Sermons from Outside the Walls- 2

He Called Our Mother a Dog

June 5, 2018

If a sermon does nothing but make you feel good, why bother with it?

Nobody goes to a gym to sit in an easy chair, open a beer, and smoke a cigar while watching the big screen TV. No! If they want a return on their monthly fees, they want to sweat and be out of breath for an hour, then go home sore. They want to lose weight, or tone muscle, or increase the capacities of their cardiovascular system and that doesn’t happen by osmosis or being pampered. It happens with hard work- being intentionally uncomfortable for awhile, so that you can live stronger and healthier for more years than you might have lived otherwise.

The same with learning about your place in the kingdom of God. And, time out: while we’re at it, right now, let’s put that word “kingdom” aside for the rest of this series. “Kingdom” is a word which is loaded, after 20 centuries of military maneuvers, royal trappings of royal weddings, and seven seasons of “Game of Thrones” with so much gold, blood, land-grabbing, and intrigue that it is misleading to a tragic degree in imagining anything Jesus intended for it to mean when he was referring to the community God wanted for humans to live within on earth.

So, from here on out, we’re going to use the word “Community.” The Community of God, as in “thy Community come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” etc. OK? “KIngdom” was only a metaphor, anyway- a word used to help humans imagine something they did not know, by comparing that something to what they did have experience with. The word “kingdom” in the year 30 would have been imagined in a very different way than we can imagine it today; therefore, let’s get it out of the way.

(If you’re stuck on thinking of Jesus as a PRINCE of Peace, like a Prince Charles or Prince Harry, remember that on Palm Sunday he came riding into Jerusalem on the back of a little three foot high donkey. In doing so, by dragging his feet on either side of that bumpy little donkey, Jesus was, if anything, demonstrating himself to be the exact opposite of anything princely, regal, or royal. He was just a guy, just like all the people, people like me and maybe like you on that road that day who were cheering his arrival even as they were thinking, “what the..?” Little did they know of the extraordinary events of the coming few days. Little did they know what Jesus would be called upon to do, or that by doing so, he would be demonstrating the extraordinary things they- we!- are also capable of doing.), back to learning about “your place in the Community of God.”

I’m going to point something out here that you might not like- not at first, anyway:

Jesus didn’t do what he did, say what he said, or go where he went for people like me, a gentile. In fact, for much of the time after we first meet him in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, he had his back to the gentiles. His message was for his people, the people of Israel- the Jewish people. If gentiles heard him, it was accidentally. For a Jewish man to have contact with gentiles was not a good thing by the Jewish standards of the day. By some of those standards, it was even a dirty thing to do, especially when it came to sick, dead, or female gentiles. Yikes!

And Jesus was, make no mistake about it, Jewish. A Jewish man. And he proves it right here:

Mark 7: 24-30 (Common English Bible)

24 Jesus..went into the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had entered a house, but he couldn’t hide. 25 In fact, a woman whose young daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard about him right away. She came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter. 27 He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 But she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 “Good answer!” he said. “Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.” 30 When she returned to her house, she found the child lying on the bed and the demon gone.

Jesus called the gentile immigrant woman a “dog.” Try to dress that word up or soften it a little as many biblical commentators have tried to do over the centuries and it’s still a dog. It’s what a Jewish man of the year 30 or so would have called an immigrant woman. It was a default word, an unthinking but common word, a go-to word- like we might hear the words ‘wet back,’ or ‘illegal,’ or ‘hoe,’ or worse. That kind of word. You can’t soften it, it’s too sharp, and it usually leaves a scar.

This uppity gentile Greek woman was being pushy by speaking up when she had not even been invited into the room! She didn’t know her place and, indeed, there wouldn’t have been a place for her in a roomful of Jewish men! So, when Jesus was interrupted by her, when she deliberately threw herself in front of him, Jesus was spiritually, culturally, and personally upset.

syrophoenician woman“Dog!” he says, and we can only imagine the murmured agreement from others who had just witnessed this woman.

But, the woman persists! She insisted and persisted that Jesus pay attention to her. She loved her young daughter more than she cared about her own low status, so she persisted..

And Jesus’ eyes were opened. His eyes were opened by this woman in ways that revealed to him just how big this Community of God he preached about, really was. In her speaking up to him and daring to speak back to him, he heard her desperate cry of need, and he understood that God’s love did extend beyond the Jewish people “in front” of him.

There were others with ears to hear. There were others living desperately at the edges of life who also needed to know God’s love for them. In the woman’s plea, he heard for the first time, the gentiles who had, so far, been “outside” of his community. When said to her, in surprise, “Good answer!” he was, in effect, inviting her into that community. He was inviting her to stand in front of him!

But not only her. One by one, other gentiles began to come to Jesus- and were seen now by Jesus. God’s chosen people, through the example first shown by Jesus himself, were now able to witness others besides themselves hearing Jesus, being seen by Jesus, and being accepted by Jesus as people worthy of God’s love, too. No longer would “those people”  have to pick up mere crumbs!

