25 May 2015

running?


This is a quote from Governor Bush, who is (not) running for president.
“So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling because they are going to decide whatever they decide – I don’t know what they are going to do – we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage,” said Bush, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago.
Newsweek Online at: http://www.newsweek.com/jeb-bush-says-he-opposes-gay-marriage-333096, May 19.2015

In the odd game we call, with more humor than analysis, "The American Electoral System," announcing that one is thinking about running, or actually running has become a matter of tactics. There are fund-raising, contributor identification, and spending limit laws that apply differently depending on how status is defined.

So, for instance, Mr. Bush is nominally not running, but thinking about it a bit. That means he or friendly PAC's are able to solicit, receive and spend money with virtually no limits. He can make speaches, but has to be carefull not to say he is a candidate. When he starts officially thinking about running, that is when he forms an, "exploratory committee," some rules begin to apply. When he declares he is running, which we all know he will, more stringent rules limit funding.

Mr. Bush's problem is that the Republicans are internally divided between "neo-cons;" religious and tea-party (self-styled) conservatives; and what the media call, mainstream or business conservatives. The money is in the first and third groups, but the votes, especially in primaries are religious conservatives. So, making himself at least marginally acceptable to the so-callled, "Christian Right" is imperative. One cannot spend all that lovely Koch money if someone else is nominated.

Mr.Bush's problem is complicated by his Roman Catholic faith. The "Christian Right" (which is neither) does not like Catholics. There are any number of historical reasons for this, but they can be simplified by observing that the majority of the so-called Christian Right is located in the States that once formed the Confederacy.

It is generally true that one can get the most attention by being against someone. The problem for Mr. Bush and the other would-be Republican nominees is it is increasingly hard to find someone to be against. They are all against liberals, but that is the problem. There is nothing to distinguish them from one another. Being against women has worked rather poorly of late, and no one wants to admit being against blacks or Jews.

If there were no gays or lesbians in America, the Republicans would have to import them. They at least, among the religious loony-toon voters, are a group they think it OK to be against. Or if not against, at least they can claim those people are persecuting them, never mind how.

So, Mr. Bush announces the Constitution does not protect lesbian or gay marriages. We shall see what the Court says about that soon. I suspect Mr. Bush may be unhappy, noisily, when the Court rules. In fact, I think he is looking forward to being disappointed. Until the general election, being a homophobe plays well the electorate he cares about.

The quote is interesting because it is so careful. This is a man who thinks he will be the nominee. He does not say ignore the courts. He does not say break the laws. After all, if the Court finds a Constitutional protection for Lesbian and gay marriages, those who do not agree will still have a right to disagree.

For a man not running, he is speaking like a candidate. My mind, indeed my entire being shudders.

04 May 2015

Police, and Politics


When I was young, long and long ago, police were in the business of enforcing laws. If, I was taught, one behaved one's self, obeyed the laws, and participated in the process of creating laws, we had nothing to fear. I now know, albeit I did not in the late 40's and early 50's, that black children did not hear that. They were told, especially in the South, but all across America, that police represent an enforcement arm of a white political power structure. In some sense, both views were and remain true.

What has changed is the level of irrational fear expressed in the way we instruct and arm police: the content of the power structure's instructions. None of the changes look all that good of a morning.

From Florida to Missouri, to Maryland, the last two years have shown us that for a great many people, black lives do not matter. In New York and Missouri, dead black men do not even generate court cases, even in the face of damning video evidence. In New York, killers, if they are cops, are defended by other cops. In Baltimore, the union has been franticly trying to keep possible killers out of court. We have some real, major issues.

Yes I am aware that Mr. Obama is black. I also knew that in the midst of Jim Crow laws, de jure segregation, and a white population capable of calling someone, "a credit to their race," America found it possible to celebrate Ralph Metcalfe and Jessie Owens' achievements at the 1932 Olympics. We seem quite capable of having the singular black American success. while maintaining the oppression of the community.

We need several things.

We need to ask ourselves how in the world we reached a point where the weapons systems in places like Ferguson have become not the necessary tools of law enforcement, but rather the military weapons of combat and repression. Legitimate police functions do not require combat vehicles armed with .50cal machine guns. The program under which the Pentagon sells off combat equipment to police departments should be the first casualty of reform.

We need to finally begin to reverse the incredibly draconian drug laws that make such very small violations a big deal. The single most odious of these may be the law that treats Crack as somehow different. At the time that provision slithered into the US Criminal Code, and today, the simple fact that Whites generally do not use Crack, while it is the Cocaine form of choice in Black communities was either ignored, or by some racists, celebrated. It is time to fix this.

My view is that if you have a war, you need to keep track of who is winning. In the war on drugs, there are winners: prison construction and staffing companies, and their employe's unions, are winners. Makers of certain weapons are winners, either because police want them, fearful citizens want them, or because they have., "street cred." Foreign cartels in Central and Southern America have been short-term beneficiaries. I think this comes under the heading of, special interest constituencies. The losers, the one-third of black men who experience prison growing up, the communities whose farm economies are devastated by the cultivation of drugs. Mexico in particular, is a loser. Americans do not note the reverse smuggling of weapons into Mexico and the violence that results. Mexican police find it hard to take seriously the idea that American cops are at risk. Which lead to other losers, as our police are indeed at risk.

