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Yesterday was head on a platter day at church; that is, the gospel reading was the story of the heading of John the Baptist. In his sermon, Rev. Cn. Mark Strange essentially chalked up this act to peer pressure. I liked the view taken by Rev. Cn. Haddad in the service leaflet.

Mark 6:14-29 (NRSV)
The Death of John the Baptist

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ 15 But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ 23 And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ 24 She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Now, Rev. Cn. Mary Haddad's thoughts, which focus on the death penalty. Interestingly, she includes a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) used this morning in the opening of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor.

Today’s gruesome gospel story brings us John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Nice. Then and now, the revenge of the state on dissident voices is a dish that is always served up cold.

Two countries in the world still practice beheading — Saudi Arabia and Iran. President Obama began his June tour of the Middle East in Saudi Arabia, where only two days earlier a public execution by beheading had taken place. Amnesty International, which tracks the records for violation of human rights in all the countries in the world, considers the death penalty the ultimate denial of human rights and is an excellent resource for tracking information. Some recent findings: in the month of June, Togo became the 15th country in Africa to abolish the death penalty. The same month, Terry Lee Hankins was the 16th person to be executed in Texas, out of a national total of 30. It was the 200th execution under the current governor. I wonder if that tops Herod’s record?

Now, for some good news: in early July a high court in India decriminalized homosexuality by declaring a colonial- era ban unconstitutional. In this, looking back from Herod to our present day, we’re reminded of Martin Luther King’s famous remark, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Each of us can set our hands to bend that arc every time we find an alternative to taking revenge and holding prejudice.

Next week’s gospel lesson promises to be much less gruesome. For starters, Jesus figures prominently in it and is always the bearer of the truly good news. In the meantime, use your hands somewhere this week to help bend history’s arc toward justice.
The Rev. Cn. Mary E. Haddad
Grace Cathedral

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Our nanny, Jyoti, is on a well-deserved 3-week vacation. Jyoti watches Anneke alone two half days a week and does a share care with Anneke and another girl two full days a week. When she told us of her vacation plans, we considered our nanny-less options: a family vacation? attempt to parent full-time? hire someone else? We decided to ask Anneke's previous nanny, Celia, if she was available, and she is coming a few half-days. Then we got really pathetic and have actually flown my mother out here from Nebraska for a week.

Patricia, our neighbor, asked me if we thought we really couldn't do it all alone. Could we really not get through three weeks without someone helping us take care of Anneke? After feeling guilty for a moment, I told her we absolutely needed the help. Certain things simply would not get done. (We didn't have help for the first 5 months after Anneke was born. If I told you how long we went without vacuuming or mopping you'd never set foot in my home again.) We wouldn't sleep enough. We'd eat crappy food all the time instead of the healthy, home cooked meals that Scott prepares every night. I would not be the recent recipient of a Master of Library & Information Science degree.

I mentioned this to Scott as we walked home from Taqueria Cancun after our usual Friday night burrito. He noted that, yes, we are able to afford help, but we know that plenty of parents do it alone. We see it in our neighborhood every day. Mothers push a stroller followed (or led) by two or three other kids. They do their grocery shopping in the expensive corner markets that stock very little, if any, fresh produce. They look exhausted. And given the neighborhood, I imagine they don't have a lot of space to stretch out at the end of the day. I know I am fortunate that right now, my daughter is not only napping, but someone else is watching her so I can sit here typing this. Another dip in the economy could change all that, and I could have to become full-time mom again. I wouldn't complain (too much), but I would be really, really tired.

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The first thing everyone asks me now is if I'm having a boy or a girl. Well, one or the other, but we decided to be patient. Nothing we can do about it either way, right? But I think I figured out why people think it's so damn important to know ahead of time.


The follow-up question I often get is, "How are you going to buy anything if you don't know what it is?"

