When you have become God's in the measure he desires, then he himself will bestow you upon others, unless, to your greater glory, he choose to keep you all to himself.
Saint Basil the Great

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TRIGGER WARNING This article, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence against women which may be triggering to survivors.

Senator Al Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota and Saturday Night Live alumnus, recently introduced an amendment to the defense spending bill currently being debated in Congress.

Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working as a defense contractor in Iraq. She was drugged andWhen she reported the rape to her employer, she was locked in a storage container. Once she finally escaped and returned to the States, she was prevented from suing her employer, KBR, who was at the time a subsidiary of Halliburton, by a mandatory arbitration clause in her contract.

Franken’s amendment proposed to deny funds to defense contractors who required mandatory arbitration for “any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.” (Text) As Jon Stewart said, in the video to your right: “Seems like a slam dunk.”

So, that it was not a slam dunk seems to me, on the face of it, absurd. Who would vote against a such a bill? It seems clear and obvious that this is for the common good, unequivocally. There’s no hidden agenda in this amendment. It’s all right there in black and white: If you are receiving government funds as a defense contractor, you have to make sure you prevent your employees from being raped or otherwise harmed for any reason.

Did I miss something? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know why the thirty Republican senators sold their souls to Haliburton. It’s a rhetorical question.

And these are the people telling us that the poor don’t need health care. Somehow, I think this should not be a surprise.

In all, nine Republican senators “crossed the aisle” to vote for this amendment sponsored by Franken and nine other Democrats. Really, though, why would this not be a bipartisan, unanimous vote? Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.

In the video to the left, see Franken’s proposal of the amendment on the floor of the Senate.

Filed under: — Basil @ 3:58 pm

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Artificially Created Stem Cells Used to Cure Sickle Cell in Mice

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DailyTech – Artificially Created Stem Cells Cure Sickle Cell in Mice

Recently, scientists induced ordinary skin tissue cells to be pluripotent stem cells — a huge step that may allow all the advantages claimed for pluripotent stem cells without using any embryos. This research strongly indicates that it is indeed possible. Although the lead researcher states, “All the progress in this field was only possible because we had embryonic stem cells to work with first” (Washington Post), one wonders whether this research would have been pursued so vigorously had people of conscience not taken a stand, specifically by withholding tax dollars from embryonic stem cell research.

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:22 am

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Reflections on L’Engle’s Aesthetics

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In the wake of Madeleine L’Engle’s recent passing, I went to Barnes and Noble last night and picked up Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art. I love it, of course: Who could not love a book by one of the best Christian writers of the last century on faith and art? However, there is one paragraph that truly irritates. In a chapter entitled, “Icons of the True,” she puts in the following paeon to a relativism vis á vis art:

What is a true icon of God to one person may be blasphemy to another. And it is not possible for us flawed human beings to make absolute, zealous judgments as to what is and what is not religious art. I know what is religious art for me. You know what is religious art for you. And they are not necessarily the same. Not everyone feels pulled up to heavenly heights in listening to the pellucid, mathematically precise structure of a Bach fugue. The smarmy picture of Jesus which I find nauseating may be for someone else, a true icon.

I do not relate. Perhaps my understanding of truth is antiquated and naïve in this post-Wittgenstein world, but I still believe it means “corresponds (in some sense of ‘corresponds’) to a reality that exists external to me.” A true icon is one that bears a resemblance to its subject. I do not mean by this a mean verisimilitude. Rather, something about the work must somehow reveal something true. And while the revelation comes from our participation in the work as viewers, readers, or listeners, it does not follow that Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ, or any of his devotional imagery, is perhaps true for some. To say so is a pusillanimous evasion of the possibility that beauty may have an antonym (to use an expensive word that L’Engle uses twice in the first two chapters).

Naturally, when she quotes Bishop Kallistos (Ware), I am considerably warmer. His grace writes in the journal Sobornost:

an abstract composition by Kandinsky or Van Gogh’s landscape of the cornfield with birds… is a real instance of divine transfiguration, in which we see matter rendered spiritual and entering into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” This remains true, even when the artist does not personally believe in God. Provided he is an artist of integrity, he is a genuine servant of the glory which he does not recognize, and unknown to himself there is “something divine” about his work. We may rest confident that at the last judgment the angels will produce his works of art as testimony on his behalf.

