Monday, June 8, 2009

Constantine Complex - a modern condition?

There is that thing about short men with an inferiority thing called a Napoleonic complex.

Looking at some present day figures does not necessarily bring to mind the Napoleon thing. If Napoleon had succeeded with his bloody military thing, the EU would have been born a century and a half sooner and WWI and WWII would have not likely happened. Theory and conjecture do not make a real history of facts.

Of course, now I see what I call the Constantine complex in this modern world. It has to do with megalomaniac egos and trying to start new world religions or belief systems. It has to do with marshalling the forces available to fuller the power of the one over the many by any means possible. It also has to do with “I am Right and you are wrong! Period!”

No doubt a light bulb or I should say a torch lit up in the great Emperor god Constantine’s mind when he sought the means to glue two halves of an empire back together again. The key word here is “one”. One Emperor, one world Empire, one world religion. The monotheistic christian religion was no doubt an ideal fit into the emperor god’s grand megalomaniac plan for his new world order in the fourth century.

One current candidate for the title or label of the Constantine complex is the movie maker and actor Mel Gibson. Of course if Gibson were alive in the time of Constantine he would have approved of laws forbidding Jews from owning christian slaves or Nuremburg type laws imposing death if a Jew dared to marry a christian. Constantine! What a guy! Founder and cosmic enabler of the present church in Rome.

Gibson’s grasp of defending the 16th century tridentine mass in Latin as the only bridge to the one absolute God that he and his cult alone can fathom and defend perhaps has its limits. While Mel is divorcing his wife of twenty eight years and he is about to have a child out of wedlock, he is a little upset with his congregation of 70 fanatics who he suddenly doesn’t feel loyalty from. He is supposed to have threatened to shut down his church tax shelter because his fellow congregants are gossiping about him. Minor stuff, the real Constantine killed one son and his second wife because of palace gossip. Thank God Mel is only a minor tin god reflection of the real standard.

Mel is so pure, he is more holy than the pope, more catholic than the pope etc. Of course Mel has a few mortal flaws but is none the less one of my candidates for the label of having a Constantine complex.

Fast forward and the current age of mass media which is not a two way media, and they got rid of the fairness doctrine, whereby a balanced point of view is supposed to go out on the airwaves. The king of this modern day Constantine complex thing – this absolute rule of “I am Right and you are wrong! Period!” - would have to be “Boss Tweed” Limbaugh spewing nonstop confusion and hate over the radio air waves both for himself and his dying political party.

Also, suddenly Pope Newt the First, newly arrived in the Constantine faith, is telling his constituency that besides being always absolutely right that we are surrounding by “paganism”. What the hell is Gingrich mumbling about? Or is this just a new label for secular humanism? We don’t need a new world religion Newt when so many of all the others don’t work that well or work at all.

The domestic culture wars I hope are over. While we are at it, isn’t it time for the Armed Forces of the USA to stand down from WWII and the Cold War. There are better uses for the money in the social and domestic needs of the American people. Constantine is dead and so too should be his idea of empire, combining church and state, that so many these days seem to want to emulate.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Confessions of a Clueless Bureaucrat

There seems to be a theme running through the ongoing sex abuse scandals of the Roman clergy. The theme is one of temporary memory or of living in a morality bubble that only considers morals and confession and the immediate needs of the soul. If private corporations ran their internal workings on the myopic short term limited concerns as in the RC church, they would be out of business - or – hint, hint – about to go out of business.

The theme I see is that the RC church gives no value to the secular soul. “Outside the Church, there is no salvation.”

The RC church, which had been both secular and sacred government for many parts of the world in the past, attacks modernism when secularism and or democracy doesn’t mix well with bubble morality – oil and vinegar. Coexistence with secularism and interfaith dialogue are to be feared as well and not reconciled at all costs.

When the RC church has to coexist with other religions in the United States as an example, it continues to express itself as both a secular and supremely sacred institution within the confines of its bubble.

With special medieval tax entitlements, it goes along on its merry, nonconforming to secularism, way and subsidized by the secular world and secular taxpayers. In fact, alliances with Satan aka fundamentalist christian types on political issues and imposing Catholic Sharia Law on the U.S. Constitution for birth control and abortion is part of the master internal plan.

Problem with the RC church might be that it gives 110% to the soul of a man in an afterlife. It perhaps gives little or nothing to the welfare of a man alive in the secular world. Of course it gives comfort for the fear it helps to create in the first place about the afterlife.

The former archbishop of Milwaukee is coming out with a book more to show case his coming out of the closet about being gay. When that book goes on sale next week, all sorts of punditry and shouting will be going about. Over and above this cleric doing public confession for his individual sexuality, he does little to shed light on the real harm done to people, children abused by the clergy. He is pulling the old “I didn’t know or didn’t understand” defense regarding his own culpability in the greater arena of this decades, centuries old sexual dysfunction of the RC Church.

Sex-abuse victims group rebuffs Weakland’s naiveté claim
Weakland makes those assertions in his forthcoming memoir, "A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church," saying at one point, "We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature."…

In his book, the retired archbishop says that in the 1970s, he "naively" accepted the notion that victims would either forget or "grow out of" the abuse. He blames the leniency shown by judges toward priests (and other professionals) in sex abuse cases for shaping his views on the perpetrators…
In most of the last decade of abuse scandals, the real tragedy I think is that these front office clerics honestly do not know the modern day value of a human being in the real – secular – world.

In the past few months, I have seen the dysfunctionality of the bishops expressing empathy for sex abusers as with Archbishop Nichols of Westminster in Britain over and above the victims in regards to the Ryan Report. I see the mad bishops of Brazil more concerned about excommunication and Catholic Sharia law than the rights or safety of a nine year old pregnant rape, incest victim getting a late term abortion.

I see the holocaust denying Bishop Williamson getting a promotion in the RC church strictly on “moral” theological stands, that and real estate and money. Let’s not forget Cardinal Law of Boston and his promotion to run the third oldest church/shrine in Christendom within Rome.

I see my own chiding of the ever “no appointments available” Bishop Martino of Scranton for his ignoring and not commenting on the horrendous child selling and trafficking of children to “for profit” juvenile prisons by Judges Ciavarella and Conahan within his own so-called moral jurisdiction.

You get this - I don’t give a damn about anything except my job and pleasing the idiots in charge holding onto medieval fantasy, rhetoric and rules. That, lifetime tenure and let’s not forget the gelt.

I see a Bishop of Rome who tells the poor in Africa to die not from their ignorance but from his own regarding the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

And while Rome burns, I see the same Bishop a year or two ago, a scholar of sorts, wanting approval from the ranks regarding his outstanding scholarship and then quotes medieval hatred as part of his scholarship and basically pisses on the entire Muslim world, past and present.

These guys in the RC hierarchy are not in touch with the same realities you and I are in touch with. Our reality, our secular reality doesn’t count to them. Children, victims of abuse, do not count. What is the whole point of your Roman Bling Church except to be a museum and charge tourists for a tour?

