Things I Believe; Things I Wish For..

(from the 2006 firstmorning newsletter)

Things I believe..(you can quote me!):

  1. There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. It only becomes bad if you build a fort around it to defend it against new information.

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1938 Book Burning in Germany

  1. If we didn’t know we were going to die, there would be no reasons to paint pictures or compose music.

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Cave drawing-France, Mexican String Art, Painting by Toulouse LaTrec

  1. The worst moment in Christian history was the day, in 325, that the Emperor Constantine marched his army through a river, pronounced the men baptized, and declared the Roman Empire to heretofore be the Holy Roman Empire. On that day, Christianity ceased being a movement and became an institution.

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  1. The Bible is not a god. It is a collection of documents inspired by human interactions with God. It is the best place to learn about God, but not the only place. Wherever there are birds and wildflowers- those are excellent places for doing that, too.

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  1. Anything that is done to intentionally hurt a child is evil.

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abandoned- Honduras; propagandized- Libya; overfed- United States

Things I wish:

  1. I wish Bill Watterson was still doing “Calvin and Hobbes.”

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  1. I wish Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders, and Kairos Prison Ministry could have the money that is flushed down the toilet every time a check is written to a televangelist.

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www.oxfamamerica.org www.doctorswithoutborders.org http://www.kairosprisonministry.org

  1. I wish the world wasn’t being homogenized into the image of an American suburb.

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Krakow, Poland London, England Kyoto, Japan

  1. I wish there was a really good home for every single dog.

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  1. I wish Europe and the United States were willing to clean up the three centuries worth of mess they made in Africa.

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Refugees in Darfur, Sudan..the world is too busy elsewhere..

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The Rapture- if you’re reading this, you missed it..!

Whoops !

rapture

It really is easier to read a novel- or a series of novels – about the Rapture, than it is to read a critical history of Rapture theology. Just as it is easier to “believe” in Creationism than it is to study and understand Evolution. Just as it is easier to maintain a fatalistic view of every single thing that happens (“God did it!”) than it is to face the random nature of many (most?) human and physical events, or to accept an iota of personal responsibility when things go wrong. 

Faith has become a short cut around thinking. The words “I believe” have come to mean that whatever pronouncement follows those words is off-limits in terms of criticism. (Although you are allowed, encouraged even, to verbally punctuate such statements with a hearty “Amen!”)

But is being faithful, toward anything, a legitimate excuse for not thinking? Is thinking about faith a forbidden activity? Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t like dead ends in thought, where questions are no longer welcomed, because then the only thing left to do is to build a fort and be defensive about that arrived-at place of thinking.  And that’s also where Inquisitions and Jihads are conceived.

The theology of the rapture is relatively recent, beginning in the early 19th Century. It was an odd interpretation of scripture which found wide acceptance in the reactionary intellectual atmosphere of the time. Times were, in 19th century Great Britain (where the rapture story began), a’changing. Pastoral countrysides were seeing, with greater and greater frequency, the smokestacks of nearby cities rising in ugly industrial salute to the Coal and Iron being burned and formed in a revolution of manufacturing. Urban areas were growing, along with the attendant urban problems of bad housing, crime, and alcoholism. The rich grew richer as the poor grew poorer. As Charles Dickens wrote of what was happening, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Some people were feeling left out, and powerless, and in need of a “way out.”

And the Rapture is the ultimate Way Out! Every year for the past two centuries someone, somewhere has claimed that this is the year:  This is the year that the Lord returns for his own!  It’s an appealing hope for many people: it costs nothing, it could happen any moment, and it makes those who know they’re ‘going’ better than those who don’t know they’re not going!

The popularity of the Rapture grows wherever people feel out of control. It gives people who believe they will not be left behind, a sense of power- perhaps even, a sense of superiority, over those who will not make the cut. As the doctrine’s popularity has grown, it has become more complex. Schools of thinking have grown about when the rapture will occur in relation to perceived timetables they are able to find in the books of Daniel and Revelation.  On-line resources are available for wills to be read and messages to be sent to relatives and friends who are left here after the rapture to face the horrors of Armageddon, or not.

