21 November 2014

Process and Writing

One of the "buttons" on the blog software's editor allows an author to delete a post. This button can be a really handy item.

I think many writers come to appreciate that delete key. We can vent, sometimes both vicious and vociferously, and when we have finished our rant, delete it.Sometimes that is the best thing to do, even when you are right.

That explains why I have not posted for a few days. Posts have been written, but then deleted.

I discourage reading my stuff, such as it is and what there is of it, by some groups. I do not, for instance, generally make the blog visible to the electronic community in my parish, and indeed block some of them. (Bloggers can do that sort of thing.)

My reasons for doing that vari, but the dominant one is a certain desire to avoid uneccesary conflict within the group. I am aware that at least some people are not interested, and are affronted if they are forced to consider, the topic. It is not my role to force them to think about things. And it is my role to try to avoid arguements in some groups.

So, nothing much new here today. I will see about tomorrow.

18 November 2014

More on the RCL

This week, as the liturgical year winds down, Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox, Catholics, and some Protestants heard the story of Noah. That is not really a part of the Exodus story we have been following, it just sort of appears. It does the same thing in Scripture. There really are no obvious reasons in the text for the story to appear where it does.

The Noah story is almost certainly an insertion. Documents older than the Biblical texts, in "cuniform" the clay tablet writing of the Babylonian and Persian periods, have been found with the story incised into their surfaces. It is fairly clear that the story was added as a result of the period most of the Hebrew elite spent in captivity. We do not know who added it or their motivation.

Suddenly, the story simply appears in Scripture. And so too, with no to me at least, obvious reason, it appears in the Lectionary. This was its Sunday.

It is odd the way some of the readings affect people. Noah is perhaps a good example of unexpected consequences. Most people read it as the story of God saving a remnant. Others (among them one of my regular readers) read it as the story of God executing entire populations, including children for the manner of life of their parents.

Musically, there are a fair number of songs, mostly children's, that concentrate on the saving of the animals. Frequently they get the details wrong. The animals were not, for instance, loaded, "two by two." I recall asking my mom why it would be "two by two" and being told I would understand later. (Ah the post war German Lutheran sense of propriety!)

Others see the story of those dead, drowned, children.

I consider the story, inserted as it was, a fiction. I suppose one might cast it as a parable, but I do not see how that works. it is not at all clear how the story can be read to carry the attributes of a parable.

In any event, it is there. It gets read, and most preachers in my memory immediately turn to the Epistle and Gospel readings for their sermons. I wonder how much of the Scripture that suffers a similar fate? I can think of several passages.

In a sense, the reading of Noah is a great reason not to be a fundamentalist. That alone may be the best reason it is in the lectionary. The speed with which we move to sermons about the RCL's other lessons perhaps leaves us with the cute, "two by two" view and not enough critical thought. The lectionary is perhaps not designed to answer questions, but to raise them.

I think I may consider building an "I hate the RCL" website.

09 November 2014

Kristallnacht 2014 Choose THIS Day


This year's RCLi readings follow the story of the Exodus. We are near the end of church year, so it is unsurprising that
  1. we are near the end of the Exodus story.
  2. The readings are clearly selected to encourage good stewardship practices

Ah, but history has been moving on since 2,000 BCE (give or take.) And the horrible, blood stained, 20th century has marked the day in a particularly ugly way. In 1938, on this day, Hitler and his minions unleashed a major, vicious "pogromii" against German, Polish, and Austrian Jews. So many homes and shops were vandalized that streets and sidewalks were littered with broken glass. It is those shards of broken glass that gave a horrible night of looting, beating, murder, and rape its infamous name: Kristallnacht.

In the days immediately after Kristallnacht, the Germans waited. It is hard to know what the Germans might have done if, as they feared, France, England, USA, and other, "Civilized Nations" had reacted with sanctions, denunciations, or even war warnings. Except for the crunch of broken glass under the boots worn by SAiii and SS bullies, all was silence. The maxim at civil law is, "silence betokens consent." The Shoah had begun born in the cowardly silence.

In Christian churches this morning,we heard Joshua's call to the ancient Hebrews, "Choose this day, whom you will serve."

This week, an amazing 67% of eligible American voters did not bother to cast ballots. They chose indifference.

A budget is a moral document. How we spend our money tells us what we choose to consider essential. In stewardship campaign responses, and in our polity, we make (or cause representatives to make) choices. We choose, and sometimes we choose horrible evil. The choices of November 1938 reverberate through our world to this day.

That is the lesson of Kristallnacht for Christians. What we choose, how we embrace social justice, and moral action matters.

Vestriesiiii generally do not get to make major moral choices. In a sense, we are limited by the choices of history. We have the building, clergy, musicians, support staff, utilities, and expectations that often absorb more cash than our income as known line items in our budgets. Questions of funding ministry, charity, outreach, social justice are all limited by cashflow and what we might call the, "givens." It is "given" that we have an organist, a sexton, a priest, a diocese. (We Episcopalians, cannot function without a diocese. It is the Bishop who is always even when absent, the primary celebrant of the mass.)

