31 July 2015

"Christian" Paranoia



Long ago, in a country far away, the evil men who wanted to destroy the republic found that they could not win elections, nor sieze power. Their leader found another way to power. He began claiming that he and his followers were victims of a minority that had recently been granted full civil rights. Suddenly, his speeches were listened to by those in the society who were failures.

The tactic worked so well, it was expanded. Now, instead of a conspiracy of minority people destroying the country from the inside, the completely fictional conspiracy was expanded to involve supposedly sinister international co-conspirators. The claim of being a victim resonated so much with the losers, they began to join organizations devoted to the leader, and become violent.
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The conspiracy succeeded. Claiming victimhood all the way, the leader eventually took over the government. Suddenly there were prison camps where members of the minority, forced to wear special identity badges were gathered, and systematically killed. Elections were discontinued. The leader, now the "Ruler," did not need a legislature or elections. The republic died, a victim of the paranoia common in the looser class, and the refusal to consider a mirror when wondering why a person failed.

The other political parties were outlawed. Opposition became treason.

Those who have ears, let them hear.

30 July 2015

My Latest Recipe

Ok, so we are flat broke, and grateful that our area has several food banks. I have been trying to keep the level of cooking up. This is an example. It has a sort of twist. The day I had described what I thought I would do, Rachel Ray did something similar on her show. I am thinking I should claim she stole my idea, but I think it is merely a matter of simultaneous inspiration.

I make this in a cast iron pan but any 10 or 12-inch oven proof skillet will work. I serve it from the pan. I suppose you could use a buttered 9 x 13 casserole or baing pan with the ragu spooned down the center
Ingredients
  • 1# pork breakfast sausage. (I plan to try Italian sausage soon)
  • 1 large sweet or white onion
  • 1# "baby bella" mushrooms
  • 1# carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 Tbl dried Basil, or 2Tbl fresh leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbl tomato paste
  • 2 Tbl ketchup
*************
  • 1 C. Cottage Cheese (plain or chives added)
  • 2 C. polenta or yellow grits
  • 8 C. stock (chicken, miso, or vegetable, in a pinch substitute water.)
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 Tbl unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (or more) freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese plus more for finishing.
  • olive oil for frying
  • Salt
  • Pepper
First make the meat sauce - ragu.

  • Chop onion into 1/2" pieces.
  • Cut carrots into 1/8# slices.
  • Over medium-high heat, add olive 1 - 2 Tbl olive oil, add sausage, and break into small pieces as it browns. Use a slotted spoon to remove from pan, leaving any rendered oil.
  • Add onions, carrots and mushrooms. Cook stirring gently until the mushrooms dry (they will release liquid) and the onions are clear. Add a little olive oil if they want to stick.
  • Add tomato paste, and garlic stir until the sauce has lost its red color, is light brown and coats the veggies.
  • Add meat, and any accumulated juices. Stir together to combine, remove from pan, stir in basil, and set aside.

Drain the Cheese
  • pour the cottage cheese into a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with a coffee filter. Set over a bowl to drain.

Make the Polenta

  • Using the same pan, stir two cups of polenta into 6 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. Add 2 tsp salt, and as much as 1/4 tsp pepper.
  • Using a separate sauce pan, or in a microwave, bring another 2 cups of broth, and the whey drained from the cottage cheese to a simmer.
  • Bring to a simmer, and cook, slowly, until the liquid is nearly absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  • Stir in the 2 cups of broth,1/2 cup at a time, cooking until the broth is invisible after each addition..
  • Stir in cream cheese, butter, and grated cheese. Stir to mix completely.
  • Remove from heat. 
Finish
  • Let the polenta rest 5 minutes.
  • Carefully spoon the warm ragu into the center of the pan. As you do this, the level of the polenta around the pan will rise. Spoon it all in.
  • Spoon cottage cheese over the ragu.
  • Generously grate Parmesan or Romano cheese over the entire dish.
  • Warm in oven or broiler until the cheese melts and slightly browns.
  • Serve

17 July 2015

Symbols Matter

In the wake of the removal of the Virginia battle flag in South Carolina, and the publication of the photos of the apparent killer using that flag as a symbol of his views, it is perhaps time to think about symbols. The battle flag is only one of several symbols we should be considering.

Consider the white robes and pseudo-hoods of the KKK. In a somewhat amusing (OK, I have an odd sense of humor) event, white idiots wearing those get-ups, will be demonstrating in favor of the Virginia battle flag. Ah, but what is amusing? When the civil rights movement was ending Jim Crow, we were told, over and over, that there would be no issue were in not for (wait for it!) "out of State agitators." Yup, you guessed it, it is the NORTH Carolina bigots who are demonstrating in South Carolina's capitol. Outside agitators indeed.

