Posts Tagged ‘religious organizations’

Becket image

Some of you may remember my previous interview with author Becket, an indie novelist who likes vampires, was once a monk, and works for Anne Rice. Now he’s got a new book out, American Monk, a memoir about his years in a monastery growing closer to God and living in a brotherhood of similarly-minded men.

Welcome back to my blog, Becket. Happy to have you here. Now, your new book is American Monk, which chronicles your time as a monk in a Benedictine monastery. Why did you decide to write this memoir?

One day on my Facebook page I decided to make a post about my experience in the monastery. People responded well to it, so I made another one the following week. I kept up that have it for about half a year, at the end of which I decided to compile all my Facebook posts about the monastery into a memoir.

Why did you decide to become a monk in the first place? And why did you leave the monastery?

I wanted to be a monk because I want to deepen my relationship with God. The monastery was a wonderful place to do that because it was a house conducive to my personality type, an introvert and a scholar. I stayed in the monastery for five years, at the end of which time I was given the choice to make solemn vows, which is like the marriage commitment. It would’ve been for the rest of my life. The monastery was wonderful, but I also felt called elsewhere, although I did not know what that was at the time. So without any hard feelings, I left the monastery and began working for Anne Rice.

What’s a day in the life of a Benedictine monk like?

Monastic life is built around routine. We wake up early in the morning and begin our day with prayer. Our morning prayer lasts for about an hour and a half, and then we would go to breakfast. After that it was time for work. We worked most of the morning until the hour to celebrate the solemnity of the mass. After mass we had lunch. And after lunch we spent the afternoon committed to more work. Our day ended in the evening with prayer. After prayer we went to dinner, and after dinner we had a community time together, where the monks gathered together in one room and enjoyed one another’s company. Finally, we had night prayer and that it was bedtime.

American Monk

In memoirs like these, I’ve noticed that the vignettes within generally run the range from humorous to serious to tragic to inspirational and everything in between. Do you feel that this is true of yours? 

My memoir is meant to be inspirational. I hope that people read it and grow in their relationship with God, because the monastery was a place where a truly began to understand who I was in the divine plan. I am still learning the depth of my relationship with God. In many ways, the monk I was is still inside me, and perhaps he is a better monk than I used to be.

 Does Anne Rice make an appearance in American Monk at all?

She makes an appearance in the beginning and at the end, and in one chapter in between, but the memoir mostly deals with my experience with the brother monks.

What are you working on these days?

I just finished the first draft of my next music album as well as the first draft of a novel appropriately titled The Monk, about an African monk who suffers the stigmata and works as a miraculous channel of God’s love in the world.

When not writing or working with Anne Rice, what are you doing these days? And is there anything on your wish list you think you could be doing in the near future?

I spend time with God, my girlfriend, and my two cats. For the future, I have a few projects that I am working on and I am praying that God will give them success for His Glory.

Well thanks for joining us Becket. Glad to speak with you. And if you’e interested in reading American Monk and other works by Becket, you can check out his website, as well as find him on Facebook and Twitter.

And if you’d like to read more interviews with other authors and with some of my characters, you can head over to the Interviews page for those.

Hope you enjoyed reading this, my Followers of Fear. I certainly had fun putting it together.

I know I’m a little late to this conversation (though I did post a lengthy message on my Facebook page when it first happened) and I would’ve written a blog post about this sooner, but I’ve been busy with other work. Well, better late than never. Besides, Jon Stewart managed to make some jokes on it last night, so I can do it tonight.

There used to be a time when religious liberty meant that you could go to church ro synagogue in peace and without fear of ridicule or attack. Where your religion didn’t bar you from certain neighborhoods or trades. Where you didn’t have to wear a yellow star, and you didn’t suddenly have to leave country or convert in order to avoid death and suffering.

When the hell did it change that a couple of people could make decisions about the health of thousands of women?

As noted above, a lot has already been said about the Hobby Lobby case. However, I’m going to go over it because I find the majority ruling of the Supreme Court simply infuriating.

First off, Hobby Lobby says that it doesn’t want the federal government to force them to hand women employees birth control. Um, the people who will be handing birth control over will be the pharmacist. The insurance company your company uses will actually be paying for it, drawing on the money every employee puts into the company insurance policy to pay for the birth control. So basically everyone who’s on Hobby Lobby’s health insurance policy would be paying for the birth control. The fact that only a few people at the top can decide what everyone is paying for in their health insurance worries me somewhat.

Second, the owners of Hobby Lobby are objecting to contraceptive pills that “cause abortion”. Most fertilized eggs actually self-abort and don’t embed themselves in the uterine wall, so maybe you want to protest whatever mechanism causes that? Also, the pills that “cause abortion” actually a bit of a mystery, as scientists aren’t sure how they prevent pregnancies. So maybe you might want to figure that out before you start a lawsuit? Especially since you still cover Viagra and vasectomies, the latter of which basically makes the testicles useless and gives seed nowhere to go to procreate. I think the Biblical term for that is “spilling seed”.

