01 March 2018

Freedom, Americans and the First Amendment

Recently, Facebook has been restricting the content of some political posts. If you hit on the "wrong" topic, Facebook will not only kill the post, you will receive a rather sharp note suggesting that if you persist, your subscription and access will be either limited or ended. Lately, Twitter has taken a similar view.

Ok, so here we have some issues. Facebook and Twitter are private enterprises. As such, they are not constrained by the First Amendment. That is, the rule against censorship requires that governments not interfere with free speech. Corporations and individuals are not government. They are governed by their contracts with their clients, you know the stuff you never read when you join a service like Facebook.

The contracts do two things. First the set out all the reasons the service is not a common carrier. There is a good reason for that, a common carrier is subject to price limits, and they have to "carry" any and all legal traffic. Unless the traffic violates law eg. child porn, you have to allow it. Not where the Internet services want to be. And because they have great attorneys, no one reads the agreement, they avoid common carrier status.

The other thing the agreements do is permit the company to be the sole arbiter of what is acceptable content. Yup that is in there. And that, not the First Amendment is relevant when they remove content.

In a sense this is case closed. Facebook can censor, as can Twitter. But(!) when either does, a stream of messages complain about discrimination and censorship. The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech are almost always mentioned. Which proves again that most folks do not read the agreement.

Herein the problem. Americans expect the freedom of speech to extend everywhere. And we react angrily when it doesn't. And therefore a balancing act. FB and Twitter have to read trillions of words, and decide if the negative publicity is worth the maintenance of the standard. And given the sheer volume of posts, they simply must use software. There is no way humans can be the arbiters of acceptable.

So what to do if you are censored and think it was unfair? Well, you can have a blog, they are free and generally a more open place. You can contact the company and protest, but they do NOT make that easy. This constraint of free speech is a part of our electronic age. I really do not think much is likely to change. Welcome to the future.

12 January 2018


The is the easy holiday is to miss. It comes with a bunch of names: "Feast of the three kings," "Epiphany," "The wise men," and "twelfth day of Christmas." I am sure there are more. In the secular world it is the day that villages and homeowners associations can require the removal of Christmas lights. All the names clearly suggests some confusion. So what is it really?

The liturgical name is Epiphany. It derives from a Greek word. An epiphany is a moment of understanding. I know a priest who calls it, "an ah ha!" moment.

So what is the church suggesting? Did the institution suddenly understanding when the mages came, or when the story was read? Did the mages have a sudden moment of understanding? Did Herod, Mary, Joseph, or someone else?

None of those possible explanations work. Especially when as I think we should, we pay attention to the related lessons. Sunday was the First Sunday After Epiphany. The Gospel lesson, which is also the lesson for Morning Prayer on Monday is the Christographic opening of the Gospel of John. John begins not with a birth narrative like Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Rather, verses 1 through 14 are a Christology: a statement of who Christ was through all eternity. Jesus was, in John's understanding, the Christ, the Word of God.

So finally, then what we are supposed to understand? The Church has told us a virgin had a baby, that angels sang, that Herod was a murderer, that mages came to see, that this baby became a boy, and then a preacher who did miracles, that he enunciated a radical new view of God, (or fulfilled ancient prophecies,) was falsely charged with sedition, murdered, buried, and yet now lives. That is a lot for an ah ha moment. But that is precisely what the readings say.

If all that does not make sense to you, you are not alone. Paul called it a foolishness and a stumbling block. I probably cannot convince you, especially as I wrestle with it. But perhaps, just perhaps if you investigate a Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopal parish near you, you may find people who while wrestling with the foolishness are loving each other and reaching out to help those in need within and without their communion. Perhaps they can bring you to an "Ah Ha!" moment.

07 January 2018

Just Wondering

I get some statistics from my posts. So the readers are not identified, one can do that, but I have not deployed that software. But I see geography. So after North and Central America, the largest readership is in China and Russia. Which leads to the question: are those visits bots?

14 December 2017

Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel

Advent, the season in the church year devoted to expectant waiting, is inexplicably woven into the commercial season of gift and year end commercial activity. This provides openings for bad sermons and blogs, decrying the sin of "secularism." Not here.

I claim that John, Jesus, Peter, and Paul were deeply involved in the secular world around them. Consider that John was murdered to silence his preaching against the sins of the Herodian succession, Jesus was executed under an (arguably false) charge of sedition, Peter and Paul were both executed for proclaiming Jesus as Lord of All, a title Caesar claimed, and James was tossed over the wall of Jerusalem for preaching against the Temple authorities.

Divorce and imperial titles are deeply secular subjects. These men were involved. The Greeks who listened to Paul supported him with gifts. Oh, and the often smuggled him out of town. Jesus sought to reform an incredibly corrupt tax collection system and preached justice for the poor.

After the disciples experienced Jesus's ongoing presence in the Resurrection, they came to understand the spiritual nature of what they called The Way. But even then, "the way" was the way to live in the kingdom here and now, along with a recognition that we too can eventually come to Paradise. The two are intimately linked.

So figgy pudding, eggnog, cocktails, gifts and tax reducing contributions are all fine. If you can afford a year end motorcycle, my son will be delighted to sell you one. Buy toys, candies and by all means feast. Jesus loved a good party.

But do not deprive yourself of the gift of expectation. Something special is coming. A major event in the history of humankind is about to be celebrated. Now that will be a party!