Luckily their hold on things, their (blindspot toward humanity) point of view loses valuable ground everyday toward the future of the human race as they remain clueless within our growing secular global interdependent interrelated existence.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lest We Forget - May 35th 1989

It is late in the day. I did not get onto this daily changing planetary, global jargon until now.

Apparently today's date that this is posted in, my time, is not allowed to be mentioned in a certain country - Charade clue - You have this in your dining room ----- closet.

Well anyway, Geroge Orwell would be impressed if he were still alive. Until today, I would thought that this new minus-speak in the people's republic of ----- would have been obsolete - but I am wrong.

Netizens, among others, have shut down sites in ----- for the day in fear of offending some moron bureaucrats. These sites I read are putting up an out of service for maintenance sign.

Negative talk or minus-speak is no doubt censorship but we all remember Liberty in Tiananmen Square in Peking twenty years ago today. Human beings against tanks represent ideas and ideas are stronger than armies or tanks.

Hungary in 1956, Checkoslovakia in 1968, ----- in 1989.

History writes the final chapter in many struggles for human freedom. So too here we wish for a better world and a better country for all everywhere.

"Reimagine" إعادة تخيل - Barry in Cairo

I am perhaps reluctant to put too much faith in any one politician’s promises or their ability to deliver on such promises. At this moment in time, Political time, Economic time, Religious time, Environmental time – Global Time – People Time - The United States and the nations of the planet are at a critical crossroads.

One of the most recent roads that inbred American politics has tried to lead us onto is a conflict with the secular and sacred Islamic world. In 2003, a new cold war with different people in shades of color and religious persuasions seemed to fit the old make a buck deal that supported lazy rich individuals and lazy corporations for half a century after WWII. That recent road is not set in stone or concrete yet. Luckily it, that road and its shoddy workmanship, has been in the hands of phony crony corporations like Halliburton and its former phony crony CEO.

There is always hope for a new architect or a new style of architecture to come into vogue. What I say here, I say with no hesitation, that in style and rhetoric, the Obama Administration is as refreshing as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie modernist architecture of over a century ago. I drove through Illinois once – Beautiful – what did God put in the soil and drinking water there to make it so fertile and rich both in land and imagination?

Perhaps a new light or a new way of looking at the world has been set into the energy of the planet today.

Many dreams, many hopes, many many hard roads and struggles are ahead. But perhaps a sign post or a modern day virtual Rosetta Stone has been planted in Cairo today with Obama’s historic speech reaching out to the Muslim world. A West holds out an open hand to the East kind of speech has been uttered. Blueprints for the future are being drawn as I write this. The future is an exciting place.

I was impressed with the simple eloquence of President Obama’s speech in Cairo today. Got up a little later than expected and caught the tail end of it on MSNB. Then I took the time to read its full text of Obama's Speech on the L.A. Times online site.

Much eloquence, much wisdom and much insight were shown in carefully choosing each word, phrase, sentence and concept.

I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out where the President, his advisors or speechwriters begin, converge or express individually or collectively the new Global viewpoint. And this, over and above their primary duty to the United States, as one of many nations on earth. We are truly interdependent and interrelated in 2009 and going forward.

Obama is certainly a student of history. While many seem to be fond of the Lincoln comparisons in his approach and style to exercising power, there is something else.

I believe I see a bit of Harry Truman, not in irascibility, but in knowing what he wants to do, knows where he is going and will try with all the limited time of his tenure to achieve set goals. I see someone who has worked hard outside of government. I see one who has touched people and know what the common man and woman are all about.

Having lived through many changes in both America and the Global sense of things for many decades, I realize that stating ones’ goals or mission statements openly will achieve more than if one randomly meets and solves crisis after crisis. One must anticipate, envision the results without necessarily knowing how to get to the results. Life sometimes resembles a game of sports. So too the human race must look at itself, struggle with both strengths and weaknesses and assemble on the clear playing field of the future.

What Barack stated in Notre Dames a few weeks ago and what he stated again today was the fact that youth must envision the future, set goals and go out into life to achieve those goals both for themselves and the general good of others.

The common good which is a secular goal, more than anything sacred, is in the hands of youth to “reimagine” and “remake” the world.


Reimagine. إعادة تخيل

Peace. سلام

Monday, June 1, 2009

In Memoriam - Dr. George Tiller - of Kansas

I never heard of Doctor George Tiller before yesterday. I heard on the news that he had been gunned down while in worship at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita Kansas.

Our prayers and condolences to his wife, family, friends, co-workers and fellow worshipers who had to witness "man’s inhumanity to man”.

I see that he was an usher in his local church. He is one of those people who greet you, welcome you into the house of God and escort you to a seat. He is one of many who indirectly usher you into the presence of the Divine in a worship service.

I know there is a culture war out there. Fundamentalism and ignorance are rampant. Doctor Tiller was a licensed skilled physician who performed a necessary service to the health of women. What he did was legal and out in the open.

The stalkers, the ignorant, the paranoid that feed on the vinegar and vitriol of Hate Radio and Hate News had plenty of opportunity to locate the doctor in his home, place of business or place of worship. Signposts encouraging hatred and violence are posted all over the Internet.

This is where the media in America is a one way situation. The media is virtual and not real or local. In the old days, a reporter or a local public citizen such as Doctor Tiller, could be greeted or jeered by his real life neighbors in a real town square and not in the pitiful virtual version of stuff that now exists in our nation.

Doctor Tiller no doubt had the courage to stand up for his rights to practice his profession and under the laws of the state of Kansas. Kansas by the way has a death penalty for first degree murder. Kansas has not exercised that option since 1976.

That he was murdered in his house of worship is outrageous! This is America! Not Afganistan!

His commitment to his profession and the needs of women were more important than his own personal safety. This is the sign of a great and remarkable man.

Many of us come down on either side of the morality concept attached to the abortion issue. None of us have the right under God to judge another regarding the use or practice of this medical procedure.
Matthew 7:1-5

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NKJV)
Without knowing the man the personally, I must consider his last act of serving others in his house of worship.

As such I pass on his Church’s mission statement from their website which I think appropriate to the loss of this man Doctor George Tiller:
Welcome to Reformation Lutheran Church! We are a community of believers who gather to worship, learn, and share fellowship so that we can serve others and live out our faith in daily life.

P.S. June 6, 2009 Doctor Tiller's Funeral

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Babylonian Myth, Paradigms and the Holy Land

There would seem to be a storyline theme starting in the old testament and running into the new testament. It starts with Abraham having a son Ishmael and then favoring his next son Isaac over the first born.

The OT established the concept of male primogeniture in the story of Jacob deceiving his blind elderly father into giving him the oldest son’s (Esau) blessing.

Next comes Joseph, a younger son of Jacob, being raised up in status in Egypt under Pharaoh. Then comes Moses who has an older brother Aaron. Then you have David as the youngest of eight sons followed by Solomon who survives his older male siblings.

Perhaps it is a coincidence. Perhaps it culturally makes a better storyline.

If one looks at it one has to wonder if God is reaching his hand into the natural order of things, Natural Law so to speak, and upsetting the traditional heritage factor of the oldest male son taking over the family properties or business and becoming undisputed head of the household’s extended family.