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is regarded by many as the holy Mother of us all. And she is worthy of the honor and love shown her- she raised a really good kid, after all! But for those of us who are of the gentile persuasion- and that includes everyone who is not Jewish- isn’t this unnamed, brash, pushy, but loved Syro-phoenician Greek woman our true mother in the faith?


We who were not worthy in the eyes of Jewish legalists were made worthy by invitation to join and become a part of the Community of God being gathered together by Jesus. On our part, there is room for no emotions other than humility and gratitude when we accept that invitation. There is nothing for us to brag about, or to congratulate each other about. We may lead some people within the Community, but we are not leaders of the Community.

The leader remains a man, a very Jewish man. He is an Israeli man, and our cues should always be taken from him and not from false teachers who try constantly to usurp his role or make the United States or England or any other country or culture the “shining city on a hill” Jesus referred to in his sermon on the mount.

His invitation was for the woman, and us, to stand in front of him, and then to follow him. And how close and how far are we to follow?

When Jesus was on the cross, nailed, bleeding, in pain, and suffocating, among the last persons he would have seen as his head tilted forward for the last time, were the group of gentile Roman soldiers gathered below him- the ones who had lifted him onto the cross, secured him there, threw dice for his discarded robe, and finally stuck a sword in his belly to hurry his dying. His words as he looked down on them?

“Forgive them, God, for they know not what they do.”

How far are we to follow?

That far.

David B. Weber

syrophoenician woman

Happy New Year, Blessed Moments

I say “happy new year” to you but under my breath and in my heart I am hoping your moments right now are moments in which you can feel the perfection of air filling your lungs, and moments in which your mind is serenely quiet and your eyes are open. I hope you are seeing the multi-colored Light of others, and allowing your Light to shine and be seen on all that is near you. I hope you are hearing the silent heartbeat of God in whatever language you speak of the heart. 

I hope you hear children, trees, dogs, flowers, oceans, mountains, crows, woodpeckers, sparrows, and clouds greet you, when they see you, with an outstretched hand, some shade, a nose to the leg, a butterfly friend, wet pant legs, reflected sunshine, caws, hammered hellos, chirps, or wonder.

I am saying “I hope you have enough to eat, and if you don’t, tell me.” I am saying- but quietly, listen!- “Turn off the television, stop being afraid.” I am saying this: “The Second Coming of Christ is happening all the time, so stop waiting for it. Eat ice cream instead, as a prayer.”

So, happy new year! But know that I really care more, much more, about the moments in this and that year. And I care that those moments are understood by you as affirmations that you are good, and you are vital, and you are loved.


@David B.Weber, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Poem

The importance of pumpkin pie cannot be overemphasized. The care with which it is prepared, therefore, is primary. In fact, making pumpkin pie is a more important skill than any type of carpentry, any aspect of interior decorating, and all fiction writing. The skills and knowledge involved in making pumpkin pie are more important than many other activities as well, but those three are examples of what the world can do without, long before it can do without properly made, specifically seasoned, and longingly loved pumpkin pie.

So, ready to begin? Great.

Now, I know the first question usually is, “Pastor Weber, will I need an apron?” My answer is, “No.”

First, get a pumpkin. A 15 pounder, preferably. Drive around the countryside in northeast Ohio, southern Indiana, or south-central Pennsylvania until you see a pleasant, uncluttered farm. (You’ll need to be way off the Interstate to do this properly, so go ahead and get off at the next exit and turn right. That road, any road, will get you where I’m describing if you keep your eyes open.)

Now, look closely at that farm- drive slowly. Are there curtains on the windows? If there are, keep driving. We’re looking for a farm owned by a particular order of Amish- the ones with no tassles on their buggies and no curtains on their windows. Those are the Amish who don’t believe in gaudiness or showiness of any kind. And the Amish who don’t cotton to gaudiness are the Amish who raise the best pumpkins- the very pumpkins, in fact that we want in our pie. When you find that farm, pull off to the side of the road, and out of respect, walk up the driveway to the house.

Now, I know you’ve seen the movie “Witness.” Don’t worry about that old guy who hovers in every scene waiting to scold, answering the door, maybe carrying a scythe. The chances are almost certain that it will be a teenaged boy who opens the door. He will already have a 15 pound pumpkin in his arms because he saw you coming and knows you wanted either a pumpkin or a place to hide for a couple weeks. Whichever it is, he knows you’ll buy the pumpkin. Give him whatever he asks. $10? Fine. $100? Pay it. Be happy he is an Amish teenager and not that young guy who hangs out behind the gas station in town looking surly.

Bring that pumpkin home now. Set it on the kitchen table and whisper to it a prayer of gratitude. “Thank you, pumpkin. Thank you for your orangeness and your- what shall we call it? Meat? Amen”

Now take a carbon steel knife- 8 1/2″ blade only- hold it in your hand and note the fine sharpening job you should have already had professionally done, if you were following my earlier shared instructions. If it has not been sharpened according to my specifications, then I’m terribly disappointed in you. Nonetheless, we’ll proceed.

