Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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The Harlem Gospel Singers to perform in Prague

In Culture,Entertainment,Prague,Religion on November 25, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Czech music enthusiasts will once again have the opportunity to see and listen to the Harlem Gospel Singers. They will perform at the Prague Congress Center on December 14. The interesting aspect of their performances in the Czech Republic is the fact that many audience members don’t even understand the lyrics and their real message, i.e. they fail to realize they are clapping to the rhythm of a church song. 

Crowd participation is a very important part of the live performance of the Harlem Gospel Singers. They sing hymns and Czechs crowds follow even though they have no idea about the meaning. Oh Happy Day is a good example. The most recognizable text is easy to comprehend and seems to have nothing to do with religion. But it is, after all, a part of a 1967 gospel music arrangement.

Sure, it is entertainment – but it is also a little disrespectful. The question is: to whom. Dancing and clapping and singing in churches is a key aspect of religion in Alabama and other Southern states, so when a religious Czech person does it at a HGS concert here, it is kind of like cheating on their religion…

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Does the pope need a luxurious port-a-potty for a few minutes of…

In Brno,Religion on September 22, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

(c) Getty Images

(c) Getty Images

Countdown: five days…

The pope is coming to Brno, Czech Republic on Sunday, September 27.

He will celebrate a mass at Turany International Airport.

And according to the Brnensky denik daily he will have a luxurious port-a-potty at his disposal. Actually, there will be two: one for the pope and one for the Czech president and his wife.

This, I think, is probably one of the most ridiculous things associated with this visit. Honestly, why does the pope need a luxurious latrine? Sure, why not? may be the answer. But… the luxurious port-a-potty is a “perfect” symbol of what is terribly wrong with churches.

I am not an expert in religion, but I am pretty sure that Jesus was not very comfortable during the Sermon on the Mount. And the people who are going to attend the mass in Brno are not going to be comfortable, either. They are going to arrive from all over the world, even from the USA or Chile. They will sleep in tents, they will stand there in mud and rain (IF it rains) and they will do anything “just to see and listen to him” — a man who will have as much luxury as possible to enjoy the mission. Why doesn’t he use a regular construction-site latrine, just like the ordinary people? It is a symbol and the church “likes” symbols (truckload of sarcasm behind these quotation marks).

There are missionaries who leave their NYC apartments to live in a rain forest. There are (Mormon) missionaries who go on to live in a totally foreign country for two years, where they often have to redefine the term “civilisation”. You would think the church gives them four-star hotel suites. Hell no.

But the pope will have all the comfort there is during you-know-what.

The Catholic church has its reasons for having the pope visit this country, which is arguably the least religious country in Europe: a while ago the pope said that “the people of the Czech Republic need to find new reasons for faith”.

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - (c) Getty Images

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - (c) Getty Images

Wrooooooooong!!! The fewer reasons for faith people have, the better. Less religious society is a sign of a healthy society. When people “turn to newlyfound faith”, it means there is usually no hope (as they see it), or it may mean they have given up trying and they think that “something will happen”.

Which brings us back to the luxurious port-a-potty. Before 1918, i.e. during the times of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy we were a part of, there was a saying: I am going to a place where even the Emperor is alone: the point of this saying was to say that the ordinary poor people had at least something in common with the wealthy and the noble: taking a leak at their outhouse was pretty much the same.

And contemporary Czechs are highly allergic to people who do not seem to be practicing what they preach. They know the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL, a Czech political party) rarely behave in compliance with the generally accepted Christian values and they know that “Joseph Ratzinger” was a member of the Hitler Youth (they do not know that it was mandatory, though).

And so, the luxurious latrine was REALLY a stupid idea, in terms of symbols and the message the church wants to send…

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The most important freeway in the country to be closed. For the pope

In Politics,Religion on September 12, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - (c) Getty Images

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - (c) Getty Images

During the last week of September Pope Benedict XVI. will visit the Czech Republic. Thousands of people from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria are expected to come to Brno International Airport in the vicinity of which the mass will be celebrated.

