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, August 20. 2014
Monday, June 30. 2014
I like Pope Francis, and I think he has said and done many good things to date. I think his comments on Capitalism were misplaced, and so is his current commentary on Communists.
Points in time like these remind me why we need to teach basic Economics in our schools. Capitalism has done more to reduce poverty and improve the economic prospects of the poor than Communism ever did.
More importantly, and this is where Pope Francis goes veering off the rails, Communism forces people to 'be good', rather than allowing them the right to choose the proper path of behavior. It is true that certain miseries and unfair behaviors take place under Capitalism, but these are more than mitigated by the greater gains of all individuals across society. Communism, on the other hand, uses force and coercion to fix perceived inequalities and creates a permanent political class system which is not just economic in nature, but capable of enforcing its whims on those who are not part of the class.
It's worth remembering that Economics was originally called "Moral Philosophy." While Adam Smith is considered the father of Economics, he considered himself a Moral Philosopher and was merely seeking to determine how people made their decisions to act in certain ways. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out:
Sunday, June 29. 2014
A sample of Luther's table talk, from a piece at Scriptorium Daily:
Luther was an outspoken, plain-speaking fellow. The piece is here.
Thursday, June 26. 2014
Friday, June 13. 2014
Here's a good piece on scientism as a superstition.
Friday, May 23. 2014
Thursday, May 15. 2014
Fancy theological words for fairly simple ideas.
As I understand it, the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) view God as both immanent and transcendent. I do, I suppose. However, I know little to nothing about theology.
I fell into this subject while thinking about the word numinous (from Latin numen - a spirit which inhabits a thing or place). My Pastor referred to "numinous experiences," by which I believe he meant moments in which God's presence is strongly felt. I like the word very much.
Tuesday, May 6. 2014
From Gods and Gopniks by David Bentley Hart:
Friday, May 2. 2014
Mrs. BD says that, in the women's prayer and study groups she is involved with, her most useful inspirations lately come from C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce.
A number of the women in these groups are "searchers," "questioners," etc., and not committed or reborn Christians, but they are bright and curious. It's a good mix of people, it sounds like.
The book seems to focus on the emotional, intellectual, and psychological obstacles and resistances to faith, presented in allegorical form. It's the only CS Lewis that I have not read. It's said to be sort-of a pop version of The Divine Comedy.
What are the obstacles to accepting the offer of a life "in the Kingdom"? One view would be that it is addiction to self, or addiction to the material world, or similar attachments to intellectual vanity and other things - all supported by various rationalizations. The point, if I understand Mrs. BD's exposition, is that the offer of life in abundance in the Kingdom is now, but, just like afterlife (which I am dubious about), you have to leave some baggage behind to get there. It's a free choice to live in the darkness or in the light.
The freedom of choice is important.
Here's an interesting development, about the psychology of non-believers
Wednesday, April 30. 2014
It's about the new paganisms: The Rights of Aphrodite - W. E. Knickerbocker on C. S. Lewis & the New State Paganism.
Sunday, April 20. 2014
Mark 16, 1-8
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "
8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
I cannot hear this one without tearing up. We ask non-believer and other-believer readers to be tolerant of all of our Holy Week posts: it's just my "spiritual orientation," ya dig? In my blood. At Maggie's, all spiritual orientations are welcome.
Everybody has his own spiritual orientation, like it or not. It's human. Christians orient themselves to Christ, who we see as the Messiah who was promised, our North Star, rock, redeemer and salvation. As apes, there may be only a little good in us, but we can be changed. That's the offer. Take it or leave it. Speaking only for myself, I don't care at all about eternal life but I care very much about the richness and depth of my life today.
Saturday, April 19. 2014
Today is Holy Saturday for the Catholics, but we Protestant Yankee New Englanders just call it "yard chore Saturday" or Trout Fishing Saturday.
I was thinking about how the term "pious" has become an almost derogatory, if not derogatory, term, which took me to Euthyphro. Never get in a debate with Socrates expecting to win, but always get in one if you want to be forced to re-think what you think.
From Justification, Sanctification, and Grace, from Dr. Bob:
At our little New England Congregational church Lift High The Cross is sung each Lenten Sunday, and that tradition is much-loved. Here's another little church, Episcopal (corrected that) and full of old people, with the hymn. My church is packed with young people and their little kids, making me feel old.
Friday, April 18. 2014
An old folk hymn for Good Friday. h/t Nice Deb
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"
Thursday, April 17. 2014
"The Last Supper" is thought to have been a Passover seder. That supper was the source of Communion: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again."
In our church, we remember this event with a group Passover supper on Maundy (Middle English, "holy") Thursday, eaten in silence. No wine, though, as a consideration to the abstinent.
Below, Bassano's Last Supper (1542), depicting the reaction to Jesus' prediction that one of them would betray him.
Monday, April 14. 2014
As they fled from Egypt, the Hebrews stared at the Red Sea in front of them and the Pharoh’s army closing on their rear. Now, that was a really fearful barrier to aliyah, the act of rising up toward Jerusalem and living one’s soul fully. That border from slavery to freedom caused many to tremble and consider surrendering.
We conduct the seder, the traditional prayers and meal by which we celebrate and remember that G-d liberated us, as a central continuation of our bond with G-d and the rediscovery of the relevance of that liberation across the generations. At the same time we can expand on that central group meaning by remembering and celebrating the other yearnings of our soul to live in freedom as an individual.
We spend most of our lives in “shoulds” that we were taught or acquired. Most of the shoulds are worthwhile and meaningful. However, many are needless limitations on exploring what lies beyond the borders to which we’ve grown accustomed. They are self-imposed chains on our souls. There is a simple way to know if you are living your soul: do you feel at peace and contentment, pretty much regardless of external stressors? If you do not, you are not living your soul.
We each have a unique soul, too often quite smothered under shoulds and only faintly known to us and lived. Passover provides a time to consider what we knew as children, what we feel when in moments of exaltation, what we yearn for, what we can accomplish, how we can be freer. This does not mean being excessive or abandoning responsibilities. It just means living truer to our own nature and to how we wish to be with others in order to have a more meaningful and richer life experience, which also attracts others to do so in their own way.
During the seder we point at the matzoh and say, “For the sake of this, G-d did so much for me when I left Egypt.” If any that we know about, Jewish or other, are less than free, we pledge ourselves to bettering their lot. That is our duty, carried over many centuries. Our duty to ourselves is no less important, as the freer each of us is to live our soul in peace and joy, the moreso we can carry that blessing to others.
A Messiah may come and bring us all peace. Meanwhile we can make a personal aliyah and rise up to bring ourselves more peace by living our soul -- freeing the better side to feel and constructively channeling the assertive side -- and from that bring more peace and freedom to others by our example and deeds.
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