(If that quote is reproduced in one of the many collections of his essays — The Inner Kingdom, perhaps — I would be grateful if someone would point out where I might read it in its total context.)

She closes the second chapter with this line, which I love: “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest meanings of the Incarnation.”

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:42 pm

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Habeas Corpus Protections Not For Everyone

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Guantanamo Detainees Denied Rights to Legal Appeal in Federal Courts- Google News

From the Christian Science Monitor:

“The suspension clause is a limitation on the powers of Congress,” Judge Rogers writes. “It is only by misreading the historical record and ignoring the Supreme Court’s well-considered and binding dictum in Rasul v. Bush” that the court can conclude that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the detainees’ cases.

From the Guardian:

Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer representing several of the detainees, said: “The court of appeal has said it is perfectly legal to lock men up for ever without even a hint of due process.

“The conclusion would seem to violate most principles that most Americans believe are fundamental to our country.”

In the ruling, the appeal judges said: “Precedent in this court and the supreme court hold that the constitution does not confer rights on aliens without property or presence within the United States.”

Does the Constitution “confer” rights? Or does it protect them?

What could the Tenth Amendment possibly mean if the Constitution confers rights? To read the Wikipedia article on Amendment X is to read a sad story of the subversion of the Constitution, begun under Lincoln and expanded under Roosevelt.

Filed under: — Basil @ 6:57 am

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Confusion in the Tao of Gender

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Recently, I read a quote from the usually adorable Keira Knightly that really burned me up. I read it in a magazine in the hairdresser’s. I’ve since decided, in a completely unrelated fashion, to purchase a WAHL and just buzz my head down to nothing once a week. Quoth Keira:

How are American men and British men different? “U.K. guys – well, the ones that I know – don’t take as much stock in their appearance,” says Keira Knightley in a new interview. “Ask an American guy what his beauty regime is, and he’ll tell you. Ask a Brit, and he’ll say, ‘Er … Guinness?’ I like that.”

I have been meaning to rant about this a little since I read it nearly a month or so ago, but I was reminded just now when reading a review of In Her Shoes by Frederica Mathewes-Green, whom I unfortunately missed when I attended her Antiochian Archdiocese parish in Baltimore a few weeks ago. She notes the masculinity of the male lead:

One last plus to this movie: the guy who eventually wins Rose’s heart turns out to be a much more interesting character than we’d have a right to expect from this kind of breezy, busy movie. According to the recent Leo Burnett Man Study, half of America’s men feel that their role in society is unclear. Do women want them dolled by remedial “Queer Eye” personal groomers? Or do they want a plaid-shirted, stubbly “Earl”? There’s uncharted distance between fop and caveman, metrosexual and retrosexual, yet that’s where most men live. In “In Her Shoes,” Simon (Mark Feuerstein) hits a mark in the middle that is surprisingly appealing, and the character holds his own on-screen despite the big-name ladies’ firepower. Simon has the listening skills women crave and expert culinary taste, yet his guy creds are vindicated by enthusiastic basketball fandom (though perhaps it’s too much to have him actually giving advice to the Sixers’ teammates, while they nod as insight dawns). Most of all, he’s in charge. When he and Rose begin to go horizontal, she nervously clicks off the lamp; he turns it on again. After a pause, she once again tries to hide her flaws in darkness; he looks at her firmly as he once again lights the lamp. What women want in men, even more than plucked eyebrows, is manly confidence. In a realm where examples are so scarce that half of the male population is confused, Simon is illuminating.

(The full review talks about the rest of the movie, of course: Frederica Mathewes-Green on National Review Online: Red-Hat District)

Now, perhaps Mother Frederica has spoken about what follows in one of her many essays on gender and sexuality (separate and distinct concepts, to be sure) released under the title Gender: Men, women, sex, and feminism. I don’t know; surely someone has, but I can’t cite it.

I’ve been thinking: masculinity and feminity complement one another, like yin and yang in the Tao. They are, or should be, balanced. The last century has seen a movement wherein that balance has been completely upset in a movement to secure equal rights and privileges for one part of this equation. Should we be surprised that the other part is confused?

Women have been told to act more masculine in order to liberate themselves; confusion about gender is only the beginning. The balance is beginning to right itself: Men are acting feminine. Indeterminate gender is becoming more acceptable socially.

Sometimes, I hear the lament, “Where have all the good men gone?” Perhaps the question should be reversed to find the answer.