These youthful, successful and not first born male sons seems to dominate the OT in its early books and in the Bible Stories (OT) that I was taught in parochial school to supplement the Gospels and NT stories.

Come to think of it. Jesus had an older (?) brother called James. Is there something in the Judaic culture that has to be stated over and above traditional concepts? Is it good or is it necessary for a thin culture to survive by rewarding, recognizing the go-getters, the guys that organize the culture, win battles, write down laws, build temples – is it a necessity to give credit to the alpha males whether they are first born or not? One of many questions in my mind.

What gives these younger guys the advantage? They stick around the family campsite while the oldest toils in the fields, vineyards etc to carry on the family’s business and protect the food supply. These younger ones get the confidence and love of aged parents who hand over inheritance?

When I fast forward to Constantine and his Nicene Creed crowd who give the emperor what he wants, a state religion, I look at how the person and teachings of Jesus gets turned into the rigid laws and myths of Christ. I see major rewrites in the Jesus script in the beginning of the fourth century.

Getting back to the OT, and this seeming and or minor occurrence in biblical history. Being an amateur history observer, I have to consider that somewhere along the OT timeline there was a backtracking changing of history to incorporate this new storyline. You only have to just change a line or two in every written text, story, that existed or a line or two of oral tradition of every culture myth that no doubt did exist. And where does this timeline meet at a crossroads?

Perhaps when the Babylonian captives come back to Jerusalem after sixty to seventy years, they do not find what they thought was there. No doubt oral stories of the old country and Solomon’s magnificent temple and the golden age of the Culture survived in Babylon under the Babylonians and under the conquering Persians as well. You come back home and he get to see the ruins of Solomon’s magnificent temple and all you find is the remains of a burned down adobe hut on top of a hill. Historians write history and every culture wants, needs to glorify its past. This culture was perhaps no different than any other.

Then you have the problem of coming back under the protection of a Persian Army to put your people in charge of this land. You are the allies of the Persians. Your immediate neighbors are sheep and goat herders. They want to help you rebuild the temple. You refuse their help. They somehow are corrupt because they or some of them get conquered by the Assyrians and got carried off too. Your captivity, your intermingling of blood with the Babylonians and the Persians is somehow better than their mixed blood.

I read somewhere recently that there are still Samaritans in the Holy Land, about seventy of them, with their own version of Torah, not much different or so they say from the PC mainstream version. (BBC photo above of Samaritan Priest preparing Passover Lambs April 13, 2006)

So too in terms of real estate, they, the Samaritans had a better claim on land that they never left. You in your political self interest may want the theme of younger sons, and successful, blessed by God, Johnny come lately types being the national heroes. Claim to the land needs a great written history of having and rewarding the newer, younger, successful (been away for a long time) more streamline culture – then you begin to have a better claim to the land with or without improvements. God writes natural law then makes a lot of exceptions to that law in terms of PC history ?

That theme, this similar storyboard concept, apparently works well even until this day in terms of oral history, written records and PC archeology to lay claim to the same acreage in downtown Jerusalem and beyond.

Just the germ of an idea. I thought I would pass it along.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Simple but Pure - St. Mary's in Exile Brisbane

Some follow up notes on previous entries about ahead of the curve Catholic priest Peter Kennedy in Brisbane Father Peter Kennedy – Heretic or Saint? and Saint Marys in Exile Birsbane.

They kicked Father Peter Kennedy out of St. Mary’s in Brisbane on schedule last month. The Pope’s German inspired mandate of “Klein aber Fein” - "Small but Pure" as mentioned by fellow priest at St. Mary’s, Father Terry Fitzpatrick, seems appropriate here. This small but pure vision seems to be the condition and model for downsizing the RC church into oblivion. Every other business on the planet has a boutique unique atmosphere for some consumers. Why not Rome?

I rather think that Father Peter Kennedy and his small band of believers are the seeds of a New Universal Catholic Church, more concerned with social issues and community than storing up gold and weapons for General Constantine’s next military adventure. It’s a warring mindset thing in how you approach and use the message of Jesus. The rebirth of a truer Christianity is down the road perhaps - without any corporate headquarters in Rome.

Many details in the Transcript of Holier than Thou, an Australian TV documentary covering some of the aspects of this tossing a Catholic Priest and in actuality the Parish too out on it’s ass in Brisbane Australia. All this in the possible interest of making the faith “purer”. The transcipt is worth a read. A great many finer points about this situation are mentioned in the transcript than have been reported in the mainstream media (MSM). Here is a documentary, source of the transcript, from Australian Television:

Holier Than Thou

In the words of Father Kennedy from the transcript near the end of script:
The most important thing about the Christian gospel is to try to stand in solidarity with those who are excluded, now we've been excluded. Because as a community we've stood with the excluded and the homeless and the broken, we are now homeless and excluded and broken. Maybe we're on the right track, because this is exactly what happened to Jesus. It's the Jesus story. But it's happened to a community…

My spirituality has always been a rather contemplative spirituality because ultimately life is all mysterious. Like, why not just stay with the question and don’t try to even answer it. This amazing mystery of life - that you and I actually exist.
Also an interesting You Tube interview with Father Kennedy by noted Australian atheist Cameron Reilly prior to Father Peter’s last official mass at St. Mary’s - before the people of God took the Parish into exile – St. Mary’s in Exile Brisbane - simple but pure.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do Secular Miracles Happen?

There is the possiblity of miracles in the air when a smudge appears on a freshly finished exterior wall on Henry Poole’s modest Los Angeles house. Luke Wilson as Henry Poole has other things to worry or veg out about. He arrives in the neighborhood, buys a house and mops about drinking all day until the very unordinary characters of a very ordinary neighborhood cross his path.

Do miracles happen to non-believers in a secular world? Do secular miracles happen?

I saw this flick on cable showing a remarkable slice of a man’s life as he retreats into himself trying to reconcile his life and sort things out so to speak.

“Henry Poole is Here” is an every man’s story that did not do well at the box office. I am reminded of the Jimmy Stewart flick “It’s a Wonderful Life” that took decades to be rediscovered on video and take on the mantle of “classic”. Henry Poole is one such flick in my opinion. It is a classic waiting to be recognized as such.

Luke Wilson in any other movie age could be a Cary Grant with his talents and screen presence. Where have all those old great stars gone? They are walking around today with less aura and more bucks in their pocket.

Henry Poole is Here

Getting back to this movie which has a secular aspect to the way of looking at the complicated human emotions of hope, fear, faith. Albert Torres, without many other screen credits, wrote an absolutely excellent balanced view of the origin of miracles and man’s reaction to them – with overtones of the existential. Of course in our modern secular age, miracles don’t happen in cathedrals and in the presence of saints’ relics. Images of Elvis and Jesus are more than likely to happen on French Fries at Wendy’s and witness “miraculous” events.

Miracles happen all around us. Some of us can blame God for miracles. Miracles can be explained away as coincidence what ever that is.

Henry’s place in the scheme of things is minimalist. We can only guess as to his past. His beliefs about God and the universe remain largely locked within his head throughout the movie.

