This World

September 13, 2014

There’s something wrong with this world. Can’t you feel it?

Something a little out of whack.

We detect that something is a little out of kilter, maybe a little rotten in Denmark, and Detroit, in Darjeeling, something amiss in Mississippi, Malaysia and Malawi, out of sync in Singapore, Sevastopol, and Sao Paulo, and probably in our own back yard.

Everywhere we look in the world we notice folks, including me and you, who are playing the game without a full deck, making mistakes, screwing up; we see them building cities and societies using resources that are one brick shy of a load, with a screw loose somewhere and trying to put things on the straight and narrow with instruments that are about half a bubble off level.

What’s up with that?

Many moons ago, when men were crawling out of the caves and bushes, when women were roasting critters over fire and worshipping the sun and stars and rocks and trees and bulls and bitches, back in the mists of antiquity when humans hung together in packs and tribes, then in camps, cities and even empires– along came a fellow who marched to a different drummer.

He managed to do–not that he was trying to do so– what a lot of celebs these days spend their whole lives attempting–he made a name for himself. You’ve probably heard of him:

Abraham.

Scads of people throughout history claim kinship or faith with him. Why? What was it he did that was so important?  Well, how about this–history, oral and written, records that he believed God.

Abraham had noticed that, as I mentioned above, something was wrong in this world. So he asked God if there was something he could do about it. God urged him to leave the old world that he had been born into, and emigrate to a new place. So Abraham accepted God’s counsel; he picked up stakes and moved.

Since that time, a lot of people of have, you know, done something like that.

Abraham was an immigrant. He was hoping, I suppose, that he would not be turned back at some border somewhere.

He did manage, thank God, to get settled into a new place, and a lot of things happened after that. His young’uns came along–Isaac, Ismail, and so forth and so on.

By n’ by, a certain strain of his descendant family tree got themselves stuck in a slavery situation.

Then another fellow, Moses, came along and sought God’s counsel. He got the people organized and led them out of slavery. While his people were wandering around in the middle east trying to get it together, Moses inquired further of God, and so God gave him a revelation of what was to be done about the situation.

That situation being this world, which is about half screwed up, and what could the people do about it. They needed some laws and principles to get themselves straightened out and going in the right direction, so God gave them some instructions. Nowadays some folks call it Torah, others call it Pentateuch, or Bible. Some call it myth. I call it part of the Bible.

The short-term outcome of all that was, in the ensuing centuries, Moses’ people founded a kingdom and ran it for a few hundred years; it was supposed to be based on righteousness and justice. But, over time, things did not work as planned, and the kingdom was overcome by others and it all fell apart.

A few centuries after that, but in the same place, Jesus came along.

Now the main deal with Jesus is his Resurrection, and our resurrection, which accompanies his if we are willing to go with him. Either you believe it, or you don’t. As for me and my house, I do believe that he was was raised from being dead after being crucified to atone for all the bad stuff that makes this world, including me, wrong.

But of course that’s not the end of it all.

A few more centuries rolled by. Mohammed came along and noticed the same thing that I alluded to above–there’s something wrong with the world. He claimed to have a revelation from God of what’s to be done to get this crooked ole world straightened out.

Now the thing about Mohammed is: although he was a genius in religion, politics, and military strategy, he was a mere human like you and me. And so all the carefully-crafted constructs of his legacy later degenerated into more of the same-old same-old dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest manipulations of selfish lecherous ego-driven men , like everything else in this damned world.

There is no fixing this world. The Jews have been trying to fix life for thousands of years. Now the Muslims are taking their shot at it. Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Shintos, God bless ‘em all for trying, but  none of it works for getting this earth and its people corrected. The world just continues to get worse and worse, and the stakes higher and higher, like carbon emitted and rising to entrap the atmosphere, while human compulsions descend lower and lower, like carbon emitted and accumulating in the tombs of our ancestors and ultimately in our own graves.

But each one of us faces death alone; the wicked world that hath confounded me, stumbled you, for lo these many years– it does not die with us. It just keeps going on and on and on in all its incendiary dysfunction.

When it gets right down to it, each man, each woman, must decide what is to be done about his/her own life, and what role he/she will attempt within the revolving restrictions of the great mandala. As for me–I’m going with the one Creator who, allowing himself to be crucified at the hands of this world’s dysfunction, has already conquered and surpassed the death that awaits us all.

my song about it

Smoke

Time for Jihad?

