Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu: Out to Get You

In just a few days, the world has become afraid to breathe.

All of a sudden, anyone coughing or feverish or imagining a scratchy throat is sure he's got Swine Flu. And all he had to do was inhale.

BTW, this malady will not be renamed, despite an MSNBC story reporting Jews offended at the term because pigs aren't kosher. (And flu is?)

In our northwesterly corner of the country, the Seattle Times blares in a headline much larger than the masthead, "Swine flu found here." I can see students perking up; they're talking about closing all the schools because three unconfirmed cases have surfaced. One of them, an 11-year-old boy who attends Madrona K-8, gave his fellow pupils there an unexpected vacation--the institution closed down for a week (the boy's doing just fine).

Meanwhile, 230,000 five-day courses of Tamiflu antidote are on their way to our area. When health officials announce such things, people think, "uh-oh, we're going to need it!" And so hospitals and clinics are filling up--with people who want to be tested, just in case. We're not going to get the "reagents" required to confirm that Swine Flu is here until next week, but the runaway publicity is enough to make you sick.

Even if you're not. Ubiquitous photos of people in blue face masks everywhere foster paranoia, but this is just the latest manifestation of the overkill of medical information. Remember SARS? That got the same publicity treatment a couple years ago. Not nice to endure, I'm sure, but certainly not the pandemic it was predicted to be. Avian flu got a lot of ink (nowadays, a lot of pixels) and is more deadly than its Swinely counterpart, but despite the scare, it fizzled out near where it began.

Cancer. It's everywhere and nobody knows when and who it will strike. But thousands of books, websites and blogs document its grisly course and the agonies of its treatment, mounting in our consciousness. Hospitals court clients with ads reminding, "It's your cancer..." Heart-rending stories of valiant children battling disease are the staples of grocery-store check-out line mags. Fundraisers for every illness increase awareness of maladies we can't spell, but now personally fear. Radio ads seek participants in clinical trials for diabetes, dementia, insomnia. As I write this, I hear a radio ad that assumes all men are desperate for "prostate support:" "So why wouldn't you try new Beta Prostate?"

In so (too) many words: you're a goner. You're in line for enlarged prostate, some kind of cancer, and now, Swine Flu, no matter what you do. Wash your hands. Take bee pollen. Avoid eating red meat. Wear a surgical mask. Better, don't read the newspaper (I know, nobody does anyway), or listen to the radio, or check online news. BTW, in every normal year, 35,000 Americans die from flu. Mexico, its 75,6066 square miles being ground zero for the porcine problem, has had 99 cases, total.

Okay, the World Health Organization yesterday gave Swine Flu a level five pandemic warning--meaning it's imminent, crouching at your door, seeping through the cracks. But I just don't know how much more paranoid we can get. We're already hyper-aware of disease risks; kindergartens require parents to provide bottles of anti-bacterial gel along with pencils and crayons for their kids.

Panic among the population may soon mean isolation--Mexico's President Philipe Calderon told all citizens to stay home, inside, and all non-essential services are suspended for five days. (Starbucks closed ten of its Mexico City stores, so you know this is serious, but it's got 249 others in the country.)

Why don't I hyperventillate over Swine Flu? Because unlike cancer, it can be prevented, has a relatively simple treatment, can be tackled with drugs, and is unlikely to be deadly any more than "normal" flu. But you can bet in the next month or so, we'll have a swine-specific vaccine for sale in every drugstore.

Each autumn we receive relentless urgings to get flu shots. I used to listen to them, but every year I got a flu shot, I lost two weeks to some bug, shivering, sweating and miserable (probably one not covered by the vaccine). Every year I did not get a flu shot, I stayed healthy.

Should we bolt when somebody sneezes? Twitch rather than scratch our noses? Refuse to shake hands? Should we avoid movie theaters, and wear rubber gloves for escalator handrails? Should we live our lives even more worried about infection than we already are?

Well, it's up to you. But the next time I see you when I dash into the supermarket, maybe we oughta just wave hi.

(Reuters photo above is couple saying goodbye at Cancun airport)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Joy in the Tulip Fields

Springtime is rejuvenating, and little enthralls me the way a visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival does. I can well understand Tulipomania, the Dutch phenomenon in the 1630s that led to wild speculative prices for particularly hoarded hybrids. Here in the Northwest, many await the opening of the tulip cups with similar enthusiasm, and this year we've waited longer than I can remember--Al Gore's Global Warming brought us an icier winter that delayed the fields' splendor nearly a month.

