We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, January 1. 2014
Sunday, December 29. 2013
Image: Giotto's St. Francis of Assisi, preaching to the birds
Wednesday, December 25. 2013
Christians believe, as I understand it, that Jesus was the "son" of God, "son" being used figuratively to describe a human-like incarnation of the deity which was made manifest by the resurrection and other remarkable phenomena.
Don't ask me to explain the Trinity - it's a mystery to me.
To non-believers, it sounds like science fiction, but even non-believers and Doubting Thomases have no doubt that Jesus (the Latinized version of Yeshua, Joshua) was an inspired and spiritually revolutionary rabbi who has been rocking the world since he lived.
For Christmas, the Beatitudes (beginning with Matthew 5), the beginning of The Sermon on the Mount.
"And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Tuesday, December 24. 2013
Sunday, December 22. 2013
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,
Sunday, December 8. 2013
The time from the start of Advent to Christmas is like a short spiritual pregnancy.
What's the miracle of Christmas? That Christ can be born in all of us, anywhere, any time, at any season, to make us fully human and complete by linking the divine spark in our pagan, fallen souls to the holy.
Is it a shame, or a blessing, that we have to really need Him before we will put our precious selves aside, just a bit, to let Him into our lives?
While my Puritan ancestors would never celebrate the "Roman" (eg "Anti-Christ") feast of Christmas, I find it to be an emotional reminder of that miracle which exists in the present, not the past. And the totally pagan, Germanic tree is a perfect metaphor for transformation - ordinary baby firs, like all of us (miracle enough right there), with the potential to be transformed by light and truth and beauty and brotherly love.
At Maggie's Farm HQ, this transformation, from ordinary fir tree to Holy Spirit-illuminated tree, is what we pray for. (Hold the tinsel, please.) It's not decor, it's a symbol of our potential.
Thursday, November 28. 2013
First day of Chanukah
Although almost all use quotations from the Bible to buttress modern day arguments, relatively few have ever read it. Actually, I should say any of them. For there's the Jewish Bible, the Catholic Bible, and various Protestant Bibles, and among these are various translations, inclusions and exclusions.
One of the narratives, that of the Maccabees, is not included in the Jewish Bible. There's several reasons offered: The two Books of Maccabees are in the Alexandrian Greek version, and only those Books in the original Hebrew are included. (Other Books of similar non-Hebrew language or not accepted as divine scripture, like Judith, are as well in the Apocrypha, some in some denominations' Bibles.) The reign of the Maccabees' heirs were not of the sacred line of David and, therefore, unworthy to be treated as kings. Their rule was tarnished by corrupt practices, and contributed toward the internal divisiveness and, then, destruction by the Romans of the Jewish homeland, the wholesale massacres of Jews there and diaspora to alien lands for the remainder. Then, there's the rationale that for a people in exile, subject to survival under and adaptations to inhospitable or suspicious foreign ways, it was not good politics to exalt recent Jews as warriors in the codification of the Jewish Bible.
Today, with the increased ability of Jews to practice openly and participate constructively in Western societies, and with pride in having a homeland to secure safety for all Jews who would return there, the relatively minor holiday of Chanukah is celebrated widely. Providing a celebration for Jewish children at the time of year that others celebrate Christmas has made of Chanukah a major holiday. lt also fits with the recovery of a homeland of refuge in
Still, if Chanukah is degraded to just blue-and-white lights in place of red-and-yellow, or icicles, Chanukah is made meaningless.
One must remember there are two Books of Maccabee. The first Book deals with the profanation and oppression in which many Jews went along to survive -- leading to the brave fight by a few for religious freedom that overwhelmed seemingly undefeatable might.
(There's also the side-story of Hannah and her seven sons, who endured the most severe tortures practiced in those times, the descriptions of which would even sicken a surrealist, rather than renounce their faith.)
The second Book deals with the resanctification of the
I'll leave the canonical and scholarly debates here for others, in order to draw a lesson. Chanukah and the Maccabees fits within the Jewish Bible's narrative, whether formally or by custom. And, more attention deserves to be given the first Book, to understand the second. Fight, or surrender to comforts and fears and, thus, perish.
The Jewish Bible is a series of opportunities for living the guidance provided by G-d through experience and direction, often failing to do so in successive generations and paying terrible prices to relearn and return to basic truths. In this sense, Jews are fated to be a small self-selecting people, those who adhere to these basic truths, while by basic frail human nature others fall and fail by the wayside, merging into ostensibly safer masses.
The modern state of Israel struggles with these choices, and so far has risen beyond any expectations -- by rejecting the sophistry of self-serving internal weaklings, defectors, and collaborators paid off by Israel's enemies, and by evading false friends in high-places within other governments, who all recommend paths that are well-known to lead to defeatism and doom.
So, depending on the transliteration, to all a Happy Chanukah, or Hannukah. These young people in a flash mob on Ben Yehuda Street are the spirit that bring pride to fighting to endure in basic truth, for the benefit of all. There are onlookers and there are participants. Without modern Maccabees, participants in fighting for life, all would be enslaved.
Wednesday, November 27. 2013
As a Christian, I am always interested in our Jewish foundations, but I am not very well-informed. I felt this was good from Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish): Jewish Culture, Revelation and Continuity:
Saturday, November 23. 2013
Sunday, October 27. 2013
Many of us think of Christianity as a “cheerful” religion, but Andrew Klavan, who is a convert to Christianity, wrote that “for me, one of Christianity’s central assets is that it’s a tragic religion — which is to say, a realistic one. The son of God prayed for release from a dreadful death and his prayer went unfulfilled. That tells you something, something you need to know in order to live with patience and wisdom.”
