Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New Ethics vs. The Classic Ethics

The standards of conduct that we grow up with, that we learn from our family and community, that we embrace could be called moral values or ethics - "ethics" as “a theory or system of moral values” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

In his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, Isaac Asimov described how his father, an atheist, would not steal, not because it had a moral value, but because his father did not want his peers and his community to label him as a thief. Pride, respect, and social interface count for a lot as the glue that holds our secular society together.

I am thinking of scales for early 21st century thinking in America and perhaps the global world too in general.

First, I am thinking of human scales, the size of a house, the height of a tree, the relationship of man to his environment.

Next, I am thinking American and or global business and thinking that CEOs make hundreds of times the wages of the average American worker. That if you grow up in rich burbs, and you get educated in Ivy League comfort and rise up the corporate ladder, you have never known or can know what average Americans or average wages or street scale ethics might be. You are in whole different league from the rest of the majority of the realm of mere mortal beings.

A recent number of secular things hit me from the daily media assault on my senses that stuck to the wall of my consciousness.

One has to do with $50 million dollar corporate jets for failed executives at failed financial institutions and paid for by taxpayer’s money. The other has to do with $18 billion dollars of commissions and or bonuses being paid out by failed executives in failed financial institutions and paid for by taxpayer’s money.

At one point in time, there were reality checks on executives at large corporations. Reality checks? The stock holders might object to your questionable expenditures.

Stockholders? Thirty seconds on the stock exchange of a municipal pension plan invested for those critical thirty seconds and then sold for a profit or loss thirty seconds later – those stockholders I do not believe knew that they had these assets.

Those nanosecond stockholders perhaps did not know that they had responsibilities as stockholders and they did not exercise their options of oversight to the corporate system. And if not the stockholders, than ethics would dictate…

Do I sound like some nineteenth century school master or boring country itinerate preacher? YES!

Reality check, stockholders, investor, ethics? Do some of these words sound like they are from a Latin Bible and you cannot read Latin?

There are an awful lot of untouched, unrefined, under-defined, misunderstood touch points – sound bite clich├ęs – words –concepts -that roll off the lips of the divine Public Relations talking head.

What am I talking about?

Too much of the communication in the hardened artery media is archaic, charmed and sounds too much like a good snake oil sales pitch of half or a whole century ago. Upon examination, our ways of doing business and government do not reflect reality and or human scales.

Enough said. In the months and years ahead, I pray that our national government gets a life, scales back and learns to spend and tax along the simplest and most efficient human scales possible.

As for American business, if you have to teach a course in college in ethnics, then you probably don’t have any to begin with. That is not my original idea. I believe I read in once in connection to something said by some British philosopher. Correct me and or tell me the right quotation please.

The new ethics of failed economies, private and government, are nothing new. They are part of human nature. Prudence dictates that future endeavors in business and government takes a logical and semi-regulated approach to everything to counterbalance the ruthlessness and lawlessness now decaying in the streets – Wall Street and Main Street – in America – fossils of the recent age of no ethics.

The new ethics of the past generation is like the New Coke; forget it – a bad product from visualization, inception all the way up to hyped and forced onto the public introduction.

I want the classic drink and the classic form of ethics, old fashioned, and scaled to things human and average.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gerhard Wagner - no friend of Humanity!

Gerhard Wagner is no friend of humanity in my humble opinion. He is it would appear to be a highly thought of German speaking crony of the Pope.

This is the best you can find for management Joe???

"The Vatican yesterday announced that Gerhard Wagner has been appointed as auxiliary bishop in Linz, Austria.

Wagner has served as the pastor of a church in the Austrian town of Windischgarsten since 1988, and received a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome.

In 2005, the 54-year-old was quoted in a parish newsletter as saying he was convinced that the death and destruction caused by Katrina that year was "divine retribution" for New Orleans' permissive sexual attitudes and tolerance of homosexuality.

Kath.Net, a Catholic news agency in Austria, said the newsletter quoted Wagner as saying that Katrina had destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans but also abortion clinics.

He first attracted international attention in 2001 when he described JK Rowling's best-selling Harry Potter novels as "satanism" and warned against the magical spells and formulas used in thenovels." Feb1,2009, Guardian Uk World, Mark Tran

It would appear that a reckless, irresponsible and or senile Benedict XVI administration is right on the mark in appointing Gerhard Wagner as Bishop of Linz a week after rehabilitating the accommodated Jew Hater Bishop Richard Williamson.

