About Corazon

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Mormon Political "Controversy." Before Romney there was Reed Smoot

As most are already aware, Mitt Romney's Mormon faith has been a popular topic for quite some time. The question of how Romney's religious beliefs would effect him as president was a source of debate and controversy throughout his 2008 presidential campaign, and is likely to be a major issue in 2012. For many citizens, the Romney campaign has been their first experience to learn about the Mormon faith. And as is common with all misunderstood religions, Mormonism (and Romney in particular) has been the recipient of ignorant and biased criticism. In fact, a 2007 Gallup poll showed that Americans of both parties are less likely to vote for a Mormon than a candidate of any other faith (and in some instances, are more likely to vote for an atheist). In addition, this 2011 Gallup poll shows that there isn't too much change since 2007. At least 22% of Americans are "fundamentally opposed" to voting for a Mormon candidate, regardless of his/her qualifications.

As a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have grown accustomed to many of the typical stereotypes associated with Mormons. As a missionary in Chile I regularly met people whose preconceived notions about Mormons were so entrenched in mythology that it became impossible for many of them to recognize the forest from the trees. Throughout my life I have met people who have all kinds of varying opinions on the Mormon church. I guess, like any other faith, there will always be those who approve and disapprove.

Now, I say all this not out of a hope that people will accept or embrace Mormonism. I fully understand that there are people out there who will never approve of the Mormon faith. Nor do I want to come across as a Romney supporter. To be perfectly honest, I have not decided who I will vote for in 2012 (and I did not support Romney in 2008). It's just too early in the game to make that call.

But I do want to address some common myths.

The issue of Romney's faith is not the first time that the Mormon religion has been center stage in the play of American politics. In fact, the Mormon "controversy" was a major issue at the beginning of the last century. In 1904, Utah Senator Reed Smoot (also a devout Mormon) was called to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Mormon Church. As a result, the U.S. Senate began an investigation into the faith of Utah Senator Reed Smoot, in an effort to determine if his faith was supporting treasonous acts against the United States. The goal was to determine if Smoot's faith would compromise his loyalty to the United States. Several prominent Mormon leaders were subpoenaed by the Senate to testify at a hearing known as the Smoot Hearings. Among those who testified were President Joseph F. Smith, James E. Talmadge, and Francis Lyman. In the end, Senator Smoot was allowed to retain his position as a U.S. Senator, but not after weeks of intense scrutiny and criticism from an obviously biased investigatory committee.

The Smoot/Romney Mormon "controversies" do prove one very important point: that hasty and ignorant stereotypes towards any race, religion, creed, etc. create nothing more than a culture of fear. Again, I am not suggesting that everyone needs to vote for Romney or support the Mormon faith but I do believe people need to take a serious look at how stereotypes can influence their thinking. It's one thing for Americans of the early 1900s to allow their fear, prejudice and downright ignorance of Mormonism to lead them to attack Senator Smoot; it's quite another thing for us in the 21st century to maintain many of these same ridiculous stereotypes. Not voting for Romney because of his politics is fair and good, but to not vote for Romney because of his faith is prejudicial.

Not to mention sort of anti-Constitutional.

As Article VI, Section III of the U.S. Constitution states:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Of course you have every right to vote your conscience, and one's personal reasons for voting hardly constitute a breach of the Constitution. But, if you are one who claims to revere the Constitution, how can you possibly justify not voting for a candidate exclusively on their faith?

You can't.

If you are interested in reading what the New York Times had to say about the Smoot Hearings back in 1904 click here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Nation Under God...But When?

One of the many silly culture war debates that seems to never go away is the supposed debate over the Pledge of Allegiance, with particular emphasis on the phrase "under God." I use the word "supposed" because most surveys show that the overwhelming majority of Americans (consistently 80-90%) have no problem with the words "under God". Yet despite the obvious approval of the general public, "under God" has become a hotbed issue for a select few, who seem to be able to effectively infuse their message of discontent into the public arena.

