Monday, August 21, 2006

It's Worse Than Crack.

Unfortunately, I'm an addict. 12-step program, here I come.

21st Century Pharisees.

It's really hard to fathom this story. Is this really what Jesus would do?
The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

When I hear stories like this, it really makes me angry and realize the we "liberal" Christians need to work even harder to reclaim "Christianity."

Wrinkly Rock Fans.

Another Light Blogging Day.

Watching Bush's press conference makes me so angry, I doubt I will be able to blog much today.

Is He Another Bush?

Spare us from this man, please.
Many McCain advisers and money people say it is easy to make the switch from Mr. Bush to Mr. McCain because ...Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush agree on the things that really matter.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday's YouTube--Replanting A Church In Yonkers, NY.

A newly ordained priest's videoblog on his task--replanting a church that has gone from 300 to 5 members.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Shouldn't, But Here Goes Anyway.

If bigger is better, what about two?

The Illusionist.

I was going to do a post on "The Illusionist," a well acted movie we just returned from seeing, but before I started typing I saw Barry Taylor had a great post about his take on the movie and the place of magic in our culture. So I will just refer you to him, here is part of what he says.
It is a movie set in turn of the century Vienna and the plot revolves around romance, political intrigue, and flawed class structures..but more than that the film also explores the relationship between reason and magic. On some levels it is quite a predictable tale of unrequited love between two people caught between duty, class and the unexplainable mystery of love--the chemistry that makes all those other important things melt away--but beyond this there is the continual exploration of magic and reason.

Eisenheim is no ordinary illusionist, his brand of magic is way beyond card tricks and disappearing animals, and when he begins to conjure up spectral images of the dead, many begin to wonder if he is doing magic or whether something darker is at work. Norton is his usual understatedly brilliant, and everyone else rises to the occasion, the cinematography is exquisite, the music courtesy of Phillip Glass, sets the perfect tone, but it was the film's subtext that really captured my imagination.
Read all of Barry's analysis at Nevermind the Bricolage. Go see it if it gets released where you live.

I can't help hoping we see more of Edward Norton than we have. He is always worth watching.

Tony Snow Polishes A Turd.

From the LA Weekly.

Pardon Me.

A CNN reporter was talking about the number one story on, "Convicted Moonshiner President, Bush, Pardoned." But, I didn't know he had yet been convicted.

Or was she talking about a "Convicted Moonshiner, President Bush Pardoned?"

Another Failed War.

Does war ever solve anything? Even the "war on drugs." Time to spend the money on addiction and the impact drugs have on crime and our society.

Anglican Irony.

The always insightfully, funny Mad Priest points out the irony of the schismatic Episcopal clergy joining up with the Nigerian Anglican Church.
...there is something quite pleasing about all those white, male, Konservative, Konfederate, Kolonial types agreeing to obey every command (and it will be every command) that a black, African pope gives them and, on top of that, to believe everything he tells them to believe. When you consider how many slaves were abducted from Nigeria you come to realise just how ironic our universe really is.

Red Alert, Ann Coulter At JFK.

I couldn't resist posting this cartoon from the LA Times.

Happy 60th Birthday Mr. President.

Happy Birthday to the first baby boomer to be elected president. Oh for the days when the most important issue was his sex life. I sure miss him. It would be great to have a president who reads, thinks, understands the world and makes us proud.

No Wonder Americans Don't Care About Civil Liberties.

Doesn't this little fact tell you all you need to know about what is important to both the media and to most Americans?

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times story on the JonBenet Ramsey case: 13

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times story on the federal court ruling that the NSA warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional: 2

Not to mention the dominance of the story on TV.

(Hat tip to Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.)

Treat Addiction, Reduce Crime.

Regular readers of this blog know I blog a lot about the criminal justice system and how screwed up it is. One of my pet peeves is legislated sentences for drug offenses that mandate specific prison incarceration times for drug crimes instead of trying to treat the addiction.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (a part of the National Institute of Health) has an opinion column in Saturday's Washington Post titled, "Treat the Addict, Cut the Crime Rate." In it she stresses how important it is to treat the addiction problem, especially since 70% of the offenders in prisons and jails have regularly abused drugs.
When drug abusers enter the criminal justice system, it signals a pivotal crisis in their lives. It also offers a unique opportunity to institute treatment for drug abuse and addiction. Studies have consistently shown that comprehensive drug treatment works. It not only reduces drug use but also curtails criminal behavior and recidivism. Moreover, for drug-abusing offenders, treatment facilitates successful reentry into the community. This is true even for people who enter treatment under legal mandate.
Her conclusion make sense to me. If we address the root cause of the behavior of this large segment within the prison population, I am convinced we can reduce recidivism. What do you think?
The ultimate goal of treatment, of course, is to help an addict stop using drugs. As a clinician I don't remember ever meeting an addicted person who wanted to be addicted or who expected that compulsive, uncontrollable or even criminal behavior would emerge when he or she started taking drugs. Providing drug-abusing offenders with comprehensive treatment saves lives and protects communities.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Talkin' About My Generation.

I'm proud to be an old fart baby boomer. Read this BBC story on my generation. As Clinton says:
"I think we've been a force for equal opportunity, for harmony among people, for peace, for reconciliation and for the notion that we have to go forward together."
But, there is still a lot of work to do. Can future generations carry this mission forward?
What People Want From Church.

Looks More Like An Owl To Me.

I always get a kick out of what people see in grilled cheese sandwiches or other detritus.

Blogging The 1st Amendment.

Looks like this will be an interesting online exchange at Faith in Public Life, between Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard and, most recently, author of the new book, "Thy Kingdom Come: How The Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America," and Bruce Prescott, a leading national activist on defending the separation of church and state.

Here's a taste of what Randall Balmer has to say today:

Of all the political strategies being pursued these days by leaders of the Religious Right, none is more pernicious than the attempt to eviscerate the First Amendment. By trying to impose public prayer in public schools (students can pray privately any time they wish!), by advocating public funding and school vouchers for use in religious schools and by seeking to emblazon religious sentiments on public places, they try to undermine the separation of church and state, the best friend that religion has ever had.

There is even a movement within the Religious Right, led by David Barton and others, to deny that our nation's founders intended church and state to be separate. I've come to equate these people with the Holocaust deniers and those who debunk global warming -- not in the sense of moral equivalence, but in the sense of the brazenness of their denials, all evidence to the contrary. Compounding this betrayal, many of the leaders of the Religious Right, from Pat Robertson and Richard Land to Roy Moore and Rick Scarborough, claim to be Baptists, ignoring altogether that the notion of church-state separation was a Baptist idea.

As a person of faith, I have a further objection to the entanglement of church and state. It ultimately trivializes the faith because it suggests that religion needs the support of the state for legitimacy. When you fetishize the Ten Commandments or demand a ritualized, formal prayer in school or on public occasions, you diminish the faith itself.

This exchange goes through early next week and should be worth reading.

UPDATE: Here is the first blog post from Bruce Prescott.

California Prison Reform

So far there has been no big news out of the special session of the CA Senate and Assembly, called by Gov. Arnold to deal with reforms needed in our overcrowded prisons. But, I hear (but have not yet found anything online) that the Assembly passed a bill that would allow reporters to have access to inmates. This would sure help shine light on the issues and hopefully it will pass the Senate and Schwarzenneger will sign it.

Making the public aware of the problems and issues will help bring about reform.

UPDATE: Here'a a link to more info.

Castro v. Bush.

"According to reports, Fidel Castro is alert and being briefed. And I'm thinking, why didn't we get a president like that?"
---David Letterman

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Be Sure To Buy An "E Ticket."

I love Venice (especially early in the morning as the city comes alive) but have always thought it had a bit of an "adult Disneyland" feel about it. Looks like it may become the first city to charge an entry fee for visitors.
He said "twelve million people a year pay €50 (£34) to visit Eurodisney," and that "if the Disney Corporation owned Venice, Venice would no longer be in peril".
But, let's pray they don't sell it to Disney to operate. We could be riding "Pirates of the Mediteranian" instead of a gondola and visiting the new "Renaissance Land" pavillion.

Maybe God Is Having Problems Hearing.

