Rose Marie Berger: Todd Akin, There’s a Christian Seminary That Wants Its Diploma Back

by Larry Roibal

By Rose Marie Berger

Every time I hear references to Rep. Todd Akin’s crazy talk related to violence against women, I get nauseous. It’s a visceral physical response. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

One in every six of my sisters and one in 33 of my brothers in the U.S. have been the victims of an attempted or completed aggressive forced violent sexual act.

And gaining insight into the background of Rep. Akin’s muddled pseudo-science, such as is explored in “The Roots of Rep. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate” Rape Remarks” by Tim Townsend and Blythe Bernhard doesn’t help me. It actually makes it worse. It risks reinforcing a set of propaganda under the guise of exposing it.

I have a hard time understanding how Akin, who is the son of a Presbyterian minister, has a Master of Divinity from a prominent Christian seminary and is an active member of a Presyterian Church of America congregation, could debase himself in such a way that he has no qualms about putting his political agenda ahead of the truth and well being of women. As Christians, don’t we hold ourselves to a higher standard?

No doubt he doesn’t see it that way.

No doubt he is profoundly uncomfortable with the moral gray areas that some women must navigate when it comes to rape, pregancy, abortion, STDs, morning-after pills, permenant gynecological damage, psychological trauma, spiritual desperation, loss of control, complete loss of safety, trust, intimacy and all the others dangerous and shifting decisions that a rape victim must make. No doubt he believes that what is best for him is best for all. We may have to agree to disagree. But one thing that’s perfectly clear is: Mr. Akin should end his career as a public servant.

At least 51 percent of the voting public deserve much better than what he has to offer. …

Read the rest of this commentary at Huffington Post.

Sally Ride – Ad Astra Per Alas Fideles

Sally Ride, 1983.Remembering the extraordinary Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012).

In the first half of the 1980s, I was making my way through college at the University of California’s “farm school” in the crunchy, sleepy town of Davis. Between working toward a BA in Science (with an eye toward marine biology and aquaculture) and keeping my GPA up with classes in world religions, philosophy, and advanced poetry, I spent a lot of time at the Women’s Resources Center.

I can’t remember which building it was in, but remember it was in the basement. It was cool, happy, and had couches. I’d lay down there for hours memorizing chemical equations and Elizabeth Bishop. I loved listening to the women’s voices swirling around me. These were women living beyond the social norms in so many different ways. I loved the creative energy.

It was in the hallway outside the Women’s Center that I met Sally Ride. I have no idea what she was doing on campus. Maybe she came to give a talk. But as I was heading in to the Center, she was heading out, walking with a couple of friends and all laughing hysterically. She was slim, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and no shoes. (I have no idea why she wasn’t wearing shoes. I just remember thinking, “Wow! It must be nice to walk barefoot after having to wear those heavy space suits.” Though I realize now that they didn’t have to wear those lead-lined boots in the shape shuttle!)

I can’t remember if she was wearing the shirt or if  one of her friends had it on, but it said “Ride Sally, Ride!”–the refrain from Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” that became her motto worldwide, as the first American woman in space and the youngest.

I stopped her in the hallway and shook her hand, introduced myself, saying how excited I was to meet her and that I was studying science at UC Davis (women in science was a passion of hers, as her career attests). She shook my hand and thanked me for introducing myself and off they went. “Ride, Sally Ride,” I called out as they left and she waved her hand.

She was an extraordinary woman. Brilliant and gutsy and with enormous personal courage and conviction. Her work on the Challenger shuttle disaster investigation committee was nothing short of heroic as she supported whistleblowers who had been saying for months that the O-rings were going to fail in cold weather. Her work on climate change has been prophetic.

Both Sally’s parents were Presbyterian elders and her sister in a Presbyterian minister. Below is an excerpt from Sally’s sister, Bear Ride:

“Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space and she was my big sister. Sally died peacefully on July 23rd after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I was at her side. We grew up in Encino, CA. Our parents, Joyce and Dale Ride, encouraged us to study hard, to do our best and to be anything we wanted to be. In 1983 Newsweek quoted our father as saying, ‘We might have encouraged, but mostly we just let them explore.’ Our parents encouraged us to be curious, to keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God. Our parents taught us to explore, and we did. Sally studied science and I went to seminary. She became an astronaut and I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

Sally lived her life to the fullest with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless. Sally died the same way she lived: without fear. Sally’s signature statement was ‘Reach for the Stars.’ Surely she did this, and she blazed a trail for all the rest of us.”