It would appear that Gerhard is no friend of humanity. I took the above photo from the Internet listed as victims of Hurricane Katrina for Gerhard’s viewing pleasure. Gerhard is no doubt a good and obedient Catholic. The quote below is from the bible for Gerhard to read if he cares to translate.

Matthew 25:41-46 (New International Version)

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Keep up the good work Joe, Gerhard and Richard. I hear the vacancy sign in Hell is coming down due to your booked in advance reservations.

God loves the fool. In this case, I claim that title. Somebody has to play court jester and or Christian around these incompetent, cold, distant, uncaring senior management types of the RC church. The Emperor is butt ass naked and people are starting to talk!

God bless all the victims of Hurricane Katrina! Without exception!!

Jesus loves them all !!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Matt 20:1-16, Septuagesima (Feb.,8, 2009)

I remember today’s gospel reading from my youth. It is a simple story. The man goes out and hires day laborers. He goes out early and promises a day’s wages to the first who come to labor and harvest in his vineyard. The man goes out later, finds idle men and tells them to join his harvest. He will do right by them when he pays them at the end of the day. It sounds like he will work out an hourly amount to equal their labor. At the end of the day he finds a few more idle men standing around and they join in the harvest but for little more than an hour.

It’s the end of the day. It is time to pay everybody and wrap things up. I have an idea about what the economy of first century Judea was about. The story is about coins. It is about measuring labor in terms of a metal coin and not in barter. No bushels of wheat for your labor or sheep but a coin. For many of these day laborers, the one coin promised will pay for bread and cheese for a family for a day or two.

I dare say, considering that way Judea got sophisticated, with first the Greeks and then the Romans dominating the culture, money had replaced barter. The tax man he comes around and he wants coins. Copper. Silver. Gold. I am certain that land owners could deliver as barter an acre or two of wheat to the tax collector’s grain house. The common man without land, he needs money. He needs money everyday to eat. He needs money for the tax man too.

The coins, the sophistication, the change in society makes a difference in how new generations see their obligations. I dare say, somebody like Jesus and his older brothers stopped helping out in the carpenter’s shop to go out and do day labor at harvest time. What for? The coins - to give the coins to the head of the household for taxes. The price of keeping big brother, big government and the tax collector out of your life was the same then as it is now. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Well anyway, I cannot read into the mind of the master of the vineyard in this story. He pays all his workers the same wage, one coin, whether they have worked twelve hours or one hour. Of course I have thought that maybe those who have labored all day got a little tired about midday and picked fewer and fewer grapes. That maybe those hired at midday did as much work in half a day, coming in well rested, as those who labored all day. But paying a day’s wages for an hour’s work, that sounds unfair and perhaps it is even charity. The owner of the field states that he can do what he wants with his money. So true.

Of course this is a parable and Jesus is trying to teach a lesson. He goes into a farming community. He tells a farming story. He has their attention and then he tries to kick the story up a notch or two into the realm of spiritual understanding. Smart guy, this Jesus fellow.

In life you have to do certain things that can be measured. Measured in this Earth. “Man is the measure of all things” to quote an ancient philosopher.

You have to do certain things that can only be measured in heaven. Measured by God. There are things we cannot measure but God does – our faith, our hope, our love. God gives us grace as an invitation to sit down and communicate with the Divine.

God invites us into his spiritual vineyard. For many of us, he measures all that we do. And maybe for others, he measures some of what they do in life. Like some who only show up once or twice at church in one’s lifetime or who have an epiphany on one’s death bed – who realize all the nasty things that one has done in one’s life – and asking quite selfishly for forgiveness of those things human that were not divine in a not well lived life.

And sadly, reflecting and regretting, but knowing there in the end of life, things of the true human heart – of love – of caring – of having faith – of finally hearing the owner of the vineyard telling us to make a little or even a great effort to get right with God.

I have known some people who do not know God -- non-believers. Some turn away from faith – some have never had the opportunity to understand or embrace faith. Atheists breed atheists you know. I know of such a person. A child of atheist parents. This person when I was acquainted was very unfair and very unscrupulous in their dealings with others. That, if I approached them to explain my faith, my beliefs, that person would put their ignorance of God into a poetic or a philosophical frame of reference. They told me that death and what happens passed death is the grand and ultimate mystery of life.

