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Commentaries

Scientific Inquiry and the Radical Right
Aired September 19, 2012
Our region is gaining a great reputation as a first class center of basic scientific research and bio-science. How ironic it would be for us and our nation, if our elected representatives were among those who are terrified by the specter of objective scientific truth and seek out instead, the comfort provided by uncritical faith.

Ten Years
Aired September 09, 2011
Ten years have passed. New buildings will rise to replace what was destroyed. The pain of indescribable grief will slowly be replaced by the soft tones of remembrance. Each one of us will attempt to offer lessons to be learned from that day. Some will sound hollow others will bring hope. It is too soon to know whether the wave of revolution sweeping from Tunisia to Syria will ultimately bring freedom and dignity, but it is not too soon to pay attention to the language of the people in the streets. Mindless martyrdom has lost its power.

Godless Liberals?
Aired July 01, 2011
Last week, in an interview with Tony Perkins, the current President of The Family Research Council, my Congressman, Todd Aiken made the following statement: " …at the heart of liberalism is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God."

As a professional theologian, I wish amateurs would stop assuming that they know for a certainty what God likes or hates. Amateurs are convinced they know the mind of God, except when God favors someone else.

State-Sponsored Orthodoxy
Aired August 19, 2010
I must wear a sign on my back that reads: “Here is a naïve guy that thinks religion is a force for good.” This must be the case because, at least once a week I find myself in conversations with people who are highly critical of religion.

Last week Governor Nixon stood aside and allowed a piece of anti-abortion legislation become law. Many observers will try and parse the political meaning of his very vocal inaction, but I am more concerned about the bill’s required, state-produced brochure proclaiming: "The life of each human being begins at conception.”

We now have a state sponsored orthodoxy.

Memorial Day
Aired May 31, 2010
All wars are tragic. Some wars are fought for a noble purpose. Other wars are fought to sustain evil rather than end it. Glory in war is an illusion. Unrelenting grief is the reality. In every war, there will be soldiers who died in vain. This holiday weekend is not the time to ask troubling moral questions. Now, we simply honor soldiers lives cut short and the pain of their families. Politics and historical revision can wait.

The Interfaith Hall of Fame
Aired March 29, 2010
I was six years old when I had my first interfaith encounter. On that fateful day, my public school ended classes at 11:30 in the morning because of something called “Good Friday.” After lunch, I went outside and sat on the front porch waiting for my friend and next-door neighbor, Nancy, to join me. Nancy returned home. I went to her back door and knocked. The door opened. Without warning, a clenched fist shot out from behind the door and caught me square on the left side of my face.

“You killed Jesus!” Nancy screamed as she slammed the door shut.

That was also the day I learned what it meant to be Jewish in a Catholic neighborhood. In a few weeks, members of Jewish and Christian faith communities will observe Passover and Easter. These religious festivals have been fatefully joined on the calendar for more than two thousand years.

A Solution to Compassion Fatigue
Aired February 18, 2010
Compassion fatigue is the gravest danger to recovery in Haiti. The unrelenting sameness of the video images and news stories coming out of Port Au Prince is beginning to numb our ability to experience grief and loss and channel those emotions into positive actions.

To keep donors and relief workers engaged, we need a rotation schedule for Haitian relief.

The State of Missouri as a Role Model
Aired January 14, 2010
Our law makers need to think creatively and not reflexively. Improving the way we do things always comes with an up-front cost. We should not shy away from reform because of its cost today. We must ask: What will the cost be tomorrow if we do not change?

A Lovely Drive
Aired December 10, 2009
I left my office at 2:45 on Monday afternoon. I told my co-workers that I was going to run an errand. What I really was doing was playing hooky so I could drive east on Highway 40 and check out the newest wonder of St. Louis. And a lovely drive it was.