Cut the pumpkin up. Throw away the inside stringy stuff and the seeds. It’s very messy, yes, just get through it. Don’t cut yourself. When you’ve got it all cut up, carefully pare the skin from the-yes, we will call it- meat. Carefully, I said! When the tough orange outer skin is all off, dice the pumpkin pieces into 1″ squares and triangles (but no parallelograms, that’s too time-consuming).

Take a five quart stainless steel sauce pan, rub the inside of it with a clean paper bag (don’t ask), and fill it 1/3 full with spring water. Or distilled water. Turn the heat onto medium and when the water is just about ready to begin boiling, add

1 teaspoonful of extra virgin olive oil (use metal measuring spoons only)

1 chai teabag

2 tablespoons of sugar

Add the pumpkin meat and bring to a boil. Let it boil, let it boil, let it boil, let it boil, speaking words of pumpkin, let it boil. Let it boil. 4 minutes. Stop.

Drain as much water as possible into a separate container. When it cools you will be giving this water as a gift to your houseplants. Give it to them just before you eat the pie, which will only enhance that impending, incredible experience.

Now, with a fork, begin mashing the pumpkin. I know you want to use your food processor or mixer but think back to the Amish kid. You saw how healthy he looks, right? Did you see his four little sisters looking around the corner at you and his two older brothers out by the barn with their dad and two uncles? All healthy, none fat, And Mom, who you didn’t see because she was out in the grandmother’s house helping out, doesn’t, hasn’t ever, will never own a mashing device other than a fork. So if a fork is good enough for the ten pumpkin pies she will make before next Sunday, it’s good enough for the one extraordinary pie you’re working on.


Add a tablespoon of oh so slightly warmed Pet milk here and there as you mash until you’ve got maybe 5 tablespoons of milk mashed into the now almost creamy mashed pumpkin. When you think you’re done mashing, add a half a stick of room temperature butter and a half cup of cane sugar (not beet, not corn) and mash for another five minutes. It helps to sing- a lullaby or a work song, doesn’t matter. Pretend you’re on the porch with that Amish mother and her mother come up from the grandmother’s house and you are all singing and mashing. Five minutes will fly by that way and the pumpkin is now beyond perfect for what comes next.

This is the still point in the dance of the pumpkin pie. Everything that has preceded this moment, from turning off the Interstate to singing with the women on the porch, has led to this moment. Everything that happens from this point forward, including the tear which forms at the corner of your eye when you bite into a piece of this finished pie, is dependent on these moments of quiet and stillness.

Breathe deeply. You are preparing mentally to slather the mashed pumpkin into a ceramic bowl, preferably American-made sometime before 1950. The seasoning of the mashed pumpkin cannot be done in the metal pan in which it has been mashed. It just can’t.

Slather the pumpkin mixture slowly, sensuously with a wooden spoon. No plastic has touched this pie and it won’t. Not starting now. Not ever. Slather, Caress, If you want to use your finger on that last little bit, go ahead. There should be about 3 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin in the bowl.

Now, the can of room temperature evaporated milk which those several tablespoonful came from- pour the rest of it into the bowl. Don’t mix it in; just pour it in on top of the pumpkin. The slightly off white evaporated milk against the golden cinnamon/pumpkin color in the abstract forms of chance and chaos will make you, if you are not awakened already, moreso. Just look, and don’t think. Nobody on earth, ever, in all of history has seen such a melange. This picture is yours and yours alone. No, you don’t need a camera; you will never forget this.

Other perfect forms: 2 medium eggs (need I say, room temperature?) Maybe you had the foresight to buy a dozen of these from the Amish lad. Good for you for remembering because i forgot! These will be eggs born in the chemical free gullet of the chicken- a free range metamorphosis of nutrients, pure proteins and chlorophyllic, photosynthetic fire.

Hit each egg sharply against a flat hard surface so the shell cracks, but not all the way through, Now open the egg with hands by separating in two parts the broken shell. The yolk has not been broken, see?


1/2 Cup sugar (again, cane only)

1 tablespoon of Cinnamon

1 teaspoon of Nutmeg

3/8 teaspoon Cloves

Where you get these spices is less important than their freshness. Remember that thousands of people in history have died opening up the spice routes from the East, and from being enslaved by the kingdoms which grew as a result of the riches those spices made possible. The Turks loved their cinnamon! The English loved their teas! It’s easy for us to buy spices anywhere but when you hold that red and white can of McCormick’s Cinnamon/Nutmeg/Cloves, you yourself are now the stillpoint of history. Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Muhammed, and Vasco de Gama are all going to be a part of this pie, too. Through you, through these spices. They are. They just flat are. Everything that follows the addition of these spices is contained in the 5000 year pregnancy of these moments!

Stir, counter-clockwise at first. 100 swirls. How fast? This fast:

Go to sleep you little baby

Go to sleep you little baby

Your mama’s gone away and your daddy’s gone to stay

Didn’t leave nobody but the baby

Go to sleep you little baby

Go to sleep you little baby

Everybody’s gone in the cotton and the corn

Didn’t leave nobody but the baby..*

Now, 100 clockwise strokes. Just count, Fast, fasterfasterfaster..

