Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Bible”

Taboo Talk: Religion – Roger Ingalls

Normally I don’t like to write about religion because it is very difficult to explain the nuances of one’s thoughts in a blog post consisting of a few hundred words. And, not too many people will read a 10,000 word post about the subject. However, I do like to talk about religion; it’s a fascinating topic.

Actually, this post isn’t really about religion, it’s about bring people together.

I read an article earlier today which got me thinking about how other people view religion. Participation in organized religion is on the decline but most people still believe in “something”. It would be extremely interesting to hear what others think about in regards to a higher order or their interpretation of religion. According to the article, it seems people want spiritual dialog, not preaching and they don’t want to be judged. In addition, there’s a feeling that the Gods of the main religions are ancient and don’t have relevance or show their existence today.

It would be fun to bring people together in some type of open forum where thoughts and beliefs could be shared without judgment. With all the social media and connection tools this should be easy to do. I’m brain storming on the fly here but this is something I may try to initially organize through GoToMeeting. I’d have open invitations to all people: all religious backgrounds, races, sexual orientation, atheists and so on. I’d try to get religious leaders to come to get their views but also so they could hear modern views first hand. Perhaps I could talk local churches, temple, mosques and synagogues into opening their door to host the meetings.

It would be an interesting experience but would people actually come?

Religous Leaders

Wake Up!

Today is Yom Kippur, possibly the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. But there is a clear message for all peoples.

Over the 10 Days of Repentance (and sometimes for the whole month preceding), Jews close their eyes and blow the Shofar, the ram’s horn. The ram’s horn comes from the Biblical story – the Akedah – where Abraham almost sacrifices his son, Isaac, to show his utter faith in Gd.  

During this intense period of retrospection, Jews are commanded to judge themselves and their actions, to make amends to both their fellow humans and Gd, and to commit to leading a better life.

The ram’s horn wakes us from our complacency and pushes us to step outside our comfort zone. This is a universal message. We are destroying the earth, using chemicals on fellow humans, allowing children to go to be hungry, women in fear for their safety, and people denied basic rights.

Take a moment and listen to the shofar (ram’s horn) being blown around the world (from Africa in this case) and wake up!


Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

May You Have a Peaceful Christmas – Tom Rossi

Danish for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Danish for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Whether you believe that Jesus was the son of God or not, or whether you think that God even exists or not, or wonder if He has a form not described well at all by our religious dogmata (my own head has been full of blasphemous questions on these subjects since I was 5), I think it’s hard not to agree that Jesus had some pretty good things to say.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of that ancestral hippie who has had so much effect on our world. One of the many things that has made me admire him quite a bit was his, let’s just call it “advocacy,” for peace at various scales.


On the website christiansforpeace.org is their statement: “It is inconceivable that Jesus would support war.” This is followed by several Bible citations which support the general idea that Jesus was a man of peace, and wanted us all to be, as well.

I’m not really a hardcore pacifist. As I’ve written before, I think that military action is necessary when someone like Adolf Hitler is wreaking havoc on an entire continent. I also think there is nothing wrong with defending yourself or another person against an attacker.

Even this might be inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ, but might line up OK with the part that matches part of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

I don’t want to get all preachy, here, about the hypocrisy of Christians who favor bombing people in faraway lands or executing criminals, but I ask all of you out there – please let today be a day where peace lives in your hearts.

At least for today, if that’s all we can muster, let’s imagine a world where Jesus gets his way. At least for today, let’s only grant permission in our heads to thoughts of love, inclusion, and community.

Merry Christmas. And to all of you out there who celebrate some other holiday, my most sincere best wishes for the holiday season.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'” (Luke 2:13, 14).

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


Let’s Talk About Sex

This is the last post of the year, so please allow me some bandwidth with regard to the contents of this blog. Each of my political novels include at least one, if not two, sexually explicit scenes. They are vivid and leave little to the imagination.

I have now heard from three people over the last eight months who do not approve of the inclusion of these sex scenes. They are not Bible-thumping fundamentalists (as far as I know) and, in fact, seem to fit into my target audience – politically aware, ideological, articulate, educated.