"They Did The Right Thing"
Aired November 12, 2009
Watching the "Insider Trades" Column of St. Louis Business Journal can provide insights into the confidence board members have in their own company. It is also a rare glimpse into the world of stock options. Typically, directors and officers, as part of their pay packages, have stock options allowing them to buy company stock. The option price is usually much lower than the market price so the buyer is getting a tremendous advantage over the rest of us. But hey, that’s almost fair. After all, they work for the company. There have to be some perks.

In the midst of 10 plus percent unemployment, some transactions just do not feel right.

A Different Football in the St. Louis Region
Aired October 08, 2009
The failed Chicago bid to host the Olympics highlights the tension between quick-fix, one time mega events and sustainable economic growth over the long haul. Not everyone in a host city is in the hospitality industry. Some people have to go to work each day, unable to afford the world class ticket prices to attend the once-in-a-life-time events. But every once in a while there is a convergence of economic forces that could make the sport/economy thing actually work.

Uncle David and the Health Care Crisis
Aired September 10, 2009
My rich uncle David was a wise investor. At least that was the legend in my family. His legendary wealth would have put him firmly at the lower end of the middle class for the 1950’s, but by our standards he was right up there with John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In truth, he was my only relative who invested in anything beyond taking care of his family.

Thinking about my rich uncle gave me an idea about the health care crisis. We should treat health care in America like we do electricity generation and natural gas transmission.

Town Hall Meetings
Aired August 13, 2009
I would like to propose to our political leaders at all levels 3 rules for conducting future town hall meetings. Until such reforms are enacted, I would rather have our leaders speak to us via the media instead of by means of a throwback to the 19th century.

A Different All-Star Ballot
Aired July 09, 2009
What gives baseball’s All-Star Game so much impact is its central purpose: In its ideal form, the All-Star Game is about giving recognition to the best of the best. Millions play the game. Thousands play it for a living. A few hundred make it to the big leagues and only four dozen or so will walk on to the field at Busch Stadium. Only election to Cooperstown brings greater acclaim to the chosen few who make it.

We need to find a way to bring All Star recognition to people who make a difference in our lives everyday.

Cap Tilles and Archbishop Carlson
Aired June 11, 2009
Long before interfaith cooperation became the expected norm, Cap Tilles decided that the Archbishop of St. Louis and the Rabbi of Temple Israel would serve in perpetuity as two of the five trustees (of the Rosalie Tilles Non-sectarian charity Fund, benefitting poor children in St. Louis City and County).

Cap Tilles understood that diverse faith communities could accomplish so much more good together than as isolated entities. Welcome to St. Louis Archbishop Carlson. We look forward to working with you.

Getting to the Majors
Aired May 14, 2009
Listening to a recent ball game, there was a break in the action as Tony Larussa was making a pitching change. I tried to imagine what our city and county would be like if they were both managed by Tony Larussa and his staff.

My reverie ended when the game resumed. My comparison was terribly unfair.

The Real Root Cause of Gun Violence
Aired April 09, 2009
Seven police officers died last week – Four in Oakland California, three in Pittsburgh. Sunday night a St. Louis police officer was wounded by gunfire. The usual explanations have been offered by reporters and government officials alike. The usual explanations carry with them a very low expense threshold.

Wall St. Reality Tour of St. Louis
Aired March 26, 2009
In a recent interview, President Obama suggested that Wall Street bankers needed to get out of New York once in a while, to gain a fresh perspective on the sufferings of ordinary Americans in the current financial crisis. That comment gave me an idea.

Pay to Flaunt
Aired February 26, 2009
Last month, I went with my family to the St. Louis Auto show at America’s Center. It might be my imagination, but the place looked a bit subdued from the auto shows of the past. It felt like the auto companies were holding back on the glitz and glitter. It made sense. The auto stimulus package was under discussion and auto-execs were blasted with criticism about arriving in corporate jets.

The gas guzzler tax is a rather interesting concept. It basically says that if you want to go around consuming enormous quantities of fuel, go ahead, but you will pay a tax for doing so. Perhaps that same concept of “pay to flaunt” as in pay to flaunt your wealth or lack of sensitivity should be applied to other sectors of our economy.

St. Louis Needs an "Obama Moment"
Aired January 22, 2009
An Obama moment is an over-whelming feeling of good vibrations; a sense that there is more right with our world than is wrong; a sense of connection with diverse kinds of Americans; a sense that clear and complete sentences matter in public discourse; a sense that our leaders have an uplifting vision for the future.

Local political traditions are hyper-partisan. Winners make sure there are no left-overs from opposing administrations. When the political landscape changes, pent-up frustrations while out of office usually translate into bad decisions made to even the political score. Here is where Obama moments can do the most good.

A Thanksgiving Commentary
Aired November 27, 2008
The stock-market is closed. The election is over. Gas prices are low. The western half of highway 40/64 opens in eighteen days. There are only eighty days from now until the time when Cardinal pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Jupiter, Florida. There are many reasons to be thankful on this day. Given the prevailing depressed mood of the country, perhaps our pause to give thanks this year needs to be focused on truly important things.

Taxes - Not a Dirty Word
Aired August 28, 2008
Last week, the St. Louis Business Journal made some prominent local residents uneasy with an article about State sponsored tax credits for the preservation and renovation of homes deemed to be historic.

Our adversarial political system has turned “taxes” into a dirty word, not to be used in public, unless in a sentence accusing an opponent of raising them. We have been relentlessly indoctrinated into a mindset that views taxation as a tool of the devil.

A Black Elastic Band
Aired July 24, 2008
A black elastic band is all it is; a two inch strip of material sewn into a circle. I keep it in my top dresser drawer next to my police chaplain’s ID. All police officers and firefighters have them.

Olfactory Memories of 1993
Aired June 26, 2008
Last week, I was watching TV news reports of the flood devastation along the Mississippi and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the sour smell of mildew. When I satisfied myself that there was no actual mildew in the immediate vicinity of my study, I realized that I was remembering an encounter with the nasty stuff during the floods of “93”.

The Silly Season is Truly Upon Us
Aired May 29, 2008
It may be too late for current nominees to switch religious advisors in mid-prayer, but perhaps, for those waiting for the next election, these tips might prove to be helpful...

National Police Memorial Day
Aired May 01, 2008
There are no other professions in time of peace, where you can go off to work and there is the possibility that you will not return home alive. The families of Police Officers and Firefighters live with this reality every day. Anytime you do something the same way, year after year, there is a tendency to become complacent and apathetic. This year is different.

A Different Final Four
Aired March 27, 2008
What if, after the NCAA national tournament for Divisions I and II are over, another basketball tournament were held? Only this time, the brackets would be filed out based on team grade point averages, not the won/lost record.

Not Giving a Kena Hora
Aired February 28, 2008
The phrase is supposed to ward off the evil eye, a folk tradition that fears good news. One should never be too optimistic, too positive about anything. The moment you have let your joy and happiness loose on the world, the evil eye will try to bring you down.

I had a kena hora moment this week as I suddenly realized that religious issues were no where to be found in the battle of the front runners for president.

I-64 Closure as Good Cautionary Tale
Aired January 24, 2008
With the Missouri presidential primary rapidly approaching, my guess is that many of the democratic and republican hopefuls will be coming to St. Louis. This means that in the next two weeks, political motorcades will be wending their way down Clayton and Ladue roads, or bumper to bumper on 170. I hope the candidate’s local drivers will use the motorcade time to tell them a cautionary tale for our country.

City of Gold
Aired December 27, 2007
With all of our corporations joining together, we could make the same guarantee. Imagine, people moving to St. Louis to get an education - what a concept! Let’s do Eldorado one step better.

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Mark Shook

Mark Shook

Commentator

Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.

More Mark Shook Commentaries