This is necessary as millions of molecules of air are being captured in the mixture. Molecules of air that have existed in ten thousand forms in the millions of years of their existence. Some breathed in by Jesus, others given off by the flowers in the gardens of Versailles. It’s true, look it up. The pie is the history of the universe and so are you, but that’s another part of this same story. For another day.

Catch your breath now. Set the bowl aside. Have a cup of coffee. Because next, the crust.

Here is the best crust I know:

The crust is vital so you don’t want to trust it I might embellish, or exaggerate, or omit something in the interest of alliteration or hyperbole. I can’t be trusted in the heat of anticipation, in the charged atmosphere of sumptuous smells that are about to fill the kitchen, then our souls.

The rolled crust is ready to be placed into- not stretched onto- a 10″ glass pie plate. First, turn the oven on to 425 degrees. Now,

gently, gently, gently

pour.slather, slather/pour the pumpkin into the crust, up to within a quarter inch from the top, Relax, I know there is still a lot of pumpkin juice- call it pumpkin liqueur- in the ceramic bowl. I am going to give you a gift in a few minutes that you will thank me for the rest of your life, but- first- the pie.  The surface tension should be showing a slight rise in the center of the pie. Yes, it is so beautiful and you are about to make it even better.

Put pinches of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg on piece of paper. Now call the youngest child in the house. If there are no children, then you remember as young as you can, and let Mommy pour the spices from the paper into your open hand. If there’s a child there, do that now. Let her or him look at it a minute- if h/she spills, what? Load her/him up again. Or you. Him/her or you, now..sprinkle the spice over the top.

It won’t be perfect, yet- it will. Y’knowwhatI’msayin? If the little one is there make sure they know that’s the best job of spice-sprinkling you’ve ever seen. If it’s you that is doing the sprinkling, it’s a work of art, isn’t it? I mean, really, it is!

Now open the oven door and you are going to oh-so-freaking carefully lift the pie to the middle rack and gently sliiiiide it into place. Gently, everything..tiptoe, quiet, slooooowly. Now close the stove door. Check again that the heat is at 425 and set the timer for 15 minutes. For fifteen minutes, you and the child can play a game of checkers or draw a picture of turkeys with your hands. And if there is no kid there except you then you can pile checkers up into various aesthetically pleasing piles or draw a picture of a turkey with your hand. (It’s something I do every year, kind of like a mandala: I draw it, it’s pretty and evocative, then I lose it.)

There’s the buzzer! Turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Don’t open the oven door. Just turn the heat down and set the timer now for 45 minutes.

I don’t know what you might like to do for 45 minutes but if you can trust yourself to do something outside the sound of the oven timer, then my recommendation is to go outdoors. But first, get a clean glass from the cupboard. Remember the bowl partially full of the pumpkin liqueur? Pour the glass 3/4 full of it- full all the way would prove to be too much. Now put it to your lips and taste. “Oh what a foretaste of heaven divine,” the hymnist wrote. Now you know what he was drinking when he wrote those words, yes?

Take the rest of the glass outside with you. Contemplate while you are standing or sitting or walking around there, the drive to the Amish farm, the sound of no machinery there, the feel of the pumpkin in your arms as you carried it down the driveway to the car. Without naming the names of everything that is filling your memory right now, just let the images of pumpkin, ceramic bowl, golden/cinnamon colors, lullabies, wooden spoons, and a child’s hand full of the riches of Marco Polo, fill your mind.

Sip. Savor. Serenity doesn’t come in blinding flashes or claps of silent thunder. It comes in glances, whiffs, bumps, and..sips. Savor.

And now it is time.

As you step back in the house the smell fills your nose your face your brain your torso your being and transcends into all that is and the smell wraps itself around through over and above you you are a part of the smell you are the smell and the completion of who you are at this moment is happening as you open the oven door and like a mirror the pie is you and you are the pie yes yes yes yesyuesyes and

with oven mitts you reach, and so gently again now as gently as you would care for yourself and that is what you are doing now, you lift the pie to the cooling rack and you are praying now and you didn’t know you could pray or to Whom or What but you realize you are and in awhile, in just a little while..about an hour, the prayer is answered and you and the child and the child in you and me, please me if I am near,

eat slices of the pie from ceramic plates using silver forks. And it is so good that good is not a word, it is a word that gets in the way of what the pie really is, but it is so good, that we must now move away from it because to succumb to the desire to live forever within the smell of the pie the liqueur of the pumpkin, and the taste of the pie would be to die too early for another piece, another day..


@David Weber November, 2010

Everything Is… (a poem by Candy Shue)

Everything Is – by Candy Shue

(from The Rambler)


The newspaper

you read this morning.

The coffee you drank

while you were reading it.

The article about the couple

getting married at McDonald’s.

The toast you buttered

to eat with your coffee.

The knife you used

to butter it.

The truck that was double-parked

in your driveway.

The guy with the hand truck

who parked it there.

The smell of the cigarette

stuck in his mouth.

