression.  The United States must send a strong message that human rights and basic human decency are of paramount importance, more important than Israel's right to oppress the Palestinians, and condemn this act.