No mystery to me. If I have cheated or stolen from other people, if I have victimized others, I believe I will be judged accordingly to my deeds before the throne of God with Jesus Christ sitting right up there on the Big Guy’s right hand side. A place of honor.

Any why is Jesus there? You know the answer to that. He earned it. He earned it for his caring enough for you and for me and a trillion others throughout the ages. He earned it by becoming a sacrifice on the altar of God – by dying on the cross and by dying – to give up all his mystical powers bestowed on him at birth and in ages before his birth, by doing his duty, by surrendering his total being to the will of God.

Jesus is no con artist. Not like some of us. Many of us. You cannot fake your way into heaven. God gives us the means. We are all asked to labor in God’s vineyards. Some of us give it our all. And still some of us try as hard as we can. Still others – picking grapes – dropping grapes – get in other people’s way as they strive to do the great labor of God which is truly on this earth to do.

The bottom line of all this is that salvation has tremendous value. Salvation is salvation. What is it worth to you?

God chooses what he wants to do in his own time and in his own way – and most importantly of all – he does reach out a hand to each and every one of us.

All our labors in the vineyard of life are equal in the eyes of God – in the eyes of God we are all his children. We may whine for many things like the Hebrews in the desert with Moses as mentioned in the Exodus passage earlier. We whine for water in the desert of life – we can be difficult children at times – but Moses struck the rock at God’s command and waters rushed forth for them and ultimately for us to drink.

Those grapes we have picked in life are for the spiritual wine that is to be made in heaven and shared around the table along with the bread of Our Lord’s Supper.

Come. Labor. Be glad of toil and of faith. Know that the rewards not received here on earth continue into heaven. We are saved by our labor but also and more importantly by labor done at the bidding of the author of life and the universe.

To thee we pray. God be praised.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Laughing Pope ?

This concept of Holocaust Denial has flashed across the media pages and screens in the past 72 hours because of the bringing back into the fold of some four bishops consecrated by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, head of a Traditionalist Catholic Sect that among other things denies the validity of the Vatican II Council.

These bishops were excommunicated, and now after they have consecrated priests and presumably more bishops, the schism is turning it into a disease as far as the Vatican is concerned. Better to rein in the bad boys, keep a closer look on them. Better than let them sell off that valuable real estate in their local portfolios and or start a new church. The days of Papal armies and burnings at the stake are just so uncool and non-PC these days. Don’t you agree?

One of these rehabilitated bishops, Richard Williamson, has stated his possibly anti-Semitic opinions in the past:

“Williamson has expressed controversial views about Jews. He called Jews "enemies of Christ" and urges their conversion to Catholicism. He claims that Jews and Freemasons have contributed to the "changes and corruption" in the Catholic Church He has also stated that Jews aim at world dominion and believes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be authentic. Williamson has denied that he is anti-Semitic, stating that he goes against "adversaries of Our Lord Jesus Christ"…(wikipedia)

Anti-Semite? You better believe it.

A news worthy notation on the global stage for examination. No doubt the Vatican sends out its unpleasant news releases on weekends just as the press office in the White House has been known to do.

No doubt in rehabilitating a lost bishop for his Catholic dogmatic views is the primary reason to cover this gaping schismatic wound as quickly as possible. Deal with collateral damage later on.

I have restrained myself until now from knocking the present pope. Going back to my Sede Vacante Temporis article, I don’t think that senile old men should be elected to important diplomatic and or religious posts. Maybe it is time for new outlooks. Maybe it time for kids under fifty to try and run the world and or the Vatican City State.

Going back to this pope’s recent wanting to stop interfaith dialogue and his trashing Islam in one of his pastoral papers connotes senility and or too many adorable sycophants sitting, lounging around the papal throne. He no doubt rubberstamps whatever his handlers give him to sign or read out loud.

I look at the guy and I like Joe the Pope. He has a warm friendly smile. He is a lifelong rubberstamp meal ticket Catholic bureaucrat. I am surprised that underneath his papal seal it does not say something like “…and they pay me for this job too…” kind of gullible rhetoric.

Benedict XVI of late reminds me of some lines of the British dance hall song “The Laughing Policeman” by Charles Penrose.