Sally, Ad astra per alas fideles! (“to the stars on the wings of the faithful”)

More on the death and life of Sally Ride:
Sally Ride pushed us to understand our climate and our world by Philip Bump

Why Sally Ride waited until her death to tell the world she was gay by Alan Boyle

American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling by Denise Grady

Caf-Pow! NCIS’ Goth Grrrrl on Prayer and God

Here’s yet another reason we love NCIS‘ punk-forensic-grrrrl Abby. She’s Methodist.

NCIS is a classic American “police procedural.” The JAG spin-off is now one of America’s most watched dramas. NCIS’ winning formula involves comic elements, ensemble acting, and character-driven plots.

Like the best detective novels or murder mysteries, it assumes a world of high moral standards and in each episode that world is disrupted by crime and the team works to restore the balance of justice.

Integral to the team is goth, tattooed and pierced Forensic Specialist Abigail “Abby” Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette. Her skillful acting in this delightful, wicked smart, funny, and powerful role has singlehandedly empowered girls to pursue careers in science. It’s even got a name: The Abby Effect.

“Part of ‘The Abby Effect’ has been this incredible role model for young girls,” she says. “I hear from them or their parents and their grandparents all the time. Some of them started watching the show when they were 12 and now they’re going to college. ‘Abby’ has made it a viable opportunity for them. You can go into science and math. That’s amazing. Women were never encouraged to go into hard science or math. Now there have been girls going into science and math because of a television character,” she says.

Perrette has degrees in sociology, psychology and criminal science. She’s also regularly attends Hollywood United Methodist Church. More recently she’s joined the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Check out the short video below to hear Perrette talk about her relationship with God, how she prays, and what her church community means to her. (A shout-out to Julie for sending this video.)

Pauley Perrette is the narrator of a TV special called Killer in the Dark: An Extraordinary Effort to Combat Malaria. The program documents the daily struggle in Africa against malaria and highlights the work of Imagine No Malaria to wipe out the disease. The program is presented by the National Council of Churches under the auspices of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and produced by United Methodist Communications.

A Rising Tide Lifts All … Death Tolls

Oct 11: Filipino police dig for bodies in La Trinidad, Philippines, after Typhoon Parma.
Oct 11: Filipino police dig for bodies in La Trinidad, Philippines, after Typhoon Parma.

Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. We are now at 385.92. Not good.

A new report from UCLA scientist Aradhna Tripati says that the last time we were this hot was 20 million years ago – and the seas covered the earth.

Read an excerpt from Tripati’s report below:

“The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland,” said the paper’s lead author, Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the department of Earth and space sciences and the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

“A slightly shocking finding,” Tripati said, “is that the only time in the last 20 million years that we find evidence for carbon dioxide levels similar to the modern level of 387 parts per million was 15 to 20 million years ago, when the planet was dramatically different.”

Levels of carbon dioxide have varied only between 180 and 300 parts per million over the last 800,000 years — until recent decades, said Tripati, who is also a member of UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. It has been known that modern-day levels of carbon dioxide are unprecedented over the last 800,000 years, but the finding that modern levels have not been reached in the last 15 million years is new.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the carbon dioxide level was about 280 parts per million, Tripati said. That figure had changed very little over the previous 1,000 years. But since the Industrial Revolution, the carbon dioxide level has been rising and is likely to soar unless action is taken to reverse the trend, Tripati said.

“During the Middle Miocene (the time period approximately 14 to 20 million years ago), carbon dioxide levels were sustained at about 400 parts per million, which is about where we are today,” Tripati said. “Globally, temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, a huge amount.”

In the last 20 million years, key features of the climate record include the sudden appearance of ice on Antarctica about 14 million years ago and a rise in sea level of approximately 75 to 120 feet.

“We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in carbon dioxide levels of about 100 parts per million, a huge change,” Tripati said. “This record is the first evidence that carbon dioxide may be linked with environmental changes, such as changes in the terrestrial ecosystem, distribution of ice, sea level and monsoon intensity.”

Read the whole article here. And check out the 350 Campaign.

Tielhard de Chardin: A Morning Offering

teilhard-de-chardinI finally picked up a copy of Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  I’ve been poking around de Chardin for years, but never actually reading him. He was a French Jesuit, paleontologist, biologist, philosopher, mystic and poet. All the stuff I like!

Here’s a quote from the opening section titled “The Mass on the World,” written while de Chardin was on a scientific expedition in the Ordos desert in Inner Mongolia and celebrates Mass alone at dawn:

One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life. One by one also I number all those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. And again one by one–more vaguely it is true, yet all-inclusively–I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come, and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory, and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.

Annie Dillard also has a wonderful book called For the Time Being that plays with excerpts from de Chardin’s diaries and writings.