While I maintain that the scientific community has for hundreds of years steadfastly failed to exercise a modern sense of decency and respect for human remains of the ancients, a recent article in Ars Technica prompted me to type my concern.
The objection I have is that most societies in the world currently place special value and reverence in the preserving and protection of interned human remains, often citing the desire to allow the departed the right to rest in peace. Yet, among governments, scientific organizations, academics, and museums we allow an abandonment of these values and permit the continual insult to the deceased–who’s remains serve as equivalents to rock samples and objects to be endlessly studied and displayed to the curious.
Would we allow such a spectacle to be exacted upon our own families?
We have often discussed the struggle of women in Muslim countries in resisting religious-based requirements for coverings and limitations on their movements and interactions. Turkey was once the exception among these countries as a secular, modern nation. That was before the rise of Islamic parties under the authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey under Erdogan has already rolled back on protections for girls and women in abuse cases. Now the country is considering a horrific law aptly called the “marry-your-rapist” bill. Under this legislation, men accused of having sex with underaged girls could avoid punishment if they marry their victims.
We recently discussed the defection of Iran’s only Olympic female medalist due to the continuing discrimination and repression of women in that country. Now, Iranian chess master and referee, Shohreh Bayat, 32, has refused to return to Iran after pictures emerged of her without a hijab caused a controversy in the Islamic Republic. The decision is another painful example of the struggle of women under Islamic laws that deny them basic human rights.
There have been a highly disturbing increase in anti-Semitic attacks around the world. Not surprisingly, those carrying out such attacks tend to be disturbing or extremist elements. Tristan Morgan fits that profile and showed that his overwhelming hate is combined with an underwhelming intellect. Morgan succeeded in lighting his own head on fire in trying to burn down a synagogue and then walked away laughing in front of witnesses.
President Donald Trump is often incautious in his language when speaking on the international stage. Words matter in diplomacy which often reflect important distinctions of international law. President Trump’s latest tweet is an example of this pattern. In pledging to strike back “very fast and very hard” to any Iranian retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Trump included striking Iranian cultural sites. Under international law, the targeting of cultural targets is viewed as a war crime. The U.S. military has a long history of avoiding such targets.
We have yet another example of the perils facing academics in some Muslim countries with a death sentence handed down by a Pakistani court against Professor Junaid Hafeez, 33, because he allegedly posted derogatory remarks against Mohammed on social media. Many of our closest allies routinely flog or kill those who simply question religious dogma.
In an example of the increasing intolerance for opposing views, particularly about President Donald Trump, a conservative Denver radio host at 710 KNUS was cut off the air in mid show and fired after he criticized Trump. According to the Denver Post, former district attorney Craig Silverman had just criticized the President in a segment on Roy Cohn when the Program Director Kelly Michaels came into the studio and simply said “You’re Done.” Update: The company belated responded to media inquiries to deny that it fired Silverman for his views of President Trump.
President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual adviser, Paula White, has previously made news with prayers that denounced the ‘demonic networks” and stating that Christians who vote against Trump will be called to account before God. A controversial “prosperity gospel” preacher, White will now lead the president’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. In a prayer on a conference call White proclaimed “Lord, we ask you to deliver our president from any snare, any setup of the enemy, according to Ephesians 6:12. Any persons [or] entities that are aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus.” What troubles me most is the implied message that opposing Trump a sin or, at a minimum, an act that will bring divine retribution.
Rough patch for Joe Biden. For a month, Biden has had to deal with continued gaffes, Hunter Biden’s dubious dealings with corrupt Ukrainians, and a distinct lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Now he has been declared persona non grata by his church. On Sunday, Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church refused communion to Biden over his stance on abortion. He declared that his support for abortion “places himself . . . outside of Church teaching.” With all due respect to Father Morey, I feel that he was wrong to deny Holy Communion. As someone raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, I do not see why Biden’s political stance puts him outside of the sacraments. Biden has long said that he personally opposed abortion but that he believes every person should have the right to decide that question for herself. Unless that stance has changed, I fail to see why Biden should be turned away in this fashion at the altar.
Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed is out with a book that was written in part to rally evangelicals behind President Donald Trump. it was the original title of the book that first caught my notice, “Render to God and Trump.” It is, of course, a reference to the well-known biblical verse, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The use of the Matthew 22 is curious in that Caesar was ultimately brought to his end as a dictator by the hands of multiple Senators. Not exactly the image that one would relish going into a possible impeachment.
Sherry Tina Uwanawich, 29, has been sentenced to more than three years in jail in a novel case in Florida. Uwanawich was convicted of swindling a woman out of $1.6 million to lift a curse. A Gypsy healer, Uwanawich claimed to have a direct line to God. The case rekindles questions over the line between legitimate faith (and gifts to religious organizations) and faith-based fraud. Most of the major religions claim miracles as well as communications with God. Most receive large donations, including from people hoping to be healed or helped. The question is when such claims amount to fraud or just faith. We have previously discussed this issue over the liability of fortune telling and super-natural services (here and here).
The Reverend Dan Reehill is the pastor of St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee and he has banned Harry Potter books because he believes that the books contain “actual curses and spells” that “risk conjuring evil spirits.” Reehill is a grown man who thinks that actual magic or evil spirits may be summoned by reading the books. Moreover, he is in charge of a school of children.
In a disturbing statement to the media, President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” American Jews have long fought against the common trope that they vote solely on Israel and put the interests of that country above their own. Weirdly, Trump appears to be adopting the trope with this comment. It is a deeply insulting suggestion for Jewish Americans who vote their consciences on the future of this country. Trump seemed to suggest that they are expected to be one issue voters.