Continuing on with this, I’m not so sure Hobby Lobby actually objects to birth control pills, as some of the companies, trust funds, and other financial mechanisms its owners have fingers in actually hold stakes in pharmaceutical companies that produce these very pills that are being protested. Is it really protesting on religious grounds to provide abortion pills? Or is it something about not having to pay for a product you already own?

And I’m really worried about this decision, which opens up some serious floodgates for lawsuits. The term “closely-held corporation” is a pretty loose definition. Already we’ve seen evangelical colleges asking to be exempt, and other companies as well that one wouldn’t normally think of as “closely-held companies”. Under the loose definition though, they might.

And if religious liberty can be used as an excuse to get out of covering contraception or other “objectionable” medical practices, what’s next? Catholics are against all forms of contraception. Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions. Scientologists are against psychiatry. Christian Scientists generally don’t like traditional medicine. And what about objecting to other things based on religious belief? Other laws? What if a family bakery that got incorporated decides not to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because they believe it’s a decadent lifestyle? What if a print shop refuses to print flyers for an event hosted by the local Wiccan community because they won’t “help witches and Satanists”? As Justice Ginsburg said in her dissent, it’s a slippery slope.

All in all, I’m really troubled by the implications of this decision, besides the fact that a few people, mostly older white men, are getting away with making medical decisions for thousands and thousands of women and thinking that is okay. It’s already hard enough to purchase safe, affordable birth control, and some people need the help of an insurance company to afford it. Some of these women aren’t even taking birth control medications to avoid getting pregnant! Birth control medication is good for regulating menstrual cycles, prevent endometriosis, reduce the pain of cramps or migraines, and even fight acne! Most women actually take the pill for multiple reasons, studies find.

And they can’t just go looking for another job that offers birth control on the insurance plan. Some women can’t afford to leave a job because it’s all they have. The job market is still rather difficult these days, and leaving a job to look for one that might offer the right insurance isn’t exactly like walking through a park. In fact, it could lead some families to financial ruin.

Now that I think about it, most of the women who will be most affected by this decision will be women in the lower-middle, working, and poverty-stricken classes. Meanwhile, the rich can still easily afford birth control should they desire it, or own the companies that produce birth control. This si not just starting to resemble a new battle in the war on women, but also a form of class warfare and keeping the lower classes in their place. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s thought this.

What say you on the Hobby Lobby case? Where do you see this going in terms of consequences?

(Be aware I will be screening comments. So if I get the kind of comments from people who can’t bear any opinion but their own, it won’t show up on this blog)

I think, now more than ever, I like Pope Francis.

In a stunning reversal of traditional Catholic policy, Pope Francis I took a more positive approach to homosexuality than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. While speaking with journalists on the plane ride back to Rome, the Pope was asked how he would react if he were to learn that there was a cleric in his ranks who was gay but not sexually active. His reply: “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.”

God bless the Pope!

I’ve always been a little wary of the Catholic Church as an entity, though I know and I am friendly with regular Catholics. There’s a deep-rooted history of animosity between the Church and Judaism, exacerbated over recent years when Holocaust-denying clergy were allowed to continue practicing in positions of power. That, plus their views on LGBT and  women’s rights, mixed with pedophilia scandals have really made me and other people, if not detractors, then angry with it.

But with the election of Pope Francis, who sets out to be a reformer of the Church like his namesake St. Francis, I have had some new thoughts. This pope seems much more down-to-Earth and of the people, and he’s already instituted a number of reforms in Church policy. This latest change really makes me happy. Not only does it signal a possible change in the Church’s policy towards the LGBT community–which has regarded homosexuality as a disorder, and in recent years barred gay clerics from practicing–but it also signals a change for the Pope, who as a cardinal wrote a few papers condemning people who were LGBT.

If this is an indication of which direction the Pope might go in terms of the Vatican’s relationship with the LGBT community, it could signal a major change around the world. In several nations, from Iran and Russia to Uganda and Zimbabwe, there are laws in place or in process that would seek to rob the LGBT community of their human rights, and in countries where laws support the LGBT community, such as England, France, and certain areas of the United States, there is still an uphill battle to give the LGBT community the same rights as their straight neighbors. If the Pope’s statement signals a reversal in policy, several countries may face a rise in support for the rights of LGBTers.

And another thing that I’ve noticed is that the Pope said “You can’t exclude these people.” While I do note that calling an entire community that spans the globe “these people” sounds a little exclusionary in itself, to me the greater message sends out more powerful vibes. For years, exclusion of those unlike yourself or the main part of a group has been a too-widely accepted policy. It was believed that if you excluded someone unlike yourself–because of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.–they would either change their ways, learn their place, or go away. But nowadays most people don’t bow so easily to the majority, and everyone from women to gays to Hispanics to everyone in between is speaking up for their rights, and it is working for the most part.