September 7, 2014

Jihad is not one of the five pillars upon which the faith of Islam is founded.

If we, the Christians of this world, are to morally oppose Muslim terrorists, we should not do it on a platform of condemning Islam as a whole. Such a judgment upon Mohammed’s people would be downright impracticable and unworkable. We may classify them as heretics; some of us may identify Mohammed as a false prophet.

But hey, the Muslims of the world are not going to go away on the basis of our opposing their extremist elements. In the last fourteen centuries millions of the Islamic faithful have followed the teachings of Mohammed, and millions of them still are following him through the Quran and hadith traditions.

And that is worth something, because it is reality. Islam represents a long-lived institutional presence in our world. Such longevity has earned the people of the Quran an historical legitimacy.

Mohammed founded his worldwide religion based on five religious disciplines, or “pillars,” as the Muslims call them: belief in one God, prayer five times a day, giving to the poor, fasting and spiritual discipline during Ramadan, and the hajj journey to Mecca.

Jihad is not one of the five pillars of Islamic faith.

World history proves that Islam is no fly-by-night cult; the opinions of mankind render it a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

On one hand, the “force” characteristic of Islamic expansion is the problem, and we need to deal with it. If Islam is a religion of the sword, which depends on forced conversion of people with whom it crosses paths , we do have a large fundamental problem with it.

On the other hand, if the coercion we presently see from ISIS and other murderous groups is not rooted in authentic Islam itself but rather in extremists’ distortion of that faith, we cannot reasonably classify all Muslims as jihadists.

So which is it? Which “hand” is it? I believe we need to give mainstream Muslims the benefit of the doubt, because we inhabit the same world they do. Blessed are the peacemakers. But the ISIS murderers–they are a different animal. They are the Nazis of our age.

We will soon have to deal with them in the same way our grandparents had to deal with the Nazis three quarters of a century ago. Because the world did not effectively oppose the rise of Hitler and his Nazi criminals in a timely way, their Third Reich thuggery corrupted the entire machinery of Germany’s government and military. Then it took the greatest generation of our Western civilization to put a stop to their fiercely organized bloodletting. But it was not easy. Millions gave their lives in the process of ridding the world of the Nazi pestilence.

This cannot be allowed to happen to the Islamic countries in our day and time. We must make peace with Islam, if that is possible. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Accordingly, we must insist that Muslim leaders clean house, and rid their ranks of those murderers who execute innocent men/women without rule of law and without justice.

This dire situation is nothing new. About ninety years ago, Adolf Hitler named his contention with the world “Mein Kamph,” which means “my struggle.” He spent the rest of his destructively misguided life trying to convince the German people that “his” struggle was the same as their struggle to become a great people. It wasn’t. As it later turned out, the German people had better things to do than fight the feuhrer’s maniacal battles for him. What a price the Germans and the world at large had to pay in time and precious lives, to learn that hard lesson.

Likewise, the Muslim faithful of our present world have better things to do–like governing their own people–than fighting the bloody battles laid out for them by ISIS, Al Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah and others of their ilk.

Fourteen hundred years ago, Mohammed established his legacy among the Arabs by accepting the role of spiritual prophet. But he went further than that. He also took on political and military roles. Perhaps his taking on such forceful responsibilities, and their subsequent precedents after his death, is why the coercive power of the sword has become an oft-used weapon of Muslim hegemony.

This swordish attribute of Islamic power is not a religious tactic to which Christians readily acknowledge legitimacy. Except that: our own history of violence, forced persecution and war are, like it or not, an undeniable stain on the Christian heritage.

Even so, that was not Jesus’ precedent. All the subsequent killing, maiming, forced converting in the name of God under Christendom was what we did, not Jesus. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to atone for those sins that infect every one of us, and to affirm his salvatory work through resurrection after crucifixion. There is no historical evidence that Jesus took up the sword.

As for Mohammed, he affirmed his work through writing the Quran, but also by taking up the sword in the interests of redistributing wealth and establishing justice among his Arab people. He did take up the lethal weapon of military power in order to accomplish that. The principles of Islam governance are human principles.

The principles of Christian resurrection, however, are advocated by a people who hope to transcend this world, and possibly transform it in the process. Because this world is at war with itself, always will be . . . until Christ returns.

