Archive for March, 2011

Demoniac tantrums

March 27, 2011

In the USA we have a long tradition, beginning with the Constitution, that separates church from state. Other coutries each have their own  histories and precedents as pertains to this issue.
In Germany, a union of the Christian church and the State, or Government, was a long collaboration that stretched back into history many centuries, going all the way back in time to what is called the Holy Roman Empire, of the middle ages.
In the secularizing 20th century, this church-state collaboration became a problem.

In Nazi Germany, the union of church and state became a problem for Christians of conscience who detected some decidedly heathen policies that were imposed by the Nazis, long about 1933. It was also an impedement  for the Nazis until they clamped down on religious freedom by restricting the activities and freedoms of certain German pastors who were dissenting against the third reich.

In August of 1933, the Nazis rounded up a bunch of submissive church leaders and imposed upon them a new identity that neutralized their espousal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and replaced it with a Nazi-approved theology that suited the hateful programs of the third reich.

The new Nazified theology was rejected by pastor Martin Niemoeller, who shepherded a chruch in Dahlem, a Berlin suburb. Niemoeller not only spoke publicly from the pulpit in opposition to Nazi restrictions, but he also proceeeded to organize support among Christians to resist the corrupted churchianity that the Nazis were trying to impose on  the German church.
The most notable atrocity that the Nazi heathens had sought to force on the church in Germany was the “Aryan paragragh,” a reprehensible dictum that banned all persons of “non-Aryan” ethnicity (or having non-Aryan spouses) from holding state office. Since the collaboration between church and state had been a very old arrangement in Germany, this affected the church indirectly.

But even more important than that, it was wrong, and some discerning Christian smelled the Aryan rat.

When the dissent arising among Pastor Niemoeller and others likeminded with him became an inconvenient irritant to the emerging Nazi program of exterminting the Jews (and other groups), Hitler and Goering ordered that the offending churchmen should be rounded up and taught a lesson.
In January, 1934, Hitler devised an end to the Christian clergy problem when, in the presence of those pastors, he threw a tantrum, assaulted them with his yelling tirades, and then left the room before they could object to his sociopathic behaviour and the oppressive policies that would ensue.

Unfortunately, Hitler’s bluster worked, as did much of his reprobate assault on civilization until the Allies  later defeated his militaristic machine of heathenism.

After that meeting with the resistant pastors in 1933, most of the good German reverends treated Martin Niemoeller coldly, and withdrew their support of his brave resistance to the Nazi tyranny. Martin Niemoeller, although he had been a U-boat hero in WWI, was later imprisoned by the third reich. Thus did the domoniac Hitler neutralize Christian resistance in the Nazi era.

I want to thank Clarissa Start Davidson, whose book God’s Man, the history of Pastor Niemoeller, published in 1959 by Ives Washburn, Inc. of New York, informed me in the posting of this blog. Thank your, Clarissa.

If this ever happens again in the world, I hope and pray that Christians, me included, will have the Christ-inspired courage and good sense to not comply with heathen megalomaniacs, their oppressive regimes, or any other worldly power that seeks to wipe us or  our Jewish compatriots out. I’d also point out that the vision of apostle John, as recorded in Revelation 12, reveals that when the evil principalities of this world make murderous assault on the Jews, their persecutive pursuit  of us Christians is not far behind.

Glass half-Full

Non-intervention patrol

March 26, 2011

Here’s an excerpt from my new novel, Smoke.
The year is 1937. Londoners are gathering for the coronation of King George VI. On Haymarket Street, an old gentleman has just collapsed on the sidewalk. A policeman is making enquiries about the incident.