How do they get there? By cars and buses.

Where do you park them?

On a freeway that runs by the airport.

It will be closed COMPLETELY between two exits and used as a huge parking lot. The usual traffic will have to go through Brno. Yep, transit traffic will be sent to two boroughs of the city. The main street that is to be used for the detour is really bad already in terms of traffic and now the police will reroute some more.

The best thing one can do is leave on Friday and come back on Monday… Something tells me I should be tolerant and avoid saying things like “why do I have to be bothered by a visit of a church leader whom I do not care for at all”. So I will… I will make sure to avoid all the insanity (traffic jams, crowds…) and I’ll be fine…

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Christian Democrats oppose plans to build a new mosque in Brno

In Brno,Religion on July 27, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

(c) Getty Images

(c) Getty Images

The Brno Muslim community thinks their mosque is too small (it can accommodate 150 people) and they would like to build a new one. The number of Muslims in Brno has been increasing for some time and it is usual in a democratic society to allow religious groups to build their houses of worship. We have churches of all religions in Brno. We even have a tiny Mormon church (or is it a temple? I am not quite sure…).

But the local Christian Democrats, a Parliamentary party, oppose the idea to build a new mosque. Their arguments include the claim that “Islam can not coexist with secular state”, or the “way that Muslims treat infidels”, the Brnensky denik daily wrote.

They may say that but I don’t think that it is going to stop Muslims from believing what they believe in. You may be a religious person who never enters a church… Besides, some things that Christian Democrats believe in are just as questionable. Former Governor of the South Moravian Region Stanislav Juranek told the daily that “the region has its traditions, values and culture […] if I am a guest somewhere, you can not expect that my host will adapt”.

Juranek fails to realize one important thing: the Muslim community is already here and many of the people were born in the Czech Republic and have no Arab ancestors. Does it mean they are not entitled to their religion, just because it originates in a foreign culture? What about Buddhists? They have their temples all over the world…

The idea is  that the new mosque would include a minaret. “However, if the municipality says no, we will accept it,” said a representative of the Muslim community in Brno.

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Thousands registered to attend the Pope’s September mass in Brno

In Religion on June 12, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - (c) Getty Images

Benedict XVI and Czech President Vaclav Klaus - Photo (c) Getty Images

Construction works are in progress on the future “stadium” where Benedict XVI. should celebrate his mass on September 27 in Brno. The local episcopate has so far “registered” around 50,000 people who expressed their wish to attend the mass and want to secure their spot in the crowd. Some 120,000 people are expected to show up at the mass venue which will be located close to Brno International Airport. However, the access roads will be a huge problem. The most important one, which is an exit from the D1 freeway is not long enough to accommodate all waiting cars (before they can park) so they will create traffic jams in the right lane of the freeway. Not to mention the small and narrow roads in the boroughs around the airport…

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Bodies Revealed: controversial exhibition on display in a mall in Brno

In Culture on June 1, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , ,

(c) Examiner.com

(c) Examiner.com

Let’s see what we look like inside. The Bodies travelling exhibition of dissected and preserved bodies and organs will be on display in the Olympia Mall in Brno, Czech Republic, starting tomorrow.

Naturally, two points of view collide as to whether it is “right” to organize such events. Leading Czech Roman Catholic priest, university teacher and public intellectual Tomas Halik had this to say (my rough translation):

halikI think decent people shall avoid these things. We must respect the dead and the culture of burying the dead. If we start treating human bodies as exhibition artifacts which we pay to see, that is where our civilisation starts to lose the respect.

…whereas the organizer claims that the purpose of the event is educational, the bodies are arranged in “athletic postures” to show how our bodies actually “work” and that this particular setting is in no way similar to the Berlin version where two bodies were arranged to illustrate sexual intercourse.

Ironically, you can say “yes, but…” to both gentlemen.