You think me naive to write such a thing? Two thousand years of Christianity attest that I am not alone in this belief. As for you followers of Mohammed, may Allah be with you. We’ll see how far that gets you on judgment day.

Smoke

The Sword

August 31, 2014

On the night that Jesus Christ was arrested, he was in the presence of eleven men who had devoted themselves for the last three years to his message and to his life’s work.

That night was a dangerous night. Peter, John, and the other guys could smell trouble coming; it was in the night air as thick as dew on dixie. The powers-that-be did not approve of what Jesus was up to, and they were out to get him.

After these zealous men had eaten their Passover meal with their fearless leader, they were talking about what might happen next. The dramatic events of previous days indicated that something terrible was going down.  They could feel it in their bones that Jesus and his followers might suffer some dire consequences as a result of the unprecedented works of healing, teaching, and organizing they had been doing among their people. Their trepidation was not just idle paranoia, because Jesus was about to be hauled in to face charges of blasphemy and insurrection.

One of his disciples was a man named Peter. Peter was a fisherman by trade, a man of action, a provider, a doer; he was a go-getter, willing to go out and do whatever needed to be done to make  happen whatever needed to happen. So when Peter, impetuous man that he was,  discerned that danger was afoot, he began planning in his mind a strategy to act protectively on Jesus’ behalf.

Now this little band of brothers had, among their minimal possessions, a couple of swords.  Somebody informed Jesus that they they had these two swords, and they were wondering if maybe they should bring them along.

Jesus said: “It is enough.”

Now I’ve been reading and hearing about this historical event all my life. I’m wondering what did Jesus mean by this cryptic, minimal answer when he was asked about the swords (and hence, whether it would be appropriate to use them.)

Think about it. What defense could be implemented with a couple of swords against Caesar’s enforcers? Of what use are a couple of blades against the vast power of Roman law in cahoots with local religious power-players?

Jesus was like yeah whatever I don’t wanna discuss it now. You don’t get it do you, Peter? Just bring ‘em along, whatever.

Subsequent events indicate, however, that  Jesus was committed to his own strategy of non-violence. He knew what he had to do, and it did not involve taking up the Sword.

So a few hours later, when the actual arrest happened under cover of darkness in the garden of Gethsemane, one of the guys whipped out the sword and used it in Jesus’ defense. As a result of that hasty reaction, a slave who was one the arresting officers suffered the loss of his ear. What a bloody omen that must have been to set the tone for what was about to happen.

But then Jesus nipped in the bud what might have been the beginning of a real insurrection. He told the impetuous disciple (many Christians believe the sword-wielder was Peter) to put the weapon away, and he said: “. . . for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

Another cryptic remark from Jesus. Nevertheless, as a result of Jesus’ insistence on non-violence on that fateful night, he went on to face charges (from the religious power-players) of blasphemy and (from the Romans) of insurrection.

The next day Jesus was condemned to death, then beaten and crucified. After a couple of days in the crypt, he was raised from being dead, and a worldwide religion was established on behalf of his redemptive life and work.

So we see from scriptures what Jesus did with the swords that his followers had brought along that night. He chose not to use them.

About 600 years later, another world religion was founded, which was to commemorate what Mohammed did.

So here’s my question for you to consider: What did Mohammed do with his sword?

Sword of the Spirit

Smoke

Dover Breach

August 23, 2014

The air is mad tonight

electric with fright

but drugged with fluff and flight:

hear no evil, see no blight.

America in cyber slumber swoons

while England grooms jihad goons

like 1937 fascist blackshirts

deflowering 2014 democratic skirts.

France ( peace be upon her)

seethes with same old same old stir–

that angst witch discontent doth incur

from yonder barricaded former age

now slit with new jihadi rage.

 

The air of Faith

so thin of late

as most prefer to flirt with fate

now cringes in this new birth of hate;

its melancholy, long withdrawing gasp

retreating fast, like slithering asp

unable now to grasp

with slipping grips unfurled

the naked idols the world.

 

Ah, good Christian, let us be true

to one another! for the world, which casts its spell

of rebel chaos and decadent hell,

has no power when all’s said and done

to set our ancient faith upon the run,

though the infernal note of madness floods every byte

while polar extremists clash by night.

 

(This poem’s form was adapted from Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach.)

Smoke

Black Swan

August 9, 2014

Forty minutes into this podcast . . .

http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/86441/david-stockman-collapse-american-imperium?