We might also think of other symbolic acts and items. In the wake of the South Carolina murders, symbols celebrating Confederate victories, soldiers, and other heroes are being reconsidered, and in some cases removed from public properties, and some religious institutions. I am fairly sure that when he set out to kill innocents, he did not expect this response. But the gunman has set off an avalanche of change. The symbols of racism are failing.

07 July 2015

Independence Day 2015

Sue-z and I have a dear friend who is dying. He is very calm about that fact, his life-bonded partner died a few months ago, and his cancer leaves no doubt that his time is come. We are sad to lose him, at the same time we are inspired by the calm confidence that he brings to his imminent departure.

This amazing week, he and I have talked about the changes in our world. Marriage equality has come, finally, to the entire country, the revulsion we have shared at the traitorous display of the Virginia battle flag, is rolling through the country, making us ever more one country.

For Episcopalians, the week also was when, finally after more than 40 years of effort, marriage equality came to the church. The last barriers to equality for lesbian/gay Christians have gone. As of the first Sunday in Advent, all of our marriage liturgies will be applied as gender neutral. That is two men, two women, and one of each will be precisely equal.

In one sense, equality comes too late for our friend. His love is dead. But as we talked about the changes, he shouted, Hallelujah! I joined him in the shout. He has lived to see this victory. And if he will not participate in sacramental marriage, he knows that 40 years of advocating, demonstrating, and praying have come to this moment. We can celebrate that achievement of those who put themselves and their careers on the line. We can remember joining to picket Archbishop Akinola, and we can see the gates of heaven opening and Louie and Julian waiting with Jesus, and his family.

Justice flows like water. Freedom comes with justice, and now, finally, it has come for a minority still widely oppressed, especially in Central Africa. "It is still a long hard and damn hard and bitter ride"1 for many there.

Archbishop Welby, ever the pro-bully figure, expressed his concern that the Gafecon schismatics might not be comfortable. Here in the diocese of Chicago, we have something called, "fierce conversation." We are not good at it yet, but we are working on it. One thing we have learned is that confronted by evil, one must name it. Conflict avoidance is evil. Sometimes, one must do the moral thing even if it upsets people. We might wish this simple idea were not so hard for primates to understand. General Convention did a lot of good, but continuing to invest in companies that facilitate the subjugation of Palestinians is simply wrong. Attempting to justify discrimination against LGBT Christians as a price for a false sense of unity is wrong. Justin Welby is wrong, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is wrong on divestment.

But this week, Lady Liberty's torch shines a bit more brightly. This week we are praying for his passing, in triumph. His faithfulness is secure, and the reconciliation of God's creation is a bit more visible. Receive him oh Lord who places his trust in you. Enter not into judgement with him, but regard him with mercy, a child of your adoption, a faithful lamb of your flock. Grant that the hosts of heaven protect and guide him; the choir of angels sing for him; and the holy martyrs greet him. Let your light perpetual shine on him, and may his soul, with all the faithful rest in peace.





1 From the wonderful poem, "Hey Nellie, Nellie" by Shell Silversteen

29 June 2015

Amazing Grace


I think Mr. Obama's oration at the funeral of Rev. Senator Pickney may be one of the great speeches in American history. Years, decades, from now, students of American history, politics, and speaking will study this speech. Do not miss it! Youtube has the entire thing for you here and you should listen to it.


"Amazing Grace" was written by a reformed captain of a slave ship. He wrote the lyrics, the musical settings have evolved through both the 19th and 20th centuries.

Think of it! That hymn is beloved in the African-American churches across the country. A brilliant poem, written by a white slaver, set to a number of melodies, sung, proclaimed across the American Christian experience, but especially in Black churches. Amazing indeed.

As Mr. Obama observed, grace especially amazing when the relatives of shooting victims confronted the alleged shooter in court. The will to forgive the sins of a man they believe (as do I) was guilty of the murders of their loved ones, is grace at its most amazing.

Rev. John Newton was a priest in the Church of England. My church, The Episcopal Church, is a daughter of the Church of England. So we have some claim on the hymn, and Newton. As the church that converted a slave trader to a clergyman, Church of England has a substantial claim.

For centuries, members of our churches participated in, and profited from the slave trade. In the civil war, bishops of my church became generals, for the Confederacy. gOur claim of grace requires a great faith in our receipt of grace.

In the diocese of Chicago, where I pray, the hymn has some history. Parish choirs love it, it is easy to sing, powerful and always appropriate. Well, almost. A former bishop of Chicago used to forbid its use when he visited parishes. He refused to sing that he was, "a wretch."

The Episcopal Church is my home, and I love it. One of the things I love is that we are not in the cover-up business. I have personally visited the church in Vicksburg where our bishop, then a Confederate general, directed the defense of the Union's siege. There are records of parish clergy who blessed local units as they formed to fight for slavery and succession. We know we have sinful conduct in our history, and we confront it. We rely on the grace the song proclaims.