1) When it comes to the “respect for the dead”: we do perform autopsies, organs are removed for research purposes and transplants. So some deceased do “serve some purposes”. On the other hand, we do NOT know that the exhibits gave their consent…

2) The organizers should admit that they are doing it for money. Everybody knows it so they might as well say it. Sure, it might be more prestigious than money-making but still…they are doing it for living.

The exhibition has been heavily criticized by many people all over the world. A certain Florida DA even claimed that it was illegal. I am almost sure (I have to look up the statutory regulation first) that burying your relative outside an official cemetery is a misdemeanor, so having “dead bodies” unburied is not “illegal”…

The best way to show approval or disgust is by going/not going, i.e. by paying or not paying, i.e. by allowing the organizers to make money, or lose it…

::UPDATE:: The local organisation of the Christian Democrats urges people to boycott the exhibition. “It is symptomatic that this immoral exhibition takes place in a mall. We hope that people will realize how insensitive it is to exhibit dead bodies and that they will ignore it, Deputy Chairman David Macek, told the Brnensky denik daily.

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All Souls’s Day. The Czech way

In Life on October 31, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

Although Wikipedia mentions All Souls’ Day as predominantly religion-related day, November 2 in the Czech Republic has altogether different significance. It is observed by 99 percent of people, despite the fact that this country is almost 80 percent atheist.

People observe it by visiting the graves of their deceased ancestors or loved ones [most usually (grand)parents], cleaning them up, arranging new flowers etc. And since it is usual that one or two family members “do it for the rest of the family” it is safe to say that the day is observed by families as such – and the number of people who actually do observe it adds up.

It is also a day on which the most purses are stolen in this country in any given year. Elderly women who go to cemeteries to visit the graves of their deceased husbands and parents often pay less attention to their belongings while mending the grave(s). And thieves do their nasty job as well…

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Mosque in Brno damaged. Again

In Law,Religion on October 27, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

Brno Muslims who went to their mosque on Sunday were shocked to find a spray-painted sign that said “Stop, no to Islam”, the Brnensky denik daily reported. Unknown suspects damaged the facade on Saturday night, the police think.

It has been the four such “attack” on the mosque.

Muneeb Hassan al-Rawi (apologies if the transliteration is incorrect in English), who is a leading personality of the Muslim community in Brno and the Islamic Foundation, says “the mosque is attended by children who are half-Czech and who feel very uncomfortable (to say the least) about being unwelcome this way…”

UPDATE BY REQUEST:: there are approximately 600 Muslims in Brno, says al-Rawi in this May interview for the Brnensky denik daily. Plus there are around 50 people from the South Moravian Region who regularly travel to Brno to attend the regular “ceremonies” (sorry about the general term, I am not an expert on Islam, let alone English terminology, and I wouldn’t want to offend anyone). The mosque is quite small and it does not feature the traditional minaret and other well-known traditional architectural parts.

This year [July 10] the mosque “celebrated” its 10th anniversary. I must say it is almost “invisible”, meaning that you have to look for it to find it, and you definitely won’t see it during your regular sightseeing walk, as it is a 10-minute 4-stop tram ride from downtown.

The leaders of the Muslim community (especially the aforementioned Mr. Muneeb Hassan al-Rawi) meet with the Lord Mayor regularly, and al-Rawi himself often holds talks with noted personalities of other religions [like the Brno rabbi].

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Sarah Palin is an unprepared dope, aka Why not vote for McCain

In Politics on September 30, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

When Matt Damon said that Sarah Palin is like a really bad Disney movie, I thought that is as far as one can get in terms of metaphors of a bad VP nominee. Nope. Bill Maher totally speaks my language when he says that Sarah Palin is an unprepared dope and that she should hand out peanuts on a Delta Air flight.

From a point of view of an open-minded European who studied in the U.S. and has a first-hand experience with ordinary Americans of all ages, I think I can articulate two more politically correct reasons why voting for McCain/Palin will have disastrous consequences for the U.S.

1.