I suspect these people are not Episcopalians.

Talk About An Easy Question?

BUMPED FROM YESTERDAY WITH THIS UPDATE: An answer to the question from James Wolcott:

Is Bush an idiot?

Is water wet?

Is Colin Farrell stubbly?

Unlike other two-term presidents, Bush hasn't grown in office, become an old familiar whose irritating traits and lapses could be accepted almost affectionately, like Reagan's dottiness. He's demonstrably diminished, dwarfed by the reality that he continues to deny and repeating himself in press conferences like a robot whose wiring is on the fritz, for whom words and phrases are nothing more than pre-programmed units of sound. He's more irritating and dangerous than ever before, because he doesn't know anything, doesn't know or care that he doesn't know anything, and yet persists in a path of destruction as if it were the road to salvation. It's finally dawned on responsible minds that Bush could take all of us down with him before he and the neocons are through.

OK Go - A Video To Make You Smile.

I found this video totally captivating. Hope you do too.

You Say Macaca, I Say Bigot.

General JC Christian is always good for a smile, sad though the facts might be. Go here to see the video, if you haven't seen it already and get some background.

Another One Bites The Dust.

So much for another reason for the war in Iraq.
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.


Is this the begining of the end of our government overlooking our individual rights? I hope so but somehow doubt it. We do have Bush at the helm.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

God In The Movies: Part 2-American Beauty

Here is a link to listen to Craig Detweiler's sermon on God in "American Beauty." (Ending with a rarity for a sermon, applause from the congregation.) If you haven't been paying attention, this is the second of three sermons on "God In The Movies." Before you listen to the sermon, read Ecclesiastes here.

Craig Detwieler is the co-author of A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture, screenwriter and Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Biola University. Here from an interview with Craig is this answer which may give you some idea of where he is coming from:
Q. You make reference to 1999 as the year that changed movies. And then you interact with some of the themes that emerged that year in film. Give us a little slice of why that was a year that changed movies.

A. The same year that The Matrix was released on Easter weekend, you also had films like American Beauty and Fight Club and Magnolia and Run Lola Run and Dogma, Sixth Sense, films that assumed life beyond what you could see. All of them dealt with the possibility of miracles beyond, of life outside of ourselves, as a search for something more. And I think that characterizes where we are in a culture right now. We have a spiritual culture, not necessarily a Christian culture, but a spiritual culture that assumes a certain respect for the mystery of the divine.

Another Old Fart Blogs On YouTube.

Sign The Petition.

We, the undersigned, call upon elected and appointed officials to join us in reaffirming America's religious freedom by demonstrating a commitment to the following:
  • Every American should have the right to make personal decisions -- about family life, reproductive health, end of life care and other matters of personal conscience.
  • American tax dollars should not go to charities that discriminate in hiring based on religious belief or that promote a particular religious faith as a requirement for receiving services.
  • Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of worship.
  • Public schools should teach with academic integrity and without the promotion of religious preference or belief.
  • Decisions about scientific and health policies should be based on the best available scientific data, not on religious doctrine.

We join together, as the most diverse nation in the world, to commit ourselves to defending and preserving this freedom.

Sign it here:

Not Just Politically Incorrect, It's Unconstitutional People.

On Fox News yesterday:
"It's time to have a Muslims check-point line in America's airports and have Muslims be scrutinized. You better believe it, it's time," Gallagher said.
What's next separate security for guys with beards? Vegetarians? Ass-hole talking heads? "Old fart" bloggers?

Equal Rights For All Storks.

What is the world coming to when even the storks are gay? Which storks would Noah choose for his ark?
They are known for their faithfulness to their mates, an attachment that extends to their nests, which tend to be large and used repeatedly over a number of years.

There Are 9. No, 12. No, 56.

Further to my post below about getting old, now I have to remember that there are 12 planets (and maybe dozens more) not the 9 I learned when I was a kid. What's an old fart to do?

But, I guess I won't be the only one having this problem.
Asked what planet Superman was from, 60 percent named the fictional planet Krypton, while only 37 percent knew that Mercury is the planet closest to the sun.

Headline Of The Day.

