LGBT rights * Middle East woes * Secret of happiness: Monday’s Roundup

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An photograph of a Bodhi tree with a Buddha statue.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock

How to be happy? Heed the wisdom of the Buddha, shown here in a in the Bodhi tree.

We can promise you a happy Monday because, despite the parade of miseries in the news, we’ve learned the secret. First, the news:

Today, President Obama will sign an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers in workplaces with federal contracts. It retains a Bush-era exemption for hiring by religiously affiliated organizations but adds no new exemption for religious owners of private businesses. Will this turn into the next religious liberty face-off in the courts in the post-Hobby Lobby era? Stay tuned.

Intractable Woe I:

The last Christians in Mosul are fleeing for their lives, facing threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in an open letter to the world released by the Vatican, says, “Iraq is heading to a humanitarian, cultural, and historical disaster.” One headline sums it up:

Intractable Woe II

Any news report not riveted to the tragic shoot-down of the Malaysian Air flight over the Ukraine is locked in on the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza. Pope Francis personally phoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In his Sunday prayers, he appealed for peace from Iraq to Israel, Gaza and Ukraine: “Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!””

It’s always the sunset

Lots of folks who detach from organized religion say they see God in the sunset . Photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

Lots of folks who detach from organized religion say they see God in the sunset . Photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

Can anyone write about the spiritual-but-not-religious trend without a tinge of mockery? Mark Oppenheimer almost gets there in his survey of new scholarly books, But even the authors can’t resist: “These people always find God in the sunsets,” (the Rev. Lillian) Daniel said. “And in walks on the beach.”

No love I

“Cue the Taylor Swift ballads: We have here a serious case of unrequited love,” says Michael Schulson. He’s looking at the new Pew Research Center survey finding that evangelicals really love Jews but Jews give them the relative cold shoulder.

No love II

Atheists are disliked more than Congress. That’s as low as it gets in public opinion, says blogger Tobin Grant.

But Sarah Jones, filling in for Faitheist blogger Chris D. Stedman, says interfaith dialogue can help create warmer feelings for unbelievers.

Praise on high

Who knew astronaut Buzz Aldrin brought bread, wine and a mini-chalice along on to mark the moonwalk 45 years ago with a private communion prayer? He later wrote that maybe it was a wrong call to celebrate a Christian sacrament when “we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists.”

Creation v. evolution redux

Turmoil continues at Bryan College, the Christian liberal arts college named for William Jennings Bryan. Four members of the board of trustees have resigned. Ever since a new president altered the statement of faith to highlight that all descend from Adam and Eve, the Dayton, Tenn., campus has seen layoffs, dwindling enrollment and faculty resignations have followed.

Rocker tosses rocks

Some versions of Tom Petty’s Hypnotic Eye album, coming this month, have a bonus track titled “Playing Dumb” — Petty’s view of how the Catholic Church has dealt with sexual abuse. Hat tip to Hemant Mehta for this.

Breakfast faith

If you haven’t had breakfast yet, your soul will crave it after reading Brian Pellot on the United Church of Bacon’s ‘Hail Piggy’ prayer — ‘Hail Bacon, full of grease, the Lard is with thee.”  The secular group’s pork power church parody is part of their serious anti-discrimination mission.

An photograph of a Bodhi tree with a Buddha statue.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock

How to be happy? Heed the wisdom of the Buddha, shown here in a Bodhi tree.

Now, have a happy day!

To get you started, we have the secret of happiness, neatly distilled by Arthur Brooks in an op-ed in highlighting the wisdom of the Buddha — give up cravings and grasping. Instead, “Love people, use things.”


  • Lles Nats

    I’m pretty sure the secret to happiness is to not read the RNS.

    For thise playing at home, gaza prisoner bodycount now exceeds 500….and they only get “militants” 10 percent of the time. Kerry is right. Its a hellova pinpoint operation.