I am white. Were I black, I think I would look into the AME. They seem to have themselves together. Thank you Mr. Obama, and the AME for a teaching moment.

26 June 2015

26 June 2015 An Historic Day


When I was young, I used to look forward to the early days of thawing warmth each Spring. We lived on a hill, and the street drained the packed snow from lawns, driveways, and sidewalks, past our home. As the snow melted, my brothers and I would carve channels in the ice packed down next to the curb by passing cars. We played by creating ice and snow dams, tiny ice water ponds, and rivulets: these were our playground. We watched the waters make their way past our home, and we learned.

I recall, the way dams broke. As the waters, slightly warmer than the ice, melted it, a tiny breach would appear. It would then grow. The base of the remaining portions of the dam would be undercut, and suddenly, without any apparent cause, whole sections of the wall would either collapse or break loose and move aside as the water now free flowed and broadened,

The dam broke today. Those of us who have advocated, demonstrated, and prayed for marriage equality saw the signs as breaches in the wall built by the bigots. As they began to let those tiny streams: civil unions in New Jersey, and elsewhere, marriage in Vermont, Illinois, California, and Massachusetts started the flood. These were the critical warming of the ice. The decision that the DOMA was unconstitutional, was a major event. The walls were eroding. As I type, States that had barriers to marriage equality are collapsing as the impact of the Supreme Court decision in "OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, ET AL spreads. " Marriage is no longer, "straight marriage," "traditional marriage," or "gay marriage." It is simply marriage.

"The arch of history," Dr. King said, "tends towards Justice." And so, we have now solved the marriage equality issue. The dam has become the site where the waters broke through, a moment to be remembered certainly, but a barrier no more. Canoeists and kayakers are familiar with the sitght of embankments marking the site of abandoned bridges and dams. The "defense of marriage" laws have left a mark on history, but like those embankment sites, they no longer obstruct the stream.

Yesterday, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, to which I belong, was called to order. Based on prior conventions, the idea that the convention will be orderly is more pious hope than realistic expectation. But as conventions do, it will finish the business of the church it governs. One of the items on the agenda is as it has been for 40 years give or take, changes in canon law that will permit clergy to offer marriage liturgies to gay and lesbian couples. I do not know what the vote counts looked like last week. Today, I suspect, they look very positive. At this moment, the church is behind the civil society, and that on a justice issue, in particular, will never do. When the convention adjourns next week, we will I think, hope and pray, be changed.

Justice runs like water.

And we all may cry, hallelujah!

23 June 2015

Gathering


All over the Western Hemisphere, bishops and deputies are traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah. When it convenes, General Convention is the largest legislative body on the planet. Every three years, when it convenes, it has way too much on its agenda. It legislates canon law, comments on issues de jure, creates commissions, budgets, offices and officers; sets agendas, and establishes relationships. Getting all or even most of that done in a 10 day session is exhausting. Bishops routinely schedule vacation time after convention. Most clergy and lay deputies are not so fortunate, having to recover while working.

This year, unfortunately, one of the items on the agenda is the "Anglican Covenant." It should not be there, because General Convention had a perfect opportunity to deal with it three years ago. It failed to do its job, so here we are. Three years ago, it was crystal clear that the Covenant was a disaster, that it was unworkable, and that it was targeted on North American and Northern churches generally. England had already rejected it, proving, were proof needed, that British common sense lives in the dioceses, not Church House or Canterbury.

So why is it on the agenda now? Cowardice is one possible explanation, those who made the committee decision to pass, "moderte" langage to the floor, (most votes in GC are straight line up or down on committee language. It has to be that way, or the convention would never adjourn.) were afraid to, "let yes be yes and no be no" as Scripture teaches. They were afraid that relationships with Central African churches, already stressed, would deteriorate.

As so often happens when fear rules, the worst one can imagine happens anyway. Bullies and that is precisely what CafCon is, a collection of bullies, are not satisfied by moderate responses. Nigerian bullies are busily dumping their own bishops for the singular failure of not supporting their kill-the-gays law. In doing so, they actually refer to that law as part of their doctrine and dogma. Maintaining good relations with those people in charge is like maintaining good relations with ISL. Except ISL may be a touch more honorable.

So now the convention cannot duck the marriage equality issue any longer. States have made marriage equality the law in their jurisdictions, and the Supreme Court will likely do the same thing nationally while the convention meets. To my amusement, the button being distributed by marriage equality supporters says, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." Some of the same people who acted with such crave actions three years ago have been sighted with those buttons.

A resolution to stop the madness and finally say, "no!" is before the convention. Unfortunately, its principal sponsor is ill and has been forced to ask for a replacement. I hope that does not doom the resolution. Fear may win again. But, perhaps finally, the passage of marriage equality will siffen some backs. That is what I pray for these evenings.
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