But we who consult Tulip Maps like astrologers plot the planets were overjoyed to find this weekend peak. And so my husband, son and I got in the car, singing along with oldies, and drove the hour north of Seattle to the Mount Vernon flats.

Unfortunately, pent-up eagerness for the flowers' bloom brought out masses of fans of fringed, parrot, Triumph and double (a great number of them, for reasons I can't really understand, East Indian, many in sparkly saris and other delightfully-hued garb). Out in the fields, where narrow roads transverse open acres, cars were lined up helplessly, stopped dead for quarter-hours at a time. We were among them, frustrated. But quiet about it.

The sun wove between the clouds and haze, and even infrequent advancement was bearable on a Sunday where your fellow traffic victims join you in such a pleasant purpose. Admittedly, Skagit Valley is far less hospitable in its April display than it had been in the early years we attended, 1996, 7 and 8. In those days, more farmers opened up their fields freely. Cars parked alongside the fields or on the host's turf; there were no fluorescent-orange-vested traffic directors, no ticket booths, no merchants offering $6 packs of tulip-themed paper napkins, lawn pinwheels or imported-from-China trivets painted with quaint European street scenes.

There was an art show in a a barn (which continues) and a grower who let kids pet his tame alpacas. More family farms carried on the Dutch flower-growing traditions, and welcomed yours to stroll into the field, gawk at the rows of color, and chat a bit.

Now, only two farms remain, and they've made tulip-admiration into almost as big a business as bulb-vending. Parking lots are cordoned off into rows, and entering the fields or displays requires a fee, $4 at Roosengaarde, and $5 at Tulip Town. Cut flowers and especially, bulbs, offered with "deals" like a fifth bunch free, or 20 extra bulbs when ordering others, are for sale by plentiful clerks. Kiosks for Kettle Corn, corn dogs, nachos and other fair fare provide a pungency more conducive to nausea than communing with nature.

But pass the distractions and there are the flower fields. Even when lined with tourists, God provides there a breathtaking spectacle. Astonishing rainbow rows of intense color bring smiles, gratitude and praise. Families squat, smiling, arms linked for the camera, among the sturdy stems, vibrant bowls of vivid petals enveloping them, joining them together in exhilaration.

Everyone is snapping photos, eager to capture the intensity, the brilliance, the astounding beauty. I've made the tulip pilgrimage many times; how many ways can you photograph a flower? "Say cheese!" "Don't move!" my verdant subject cooperates and I giggle, grateful for digital cameras and giant photo storage. It's all here for the imbibing, the enjoying.

That's why the interminable traffic was bearable. Little is troubling when God colors the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Animals in "Earth" Movie More Humane than Man?

The new Disney movie "Earth" was a topic of conversation this Shabbat when friends joined us for lunch. I gave my review of the breathtakingly-photographed film, (disorganized; no cohesive theme or story, but worth the time), and noted that I couldn't bear to watch (no pun intended) attacks by lions on their elephant prey, or wolves chasing down baby caribou, or other scenes where the natural order involved stalking, striking and munching. The food chain is a violent thing--the occupation of the majority of earthly beasts is to find and devour other living creatures.

And then we come to man. What separates us from the hungry lion or the pursuant wolf? Is it that we're omnivores, not dependent on a single species for our sustenance? We can eat plants, whose only stalking is the emergence of their stems from seed we've sown, tended and harvested. We can eat animals' offerings--the biblical milk and honey, eggs, and their derivatives. And finally, we can slaughter animals, a concession, according to Torah sources, by God to Noah and his descendants, necessary for humans to understand their superiority to and stewardship over creatures not endowed with moral choices.

The Torah restricts man's consumption of animals. Only those that can be domesticated (ruminants with split hooves), fish with fins and scales, and certain birds are allowed for food; means of animal slaughter require humility, and imposing an instant, painless death. We are to remove as much blood from the meat as possible, a recognition of its life-giving symbolism. And we are to recognize God before and after consuming it, understanding our place and privilege in the broader scheme.