The music on the car radio

playing “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

It is all a part of you,


Even the strangers

standing next to you

at the post office

as you imagine what

you’re going to do

with your life


You’re alive, right here,

right now.

Aren’t you?

You’re here.

And here, right here.

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.


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.


  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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  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..


I dreamt, after wakening, that there really are prophets who can hear the One Sound- the music of Creation as it battles Death.

It is the Sound of the Ocean and of Blood, the rhythm of the Moon and the response of our Pulse in a saltwater symphony. It is the voice, not of the god of our imagined fears, but of the triumphal entry of All That Is into the squalor of Jerusalem.

It is the music that proclaims, “it is finished,” even as crabs scurry across the sand and even as ocean waves spread New Life in metered rhythms of New Beginnings.

There are prophets who hear that terrible Harmony even as they are crushed by its Beauty.They laugh and they cry at once for the horror behind them and the hope in which they are wetly standing.

And they must tell others- those few others who can hear the music wherever they, too, are wetly standing. So that they know their feet are not wet in vain, and so they know their always breaking hearts are vital to the continuing Music.

God, Sex, Goliath, and Other Scary Things..

What’s wrong? Here’s the answer:

(These thoughts are complicatedly interrelated as most of the thoughts in all of our minds are. I admire deeply, though, those persons that are able to simplify in ways that I can’t. Bear with me. I promise some new ideas here that will affect the way some of you see the world from this point on. Really!)

Families, Bands, and Tribes

Our species evolved and spent most its communal history in bands of families and tribes of bands. Families bonded together for security and diversification of the gene pool, and crossed the difficult barriers of geography and suspicion to become bands. The people who lived on that side of the mountain needed to get at animals on the other side of the mountain and- “oh, by the way, while we’re over there hunting can we procreate with your people?”

(Trying my best to simplify- I trust you understand. This is cultural anthropology in the smallest nutshell it’s ever been crammed into.)

The bands became tribes. Not overnight and not automatically, but as populations increased and as climate changes (like ice melt), geographical episodes (like volcanoes), and animal migrations or extinctions occurred, the advantages of cooperation over competition were hard to ignore! Now, Americans, think Ojibway, Dakotah, Chipppewa, or Apache. Those are tribes– they lived in districts, many lived in smaller bands, they spread out over a geography, and sometimes at peace and sometimes at struggle with adjacent tribes. What united them was the geography, the resources they learned to share (Apaches and the earliest horses, for instance), language, and shared DNA. A member of a tribe knew they could move from valley to valley without harm, because that was tribal land. They also knew they might have problems on the other side of the valley, over the mountain, because that was the land of another tribe.


Stories evolve among any group of people over time and every tribe on earth was abundant with them. Stories informed those who heard them how to think, how to act, and what the tribe determined was important to know. The shared knowledge of tribes through the telling of stories is why we as humans are still vital (too vital from other species’ viewpoints!). The Dakotah had stories about the Cold and Buffalo, the Aleutians had stories about shifting ice and Walruses (is more than one Walrus, Walri?), the Aztec had stories Warm Seas and Fish, etc, etc, etc.

These stories were how children learned. They weren’t “made up” stories. They were truths that had been observed, or thought about; conclusions about the world around them were made, and those thoughts and conclusions were made memorable and interesting through stories. The stories contained the most current truths available.

Now, here’s the part that has everything to do with today: One way to make sure children in a tribe knew their place, understood their role, and knew to never go over that mountain was through fear. Fear works. Has, does, and will. It’s no accident that the purveyor of bad tidings in the Garden of Eden was a Serpent (hissss!) rather than a cow or a chicken (yum!). Nor, continuing with the familiar stories of the Hebrew tribe, was it surprising that the awful, horrible, sneaky Philistines had a secret weapon (Goliath) or that the loose-living, oft-married Samaritans were trash. Both were good reasons to keep the kids who were feeling their wild oats blooming, at home, where having no other gods before YHWH was much more manageable.

More To Come

OK, I’m going to continue with this tomorrow, and I will deal with these two ideas:

1. Humans lived in tribes a long, long, long time- longer than any of us have the ability to imagine. Ideas and concepts are as deeply a part of us as our physical structure or repertoire of emotions are, and as our abilities to stand erect and run evolved, so did our need for stories and the structure with which they were told. Stories are in us. We need them.

2. We live in a time, however, when we do not need to be afraid, out of ignorance, of the people who live on the other side of the mountain. Our tribe is global now. The separations no longer keep us alive by insuring our safety. The separations now, exacerbated by fools, are going to kill us. Our stories must be re-written.