And though I personally have no problem with the inclusion of "under God" in our national Pledge of Allegiance I am forced to agree with an important issue that the anti-pledge crowd tends to focus on: Americans don't know their history. As I have discussed in a previous post on this blog, the history and origins of the Pledge of Allegiance clearly show that the original intent behind the pledge was much different than the one we currently embrace today.

In 1892, as part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America, Francis Bellamy, a popular Baptist minister and Christian socialist, was asked to draft words for a flag pledge that would be used to bolster the schoolhouse flag movement. The recitation of the pledge was also to be accompanied by the "Bellamy Salute" (as depicted in the picture to the right), but was later changed during World War II to simply placing ones hand over their heart for obvious reasons. The original words to Bellamy's pledge were:

I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with equality and fraternity for all.
Equality and fraternity are a noteworthy selection of words. After all, they are two of the three words (Liberté, égalité, fraternité) used in the national motto of France; a motto that originated in their revolution. In addition, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were also key words in the Christan socialist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bellamy was a passionate voice for socialism and advocated for complete government control of education in America. In addition, it was his hope that the pledge would become a standard practice in all public schools. His wish was granted in 1940 when the Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis ruled that all students, including Jehovah's Witnesses who detested the pledge on the basis that it was idolatrous and made a graven image out of the flag, were required to swear the pledge.

Over the years, Bellamy's pledge was changed, and eventually became the pledge most Americans love today...

...with one exception. See for yourself:

School children reciting the Pledge in 1949:


And from the 1939 film, The Great Man Votes:


And last (and perhaps the most interesting) Porky Pig from 1939:


I particularly enjoyed the Porky Pig cartoon, especially the part about the "OPPRESSION, UNFAIR TAXES, TYRANNY, UNFAIR LAWS, and INJUSTICE." of the "evil" British. I guess Walt Disney was unaware of the fact that the British colonists in America were some of the happiest people on the earth during the era of the American Revolution. The supposed "oppression" and "tyranny" was not what we think it was. And of course, let us not forget the epic Paul Revere segment (which must have been taken from a chapter in the Sarah Palin American history book), who shouts, "To arms, to arms."

So how did we get the pledge we enjoy today? The answer is actually pretty simple. In the wake of the Second World War and the commencement of the Cold War, Americans were looking for inspiration that would set them apart from (and superior to) the emerging Soviet Union. As a result, men like Louis Bowman and groups like the Sons of the American Revolution and Knights of Columbus began to include "under God" as part of the official pledge. They did so because it insinuated that the United States was God's land, while the Soviet Union was not. Long story short, in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower and Congress, in a joint resolution, amended the flag code to officially include "under God."

And though most Americans today are unaware of the origins and history of the Pledge of Allegiance, the fact that 80-90% of us embrace and love "under God" may suggest that the history doesn't really matter. Regardless of the reasons behind "under God" the fact that we as a nation (for the most part) love and revere these words should override any objections to their supposedly offensive nature.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Did the Qur'an Influence the Founding of America?

For those who have followed my blog with any regularity, you are surely aware of the fact that I am 100% against the nonsensical notion that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The pseudeo-historians like David Barton, Peter Lillback and Glenn Beck, who waste everyone's time preaching this bogus doctrine, do so at the cost of true historical literacy. After all, the historical record is very clear on this issue, and I fail to see why so many continue to believe the fiction. Our Founding Fathers, though often members of various Christian faiths, did not specifically rely on Christian doctrines and teachings in the founding of the United States, in fact, they did quite the opposite (can anyone give me a single reference to Christianity in the Constitution?). Enlightenment teachings, along with other secular sources, were the principal sources that our Founding Fathers consulted when creating the foundations of this nation. Period.

And though Christianity didn't play a direct role in the founding of the United States, it certainly played an indirect role in setting the stage for many of the ideas of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. So, in a very distant and indirect fashion, Christianity acted like the 3rd string quarterback on a Super Bowl team; it did a great job of holding the clipboard and wearing a ball cap, but that's about it.