The reasons for such boundaries were evident when viewing "Earth" on a theater screen; the grandeur and excess of color and detail in this world--from which we can learn rules of behavior--reinforces our insignificance. But then I read an Associated Press story about estimates of Iraqi deaths since 2003 by Iraq Body Count (91,358) and separate AP research (110,600), both figures far lower than commonly cited. Though these better-substantiated totals at least show less loss of life, they are still disturbing--nearly all were victims of Muslim violence, like car bombings and Shiite sectarian attacks by death squads roaming the streets: "...33 percent were abducted and killed execution-style, with nearly a third of those showing signs of torture such as bruises, drill holes or burns." (American air strikes were involved in less than 4% of the casualties, the first report said.)

As humans, we have moral choices. We have speech with which to communicate. We need not kill each other for food. And yet, the moral choices we make lead to violence far greater than the pouncing of a panther on its next meal. Perhaps it's sophomoric to make such a comparison--our ability to reason leads to complexities for which individuals voluntarily fight and die, and to evil by which individuals brutalize but manage to rationalize it. The Torah commands not to murder, but doesn't say not to kill; self-defense and accidentally causing death each have their statutes and consequences.

Perhaps this simply suggests we can use our humanity for good or ill, hardly a surprise. And yet, the horror of what humans concoct far exceeds the malice-less attack of an animal acting on instinct with the goal of its own survival. I had to cover my eyes as "Earth's" protagonists captured their victims; I have to cover my human sensitivities to read the daily newspaper.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spare me from Going Green for Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up on April 22 and everywhere you look, it's green.

I don't mean the glorious yellow-puce just emerging from the brown tips of branches heralding springtime. I don't even mean the hues of Paddy or Kermit.

The latter found it wasn't easy being green, but nowadays it's unavoidable, and not just because I live in The Emerald City (nickname of Seattle). Green is not the state of Washington, but a newly ubiquitous state of mind.

No longer is this just stewardship for our world, but one fat fad that now is used to sell a raft of unnecessary products, or the ones we've already had--just with new packaging.

Recycling, conservation, care for the environment, ecology are well and good. These are terms I've known since middle school. I've separated my newspapers and bottles and cans and wet garbage for decades, though last year our town told us to just dump all the recyclables into the same bin. I can't even bring myself to do it. I happen to be married to a fellow who famously swerves off the road and leaps out of the car to retrieve every stray Starbucks cup or Kleenex.

I reuse tin foil. I wear hand-me-ups. I eat expired food as long as it doesn't smell bad. Waste, in our home, is sin. If it's yellow, we do let it mellow, and some of our guests can, to our chagrin, verify this.

But there's a difference between prudence and thrift and this putrid Green Machine, this hype that throws itself in my face and sticks, dripping down my consciousness like a pitched lemon meringue pie.

Those twisted fluorescent light bulbs I bought? The color hurts my eyes, half of them don't work, and they become toxic waste when they die. Those "green" detergents and cleaning potions are a lot more expensive than white vinegar, Dutch cleanser, baking soda and water.

I don't want to read about any more "green" houses. If I could put a windmill on my roof, I would; if I could reconfigure my lot so my windows faced southwest, I would; if I lived where the sun poked through the clouds, I'd be in line for solar panels. Did you know the "greenest" garbage disposal is

Spare me any more newspapers and magazine cover stories. This has gone way overboard. I do realize that polls repeatedly show Americans in hearty agreement across parties in their support for the environment, property rights and personal liberties notwithstanding. Who can resist the pleading expression of a little whiskered seal? A helpless bird with oily feathers? We must protect the earth for them, if not for our children.

The Gallup survey organization, however, seemed shocked last month when it reported that for the first time in the 25 years it's been asking, Americans are now willing to trade off some environmental safeguards in order to jump-start our economy. The implication being that we're in such a financial crisis that we're even willing to sacrifice that-- i.e. our selfish needs to, um, eat and pay the mortgage seem to trump our concern for the desert pupfish.

Well, if business were so concerned with recycling, they wouldn't design computers to only last three years; they wouldn't have given washers an expectancy of merely four. They wouldn't push us to trade in our cellphones every year; they'd use batteries that lasted more than a few hours and ran via any lights like my old, trusty calculator does, and they'd surely have developed cars that devoured kudzu for fuel. I mean it: Kudzu is replenishable and probably burns better than corn ethanol. Heck, forget the dog and run the car on leftovers.

Again, I wouldn't want to harm the earth; to the contrary, I love the healthy, unspoiled outdoors. I revel in the springtime blossoms; I lie in the sun so its rays can seep into my skin and soul. What I don't like, however, is this fakery about the "green" properties of everything from cereal to paper towels. I noticed that the Starbucks cup my husband retrieved from the parkway touted that it was made completely of recycled paper fibers. This was printed, of course, in green ink.