When Jesus said, on the cross, “It is finished,” little did he know that 1800 years later the rest of the story would be uncovered. Nor did he know it would all be over in 1992, or not.

God Damn Dog Fighting (Again)

Dogfighting Subculture Is Taking Hold in Texas

from today’s New York Times:

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

HOUSTON — The two undercover agents were miles from any town, deep in the East Texas countryside, following a car carrying three dogfighting fanatics and a female pit bull known for ripping off the genitals of other dogs. …….[etc.,etc.]

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Somewhere, in some obscure lexicon of the Inquisition, or in the dictionaries of Bergen-Belsen or Treblinka, or perhaps in the indexes of Jonestown, My Lai, or Abu Ghraib- in some collection of heart-ripping words like those collections must represent, there might be found the right words to describe this despicable practice of that particular debris which postures in human form.

Go ahead, knee jerk reactionary, blame it on the breed. Swallow the media’s fear-mongering use of the sharply spit, so easily spoken description, pit bull. Make it easy on yourself to hate, to fear, to write off en masse a whole species by allowing those with a vested interest in making you afraid of everything outside the walls of your flat-screen television to tell you how, what, and with what degree of terror to think.

And above all, don’t dare look too hard or too long into the eyes of the dog pictured above. Because it’s impossible to not see the confused hunger for human attention and affection pouring from that dog’s one good eye, isn’t it? Deep within his/her genes the synchronistic and ancient communal relationship between humans and dogs is still pulsing, still resounding. Don’t you just know that dog’s tail is wagging at the photographer’s brief attention?

For the record, here’s the kind of pit bull our grand-parents and great grand-parents grew up with, and that many of us can remember watching on television, before the words “pit” and “bull” were twisted around the pricks of drug-addled thugs and  and turned into pornographic metaphors for manhood and virility:

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Yeah, it’s “Petey” of the Our Gang films. Petey– whose descendents would one day be hauled in the back of a pick up truck to obscure locations in Texas (and Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and..hell..wherever bloody handsful of hundred dollar bills are regarded as orgasmic) and starved  before being placed in a cage surrounded by sweating, screaming Michael Vick wannabes and then rewarded for tearing off the genitals or out the eyes of the other frightened scared dog in the same cage, or drowned or head-bashed the next morning for failing to do so.

Look at those eyes, go ahead..once more. One of them belongs to the dog. And one of them belongs to us..

 

Baby Bible Bashers- Fear, in the name of Jesus

Wow! “Baby Bible Bashers,” produced by Firecracker Films, follows three child preachers. I’ve just watched all five Youtube segments and am depressed, angry, sad, and more committed than ever to speaking, writing, and living against this kind of foulness perpetuated in the name of Jesus.

These are little children being manipulated out of a childhood by zealous adults- adults who see their children as their own redemption from failure or- in the case of one daddy- an eternal meal ticket, along with the cars and homes appropriate to being the father of an empire-building “little man of God.” The kids have much more to say about hell than love, perhaps because that is what they know best.

Young Samuel, forced onto the streets of New York City while his daddy taunts homosexuals, is simply a heart-breaking figure. His parents have made him so afraid of “long worms in hell” that he must fight to be a little boy. And that, of course, is deemed to be rebellious and disobedient, which will no doubt earn him yet another spanking.

Honest to God, I feel right now like I need to vomit. Part 1 follows, Youtube will guide you to the other four segments:

Fundamentalism: Jesus is "One of Us"

“Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, we accept her, we accept her, one of us, one of us!” (chant from closing scene of “Freaks”, the 1932 Ted Browning film)

Separation plays well in fundamentalist circles. The drawing of doctrinal lines in the shifting sands of culture, and the interpretation of those lines’ widths and exclusionary powers, makes the “them and us” game an especially appealing fundamentalist pastime.