When a stain on a wall in his back yard appears and his religious Hispanic neighbor sees Jesus in the stain, all hell breaks loose in Henry’s Poole retreat from the world.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. It is a movie where believers, non-believers and people on the fence will not feel uncomfortable in watching this very California laid back paced light drama.

There is a quote from a once legally blind girl in the movie, who believes in faith and miracles, and who goes on with her ordinary life after what appears to be a profound miraculous moment in her life. She quotes Noam Chomsky which nearly went totally over my head. I do not take away from Noam or B.F. or Marshall. I do not know how much of academia’s Parnassic knowledge actually trickles down to earth among us mere mortals. Sometimes a quote from the top tier makes more sense than things written in the bible. The Noam quote went a little over my head in that I cannot repeat it word for word. I understood the gist of the saying. The basic gist of the quote is that science cannot explain everything and sometimes things just happen in the universe.

If you are in the mood for a rainy day afternoon movie with some subtle thought content, give this flick a try.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day - USA - 2009

It is Memorial Day on Monday in the United States. It is a day to remember the dead fallen in war and service to their country. It started after our most bloody war, the Civil War, which took the lives of 600,000 on both sides of that conflict.

There was a time when the day fell on May 30 but with the recent age of chronic luxury, it became the last Monday in May to accommodate a three day weekend situation.

The American Republic has three hardcore secular holidays. Fourth of July is the birthday celebration. Thanksgiving is the hearth, harvest and family holiday. Memorial Day is in remembrance of those who fought and died in our wars. These holidays cover the basics, Birth – Life – Death, across our calendar.

My memory drifts back to Memorial Day in 1969 when I was part of a marching high school band and we marched over trolley tracks and cobblestones in Northeast Philadelphia. It was quite a physical workout for myself carrying my fiberglass Sousaphone in my first parade as a marcher. I think I got a few blisters on my feet that day.

We marched and we stopped many times. At those stops, veterans in their veteran’s regalia gave brief speeches at Veterans’ Halls and at small neighborhood bronze plaques commemorating those who served God and Country and of course those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I heard Taps played on a trumpet many times. We played the national anthem many times. We played a then popular song “This is My Country” as we marched and marched and marched.

We did get fed well at several pit stops in brief breaks after local ceremonies.

The Vietnam War was being waged in the background of all this local patriotism. I do not remember any joyful beating of the drums for that war. In my recollection, that day had truly been dedicated to past conflicts. The unpopularity of the Vietnam War was evident by its absence in all the speeches I heard that day.

Two people things stick out in my mind of that Memorial Day of forty years ago.

One was that of an ancient man in coke bottle thick eyeglasses and wearing what looked like a Boy Scout’s uniform. Examining his badges and medals more closely revealed that this probably ninety plus year-old was a veteran of the Spanish American War in 1898 when America took the opportunity to liberate Cuba and the Philippines from Spain, their then colonial master. The old man was a sight.

The other people moment had to do with a former freshman year English teacher approaching me from the crowd and saying hello. I had heard that the Reverend Mister had left the teaching order at my Catholic high school. I did not know why. Next to him in the crowd, I had seen him with his hand around the waist of a young lady. The sight of the former seminarian out of uniform, no cassock and no starched collar, and the sexual connotation of his touching a woman were jolts of reality that pressed hard on my parochial mind. Well anyway, he came over to say hello and the band was off to the next stop on the itinerary

It is strange how memories have a way of coming back to remind you of something. Future life experience sometimes comes back to memories to connect all the dots in a bigger picture of things formed later in one’s life. One thing that I must say here is how subtle politics, patriotism and religion go hand in hand sometimes in this country.

On a local level, your band goes from a Catholic to a Protestant to a Jewish War Veterans’ post. Even though there is no official religion of the United States, religion most definitely exists side by side with everyday realities. To quote the late Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Thomas "Tip" O’Neill - “All politics is local.”

I don’t think the VFW posts are that segregated anymore by religion. We are talking above about Philly in another era.

Sometimes a feel good thought of the past, of beautiful weather, barbecues, local fellowship is a thought that should be left alone and not dissected.

This day we remember those who have fought and died under the Stars and Stripes – for good intentions or for naught - then and now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Missing the Point - The Ryan Report

The British press is covering the Ryan Report in more detail than the American MSM. It is closer to home geographically.

My apologies to Archbishop Nichols for taking away from his installation day yesterday at Westminster Cathedral, the seat of the RC church in Britain. I of course should note that, as a Protestant and a Cultural Christian, I just see red when I see someone in the clergy wearing gold. It feeds into my own personal prejudice and my own mythical 11th Catholic commandment that “Thou shalt honor thy local gold encrusted bishop” – gold is so, you know, un-Jesus to me.

The remarks of the Archbishop of England and Wales and sticking his nose in the next RC bailiwick of Ireland deserve some critique. Whether quoted in or out of context, his remarks show a remarkable lack of empathy with the victims and in favor of the victimizers. It’s not my fault that perversion and cruelty exists in the world. It would exist in any secular as well as religious institution. The factors though seem to become magnified when much of this sexual abuse has some direct correlation to the so-called discipline of celibacy.

Nichols' forced lukewarm remarks to prosecution according to degree of severity sounds like it came straight out of a USCCB Public Relations response manual.

This overflow of dysfunctionality of the RC church over the sex issue has stems and roots going everywhere. Indeed, a once great and pervasive institution like the RC church and its faults flow over into the secular side of the town square. The other distasteful part of the sexual dysfunction has to do with trying to impose Catholic Sharia Law on the United States in regards to birth control in general and abortion in particular. (Notice I said once great.)

Back to the Ryan Report and the British press. Some comments in the same and different Brit papers about some lady who wrote an article about how she did not know any pedophile priests and therefore did not feel qualified to talk or write on the subject related to the Ryan Report. Hack journalism. Fill the space – type, type, type.

One journalist below makes reference to that strange apologist for the situation past and present in the RC church. Laura Canning also makes some sound closing remarks about what most of us, Catholic or not, feel in general about this cancer on Christianity.

Missing the point on paedophile priests

“Blame the individuals, not the religion" and "there are paedophiles in all walks of life" are two common apologist statements on sexual abuse within the Catholic church, both of which miss the point as spectacularly as Mary Kenny. It was not just the abuse, but the denials, cover-ups, removal of known paedophiles to other parishes where they could rape more children that is a major part of the problem. The Christian Brothers delayed the investigation that became the Ryan report for over a year, arguing successfully that all members referred to in the report had a right to anonymity, even when these members had been convicted in court of abuse.

The other main apologist statement is the assertion that "things are not like that any more", that allegations of sexual abuse or paedophile priests are taken seriously by the church and that all those working with children are now vetted. Like the previous two, this statement does not hold water. It was "like that" for decades, with thousands of children damaged for life.