This "green" bandwagon has become too crowded, and it's accelerating at a frightening speed. Let me off! Do you remember when the word "footprint" meant an indentation from a walker's stride?

With all this in mind, tonight I viewed a screening of Disney's new film, Earth. The photography is astounding. The violence of animals seeking dinner was so wrenching I had to cover my eyes. I am always awed by God's majesty and the riddles and lavishness of so many unnecessary species. I was disappointed by the disorganized feel of the film, and most engrossed by the final sequences during the credits suggesting the danger and innovation involved in filming these creatures in their habitats. Our world is worth respecting; its creator worth appreciating, but all this Earth Day hoopla inspires only arrogance that we humans are in control when in fact, we are not.

(BTW, I took the parasailing photo above on Sunday nearby in the Issaquah Alps.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Voice for the Unconventionally Attractive

Settling back down to the home-bound routine after being away for the 9-day Passover holiday is a bit tough. Flying home from the sunshine into the overcast was the least of it--piles of mail, phone messages, email, unpacking and uploading my photos all had to wait as I prepared for Shabbat.

Kindly friends had invited us for lunch today, and among the catch-up of Pesach anecdotes were some mentions of the world that passed over while we floated in the time-warp of Passover. I was ignorant to one story that, later, I saw was covered in the New York Times: the worldwide instantaneous rise of a 47-year-old, virginal, portly, unstylish, unemployed woman from Blackburn, Scotland, named Susan Boyle.

Her appearance last week on the English TV reality show "Britain's Got Talent" was considered a triumph because her voice trumped her frump. The YouTube video of her audition, watched by more than 20 million viewers, shows polite judges welcoming her, a few plucky responses to their questions, and then a powerful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables.

Why is this such a phenomenon? Apparently, feminists are emailing links to the performance, proud that a relatively elderly, no-makeup, fashionless, double-chinned person could inspire tears in listeners. Unfortunately, I think the tears are because Susan Boyle is the ugly duckling that bursts into swan as she bursts into song. Amanda Holden, cute, pert judge of "Talent," told The Daily Mirror" she wouldn't "let her near" a hairdresser: "The minute we turn her into a glamourpuss is when it's spoilt."

In other words, her hook is her homeliness.

On the one hand, that one of Miss Boyle's age and physique can leap to stardom is encouraging to others not conventionally attractive. We root for the underdog, and, alas, women who don't fit the Hollywood mold often are caninely compared. Therefore, when she clearly displays vocal talent, we are not only surprised, but delighted. She even told Larry King she sees no need to revamp her image, saying, "Why should I change?" Her brother Gerard told the "Daily Mirror," “She doesn’t wear make-up or fancy clothes. It’s not that she doesn’t care, she just doesn’t see why other people should care how she looks. When me or my sisters see her we always say ‘Och Susan, you could have put a comb through your hair’. But she can’t see what the problem is."

On the other hand, that we snicker when she strides onto the stage reminds us that Miss Boyle is indeed the exception, and we're still going to hold by the rule. And frankly, the whole thing looks like a set-up. She's the "gotcha!" producers and publicists pursue, and it's working great.

But there's a message here. Just as we often dismiss the handicapped or elderly, we dismiss or demote anyone not pretty or potent.

Not long enough ago, I decided that when I encountered old people, or individuals in wheelchairs, I would look them in the eye, smile, and say hello, recognizing them, and reminding me never to disregard a soul who can breathe and feel. Every elder in a walker struggling to step was once virile and energetic, and led a life as worthy, and often more so, than the venerated stars who grace tabloid covers.

In the same Saturday paper, next to the piece on Susan Boyle, was a disgusting article by Michael Creepy, uh, Cieply, sniggling over the few pounds it appears to him that some male stars exhibit in recent films. Jeff Daniels and Russell Crowe in "State of Play" are described as "Two men. One notebook. Four chins." Denzel Washington and John Travolta star "cheek to jowl" in "The Taking of Peham 1 2 3." Hugh Grant's "dimples pop out where they used to pop in" in "Did you Hear About the Morgans?" And Vince Vaughn's "sized up" form will star next year in "Couples Retreat." It seems media can't help perpetuating debilitating stereotypes even as they cheer one who breaks them.

Is that just the way the world works? Yes. But the good news is that we're now talking about it. "You can't judge a book by its cover" is now the code phrase for the ascent of Susan Boyle.