She really believes everything she has read, or was read to her, in the Bible. She does seem to think that the world was created 5,000 years ago, “with a talking snake in the garden” [Maher]. What America needs now is a president who will focus on normal problems of normal people. There is a saying in the Czech regional politics: a sidewalkthat needs to be repaired is not blue [color of the Civic Democrats], nor orange [Social Democrats], nor red [Communists] nor black [Christian Democrats]. Therefore, voters should NOT focus on her personal values, but on how she listens to theirs. It is time to stop pointing out the FACT that she is “a good Christian”… An atheist president can be a better president for religious people than the other way round. A religious president can have his or her country doomed just because of what he or she read in the Bible at the age of six. Sure, Obama might believe in God too, but he is not a Bible boy.

2.

No doubt that women in politics do make a difference. No doubt that they can enforce legislation and other forms of the decision-making process that men would never enforce. But that can work only on certain levels. Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany that has a male president. There are dozens of female MEP’s [Members of the European Parliament]. BUT they are all a part of the whole political “machinery”.

President Palin, who will indeed have the nuclear codes [Damon] will be “the most powerful person in the world”. She will HAVE TO meet world leaders who think women have fewer rights than dogs, she will not be credible, she will not be able to convince slightly less powerful MEN, e.g. the president of Iran. So, simply and pragmatically speaking, she is no use to the international politics already…

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Palin: A Future Grandma Who Opposes Sex Education

In Life,Love,Politics on September 2, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

There are many things I love about the States. Food, cars, movie industry, criminal law system, New England, Hartsfield Airport [Atlanta, GA].

There is one thing that I truly hate: let’s call it public morality issues when it comes to private lives of people.

Here’s a CNN story on Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. I can not believe what I am reading:

Palin also revealed that her daughter Bristol is pregnant and will marry the baby’s father.

Sure. Conservative people hate when kids are born to unmarried couples. Why????

John McCain was aware of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he chose her mother for his running mate, a top adviser to the Republican presidential candidate said.

The adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, said Monday that Palin “was completely vetted by the campaign” before she was chosen. “Sen. McCain knew this and felt in no way did it disqualify her from being vice president,” said an aide who asked not to be named. “Families have difficulties sometimes and lucky for her she has a supportive family.”

Why the hell would one even think for one second that your teen daughter’s pregnancy  would disqualify you from being ANYTHING?? Vice Presidents do not have sex? Vice Presidents do not use condoms that sometime break? Vice Presidents never forget to take their pills? Teen pregnancy is not DIFFICULTY for crying out loud and there is absolutely not reason for finger-pointing and judging.

The McCain aide emphasized that Bristol decided to keep the baby, a decision “supported by her parents.”

Again, what does it have to do with Palin’s ability do be a good POLITICIAN? She is not a sexology expert.

Senior McCain advisers said Palin told McCain about her daughter’s pregnancy in one of their “private conversations” last week before he officially asked her to run with her.

Seems to me that sometimes conservative Americans judge people based on their own value they wish everyone would accept. I am positive that if one of Bush daughters was a lesbian, Bush would not get elected. Or if Bush himself was gay. I just don’t know why most Americans would feel this way. Gays do not make policy decisions?

Quoted in the same article, Barack Obama said it:

Let me be as clear as possible. I think people’s families are off-limits, and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president.

Ah, it seems like that Palin [the mother] is worse than I thought. Another CNN story says: In a 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire, Palin indicated that she supported funding abstinence-until-marriage education programs instead of teaching sex-education programs. “Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” Palin wrote in the conservative group’s questionnaire.

Loud and clear: A) couples who do not have sex before marriage have anything but healthy relationships. Sex MUST WORK in a relationship. It is a part of the chemistry, attraction, etc. You must know how you complete each other sexually, otherwise you will become very frustrated. And B)institutionalized no-sex-before-marriage education programs are the most dangerous thing within the education system. For reasons, see above. Plus, sex is biological necessity. It is a part of male – female interaction, dating, love, romance… And that is why we have sex education, condoms, etc.

So, Mrs. Palin, look where your no-sex attitude got you…

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