One man might not even have complained if it wasn’t for his 16 year-old daughter reading the novel and excitedly passing it around her friends. One of the friend’s mother was not impressed with his choice of literature! Another person, a book reviewer, gave The Accidental Activist a very nice review, but withdrew her offer of a free giveaway copy because she wasn’t sure if her audience was over 18. A third told me that it turned her off the book and she only continued because she knew me and felt committed to read it.

For the record, my mother also doesn’t approve, but I think I am more uncomfortable knowing that she is reading these scenes than she is.

And yet I feel compelled to include these scenes. Why?

Firstly, I enjoy writing them and, even more so, imagining them. I think I would be cheating you if I didn’t admit it.

But maybe more importantly, (otherwise I would just be writing erotic literature – which might be more profitable if less fulfilling) is the care and effort that I put into my characters. I love them, even the bad guys. And I want you to love them too. The only way I can achieve this is to expose all their characteristics there on the page.

Sex is a vital component in my own relationship experience. No one would question that you learn so much about your partner by the way they make love and interact intimately. Sex makes us open up to each other, share our fears and joys, and tells us so much about that person without having to explain it. Show Don’t Tell we are always told – well,  it doesn’t get any easier than this. Such revealing scenes allow us to move along in the developing relationship between characters that might take several chapters to captivate.

The way we relate to sex also reflects upon the kind of society, the mores and values of a religion, community, country, wherever the book takes place.

While it is important to me to reveal the deeper levels of my characters’ feelings and emotions, I do not want to turn people away because of the sex scenes. It is more important for me to inspire and empower people through the actions of my characters. I have written before about Transformational Fiction, if you haven’t read it, please click here to understand what common theme runs through my novels, this blog and my website.

I write from the heart and this is how I want my characters to be judged. I don’t think of myself as writing romance, but it is there because deep down I do not want people to live alone. Finding a soul mate can be the most affirming and empowering thing we ever do. Nurturing such a relationship requires far more than compatible sexual satisfaction. It involves communication, empathy, a desire to see your partner happy and fulfilled.

But the physical is a distinct piece in the puzzle and for this author, allows the characters to share themselves with the reader on a far deeper level. Perhaps I can afford to annoy or upset a few readers along the way in order to achieve the connection between reader and character. If you are one of those people who has difficulty with sex scenes, please feel free to skip those pages. No one will ever know and I prefer you do this and get to the end of the book.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).


Do we know it’s Christmas… Over here? Tom Rossi

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ (ostensibly) in this Christian-dominated (politically, anyway) country, it might be a good time to take a brief look at what we claim to believe in.

We believe in the Bible, and we believe in personal wealth. We profess our love for Jesus, and we vote Republican or Republican-light (Democrat). We recite the ten commandments, and our national pastime is coveting.

In his thought-provoking book, “Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth,” Richard Foster wrote that there is, “… a prevailing notion that the Bible is ambiguous about economic issues.” He goes on to say, “No serious reading of scripture can substantiate such a view. The biblical injunctions against the exploitation of the poor and the accumulation of wealth are clear and straightforward.” Foster proceeds to pose several examples with scriptures referenced.

So how is it that the party of riches is also the party (supposedly) of Christianity? How is it that people think they’re voting for God when they vote republican? Aren’t they actually voting against God, Jesus, and what it actually says in the Bible?

I have to be honest. Even though I have studied many things and was raised in the Catholic church, I’m quite an agnostic. My dad named me after Saint Thomas Aquinas but I take after “doubting” Thomas much more. I question everything. My religion is reason and what offends me is intellectual dishonesty or hypocrisy.

But after studying the words of Christ a little bit as an adult, I realize that I’m the one who actually believes in what he taught, while it seems that 90% of the people who call themselves “Christians” really worship some manufactured image that better suits their ideologies and goals.

People hide behind religion to justify voting for selfishness, for maintaining the imbalances inherit in the present system. They vote to keep the “privileged few” privileged, because they are either now members of that club or psychotically hold onto the belief that they will be, one day.

When Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24), he was talking about money and God. It’s pretty clear that he meant that the pursuit of money would certainly take one’s mind and efforts from God and the way of life that Jesus advocated. How did it come to be that so many of the very representatives of Christianity are multi-millionaires? And I won’t even get started on the “Christian” politicians.