What a wonderful season. The trees are heavy with pink blossoms and the daffodils coloring the yard with sunshine. The tulips are a bit late this year, but tomorrow we'll take a hike in search of trilliums. The air feels crisp with possibility.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Searching for Bright Light...for a purpose

It's the big day--the day when the sun returns to the exact location of its creation, and the once-every-28-year opportunity to note the occasion with the "birkat ha chamma" blessing that celebrates God's "works of creation."

This always occurs on a Wednesday, April 8, but seldom on the eve of Passover as today. I stayed up absurdly late packing not only myself but my fatigued son, tuckered out by all that watching me write/edit his term paper yesterday and through the night before.

But the birkat ha chamma is so rare, and so momentous, that we dragged ourselves from our slumber to join our synagogue members early this morning. The first thing I noticed upon casting my eyes outside was--dum, dum, DUM--the dreaded "curtain of gray." Without the ability to actually see the sun--even its outline through clouds will do--you can't recite the blessing. And after three glorious, sunny, clear and warm days, we'd dived right back into the gloomy Northwestern norm, in which colors are muted, and the sky and Lake Washington match in an oozy sheet of the non-color best called neither-here-nor-there.

With minimal hopes, we climbed into the car and slipped into the crowded synagogue in time to catch the conclusion of our Rabbi's exposition of a Talmud tractate and the raft of blessings marking a "siyum," a meal celebrating completion of a portion of Torah, especially important today for the many "first-born" guys who otherwise would have to fast until the seder tonight. My own spouse, also a first-born male, will be one of those with heightened anticipation of that first cup of wine and desert-dry matzah, as he had to fly early and had no siyum that would have allowed him to eat for the rest of the day.

We who seek the sun--who are Searching for Bright Light--do have a ray of hope that we can still say the birkat ha chamma today. One is allowed to do so until 1:10 pm, and also to view the sun, and say the blessing, through a window. Before that time, we'll be rising above the clouds, as we wing our way to our Passover destination, and I anticipate the joyous recitation of the rare and marvelous blessing.

If only we had window seats.
Unfortunately, no seats were assigned for our flight until day-of-departure, and my children and I are all seated separately and distantly. Only one of us has a window seat. So I'm planning to visit the flight attendants at the back of the plane and peer out their window, just long enough to claim a moment of that brightest light, a sight I hope will illuminate the next 28 years.

Again...Happy Passover, Happy Easter--and Happy Sunshine! (that's the slogan on my cell phone. Photo above is dawn on Jerusalem.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Rare Holiday

With the weather here in the glorious 70s with sunshine, I had to take advantage. Yesterday I joined throngs of camera-wielding families at the quad of the University of Washington, where a circle of grandly gnarled cherry trees are in magnificent full bloom. Spring has arrived, at last, in the northwest.

And with it Wednesday arrives a very special Jewish spring day. It only occurs once every 28 years, the last time in 1981. And because it is attached to the solar, rather than the usual lunar Jewish calendar, it moves--but dawns this year on the morning of another festival called "Chag Aviv," the holiday of spring, Passover. The last time the rare special day occurred on Passover eve was in 1925; the time before that, in 1309.

What is this unusual day called? I'm not sure the day has a name, but the action we perform does--reciting a blessing called "birkat ha chamma," acknowledging God's creation of His "works," when the sun returns to the position it occupied in the sky when it was created.

The hitch here is that you need to actually see the sun, at least through the clouds, in order to say this blessing. In Seattle, we can only pray that we get another couple luscious warm and clear days like yesterday and today. Because if we don't, and the sky reverts to its usual low-hanging curtain of gray, we're out of luck until 2037.

We've got a three-hour window of time to say these few magic words (well, many hold that you can say them when you see other of God's awesome works) but the profound thought for me is that we humans can agree (based on biblical calculations) when and where the sun was created. And that people for millenniums knew and agreed and said the same words, looking up (very briefly!) at that same burning orb.

This is the kind of natural phenomenon that my late father-in-law, a scientist who wrote about the confluence of the bible with the natural world, would have savored. We'll look up at the sky (if clear), and know he's reciting with us.

Meanwhile, approaching Passover, most everyone I know is scurrying.

Either they're setting aside the "chumetz" (leavened food ) in their homes and attacking the residues and residuals with various implements, be it blow torch or toothbrush--or, if they're very fortunate like me, they're packing to abandon their beer and Cheerios-stocked houses, sell all that chumetz to a non-Jew, and flee to a Passover hotel.

