“Many Faiths, One Truth”

That’s the title that caught my attention from atop an opinion piece in last week’s New York Times.

You don’t have to be a scholar of religions to understand that the major faiths share some basic teachings.  In this essay the Dalai Lama recounts discussions with scholars and experiences from his travels to demonstrate that compassion is a common tenet among the great religions, even when acts by a few of the “faithful” make it hard for the rest of the world to see that.

He believes recognizing common ground makes us better able to accept differences: “While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.”  He’s arguing for greater tolerance from all people toward the faiths and practices of all other people, and not just for feel-good reasons:

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

To paraphrase: stop letting differences in religious tradition and practice get in the way of the unity we Earthlings need to embrace.  Don’t throw away the gift while arguing about the pattern on the wrapping paper.

Dear Michael Berry…

Really?  Really?

I confess I don’t listen to your radio show, but if Houston’s Leading Information Source is to be believed you said on the air Wednesday that you thought it’d be a good thing that any mosque built near the site of the September 11 attacks in New York City be bombed:

“I’ll tell you this — if you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up.” Berry added: “I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up, and I mean that.”


I see that you posted a message online the next day insisting

“I did NOT advocate bombing any mosque.”

and provided the audio there so people can listen for themselves.  Good.  But the words say what the words say: “I hope it’s blown up, and I mean that” do not convey the same message as “I hope the mosque isn’t built.”  And

“I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up, and I mean that.”

teeters right on the edge of encouragement.  I expect better from someone serious about the responsibility attendant to using the public airwaves.  (Yes, I know there are plenty of others who aren’t…but if Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge…)

I respect your apology for the poor word choice, but what’s really beneath you is playing the victim: accusing the Council on American-Islamic Relations of trying to intimidate you?  Telling your audience, “If that means I have to go off the air because I have an opinion that offends them, then that’s what that means.”?

(Does that kind of thing really sell on the air these days?  Really?)

IPTV threatens democracy—more after Oprah

Does the delivery system really make a difference, or do we just like to let ourselves get all caught up in something new?  I think the answer is, yes.

Last week Lord Google announced Google TV, its proprietary flavor of The Next Big Thing: Internet television, IPTV.  I’m not surprised to see Google out front on this: a system to deliver television programs over a fast Internet connection to a set top box for presentation on the ginormous high definition display at the heart of the family entertainment center.  If I can sit in my big comfy chair and enjoy cool Internet stuff on the same big clear monitor where I watch my teevee shows, and can get my shows on demand instead of on someone else’s schedule, why wouldn’t I?

This nirvana is not without its perils, though (but you knew that, right?): along with further diminishment of shared communal experience, local broadcast TV stations and their news operations are at economic risk.  The respected former newsman and Silicon Valley CEO Alan Mutter makes the case for the threat to local stations: once I can watch anything on my giant TV on demand, I will; so, the value item that local TV stations offer advertisers—a mass audience at a time certain—will start to diminish; and with it, the high profits local stations earn.

Then Mutter takes the next step: reduced profits mean less revenue available for the local broadcaster to spend on programming, specifically local news, which is the majority of any local station’s local programming.

Now I have my issues with local TV news, but I agree with Mutter:

A contraction in local TV news coverage, combined with the recent curtailment of newspaper coverage in most communities, will deprive our society of even more of the authoritatively reported information that is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.

So, it’s our convenience and amusement vs. an informed and active citizenry?  Uh oh…

Now, this is what play-by-play is supposed to be

I never heard Ernie Harwell call a whole baseball game on the radio, and from all I can tell I am the poorer for that.

The long-time Detroit Tigers play-by-play man passed away last week, in his 90s and suffering from bile duct cancer.  Google him and you’ll find pages of eloquent tributes to the man, to what he meant to Detroit, and to what he meant to generations of Tiger fans.

As a baseball fan, and a broadcaster, I’ve admired the great radio voices of the game’s past—Red Barber, Mel Allen—through what was written about them and from what brief recordings I’ve heard.  A few of those great voices did some television, and that’s how I got more familiar with the likes of Jack Buck and Jon Miller.  And, of course, Vin Scully.

Scully is from the Bronx, so I have a soft spot.  When Ernie Harwell moved to the Giants in 1950 it was young Vin Scully who took his seat in the Brooklyn radio booth.  Despite his belonging to that hated team, I’ve admired Scully’s easy, relaxed call of a game, how he could bring the sequence of events of a game to life and tell another story, and never let one get in the way of the other.

Here’s the proof: today I found a transcript of Scully’s call the night Harwell passed away; imagine a little crowd noise in the background…I’ll wait.


Now…imagine how it would go if your team’s radio guy tried to do that.

I wish I’d written this

“Religious liberty—the freedom to worship as one chooses, or not to worship—is a central element of the American creed.”  And from there “Newsweek” editor Jon Meacham’s column in this week’s issue lays out the argument—straight down the middle—that the separation of church and state is there for the benefit of both:

The civil and legal cases against religious coercion are well known: human freedom extends to one’s conscience, and by abolishing religious tests for office or mandated observances, Americans have successfully created a climate—a free market, if you will—in which religion can take its stand in the culture and in the country without particular help or harm from the government.

There is a religious case against state involvement with matters of faith, too. Long before Thomas Jefferson, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, called for a "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world," believing, with the Psalmist, that human beings were not to put their trust in princes. The principalities and powers of a fallen world represented and still represent a corrupting threat to religion: too many rulers have used faith to justify and excuse all manner of evil.

Meacham lines up George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the side of the angels in making the case against calling the United States a Christian nation, but a nation where all are free to believe (or not) as they choose.  I know this irks many who see it their duty to evangelize or who misunderstand our history, but that makes it no less true.

Yes, many of the Founders were believing, observant Christians. But to think of them as apostles in knee breeches or as passionate evangelicals is a profound misreading of the past. In many ways their most wondrous legacy was creating the foundations of a culture of religious diversity in which the secular and the religious could live in harmony

As Americans we each have the right to practice a faith of our choosing; why isn’t that good enough?