Filed under: — Basil @ 9:09 pm

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Rhetorical Question Begging

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Clifton notes the subtle rhetoric of people more enlightened than you, me, or Jesus:

The pill acts in two ways. Primarily, it prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg so no fertilization can occur. Then in the rare event that an egg has already been released by the ovaries, the pill also changes the chemistry of the lining of the uterus so that any fertilized egg cannot implant.

Is this an abortion pill? No. For the most part the pill simply stops an egg from being available to come in contact with sperm. And even if there happens to be an egg present when sex occurs there is no disruption of an implanted embryo. The only way the pill can be seen as inducing an abortion is if one holds the view that non-implanted, fertilized eggs are fetuses — a view which few doctors, pharmacists, scientists or Americans subscribe to.

So, the good doctor and all those calm rational people who agree with them are true by fiat. Ipse dixit indeed.

Read the rest: This is Life: Revolutions around the cruciform axis — Lies, More Damned Lies

Filed under: — Basil @ 9:36 pm

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A Scientist Who Believes

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Here’s one for readers interested in my occasional jabs at creationism: The Language of God by Dr. Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome project, among other accomplishments. He is one of the believing scientists I’ve mentioned in my arguments for the compatibility of science and faith, a demographic which constitutes 40% of scientists in general, according to some statistics.

Richard Ostling mentions the book in an Associated Press article about Dr. Collins. The Language of God, writes Ostling, has two objectives:

He asks scientific skeptics to investigate God with the same open-minded zeal they apply to the natural world, saying that there’s no incompatibility between belief and scientific rigor.

He tells fellow evangelicals that opposition to evolution — whether based in the biblical literalism of creationists or “intelligent design” arguments — undermines the credibility of faith. He finds the first line of thought “fundamentally flawed” and says the second builds upon gaps in evidence that scientists are likely to fill in.

Someday, I will be able again to devote time to personal reading — that is, reading that is not a Training Aid Book or a Ship’s Service Manual. When I do, this will be waiting on my list. As will books on the misnamed movement “intelligent design.” (Seriously, we need to figure out how to get that phrase back.)

Hat tip: GetReligion: July 30, 2006

Filed under: — Basil @ 7:25 pm

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April Fools’ Joke a Day Late

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Evolution theory on last legs, says seminary teacher

The dateline is April 2. It should have been in the previous day’s paper. Seriously.

That debate is fueled by a belief that Darwinian evolution is linked to atheism, said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education and a former UK professor.

“This is actually, I think, key to understanding this whole controversy in this country: people think that because science restricts itself to a natural cause, it’s therefore saying that God had nothing to do with it,” Scott said.

Color me shocked. That’s the best quote in a newspaper article on creationism and evolution that I’ve ever read. It sums up exactly the entire problem and its solution: Teach Christians to integrate science into a consistent, coherent worldview that is both orthodox and modern.

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:11 pm

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Creation Revisited

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The series of short posts I wrote on creation last year I have compiled into a single article: “On the Dogma of Creation”.

All I have attempted to do here is show that it is possible to be modern, reasonable people and still be traditional, Orthodox Christians. The dilemma between being Orthodox and being educated, reasonable people is false.

You don’t have to agree with science, but it is not a buffet where the layman can take what he wants and leave the rest. Moreover, I would certainly never propose that the science of any generation is necessary to their salvation — whether it be the first century, the fourth, the sixteenth, the nineteenth or the twentieth. You may choose to reject modern science and believe instead in the four elements — earth, wind, fire, and water. (Personally, I think you would be silly to do that, but you are free to do so without fearing for your salvation.)

It is when you dogmatically proclaim your disapproval to be determinative and binding for all Orthodox Christians that you and I will come to rhetorical blows. Your false dichotomy, believed by too many of the loudest voices in the Church, is costing children their souls.

I won’t have it.

The original series will be left intact, of course.

Filed under: — Basil @ 6:53 pm

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Feminism Has Jumped the Shark

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Paige’s Page: Post-Feminism:

So that’s where feminism jumped the shark, in my opinion. It embraces the feminine only in its most exaggerated form. And it embraces feminism only in such a form. For instance, feminism tells me I can be anything I want. So I want to be a college professor. Great. And a wife and mother. Wait a minute. We fought to emancipate you from the slavery of motherhood, and now you’re going back? You’re on your own, June Cleaver.