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For..*

*From Alice Walker’s blog, on the occasion of the events of November 4, 2008

We not only are the ones we have
been waiting for, we’re all we’ve got. Pray all day and all night for the next month, send your miracle-seed donations to whatever shyster television evangelist you choose, or otherwise passively wait for something supernatural from the sky to occur to solve your financial problems. Write angry letters to the editor of your shrinking daily newspaper, call the offices of your congressional representative weekly, go on strike, organize a boycott, find somebody to sue, or sit around the cafe and make jokes about people who for whatever reason- color, age, gender, sexual preference, nationality- are not as good as you and bring their financial problems on themselves and it’s just not fair because now they’re going to be helped and you’re not and God knows you’ve worked hard and you really are a victim: of bankers, Jews, Socialists, Obama, William Ayers, that guy who kills turkeys in Alaska, the CEO of GM, Affirmative Action, and/or global warming, Big Oil, gay guys who want to get married, gay women who believe in evolution,,, etc., and so forth . Do those things; hand the responsibility for your individual fix and our collective predicament over to some thing or some one outside yourself and begin the long slow descent into madness then death, while watching TV and waiting waiting waiting for what once was to be again..


We can start new philosophical, spiritual, and even legal balls rolling that will culminate one day in a very different set of economic attitudes. And those new attitudes are not an option; they are a necessity. An economic system based on perpetual growth is a Ponzi Scheme Supreme. It will fall, as all top-heavy things do. (read Genesis 11, about the Tower of’s an old, old too oft-ignored story.) The American economic system of 2006 was bound to fail!! The fact that it is so amazingly easy to see that now is exactly the reason we can’t be tempted to return to it.

We need new thinking. It probably won’t be fun as we have been prone for too many myopic years to define fun: i.e., “Hey kids, let’s go the mall!” or, “Wow! Look how much our house is worth! We can retire early!” or “Just put it on the credit card.”

Nor will the new thinking we must undertake be able to have the old assumptions of unlimited natural resources, unlimited and willing labor, and an always expandable world market to be constructed upon. In fact, if we hear ideas based on those presumptions, we can know- even without being an economist- that they are wrong.

Here are some things I think MUST be thought about, reconsidered, redacted, discussed, argued about, and then allowed to evolve. These are just a few things and I’ll write more about each and add to the list as well. I hope you’ll talk about things like these in your circles of influence, too- in honest and open ways and in full knowledge that this is a New Creation we are part of..which is both scary AND exciting, isn’t it?

1. We must focus locally and in smaller ways, in every way we can. Interestingly, building “up” is a way to do both (think Manhattan). Walking more, sharing tasks, making do with 1 car instead of 2 or 2 instead of 3 won’t be options one day. The ‘New Marketplace’ will be the hub of the New Community, and for the sake of local employment we should not listen to any proposals by Walmart or any other large corporation to run those Marketplaces!

2. Speaking of Corporations, let’s not, as much as possible. Theirs is a legal status which must be redefined as we move this country from Corporate Socialism with their attendant strangleholds to something far more humane- something really strange and wonderful and new: small businesses, in real competition. (wow, what a concept!)

3. Everything I say about Corporations I say about Big Unions, too. It’s time to rethink everything no matter what color your collar is. Blue collars don’t automatically make you into a working class saint, and white ones don’t mean you’re a bourgeois sonofabitch.

Bottom line: Big has proven to be a hazardous concept, generally speaking. Small must b demonstrated to be the cool new kid on the block that everyone wants to be friends with, because small can give life. Big sucks life away. As someone’s grandpa used to say, “Put that it in your pipe and smoke it.” Really.

4. Here’s something else we should be allowed, if we choose to, to put in our pipes and smoke: hemp. Marijuana. There is a huge industry waiting to be begun in the growing, processing, transportation, selling, and taxing of hemp. Marijuana. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that exists already but doesn’t raise a single taxable nickel while most of the proceeds flow south. Legalizing hemp (marijuana) would ease our prison costs, allow huge fiber industries to begin (Rule: If you’re going to buy hemp fiber, you’re going to process it in the USofA, ok? Good. We understand each other.)

Are you shocked? At a preacher saying this- at any good American saying such a thing? Well, get over it. I’d much rather have my kids (or your kids) passing a pipe around a circle of munchie-hungry friends, than slamming down Dos Equus and Grey Goose in a bar 10 miles from home, while some guy in the corner over there is getting alcohol-angry and is about to rage on the girl who is about to vomit on the kid who is dying alone and silently under the table of alcohol poisoning.

And anyway, it’s the prison building corporations and the alcohol distribution corporations who really don’t want the hemp industry to take off in the U.S. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? (Ok, now..pass the Cheetohs, wouldja, and the chips and the bean dip, and where’s that cake? [Just Kidddiiinnnggg!!!])

5. Barter, trading. I’ll mow your yard this year for you if you’ll allow us to pick from your apple and pecan trees. I’ll paint your house in return for piano lessons for my kid. I’ll keep your pickup running if you’ll help replace my furnace. I’ll trade you my TV for your extra lawnmower. I’ll give you 2 pickups of wood for a calf. I’ll trade my extra room to you for janitorial work at the store.

You see what I’m saying. I know you do. It’s how people all over the world lived for tens of thousands of years but it’s a way of life most Westerners have put behind them. It became easier to hand people money rather than friendship or time. Behind the security fences there are people who need you. And you need them. Don’t wait until you or they are hungry to make introductions. (Ask the elders among us- the veterans of the Depression- if that last statement makes any sense; they will assure you it does.)