But an even sillier notion than the one regurgitated by the Christian nationalist zealots is one being taught by Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri, who was recently appointed by President Obama to the Commission on International Religious Freedom. In the following video, Professor al-Hibri suggests that the Founding Fathers (with particular emphasis on Thomas Jefferson) may have been influenced by the teachings of Islam and the Qur'an when founding the United States:



Let me first state that I am in no way a "Muslim hater" like so many ignorant Americans today. Having read the Qur'an and done some detailed personal study of the religion, I am of the opinion that Islam is a beautiful, inspiring and relevant faith. I am in envy of the devotion that so many Muslims have towards their faith, particularly when it comes to their deep love of prayer. In my opinion nobody, not even the best Christians, can pray like the Muslims.

With that said, the notion that Islam and the Qur'an played a role in the founding of the United States is so historically stupid that I'm not sure where to begin. Aside from the obvious fact that none of our founding documents make even a remote reference to Islam, Professor al-Hibri seems to forget that Islam and the Qur'an are not the exclusive sources on earth which teach about a separation of Church and state. The fact that Thomas Jefferson owned a Qur'an does not mean he gleaned his ideas about religion and government from it. In fact, we know precicely why Jefferson purchased and read the Qur'an, and it didn't have anything to do with religious freedom.

In 1786, Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and John Adams, then the American ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain. American merchant ships had been captured by the Barbary corsairs and their crews and passengers imprisoned. They could only by freed by the payment of large ransoms. The Americans wanted to negotiate a peace treaty to spare their ships these piratical attacks. Congress was willing to appease the Barbary pirates if only they could gain peace at a reasonable price. It was for these reasons that Jefferson decided to do a little personal research on the Muslim faith. In a letter to his friend John Jay, Jefferson wrote:

It was written in their Koran that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to [P]aradise.
Sorry, Prof. al-Hibri but Jefferson wasn't reading the Qur'an to learn how to create a republic. He was reading it to learn how to defend it. It wasn't the Qur'an that inspired Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson is very clear on who his sources of inspiration were. Men like Cicero, Montesquieu, Locke, etc. were his chief sources, not the Qur'an. Jefferson was a book junkie. Owning a Qur'an was a staple in his library, but at no time was it a Jefferson favorite. Heck, Jefferson spent far more time with the Holy Bible than he ever did with the Qur'an.

Besides, do you honestly think that Jefferson, a man who largely detested organized Christianity and rejected most of its chief doctrines, would somehow look to Islam for his inspiration? Especially when it came to the founding of the American republic?

Please!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Colorado Renaissance Festival

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! On this, the 18th day of June, in the Year of our Lord 2011, I, Sir Hart of the Springs of Colorado, along with the Fair Maiden Elizabeth and our two knights, Jaxson the Brave and Zakary the Fearless, didst attend ye ol' festival of the Renaissance in the Kingdom of Larkspur, Colorado. The following art' still images of our quest for diversion:

A fine kingdom indeed.

The clan of Hart purchasing weapons of warfare for our brave knights.

Our brave knights, go forth and defend thy kingdom from the rabble heathens. Tis' better to die in battle than to live as cowards!

Ye Ol' kingdom:

A fine meal indeed for any warrior.

Ay, even Sir Johnny Depp, the evil Pirate Jack Sparrow didst grace us with his presence.

Drink up me 'earties, yo ho! We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!

A weary warrior dost' require rest.



Enchanted videos of our brave voyage:

The Festival:


Jousting:


Elephant ride:

Cooking with Corazon: Episode XXX

Lemon Lime Halibut
with Caramelized Pear


For today's installment in my ongoing quest for culinary excellence I offer up the following: fresh lemon/lime halibut served atop a caramelized pear.


So the pear idea sort of came out of nowhere. I had a few pears that I didn't know what to do with, so I decided to incorporate them in with the fish. To be honest, the sweetness of the candied pear mixed very well with the fish. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

- Fresh halibut
- 2 lemons
- 2 limes
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. dill
- 1/4 sliced pear
- 1 tbs. brown sugar
- a little butter.