Filed under: — Basil @ 2:20 pm

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Authority and Qualification

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Doctors for Dissent

Ran into this on Fr. Joseph’s blog.

…if you have a Ph.D. in engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, or one of the other natural sciences, and you agree with the following statement, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged,” then please contact us…

No. I don’t care what a medical doctor thinks about how my submarine works. I don’t care what an astrophysicist thinks about how my spleen works.

And I don’t care what mathematicians, medical doctors, physicists, veterinary doctors, computer scientists, or my local car mechanic have to say about biological evolution, because they are unqualified. They have no authority in the relevant fields.

The New York Times ran an article on this, noting the lack of biologists and noting that signers often possessed beliefs that verged on fundamentalism — including scriptural literalism and disbelief in the great age of the earth and the cosmos (4.5 and 15 billion years respectively, give or take a few billion).

Several said that their doubts began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches.

Some said they read the Bible literally and doubt not only evolution but also findings of geology and cosmology that show the universe and the earth to be billions of years old.

Roger J. Lien, a professor of poultry science at Auburn, said he received a copy of the petition from Christian friends.

“I stuck my name on it,” he said. “Basically, it states what I believe.”

Dr. Lien said that he grew up in California in a family that was not deeply religious and that he accepted evolution through much of his scientific career. He said he became a Christian about a decade ago, six years after he joined the Auburn faculty.

“The world is broken, and we humans and our science can’t fix it,” Dr. Lien said. “I was brought to Jesus Christ and God and creationism and believing in the Bible.”

He also said he thought that evolution was “inconsistent with what the Bible says.”

Just in case you wondered, the advice of a chicken doctor on how to read the Bible also doesn’t interest me.

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:16 pm

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Evolution Research Takes Top Honors in Science

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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Evolution takes science honours

The top honors awarded by the journal Science have been jointly awarded to “several studies that illuminated the intricate workings of evolution.” Although these honors were awarded the same week that a judge disallowed a pseudo-scientific philosophy from being taught in public school classrooms as science, the journal’s editors affirm that the awards were based on merit, not any desire to make a political point.

Colin Norman, news editor of Science, said the choice was based solely on the merits of the research, not the battle over [Intelligent Design®].

“I suppose if [that debate] influenced us at all, it was in the realisation that scientists tend to take for granted that evolution underpins modern biology,” he told the BBC News website.

“The arguments about [ID] just made us a little bit more aware of it.”

Mr Norman said he hoped the choice would send a message to scientists and the public: “Evolution is not just something that scientists study as an esoteric enterprise,” he explained.

“It has very important implications for public health and for our understanding of who we are.”

For example, by studying the differences between the human and chimpanzee genome, scientists may be able to pin down the genetic basis for many diseases. And studying the behaviour of the 1918 flu virus could help us combat the next avian influenza pandemic.

Why would studying the 1918 flu virus be listed under evolution?

Viruses and bacteria evolve at a much higher rate than more devoloped organisms. The diseases of today are not the same diseases faced by scientists a century ago. The 1918 flu virus had to be recreated because it doesn’t exist any longer. It is extinct, its descendants already some new species of influenza. Studying the evolution of diseases helps us to learn how to fight them.

It fascinates me that the BBC article refers to the shared subject of these studies as “the intricate workings of evolution.” Evolution is intricate, complex, and only barely understood. Wouldn’t the existence of such a complex and sophisticated mechanism for generating complex forms of life from simpler ones itself be an indication of a design, a signature of an intelligence beyond the realm of the scientific?

Indeed. Call the ID folks. Tell them we want the phrase “intelligent design” back. They’re welcome to use “thinly veiled creationism” instead.

Filed under: — Basil @ 1:47 pm

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The Lion of Never-never-land and Philosophy

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One should never enter a bookstore without expecting the possibility that Yet Another Book That MUST BE BOUGHT will be waiting inside. A few nights ago, I walked into a corporate, chain bookstore that shall remain nameless (so that I can still face my former coworkers at Joseph-Beth Booksellers). A table of Narnia and Lewis books did not surprise me. A much-anticipated film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia, is due for release December 9.