WE know it does not have to be this way. We can move from penal to treatment responses to drugs. We have examples in Switzerland, England, and Belguim. We know this idiot war is not necessary.

We need to stop blaming Black families for the social ills repression and poverty visit on Black families. When dad was a young boy, during the Great Depression, his dad left the family. We have never to this day, heard from him or of his fate. The depression put huge economic strains on families, and some buckled. Decades later, I have encountered family members, who should know better, who blame black family issues on black families but my grandfather's conduct on poverty.

Here is a simple truth: the economy is a mess that only benefits rich people. Somehow, using a mix of fundamentalism and fear, the super rich, or at least some of them (cf. Koch Brothers) have co-opted enough of the voters to sell the laughable were it not tragic idea that poor people choose to be poor. The idiot idea that blacks who cannot get jobs choose to sell drugs not because there is nothing else, but because they "do not want to work."

It is time, and past time, to put the blame where it belongs. Yes some black men break laws, and yes most police are good people doing a tough job. But we have over-loaded the cops with a population that feels oppressed precisely because it is. When that population blows up, as it inevitably does, the reaction of the power elite (especially the Republican power elite) is to want more weapons of repression, more repression, and less freedom, all paid for from reduced, "failed programs."

The system is broken. We need to fix it. And we need to do that so that all of us, yes even those in prison, have both a voice and a stake. Otherwise, Ferguson and Baltimore are coming to a city near you -- soon.

27 April 2015

General Convention


Some years ago, I was asked to produce a short prayer for General Convention, something that could be used as a petition in a congregation's Sunday intercessions. I wrote, ""Keep them from foolishness, Oh Lord." A bishop who will remain anonymous said it was a great way to think of and pray for GC. Nothing has proven either him, or me wrong in the intervening years.

I commend the thought to you as we approach GC 2015. Everything I see suggests a lot of foolishness will be on offer.

07 April 2015

Medicine


Met with my cardiologist this morning. Even when one feels fine, this is a bit of a tense morning. One never knows what the numbers extracted from the blood tests may show.

Today all is good. My cholesterol numbers are so low I am switching to a milder medicine. Doctor actually smiled. Oh, lost a few pounds too. I have to loose more, but hey the trend is good.

So all in all, a good day! I guess a blog is as good a place as any to be thankful!

28 March 2015

Exhaustion -- Holy Week 2015


The last 4 weeks, we have been moving out of our beloved home, a flat building that we shared with our kids and grandkids, and into a small, ok, we can call it cozy, apartment. This is not a move we wanted: it is the result of a foreclosure. So there is some real sadness in this move, I suspect the next one ( probably a nursing home, we are getting old) won't sting quite as much.

We have expended all the resources we can find. But cash is not a thing we have much of these days: we turned to friends and family.

Our daughter-in-law and granddaughter have been mainstays. I am not sure we could have even begun to get this much done without them. My elder son has been a huge help.

Last Saturday, friends from our congregation, all of whom have their own lives, came and spent their morning helping us move and store a huge amount of stuff. Without them, i do not know if there could even have been a plan. Thursday, faced with a significant crunch in both time and space, we rented a very temporary storage locker and paid two men from the homeless shelter to help us move everything we then had ready. They worked very hard and appeared shocked when I payed them. I feel I owe them more.

I wish the bigots who are so upset that LaGrange is not a gated community, could have watched that movement Thursday. It was my stuff, and they treated it and every minute as though they were precious.

Now we are down to the end. Camping gear we love, some Ham radio stuff, and the food. In some ways, moving to Guatemala might be easier -- we would not be packing the frig!

Sue-z is simply wrung out, my left hip is not working, I am limping if that is the word. We have done our best and it is still not enough. But, we are done. Sometimes, we are learning, your stuff is simply too much, and it simply cannot follow you. We have been discussing dumpsters.

There is at some point, a minimum level every person, every person(!) should have. Enough space for cooking, sleeping, thinking, and storing enough clothing to get by. A space for a loved pet or a loved one. Enough income to pay for shelter, food, and drugs. I find myself on the edge. We have that minimum at a suburban level. If we can limp the car (a necessity in suburban Chicago) another year, we may survive.

Exhaustion, it is our reality. I feel as though I could sleep a week. I won't. Easter is upon us, Holy Week with its demand for devotion is here, and it is time to pray. And yet, it is the help, the smiles, the friendship and love that we recall, and will cherish. We must thank so many.

I should note that the last two days before the court order was effective, Steve worked really hard to help us close out our move. Thanks son!

Oremus! There will be time. My Bro-in-law, ever a help will be here soon. Oremus! Consider what He went through. Our problems are minor. Oremus!"





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"Oremus" literally, "Let us pray!"