Something like this in the future would be nice.

If the Church is going to end its exclusionary policies, then that could lead to better relations between them and gays, particularly those who want a relationship with God and the Church. And it also shows that those who want to exclude gays from society or outright ban them may have lost a powerful ally in the Church. Which if you ask me, can only be a good thing.

I look forward to seeing where the Pope goes with this. Hopefully it’ll lead to more pro-gay reforms in the Church policy, making Catholicism and possibly Christianity in general more accepting to the LGBT community, and to people in general.

In the meantime, I’d like to say a prayer from Judaism that is said when something that hasn’t happened before happens for the first time: Baruch atah Hashem, Elocheinu Melech Ha’olam, Shehechianu v’kiamanu v’higi’anu lazman hazeh. Blessed are You, Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

An occasion I hope will lead to something good.

I was reading an article on HuffPost, and it said that One Million Moms, a conservative media watchdog that takes a very hard anti-gay stance, now says it is “moving on” from its protests of Ellen DeGeneres as the spokesperson for JC Penny.  Apparently back in February, they had a hissy fit when Ellen was selected as the store’s spokesperson, but of course they didn’t base it over the fact that Ellen is a lesbian and a married one too; no, they said it was because JCP was a “family store” and having Ellen as spokesperson was promoting values that went against the traditional form of family. Now they say they are moving on, and will now boycott the store.

First off, I’m not so sure they have a million mothers in that organization. It’s a stupid point, but it’s a point nonetheless; how do we know there’s a million mothers in that organization? Second, what’s wrong with the non-traditional family? I grew up in a very nontraditional family, and even though I write scary stories, I turned out decent. In fact, my parents should be given medals because I got this far! Third, why are you protesting Ellen? OMM, there are worse things out there than a lesbian comedian with a wife and a talk show being the spokesperson for a major retail store.

But then again, not much of what the conservative right has problems with makes much sense to me. For example, I think children growing up in poverty and with substandard education is horrible. But organizations like OMM will complain that if we give those children more food stamps and educational funding, we will be fostering a culture of dependence and making these kids moochers for life. I think that sending jobs overseas and not giving them to hardworking Americans is cruel and that the jobs should stay in the United States, even if it costs the rich a little more to keep them here. What does OMM say? Probably that the people who lose these jobs will find jobs soon enough that are just as good as the old jobs, and it makes no sense to “punish” job creators.

So go ahead, OMM. Protest something that’s becoming more acceptable everyday. When you’re ready to tackle real problems in our country, let me know.

Deborah Lipstadt speaking in the auditorium of the Ohio State University Hillel on April 24, 2012

I had a wonderful evening tonight. Why, you ask? I got to hear Deborah Lipstadt speak! For those of you who don’t know, Deborah Lipstadt is the formost expert on Holocaust deniers and how to combat them. I read her book, Denying the Holocaust, and I found it very informative. It was amazing to hear her speak. 

During the course of the hour-long talk, Professor Lipstadt talked about some fo the methods of Holocaust deniers and their motivations, how she came to research and write about the topic, and, what I thought was most amazing, how she was sued by a henier from the United Kingdom named David Irving because she’d mentioned him in her book and he was accusing her of libel. 

That was pretty amazing in itself: with the help of Princess Diana’s lawyer, she ripped this guy to shreds on the stand, and all without putting the Holocaust and its truth on the stand! Now the guy’s a disgrace, forced to “verdict-deny”. 

What I took away from it though, besides the fact that I need to do some more studying of the Holocaust (it’s the focus of my history major, after all), is that, even ten years after the trial wrapped up, Deborah Lipstadt still considers herself very lucky that she won that trial. I find that very beautiful. 

Tomorrow, I’ll put this, and all the other events of Holocaust Awareness Week, into an article for the Pulse. I’ll let you guys know when it comes out. Should be an interesting read.

Just saw on AOL News that the Blunt Amendment, which would’ve allowed institutions or their insurers the rights to not cover any form of health-care due to “moral reasons”, failed in the Senate by a close vote. Can’t say I’m sad it didn’t pass; not only is the amendment really just an effort to ghet rid of Obama’s birth control policy, it just sounds like it’s giving too much power to religious organizations over their employees. It would be bad if you worked for a Christian Scientist organization and you weren’t a Christian Scientist.

And I’m glad women still have access to birth control. Not only does it stop women from getting pregnant when it’d be difficult or unfeasible for them to have children, birth control has other benefits, including stopping ovarian cysts and other reproductive problems in women. Perhaps religious institutions–some of which can be very patriarchal in nature, and therefore unable to make proper decisions when it comes to matters related to the females of their group–should consider that!

Oh, and Mr. Limbaugh, you are not funny! Calling women sluts, saying that Georgetown students want birth control just to have sex, and then using the aspirin bit?! Where do you get off saying all that on the radio?! Shame on you!