David Stockman’s explanation to Chris Martenson about the Ukraine problem suddenly morphed into a dialogue about the present state of our financial markets.

I was so edified by what the former Director of Office of Management and Budget was saying, that I sat down on this Saturday afternoon and wrote a poem about it– pretty unusual subject for a poem, for sure, nevertheless . . . we live in strange times. . .

 

We were out on the market that dark day when

the black swan came

and the dam

broke.

Fast money had driven us to the point

of no return but then we

were sliding on a

torrent.

Someone said the central banks had ruined the

markets, and stabilizing factors

were gone with the

wind.

Two-sided trades had gone the way of the buffalo

because a big animal spirit like that has

no place in the high-freq

flood.

There we were hanging at the end of the long swan’s road

with no ballast in our boat and no bids

to stop us on the way

down,

short sellers driven over the falls by cascading

price plummets and overvalued shares

tumbling in bubblous

froth,

we were lucky to emerge upright after that, after the Fed had

monetized three and half trillion gallons

of rushing flushing

liquid,

and then the dam went bust, banks caving, no saving,

until we tumulted through that broken Wall

and found our little boat

afloat.

Astounded, broke, busted, rudder can’t be trusted,

we drifted to portage on the flooded Main.

T’was there we saw black swan fly

away.

It had long tails, and we saw red sails in the

sunset.

 

Glass half-Full

beware the coming IS kristallnacht

August 5, 2014

“…and when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.

But the two wings of the great eagle war given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time,

and the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.

But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.

So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

Revelation 12:13ff

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/world/europe/anger-in-europe-over-the-israeli-gaza-conflict-reverberates-as-anti-semitism.html?_r=2

Smoke

The Rabbi’s Perspective

July 30, 2014

The book of Genesis gives an account of Jacob wrestling with G_d. I can relate. Sometimes I  feel as if I too am wrestling with God.

We are not alone in this contention. In some ways, Jacob is still wrestling with God. History has shown that Israel’s contention with Elohim often involves strife with other people. In the present day, the IDF’s intrepid excursion into Gaza has called Israel’s credentials as a civilized nation into question. If Jacob began the invasion opposing Hamas, bloody events have conspired to make it appear as if he is contending, not only with the whole world, but possibly also contending with the One who made the world.

Because 1200 people are dead, most of them innocent civilians, and many of them children.

If Israel’s long-range objective is to establish existential legitimacy in the eyes of the world,  who is really winning this contest?

Although I am a Christian supporter of Israel, during this last week that supportive  voice in my soul has been drowned out with the cry of innocent blood that now emanates from Gaza ground.

I know that Israel did not initiate this defensive campaign with the intention to kill more than a thousand Palestinian civilians.

But that is what has happened. There’s no excuse for a thousand dead bodies, most of them innocents and many of them children. Somebody should have had the sense to stop this thing before the loud din of bloody collateral damage drowned out any possible victory proclamation.

In this audio link that I am now recommending, we hear a Jewish voice that is a credible alternative to the Likud/IDF way of doing things. Rabbi Henry Siegman acknowledges that Israel’s initial attempt to end Hamas rockets is justifiable. I agree.

But because of Hamas’ treachery against its own people,  the IDF has suddenly jolted far past the line of what is, among the opinions of mankind, acceptably justifiable warfare.  In Rabbi Siegman’s interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, he offers an historically-based explanation of why Israel’s defensive sortie could have degenerated into such an excessively lethal assault.

The man has certainly earned a right to offer his perspective. He  is a former President of the American Jewish Congress, and former President of the Synagogue Council of America.

I am fascinated with Rabbi Seigman’s personal history, which includes his family’s escape from Nazi Germany. The Siegman family’s arrival in the United States during World War II was a thankful deliverance after several years of evading the Nazis during the early Holocaust period.

Born in 1930, Henry was one of six children whose parents secreted the family out of Germany in 1935. Their odyssey of survival included temporary residences in Belgium and Vichy France, and attempt to enter Spain, and eventually a boat ride out of Marseille to North Africa and ultimately a voyage to  New York.