13 March 2015

alone with ourselves


The title of this post is taken from this Huffington Post article. I strongly recommend the article. It is well written and makes a solid case against, "busy."

Recently, at a Vestry retreat, the facilitator told us that, "Busy is a sin." Saying that to a room full of volunteers trying to balance the demands of what medical professionals call, "ADL" that is, "Activities of Daily Living" and the demands of a church that needs everything we can bring to it, was brave. Predictably, the reaction was mixed.

Being "alone with ourselves," Christian mysticism: the rosary or prayer rope, Centering Prayer, or Lectio Divina, represents for some, a major stumbling block. But is it really about time? I am not sure.

Although one hears about time issues, "I am too busy!" the time required is not a large portion of the day. One can do either the Anglican or Roman rosary in less than half an hour. Of course, a monastic might take two hours, but one can begin the journey with twenty or so minutes. Most contemplative prayer systems suggest that one begin with twenty minute period, once or twice a day. TV & Cable viewing patterns suggest most of us can find those twenty minutes.

I think the problem is found in our discomfort when we engage ourselves and God in concentrated silence. Years ago, my spiritual director offered me a koan: (meditation puzzel) "The reason to pray is to become like a person who prays." Understand the meaning of that puzzle, which took me a while(!) and you may be on a journey,

Beginning a contemplative journey often involves moving past the mind's attempts to avoid the internal silence. The mind plays tricks, showing us flashing lights, stars, even visions of saints rather than concentrating on the silent contemplation of the divine. Tails of various side tracks are legendary among contemplatives. In fact, if you ever see three or four Zen teachers laughing together, you can guess what the topic might be.

One of the medieval saints (I do not recall which one) was told one day by two excited novices that while they were praying the rosary together, they saw a vision of Mary. He told them that next time she appeared, they should shout at her, and she would leave them to their prayers. They did and she indeed went away. Understanding what happened, helps us understand being alone with God. It is not the twenty minutes, it is the experience(!)

So is, "busy" a sin? Yes, when we mean too busy to bother with God. Jesus was asked what was the foremost commandment replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He went on, "The second is similar -- love your neighbor as you do yourself." That and the Great Commission tell us how we should spend our time.

I read an unattributed quote: name three things more important than God. Too busy? Really?

01 March 2015

Science as Methodology


When something "new" or at least startling come into our common view, as for instance, this story about the origin of the universe, several things happen. One is that independent scholars like my son want to shout, "Of Course." Stephan has been convinced the popular science called, "The Big Bang" is based on flawed observations, flawed assumptions, and much too convenient constructs ever since he began to understand the calculus. From his perspective, physics is finally catching up with the data he has been speaking and writing about for some time.

Another thing that happens is that scientists, be they independent thinkers or university professors set about the hard work of reformulating the hypotheses in light of the new data. This can take a while, indeed years. One way to observe how long it takes for new theories to arise and enter general acceptance is to note the years between publications and recognition such as Nobel Prizes. Wrapping our minds around new and especially contrary data takes a while. It is a process that is particularly difficult for those who publish papers and books based on the old theory.

Physics has gone through the process of re-thinking frequently. Especially since Heisenberg and Einstein started shaking things up in the early 20th century, stable thinking, constant ideas have been few and far between. Biology if anything has been more fluid, as has its cousin, medicine.

Scientists, engineers, medical practitioners, and the technicians who serve them, ranging from nurses to programmers, are generally comfortable living in a fluid, evolving world. Science you see, is a methodology, not a rigid structure. We expect changes. We tell ourselves not to become attached to what we think we know. The universe, and perhaps the multi-verse, continually surprise us.

But, there are other responses. Those who wed themselves to a non-scientific, "theory of everything," those we call, "fundamentalists," "creationists," or "jihadists," see not a functioning methodology, but a broken monolith. Is there newly observed data that may obsolete the "big bang" theory? (Yes) Then clearly all of science is wrong, bring back the scriptural creation myths. None of the "facts" in those stories hold up to the light, but as the fundamentalist mindset thinks it has now proved that "science" can err, they leap to the conclusion that all problems with the stories represent error. After all, "god said so." Well(!) that closes off the conversation!

Fundamentalism can raise its ugly head in other ways, and with different revelations. Stephan's objection, that the "red shift" observation of how light travels simply fits the theories better than it could the data. Stephan would add that "Hawkins Radiation" is a construct based on the theory's needs, not the data. In a sense, the flaw in science this exposes is that fundamentalism can focus on science as well as scripture.

Science, like Liberation Theology (where I live) is subversive. Fundamentalism is always wrong. Christianity, properly understood, is transformative, does not accept the old data, and does not try to hold back human knowledge. Yes, I do know about the Inquisition, and Creationism. I claim neither is indeed, Christian.

So now we know that Einstein, Hawkins and others may have erred. Or perhaps simply worked with flawed data. Now we can observe the galaxy a bit better, we can do better. We will do that.

Theology too can take in new data. But like science we need to let go of the static universe myth. Some will, others will fail.
St Laika's

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