What is so difficult for the church and its apologists to admit that this was a terrible scandal and to try and put things right? Surely anyone within the church today would be horrified at these cases and take every step they could to ensure that the institution's reputation is not damaged further, even if only for reasons of pragmatism? But no. The pope is always right, priests can do no wrong, and raped and abused children do not matter.
Perhaps The Ryan Report, a secular report, is the laxative the RC church needs to wake up, smell the roses – get out of the seeming back street sex shop and brothel business – and get back to the message and teachings of Jesus to be spread to the whole world and to all time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Drunk on the Blood of Saints and children too

'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care, inquiry finds.

The Ryan Report, out of Ireland, details decades of neglect and abuse of children by Catholic clergy and religious in Catholic institutions such as orphanages, workhouses or reformatories – whatever you want to call them. The bottom line is that the Irish Government dumped children in these places and trusted the Church to run these institutions as a substitute for a secular run system. This is what you get in a one religion state where Catholic Sharia Law and morals match what is on the books in the civil government. Why bother to waste taxpayer money on the children of the poor?

The Irish Government gave into demands for an inquiry and the then Prime Minister ordered this inquiry that has taken nine years to assemble. There are no names of the victims or of the alleged victimizers. No doubt Ireland recognized its culpability, co-conspiracy, in these many acts and crimes against humanity when it put a money cap limit of something like $175 million on the Church’s financial liability. The rest of the bill – the bailout so to speak – has now been dumped on the Irish taxpayer and the bill will likely be in the one to one and one half billion dollar range. No doubt in better economic times that sounded reasonable but the burden in reparations to victims is long overdue.

The standard cookie-cutter numbnut R.C. Archbishop of England and Wales Vincent Nichols (photo above), soon to be installed at Westminster, had words of praise for the courage of these disgraced religious orders to look upon their sins and brave on in their current duties.

Catholic Archbishop Explains Remarks on ‘Courage’ of Abusers

…It’s very distressing and very disturbing. And my heart goes out today, first of all to those people who will find that their stories are now told in public…. Secondly, I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past, which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage. And also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did…

It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses. That is certainly true of anyone who’s deceived themselves that all they’ve been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children….
“Taking a bit of comfort from the children…”(?)- sounds like a John Cleese line from Monty Python. And like a standard line from that comedy let me repeat the punch line “taking a bit of comfort from the children”(?) … “please sir, I want some more”… Dickens is not dead in Ireland at least or in living memory of these horrific crimes against the innocence of children.

Archbishop Nichols – can we all take a little comfort from you – PLEASE ?!

Words of comfort too from the Catholic Blogosphere and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League:
Hysteria over Irish Clergy Abuse
"Reuters is reporting that “Irish Priests Beat, Raped Children,” yet the report does not justify this wild and irresponsible claim. Four types of abuse are noted: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional.

"Physical abuse includes “being kicked”; neglect includes “inadequate heating”; and emotional abuse includes “lack of attachment and affection.” Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: fully 82 percent of the incidents took place before 1970…
There is nothing quite as therapeutic like some tough love for the little bastards to let them know their place in the scheme of things. Right Bill?

For a balanced more calm and more honest evaluation and perspective of this I recommend the ten minute video contained within below of an interview with Colm O’Gorman on British TV:
Response to Irish Abuse Report
According to one of the thousands of victims of abuse during this period, Colm O’Gorman, who was raped by a priest as a teenager, the abuses detailed in the 2,600-page report are “horribly, horribly shocking.”

Mr. O’Gorman, who now runs the Irish branch of Amnesty International, has recently written a memoir, “Beyond Belief.” On Wednesday he discussed the report and his own experience of abuse, during this interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 News in London.
And if you think that the U.S. has cleaned up its priest abuse portfolio – don’t hold your breath – the reporter’s notes (a bit dated but still valid) and comments by Judge Anne Burke, who headed up a Catholic Bishops’ review of clergy abuse, is reflective of the on going cover up and Public Relations front of the American Church Hierarchy:
Judge Burke Tells All ( or at least some )
As an example of how the bishops twisted the truth to evade accountability, she recalls the story of an unnamed bishop who allegedly told her he'd cleaned out the stables in his diocese, but who later made front-page news by having a convicted sex-abuse priest living with him in his rectory. When Burke accused the bishop of lying to her, he said he didn't lie, because the priest had not been convicted. Burke reminded the bishop that the priest in question had pled guilty to the crime. The bishop insisted, bizarrely, to the judge that that isn't the same thing as being convicted.

She calls on the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) to be disbanded. “All it is is a trade association. And not a very good one at that.”

Burke and her NRB colleague Bob Bennett discreetly flew to Rome to meet with then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now, of course, Pope Benedict), to make sure he understood what the situation was in the American church.
I believe Ratzinger, I mean Joe the Pope, still has that report on his desk.

I do not mean to criticize here but I recognize that over half the Christian faith under control of the Hierarchy in Rome and its trickle down morality sound bites is still and has been since the Reformation – “Drunk on the blood of the Saints” and on the blood of children as well.

The sanctity of life not only begins at conception but should continue after it comes out of the womb. Comes out of the womb into a very cruel world where children worldwide and in the United States as well are nothing more than a commodity to be exploited if the society as a whole does not have a conceptualization of a holistic – total life – vision of the sanctity of life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cousin Darwinius Welcome

Hello distant cousin. Distant, distant, distant cousin of creation.

Darwinius masillae was found in the year 124 A.D. (after Darwin – or more accurately after On the Origin of Species was published in the old style date 1859 C.E.)

Now that the levees are breached so to speak, now that the neo-con blinders from the Bush Cheney regime are no longer in effect in the New America, it is interesting to be allowed to see a new global world dawning in the fanfare of the finding of a new so-called missing link specimen. Anyway it is more interesting than seeing Jesus sitting on a dinosaur.

Missing link found?

I had mentioned in my article Cultural Christian Sensibility about how the world would one day see everything and or date things in a secular light as in before or after Darwin. I redefine this general idea in that Darwin was not divine, his ideas were close to being that in terms of how the world scientific and secular cultures have evolved since the publication of the idea – day zero in our brave new secular world.

There is nothing to stop you from reading your bible in America. It is however no longer the only book on the shelf in the library. So much of what I would call ignorance in the American history has to do with gaps. As an example, it was a lack of books in upstate New York in pre civil war America that gave rise to writing your own book down and of prophecy no less of new religions and beliefs – a form of deconstruction and reconstruction of Christianity as found in the Book of Mormon.

On the Origin of the Species is a deconstruction and reconstruction of accumulated human knowledge and the use of that knowledge in some way to trace the face of God and feel the thread of creation through all things – living and dead. The theory of evolution is not evil. Man, the creation of God, is not intrinsically evil. A work of man, a book about the concept of evolution, is only as good or as evil as what man does with it.

I was amused to find out that Darwin was born on the very same day as our secular saint Abraham Lincoln. I am also amazed that On the Origin of the Species was published on the eve of the American Civil War when an obsolete economic idea like slavery was such a current consuming important thing in this part of the globe and far away from Victorian and Albertian London. It takes time for all good or reasonable ideas to take hold and change the world.

