In the age of auto-tune princesses like Lady GaGa and Ke$ha, Sara Bareilles is proof that real musicians still exist.

I started listening to her when I was a senior in college, during the Careful Confessions era, well before the ironically-named “Love Song” was even released. My roommate had gone to a Marc Broussard (who later opened up for her on the Little Voice tour) concert where she was the opening act. He brought her CD back to the apartment and I was hooked. Fortunately, songs from that album like “City,” “Gravity,” and “Fairytale” eventually made onto what is now referred to as her debut, Little Voice. By the way Sara, we’re still waiting on “Red” to get that same treatment.

I’ve been a fan ever since and have been to two of her shows, one of which was on the Hotel Cafe tour with Ingrid Michaelson and Joshua Radin. As per usual when it comes to musicians or bands like her, I bought her latest album Kaleidoscope Heart before listening to hardly any more than the first single, “King of Anything,” a song I immediately loved. And as per usual, my blind faith was rewarded.

For those expecting an album chock full of upbeat, stick-it-to-the-man anthems like “Love Song,” you may be slightly disappointed. While songs like “Uncharted” and “King of Anything” make you want to dance like no one is watching, a large portion of the album is somewhat mellow and soulful.

The album opens with the virtually acapella title track, “Kaleidoscope Heart,” which is basically a short intro to the album itself. The harmonies are rich and beautiful, but who would expect anything less? The title track is followed by “Uncharted,” an upbeat song that makes a lyrical reference to the album’s title. I expect this one to be a single at some point, following the success of “King of Anything.”

The slower ones like “Hold my Heart,” “The Light,” “Basket Case,” and “Breathe Again” have a raw and powerfully emotional force. “Not Alone” is bluesy, soulful track reminds me of her Careful Confessions days. But it is songs like “Gonna Get Over You,” “Machine Gun,” and “Say You’re Sorry” that reinforce my theory that Sara Bareilles is this generation’s female Billy Joel.

Diversity of style and quality of songwriting are the two major strengths that Bareilles has demonstrated throughout her career. Kaleidoscope Heart is certainly no exception. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a solid 9.

Article first published as Music Review: Sara Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart on Blogcritics.

This past weekend, I took the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum while I was in Washington, DC. As I recall, one of the earliest exhibits was devoted to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. The Nazis’ repeated use of antisemitic propaganda eventually gained a foothold in a nation recently shamed and defeated in World War I. But to say the very least, there are no words, no reasonable justification for the unspeakable and horrid evils that the Nazis perpetrated upon the Jews, the handicapped, homosexuals, and various other groups in the Holocaust.  If anyone has the chance to see this museum, I would highly recommend it. One of many benefits of visiting a place like this is having a chance to put our current state of affairs in perspective.

As a conservative, it has always bothered me when someone on the left evokes Hitler or the Nazi party in comparison to someone on the right. Since such a tactic has been employed by some on the left, I suppose I might have even used it as well. But rarely is this ever truly justified, and if I have used this type of rhetoric in a trivial manner, I readily apologize,.for by employing such a comparison, either the legacy of history is distorted or the most hateful of insults is being delivered.

To accuse someone, of either political persuasion, of being similar to Adolf Hitler or the Nazi party is to diminish the nature of what actually happened. When Ward Churchill refers to those in the twin towers on 9/11 as “little Eichmanns,” he erodes the legacy of Adolf Eichmann. When anyone refers to tea party demonstrators as “brown shirts,” they essentially belittle what the “brown shirts” actually were. And yes, even when Ann Coulter compares Obama to Hitler, Hitler is trivialized. But also, when Ann Coulter is compared to Hitler, Hitler is trivialized once more. As much as it may upset my friends on the right, when Obama is given a Hitler mustache, we are no better than those who put said mustache on George W. Bush. Neither makes a valid point. Both accusations make the bearer of such a message into a discredited fool.

Have we watered down the nature of this history so much or are these comparisons truly sincere? If someone is well aware of what happened in Nazi Germany, and they proceed with such an accusation, it had better be founded with reasonable facts or it is nothing more than a rude and hateful insult. Certainly, it is the rightful nature of our free republic to allow such speech. The right of those to employ this type of rhetoric is without question. But the imprudence of this misuse of history cannot be denied.

However, if there are reasonable and factual comparisons to be drawn with Hitler or the Nazi party, they should be done with the utmost care, if not avoided altogether. We are to learn from our history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. If we demean the truth of our history, we begin to dissolve the severity of these mistakes. This is something we cannot afford.

So, instead of employing self-destructive comparisons and emotional distractions, we should debate issues on the grounds of fact and merit. Otherwise, neither we nor those with whom we disagree will benefit.

Article first published as The Imprudence of Comparing to Hitler on Blogcritics.

A church in Gainesville, Florida has decided that it would be somehow beneficial for them to burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11th. I couldn’t disagree more.

Those who know me are aware of the fact that I am a Christian and that I do not support nor endorse the religion of Islam. Far from it, actually. But I know that if I were to turn on my television and see a group of Muslims burning the Bible, I would be angry and upset. Why? Because the Bible is precious to me.

The Bible is, what I believe to be, the revealed word of the Creator of the universe. Now, I’m not here to make a case for the Bible, much less a case for the Qur’an. But I know that the Bible is a book I would like to see in every village, every city, every country, every continent. I want people to read it. I want Muslims to read it. I want Jews to read it. I want Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans, Shintoists, Hindus, atheists and agnostics to read it. And considering that many of them obviously don’t do it enough, I want Christians to read it. Destroying one copy of that book deprives someone of a chance to read it. And frankly, it’s the same with the Qur’an.

If Christians were concerned about the souls of Muslims, which they should be according to…the Bible, they would do well to read the Qur’an, not burn it. How will a Christian convert a Muslim without knowing Islam? And how else will a Christian learn about Islam without a Qur’an?

The Qur’an is not sacred nor precious to me, but I can say that I do understand why it is important to Muslim people around the world. Burning the Qur’an only fans the flames of ignorance toward a people who Christians should reach out to, a people who also trace their spiritual lineage to Abraham. Every time a copy of the Muslim holy book is burned, Christians are one step further from reaching the Muslim community. It’s time that we Christians step in a different direction.

Article first published as Burning Books Never Solved Anything on Blogcritics.

The building of a mosque at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan is a difficult subject to take a side on. Political wisdom would have dictated a neutral stance on the issue for President Obama, but either principle or political naiveté required him to make a statement on the matter. I tend to believe it was principle. At least I hope it was.

Frankly, Obama’s statement in “support” of the mosque is correct. Muslims have a right to build a mosque at Ground Zero in accordance with the laws of New York City. There’s no doubt about that, but is it the wisest and most sensitive move on the part of the Muslim community? Probably not.

If I were to build a Honey-Baked Ham store next to a synagogue in Tel Aviv, or a mosque in Mecca for that matter, would it be a poor idea? Probably. Why? Because according to their respective religions, Jews and Muslims are opposed to the consumption of pork. In fact, protesting a pork market next to one of their houses of worship might actually create a rare moment of harmony between the two communities, but would it be legal for such an establishment to exist in that type of location? As far as I know, yes.

The apostle Paul once said in 1st Corinthians 6 that “everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial” (NIV). That’s the way I personally view this situation. Now I know a New Testament reference may not mean much to the Muslim community, but I like to think that the principle is universal. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s wise or right.

But beyond my personal views on the matter, I still have to question the support for the mosque on the grounds of consistency. On 9/11, a four-story Greek Orthodox church was destroyed near the base of the World Trade Center towers. But in spite of the fact that such a building was actually destroyed (by radical Islamic extremists), the Port Authority will not allow it to be rebuilt at its original location, or even at a spot 100 yards away from it.

Even if the Cordoba House mosque is to be built at the proposed location, would it be unreasonable for the Port Authority to allow the Greek Orthodox church to be rebuilt first? It seems only fair considering that the Greek Orthodox church actually lost their church on 9/11.

At this point, it appears that the developers of the mosque are adamant about the location. They have rejected a meeting with New York Governor David Patterson concerning the possibility of moving the mosque to state-owned land, an unusually generous offer which I doubt would be extended to any church or synagogue. So I have to question why these developers insist on this specific location. There are already over 100 mosques in New York City. Why does there need to be one more at Ground Zero?

The prevailing reason from supporters of the mosque is that it would be a symbol of tolerance and acceptance of religious diversity, but if the Muslim community is so earnest about proving their ability to peacefully coexist with Americans, why would they jeopardize that by insisting on locating the mosque in a place that most Americans would consider to be offensive?

However, it’s possible that David Frum could be right and that this is all a publicity stunt for the developers of the Mosque. For once, I hope he’s right. As for Obama, however ambiguous he wants to appear on this topic, he may want to consider that 24% of Americans believe he’s a Muslim. Even though I personally don’t believe that to be the case, I’m sure his recent statements won’t do much to bring that number down.

Article first published as The Mosque at Ground Zero and Selective Sensitivity on Blogcritics.