Voices from Russia

Sunday, 1 December 2013

1 December 2013. Sergei Yolkin’s World. Free Popcorn!

00 Sergei Yolkin. Free Popcorn! 2013

Free Popcorn!

Sergei Yolkin



US President Barack Obama maintained American tradition by “pardoning” a turkey as part of the Thanksgiving holiday celebration. He allowed the main turkey Popcorn and his “understudy” Caramel to live on. Sergei Yolkin gives us his POV…

28 November 2013

Sergei Yolkin




Wednesday, 27 November 2013

27 November 2013. A Russian Picture Dictionary: Happy Thanksgiving Day!

00 Nataliya Mikhailenko. A Russian Picture Dictionary. Happy Thanksgiving Day. 27.11.13


22 November 2012

Nataliya Mikhailenko

Russia Behind the Headlines


Saturday, 16 November 2013

You Might Be a Religious Liberal If…

a fork in the road


Editor’s Foreword:

It doesn’t matter where a piece comes from, or who wrote it, as long as it makes you think hard about your current stances. The fact that this is an essay by a Unitarian is less interesting than the fact that the author makes one think. Read this in that spirit.



The word “liberal” isn’t often a friendly term in these parts. It’s associated with excess, irresponsibility, and tainted with the aroma of socialism. Any Texas politician labelled a liberal must engage in serious damage control. Social and political liberals do exist here, but they tend to keep a low profile. The common wisdom… conservatism is a virtue, whilst liberalism of any kind is suspect. Frequently, political and social conservatism go hand in glove with religious conservatism. Likewise, one often assumes that religious liberals are always politically and socially progressive.

However, I’ve learned to never assume. Most of us are too complex to compartmentalise our hearts and minds in such neat and tidy ways. At first glace, it might seem downright bizarre for a political moderate or conservative to hold liberal religious views. Nevertheless, such folks do exist, and in greater number than one might imagine. These souls aren’t sadly confused or suffering from social or religious split personalities. They’re perfectly sane and reasonable. I’m fortunate to have politically conservative or moderate friends who consider themselves religiously liberal, and quite faithful at that. Spiritually, they fit a more old-fashioned description of liberalism.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a liberal as one not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition. Some religious liberals are truly eclectic, whilst others simply have the impulse to challenge accepted doctrines. Therefore, it’s no easy task to pin down precisely what any religious liberal believes. Ambiguity might suit them just fine. That can sound like a deplorable lack of conviction. Yet, for a religious liberal, conviction has more to do with the freedom to explore a variety of ideas than adhering to any one creed. Ergo, regardless of your political or social leanings, you might be a religious liberal if you believe:

  • One can find valid truths in many religions.
  • The Bible was inspired, but it’s essentially an anthology, written by humans in their own historical and social context, containing a blend of metaphor and stories explaining the significance of human interaction with the divine. As such, the Bible isn’t inerrant, but that doesn’t diminish its meaning or essential truths.
  • One should respect clergy, but they’re not the final authority; individuals have the right to interpret scripture thoughtfully as their conscience dictates, and to question doctrines that deny reason and free will.
  • Having doubts doesn’t make you less faithful.
  • In particular, within Christianity, the miraculous events in the life of Jesus might hold less meaning than his ethical teachings and personal example.
  • Pious platitudes and simple answers to sticky questions of life, death, and relationships no longer work for you. Wondering about the big stuff is more compelling than accepting absolutes.
  • Faith and science are neither incompatible nor antagonistic, but represent unique realms of understanding how the world works.
  • It’s problematic that a gracious and loving God would condemn untold millions to an afterlife of torment, or tolerate the illness, injury, suffering, or injustice of anyone in this life.
  • The stance of many religious stalwarts toward those who don’t meet a certain definition of faithfulness is judgmental and hypocritical, in condemning everyone from homosexuals to members of other faiths. You don’t see it as religion’s task to divide people, but to unite them in love.
  • Your spiritual focus is less concerned with the promise of a hereafter than striving toward peace and wholeness in the present. Faith is a journey of discovery, not about winning a prize.

Whilst not a comprehensive list by any means, answering “yes” to any of the above might mean that you’re a religious liberal. Sometimes, it’s best to keep this kind of thing quiet, such as at a Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. Those of a more conservative religious perspective might find fault in your outlook, and they could even brand you a heretic. If you’re found out, don’t worry. You’ll survive, and you should know that you’re not alone. There are different religious strokes for different folks, and you should feel free to give voice to your beliefs, to let your liberal faith flag fly. However, if you’d still rather keep your liberal religious status under wraps, your secret is safe with me.

