Friday, April 30, 2010

Choosing Religion

The other day we were checking on the status of Tangerine, the latest addition to the downtown Bethlehem shopping scene. The store is going to be a great addition to downtown. If you loved Comfort & Joy you are going to really love Tangerine. The store is located in the Bethlehem Commons on the main floor. They are not quite ready for prime time but they should be in a week or two.

While there I picked up a fun little book called The Savvy Convert’s Guide to Choosing a Religion. The book gives one page synopsis of ninety-nine different faiths. At first I thought this was going to be fun and light reading. After all, how can you summarize a religion on one paperback sized page but I am really getting an education here. The authors give the reader the perks and drawbacks for each religion and gives a cost / time analysis of each one. The book is published by But, don’t order it online visit Randi at Tangerine and add it to your rest of your purchases.

I did not buy this book because I am in the market for a religion I bought because it looked fun, little did I know I was going to get and education from it. To help the reader decide if he or she is content with their current religion or need to find a new one the authors have included a survey. Let’s take it together.

Answer Yes or No to each question.

Do you ever fantasize about other religions?

Has your current religion stopped meeting your spiritual needs?

Do you question the leadership of your current religion?

Do you believe your current religion’s dogma?

Do you feel your current religion has strayed from its own core beliefs?

At services, do you feel like you’re just going through the motions?

When you read your current religion’s sacred texts, do you fall asleep?

Do you dislike most of the other followers of your current religion, or feel you have nothing in common with them?

Do you ever tire of explaining your religion to outsiders?

Does your current religion no longer fit your lifestyle?

Do you need to get directions to your current religions closest house of worship?

Is your current religion no longer convenient?

Is your current religion no longer in business?

Have you married outside your current religion?

Do your current religion’s restrictions – wardrobe, diet, sex –interfere with your lifestyle?

Have an of your current religions leaders been convicted of a felony?

Have you sunk your life saving into your current religion?

Do you suspect members of your current religion would attempt to prevent you from leaving if they knew you were planning to do so?

EVALUATING YOUR ANSWERS: Count the number of “yes” responses and proceed as follows:
1-5 - Wait for inspiration, but keep an open mind.
6-10 – Time to start browsing.
11-15 – Go forth and shop.
16-20 – Leave immediately, whether or not you have a new religion destination.

I will post my results by Monday. Please let me know your results.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hey Hey Ho Ho Arlen Specter Has Got To Go

A year ago I was really looking forward to the 2010 elections because this was going to be the year we Pennsylvanians were going to be rid of Arlen Specter once and for all. If the GOP mainstream did not rid us of him the Democrats were going to nominate someone who would finally send this old hack packing.

But no!

Our Governor (who I really like) and our great Vice President (Arlen’s good friend) had to get involved. Normally I am very supportive of Ed Rendell and Joe Biden because I think they are the two smartest Democrats in the country but they really let me down with their decision to bring Arlen out of the darkness and into the light.

Specter has always appealed to Democrats and Independents because of his strategic voting record. He is a centrist for 5 years of his term but to ensure he fights back the extreme (mainstream) opposition in the primary he votes like Jesse Helms during his final year. I often agree with Specter’s votes but in the end the man has no moral or political core beliefs. Before every vote he sticks his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. I suspect he polls his bowel movements.

Arlen Specter is a man who knew that voting to impeach President Clinton was wrong but he chose to explain his “neutral” vote by claiming some precedent in Scottish law. It made no sense then and it really only showed that he had no moral center. We all knew he thought impeachment was not right but he tried to appease both sides by his ridiculous attempt to abstain. But, then again this is the man who came up with the single bullet theory for the Warren Commission. And, the sleaziest of them all Little Ricky Santorum has come forward with a claim that Arlen said that he would support who ever President Bush nominated to the Supreme Court if Santorum and Bush would support him. This is really hard for me to write but I think Rick Santorum is telling the truth.