"Harrison votes to keep Jesus painting in school"

Doesn't he have more "Christian" work to do?
(Hat tip to Mad Priest for the headline.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How Can We Keep This Up?

July was the deadliest month in Iraq. An average of 110 Iraqis killed each day.

Getting Older.

God, can I relate to this. Not being 60 but being the oldest in the room when it never used to be the case.
"For most of my working life, I was the youngest person doing what I was doing. Then one day I woke up and I was the oldest person in every room," said Clinton, who was a youthful 44 when he was first elected president, in 1992.

"Now that I have more days behind me than ahead of me, I try to wake up with a discipline of gratitude every day," said Clinton, who left office in 2001 and has since devoted himself to his charitable foundation.
I'm having dinner tonight with a priest who just joined the All Saints' parish staff and I realized today I am certainly old enough to be her father, which makes me feel old. Most days I don't feel that much older than the youngsters in the room. But, there are days...

Bush Administration Undermines Gates Foundation.

The Bush Administration unveiled a new $64 billion spending package Monday for a joint CIA–Pentagon program aimed at neutralizing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's global humanitarian network.
OK, it's from The Onion but, there is a part of me that believes they are capabable of this kind of thinking and action.
"They're creating a monster," added DiRita, referring specifically to the Gates Foundation's global-health equity program. "If they cure AIDS, malaria, and TB, they're going to have a very hard time getting that Pandora's box closed again."

The new program also targets Gates' international training and youth-outreach programs with the $4 billion "Leave Millions Of Children Behind" plan, an effort to counterfund any school the Gates Foundation opens by providing them with wrong-language textbooks, broken calculators, and asbestos-riddled classrooms.

"Once you educate a population—teach them to read, do math, give them access to the Internet—they can use those skills for the rest of their lives," the CIA's O'Hara said. "We don't know what these people would be capable of if left to their own devices."

"And quite frankly, we don't want to know," O'Hara added.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cute Couple. Love The Matching Red Shirts.

Bumper Sticker Of The Day.

Get yours here.

Having A Difficult Time Getting Answers To Your Prayers?

Try "The Prayer Antenna." From the artist's site:
The Prayer Antenna is part of a series of Religious Technological Artifacts that I am making. The Antenna receives signals from God (yes, your God). The Antenna currently takes the form of a surplus / thrift-store motor-cycle helmet (or similar) that is ornately ordained and fitted with sufficient technology to receive signals. The helmet bristles like a porcupine with many different antennas. The visor is blacked out. Integrated headphones allow the worshipper to experience the signals. Sufficient controls allow the worshipper to tune the signals. The helmet is mounted to the wall on an ornate arm (at around waist level) and a small kneeling stool is provided (like a prayer kneeler). To use the Antenna the worshipper must kneel on the stool and inset their head into the helmet. The wall and surrounding are painted with a decorative pattern.

Iraq War Soon To Pass WWII In Length.

Speaking of the futility of War, from Talk Left I picked up this little tidbit:
  • December 7, 1941 through May 8, 1945 (VE-Day) = 1,248 days
  • March 19, 2003 (U.S. invasion of Iraq) through Friday, August 18, 2006 = 1,248 days
So, unless the Iraq War ends before Saturday, we will now have been fighting there longer than WWII.

Who Wins?

Does anyone ever really win at war? Oh, maybe there are short term victories but to me everyone loses. (And, I know I am being simplistic.) And yet our leaders drool for war with Iran.
Sounds like both Israeli leaders and citizens are questioning the results of the last month's efforts.
Amid a wave of angry civilian reactions in Israel after more than a month in which an estimated 3,500 rockets were fired into northern Israel, Sam Echahid, the manager of a local supermarket, was asked whether he thought the ceasefire would hold. He said: "I hope not. We haven't done anything yet."
Yet, even with all the death and carnage, some people keep cheering for more. I don't understand it.

Doggie Blogging.

Doggie blogging for Mad Priest. (I don't have a pussycat.)
If that doesn't make him happy, we can always get more political.
There is always Bush's poodle:Plus, seeing this photo of Tony Blair makes me feel a bit better about my old body.

Don't Cry For Her.