29 November 2017

friendship and family

Without typing a lot about the issues, Sue-and I have had a particularly difficult week. Thanksgiving for us was the bad day after Wednesday. We are not out of the tunnel yet, but there is a visible light in front of us. In large part this has come towards an end because of our family and a few friends.

Friendships and families are incredibly important. When they are cultivated and honest they can fill both sides with joy and love. We have been experiencing that this last few days.

My cyber-friend and favorite author Diana Butler-Bass been posting about thankfulness, and gratitude. Dealing with crisis with the help of my son, daughter-in-law, and friends has taught me a lot about thankfulness and gratitude.

While I am capable of thinking of this experience as very much a part of our shared faith, I think that may be way to simple. Yes, I believe that friendship is a gift from the Creator, and yes that belief is common. And yes those who lept to our aid when we really really needed help are all members of our parish. BUT, over the years, we have helped friends and family who are Christians, and friends who are not. And they have helped us.

As my oft quoted favorite song has it, "there's something happening here." And as my favorite theologian: Jesus of Nazareth observed, non-believers know how to give good gifts. Hmmm.

So here is what I think. Generosity, gratitude, and thankfulness are gifts from the Creator. We Christians must recognize them in others, members of our faith community or not. Then we need to practice them.

In any event, for now, Sue-z and I are very very grateful to our family and friends.


06 November 2017

Feast of All 'Saints 2017

This feast, All Saints Day almost needs its own defenders in modern culture. Beset by faux-Christian right wing piety, which dismisses all the holy tradition of the communion of saints, wide ranging indifference among traditional protestants, and the ever growing encroaching Halloween party season, there is not a lot of space for the day.

I do not dislike Halloween, in fact I am always available for a party, Sue-z and I have candy for trick or treaters, and love seeing our grandkids and the area youth in their costumes. In the USA, Halloween party costs now exceed those for Christmas. I do not mind the parties and fun but the overshadowing All Saints is I think a problem.

Episcopalians and the RCL do not help. This is the only feast of the church year that is mobile. That is the Prayer Book permits us to arbitrarily shift it the following Sunday. And the lectionary avoids any controversial readings.

I think the feast has much to teach us. It speaks to us of one cloud of witnesses. The brotherhood of all is in that concept as is the common needs, and abundance. Whether we are liberal, conservative or non-belieber, we are all, ALL called to the same end and the same cloud.

A Blessed All Saints, Lamas, and sabbath should be our proclamation.

Trick of Treat!

23 October 2017


3. the medium by which a contagious disease is transmitted. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/contagion

Some time ago, a few weeks at least, I recall David Brooks, the NY Times columnist who frequents the NPR Newshour observing that something about the Trump Administration caused otherwise honorable people to have their integrity and standing stripped from them. Watching the Chief of Staff surrender any perception of veracity, decency, or honor as he flat out lied about a Congresswoman's speech, I recalled the comment.

I would like to think that serving in the highest levels of government would elevate a person. My observation is that those who served in prior administrations, of either party, often wear that service as a sort of mantle. Especially, recently, the former officials in the Obama administration are proud, and recount how working for Mr. Obama was a highlight experience.

Contrast that with the experiences we have endured in the first few months of the Trump Administration. Staffers have come and gone in a dizzying swirl of Federal investigations, power contests, and personality incompatibilities. I cannot imagine several of the press office leaders calling this their highlight experience.

Something is happening in the White House and it is not good. Decent honorable men and women are being corrupted. It is also a spreading disease, moving out from a corrupt center. Watching the incredible illogical, and outright false statements made by "Christians" who claim that they can support and indeed are represented by this presidency and its equally corrupted Congress is horrifying.

At its center are three corrupt men, and one woman. Together they are the core of the corruption of public service, decency and integrity.
  1. Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House. He allows the so-called Tea Party to effectively control the legislative process.
  2. Senator Mitch McConnell is majority leader of the Senate. In that office a leader is called to maintain the order of the legislative process, and defend the dignity and tradition of the Senate. He does not even try. His only efforts are to support Mr. Trump's latest fantasy with procedural maneuvers designed to avoid any semblance of compromise by somehow gathering at least 50 votes so that the intellectual non-entity that is Vice-president Pence can cast a vote.
  3. The president is a constant liar, a will-of-the-wisp who will say anything to advance his racist drive to whitewash the Obama achievements instead of seeking his own. Lacking even any pretense of gravitas, he is at the mercy of whomever gets his attention and convinces him that something is in his own interest.
  4. Finally, the late and unlamented Ayn Rand. A writer of incredibly bad fiction and if anything worse prose, she remains the closest thing to an intellectual center to the horrible idea that greed is a virtue, charity an error, and poverty the sentence that nature imposes on those who cannot or won't compete. Her ridiculous "philosophy" is what underlies the actions of these men and their fellow travelers.

What is happening is that these people are a center of contagion from which the entire American experiment is being infected. Trump, boasts of destroying the credibility of the free press. His people staff and cabinet, the Congress all are being drawn into a vortex of anti-American, faux-Christian, dishonest racism. This is the road to Fascism. And the worst part is that he told us where he would take us. His nomination acceptance speech among the worst oratory in American history, his refrain, "Only I" was the marker of a Facist regime to come.

It may be time to fight, but it also may be time to paint your wagon. America is falling its destiny, rejecting it promise. Dark times as the contagion at center spreads. And spread it will. The disease racism, sexism, and faux religion is unleashed and fed from the center. Lord, have mercy.
St Laika's

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