  • John McGrath

    I’d like to see a book about the religious but not spiritual. The few church goers I know seem unable to show any trust in God in times of adversity. I don’t go to church, I’m not spiritual, I’m not religious but in times of adversity I turn my troubles over to God and then do what I can about them and do not fret the rest.

    hen I was growing up religious people I knew did have a trust in God. But they were not doctrinaire about their religion.

  • John McGrath

    If I were a Jew I would find the love of many fundamentalist Christians for me to be malign. I see where many love the Jews because in their view they the Jews been appointed by God to start the final war that will lead to the rapture and then torture of the rerst of humanity, including the Jews. Yikes.

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  • Becky Roth

    One small correction, please, from a Dayton, Ohio native: Bryan College is in Dayton, Tennessee.

  • John McGrath

    Sorry, science has recently discovered that a disposition to happiness is largely genetic. I guess the rest have to work at it. I trust the scientific finding because I am always happy – that is, content, intellectually and creatively engaged, well disposed towards others, taking pleasure in seeing others enjoy themselves, able to handle adversity well, daily delighted by my good fortune in living on a modest income and having so many cultural resources available to me, and able to tolerate the mild pain I live with. My whole extended family is like this. We don’t have any practices that have made us this way. It’s not merited, it’s not virtuous, it’s genetic.

    And “living for people” is an inadequate antidote for materialism. I have no friends (I used to have many) in my old age but I am happy out of a love for craft. for doing certain things well. The doing of things well, If I have any understanding of Buddhism (I’m not one) involves, at least in part, doing things well, turning the at ordinary into beauty.

    There are many solitary people like me who are happy. I admit, I am constantly feeling admiration for the incredibly talented musicians that live and perform (for low prices) in my neighborhood. The same for threatre troupes. I feel gratitude for many others whom I observe and do not know. I love seeing them enjoying themselves or fully engaged in their creativity. I also have random pleasant conversations about 2-3 times a w eek with strangers or relative strangers.

    I suspect that, for those not genetically disposed to be happy, there are many ways to find happiness. I have known some self-centered materialists and sorry, they were happy too.

  • John McGrath

    Recently Just War theory has been poo-pooed as out of date because modern wars, due tor their totalistic nature, cannot be just. Big mistake. wars keep happening.

    We need to revive and constantly educate about just war theory even if it is out of date. The point about proportionality is especially important in regard to Gaza. Is Israel using defensive tactics proportional to the attacks it has suffered? I know it is official Israeli policy to target militants while Hamas officially is out to just kill Jews. But is Israel succeeding in its targeting, or has it lost all sense of proportionality and gone on a killing spree?

    My own opinion is that Israel is trying to drive out as many Palestinians as possible from north Gaza in order to occupy that territory in some kind of deal with the Palestinian Authority. Not that the neighboring Arab Muslim states are not offering any moral or other kinds of support to the Palestinians. Why?

  • Lles Nats

    Great post.

    Why? I think neighboring states like egypt are bought off by the US. So we pay for the armament in israel, we pay for their “border defense”, we pay for their iron dome, we pay for their neighbors to get in line with “policy” and we pay for the palestineian refugees via the UN. Israel too exclusive responsability for any jewish refugees in gaza some time ago…but the Muslim and non-jew refugees….they don’t want to assist in any way.

    And as for the old argument that hamas is cowardly because they launch attacks behind innocent s and hide arms in schools….well where else are they going to fight from? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutley hate that people are dying, soldier or not…but everything has been limited on purpose in gaza. There simply is no other place from with to launch a offensive for those hamas Muslims who dont like their ongoing treatment via “policy” from israel.

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  • Larry

    “Not that the neighboring Arab Muslim states are not offering any moral or other kinds of support to the Palestinians. Why?”

    Because Hamas is in the employ of Iran. Aside from Syria, nobody in the region is a big fan of Iran or their lackeys. Egypt never liked the Palestinians of Gaza and has tried to fob off responsibility of dealing with them on Israel since 1973.

    Fact of the matter is the Palestinian Authority considers Gaza a breakaway state by a rogue government. One must bear in mind Gaza only became under the control of Hamas in a haze of fratricidal bloodshed.

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