Many things, many efforts, many ideas and institutions have taken hold in the sixty odd years since World War Two – the United Nations, the International Court of Justice etc. – the foundation stones of the future are moving into place. We are capable of great and wonderous things and, the collective we, the secular and or Christian we, are also still capable of total destruction.

Getting back on track. The reason I mentioned our friend Darwinius Masaillae is because it was imprinted, artistically embedded into the Google Logo today. How many hits does the secular Darwinius get today? A billion? Well we are talking about American Google. I do not know the limitations of Google in other political or religious geographical settings where they will not see Darwinius – today – but he, she, it – our presumed ancestor is now part of the Global Commonality of Thought, the virtual planetary library of human knowledge.

Big words. Big thoughts. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Future

Just as a minor commencement fuss at Notre Dame was about to take place, a new poll was coming out stating that the majority 51% of Americans now considered themselves “pro-life”.

51% identify as 'pro-life' in U.S.
For the first time since it began asking the question in 1995, Gallup reported Friday, a majority of adults questioned for its annual survey on values and beliefs -- 51% -- said that when it comes to abortion, they consider themselves "pro-life"; 42% consider themselves "pro-choice." (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

This represents a significant shift, Gallup noted. As recently as last year, 50% of respondents called themselves "pro-choice" and 44% identified themselves as "pro-life."

Why such a shift by as much as eight percentage points in such a short period of time? Does the terminology still mean what it used to?

Did the chorus of “me too” bishops protest against Obama at Notre Dame take hold?

Is it the wording of the question in the poll that effects the answer?

What is happening out there in America for such a sudden and large shift of opinion?

There are a couple things working here in terms of what might be happening. Abortion is the extreme end of birth control. Technology, chemistry and pharmaceuticals have taken great leaps while the cultural wars festered. When I read Plan B, an OTC next day birth control pill had just been put in the hands of children (?) - seventeen year olds – so many things have changed while labels of pro-life or pro-choice have stagnated in the language and mindset of the 1970s.

The world moves on.

As I mentioned in a previous article about how gay marriage was sweeping New England, something in terms of tastes, beliefs and demographics was happening outside my door in the New America and I was not aware of anything until it popped up on headlines.

So too, this change in people’s attitudes towards pro-life might be a change in age, tastes, beliefs, marketing analysis. Perhaps after eight years of people being afraid to possibly express themselves, they now feel freer to express themselves in terms of personal beliefs and feelings.

I look at the recent Newsweek Article – The End of Christian America - whereby Christian Identity has slipped ten percent in twenty years from 86 to 76 percent. The other significant tag on that study was the Unaffiliated label growing from 8 to 15 percent.

If people are not afraid to shed old labels and are willing to shoulder other labels, then things are indeed changing in America and probably faster than anybody notices or realizes the new dimensions in our society.

Please remember that the old nineteenth century moat around America world vision that the neo-cons wanted to and did impose for eight years has evaporated away. The global mindset is here and everywhere elsewhere on this planet.

I am not afraid of the pro-life label so long as pro-choice still exists or be a legal option. Who in any real sense can be against life?

The world moves on. Little wonder the President can be welcomed in a tolerant setting at Notre Dame and spoke so eloquently not in archaic semantics but in terms of the future …
…Your generation must decide how to save God's creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it. Your generation must seek peace at a time when there are those who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity _ diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.

In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family…

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pluscarden Abbey - Scotland

Ran into this while I was looking for something else!

It is a recycled church building that got caught up in the Reformation in Scotland. It had no roof probably for about three hundred years. A new roof was put on it in the late 1940's. The modern stained glass is something else.

The church is also home and a the center of worship for monks. The complex that is restored and rebuilt is only I would say twenty percent of the orignal monastery complex.

Pluscarden Abbey

It is located near Elgin in Scotland. Looks like a delightful place to visit for prayer and meditation.

Of Angels Demons and Private Drinking Clubs

I liked the movie The DaVinci Code because it presented a fresh face on history. People these days do not seem to know what history is or was. Certainly in our cookie cutter institutions of education K-16, tests are all that seem important and not a holistic approach to education and knowledge.

Dan Brown in his book The DaVinci Code managed to put everything unrelated in western history for the past millennium including the contents of his dog’s pooper scooper bag into a connect the dots mirage of bullshit called history.

This secular trashing of the RC Church as some sort of megalithic source of all conspiracy and injustice for the past thousand years was far from being totally accurate. Albeit the Church of Rome has had a finger or two in the pie of European corruption and injustice over many a century but give me a break, give Rome a break too.

The crux of the conspiracy in the DaVinci Code centered around whether the sex life of Jesus via Mary Magdalene was real or imagined. This we will never know short of eternity. Proof does not exist. Speculation is not history.

What the DaVinci code did both as a poorly written book and an interesting suspense movie was to create a rebirth of the knowledge of the past with examples like the Crusades, the Knights Templar and the Cathars.

While it is easier to make stuff up like Dan Brown the further you go back in history with less documentation and documentable oral history, this carrot stew of Dan Brown and Ron Howard, Angels and Demons, now in the theatres takes the cake.

I have not seen the movie or read the book. The movie might prove interesting in terms of a suspense drama, music and City of Rome landscape dotted with many Renaissance and Roman buildings still standing.

What has turned me off to the whole matter is this talk about some obscure secret organization called the Illuminati who have waited centuries for revenge on the Vatican and perhaps the institution of Christ’s Church, Roman style.

Whoever or whatever the Illuminati once was, it probably was one of hundreds of secret brotherhoods that sprang up in the seventeenth century and as a reaction to political and religious warfare that resulted from the Protestant Reformation and the Church of Rome’s refusal to communicate or negotiate or recognize and change corrupt church practices.

It’s the middle of the seventeenth century, the powers that be agreed by treaty, Peace of Westphalia 1648, to recognize state sovereignty over religion and for overlapping countries with overlapping religions to grant limited religious freedom. It was the start of modern day Europe after almost continuous warfare for one hundred and thirty years.

In places like Germany, which was a hodge podge of countries and state religions, it was no doubt very awkward for intelligent people such as students in University towns to openly express political and or scientific points of view. It was in this atmosphere that brotherhoods, fraternities and secret intellectual organizations sprang up. In a tavern with like minded people you could discuss politics and science and not be subject to too much scrutiny.

The basis of these private drinking clubs at Universities and in the larger cities of Europe was a fertile ground where the Masons were founded in London in 1717. This coming together of Englishmen was in fear of the new German born king on the throne. They decided to band together in more or less secret alliance to discuss religion, science and politics.

Rosicrucians of that period were another secret order of the day and it began in a university atmosphere where the cutting edge scientific breakthroughs of Mining, Chemistry, Hydraulics, Engineering and Mathematics could be discussed without fear of Inquisition or local church leaders telling you that you can’t discuss this or that etc.

The religion of Swedenborgism is a Christian based belief system that looked at the bible in terms of a fresh mind and in light of all these recent scientific breakthroughs that would have been considered Alchemy less than a century before.