Nathan and Philip, speechless, knelt beside the stricken man, whose portly, suited body now lay motionless on the sidewalk. His eyes stared blankly upward into the morning mist. A crowd of people stood and stared. Nathan began pressing at the man’s chest in what appeared to be a vain attempt at stimulating heart operation. In a sort of desperate gesture, Nathan gently slapped the man’s joweled face as if to provoke him to attention.
Then there was a parting in the crowd; a bobby was on the spot. “Stand aside, please,” said the policeman, with accustomed authority. The two young men rose to their feet and backed off, allowing the bobby full access to this fallen gentleman’s predicament. After conducting a few more ineffective chest compressions, the policeman gingerly turned up the old fellow’s gold watch, which now lay inside his open coat on the ground, attached to the end of a gold chain that had strayed from the vest-pocket.  Philip could see that the watch showed 9:33.
The officer looked up at Nathan. “Do you know this man?” he asked, while checking the pulse at his risk.
“No sir.”
“What happened?”
“I was standing here by the window, looking in. I looked to my right. He was turning away, and slumping against the window. I took hold of him, trying to give him support. But I was in no position to bear his weight, so I let him down as gently as I could. He was, uh, blubbering, and that drool was beginning to come out of his mouth. I called for a doctor, and tried to,uh, somewhat, to stimulate his heart.”
The bobby stood up. He looked directly into Nathan’s eyes. He had a gentle, though official, demeanor. “Did he say anything?”
Nathan thought for a moment. “He did. He was going on about, uh, about the gold standard…” Nathan turned toward Philip. “Was’nt that it?” he asked.
“Yes, he said something about the gold standard, and monetary experiments,” replied Philip, looking at the policeman.
The bobby looked down again at the body. He spoke slowly, “Do you remember…what his last word was?”
Nathan and Philip looked at each other. Nathan was pursing his lips, trying to think about what had just happened. He shrugged his shoulders. “It was all so sudden.”
“Calamity,” said Philip.
“Yes, that was it, calamity.” Nathan affirmed, with relief, as if it were a matter of importance.
The bobby cast his analytical eyes around to the gathered crowd. “Does anyone here know this man?”
The only response was the din of Haymarket’s bustle as Londoners continued their pilgrimage in anticipation of coronation pageantry. .
“Have any of you people ever seen this man before, or can tell me anything about him?”
Then came a reply. “Yes. I know him. He is a member of the Travellers Club. In fact, officer, I saw him there not a half-hour ago.” The speaker was a thin gentleman, well-dressed in a blue, vested suit. His pale, gaunt face was thin, moustachioed, with spectacles.
“Step up, please, sir,” the bobby commanded, gently, gesturing with his right hand for the informer’s approach, as he retrieved, with his left, a notepad from his uniform pocket. Then, having another thought, the bobby looked upward and addressed the crowd. “You people would do well to move along now. Please make way for the medical team who will be here shortly.”
Setting his cartridge pen to the notepad, he began to quiz the man in the blue suit. “Do you know his name, sir?”
“His name was Paul Wallris.”
“How do you spell that surname?” inquired the officer, cocking his head slightly.
“Wallris. W, A, L, L, yes I think there are two L’s, R, I, S.”
“And you say you saw him at the Travellers Club just a while ago?”
“Yes, he was having breakfast there with some companions.”
“I see.” The policeman jotted for a moment, then looked up into the other man’s eyes. “And what is your name, sir?”
“Greeneglass, Itmar Greeneglass.”
Nathan and Philip were preparing to walk away. The officer, writing, glanced up at them. “I’ll need you gentlemen to remain here for a while. Just stand aside there for a moment, please.” The two younger men lit up cigarettes.
The officer directed his attention once again to the man in the blue suit. “Very well, then, Mr. Greeneglass, please describe, if you can, Mr. Wallris’ circumstance there this morning, if you can.”
“I was not privy to their conversation, of course, as I was sitting nearby in a chair, taking tea and reading the Times. Mr. Wallris and the two other members were having breakfast together at a table by the window.”
“Who were those other members?”
“I don’t know, sir. Their faces are slightly familiar, as I believe they are both fairly new members, whereas I have been there myself for about ten years now. I do,however, know this about Paul Wallris. He was rather grief-stricken. His grandson was one of those seamen killed last week in the fire aboard the HMS Hunter, on non-intervention patrol off Gibraltar.”

Smoke

Our Mightiest Asset

March 24, 2011

As the story of 21st-century humanity plays out on an international stage, military prowess now becomes America’s mightiest asset. No longer is technological invention our greatest contribution to the world; no more is the broad strength of our wealth and markets the world’s growth engine. Those leadership roles are passing, before our eyes, to other players in the game.

Now our place of authority among the nations is our willingness to serve as the chief of police, the fireman at the station, the medic retrieving life in the midst of harm’s way, the merciful carrier of humnitarian aid, whose ministrations are protected by awesome firepower. Pax Americana.