6. Death. No, I don’t want to talk about it. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it, so we continue to treat it as if it’s something that can be denied, put off, or foiled. We make absolute fools of ourselves with the massive amounts of money we spend to gain a few years of uncomfortable life at the end of our life. This is a huge subject that is very much a part of any discussion of a new economy, a New Community. And I’ll have more to say.

OK, that’s a start. Discuss amongst yourselves. Just don’t spend a moment humming “The Way We Were” or wishing you could have a conversation with your stockbroker like you used to have in the late 90’s. Those days really are gone. Kaput. Fini. The saviors we were hoping for never arrived. We really are all we’ve got; we really are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Cool, yes?

(and yes, there are a myriad of other subjects in the new economy- all things green, for instance, cottage industries, family and community gardens, and on and on. But w’ve all got to start somewhere. These are the places I chose to begin.)

Sully Sullenberger, Katie Couric, the U.S.A: that was the week that was..

“That Was the Week That Was” was an NBC satirical newsmagazine which was broadcast in 1964-65. The chorus of show’s theme song:

That was the week that was, it’s over let it go.                                                    Oh what a week that was,                                                                                    That was the week that was!

Now, insert the word “Country” where the word “Week” was. That’s what I’m talking about, and Sully and Katie are part of it. And Obama’s doomed economic plan, the Republican’s doomed-to-hell economic plan, the suburbs, GM, Thomas Kincaid “paintings”, and many churches, among many other iconic and traditional things and ways of life in America.   That was the country that was.      

Hang with me here; it will all come together a few paragraphs from now.

1. This may seem like it has nothing to with anything here, but it does in a huge way, and that’s why I list it first:

Sully Sullenberger, pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and the man who successfully landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River last month, is NOT a hero. He IS one heck of a pilot- seasoned, calm, utterly professional, highly skilled, and a real asset to his profession, his race, his family, his community, and his nation. The other 154 passengers on Flight 1549, and their families, love him very much. But he is not a hero. He was doing the job he had trained for and practiced and he did it very, very well. (I’m convinced, after hearing Sullenberger speak several times, that he would agree with everything I’ve just said.)

But media types began the “hero” labeling  immediately, with hopes that hero worship at the glass and plastic home altars would follow. And we, the media sheep, believe our shepherds, and begin genuflecting. Katie bragged at some dinner last night about how she “won” Sully’s first network interview from the other networks.

Two sub-points here, call them 1a and 1b. Ok, 1a: Television stories need exclamation points at the end of as many sentences as possible! They need heroes, not boringly competent people. Just as they need berserk monkeys, octo-moms, and Kim Jong-il. Television demands words writ simply and large and images drawn in bright, shiny colors. They need heroes  and more of them, so they manufacture them by finding individuals who are extremely competent at their jobs, or who play football well, or who are under six years old but know how to dial 9-1-1 when necessary, or who are a dog that barks and alerts firemen to an unconscious child, or who are a cop and gets shot. The media needs these people because I guess we (the American consumer) need them, too. People who watch X-treme Games, or Jackass, or Real Time Videos of Real People Being Injured are beyond staying tuned in through the commercials for a report on anything resembling normalcy. Who wants to see great golf tee shots when they can see a wrestler fall heroically from a high-lift into the turnbuckles, to his death?

1b. Katie, nobody outside an extremely small circle of network insiders gives a rat’s rear about who got the interview first, when, or ever. Nobody except the fellow word-spitting clowns on the local news desk remember, care, or wanted to know in the first place who “broke” a particular  news item. It, like 99.9% of everything, doesn’t matter!  It matters only when you’re part of a culture that believes everything must be won, or lost; that believes for everything that goes wrong or merely not right, there is someone/something to blame; and that believes winning (whatever the game is) is all that ultimately counts.

2. Just as we need bigger-than-life heroes so we may sate our need to vicariously tickle our egos, we have also- being good Americans- sought for too long, that which is too large and too much. For two decades, the suburbs have been growing absurdly fast, filling with homeowners mesmerized by the 300 cubic feet of empty overhead space in the dramatic entryways of crazily huge homes sitting on zero-lot lines, available for nothing down and a first year ARM of only 2%! We have bought cars that are too large, pets that are too expensive, clothes that are too quickly out of fashion, computers that are too old at six months, too pricey college educations that are no longer worth a million extra dollars over a lifetime (as high school guidance once mouthed without critical thinking), too expensive tickets to too many sporting events, concerts, and too many meals out because we’re too busy to stay home and cook, and now the whole too-high hill of too-high hopes is falling. In avalanche fashion.

Jenga! Jenga! Jenga! We’ve been playing a game of pile-’em-as-high-as-you-can, and while there are lots of criminals, we are all guilty. The pile had to fall. The money I made with IPOs in the 1990s- money made without my doing a single thing!- was part of the fall. The credit I’ve used to buy things I didn’t really need, or didn’t really need to replace- that was part of the fall, too. Sure it’s easy to shout red-faced and angry at the Enron parasites and the human cancer Madoff, but I in my tiny way added to the mess of Jenga tiles now covering the table and the floor, spilling out the front door, and out onto the street. I helped make the mess and you did, too, and there is one more huge mistake we can make together, if we let the traditional people-with-answers come up with the answers we desperately need; namely, this:

We can pick up the pieces and start trying to build them back up again, just like they were. 