But it should not be so. If parishes received the pledges Joshua expected, "first fruits," actual tithes, and real service, the "given" expenses would not be issues. Suddenly, we could fund the things we should. Suddenly, social justice ministries, which for Episcopalians probably involves both pickets and lawyers, would be on offer.

Not taking Joshua seriously; we are silent. We cannot look down on Chamberlin, Roosevelt, and the "League of Nations." True, they did nothing, true the silence gave the Shoah birth. But we by our silence, our inaction, our lack of commitment, contribute evil in our day.

Spirituality IS Stewardship. Silence is Consent. We choose. We face Joshua's warning: we are witnesses against ourselves.

Ask yourself! How would the world be different if on 10 November 1938 The Times; 10 Downing Street; Le Monde; The NY Times; Congress; Parliment; and the Assembly Nationale had received thousands of outrage telegrams? How would the world be different if each of us paid attention and then listened to St. Paul
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

This day, an anniversary of infamy, demands commitment, and repentance. Commit to faith, worship, and stewardship of course. But also commit to social justice, defense of the defenseless, charity, and proclamation - both of the Gospel and the name of evil.

Finally, this day, we need to repent, to name before God our silences, our contribution to evil both historic and current. We need to commit, "Never Again!"

This day, we must choose.






i The "Revised Common Lectionary" (RCL) is a standardized set of liturgical readings, Hebrew Bible, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel agreed to by Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches. As you might expect, it is a bit less than, "common." Various holy days and saint day remembrances force separate Anglican, Roman, Orthodox, and "other" tracks. None-the-less it is in general use among most non-Evangelical churches.
ii "Pogrom" 1 an organized massacre of helpless people; specifically : such a massacre of Jews From merriam-webster.com
iii The "SA" were Hitler's original bullies. They were in turn, massacred by the SS in a later purge. At the time they were more terrifying than the SS.
iiiiA vestry is the elected lay leaders of an Anglican parish. They function as a working leadership group, and legally as the directors of the parish's corporation.

06 November 2014

Pot-Election Thoughts

OK, my guys, won in Illinois, with one stunning exception, and lost nationally. Sort of a mix to say the least.

Over-all, my guys, got clobbered. The Republicans got out their vote, and used voter suppression laws to keep Democrats from voting. It appears to me the laws were sort of a waste, Democrats weren't going to vote anyway. At the end of the day, their strategies trumping the complete lack of strategy on the other side, were enough.

It is interesting to speculate about what is coming. Here in Illinois, I predict gridlock. Democrats easily retained control of the Assembly. Governor-elect Rauner will be in his first political office. Mike Madigan who controls the House in the Assembly eats neophytes for lunch. About half of the constitutional offices will be held by Democrats, including Secretary of State Jesse White, and State's Attorney General, Lisa Madigan. Rauner will faithfully propose the tax and budget policies he ran on. The Assembly will ignore him as will much of the government.

My view of Rauner is that he makes what I call the, "Ross Perot Error." That is, he thinks he can dictate policy the way he does in board meetings. Constitutional government does not work that way. We will have 4 stagnant, conflict filled years. I hope that is what Illinois voters wanted.

The 2016 presidential campaign started Tuesday evening. National gridlock is coming. Mr.Obama can probably veto most if not all of the Republican agenda: they can refuse to pass his. Already, the cleavages in the Republican majority are visible. Senators range from Senator Paul a frank libertarian, to Senato Cruz a Tea Part nut. Senator-elect Ernst is poised to make Cruz appear almost normal. No one should envy Senator McConnell.

The irony of this election is that where voters could vote on policy the progressive /liberals won. So in a number of States, pot is a bit more legal, minimum wages are going up, and voting as a right is a bit more protected. Even in Florida, where the vote to legalize pot failed, it carried a majority. Amending that State's constitution requires a super majority of 60%, and the amendment got only 57%. Republicans should remember that electing Democrats only requires 50% + 1.

In two years, Democrats need to be ready to actually contest the election. They need a new chair, and a new vision of how to elect Congresspeople and Senators. Relying on the Tea Party to provide candidates so stupid that they motivate the center vote is no longer if it ever was, a reasonable tactic. The Republican ultra-right remains as crazy as ever, but with Koch money, it is learning to pick more rational appearing candidates.

In the meantime, little if anything will be done, Senators Cruz and Ernst will provide both outrage and comedy as walk-on replacements for Congresswoman Bachmann. Watching her and Sarah Palin jostle each other reaching for the Bachmann microphone may provide some amusing theatre. In response to some mail: yes of course there are also Democratic clowns! I hope gentle reader that you wanted a 2 year presidential campaign with clowns. Because that is what you just voted to have.

01 November 2014

Are We Really That Stupid?