Now are we the constable for a precarious world– the good cop on the beat, and–like it or not– the bad one too.  This has happened before in history, although never before on such a large scale, and never before in the presence of so many  nuclear isotopes.

May our love affair with petroleum never corrupt that role.

There is, perhaps, one attribute of our American heritage that is equal to or greater than our willingness to defend democracy, whatever “democracy”  is. It is our  nurturing of freedom, in all its many forms. May that flame of liberty  always burn brightly, and

May God help us.

Glass half-Full

Thanks for Frank’s perspective

March 20, 2011

I’ve been racking my brain all weekend trying to get some more story-line for the new novel, Smoke, after writing only the beginnining of chapter 1 last week.

Then I got this attachment from my friend Frank:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=12ecf2c076bc3c1f&mt=application/vnd.ms-powerpoint&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui%3D2%26ik%3D205cde5d1d%26view%3Datt%26th%3D12ecf2c076bc3c1f%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbR6Asl7-55bXA582rCKPKbp28sY8w&pli=1

Frank sent this link to me because he is an astronomer. He’s also an engineer who has, somewhere along his 95-year orbital path, built a telescope or two after grinding the  6-inch lenses. In addition to being a smart tinkerer, he has spent years of his long life being a great singer from New Jersey, a model-airplane constructor, a sailor, husband (for a while) and father, and inventor. Frank lives at the apartment complex where I work as the maintenance guy.

Sometimes I think if we had more enterprising folks like Frank we wouldn’t be in such a dearth of employment opportunities. I wish the problem-solvers of this world could become as busy as Frank has been trying to make things work over  his 95 years on our planet.

So don’t let the long link address above intimidate you. If you haven’t yet had a good view of what the Hubble telescope is scoping up there in earth orbit, check it out. It’s definitely a perspective-adjustment.

It certainly diverted my mind from:

CrownWestm
…which is the starting point of my novel-in-progress. So far, I’ve got two characters, neither one of them are in the coronation pic above (Times of London, May 20,1937).  But my two characters, Philip Marlowe and Nathan Wachov, are just a  mile or two away, and trying to get to Trafalgar Square for a view of the new King’s return procession to Buckingham Palace.

Anyway, those Hubble shots from my friend Frank,  linked above, changed my perspective on what appears to be the “Smoke” in our universe.

Smoke, the new novel-in-progress

Conquest

March 13, 2011

Several thousand years ago, the people of Israel threw off a bondage of  Egyptian slavery.Then, in a 40-year odyssey toward freedom and their own identity, they wandered through desert areas until the people occupied  a new homeland where they would eventually set up a kingdom.

The establishment of that twelve-tribal homeland required some conquest of the native peoples. Jewish use of military might under the auspices of divine direction was, and is, a matter of perpetual dispute. Even today, the controversy intensifies, with each new generation, about whether or not the Jewish people are entitled to that narrow stretch of God’s earth between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Their perseverance to build a kingdom secured in righteousness and prosperity reached its golden age of fulfillment under David and Solomon.  But it was a flash in the historical pan. After Solomon’s death, their progress as an identifiable entity among the kingdoms of this world took on a downhill devolution, until finally the descendants of Israel were overrun by  Assyrians,  Babylonians,  Seleucids, and the Romans.

Their collective push to establish a worldly kingdom actually reflect a rather typical pattern in the development of people groups and their respective nations. But one unique element of the Israel contribution to world culture is their legacy of prophetical writings, which have since achieved universal distribution through a myriad of spiritual apropriations, most notably the Bible. The core of that prophetic heritage is a call to righteousness, or living rightly: morality, the Ten Commandments, etc.

About a millenium and a half after the Jewish diaspora, from out of the Arabian desert came Mohammed. He also issued a powerful summons toward righteousness;  he set forth five pillars of right-living upon which the practice of Islam, and its ordained proliferation,  would be founded.
I am not a Muslim, so I cannot claim an authentic understanding of their traditions and intentions, but it seems to me that Mohammed pointed out to the world that  Jewish and subsequent Christian efforts to establish a correct teaching about God–the One true God–had failed. A ubiquitous presence of idolotry and immorality among the people of Arabia and  beyond were evidence that men/women still needed a new infusion of religion, and he, Mohammed, was going to provide it. So he wrote the Q’uran.