In normal life situations, cleaning up the mess and starting over would be the right thing to do- in some cases, perhaps even the heroic thing to do! But normalcy as we knew it, as we may soon be pining for it, as we may demand it from a selfish, narrow, screw you standpoint, normalcy is gone for the rest of our lives. (That’s a prophetic statement on my part- a statement born of feelings, guesses, and some basic understandings of human behavior and spirituality; it is not a statement born of formal economic training or knowledge. It’s a statement born of eyes wide open, rather than one formed with mind tight shut.)

I’m afraid the stimulus package has been written and fueled by too many people who believe we can make the country that was into the country that is, again. Even those who oppose the stimulus package are opposing it with a set of tools fashioned with Americo-centric blueprints drawn by social Darwinists who were sitting on natural resources that would never run out, with a great labor supply of people who would always be happy with what they were paid,  and who considered the whole world to be an American franchise.

That was the country that was, remember that. It’s over- let it go! It was bound to fall, and has. We- literally- can spend the rest of our lives bemoaning, regretting, blaming, and finally dying unhappily. Or we can begin to rebuild, like the pioneers whose blood flows in all of us who are Americans. It can be similar to what was, and probably must be. But it cannot be the same. We cannot merely build a new economic Petri dish in which new Enron and Madoff bacterial slime might grow.

Oh, what a country that was…!

(I’ve got some ideas, incidentally, which I’ll write about here in the next day or two. Those ideas, your ideas, our ideas, are what we must start discussing, sharing, modifying, and bringing into being..we must plant seeds of trees we will never eat the the fruit of ! Some of us may even have the opportunity to be real heroes in doing so [the unheralded, self-sacrificing kind]. Go ahead, break that news!)

A Religious New Year’s Resolution

I wish sometimes, I really do..I wish I could slip into a 24 hour emotional coma where Bowl Games were important to me, where I cared for just a little while about what kind of car I drive, or what Jennifer Anniston thinks about anything.

I would like to breathe, just for a little while- long enough to gather strength against the endless soul-bruising I feel condemned at times to live within- I would like to breathe the foreign air of “I just don’t give a damn.” I would like to be able knock a beer (as the phrase is put in hard-drinking, easy-thinking circles) and know that it would stop the world long enough for me to go to sleep one night without a single nagging needle of over-extended empathy jabbing at my heart.

I would like to experience a whole day someday, a day that would enable me to remember what it was like to not have stories like these from this day acid-raining on my parade:

For Kurdish Girls, An Ancient, Painful Ritual of Circumcision


Egyptian Girl Kept As Slave in California Home

These two headlines happen to be fueled by Islam. It would be just as easy on another day to find such stories of cruelty, intolerance, or mythologically-based stupidity rising from Christianity, Hinduism, or Judaism. (If you doubt that statement, and don’t have the ability or skills to go Googling for yourself, message me and I’ll send some examples your way. At this moment, I don’t have the emotional wherewithal to subject myself to more such UTTER, AWFUL, DEHUMANIZING, GODDAMNING, DESPICABLE crap being dispensed incessantly by those who keep the gods of their foul fantasies trapped in the uncritical, unthinking, and unevolved confines of their reptilian, always reactive imaginations.)

Despite overwhelming evidence indicating otherwise, each of us really do have the kingdom of heaven beating somewhere in our beings aching, wanting, striving to find expression in the environments, large and small, in which we each find ourselves.  I also believe that each of us has the ability to cause that kingdom-of -heaven reality to be present and evident for the benefit of ourselves and others when we are aware of its presence in us.

And I dislike to admit it, but I must: that presence may best be found and understood by examining that which makes us most uncomfortable. In other words- for me- it is the boundary-pushing kingdom of heaven in me that makes me want to retreat at times, from it. I’d rather watch a football game and be excited by it, than contemplate the horror of a nine-year-old girl being hacked on because..because.. because NOBODY KNOWS WHY!!!  (“We don’t know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it,” says the mother of a little girl whose clitoris has just been cut off.)

The only thing I know to do is to do something- something, anything, each day, in however many days I might have, to expose, fight, ridicule, or- God,help me-  stand between religious cruelty and its victims. I can bitch, whine, or tilt at windmills, or I can do something.  I can look the other way, pretend my wishes of paragraph #1 have been granted, or stop exposing myself to that which pains me most poignantly, or I can make some tiny difference which- like a seed- may grow.

Therefore, I choose (and promise), beginning today, to do one thing each day to chink at the foundations of religion. I’d rather spread Doubt, than Blind Obedience. I’d rather make an ass of myself doing some thing, than not be noticed at all, doing nothing at all, causing not a single fissure in the landscape of a world where, because of the misogynist dogma of  fear-created gods, there are still little girls..


God, damn religion too. Amen.