In this Democracy Now conversation the Rabbi speaks of his Zionist youth, his later hope that Israeli peace with Palestinians could culminate with Messiah, and his subsequent disappointment that Israel had been unable to reach an agreement with the people who lived in Palestine when the Zionists moved in. The Rabbi’s perspective is a highly credible counterpoint to the Likud/IDF strategy for establishing Israel as a nation among nations. In this link to the July 29, 2014 broadcast of Democracy Now, the interview begins at the 19:00 minute mark:

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/30/henry_siegman_leading_voice_of_us

 

Smoke

What about them Washington Fedskins!

July 26, 2014

Let’s hear a big yelp for the Washington Fedskins! The buzz this season is that their red-tape defense can stop any team in the country. And their offense is beyond figuring out.  If I were a betting man, I’d say them Fedskins will be a dark horse for the Super Poll this year.

Glass Chimera

The way of the World

July 24, 2014

Just rip my heart out o me

will ya? Go ahead and

snuff out any hope of justice or

mercy in this world,

as we hear of hundreds clueless

passengers get shot down because

ukraine is bleeding thirty-eight thousand feet

below,

and hundreds more of Gazan kids get blown to

kingdom come,

while ISIS caliphators purge Christ

from Mosul. Just

rip my heart out will ya?

Once again just rip my

heart will ya while

the Innocents get nailed to crooked

damn cross

between power and purge,

between them that are bad and

them that are worse.

Makes me wanna curse

but I won’t cuz it been done already

enough.

Just send in the

hearse

will ya?

 

Smoke

Israel’s Hamas tar-baby

July 21, 2014

IsraeliFlag

I support our alliance with Israel.

But the Israelis, our only true allies in the Middle East, have gotten themselves into a bad spot in Gaza, and we need to help them. Please pardon me if I use this term: we need to Bail them out.

The present rocket-exchanging debacle with Hamas in Gaza has turned into a disaster. Hamas started it by manipulating their own people into a perilous position that placed innocent, civilian residents of Gaza in harm’s way. Thus Hamas have offered their own women, children and other innocents as victims on the altar of military politics.

Hamas has outfoxed Israel, because Israel now appears to be the aggressor because of the blood on its hands.

But it was Hamas who initiated the aggression when they began firing rockets from heavily-populated civilian locations, to lure the Israelis into grabbing hold of a tarbaby from which it can never free itself.

This is what Allies are for. The Israelis need our help because they’ve been drawn into a hopeless situation that can lead to no good outcome for them.

The theatre of war we have here is like Uncle Remus’ tale of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox. Hamas, playing the role of Br’er Rabbit, has tricked Israel into playing the Br’er Fox role and grabbin’ onto the bloody tarbaby of Gazan atrocity.

“Don’t you be messin’ with my tar-baby in Gaza, Br’er Fox!” This was the ruse with which Br’er Rabbit taunted Israel, while setting up its own rocket-launching offense from tunnels they had dug right in the middle of Gaza’s densely-populated civilian areas.

Unfortunately for Israel, Netanyahu and the IDF were desperate enough to take the bait. Now they be stuck on the tar-baby and can’t get away. Now Israel has tarry blood on its hands in the midst of a massacre that becomes a holocaust for Gazans and a public relations disaster for Israel.

So I’ll tell you, as an American citizen who is entitled to his opinion, what we need to do.  Our United States of America armed forces need to move in. Send in the cavalry.  Do a search and rescue surgical operation. Deliver the innocent Gazans from death and destruction, and rescue  our ally Israel from political and military disaster at the same time:

Send in the yanks! Dispatch the special ops guys to do a surgical strike that will  put an end to this bloody accident of history. Bail out our only true ally in the Middle East. Maybe send the Marines, or the Seals, or the Rangers. I don’t know which team, but this is a job that our guys can do.

1.) Get the Israelis to back off, so we can move in from the Mediterranean side.

2.) Find the Hamas rocket-launchers and run them the hell out of those tunnels. Restore Gaza to the peaceful Gazan citizens.

3.) Clean up the mess. Bring in the UN or Red Cross, Red Crescent, whatever it takes to mend the wounded, bury the dead, and restore the neighborhoods of Gaza to their peaceful conditions.

4.) Destroy the Hamas rocket-launchers. Fill the tunnels with dirt. And don’t let Hamas back into Gaza. Send the Israelis home; tell them to pay better attention next time. No more tarbabies.

If we could take out Gadaffi and Bin Laden, we can take Hamas out of Gaza, and teach our allies a lesson in the process. Mr. Netanyahu, be more careful next time. We don’t want to make a habit of such interventions.

Smoke


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