But understand this: Mohammend was a conqueror. After his treatise of corrective religious dogma had begun, he went out and conquered multitudes of people, just to teach the world a lesson or two about rigteousness. The conquest of infidels that Mohammed and his immediate successors imposed on surrounding lands was immense. Islam established, through  unprecedented levels of conquest, a religious dominion far beyond anything that Moses, Joshua, David or Solomon ever dreamed of.

In the middle of all this religion-spewing history came a gentle  man from Galilee. His input to the spiritual heritage of mankind was not an advocay of conquest over peoples and nations. Whereas Jewish religion had been founded upon conquest of the Promised Land, and Islamic religion would later require conquest of the Infidels, Jesus’ only advocacy of conquest was a conquest of self.

He counseled people to “take up your cross and follow me.” By allowing the strong-armed conquerers of this world to crucify him, he wielded the ace of eternal life, and demonstrated its authority to trump this world’s  conquestive trick-taking.

He set in motion a narrative of redemptive power that has reined in the depraved hearts of men and women for almost two thousand years now. Jesus’ resurrection out-performed the legalistic limitations of Mosaic and Shariah Law. What better way to assure miraculous spreading of the news than rising from dead.

We don’t need to conquer the world; we don’t need to save it. That’s already been done, in the individual hearts of all persons who are willing to receive that deliverance.

Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell the Israelis. Go tell the Islamists: Forget about your conquests. Instead, let God conquer yo’ bad self so that you can rise to the challenge of eternal life, and therby overcome this goddamned world.

Glass half-Full

Tunis truth to Tehran torts

March 12, 2011

Teams together in Tunis turned
their tide of crescent history
toward tasting liberty,
but not totally.

Then did their trajectory
of twittering destiny
take Tahrir in a torrent swift
‘t’would turn even Tutankhamen in a facebook shift.

Now on toward treacherous Tripoli
did their turbulent testing try to be
but this time in a tragic tale
of tripping on the tyrant’s tail.

Recalling Turkish triumphs and Tbilisi tanks
and all Trafalgar cartographers aside, no thanks,
shariah shots ring through Teheran
turning Persian poets totali-tarian.

While Tobiah’s treacherous taunts turn tough,
Sanballat’s sandy tirades are stiff enough
to twist even stable Saudi traits
to Taliban sands in emirates.

If taqiyah tells a tale that’s not so true
this troublesome tide taunts the Israeli Jew
whose talking Torah tradition crashes
against the swathe of crescent slashes.

To turn the tide now ‘t’would be tough.

Sadat on enterprise and sacrifice

March 5, 2011

All his life, Anwar Sadat, the Arab leader who sought to make peace with Israel, was willing to buck the tide of prevailing opinions among his allies.
In his autobiography, he recalls economic conditions in Egypt in 1961, nine years before he became President. Mr. Sadat writes, on page 213 of In Search of Identity:

“In 1961 the nationalization measures were taken and an economic takeoff could have taken place, based on the public sector as well as a healthily promoted private sector; we could have proceeded to vast economic achievements.
“However, our socialism began to be singed in practice with Marxism.  Any free enterprise system came to be regarded as odious capitalism and the private sector as synonymous with exploitation and robbery.  Individual effort came to a standstill, and from this stemmed the terrible passivity of the people that I still suffer from to this day.
“A point was reached where the state was expected not only to undertake economic planning (apart from running foreign and domestic policies), but actually to provide eggs and chickens and dozens of other things that individual free enterprise could and should have easily provided. As a result, and according to that “new” theory, the people came to rely on the state in everything. They expected the state to provide them with food, work, housing, and education.  Indeed, having professed to be socialist, the state was expected to provide citizens with everything they needed without their having to make any positive effort at all. It was that shinking back from active individual enterprise that marked the beginning of our abysmal economic collapase.”

That’s what the man wrote about individual free enterprise. I think it is still timely advice. But I’d like to bring to your attention another matter of importance that Sadat brought into the discourses of men before he was assassinated in 1981.