Wednesday, October 23. 2013
From Conrad Black's interesting commentary on the Pope's recent speeches:
I sympathize with the Pope's traditional attitude of "love the sinner, not the sin," but the idea that all souls should get my care and love is utterly beyond my capacity. I steer clear of malignant things in the same way that I avoid rocks on a boat.
Tuesday, October 8. 2013
From Evangelicals and Israel - What American Jews Don't Want to Know (but Need to). One quote from the important essay:
Some might term me an Evangelical and some might not. Either way, I learned some things from the essay.
Sunday, October 6. 2013
Wednesday, September 4. 2013
The Jewish High Holy Days begin this evening with Rosh Hashanah.
One of the traditional Rosh Hashanah greetings is Shana Tovah, which literally means have a good year. The meaning goes deeper. To have a good year is to have sincerely repented one's transgressions and set yourself on a better acting and thinking path.
The eve of Rosh Hashanah, and the concluding of Yom Kippur in the evening 10-days later when our fate is sealed by G-d, is a period of especially intense inspection of self and correction of self. It is Jews' most solemn holiday period (read, Holy Days).
It is also a time to come together with loved ones as well as to find ways to come together with former adversaries. It is a time to enjoy our customs, especially the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar), especially at Rosh Hashanah, to literally "come awake" to ourselves, our relationships with others and with G-d. And, it is a time to enjoy apples and honey, to symbolize our hopes for a sweet new year. It is a time of long days of prayer. For me, the longer the better, as it is not the words so much that are important as entering a sense of transcendence in which I rise above ordinary thoughts to reach new breakthroughs, understandings, and ways to become better.
Like for other Jewish occasions, Rosh Hashanah has become a time for our modern youth to create new music, to bring new verve into our traditional ways. Enjoy this one. (I'm not getting it to embed, so please click through to YouTube.) P.S.: In the video, the tossing of bread into moving waters (tashlich) is to symbolize casting off our sins.
Here's a snippet of the verses: "Atonement's what I'm after; It's a new year, now we gotta do something"
The Jewish High Holy Days, and the Hebrew month of Elul's introspection preceding them, require of each of us to "do something", at the very least, to create a better self and world. Our custom has been adapted into Christianity with Lent, and into Islam with Ramadan. May we all earnestly work to be better. We all need to and we all need it.
Friday, August 9. 2013
Well, as close to an angel as I have ever identified.
Like most angels, she just looked like an ordinary middle-aged person. Unremarkable, unmemorable. Angels are simply messengers, aren't they? They aren't gods, and they don't have wings. The wings in angel images are symbols.
Tuesday morning at 10:30 I was sitting in the Maggie's HQ between meetings and conferences, with all doors and windows open to the soft summer breeze and enjoying a nice Partagas - I'm the boss so I do what I want - when I hear a knock on the open outside door. "Hello."
"Come on in," I say. "Pardon my cigar smoke. What can I do for you?"
"Nothing," she said tentatively. "I've never done anything like this before, but I felt had to. Are you (my name)? "Yes, I am. Who are you?" She gave her name to me.
I was pleasant, she was too. She said she hoped I did not mind, but the Lord had asked her twice, in prayer, to pray for me by name and to remind me that God loved me. She had no idea who I was, but googled my name, located me, and walked in my open door on the chance I would be there.
I told her that, far from intruding on me, she was like an angelic apparition. She had driven 20 miles to deliver me a message. I told her that I had lost both of my parents in the past few months, was grieving in my various ways but was not feeling disconnected from God.
She gave me a light hug, said "The Lord wants you to know that he loves you", and walked back out to her car. A silver Camry.
I told Mrs. BD that I had had a visitation from an angel. No, I am not insane. As I thought about it over the past couple of days, I began to realize that grief had indeed distanced me from God - not out of anger or anything stupid like that, but just by preoccupation with my own feelings, self-involvement.
Sunday, March 31. 2013
My pastor quoted from Tim Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters in his New Year's sermon yesterday.
He called Keller a prophet. (He refers to anyone who speaks difficult, deep Truths as "speaking prophetically.") On the subject of even good things becoming false idols, he used these Keller quotes which I took from an Amazon review:
If you happen to be in NYC on a Sunday, you could do worse than to visit his Redeemer Presbyterian Church. (It's a church, ie not a fancy building but a congregation of God-seekers and worshippers.) They have five worship locations in Manhattan.
Pastor Keller usually preaches at their 6 pm service at the Hunter College auditorium.
Friday, March 29. 2013
Good Friday is a Christian day for prayer and reflection - not that every day is not.
A quote from Kevin McCullough:
Image: El Greco, 1695
Sunday, March 24. 2013
Luke 19: 28-40
28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, Why are you untying it? just say this, The Lord needs it.32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, Why are you untying the colt? 34They said, The Lord needs it. 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven! 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, order your disciples to stop. 40He answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.
Sunday, February 24. 2013
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Wednesday, February 13. 2013
Today is Ash Wednesday.
6:1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 6:2 "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:5 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Saturday, February 2. 2013
I stumbled into this interesting, somewhat scholarly essay: WHAT IS RELIGION? by Prof. Thomas A. Idinopulos. A quote:
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
In the past two weeks, I have spoken with two people who have been stunned by this book: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife.
It sounds like memories of a delirium to me, but who am I to gainsay a Harvard neurosurgeon?
Saturday, December 29. 2012
At Acton, The ‘Small’ God Who Brought Heaven Down to Earth. A quote: