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, April 18. 2012
(Photos tear at emotions. I purposely do not include any images in this post as emotions are far from enough to convey the individual stories or the brutalities.)
At sundown today begins the annual observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day. There are many museums, plaques, books that let today’s visitors get a glimpse of the horrors and the heroes of that time. As one passes through and on, what is often missed is the individual stories, the lost hopes and potentials, the personal exertions, the evils that were so common among men and women of many nationalities. The Nazis could not have killed so many without the work of those in conquered countries, some coerced, some bribed, some for their own salvation, many because of rife anti-Semitism. The Yad Veshem museum and memorials, including to Righteous Gentiles, outside Jerusalem, is a major repository of these individual stories. Visit the website.
The Holocaust needs to be remembered and restudied in every generation just because of its scale, and because of what it says about the thin veneer that separates now from then and now from recurrence. (It is not by coincidence that the week after Yom Hashoah is the celebration of Israel's Independence Day, Yom Ha'atzmaut.)
Below is a piece I wrote in 2006 that includes first-person accounts of what happened in a village near where much of my family perished.
Continue reading "Yom Hashoah"
Sunday, April 8. 2012
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
Image: William Blake's Resurrection
Saturday, April 7. 2012
The commandment was preached by Jesus at the seder, the day before his crucifixion and death. From John's Gospel, Chapter 13:
31Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Friday, April 6. 2012
Jesus Arrested: "Am I not to drink the cup?"
After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, For whom are you looking? 5They answered, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus replied, I am he. Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, I am he, they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, For whom are you looking? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8Jesus answered, I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go. 9This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me. 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. 11Jesus said to Peter, Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?
12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Peter denies knowing Jesus
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you? He said, I am not. 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
The rest of the story is below the fold -
Continue reading "Good Friday: John 18"
(I've been away this week, so unable to compose a new post, but this one from several years ago is appropriate.)
Tonight is the first night of Passover, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 also began on Passover.
Rabbi David Hartman wrote:
So we repeat:
Passover Seder Symbols Song
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Tuesday, April 3. 2012
Is a life without some form of spiritual (I hate that word) communion a half-dead, or dead, life? Many who partake of it would say that it is. Christ offered "life in abundance" (John 10:10) - and he did not mean toys, money, entertainment, comforts, food, or trinkets.
We got on this topic of communion at my men's Bible group on Friday (we were reading Mark 14 - a key chapter in the NT).
I thought I had recalled that the communion had first been a reference to the communal meal at the end of the early house churchs' worships, of which, of course, bread and wine were part. A "love feast." A communion with Christ, or with brethren? Both, I'd suppose. It's all the same.
The Eucharist ("Thanksgiving") as a formal church ceremony and a sacrament to the Catholics emerged hundreds of years later. The communal, celebratory meal became a symbolic meal and then, in the Catholic Church, a miraculous meal as was made official dogma at the Council of Trent in the 1500s.
(In my Protestant church we do both the symbolic meal and a serious, carb-packed breakfast spread afterwards which I term "the cocktail party." No vino, however - because it's too early in the day for most of us.)
Christ's simple instructions, followed by the "Do this in remembrance of me" at the last supper (Passover) were altered versions of the Passover traditions, in which, in claiming His New Covenant of salvation and anticipating his death and resurrection, Christ related it to himself (I will not get into the topic of the Trinity because it's over my head, nor will I get into the symbolic cannibalistic imagery).
So a question we had in mind was whether the remembrance is for every meal, for communal meals, for special times like Passover (which my church celebrates with a traditional Passover meal, in silence), for church ceremonies - or even whether it might apply to our Bible study's coffee - but not to confuse Dunkin' Donuts with the church's Welch's Grape Juice. We also wondered whether the tone is best solemn, or celebratory (our church does the solemn).
As a Protestant, I tend to think Christ was asking to be remembered at every meal with brethren. However, I have been wrong often. I'd welcome any enlightenment on these topics from readers because I am probably wrong about much of this.
Most Protestants use these words, quoting Paul:
Sunday, April 1. 2012
Wednesday, March 21. 2012
I like the Taize songs. Here are a couple of them:
Thursday, March 8. 2012
From Part 5 of Takuan Seiyo's The Bee and the Lamb, a rambling but interesting essay at Gates:
Wednesday, February 29. 2012
"God has all the essential characteristics of what we mean by a “person,” in particular conscious awareness, the ability to recognize and the ability to love. In that sense he is someone who can speak and who can listen. That, I think, is what is essential about God. Nature can be marvelous. The starry heaven is stupendous. But my reaction to that remains no more than an impersonal wonder, because that, in the end, means that I am myself no more than a tiny part of an enormous machine. The real God, however, is more than that. He is not just nature, but the One who came before it and who sustains it. And the whole of God, so faith tells us, is the act of relating. That is what we mean when we say that he is a Trinity, that he is threefold. Because he is in himself a complex of relationships, he can also make other beings who are grounded in relationships and who may relate to him, because he has related them to himself."
Tuesday, February 28. 2012
I’ve been going to an interesting series of lectures on what is called Holocaust theology, the attempts to analyze what lessons about G-d can be drawn from the Holocaust, summed up in the question “Where’s G-d When Needed?” The learned views vary but, not having read the books, what seems missing is the question of “Where’s Mankind When Needed?”
The discussions of the question “Where’s G-d When Needed?” offers answers that draw upon centuries of theological explorations of what G-d is or what G-d intends and of in what ways we should be observant or revisionist in our religious practices.
Ultimately, however, in my view, modesty is – at the very least – required of man in presuming to understand G-d. Indeed, whether formally or spiritually religious, whether of faith or lacking faith in G-d, whether of any faith, it is, to me, more important and more knowable to try to first understand mankind. There is a truth to be had.
Continue reading "Purim: Where’s Mankind When Needed?"
Wednesday, February 22. 2012
Anchoress: Unbearably self-revealing.
May your Lent be as self-revealing (if painfully so) and confessional, and yet as grace-filled, as I hope mine will be.
The Lord has already served me up a dose of tough love these recent years through true but unwelcome messages to my soul, and I think I know what I have to address.
Sunday, January 29. 2012
Loreena McKennitt put the lyrics of this poem by the Spanish mystic monk, poet, and theologian John of the Cross (1541-1592) to music. Some of our readers will love what she did with it. The Youtube blurb on McKennitt's piece:
John also wrote a treatise on his poem, of the same title. As I understand it, the "dark night" also refers to the period between death and resurrection and union with God, or between death and heaven, and as a metaphor for the condition of being out of touch with God and His love, seeking it in the dark. However, John of the Cross makes a sexy love poem of it too, in the tradition of Song of Songs (Solomon, the old rascal, had 700 wives and 300 concubines to keep him from straying too far from the harem, and out of trouble.)
Here's one translation from: THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, revised edition (1991). (Copyright 1991 ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included.)
1. One dark night,
2. In darkness, and secure,
3. On that glad night,
4. This guided me
5. O guiding night!
6. Upon my flowering breast
7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
Wednesday, January 18. 2012
Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033 – 1109) h/t Anchoress' Believe! And Get Yer Patron Saint!
The way I say it is that you can study the chemistry of water for years, but you can't know what water is until you jump in the pond and take a swim in it.
Sunday, January 15. 2012
Disturb us, Lord, when
Disturb us, Lord, when
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
We ask you to push back
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Francis Drake,an adventurer and essentially a legal pirate (What else is a second son supposed to do to make a living?), wrote this prayer as he departed Portsmouth on the Golden Hind to raid Spanish gold on the west coast of South America. He ventured at least as far north as the non-Spanish parts of California, claiming it as "New Albion" - New England- and returned to his Queen (the long way - via circumnavigation) with loot worth over a half million pounds sterling, and received his Knighthood for it.
Monday, January 9. 2012
Our webmeister is on vacation on Kauai, and emailed this pic of Koloa Church yesterday. Looks like New England, and not by accident.
A quote from the guest preacher at my own home church yesterday: "Go with Jesus today, and let Him take you to places that cash and Mastercard can't take you."
Saturday, December 24. 2011
Though the Twelfth day of Christmas, of course. From his opener today:
Thanks for doing this for us, Prof. Mead. It's a good gift.
Tuesday, December 20. 2011
The miracle of Chanukah, the celebration of which begins tonight, is about more than the sacred oil lasting eight days. It is about the determination of mankind to overcome despair, to rise up in our faith, to have freedom. This meditation is appropriate:
Odetta, great folksinger and inspiration to many others ("The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta."- Bob Dylan), explains the meaning of one of her favorite songs. Listen closely. Then clap hands and sing along with her.
Saturday, December 17. 2011
"Though Christmas is a religious holiday, secularists should appreciate its great contribution to Western Civilization: the lesson that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity."
From the article:
Friday, December 16. 2011
Regular readers know that the Bird Dog family, while Protestant in tradition (well, Mrs. BD is RC in tradition, Protestant in current practice), are fond of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, offer them some modest support, and visited them, chatted with them and worshipped with them this past summer. Some American monks there.
Norcia was the home of St. Benedict. It is a joy and a privilege to support these people.
Not to seem irreverent, but the other reason to visit Norcia is for the food. They run buses up from Rome for the day just to eat and drink there, and to ride home in a wonderful Italian stupor with their bags of salumi, country wine, and dried stringozzi beside them. Possibly the best food in Italia: Porcini, Salumi, Cinghiale, Stringozzi, Polenta, Risotto, Tartuffo - and happily no spaghetti and no tomato sauce to be found.
Photo was our Italian Primo in Norcia - polenta with tartuffo sauce. The antipasto was also superb with the local cinghiale salumi and prosciutto, olives, and amazing Pecorino. As I recall, we had, as Secondo, Cighiali stew with porcini with a side of spinach with oil and garlic. That's real Italian. Can't beat it.
Thursday, December 15. 2011
In this morning's news stories, BD linked to a discussion of what may happen should Tim Tebow and the Broncos win the Super Bowl. Outlandish talk, not just because of the religious/political overtones injected by the article, but also because the Broncos are a long way from the Super Bowl.
Most importantly, however, was the fact - and this is a fact many people following this story choose to ignore - that Tebow is winning not because of his religion or beliefs, but because of his hard work.
His fervent religious beliefs are intriguing and that's what makes him a great news story. He's different from many other well-known athletes in this respect. It's unfortunate that it's not his work ethic that makes him interesting. This may be due to the fact that so many great athletes work extremely hard. So I guess it's a surprise that he can have religion and work hard, too, that makes him different? Not according to his teammates.
Tuesday, December 13. 2011
The story of the transition from Judaeo-Christians to Gentile-Christians. Jesus taught only to his fellow Jews, but the history of the expansion to the gentiles, and the discomfort between the Jewish Christians and the gentile Christians made for interesting drama and conflict.
Eventually, the gentile-Christians dominated the faith. Most Christians today were pagans in their ancestral histories - hence our Saturnalian December Christmas (Jesus likely born in April, but it doesn't really matter) - and the good old pagan Christmas trees.
Sunday, December 11. 2011
Many forms of atheism, and plenty of atheists appear to attend church or synagogue for all sorts of reasons - including the hope that faith might be contagious. One quote from Novak's post:
"Higher Power"? That is certainly a form of theism albeit undeveloped.
It's gift time, and I have been thinking about my own gifts, such as they are. Besides being fairly tall, possessed of regular features, a Victoria's Secret killer shape despite 3 kids, and a functional IQ and an athletic nature, what are the gifts with which God has endowed me? Am I doing justice to those gifts?
I have recently made a project of listing my strengths and weaknesses, and my special abilities which I view as my gifts. Middle age will do this to a person. Like most people, my list of weaknesses and of abilities is long, but my talents are f.
Do I use my semi-talents well, those gifts of the spirit, and do I use them in service of the Lord? Do I neglect them, or do I use them only for my foolish personal wants? I do love my foolish personal wants, however pointless they may be. Like a certain Michael Kors handbag. For what?
That's my sermon to myself this afternoon.