And to paraphrase a parody that might be entitled “The Laughing Pope” and borrow some lines of the famous song.

“He never can stop laughing.
He says he's never tried.
But once he did (save) a man.
And laughed until he cried! “

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh God of our many understandings

"O God of our many understandings..." -

That phraseology from Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire says many things.

Without being in the know of the latest PC thoughts from a Jesus Seminar or an ivy league divinity school, these words reach out for intelligence and tolerance and empathy. These words say that what we each may believe, though our various cultural contexts may be varied, we all, most of us, basically believe the same thing in the concept of the One God.

I am sometimes disheartened when on the news I see the lack of tolerance or understanding between the various monotheistic religions. Too many centuries of comfort in a region and too little reaching out makes for present friction between those who to this day will say that the God of the Jews or the God of Jesus or the God of Mohammed are not one and the same God.

Different names, different understandings but in truth, in our hearts, they invoke the same God.

There is local and there is global. There is sacred and there is secular. There is God and the inability of many who do not try to walk a mile in their brother’s shoes. There are those who do not realize how God has revealed himself in the same way many times throughout the ages but with different accents, and interpretations of the same language and same message from the Source of the Universe...

(there is some hype on TV commercials about what do you tell your grandchildren about where you were when Obama was sworn in)

I began to write the preceding early this morning. It was left unfinished and before the Inaugural of President Barack Hussein Obama. I had been out driving and doing some necessary urgent errands. I caught his swearing in oath on the car radio. I heard the oath of office just before turning onto another road here in Staten Island. Half a block away I saw the minaret of a mosque recycled from an old factory up ahead. The Muslims there of that particular congregation are from Albania. America has changed. The world is changing. We of necessity must change in those things that brings forth more tolerance and understanding to all matters local and global.

I saw the later part of President Obama’s speech on television and was struck by one line as part of a larger paragraph. It was: “…that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace…”

Perhaps our common humanity as it is uniquely blended in the USA will help form the comfort of our using some words first that elsewhere will one day be used that will help thaw cultural differences by their use and in faithful translation. Words and or phrases like “O God of our many understandings …” is a good start.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Temple Mount / Noble Santuary Compromise

With all the current bloodshed in Israel/Palestine these days, I am thinking of the future. Where do two cultures, political states, religions go from here?

I do not wish to document past hopes or failures. I wish to consider how hard it will be for both sides to sit down and negotiate in good faith for the future of the immediate nation state and the greater region. Examples about the end of the cold war between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. or the falling down of apartheid in South Africa are not good examples to use or learn from. Those scenarios fit other times and places in other parts of the planet.

I have pondered this situation and think that some symbolic gesture(s) by both sides could pave eons of highways to the future. I use one example here. I am certain that those directly responsible will have better and more practical ideas than my own. That is okay. The important process is the beginning of visualization of a peaceful, prosperous Israel/Palestine in the future by all parties concerned.

I do not wish to intrude on the two cultures and religions but I have some observations. I do not think that a bi-cultural country is immediately possibly. In a global village sense, maybe a hundred years from now nobody will care who your neighbor is across the street in terms of culture or religious background. In an immediate sense I see a divided geography perhaps with walls but a reduction of violence and an escalation of trust between all parties of the region. A successful peace in Israel/Palestine will deflate political agendas in the region and hiding behind religious masks at the present time.

Picture Israel/Palestine or Palestine/Israel whichever way you want to look at the coin. Picture joint economic ventures, common public utilities, high standards of living.

The thing that sticks in a lot of Israeli throats is the division of Jerusalem with a joint political state sharing a joint capital. This is something nobody from the outside can impose. This is something the two parties have to agree upon and work together on to make it work. It is not impossible but it will be extremely difficult to maintain if the current levels of friction and mistrust continue.

I say take the Temple Mount or Haram-esh-Sharif (noble sanctuary) and borrow a page from the wisdom of Solomon. If there is to be a divided capital of Jerusalem then I think that this elevated property gets cut down the middle. The price for peace for the Palestinians should exact a price or such. They at the moment do not have the upper hand in the military equation of the situation. The Israelis are looking at their enemies, though in facts their neighbors, getting up front and personal in a very ancient symbolic piece of Israeli identity in the form of the city of Jerusalem.

This is not easy. But what if the Palestinians say okay, cut Harem-esh-Sharif down the middle if that is what it takes to make a permanent, stable, universally recognized state and capital for Palestine. I think that the Palestinians will opt to keep the half of Temple Mount that has the most symbolism in a structure for them, the Qubbat al-Sakhra or Dome of the Rock. If that happens, then the plain structure or Al-Aqsa Mosque is now on Isreali territory. I do not think that the Israelis will stop the function of this mosque but what if in the terms of binding eternal peace treaty Israel can turn the mosque into a synagogue or even tear it down to build a Third Temple.

A lot of hot points here. Al-Aqsa mosque is the big work horse mosque of the Noble Sanctuary area on Temple Mount.

Israel, if you look close enough, is more a secular state than a theocracy that it had ideally been in the ancient past. A Third Temple is only a dream for a handful of the extreme religious community. If we cannot do these things mentioned above, what can both sides do to show good faith, both literally and symbolically.

I believe that the two mosques could stay in place. A joint police force in the city of Jerusalem could administer control the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary and - and somewhere in the middle of this joint historic site, archeology and research could start on a small scale, a few square meters a year, and could go on for decades and fill a yet to be built museum for artifacts found that touch the history of two nations, two cultures, and two religions on common ground - the Earth.

It is just a thought for a possible win-win compromise for peace to accidentally break out and spread throughout the region and on to the planet as well.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson Style

I am not comfortable talking about anti-Semitism. I do not feel qualified to talk about the subject and will not attempt to do any lengthy essay. I would like to focus on one slice of publicly displayed anti-Semitism and surrounding the public figure of Mel Gibson with his remarks in July 2006.

Without even going after remarks by his father Hutton Gibson or his own words in a drunken stupor, the basic fact of Mel's anti-Semitic remarks originate with the Constantine Bible - a bible written for a Roman General/Emperor and for the political agenda of that political person - written, assembled three hundred years after the death of Jesus. The Jews and not the Romans supposedly killed Jesus. Whatever.

What I attack here in my simple Christian belief system is the logic or lack of it regarding what this Jesus story means in terms of hating a race for the actions of some individuals, the high priests in Herod’s temple bureaucracy.

My argument is this. Who did Jesus preach to in his three year ministry? I have to say mostly Jews. They were poor working class Jews. Oh there were a few Romans and a few Samaritans but 100% percent of Jesus’ ministry on earth was to 99.9% Jews.

Did Jesus preach his Sermon on the Mount to an empty mount? Did he feed 5,000 non-Jews with loaves and fishes? Did he go to Roman wedding to change water into wine? NO! There were a few Jews present at all these mentioned events. If you look at the Gibson family mindset, they must wonder why Jesus wasted all his time with the - the - the Jews!

How do you separate Jesus from his roots and then say that his roots were not the important part of his ministry? It is all a bit twisted.

Jerusalem and Judea as a political state went out of existence about forty years after Jesus’ time.

Christianity as it got recycled with Greek and or Roman religions lost its Jewish flavor or origins. Or did it?

Did Jews who became slaves after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. go to Rome and then buy their freedom after they helped build the Coliseum in Rome? Did they stay in Rome? This scenario has been suggested by the TV history presenter Simcha Jacobovici.

Jesus planted the seed of faith and of the new faith through Jews who ended up on the other side of the planet and without a homeland.

There are so many rich possibilities for the flowering of faith and continuation of tradition and even with paradigm shifts on a religion and a culture in transit in the first century of the common era.

When some ignorant Irish Mick spouts his mouth off and reiterates the hate of his parents, well maybe that is anti-Semitism.

I think the religious ignorance of who and what Jesus was - and was about for his people, the Jews, is something greatly monumental in the depth of stupidity and vice.

And then again maybe the anti-Semitic remarks were solely and conveniently used as a deal breaker on the proposed Gibson movie about the Maccabees. He just did not have it in him to do a great movie or do justice to that historic era.

Forget about the ministry of Jesus. Just hate a race that everyone wants to make extinct. Well, I do not think that will ever happen. There is something internal about the nature of man and culture and this indirect hated of the imperfectly formed and recycled religion called Christianity. Better to hate its origins than reform its present mess.

As for the Maccabee Movie, better that old Mel could not do it. Who would want to watch Apocolypto with a yamaka on it?