Directions:

1.) Marinade halibut in lemon and lime juice for at least 30 minutes.
2.) Heat some olive oil and a little butter in a pan.
3.) Add halibut to pan once the oil is hot.
4.) Add the salt, thyme and dill to fish.
5.) Cook for about 10 minutes.
6.) In separate pan, heat a little oil and butter.
7.) Add sliced pear and cover with brown sugar. Cook until sugar and butter have melted to the pear.
8.) Remove and serve the pear and fish together.
9.) SCARF!!!

As always, Buen Provecho!!!

Family Trip on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway

A couple of weeks ago our family (along with Grandma and Grandpa) took a day trip up to the top of "America's Mountain", also known as Pikes Peak, and we did it in style. Instead of driving up the mountain as done in times past, we decided to take the Cog railway up, and it didn't disappoint.

***For some history on "America's Mountain" (with Particular emphasis on the origins of "America the Beautiful") click here.***

The clan getting ready to make the big climb up the most popular mountain in the Unied States.

Hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa.

Seeing how the Cog Railway system works.

Fun on the train.

Some of the beautiful scenery on the way up.

The doughnuts at the summit are very unique. The altitude gives them a very distinct flavor.

Yep, we made it.


And as always, here is a video:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

George Marsden on the "Christian Nation" Debate

George Marsden, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame and author of several books on religion in American history, gave the following lecture at a conference for the Organization of American Historians in 2007. In the video, Marsden points out the role that Protestantism had in shaping American religious history. In addition, Marsden counters the "Christian Nation" assertion by pointing to the religious plurality that Protestantism brought to the shores of the "New World." Marsden is one of the most respected historians on American religious history, and is himself a practicing Evangelical Christian. Along with historians like Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch, Marsden has labored to shed light on the origins and influence of the nonsensical "Christian Nation" argument and its numerous historical errors.

The video is short, but is a nice "appetizer." For a more in depth look into this topic try Marsden's books, Fundamentalism and American Culture" and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.

Part I:


Part II:


Part III:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

George Mason's Declaration of Rights

On this day in 1776, the Virginia Assembly unanimously adopted George Mason's Declaration of Rights, which guaranteed, among other things, the equal right to "life, liberty and property" (though it did little for the slaves that these same men kept in bondage). Mason's Declaration of Rights has long been hailed as the the front runner to the Bill or Rights, which was later amended to the federal constitution.

Mason's main source of inspiration came from the English Bill of Rights (1689), which guaranteed certain rights -- the right to petition, bear arms, protection from cruel and unusual punishment being among them -- to the English citizenry. This Bill of Rights, which essentially served as a social contract of sorts between the English people and William of Orange and Mary prior to their ascension to the English throne, was hailed as one of the greatest manifestations of individual liberty in the western world. Obviously British citizens living in the American colonies would have found the document to be of tremendous value, especially once the fires of revolution were ignited.

One of the most interesting parts of the Declaration of Rights -- which is actually at the very end of the document -- is Section 16, which states:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

Mason repeated these same sentiments in his private correspondence when he wrote:

That as Religion, or the Duty which we owe to our divine and omnipotent Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be governed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore that all Men shou'd enjoy the fullest Toleration in the Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the Magistrate, unless, under Colour of Religion, any Man disturb the Peace, the Happiness, or Safety of Society, or of Individuals. And that it is the mutual Duty of all, to practice Christian forbearance, Love and Charity towards Each other (The Papers of George Mason, ed. Robert Rutland, Vol. 1, 278).

I am amazed at the fact that very few people recognize the profound impact of Mason's declarations. Mason not only drives the message home for those who would argue against a church/state separation, but he virtually leaves no room for argument. If Mason's work left any impact on the drafting of the Bill of Rights -- and they most certainly did -- then why are some people continuing to argue this point?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sarah Palin Fumbles American History...Again

Last week, America's favorite non-newspaper-reading, helicopter moose-shooting, reality television-starring, bus-touring, Bible-thumping, science-loathing, half-term (quitter), hockey mom governor who can see Russia from her house (and probably still isn't sure what the Vice President does), added YET ANOTHER blunder to her ever-growing list of historical faux pas.

