A statement on (traditional) marriage

So a group of religious leaders released an open letter yesterday affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman. Period.

The letter repeats a common argument of recent years, that maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage is not only right but the best thing for everyone.

“Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities,” says the short letter, officially called “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment.”

The letter is signed by 26 religious leaders. You can, more or less, guess who they are: Archbishop Dolan; Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals; H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; and other Orthodox Christian, Orthodox Jewish and conservative Christians leaders. Also: Manmohan Singh of the American Region of the World Sikh Council.

Who’s missing? Who do you think? Episcopalians. Presbyterians. Non-Orthodox Jews. Other liberal or progressive religious types.

Here’s the full text of the letter:


Dear Friends,

Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.

Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The (Buddhist) Dude abides

So I was cleaning off my desk — a rare event — and came across a couple of interesting things.

First, the fall issue of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle features a cover story on the actor Jeff Bridges.

Somehow it strikes me as amusing that the actor who played The Dude in The Big Lebowski is a practicing Buddist. I have one of those talking keychains, a gift from my wife, that features some of the Dude’s most memorable lines, like “This agression will not stand, man.”

Very Buddhist.

In the magazine’s interview, Bridges is asked whether it irritates him “when people confuse you with the Dude?”

He answers: “Oh God no. There’s a lot of stuff where we don’t match up and a lot where we do. I admire the Dude. He’s very true to himself, whereas I can get my hair shirt on and beat myself with my whips and say, Why can’t you take more interest in others?

Got that?

Also, I got a new paperback version of a book called “What is GOD?” by the philosopher Jacob Needleman. The back cover says: “A leading American philosopher’s personal journey from Godlessness to the experience of God.”

I realized that I have a growing pile of books on my desks about non-belief. But they’re not written from the Angry Atheist point of view.

I have “Between a Church and a Hard Place: One Faith-Free Dad’s Struggle to Understand What It Means to Be Religious (or Not)” by Andrew Park, “Spiritual Atheism” by Steve Antinoff, and others.

Is there some kind of new movement afoot? At least in publishing.

Kanye West and latkes?

Are you ready for some new Hanukkah music?

A vocal group called Six13 that includes two Rockland County natives has released a video that turns three popular songs into Hanukkah anthems.

It’s also tremendously fun to watch.

The video, called “I Like It,” is said to be going viral. I’m not sure what the standard is, but the video has gotten over 61,000 views in a couple of days on YouTube.

Alan Zeitlin, a member of the group who comes from Monsey (and used to work for the Journal News), says this: “It was very cool when Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song came out. But it was definitely time for something new. I think in an age where viral videos have become extremely powerful, it’s a great way to impact people. I think people appreciate this video because the parodies are funny but also musically sound and it’s great to see different people in parts of the city.”

Six13 is a Jewish a cappella group that performs all over, including during the seventh-inning stretch of a Mets game.

Band member Mike Boxer, who arranged the music and wrote most of the lyrics, is from Spring Valley.

The video turns Justin Bieber’s “Baby” into “Dreidel,” Kayne West’s “Heartless” into “Latkes,” and  Enrique Iglesias’ “I Like It” into “I Light It.”

The National Council of Synagogue Youth asked Six13 to come up with some Hanukkah parodies of pop songs. Boy did they deliver.

Check it out:

<object width=”400″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mvY337zKttA?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mvY337zKttA?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”400″ height=”385″></embed></object>

Here’s a comment from Boxer: “It wasn’t too tough to come up with new words. These are great songs with great melodies that you can take it all sort of lyrical directions, and when it comes to our heritage, there’s lots to sing about!
I’m definitely happy with the way we came off in the video — after all at the end of the day we are six white Jewish guys doing hip-hop. But what I love best is getting to see the whole city getting down to the music, all races, all ages, all backgrounds. Truly a unifying effort and really embodies the spirit of the holiday season!
Rapping like that was tough, because I’d never really tried anything much like it before. But I took a deep breath and gave it my best shot. Turns out, I got flow.”

Have an (early and easily understood) Happy Hanukkah

If Hanukkah seems to be starting early this year, that’s because it is.

The Jewish “Festival of Lights” begins at sundown today. It’s the earliest start of Hanukkah in eight years.

We all know that Hanukkah is one of the most difficult religious holidays to get a handle on. I’d like to see someone hold a contest for the shortest, most compact, airtight explanation of the holiday.

How’s this:

Long ago, the Maccabees fought for religious freedom and reclaimed the Temple. A lamp burned for eight days with little oil. We remember the Maccabees’ fight and celebrate our own freedoms today with oily latkes and jelly donuts, dreidels and, to mark the eight days, menorahs.

Or something like that.