A few years before his death, this President of Egypt stood boldly before the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and proclaimed a desire to work toward a peace with justice. He was the first Arab to do so.  On November 20, 1977, he spoke a message of hard truth balanced with hopeful intent to the legislators of Israel. Anwar issued a bold challenge that day–not only to the Israelis, but also to his fellow Arabs, and also to the whole world–as if such lofty words of peace can be uttered among men in the annals of power. Peacemaker that he sought to be, Sadat spoke these words as an historical– and even (dare I say it between Muslims, Jews, and Christians)– theological foundation for his appeal. He said:

“It is so fated that my trip to you, which is a journey of peace, coincided with the Islamic feast, the holy Feast of the Sacrifice when Abraham–peace be upon him–forefather of the Arabs and Jews, submitted to God, and, not out of weakness but through a giant spiritual force and by free will, sacrificed his very own son, thus personifying a firm and unshakable belief in ideals that have had for mankind a profound significance.”

What’s significant here is Sadat’s use of the words “sacrificed his very own son,” in reference to the patriarch of monotheistic religion, Abraham. This is curiously instructive.

I gather that Muslims believe that Abraham actually sacrificed his son (whom they call Ishmael) that day, whereas Jews believe (according to Torah) that God spared Abe’s son (Isaac) that day by providing a lamb as propitiation.

Meanwhile, we Christians believe that those words “sacrificed his very own son,” apply to God himself, as God sent Jesus, through the historical tradition of Abraham, to be our unblemished sacrificial lamb, offered as atonement for the sins of us all, individually and collectively.

Put that in your hookah and smoke it. We shall see, when the kingdom of God is manifest, how all this plays out.

CR, with new novel on the way, Smoke

An Appeal to Mr. Moussa and Mr. ElBaradei

March 1, 2011

Amr Moussa and Muhammed ElBaradei may become the principal candidates for the Presidency of Egypt. I hope they will remember the precedent of peace and integrity that had been established by their former great leader. And I’m not talking about Hosni Mubarak.

Anwar el- Sadat, President of Egypt from 1971 to 1981, was a military man who had arisen from humble origins. His steadfast leadership was tempered by a rare humility that is not found commonly in the annals of human history and diplomacy. Mr. Sadat’s evenly-tempered command of the Egyptian military led ultimately to an effective peace with Israel, and an appreciation for freedom that  now contributies mightily to a budding legacy of responsible government.

Anwar Sadat was the man  whose cautious fortitude took the Sinai back from the Israelis.

Hosni Mubarak was his air force commander and later vice-president. History seems to indicate that Mr. Mubarak’s service to the Egyptian people was more favorably contributed in those two roles than as President after Sadat was assassinated.
In the 1973 war with Israel, Anwar Sadat’s army and air force secured that swathe of dry Sinai land and put it back in the hands of the Egyptian people where it belongs. And yet Mr. Sadat’s integrity and his deep desire for reconciliation among men  ultimately produced a peace arrangement with Israel that is worth maintaining.

His autobiography, In Search of Identity, was published by Harper & Row in 1977. I’m hoping that Mr. Moussa, Mr. ElBaradei, and any other Egyptians whose heart is to lead that ancient nation will cherish these words of wisdom from their martyred President. Anwar Sadat wrote:

“In conclusion I must put on record that the Egyptian people differ from many other peoples, even within the Arab world. We have recovered our pride and self-confidence after the October 1973 battle, just as our armed forces did. We are no longer motivated by “complexes”–whether defeatist “inferiority” ones or those born out of suspicion and hate. And this is why the opposing sides met soon after the battle dust had settled to talk matters over. We did so when the first and second forces disengagement agreements were concluded, and again when I met Mrs. Meir in Israel. With the fighting over, we harbored nothing but respect for one another. Our civilized people know this; it is what induced 5 million citizens to come out to greet me on my return, and the armed forces to salute me in an impressive and quite unprecedented manner.

“Our cultural depths are there; our cultural roots are alive, as vigourous as ever after more than 7000 years. Those who are surprised by what we do cannot simply understand this fact. They cannot grasp the real nature of a people who are working for a modern civilization comparable to the one they erected thousands of years ago in freedom and peace.”

During the most productive part of his lifetime, the President who had come from the village of Mit Abul-Kum lived near Cairo on Pyramid Road. I hope the people of Egypt will cherish the legacy of peace, integrity and strength that Anwar Sadat excavated from that memorialized base of operations.

Don’t hold it against me that I, an American, suggest this from a distant perspective in a land far away from you. But there’s nothing I can do about that. I am a citizen of the world, just as you are, and we need to coexist here on earth so that all hell does not break loose again, if that is possible.

Glass half-Full