Getting back to the Masons, who are maligned as part of some global conspiracy thing, it started in London just as a young Ben Franklin was wandering around penniless and working as a printer – a backpacker stuck in Europe. He no doubt got a hold of freshly printed Masonic rituals or knew people in the organization. Little wonder he was a charter member of the First American Mason’s lodge in Pennsylvania in 1732. This private drinking club organization spread to the other twelve countries, I mean colonies, along the east coast of North America. These days such things are called social and or business networking.

So when Dan Brown’s pooper scooper bag is empty and they start talking about Illuminati, Anti-Matter and the Vatican in the same breath, it is just not a believable mixture of stuff for me.

I just saw a promo on cable promoting this new exciting movie Angels and Demons. You’ve got Ron Howard using the word “zeitgeist” and Tom Hanks using “gestalt”-
which is totally over my head. When I hear words like that I think of a Woody Allen movie and I think “Boring!”

I’ll wait to watch it on HBO in three months, same place where I waited to watch the DaVinci Code. Enough said.

Dies Irae - Day of Wrath - Notre Dame

Dies Irae - Day of Wrath – Day of Judgment

At Notre Dame, belief in the sanctity of life, a Sacred, a genuine heartfelt belief by many, would seem by the very nature of the modern age to has been corrupted, co-mingled, marshaled to champion politics, the Profane.

More so than the death of innocents through abortion is the death of Civility in the American Town Square, once real and now virtual. It would seem that there is a culture of death of sorts on both sides of this matter.

Dies Irae as a hymn is part of the ancient pre-Vatican II Mass for the dead.

On these matters that I would prefer not to touch with a ten foot pole, I turn to art, music, poetry...

I choose this very modern poetic translation of Dies Irae from the very dead language of Latin.
The day of wrath, that day
which will reduce the world to ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sybil.

What terror there will be,
when the Lord will come
to judge all rigorously!

The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
among the graves of all the lands,
will assemble all before the Throne.

Death and Nature will be astounded
when they see a creature rise again
to answer to the Judge.

The book will be brought forth
in which all deeds are noted,
for which humanity will answer.

When the judge will be seated,
all that is hidden will appear,
and nothing will go unpunished.

Alas, what will I then say?
To what advocate shall I appeal,
when even the just tremble?

O king of redoutable majesty,
who freely saves the elect,
save me, o fount of piety!

Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the cause of your journey,
do not lose me on that day.

You wearied yourself in finding me.
You have redeemed me through the cross.
Let not such great efforts be in vain.

O judge of vengeance, justly
make a gift of your forgiveness
before the day of reckoning.

I lament like a guilty one.
My faults cause me to blush,
I beg you, spare me.

You who have absolved Mary,
and have heard the thief's prayer,
have also given me hope.

My prayers are not worthy,
but you, o Good One, please grant freely
that I do not burn in the eternal fire.

Give me a place among the sheep,
separate me from the goats
by placing me at your right.

Having destroyed the accursed,
condemned them to the fierce flames,
Count me among the blessed.

I prostrate myself, supplicating,
my heart in ashes, repentant;
take good care of my last moment!

That tearful day,
when from the ashes shall rise again
sinful man to be judged.

Therefore pardon him, o God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
give them rest.

( )

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Catholic Sharia Hissy Fit Over BHO at NDU

I like the secular laws of the United States. This witch hunt on the Catholic Blogosphere to trash President Obama and to punish the Administration of Notre Dame University sends shivers of fear up my spine. This Blogosphere Catholic Sharia hissy fit is sponsored directly by the Bishops of Rome close to seventy of them in the U.S. and indirectly by the cadaver Neo-Con wing of the GOP.

More than being a hissy fit, it is a blatant attempt to impose injustice and strange medieval laws back onto the books of America, pre-U.S. Constitution, a la Salem Massachusetts 1692 and good for hanging your neighbors, the people you do not like or agree with, as witches - in the name of GOD!. No Freaking Way! This is 2009, not 1509.

A perfect Teabag Party for Christ!

And interesting article by Robert Schrum:

Sharia politics at Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s decision to confer an honorary degree on President Obama has engendered resistance from a counter-reformation blessed by prominent members of the Catholic hierarchy. The fight against Obama is being advanced by a band of neo-Catholics who adhere to the radical notion that sectarian doctrine must be written into public policy. The former Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, whose excoriation of John Kerry in 2004 was rewarded with a high Vatican post, has denounced the invitation to Obama as a “scandal.”

if Obama disagrees with Catholic doctrine, he must be condemned and silenced—even if he’s not a member of the church. This assertion of an almost limitless role for the church in public life comes perilously close to reviving a 19th-century pope’s position that “Americanism,” which values individualism and separation of church and state, is heresy

As someone who was raised a Catholic and is the product of 16 years of Catholic education, including Georgetown University, I am appalled to witness the rise of a neo-Catholicism at odds with American democracy and diversity. In particular, the Catholic hierarchy’s moral condemnation of gay Americans who seek the right of marriage comes with ill grace from the same people who for decades abetted and covered up for morally heinous predator priests…

I think Obama will be largely welcomed at Notre Dame. And I suspect that he will be reelected in 2012 with strong Catholic support. As Catholics themselves reject the hierarchy’s partisan directives, this Church—and any other—would be wise to avoid attempting to impose a version of sharia politics in the U.S.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"I am a secular Christian"

From Cathy Lynn Grossman’s religious discussion blog on USA Today is an article suggesting that the word “secular” is being tossed back and forth in the culture wars to see if is can be used as a safe or as a hot code word.

So much about religion and marketing and consumer polls is about what is the right word to sell or critique a product in this modern age. Religion has become a commodity like everything else on the planet including it’s inhabitants.

Titans like Dick, Newt and Rush devour their young for the ultimate civic pontiff title of it all – God, Country, Power – (hell’s last acre) at present. The rest of us have to settle into a bumpy ride of semantics to help us label what is good or how to communicate in this age of fusion.

It is this present and ongoing fusion of ideas, myths, religions, political structures, economics and the very breath of life itself that is coming together to formulate the ideas and communication touch stones of the future – in a hopefully more civil human Global Town Square.

From the USA Today blog:

The U.S. Constitution is 'secular:' Fighting words?
The word "secular" in European, Muslim and Israeli cultures and, of course, in the USA, has become a verbal grenade.
It is often used -- or rather misused -- interchangeably with "atheist," according to the "Jewish Word" column in the latest issue of Moment, a magazine of contemporary Jewish thought, in which various experts sort through the linguistic thicket.

From the “Jewish Word” Column:

Flash Point in the Culture Wars
“People since the 19th century have said ‘I am a secular Jew’ to mean ‘I am a Jew, but I am not a religiously observant Jew,’” says Susan Jacoby, author of the 2008 The Age of American Unreason who runs The Secularist’s Corner on The Washington Post website. In contrast, “you never hear someone say ‘I am a secular Christian.’”
And of course I had to go out on the Internet to see if anybody actually calls themself a Secular Christian. Voilà.

Statement of Faith by Robert Traer Ph.D
The love of family and friends continues to convince me that love is life's greatest gift. I am grateful for all those who have shared with me this wonderful gift, and I bear witness that these loving persons include Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, agnostics, and atheists, as well as Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

I also give thanks for the Source of all that is. I believe all that we know and are, including our consciousness, our freedom and morality, come from the way the cosmos is evolving. I look to science, literature, history, and religious experience for insight into this wondrous unfolding.