We have a chance this year to get it right. We have a chance this year to elect someone to the Senate that will represent us, someone we will be proud to call Senator. That someone is not Arlen Specter. I want to be able to say next January that my junior Senator is Joe Sestak.
Come on Pennsylvania Democrats we really have a chance to elect one of us. Do not allow Arlen Specter to carry our banner into the general election. Be proud of who we are, be proud of our heritage nominate Joe Sestak. Remember in 2008 Arlen Specter crisscrossed this great commonwealth telling us that Sarah Palin would be a great Vice President and now he wants us to make him our nominee for Senate.

This is an anti-incumbent year. Who would you rather replace Arlen Specter with Joe Sestak or Pat Toomey?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dear Mr. Pope

Dear Mr. Pope
Let me begin this letter by saying that I am not a Catholic and as such as President Clinton used to say “I do not have a dog in this hunt” but I do care dearly about people of faith and I do have an interest in the well being of children. I would never ridicule or mock anyone’s religion. OK, I have mocked Scientologists and Mormons but it really was just in good humor and not meant to be mean.

I am a man of great faith but not one of great religion anymore. I find a great deal to admire about many faiths. The serenity of Buddhism, the peacefulness of the Quakers, the fervor of Islam, the loyalty of Catholics, the openness of the UCC and many of the rest have their good points. I consider myself to a Humanist who believes in Jesus Christ and that we are all the children of Abraham.

I am writing you because I have followed the problems your church has been having lately, well I guess it really isn’t lately is it? These problems have been going on forever. Please allow me the opportunity to point out some of the less than stellar choices you and some of your predecessors made and to ask a few questions.

Do remember the scene in the third Indiana Jones movie where they had to choose what cup Jesus drank out of and the bad guy choose a jewel encrusted goblet, he died because he did not choose wisely. He should have chosen the plain clay goblet. Well, your church has made a lot of bad choices and in my humble opinion should have stuck with the plain goblet instead of going with the really fancy one.

Your regional managers or as you call them Cardinals are referred to as Princes of The Church. Do you think Jesus wanted his follower to be called a prince?

You have a level of bureaucracy that the Soviet Union could never attain. Do you think the Nazarene would have needed such elaborate book keeping practices?

As priests most of you take vows of poverty and yet you have maids, drivers, live in mansions, have housekeepers/houseboys and summer homes. Should we discuss the wealth that is housed in the little country you created, The Vatican?

You call your Priests Father and yet they are not and as per agreement should not be. And yet, some of the men that held your title were actually sons of men who held your title. Does this really make you all the successors to the 12 disciples?

One day you were a man with the title Cardinal the next day you were infallible. What was that transition like? Do you really think you are infallible?

I could go on but I don’t think you want to read 1,500 years of bad press and the questions that may arise. Let me get to the point.

Men in your employ violated their vows to their God and to you. They raped children, they exploited sexually confused and vulnerable teenagers and by many accounts you were more concerned with protecting the churches reputation than the needs of your hurting followers. Your response has been diplomatic at best and disdainful at worst, why?

Do you believe as you personal preacher believes that what is being said about some of your priests compares to the holocaust? I know everyone apologized but are you apologizing for what was said when it was written and when it was said or are you just sorry for getting caught revealing this anti-Semitism?

Do you believe that what has been reported lately, which is based on physical evidence, is really just evil gossip? Did these men abuse children or didn’t they? Some of your supporters like Bill Donahue of the Catholic League have blamed the boys involved and the Jews who own the New York Times for trying to discredit you. Do you agree that there is a Jewish cabal set out to destroy you and your church and that evil children lead your priests astray?

If the final shoe is dropped on this issue and it is shown to the world that you were involved in covering up some abuse will you renounce your infallibility and become one of us again? Or will you hide behind the fact that you are a head of state and cannot be prosecuted in other jurisdictions?

Your nation is the only one in Europe that is not a democracy. On paper at least you are the absolute ruler. Is that What Would Jesus Do?
Mr. Pope, you’re flock is hurting, it is searching for truth, it is searching for justice and it is longing for hope. Will you lead them to the promise land?

Best Wishes

Donald C. Flad Jr.

When the American Bishops spoke out for civil rights and voting rights the country listened and those bills were passed. When the American Bishops spoke out against the war in Vietnam the country listened. When the American Bishops spoke out against poverty the nation reacted. Now, after all the evidence that your Bishops allowed their children to be abused when this group of men speaks out no one pays any attention. What a lost opportunity to bring the teaching of Christ to the world.