During a stopover in Boston (on her tour of intellectual terror) Sarah Palin shared this pearl of wisdom with a small crowd.

He who warned, uh, the...the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and um by makin’ sure that as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warnin’ shots and bells that uh we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free...and we were gonna be armed.
Wow! William Shakespeare himself couldn't have said it better! So poetic, so inspiring are these words that one easily forgets that they come from the same woman who believes in witches.

You just can't make this stuff up...well...actually...Sarah Palin is proof that you can.

Setting all witchcraft and "maverick-y-ness" aside, let's look at the ACTUAL HISTORY shall we:

1.) Of course Paul Revere didn't ride out to "warn the British." He rode out to warn the militia, along with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were members of the Continental Congress, that the British were coming.

2.) There were no bells ringing. The warning was sent out via lanterns (i.e. "one of by land, two if by sea).

3.) The British were not interested in "takin' away our arms". As historian J.L. Bell appropriately points out:

[Palin's] comment about “takin’ away our arms” connotes that the royal forces were after personal weapons like muskets and pistols. The goal of the British march was artillery which the Massachusetts Provincial Congress had collected using diverted taxes for a military force independent of the royal government. That’s an important distinction, I think.
4.)Palin's last comment that "we were gonna be armed" suggests that the American Revolution was in some way fought over our right to keep and bear arms. Well, reality is that this comment is more indicative of a current political issue rather than a historical fact. Nowhere can we find evidence that the British wanted to take away the private man's right to keep and bear arms.

I know it's hard for people like Sarah Palin (and the monumentally stupid Glenn Beck) to get their history right even 50% of the time, but if they really want to lay claim to American patriotism don't they first need to know something of this nation's past?

Perhaps not.

In an effort to make their fearless leader look less idiotic than she really is, a handful of Sarah Palin disciples have actually taken to rewriting the history of Paul Revere on Wikipedia. That's right, the same supposed lovers of all things relating to the Founding Fathers are attempting to rewrite the history of the Founding Fathers. The irony is staggering.

Who exactly is rewriting history, Glenn Beck?

In the days following her idiotic comment, Sarah Palin has actually tried to defend herself by stating that she "didn't mess up" the Paul Revere history:

I'm publicizing Americana and our foundation and how important it is that we learn about our past and our challenges and victories throughout American history, so that we can successfully proceed forward...
Please, Sarah, just leave the teaching of history to those who at least know that Africa isn't a country but a continent!

One can only imagine what Paul Revere would think of Palin's ongoing record of pseudo-history. But if he were here, I bet he would look and feel something like this:


"Nothing is more dangerous to the world than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~Martin Luther King.

Cooking with Corazon: Episode XXIX

Raspberry Zabaglione

Today I decided to try my hand at a very simple but extremely popular Italian dessert called Zabaglione. Take a look:



This was a pretty easy but fun dessert to cook. If you can whisk stuff for a good 15 minutes you should be fine. Here are the ingredients:

Ingredients:

6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 package fresh raspberries

Directions:

1.) With an electric mixer or wire whip, beat the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a stainless-steel bowl.

2.) In a separate pot, boil a small amount of water. Once water is boiling, reduce heat and allow water to simmer.

3.) Place the stainless-steel bowl over the pot of water. Ensure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water or the eggs may scramble.

3.) Continue to beat the mixture constantly (roughly 15-20 minutes) until the mixture thickens. The eggs will first become frothy but will eventually stiffen up. Once the mixture is to the consistency you desire (almost like a custard) remove from the water and heat.

4.) Spoon the contents into a serving dish and add desired raspberries (or whatever fruit you desire).

5.) Scarf.

Yep, it's that easy. A fun and delicious Italian dessert.

Buen Provecho!