I am a secular Christian. I am secular because I believe all human knowledge is limited and must be tested by experience and reasoning. This includes religious wisdom as well as scientific theories. I support secular government rather than religious government, because history reveals that secular governments are more likely to protect our freedom to pursue the truth through open debate and the rule of law.

I am a Christian because my highest aspirations have been inspired by biblical stories and teachings. I "live and move and have my being" (Acts 17:28) within the witness of scripture.

My faith, however, is not defined by a belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God risen from the dead. I see this as mythological language, which resists (as we should) the claim that Caesar (or any ruler) is god and savior of the world. I find in the symbol of resurrection an affirmation that injustice does not have the final word in history.

The heart of the Christian witness, for me, is the hope that we may know and manifest the love that does not die when we do.

The New Testament stories of Jesus and his followers call me to be more forgiving and to struggle with others for justice and reconciliation. Humbly, I embrace the hope that: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them." (1 John 4:16)

I have found that this wondrous hope is affirmed in many traditions of faith, and is manifested wherever women and men love and forgive one another.

November 2007

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saint Quelle Pray For Us

Saint Quelle, who was he? He was from Somewhere. Presumably he lived in the end part of the first century into the early years of the second century. Where did he live? Somewhere is in present day Turkey.

After doing a lot of amateur sleuthing about the last century of academic dissection of the four Gospels, one sees a lot of impressive deconstruction and primarily from the Jesus Seminar. I say deconstruction because it is easy to pull something apart but what is left of the whole of the Christian Myth.

A name that gets tossed around a lot is the retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Sprong. He is quite eloquent and I do not take away from any of his or his fellow Jesus Seminar types but – but – they all salaried, vested and pensioned academics and use only documentation to talk their talk and walk their walk.

Besides, deconstruction of the Christian Myth leaves a great big hole, a void, a chasm that has not yet been filled in. When it is filled in, it will be paper mache and made only from the original few documents in Christianity that are there.

This academic dissection got started over a century ago with an analysis that stated of the first three similar synoptic gospels – Matthew and Luke did not copy everything from Mark. Some other document, a “quelle” (“source” in German) document must have once existed to be a source for the slight differences in quotes between the original Mark and the two follow up gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Rather than be a document, I have sometimes wondered if “Q” was not the same oral source. This does not much differ from oral history being written down and then used at a later time. But think of it. Let’s put a human being there in the seventh and eighth decade of the first century and still being a possible oral source – an original eyewitness. Interesting concept. I call him Saint Quelle. He was real. Just like Christianity itself.

What about the documents that are not there? Too many documents seemed to have disappeared in the early centuries of the Church or maybe they never existed to begin with – “Q” document included.

I am not saying that Jesus is not real. His message is clear to me. It is a simple message and stated amid the embellishments added to the New Testament over the decades and centuries after his ministry. While the academicians may have done a lovely job on the Gospels, they have yet to scrutinize the rest of the New Testament and namely Saint Paul.

I believe that there is a Paul Seminar going on at present. And it is brought to you by the same people who deconstructed Jesus in the Jesus Seminar - claiming by one estimate that only 18% of the sayings in the Gospels were actually uttered by Jesus.

I hope that the scholars they use this time are not merely Christian scholars who have studied Hebrew and Judaism. How many Rabbis have been invited to dissect Paul, the original yeshiva overachiever?

Having stated earlier that I thought that the Acts of the Apostles was an honest work, I look at it of late and see some basic flaws. I do not see specific flaws. The main thing I see is an all too convenient nature of the Acts as a bridge document to feed into and explain the players.

In Acts, Peter runs a Jim Jones type commune. Anybody who does not sell all their property because the world is going to end next week – and give all your money to the commune – well they get blown away like Ananias and Sapphira who cheated God and hedged their bet about the end of the world and the eternity things. Does this all happen in mere days or months after Jesus leaves town following his resurrection?

And, with Peter, is a major shadow player in the form of James, the “brother of Jesus”. Peter is or is not the second banana here depending on who tells you the story or who is in charge of the lecture.

Then you have Paul, the guy that always seems to be a dollar short and a day late in missing all the good stuff that just happened right under his very nose – lived in Jerusalem and never heard of Jesus etc. There is I think a problem with timelines here. Paul is an Apostle with an asterisk footnote.

Paul hears Jesus on the road to Damascus after Jesus is dead, resurrected and ascended into heaven until the second coming. Jesus makes one exception to his timeline to grab Paul’s attention when Paul and his posse got stopped short by a blinding light and Paul does a 180 degree turn and then embraces Christianity instead of trying to destroy it.

Then Paul and Peter and James kiss and make up and agree that circumcision is okay for gentile believers of Jesus as the Messiah – but only outside Jerusalem, James and Peter’s turf. Whatever.

The rest of Acts has Paul being beaten and arrested and surviving one shipwreck after another. You can almost hear the 007 electric guitar music playing as he rides out the super hero role into a question mark. Acts does not really say what happens to either Peter or Paul. You are supposed to guess your happy ending to that spec script.

Acts in real terms to me is like a bridge document or a Star Wars 1, 2, 3 to make sense of the original starting films 4,5,6 which got produced first like the Epistles or the Gospels. Acts if it is a bridge document, it was written to pull all the rest of accepted scripture into a makes sense timeline.

Just waiting for the shoe to drop from the Paul Seminar is so nerve racking. What will the academics accept and who or what in the script will get black balled?

Looking ahead with my own deconstruction and reconstruction, I see a few things that will cushion me against the Paul Seminar throwing the baby out with the bath water again.

A sort of partial deconstruction and reconstruction happened in the Reformation. The protestants threw out the Pagan Roman traditions of the RC church. The Prots based Christianity on the written word. That was a primitive reconstruction of sorts. It perhaps sets the stage for the future of Christianity after another future wave of literal deconstruction and reconstruction of scripture.

And then there is always the possibility that a set of Christian style bunch of Dead Sea Scrolls or Nag Hammadi type documents will get discovered in the future.

As such I am following my own previous stated positions. I break the whole Jesus Christ myth into historic timeline myths labeled The Jesus Myth and The Christ Myth. Do not be afraid of the word myth. I use it in place of the word story as in traditional and or legendary story.

The first is The Jesus Myth which is the basic Jesus product that grew up out of oral and written things – a model T Ford automobile - that includes the gospels if in fact they were finalized before the second stage or The Christ Myth.

The Christ Myth is the merger into Greek and Latin and with heavy weight pagan beliefs and the basic son of Zeus thing – a 1959 Cadillac with fins.

Any way you slice Christianity, it as a core of words or beliefs, has a lot going for it and namely its ability to morph from millennium to millennium and suit new secular needs. Right now the faith is a little bit in the doldrums and waiting for the winds of some more change to take it to the future – on wings as of an eagle.

Saint Quelle pray for us – and especially the Paul Seminar!