Even though it was a merchandising table, I was hoping against hope to see something by Kathryn Lindskoog, perhaps The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land, which provides a clef for the theological allegories of the books, or perhaps The Lewis Hoax, which presents a compelling case against the literary executor of Lewis’ estate. Neither book have I read, but I long ago added them to the queue of Books I Must Read Someday. Unfortunately, both titles remain out of print.

While browsing this table of Narnia merchandising, I came across The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy and noticed that one of the editors is Jerry Walls, a professor of Philosophy of Religion at Asbury Seminary. This certainly piqued my interest. Looking inside, I found an essay on Narnia and time by Michael and Adam Peterson.

Mike was my advisor and professor at Asbury College nearly ten years ago as I was studying philosophy there. It’s no exaggeration to say that his classes are the reason I switched majors from music to philosophy. His son Adam is currently an instructor at the college, as well.

Needless to say, I just had to buy it. Now, finding time to read it; that’s a different beast entirely.

Filed under: — Basil @ 11:48 am

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Vatican Again Defends Scientific Description of Creation

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Evolution in the bible, says Vatican – The Other Side – Breaking News 24/7 – NEWS.com.au

A good article, until the last paragraph:

His statements were interpreted in Italy as a rejection of the “intelligent design” view, which says the universe is so complex that some higher being must have designed every detail.

Where do they get the monkeys who write these things?

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:47 pm

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Intentional Community as the Necessary Incarnation of the Gospel for Our Times

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Intentional community – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I left the Roman Catholic Church after three years because I found an Eastern Orthodox intentional community that relieved the loneliness and alienation that I felt. I had read Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community for a political philosophy elective course around the same time that I encountered this community, so my decision to join and become Orthodox was based on a set of related convictions that:

  • individualism and community are inversely proportional to each other
  • we were meant to be, give, and receive love
  • love and community are necessary conditions for one another
  • individualism leads to alienation, love leads to belonging
  • the alienation of our culture, and the increasing alienation of each successive generation, can only be cured by a radical embrace of the Gospel, of love, and necessarily, of community

In this context, community is no longer a natural, normal thing that happens. In order to create healthy communities that enflesh the Gospel and counteract the loneliness and alienation of our times, we must be intentional about it. Intentional community, in a Christian context, is primarily about intentionally embracing values that lead to community. If we want communities that are not weak associations of coincidence but strong networks of love and support, that is a goal that must be pursued. They will not appear magically from mere hope and good will.

Paige criticizes intentional communities with a variety of informal fallacies. She begins by defining intentional communities as exclusive and then continues arguing as if this is the defining quality of intentional communities. Neither of these hasty generalizations is true of intentional communities as a whole, though they may certainly be true of a specific community. She makes another hasty generalization by arguing that because the community in which she grew up was unintentional and beneficial because of its diversity, therefore all diverse communities will be unintentional.

She puts forth (apparently as a joke) the straw man of Jim Jones and The People’s Temple as a negative example of intentional community (which it is). Ironically, “the Peoples Temple was initially structured as an inter-racial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless.”[1] The emphasis on community is undoubtedly one element of the Jonestown tragedy. Yet, like a fire which needs heat, fuel and oxygen, Jonestown probably resulted from a mix of potencies, which included Jones’ cult of personality, the community’s paranoid fear of the state and its cloistering from public life. The exact mix of factors will probably never be clear, but there are many intentional communities which have not become cults. Intentional community by itself does not lead to becoming a cult.

Her last paragraph summarizes the strongest objection to making parishes into strong intentional communities:

If someone wants to join my church but hates me, they only have to be around me like four hours a week, and even then they don’t have to talk to me. But if you’ve turned your church into an intentional community, and you get someone who doesn’t want to live in your neighborhood, hang out with you, arrange marriages between their kids and yours or whatever, are they going to feel welcome at your church?

There are several false assumptions about the nature of intentional community, but the basic objection stands: The Church is universal. What if someone just wants “church as usual” and doesn’t have what it takes to sacrificially create a loving, welcoming community. What if they live in the suburbs and just don’t want to live downtown? I think the answer lies in creating a workable solution so that parish members can opt-out of the stronger community without shame or coercion. However, another answer might be intentional communities which do not have the parish as their center.[2]

There will certainly continue to be discussion about this subject, but I doubt that the Church will acheive critical mass until there are concrete communities incarnating this idea in welcoming ways that avoid our common fears of Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate.

Filed under: — Basil @ 4:53 pm