At these mostly sun-belt "resorts," a synagogue, kosher food purveyor, recreation and activities specialist, day care emporium and mini-university are magically assembled for the period of eight days. Families gather together from far-flung corners of the world to conduct seders and reunite in the re-enactment of our peoples' delivery from slavery to Egypt's Pharoah, to slavery instead to God. The rest of the time is divided between holidays of restricted activity similar to Shabbat, and "chol ha moed" days that are still part of the passover festival, but allow a modicum of non-holiday activity such as car travel, electricity use, necessary work and Facebook. Just kidding.

Much preparation goes into Passover, including study of the Hagada, the book containing the fifteen-step "order" that is the seder ceremony. Participants come up with novel and complex questions, and deep analyses of each aspect of the hours-long evening's discussion. Many people mistakenly think of the seder as indoctrination "for the children," but serious Jews stay up debating and querying long after the children and morning-types have drooped. Sometimes they debate how long the debate can go on.

I don't plan to take my laptop in the suitcase with the twelve fancy outfits I'll need for all the dressy meals and synagogue services that characterize the holiday, (not to mention the casual togs and walking shoes and seder-prep and speech-giving materials) so I'm afraid my blog will probably languish until my return after the holiday. I'm scurrying today not with a blow-torch but errand-running and laundry washing and okay, helping my son with his term paper on James Bond that he should have done weeks ago but must be turned in tomorrow.

I wish my Jewish friends a "Pesach kasher v'sameach," my Christian friends a Happy Easter, and for all of us, a springtime blossoming with new possibility.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why is this Woman Defrocked?

Last week here in Seattle, with 200 friends, the former director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Ann Holmes Redding, celebrated both the publication of her first book, and 25 years as an ordained Episcopal priest.

Today, she was defrocked. For becoming a Muslim.

Twenty-one months after she announced her added affiliation, which spurred patient warnings and suggestions to search her heart from her disciplinary superior, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, she received today a letter "deposing" her. In it, Bishop Wolf states her belief--originally set forth by a church committee last fall--that "a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim."

Ms. Redding, however, disagrees. In mid 2006, she was introduced to Muslim prayers, and "they moved her profoundly." Becoming a Muslim "is not an automatic abandonment of Christianity," she insists. Of her defrocking, she said, "I am very sad. I'm sad at the loss of this cherished honor of having served as a priest." She also is saddened by the "narrow vision of what the church accepts."

Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington, is on her side. He says today in my source for all this, the Seattle Times, "there are streams of tradition that are mutually exclusive; there are also streams that are not mutually exclusive. Ann is exploring those."

Fill me in, Ms. Redding. I read about Christians murdered by Muslims for their faith in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Israel, Australia, throughout Africa--and here on 9-11. Exactly which Muslim streams welcome female Episcopal priests?

Apparently, the now-retired bishop who previously supervised Redding in the Olympia diocese here in Washington, "said he regarded the priest's dual faith as exciting in its interfaith possibilities." I can only imagine.

Redding says she was "called to both faiths," and, given her new book, Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Christian and Jewish Sources, (co-authored with Jamal Rahman and Kathleen Schmit Elias) she could add a third. There might be a little confusion, however, over which wife Abraham actually favored (Sarah or Hagar), and which son was bound and nearly sacrificed (Isaac or Ishmael); the contradictions take off from there. Oh, there could be a little issue with Jesus versus The Prophet Mohammad, too.

Redding maintains she has not "abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church," as the commission who studied her case charged. She was given ample opportunity to gracefully resign from the priesthood, or drop her Muslim moniker, but she refused both.

As a result, she's trying to stretch her fifteen minutes of fame, looking for a contract for her memoirs and starting "Abrahamic Reunion West," a nonprofit seeking to "bring together the Abrahamic faiths."

I wish her well on her religious adventures.

Unfortunately, the last thing I read about an organization aiming to make nice between Muslims and surrounding communities was pretty grim. About six weeks ago, the founder of Bridges TV near Buffalo, New York--the purpose of which was to "overcome negative stereotypes" of Islam--was arrested for beheading his wife.

I don't associate that murderer with Ms. Redding in any way, of course, but I'd like to see how she reconciles principles of the "religion of peace" with the Episcopal denomination with which 55% of our founding fathers affiliated. They seem mutually exclusive to me.