Do you really think by treating the women of your faith as inferior beings you will really survive the long term? This is not 1310 this 2010.

Are you planning to excommunicate Maureen Dowd?


Friday, April 9, 2010

Faith Exception

During my teenage years I was quite religious, I went to church every Sunday, served on committees, was involved with the larger UCC community on a regional level and I wanted to be a minister. I had an extensive collection of crosses that I would wear outside my shirts as an expression of my faith. Looking back on it now I probably should have been mocked or teased because of it; I mean that’s how kids are. But, I was not and neither were any of the other kids who openly expressed their faith. There was one exception: Lou. I am sure in Lou’s grandmother’s eyes he was the perfect example of the nice Catholic boy, he was smart and he was faithful. We hated him.

We did not hate Lou because he was faithful or smart we hated Lou because he was a jerk. Yes he was smart but man did he try to lord it over everyone else. Yes he was faithful but that too he tried to lord over us it was his Catholic way or the Devil’s way. But what we really gave Lou grief over was all the time he spent assisting the priests and volunteering at the friary. Why did we give Lou such a hard time about his service to his church leaders? We assumed he was servicing his church leaders. We were all working under the assumption that after he served them dinner he was dessert. I have no idea what happened to Lou but every time I read a news report about the Catholic churches Priest sex scandal I think of Lou and how we all made such a joke of Priests having sex with boys.

People have been discussing this issue for as long as I can remember. I was teenager in the 70’s and then it was just sort of wink wink nod nod kind of thing. Everybody knew it was happening but nobody was really willing to admit it was occurring. It was the 800 pound gorilla no one wanted to discuss but I know that all of my parents Catholic friends hoped and prayed it did not happen to their sons. After all how could their priest do such a thing?
The issue of Priests having sex has been the worst kept secret in history. The fact that so many of them had it with children is what makes it shocking and repulsive.

My immediate family is not Catholic but we have many extended members who are (we are Irish). My great aunt died a few years ago and she was the last Catholic family member we were close to. A few years before she died she made the decision to stop contributing to her local parish because she believed they were sheltering a child molester. When she died she did not have a mass and the priest the parish sent to lead the service at the funeral home was the one she was protesting. They sent the molester to bury my Great Aunt.

Over the past few weeks there has been a slow drip of bad news coming out about the Catholic Church and the way it handled its abuse by priest’s problem. The story seemed to have left the front pages for awhile but now it is back with a vengeance. This is a story that should never go away. Children and young people were abused and hurt, criminal acts occurred and the church’s leaders did nothing or worse they tried to protect the priests involved.

Lives were ruined and God’s representatives on earth were the ones that did it and their bosses turned the other way. Children were raped by the men their parents entrusted them to. These men they called Father, these men who comforted them in time of crisis and need, these men betrayed them in the worst possible way, they hurt their children. They destroyed the faith and hopes of the children that were the future of their church.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Historic Preservation / One

Last Thursday I made my first baby steps back into the arena. I read that the Bethlehem Historic Preservation Task Force was going to be giving a presentation about the status of historic preservation here in my fair city. Since I live in ground zero of Bethlehem's historic preservation efforts, I thought I would attend.

I was glad I did. First off three of my Twitter pals attended, it is always nice to be in the company of such brilliance, grace and charm and secondly I learned a great deal. I was actually expecting a presentation and instead I participated in small group discussions about about what direction the city's historic preservation efforts should be going.

Our table was nice mix of people, one person was second generation Hispanic whose family are small business and property owners, one person rides a bike to work as often as he can and has a background in architecture, two are or will be affiliated with Lehigh (not that they are / were defined by that), one person grandparents were part of the initial wave of Eastern Europeans who made Bethlehem Steel work and then there was me, lucky to have lived in the city's finest neighborhood for more than half his life and someone who fancies himself an historian.

In the end most of the attendees were in basic agreement as to what path the city should follow.
Details of our discussions can be found on the website

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Hillary Kwiatek has some great perspective on the evening and more over at Lehigh Valley Independent, click the link below.