15 November 2013

David Green

Minister, Amarillo (TX) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship


Editor’s Afterword:

I agree with some of the above; I disagree with others. With still others, I find a mixture of both right and wrong… in a very human way. I say, “Orthodoxy isn’t found in a book… it’s in real life, that’s where you should look”. Our Lord Christ didn’t carry a book… he carried the Truth… put that in your crack-pipe and smoke it, “Bible Only” crowd! Be wary of those who’re overly-keen on the clergy… be doubly wary of clergy who swallow such adulation whole. Much mischief has come into the Church from both…



Friday, 23 November 2012

USA Braces for Thanksgiving “Black Friday” Bedlam


It began as an act of humble gratitude. But as the USA marked its Thanksgiving holiday Thursday, it is also braced for Black Friday, a one-day, coast-to-coast, orgy of mercantile greed that’s become not just part of the annual tradition but, for many, the main event. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the retail research consultant NPD Group, said, “This weekend, retailers will go where they’ve never gone before with a new tradition I’ll call, ‘Turkey Day Trot’”. He was referring to decisions by top American retailers to launch Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales… events that draw tens of millions of shoppers into stores for huge discounts on popular merchandise… on Thanksgiving itself, a day traditionally reserved for gatherings with family and friends in the home.

Black Friday… the day after Thanksgiving… has long been called the single “busiest shopping day of the year” in the USA, an epithet beloved by marketing professionals, but also supported by objective data. Thus, it’s become the unofficial American start-date of Christmas-season sales. Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, an association of retailers, said, “Already there’s a tremendous amount of excitement and anticipation surrounding retailers’ Thanksgiving and Black Friday promotions”.

The Thanksgiving holiday, according to the popular historical narrative, began in the early part of the 17th century by Pilgrim and Puritan settlers in what was later to become the USA and Canada, as a spiritual expression of gratitude for the autumn harvest and for basic sustenance itself. However, as the commercial dimension of the holiday ballooned in recent years, so, too, have tales multiplied of shoppers’ behaviour ranging from the impolite and unsavoury to the downright violent and dangerous, as have visual images of unruly throngs battling for access to prized goods. In recent decades, stores that once remained closed on Friday following the holiday began to open their doors in the hopes of attracting more customers. More recently, many began to open at the stroke of midnight, whilst anxious bargain-hunters camped outside well in advance of opening time.

Now, the timing for the start of these mega-sales has moved up still further to include much of Thanksgiving Day itself, casting once-revered holiday traditions to the wind, fanning American obsession with getting and spending, and even posing a security risk for the shoppers themselves. It’s a peculiarly-American event that pits shopper against shopper and national chains against small local businesses in a frenzied contest for dollars and deals that’s led to dozens of injuries and deaths in recent years due to trampling, crushing, pepper-spraying, and shooting of those unlucky enough to be in the path of onrushing hordes of shoppers. One man whose wife was critically injured trying to get a discount laptop calls it “America’s Running of the Bulls”.

It’s gotten so bad that the federal government’s stepping in. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces workplace safety standards, is encouraging retailers to take action to avoid tragedy… like the worker who was trampled to death by a Black Friday mob a few years ago. Assistant Secretary David Michaels said, “Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths. OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season”. Their recommendation includes everything from trained security workers and barricades to an emergency plan.

Shoppers shouldn’t let the holiday greetings and forced smiles on the faces of employees of the big stores that have now decided to be open for business on Thanksgiving fool them. Union leaders and other insiders said that those employees need their jobs… but they’d prefer to spend the holiday with loved ones. Workers at the giant American retailer Wal-Mart are so angry about plans to open on Thanksgiving night… as well as other conditions that they think are unfair… that they’re planning strikes, rallies, and flash mobs designed to paralyse Wal-Mart stores nationwide at the start of the critical holiday season. Lawyers for the corporate giant even went to court in a bid to obtain an injunction that would force the angry works to stop their protests… but federal labour officials rebuffed their effort. Larry Gross, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival in California said, “Wal-Mart has forgotten about families”.

21 November 2012



Editor’s Note:

Look at the good news… the government’s siding with the workers, for a change. Remember, the oligarchs spent billions in their attempt to topple President Obama. To put it mildly, he’s not inclined to take their side, is he? Indeed, this may be a “Bridge Too Far” for the Affluent Effluent. God willing, it will be.



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