Fundamentalist Characteristic #3: There is a “Them” and There is an “Us.”

I just read an article from last week’s Wall Street Journal about various Christian churches who have become re-involved with something they call “church discipline.” Church discipline involves privately confronting congregants with their perceived sinful behaviors, and then castigating, then shunning them publicly if they fail to repent. Sinful behavior, in the article, ranges from drunkenness to gossip about the pastor, with an emphasis, it seems, on the latter.

Unfortunately, local church separating practices only reflect larger, institutional blinders that are gleefully worn by those who know, without a doubt, that Jesus is on their side, and that they will have ringside seats in heaven when the bloodbath of Armageddon begins here on Earth.* It is so easy to hate others  from the center of the In Crowd, or to be absurdly defensive when one perceives the Out Crowd being discriminatory (Happy Holidays!).

It’s easy for US to declare war on Them. (irony noted) It’s easy to pass laws favoring US, protecting US, and institutionalizing US into a semi-permanence that cultural evolution would eventually destroy without the safeguards of law.

It makes those who are at the bottom of the economic and education barrel feel good to know that they are spiritually “better than” those high-falutin’, girl-getting, nice car-driving, good job-having, rich guys who are headed to hell in a handbasket! (heh, heh, heh, heh)

Listen to their selfish prayers for the Rapture to come quickly, even as they decry the millions of folks who are “unsaved.” What they are really saying with their “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” prayers is “the hell with them sinners. I’ve got mine; too bad you didn’t get yours!”

John 3:17 (from The Message, which I am purposely using because the fundies hate it!) “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

That, of course- actually helping someone– involves a little work. It might even involve sharing money, time, and- OMG!- love. But that’s more difficult than circling the wagons and singing self-congratulatory songs about the sweet by and by. Bottom line: it’s easier to follow church rules and doctrines than it is to move around the edges of society where Jesus said he would be most easily found. (Matthew 25)

Out there at the edges, you know, where there’s a lot of gray areas and where the US’s and THEM’s are not so easily discerned.

*actual scenario, which I heard salivatingly prophesied by John Hagee, one of the primo experts on who is them, and who is us.

The Virgin Mary Comes To Town!

Oh, happy day! The BVM has landed here, right here on the West Texas prairie, and here she is!

She left her mark this time in the scar of an old native pecan tree. You can see in the picture that the south fork of that tree split away from the trunk, and it was there that the BVM either immediately inscribed herself or was revealed to the world after being embedded within the tree for at least the past five or six decades.

I personally had a hard time seeing her at first, so I’m really just going on the word of those who have the God-given (?) power to see the Virgin in those many odd places she chooses to appear. Me? In my quest to see anything anthropomorphic in the tree, I could only vaguely see Bishop Sheen, as he would sweep from the doorway to the blackboard in his priestly cassock on his Sunday afternoon television show in the 1950s. But then, I kept looking and (what do I know?) I thought I could see Sister Kenny raising money to fight polio like she was also doing in the 1950s.

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Then I made the mistake of continuing to look, wanting desperately to join the throngs (see them?) who’ve made a sacred grotto of the tree. I was able to see a virtual parade of personages, including but not limited to: Joan Baez, Soupy Sales, my Aunt Emma, Jimi Hendrix, and a substitute teacher in the fifth grade whose name I forget.

So there went another potential Epiphany, right out the always open window of my imagination!

Channel 5 out of Fort Worth and Telemundo out of Dallas have already given the tree their pandering-to-the-masses Seal of Approval by televising live reports on the perceived phenomena. Sorry I can’t lend much credibility to their fine reporting, but I’m kind of a stick-in-mud when it comes to sightings of the Divine. I get stuck on little stuff like wildflowers and ants, and dogs licking my face even when I’m feeling like crap. Those things tell me much more about God than the scar of a tree.

*****

And, for the record,here’s Sister Kenny and Bishop Sheen:

sister kenny  Bishop Sheen