How will we ever survive?

Better Late Than Never?

Nothing like ending the war after everything has been destroyed. (Cartoon from the Christian Science Monitor.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hurry, Diaper The Goat.

When you can't control yourself, blame the object of desire. Andrew Sullivan has a great post about how "holding straight men accountable for anything sexual is very tough in fundamentalist circles, be they Islamic or Christian."
... it's also revealing about the way fundamentalism and sex interact. What most male-run religious fundamentalisms include is a major exception for the hetero-male sex drive. Sex outside of missionary-position reproduction with legal wife/wives is officially verboten; but when frail male flesh gives in, the blame is almost always the object of desire - not the guy actually responsible.

Highlights From Bono (At Willow Creek).

More wisdom from Bono:
"I never had a problem with Christ, but Christians were difficult to me...they seem strange to me, and I know that I seem strange to them...they tend to judge people by surface problems...whereas things like corporate are never mentioned."

The command to love our neighbor in the Scriptures is not advice, it's a command...In the global world you cannot say, it's their problem over there."

"Your charity is important but your commitment to justice is what we really'll be marching with a lot of colorful people, but just chill out."
UPDATE (1PM): You can listen to it all here.

It Is Sunday, What Do You Want From Me?

Balloon Jesus from

A Little Diversion From Terror.

With all the "red alert" news, I thought we all needed a tiny diversion. Just watch it. This guy is amazing, not to mention the musical memories.

(Thanks to my friend Chris E. for the link.)

UPDATE: I just love this video and so, before it goes into the archive, I am bumping it up in case you missed it earlier in the week.

An Inconvenient TV.

If the Brits purchase plasma screen TVs at the rate they are now it will require building two more nuclear power plants.

Imagine the size of the problem in the US.

Using Inmates For Drug Testing.

Using inmates as guinea pigs for drug testing is wrong. It was banned once and shouldn't be allowed to occur again. But we seem to bend over backwards to accomodate big pharma.
“Free and informed consent becomes pretty questionable when prisoners don’t hold the keys to their own cells,” Professor Murphy said, “and in many cases they can’t read, yet they are signing a document that it practically takes a law degree to understand.”

During the Holmesburg experiments, inmates could earn up to $1,500 a month by participating. The only other jobs were at the commissary or in the shoe and shirt factory, where wages were usually about 15 cents to 25 cents a day, Professor Hornblum said.

On the issue of compensation for inmates, the report expressed concern about “undue inducements to participate in research in order to gain access to medical care or other benefits they would not normally have.” It called for “adequate protections” to avoid “attempts to coerce or manipulate participation."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

AIDS: Living With The Enemy.

Jeremy Laurance in The Independent has a great audit of where we are in the fight against AIDS. I'm not going to quote from it but read it all.

My brother died of AIDS over 22 years ago, so it's an issue that is close to me and many friends. There is some hope but a lot of work still to do.

And while you are at it, read what Bono had to say about the AIDS crisis yesterday at megachurch, Willow Creek's leadership summit.
When Bono came into Hybels' life, the megachurch pastor found it "ironic" that a rock star was approaching the church with a cry to help the poor and the sick – a command that Jesus had clearly given and that churches were typically known to do. However, churches have always been behind on such issues, said Bono. And he explained the reason being a fear of politics and a judgmental attitude about the AIDS virus.

While churches have largely been in the charity and homeless feeding scene in their local communities, their presence has been foreign to the millions suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Charity is important, Bono noted, but the desire of the churches for justice is what the world really needs, he added.

Responding to the absence, the rock star emphatically said, "Christ won't let the church walk away from the AIDS emergency."

Houston We Have A Problem.

Can't we just recreate it in the studio like the first time?

American Beauty. Look Closer.

Back from the Saturday night service at All Saints', the second in the series "God in the Movies." I will post a link to the sermon next week, it was a look at the movie, "American Beauty." I am sure most of you have seen it. I watched it again this past Wednesday night with friends. It's an amazing movie of modern American suburban life and the search happiness and meaning.