I have been watching the political reaction to the current Ebola outbreak with growing amazement. The incredible incompetence of our governors, from both parties, is stunning.

For the record you cannot get Ebola from mere proximity to a health care volunteer who is coming home from Africa - period. Even if, God forbid, the heroic nurse or doctor who is returning eventually develops (God forbid) Ebola, they are not contagious until they become feverish. Even then the fever has to get rather high (100.4f ) before the contagion risk is high.

You do not have to take my word for any of this, although any literate person is more of an expert than Bobby Jindal! Here is a link to a page written by actual experts. Click over to that page and stop worrying. The number one defense from Ebola is hand washing and hand sanitizer!

The real threat from Ebola is to our polity. Yes, States should use their power to quarantine when there is a real threat. But not when we know there is no no medical reason. The potential damage to our republic if governors start using their health powers to confine innocent non-threatening people. It is a short step to the bad old days of McCarthy. We must not allow ourselves to approach that time.

Politicians do not lead. The act when they think they know what the voters want. In this case, the disregard of the medical experts, the political use of the quarantine is what they think we want. We are scared of the disease, and afraid of nurses and doctors.

If you want to be afraid of a disease, be afraid of influenza. Ebola has killed one person in America. Influenza kills between 5 and 30 thousand every year. Arguably failure to vaccinate a child against influenza is abuse. We cannot quarantine agaais influenza, it is too widely contracted and it is airborne. But we can vaccinate. If you do not, that is a great reason to be very afaid.

In the case of Ebola, while we can fault governors for bullying; it is we who should be ashamed: of us.

27 October 2014

Lies, Damn Lies, and

When I was doing a lot of statistical programing, it was often said that, "there are 3 kinds of lies, "lies, damn lies, and statistics." I cannot speak for others, but the people worked for and with, and I worked hard to let the data speak. We did not come to the data with preconceptions. And those who collected the data similarly, sought to gather reality, not some picture they were painting.

So, if I begin with, "Lies, Damn Lies, and _________" what goes into the blank? Thanks to radio ads, here is an answer! Thank you Jim Oberweis!

Oberweis is the current perennial candidate in Illinois. He has run unsuccessfully for various State offices, and is the current Republican nominee for Senate. I am cynical enough to think he got the nomination because no rational person wanted to run against Senator Durbin. Oberweis, whom I would never suggest is a reasonable person seems however to think he has a chance, and is running a lot of ads. He has an advantage to the GOP, a combination of unbridled ambition, and a lot of money. So he can largely self-finance a doomed campaign.

Which leads back to our blank. Believe it or not, Oberweis is out with an ad that tries to blame Senator Durbin for, "the gridlock in Washingon!" OK, go ahead and laugh: I did!

Washington where the (Republican) Speaker says success is measured by not passing bills, where (Republican) Senator Cruz and (Republican) Congressman Ryan consider letting the government shut down a good thing, in that Washington, somehow a Democratic Senator is responsible for gridlock!

Apparently Faux News logic is contagious. I suppose if Senator Durbin were in favor of dismantling equality for various minorities, impeaching the president for criminal Blackness, and outlawing unions, there would arguably not be gridlock.

So, my little blog has an endorsement. Illinois, re-elect Richard (Dick) Durban. As a US Senator, he is diligent, has a good record of being willing to work on a bi-partisan basis to actually solve problems, and maintains a commitment to equal rights. He is in short a reasonable choice. His opponent is the answer to the blank: Lies, Damn Lies, and Oberweis Ads.

24 October 2014

"Old Age Is A Shipwreck"

The story of Marshal Petain, the great general of WWI whose collaboration with the Nazis after France was invaded by Hitler dimmed his achievements is a great tragedy. When he was endorsing the verdict of the trial court that convicted Petain or treason, De Galle is reported to have said, "Old Age is a Shipwreck." Tonight as one of our longest friendships ends with the passing of Brian from life through death to glory, I see the waves breaking on the rocks.

Brian, a PhD mathematician, and amazingly bright man was always good for a joke or observation. He had the remarkably good taste to love Pat who has been Sue-z's best friend since they met in 1960. We four, camping buddies, drinking buddies, and yes sometimes pot smoking buddies, have shared a long road, and a loving road.

Old age is a shipwreck.

Brian lost a leg to diabetes, and a heart valve to aging. He was however in remarkably good spirits when last we talked. He was hoping to get out of rehab and home soon. Things did not work out that way.

He developed pneumonia, and became comatose early this week. As I write this, the hospital staff is withdrawing the life support technology. He likely will die before dawn. His wife will be with him and our prayers for him will carry him heavenward. Ah but it is hard, hard, to loose friends.

Old age is a shipwreck.

Sue-z and I are sitting with my daughter-in-law sipping sweet wine and toasting him and his entry into paradise. We have what our Lutheran friends call the "Glad hope of a joyous reunion." But we are still weeping.

Old age is a shipwreck.
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