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
Monday, April 14. 2014
The celebration of Passover is not only by Jews but by many others of different religions. Passover's message of freedom is universal.
A new song-video by the a capella group Maccabeats, done in a Les Miserables way, brings forth another important lesson from Passover. If Moses had not risen to the challenges within himself and from others, his name would have been unknown and Hebrews left in slavery to disappear from history.
There are some scientific critiques of the details of the Exodus in the Jewish Bible. The fine film Life Of Pi brings forth another important lesson, from India, but just as well from Passover. We choose how we remember our lives and travails, and that choice shapes the rest of our lives dramatically.
May you all have a good Passover.
Sunday, March 30. 2014
This 2003 movie, which had the misfortune of being overshadowed by Gibson's The Passion and was never released in theaters, would make a good Christmas present.
Sticking tightly to the language and sequence of this very literary Gospel which was written 2 centuries after Christ's death, the 3-hour version captures all of the key moments of Christ's ministry, and is especially good at capturing the rabble-rousing, reckless and provocative style of his ministry and its inevitable culmination on the cross. It's easy to see why people wanted him out of the way - he was a big trouble-maker and no-one was insulated from his demands or his harsh judgements. Not a go-with-the-flow guy, and John depicts more the Jesus of Truth than the sweet Jesus of Love, yet love of God is the whole story.
The role of Pilate is small but fascinating, and made it clear that we are all Pilates. What would I have done? Probably what Pilate did. Captain Vere in Billy Budd. The story of Pilate is a Greek tragedy, and I feel sympathy for his fate. My only complaint about the film is that Jesus spends more time talking about his relationship with God than he does preaching the rest of his message that was to change the world. I am not a Bible student - but that focus is a reflection of John's Gospel, which was a message to gentiles - "He is in me and I am in Him" - obviously not a message designed to engage the Jews of the time: "Crucify him. Crucify him."
The Jews were not quite ready for a Messiah, nor is anyone, anywhere, any time. How are we to know whether a messiah is the real thing? Pilate is us, and the Jews are us. A holy dream in which we ourselves play every role, as we do in all dreams. Anyway, powerful and very moving stuff, and the narration by Plummer adds a lot.
It is something special.
Tuesday, March 25. 2014
Sunday, March 23. 2014
This season of Lent naturally has me thinking about the theme of sacrifice. I wondered when Jews gave up ritual sacrifice, and was interested to learn that the tradition was to eat the sacrificed animal - sharing it with the priest who no doubt got the filet, and to let the guts burn to ashes. In Christianity, Christ is the unblemished Lamb of God.
Those are the roots of Christ's instructions about what we now call "Communion." "This is my flesh, take of it and eat."
Thursday, March 20. 2014
What he preached:
Sunday, March 16. 2014
This weekend is Purim. Bruce usually keeps us up to date on the Jewish holidays, but I'll fill in during his semi-sabbatical.
Purim: A Wacky Tribute to Life - The Talmud's advice for this holiday: get drunk.
Purim 2014 -- What Queen Esther can still teach us
Friday, March 14. 2014
"Do unto others..." The Christians loved - and touched - this guy. Love that goes around - it doesn't matter whether it comes back around or not but, in some ways, it's more wonderful when it doesn't. We Christians are taught to give of ourselves, and not to take, as a way of life. The capacity to be reflectors of divine grace: that is the "life in abundance" which was promised.
My friend does quite a bit of that, via SIM.
Sunday, March 9. 2014
Wednesday, March 5. 2014
The 40-odd days following Ash Wednesday culminating in the prayer-laden and introspective Easter Vigil are the time when all Christians focus most intently on their relationship with the living Christ, and His role in their lives and in their hearts.
I usually welcome Lent with hope, and excitement about discovering where this year's Lenten journey might lead me. It is the gravitational center of my year.
Plant roots wake up and start growing months before the spring buds begin to swell. Lent is my root-growing time, and I hope it will be that this year.
Tuesday, March 4. 2014
Sunday, February 23. 2014
Friday, February 7. 2014
Creation, existence, and our awareness of these things, are the greatest miracles.
"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."
Thursday, February 6. 2014
"I am not really a religious man, only a sinner in a sailor suit" he says.
A few days ago, at a National Day of Prayer gathering in Washington D.C., Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee ditched his prepared speech, and delivered a scathing indictment of federal rules regarding expression of faith in the military. The video has just now become available.
Sunday, January 26. 2014
Sunday, January 12. 2014
Sunday, January 5. 2014
From Mead's essay:
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.