Below is the Old Testament reading that was used, Ecclesiastes 9: 1 -10:
1-3 Well, I took all this in and thought it through, inside and out. Here's what I understood: The good, the wise, and all that they do are in God's hands—but, day by day, whether it's love or hate they're dealing with, they don't know.
Anything's possible. It's one fate for everybody—righteous and wicked, good people, bad people, the nice and the nasty, worshipers and non-worshipers, committed and uncommitted. I find this outrageous—the worst thing about living on this earth—that everyone's lumped together in one fate. Is it any wonder that so many people are obsessed with evil? Is it any wonder that people go crazy right and left? Life leads to death. That's it.

4-6 Still, anyone selected out for life has hope, for, as they say, "A living dog is better than a dead lion." The living at least know something, even if it's only that they're going to die. But the dead know nothing and get nothing. They're a minus that no one remembers. Their loves, their hates, yes, even their dreams, are long gone. There's not a trace of them left in the affairs of this earth.

7-10 Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don't skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there's neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you're most certainly headed.

Women We Love.

Couldn't resist this one. The Marc Jacobs store scaffolding on Bleecker Street in NYC is having an ongoing silent Accomplished Women Awards ceremony. (Hat tip to Mark Harris at What an amazing pairing! See more women we love here.

Can we expect a similar photo spread and article by the NY Times on +Bishop Jefferts-Schori anytime soon?

Saturday Visual Treat.

Off , later this morning, to spend the day with friends, get an eyeful at MOCA, and enjoy some Korean food.

Rauchenberg is a master and I can't believe I've waited this long to see this exhibit.

Prayer For Peace.

In the hope that the UN resolution leads to peace in the middle east, here is a Native American prayer for peace:
The Ancestors have told us we are all connected in the Sacred Circle of Life. If this is so, the pain and suffering of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Middle East must also be our pain and suffering. We send our prayers of love and encouragement on the wind to reach their hearts and comfort them. We let our tears fall into Grandmother Ocean that they may reach the shores of our Middle East brothers and sisters to mingle with their tears and let them know they are not alone. We touch our Mother Earth with the desire for peace in our hearts so when our brothers and sisters in the Middle East walk upon our Mother Earth they will feel our desire for peace in their hearts and they will be comforted.

Creator, we acknowledge our common heritage that makes us all related. You are our Holy Parent and we have come forth from you. We each have a song to sing, each song different, each song beautiful as it is sung to you. May our songs that we sing acknowledge the sacredness of all life as we join together in this Sacred Circle.


Christ Was Not A Christian.

How many times have we Christians been told that we are to be "Christlike"? We've heard so many people ask "what would Jesus do?"--WWJD. So much so that it has lost any real meaning.

Garry Willis tackles the question of whether or not we can truly aspire to do what Jesus did in an article at After discussing some of Jesus behavior and attitudes, like remaining in the temple when his parents left town, changing water into wine, casting out devils, he says that these...
... were acts meant to show that he is not just like us, that he has higher rights and powers, that he has an authority as arbitrary as God's in the Book of Job. He is a divine mystery walking among men. The only way we can directly imitate him is to act as if we were gods ourselves--yet that is the very thing he forbids.
And then he challenges us with these paragraphs, concluding with a reference to how the disciples would never have asked WWJD they were too busy trying to figure out the puzzle that was Jesus.
Christians cannot really be "Christlike." As Chesterton said, "A great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it." The thing we have to realize is that Christ, whoever or whatever he was, was certainly not a Christian. Romano Guardini put it this way in The Humanity of Christ:

If Jesus is a mere man, then he must be measured by the message which he brought to men. He must himself do what he expects of others; he must himself think according to the way he demanded that men think. He must himself be a Christian. Very well, then; the more he is like that, the less he will speak, act, or think as he did; and the more he will be appalled by the blasphemy of the way he did behave. If Jesus is mere man as we are, even though a very profound one, very devout, very pure--no, let us put it another way: the measure of his depth, devotion, purity, reverence, will be the measure in which it will be impossible for him to say what he says... . The following clear-cut alternative emerges: either he is not just evil, for that would not adequately describe the case -- either he is deranged, as Nietzsche became in Turin in 1888, or he is quite different, deeply and essentially different, from what we are.

To read the gospels in the spirit with which they were written, it is not enough to ask what Jesus did or said. We must ask what Jesus meant by his strange deeds and words. He intended to reveal the Father to us, and to show that he is the only-begotten Son of that Father. What he signified is always more challenging than we expect, more outrageous, more egregious. That is why the Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac calls him "of all the great characters history places before us, the least logical." Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor knew this when he reproached Christ for puzzling men by being "exceptional, vague, and enigmatic.
We continue to try to figure out what it means to be a Christian today. We too must determine the deeper intent of Jesus' example.

Our Failure To Take Care Of The Earth.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' piece at TimesOnLine is effective in reminding us of how we have failed our responsibilities for the earth.

Fifteen centuries ago Judaism's sages said that when God made the first man, He took him to see all the trees in the Garden of Eden. He said to him: "See how beautiful are My works. All that I have created I have made for you. But be careful that you do not ruin My world, for if you do, there is no one else to put right what you have destroyed."

How fatefully those words echo now. We are today consuming our children's tomorrow. Before it is too late we must learn environmental habits of reverence, responsibility and restraint.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Focus On The Family Gets The Boot.

I've been reading a lot lately about "faith days" at baseball parks across the country. I have no real objection, they had a "stitch n' pitch" knitters night yesterday at the Dodgers so, what the heck. But, it sounds like someone on the Atlanta Braves has 'cojones." There are all kinds of families today and all should be welcome everywhere, especially to events with a focus on faith and a God of love.

Paying Attention To Re-entry.

Read this NY Times article "Help for the Hardest Part of Prison, Staying Out." It's an interesting look at how re-entry programs are changing they way ex-offenders deal with staying out of prison.
Now a countertrend is gathering force, part of an unfolding transformation in the way the criminal justice system deals with repeat offenders. After punishment has been meted out and time has been served, political leaders, police officers, corrections officials, churches and community groups are working together to offer so-called re-entry programs, many modest in scope but remarkable nonetheless.

Inmates now meet with planners before their release to explore housing, drug treatment and job possibilities. Once the inmates are back outside, churches and community groups have been enlisted to take them by the hand and walk them through the transition home.

“What we’re witnessing is a great turning of the wheel in corrections policy,” said Ashbel T. Wall II, the Rhode Island corrections director.

Just Ordinary Friends, With A Not So Ordinary Mission.

As small boys they walked the few hundred yards to primary school together every day. At 3.15pm they ran out of the school gates to kick a football in the street and buy sweets in the nearby shop. When they became teenagers their interests were those of most young men: Premiership football, girls, clothes and music; and as young adults they grew devout together.
Who do you think this refers to? Read the whole profile in The Observer, you may be surprised.

Mac And Cheese Anyone?

It's late afternoon on a Friday, after weeks of more bad news, followed by worse news, and this made me laugh out loud. Where is Alice B. Toklas when we need her?

Amnesia Effects 30% Of US Population.

I know many in this country are idiots but 30% of us can't tell you the year in which 9/11 happened. What's worse, 5% of us don't know the month and date it occured.

RIP Mike Douglas.

I have a ton of memories of watching Mike Douglas' variety show when I was a kid growing up outside Philadelphia. Maybe because the show was taped in Philadelphia, rather than NY or LA, I was a big fan and would watch it before homework. I remember coming home from school and watching with my grandmother. I'm sure it makes me less than cool, but then again, I'm an old fart.

Cartoon Of The Day.

I will let the cartoon from speak for itself. Damn, I'm inclined to cast stones. But, I won't.

Who Is Really The Fascist?

Not only does our state department staff (see below post) not speak the language of the countries to which they are assigned but, our president uses English in such a way as to inflame the rest of the world. "Islamic fascists." No wonder we are not respected.

"We believe this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counter-productive to associate Islam or Muslims with fascism," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group.

"We ought to take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims," he told a news conference in Washington.

"We urge him (Bush) and we urge other public officials to restrain themselves."

Would anyone use "fascist" to define what is our current goverment's direction? Isn't this definition of fascism from Wikipedia close to the what our president and his party are bringing us?
Fascism is a radical totalitarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate.

