Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

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Military chaplain: Marines in Iraq look to pastor for answers to tough questions

Habbaniyah, Iraq – Under a sun-blanched desert sky, Navy Chaplain
Michael Baker and Marine Sgt. Bill Hudson Gross bounce in the back of a
truck as it rumbles across Camp Habbaniyah. Clad in helmets and body
armor in the 110-degree F. June heat, they’re on a mission: to baptize
Sergeant Gross.

“I am going to try to talk him out of it,” confesses Chaplain Baker,
a tall, lanky Methodist minister whose formal Mississippi-tinged speech
and posture mask an often goofy sense of humor.

It’s not the baptism itself; it’s just the part where Gross wants
Baker to immerse him in the Euphrates, one of four rivers that the
Bible describes as flowing from the Garden of Eden. For Gross, an
infantry platoon leader who just weeks before saw two of his men
wounded by shrapnel, the river has a personal connection. Two years ago
he deployed to a small base on the river, where he turned his back on
religion after learning of his father’s death back home. Now that he
has rediscovered his faith, he feels it fitting to be baptized in a
river where, he says, “a lot of people gave up hope.”

Click here to read the rest of this article.

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Why Bush risks China’s ire to honor Dalai Lama

Washington – The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, political irritant to Beijing, is being honored in Washington this week as never before.

It’s not unusual that he will talk with President Bush in the White House residence. After all, he’s visited with Mr. Bush three times.

But on Oct. 18 congressional leaders will present him with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor lawmakers can award. And Bush will attend the ceremony – subtly raising the Dalai Lama’s status in terms of diplomatic protocol.

The importance of the move can be seen by the reaction of Chinese officials, who see Tibet as a renegade province. They’re furious.

Why Bush risks China’s ire to honor Dalai Lama |

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Bush Angers Evangelicals With “One God” Statement

“Well, first of all, I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren’t religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that – we had a person blow up our – blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that’s not a Christian act to kill innocent people.

“And I just simply don’t subscribe to the idea that murdering innocent men, women and children – particularly Muslim men, women and children in the Middle East – is an act of somebody who is a religious person. [~ George W. Bush] …

Reaction from U.S. evangelical leaders was swift and strong.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, was quoted in the Baptist Press as saying the president “is simply mistaken.”

According to a Washington Post account, Land said in an interview: “We should always remember that he is commander in chief, not theologian in chief. The Bible is clear on this: The one and true god is Jehovah, and his only begotten son is Jesus Christ.” …

Read More…

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Monks brave teargas and gunfire to challenge generals’ grip on Burma

After being prevented from entering the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest site of Burmese Buddhism, the demonstration made its way through the town centre.

Police fired teargas and warning shots to disperse 1,000 monks in the port city of Sittwe, 350 miles (560km) west of Rangoon, and at least three were arrested, according to the American-funded Radio Free Asia.

Monks brave teargas and gunfire to challenge generals’ grip on Burma – Times Online

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Prison purge of religious books on basis of “Fighting Terrorism”

Before this summer, screening was done by BOP chaplains. They culled material sent to the libraries and pulled mostly hate literature – a lot of it white supremacist citing a Christian basis – that could endanger prison security.

The new policy instead uses religious experts to select a list of approved materials. The list is long, allowing up to 450 titles for each of 20 religions or religious groupings, and will be periodically updated. But many titles that the BOP admits “may be very worthwhile” aren’t on the list and were removed from chapel libraries.

Prison purge of religious books |

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Ancient Escape Tunnel Found in Israel

JERUSALEM (Sept. 9) – Under threat from Romans ransacking Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, many of the city’s Jewish residents crowded into an underground drainage channel to hide and later flee the chaos through Jerusalem’s southern end unnoticed.

The ancient tunnel was recently discovered buried beneath rubble, a monument to one of the great dramatic scenes of the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D.

Ancient Escape Tunnel Found in Israel – AOL News

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China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate

Tibet’s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission
from China’s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to
assert Beijing’s authority over Tibet’s restive and deeply Buddhist people.

“The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is
illegal and invalid,” according to the order, which comes into effect on
September 1.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious
Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the
Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk
without approval from Beijing. …

This is just too bizarre for bizarre…we need another word to cover it.  Don’t those fools realize that the whole world is laughing at them?

China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate – Times Online

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Burning in Hell with Harry Potter

I know that many Christians take the fingers-in-the-ears-and-say-la-la-la-la approach to other religions, but I think it is important to understand even if you do not agree. And I don’t want to push my religion on my children. I want them to be exposed to all the choices. I want them to understand the controversy.

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Tibetans ordered to wear fur at festival or face fines from Chinese invaders

Thousands of Tibetans have traveled for days and hundreds of miles to pitch
their tents on the slopes surrounding the festival grounds in a remote
corner of western Qinghai province, which ethnically is majority Tibetan.
Strings of pink, blue, green and yellow prayer flags flutter in the breeze
as spectators stand in banks five or six deep for a glimpse of the dances.
They unfurl umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun blazing through the
thin air in this corner of the Roof of the World, about 3,800 metres
(12,500ft) above sea level.

The only cloud over the picnickers,riders, dancers and visitors dressed in
their finest is the order to wear furs. Entertainers who ignore it face
being fined their appearance money of 3,000 yuan (£200), a huge sum for a
Tibetan farmer.

The question of whether to wear traditional fur was sparked by the Dalai Lama
last year. He told Tibetans who gathered for a Buddhist festival that he was
ashamed of photographs showing his people dressed in robes decorated with
tiger skins and other animal pelts. Within days people across the Himalayan
region began to set alight mounds of fur-trimmed chubas.

Chinese officials were furious. The display of obedience by ordinary Tibetans
to the Buddhist monk, exiled in India since fleeing amid an abortive
anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, shocked the authorities, denting their
increasing confidence about having established control over the restive
region. …

Festival-goers ordered to wear fur or face fines as China flouts Dalai Lama’s ruling – Times Online

The Chinese must be terrified of HHDL.  No wonder they spend so much effort putting him down.

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Tibetan camp keeps flame alive

About 20 Tibetan kids born in
America have come to the conifer-clad Washington mountains
in response to a problem faced by an increasing number of
Tibetan immigrants: How do children, likely to know more
about the new iPhone than the principles of Buddhism, learn
to appreciate a homeland that exists only in their

Tibetan camp keeps flame alive –


Harry Potter and the Unbidden Opinions

TalkAbout Topic: Harry Potter and the Unbidden Opinions

All right, I’ll confess. I get a kick out of Harry Potter. I haven’t read every book, but I’ve enjoyed those I have read, and the Harry Potter films I’ve seen, and I hope to catch up sometime. I reserved my copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” early and got about 200 pages into it over the weekend. Still going, and I hope no one spoils the ending for me.

I admire J.K. Rowling….

I’ve often wondered how many of Potter’s detractors and hell-and-damnation critics have actually read any of the books.  I, too, spent last weekend reading the last book, and found it literate, well-crafted, and remarkably subtle, given the issues it had to deal with.  Go Jo!

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Egypt’s religious advisor says Muslims can choose own religion

Egypt’s official religious advisor has ruled that Muslims are free to change their faith as it is a matter between an individual and God, in a move which could have far-reaching implications for the country’s Christians.

“The essential question before us is can a person who is Muslim choose a religion other than Islam? The answer is yes, they can,” Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said in a posting on a Washington Post-Newsweek forum picked up by the Egyptian press.

“The act of abandoning one’s religion is a sin punishable by God on the Day of Judgement. If the case in question is one of merely rejecting faith, then there is no worldly punishment,” he wrote.

Woo hoo! The fundies are going to hate that! Look out Grand Mufti!

Egypt’s religious advisor says Muslims can choose own religion – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Parishioners refuse to let primacy rule erode unity

In 36 years as a Lutheran minister, the Rev. Alfred C. Acer has had his sermon interrupted by spontaneous applause exactly twice.

Significantly, he said, one of the occasions came not long ago as he stood at the pulpit of a Catholic church, Our Lady Star of the Sea, in Long Branch.

“I said to that congregation, ‘Here I am, a Lutheran pastor, preaching at the pulpit at Star of the Sea, and 30 years ago I wouldn’t have been let in the door,”‘ he recalled. Nor, for that matter, were Protestant churches in the habit of opening their doors to Catholic priests a generation ago.

For Acer, senior pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, West Long Branch, the warm reception he got that day underscores how far Protestant-Catholic relations have come in the 42 years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, which among other things recommitted the Catholic Church to the goal of ecumenism, or worldwide unity among Christian believers. …
Courier News Online – Parishioners refuse to let primacy rule erode unity

Just a personal comment: I think the Pope’s statement, in a world that is already divided tragically along religious lines, is irresponsible and the epitome of immoral conduct.