Much is written, every year now, about how Christmas has become so commercial. That’s not it. We worship money every day of the year and that worship is enshrined as our one true national religion. We duly elect the perfect representatives… those who epitomize “money-ism” of one form or another. Christmas is just the culminating orgy of what goes on all year long.

What would I change? Plenty. But let’s start with the elimination of hypocrisy. This Christmas (or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or whatever else you might celebrate), look at yourself honestly in the mirror and admit what’s important to you. Maybe it’s money. OK, nothing wrong with that. Just admit it. When I look in the mirror I see Lorne Greene, a martian, and sometimes Martha Stewart. I’ve really gotta stop drinking so much.

What I want for Christmas this year is for everyone to open their eyes and see that their leaders are mostly just trying to get even richer. Then to realize that claims those leaders make about how to be a better Christian are mostly lies. People vote based on these lies. That makes them dangerous.

But forget about politics for now. Spend your vacation with family, friends, or your favorite snow-capped mountain or evergreen forest. Let yourself step off of the rat-racetrack for a few days, and have a happy holiday season. We’ll talk politics when you get back.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


The Republican Freak Show – Roger Ingalls

Is it just me or do others view the 2012 Republican presidential candidates as a bunch of creepy clowns interviewing for a gig at a neighborhood carnival?

Looks at these freaks. I can’t believe this is the best the Republican Party has to offer. It’s an embarrassment not only to the nation’s right leaning folks but all people of this great country.

Newt Gingrich, really? The morals-trumpeting hypocrite went after President Clinton with impeachment for having an affair and it turns out Newt is an adulterer himself. Not to mention, he’s a Jabba the Hut look-alike.

The Godfather of pizza, Herman Cain, couldn’t find Libya on a map if a fourth-grader was pointing at it. He may have more out-of-court sexual harassment settlements than Sarah Jessica Parker has shoes. At least he’s smart enough to keep himself out of jail.

Rick Perry is the crazy cowboy Ronald Reagan always wanted to be. Visions of mass pray-ins at Texas-sized stadiums are dancing in my head. Rick can be seen waving the Bible in one hand and shooting a gun in the other while praying with his snake charming buddies (click for video).

My favorite sideshow is Michele “pray-out-the-gay” Bachmann. She can’t open her mouth without tripping over the fake American history that drools out. A fourth-grader should be hired to proof her speeches.

Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann

Mitt Romney seems somewhat normal but he does more flip-flops than a trapeze artist in a three-ring tent. The conservative marketing machine – Fox News – doesn’t like Romney so he doesn’t have a chance. Maybe Rupert Murdock doesn’t like Mormons.


These clowns are freakish enough on their own but now there’s a ring master. Donald Trump is moderating a Republican debate in late December. Can this conservative carnival get any loonier?

I know this post sounds a little mean-spirited but let’s get serious; we need greatness in the Whitehouse not laughable personalities best suited for a 19th century traveling circus.

We deserve better.


Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Circumcision brings a family together

By now you have probably read about the attempt to ban circumcision by putting a motion on the ballot during the November SF municipal elections. While many in the Jewish community are up in arms about this, I can’t say it has caught my imagination. For disclosure’s sake, my sons and I all went through this rite-of-passage at eight days of age (not sure my eldest is too happy with me broadcasting this).

Circumcision in Jerusalem

Circumcision was first done when Abraham showed his commitment to God’s calling by keeping his part of a covenant (Genesis Chap. 12) and circumcising himself (at the age of 75-80 if I remember correctly). God, for his/her part, promised that Abraham’s seed would flourish and live on the land of Canaan.

Abraham then had two sons (one with his wife, Sarah, and the other with her maid, Hagar). The descendants of the two sons became the Jewish and Arab nations. Both peoples circumcise their boys, see Abraham as their patriarch, and lay claim to Canaan (now Israel, Palestine and Jordan).

As you may have heard, there has been some contention between the children of Abraham – but then which family doesn’t have its troubles?

However, it seems that this assault on circumcision is bringing our peoples together. With both Muslims and Jews feeling attacked, we are apparently teaming up to take a united stand. Both religions see family as one of their highest values. Whatever it takes to bring the family together, huh?

Attacks on Jewish and Muslim traditions are an opportunity to bring us together


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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