This sure seems to be indicative of our desires to listen to the rest of the word. Our state department representative can't even communicate in the languages of the countries where they represent us.
Nearly 30 percent of State Department employees based overseas in "language-designated positions" are failing to speak and write the local language well enough to meet required levels, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.
Nothing like this should surprise me but, we fail to respect others and then we wonder why "they hate us for our freedom." They don't all hate us for our freedom but they soon will all hate us because of our pride and arrogance.

Inclusive Christianity. God's Love Is Absolute.

If you haven't read Jon Meacham's interview with Billy Graham in this week's Newsweek, you can do so here. Here's a highlight.

When asked if he thinks heaven is "closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people" he answered.
“Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't. ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

Today's Breaking News Will Be Ignored Tomorrow.

I'm a news junkie; I have CNN on TV all day long while I work and I understand that everyone is in a state of government inspired FEAR, but what happened to the war in Lebanon and Israel that was taking up air time 24/7 for the past four weeks?

All of a sudden it's not important. Just like the Iraq war was gone from the news for the past month when everyone focused on the "war of the moment."

What does this say about us that we can swing from one crisis to the next so quickly, led by those who control the airwaves? Can we not pay attention to two or more things at once?

More Bull From Bush.

Watching Bush's speech.

Couldn't anyone of us have predicted what he'd say and written it for him too? "They hate us for our freedom, fight them there so we don't have to fight them here, etc., etc., etc."

Maybe if we had focused on terrorists instead of getting diverted to Iraq we would be a lot more secure today.

Prison Reform Rant.

On Sunday I commented on Pat Nolan's OpEd in the LA Times about the need for prison reform and his well thought out recommendations. Pat had been a Republican state assemblyman in California and spent 2 years in prison, he is an advocate for rethinking our criminal justice system and knows from experience whereof he speaks.

Today there is this letter to the editor in the LA Times:
Ex-convict Pat Nolan wrote as though these inmates were born in prisons, or that there were no public schools for them to attend when they were kids. Perhaps life in prisons should be made so dismal, painful and difficult that the actual experience would serve to deter more than just false hopes of rehabilitation of the inmates. Why not use fear to protect the law-abiding instead of the other way around? Criminals should be punished, literally, from the time they're incarcerated until they are released.

(Name omitted to protect the stupid.)
I hardly know where to start my rant. This is such a typical reaction and is really the reason we never solve the crime problem in this country. We fail to properly educate or train our inner city youth, we don't provide adequate jobs and living wages for those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, we criminalize low level drug use instead of providing recovery assistance, we ignore the fact that over 90% of those incarcerated will be released and assume that just providing strict punishment will rehabilitate and prevent criminals from committing additional crimes.

I'm not sure what planet this letter writing idiot is living on. Has he ever spent one minute in jail or prison? If he had he would know that life is no picnic even in so called "country club" facilities. Life in any prison facility is something no one would ever aspire to--unless our society provided no better alternative. Oh, I forgot, for the poor and poorly prepared for life in our culture there may not be a better alternative.

On To Something Serious.

Oops! She gets to do it again and again and again but, my gay friends, who want to do it for the first time, can't because their marriage would destroy heterosexual marriage. Now, I actually have no issue with their desire to work on their marriage but why shouldn't two committed men or women have the same chance? I don't get it.

The Insightful Ramblings Of A Soul-Loving-Hippie-Punk.

With the news coming out of the UK today, Mad Priest's post, "Take a pinch of white man wrap him up in black skin" is insightful and worth reading in its entirety. Read it here.
The people of my country, myself included, are now petrified of anybody whose skin is not either completely black or completely white. It's true, if I see a South Asian person walking towards me, the first thing that comes into my head is the word "bomb." I hate this thought but what can you do about it?
It includes this version of "Melting Pot" which reflects his mixed up cultural references.
Some may come and some may go
He will surely pass
When the one that let us heal
Returns for us at last
We are but in the morning sunlight
Fading in the grass

Oh! Come on you people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now
Yes! Come on you people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.

Red Alert!

Why was my first reaction, upon hearing the news of the "red alert," that it was created for domestic policital impact?