First, we have a 1-BR place so there's no nursery to decorate. Kid is relegated to a corner of our (yellow) bedroom. Second, why couldn't I put a girl in pastel blue? I wear pastel blue. Maybe not pastel blue with toy trucks on it, but there are a few gender neutral clothes out there. I am a bit surprised, though, at just how much pink and blue are still used for babies given how similar many men's and women's styles are today. (Consider: solid-color dress shirts, jeans, graphic tees, sneakers.)

The baby clothes we've received thus far have mostly been white or yellow. Then there was my co-worker who just bought one ridiculously boyish outfit and one overly girly outfit -- and included a gift receipt so we could return one. But honestly, why does everyone just want to buy us clothes? Babies need plenty of other stuff...

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With the launch of WikiScanner, should we really be surprised it's now being used as grounds for litigation? Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is. Our biggest "client" at the archive is the legal department. Lawyers love archives.

Arkansas Reporters Sue State Over Wikipedia Edits

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I missed seeing...

-- Morrissey in San Francisco for the first time in 15 years -- he played four nights at the Fillmore
-- the Cure at the Download Festival in San Jose

and yesterday I found out that Jesus & Mary Chain is playing two shows this weekend.

Exciting as that prospect is, the idea of seeing JAMC while 5 months pregnant  -- and in a crowd of SF goths -- is a bit intimidating. I saw Sisters of Mercy here a few years back and was very, very glad I was in the balcony. Plus there's an anti-war march on Saturday and I have a paper due that night. Had I found out about this show a few weeks ago, I could have fit it in.

But I will just deal with the wrath of certain people who will be aghast that I am willingly missing it. ;-)

P.S.  SFBG's announcement called Stoned & Dethroned "absolutely classic" and Automatic "lesser beauty." WTF?

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Here's something the Chronicle and Examiner conveniently ignored this week. In a luncheon with Washington reporters, Nancy Pelosi had some blunt words for both the anti-war protestors and the homeless back home in San Francisco.

"I had, for five months, people sitting outside my home... If they were poor and they were sleeping on my sidewalk, they would be arrested for loitering, but because they have 'Impeach Bush' across their chest, it's the First Amendment."

I guess we know how she feels about recent calls to arrest the city's homeless and (continue) dumping them all in the Tenderloin. (Or in the Pacific south of Monterey, as one particularly compassionate comment on sfgate suggested.) And now we also know there's no reason to keep asking "her" Democratic-led House to stop funding the war in Iraq. It just annoys her.

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You don't have to grow up in the Midwest to know that Christian churches often teach hatred of homosexuals. Biblical literalists all over the country will emphatically tell you that the Bible says being gay is an abomination, that Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned because of homosexual behavior, that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Well, they're right about one thing. The word "abomination" is in there.

"For the Bible Tells Me So" tells the story of some conservative Christian families coming to terms with a gay son or daughter in some pretty amazing ways. The stories aren't all happy, either. Mixed in are interviews with priests and rabbis (including Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Creech, defrocked by the UMC for performing gay commitment ceremonies) explaining just how ridiculous Biblical literalism is.

If you actually read Leviticus verse-by-verse... it's a good laugh at least.
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We are in the midst of Banned Books Week (burn any classic literature lately?), and if I were a better librarian I would have posted about BBW last Saturday when the festivities began. But there is always time to read and cherish controversial writings, and have a good laugh at the book-burners while you're at it.

Comic strip Shelf Check offers its take on BBW, with a few books asking, "Why was I Banned?"

I had no idea Shel Silverstein had been accused of cannibalism. Honestly, people. Shel Silverstein?

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Joe Lieberman calls himself an "Independent Democrat," but has a slight tendency to behave very Republican. Then there's this:

Senator Lieberman Tells Colleagues to Stop Blocking Presidential Records Bill
On October 2, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, (ID-CT) called for an end to the hold that has been blocking Senate consideration of “The Presidential Records Act Amendment of 2007.” (H.R. 1255)

Full story from History Coalition

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