Archive for October, 2007

Tolerance

I admit, I’m biased. I believe, in the absence of absolute proof, that Jasper is the best dog ever, anywhere. But here’s an episode that perhaps confirms my belief.

I live next door to a lady who moved here from Denver, but whose country of origin is Somalia. She is Muslim, a fact which I did not confirm (although I assumed) until I adopted Jasper in August. At that time, she complimented me on my new puppy, but explained that she could not touch Jasper, especially his mouth. (When I asked, she confirmed, “because of religion.” Her English, while pretty good, is strongly accented, and I like to make sure before I quote her. šŸ™‚

Anyhoo, I found her beliefs about dogs interesting, and I found it posed a small (potential) conundrum for me. What if her two boys, or their cousin, wanted to meet Jasper? Granted, I could fall back on the time-honored “ask your mother” dodge, but seriously, what was my moral obligation? As an agnostic who found most religious pronouncements inexplicable, but an agnostic who wanted to honor other people’s religious pronouncements, what ought I to do?

It became a non-issue, because her kids seemed to be scared of Jasper and would run shrieking if the issue presented itself. It’s kind of funny to find people who are scared of my 16-pound dog, although I suspect they’re actually more concerned about their mother’s reaction than about my dog’s capacity for violence.

Anyhoo, my neighbor (whose name is something like Chukri, which is the correct pronunciation but possibly a wildly incorrect spelling) stopped over the other night to deliver the candy I had ordered from her daughter’s school sale. Latifa [again, a guess based on sound] is a sweet little gal and I’m all about the chocolate, so it was a win-win situation. But there were Chukri and my dog, in the same room, religiously incompatible. Chukri was polite, expressing an appreciation for his cuteness verbally and a desire for separation nonverbally.

You know who was most aware of her body language? Jasper. That little tiny dog, who ordinarily is more social than, I don’t know, Mr. Bean, kept his distance. He looked at her without approaching to sniff, he avoided eye contact, and he watched as she left without crowding the door. Now this is a dog who wants to meet EVERYBODY. People, dogs, cats, even frogs, he wants to approach and usually does so without causing anxiety. (I’m not kidding. He once met a frog who chose NOT to hop away. Imagine. Same deal with a kitten.) But there he was, keeping his distance.

In short, Jasper may be more tolerant of religious differenceĀ than I am. He respected, without giving into, religious beliefs that he theoretically isn’t even aware of. Who’s a good puppy? Who? Who? And why won’t the picture of him in a deeply ugly sweater upload?

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Shots

Apparently parents who are convinced that vaccinations either don’t help or might give their kids autism are claiming exemptions from vaccination based on religious grounds – even if they don’t really have religious grounds. Check it out:

Ā http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071018/ap_on_re_us/vaccine_skeptics

This is one of those freedom of religion vs. community safety issues that you can wrestle with all day long. On the one hand, I’m all for freedom of religion – obviously, they’re all equal to me! – but on the other hand, if I had kids, I’d rather be sure that they won’t be sitting next to a kid who hasn’t had his smallpox vaccination. Shouldn’t freedom of religion stop where somebody else’s safety starts? Then again, what are the ethics of lying about your religion in order to avoid something you consider to be dangerous to your child?

Uh…

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com:80/2007/10/12/coulter-we-want-jews-to-be-perfected/

Is this really what Christians believe about Jews? That Jews have to obey their laws, but Christians don’t have to because Jesus died for their sins? That Jews would be perfected if they would just convert to Christianity?

Holy…

While I’m ruminating on the future of yon blog, I must report on the latest book I’m reading. It’s by John Dominic Crossan, author of A Historical Jesus, which I tried to read a few years and simply got bogged down. It’s a fantastically researched book but it got a bit too dry for Ms. Short Attention Span.

I have a different feeling about his latest book, God & Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. It’s about the United States and its (arguable) status as the new Roman Empire. Of course, we don’t claim to be an empire, but there are plenty of people who would call us an empire, whether admiringly or critically. God & Empire is probably going to be a disturbing book, both for me and any Christian who reads it. Rather than try to summarize arguments I haven’t read yet, I’ll quote the questions he poses in his introduction:

Since the Old Roman Empire crucified our Lord Jesus Christ, how can we be his faithful followers in America as the New Roman Empire? …Is our Christian Bible violent or nonviolent – is it actually for or against Jesus’s nonviolent resistance to “this world”? …Is Bible-fed Christian violence suppportingĀ  or even instigating our imperial violence as the New Roman Empire?

Yikes. Stay tuned.

Time for some (more) reader collaboration

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been a little MIA on this blog. In part, it’s been a practical absence; I had a vacation, a garage that (still) needs painting, a bathroom that needed a remodel (the fixtures are next!) and a dog who needs to be walked a fair amount.

Ā But my absence has been philosophical as well. I’ve been trying to figure out where to go with this blog next. I’ve enjoyed going to church and reporting on my experiences, but I’ve also felt like my reports are getting sort of redundant. Also, as an agnostic, going to church is not really integrated into my usual routine. I’m hoping to get back to where I go to church more, but I also don’t want to go about it the same way as I have.

This, of course, is where all of you come in. I’d like to hear what you would like more of on this blog. Reports on church experiences? Thoughts on other religions? Books I’m reading? What about other stuff that I haven’t talked about on this blog? Let me know what your thoughts are.