Archive for the ‘freedom of religion’ Category

Cornucopia Time!

November 22, 2018

Well I’m glad those Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, aren’t you?

Back in the day, it was. . . 1620 or so.

Those Pilgrims had found themselves in a tight spot over in Europe. The hyper-institutionalized Church—both the Roman version and the Brit version—had become too high and mighty for its own good. So those Puritans, looking for a purer manifestation of the Old Time Religion, pulled up stakes and lit out for the New World.

When they got here, it was a whole new ball game; they didn’t have all that advanced Euro culture and tech to make life manageable as it had been back in the Old World.

So, thank God for Them Injuns, huh?!

Squanto, or Squatcho or Pocahontas, Sacajawea—or whoever Injun it was—demonstrated for the clueless Pilgrims how to grow corn, as you see in the pic here:

CornNtiv

Well by ’n by, as it turned out, those Pilgrims made it through, with a little help from their friends, new friends. They managed to hang on, get through a few winters and all that adversity we hear about at Turkey Day, if we’re not too busy watching football or gearing up for the black friday ritual dance.

Anyway, after those Pilgrims squeaked through, and word got back to the old country, there were other groups of emigrants who headed west for America. And for all kinds of reasons. . . religious, economic, etcetera etcetera, and just to feel free in an undeveloped continent that wasn’t so crowded and constricted with religious and political authoritarian blahblah.

In fact, the buzz about the New World got so widespread that after a century or two it went viral. Next thing you know there’s everybody and their brother piling on ships to go west young man and get the hell out of dodge and make it over here where a man could breathe free and a woman could too.

Long about 1886 or so, those crazy French sent the Statue of Liberty over here, because they were so caught up in the idea of freedom, and they knew we had done a better job of making liberty really happen, see’n as how we didn’t have all that ancient class system and religious institutional inertia to obstruct our westward quest for freedom and liberty.

Gosh, France!   Thanks for that statue, y’all.

StatLibty

Couldn’t a done it without you.

Anyway, long about the time that Lady Liberty showed up in New York harbor—that was pretty much the most intense period for folks get’n fed up with the Old World and strikin’ out for the New.

Crazy! Leavin’ it all behind and coming over here. Unbelievable. That took some balls, y’all! Or some gumption, or chutzpah, or hutzpah or  courage, or just down-right down-n-out desperation.

Anyway, they did.  They came. They forsook the Old in search of the New. So many of those Europeans and other, Africans, Asians, etcetera etcetera caught a whiff of the Liberty that was blowin’ in the wind across the wide world and so many of ‘em just chucked it all—all the the old stuff—and threw it in a rucksack or whatever and headed for the land of the free and home of the brave.

Like I said before, it went viral. And about the time that Lady Liberty got her spot in New York Harbor—that was the most intense time for folks coming this way.

And they just kept coming, and coming, and coming. . .

Brutha Neil wrote a song about it, y’all:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRTHdC7k4uY

And they’re still coming! God bless  ‘em! Coming to America!

Nowadays, some Americans who got their britches on too tight are trying to put a stop to all the folks who wanna get in on the greatness of America (Again).

They need to stop and wonder: what if your great great great great grampa and granma had’t gotten in back in the day?

Where would you be now?

Probably bobbin’ along on a rubber dingy somewhere between Lesvos and Athens, or between Belfast and Boston, or between Havana and Miami, or between San Salvador and San Isidro, or between Bangladesh and Bangor, or somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

And if your politics doesn’t allow for the extension of American liberty unto them newbies and immigrants, maybe you should adjust your politics, so you don’t feel so high and mighty about what all you got, but rather—renew the vision for what this America is all about—the land of the free and home of the brave.

Free enough to let that Freedom be extended, and brave enough to not be all paranoid about the new immigrants.

This may seem kinda naive and corny to you. But let’s not forget this is the last Thursday in November, Thanksgiving.

Cornucopia Time! There’s plenty enough for everybody!  Spread it around.  As Brutha Paul sang it:            Let ‘em in!

King of Soul

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Spain

September 13, 2018

Espana.

es Passionata.

For five hundred Moor years

than the Iberian Catolica peninsula

could ever have estanded

to be Islamically commanded,

they endured Ummayed demands

until Aragon King Ferdinand

came conquestering and demanding

with Castile Queen Isabella, remanding,

to fortify their  Catolica position

with a a goddam Inquisition,

stringing up dissidents in their Inquisition power

thereby crushing the bloom of heretical flower.

But with Isabella’s demise mad king Ferd devised

that child Queen Juana should be misused:

She therefore became abused and confused,

being married off to a Hapsburg prince

so that Empire hegemony could commence,

thrusting power over in-between freakin’ France

so Spain would achieve victory in their great Power prance.

Thereby Poor Juana had not a chance

her youthful passion to enhance,

being named an infernal loco heretic.

Therefore history defined her role as lunatic.

While Jews were being unlisted,

dissidents still resisted

although many heretics persisted

while being so unjustly inquisited.

 

That was then but this is now.

Spain still bleeds; that was how

it happened long ago  

when Ferd took on the  holy Roman Catolico

Hapsburg Empire show.

Down through history from page to page

As monarchs wage their contests age to age

Spanish blood flows through impetuous action;

it then bleeds out as Spanish soul passion,

moving los manos y voces to music and song

to celebrate what’s right and lament what is wrong.

Flamenc2

Through the ages, ask the sages

what is right, what is wrong?

Who knows? The priest, the pope?

The poet? the socialist?—who offers hope?

Remember only: life is grand

despite our ruins beneath the sand.

So offer up a sacrifice of song

in notes so potent and passion strong,

while over in the sacrificial ring

a different living sacrifice they bring.

Matador leads. Bull bleeds.

Bullfight

Newfound blood in ongoing sacrifice

echoes ancient cross of crucified Christ.

Priest leads. Jesus bleeds.

The Faithful chant Apostles’ creed..

Sister Maria prays with beads.

But Falanga franco used catolico creeds

while dispatching policia on steeds.

Still saints were interceding

Flamenco singers pleading

Spain is forever bleeding

suffering behavor

even as the Savior.

SagradaGosp

In ’36 Las Artistas pled while Spain bled red.

Still the flamencos emoted, saints devoted,

peasants toted. poets wroted.

democrats noted. republicans voted.

Socialistas revolutionary

v. Royalistas  reactionary.

What else is new, not from the past?

So you might have asked .

Here’s what: Thermite bombs in 1937:

Hitler’s luftwaffe over Spanish village  heaven.

Spain bleeds through Guernica saints.

Pablo reads; Picasso paints.

Dali droops. El toro drips

The crowd whoops; the leather rips.

El  Guitarist heals. Flamenco dancer reels.

Flamenc1

As the eternal note of sadness peals,

La musica heals when dancer reels.

Spain handles the pain.

It falls mainly on the plain

people in Spain.

Smoke

A Christian yankee in Pope Catolicas Court

September 5, 2018

How likely is it that  a Catholic-born, born-again Christian good ole boy from Carolina would ever wander into such a grotto of overgrown Catholicism as this?

SagradaEntrata

It did happen, today, in Barcelona. September 5, 2018.

Who’d’ve thunk it?

The Audioguide at Sagrada Familia Basilica requested that the listening visitor enter with respect.

Respect for what?

The incredibly modern-artistic classic-fantastic ecclesiastic  structure devoted to Christ and the Holy Family—Joseph and Mary—from which Jesus Yeshua HaMeschiah immaculate-conceptionally came?

Yes. As a Christian I entered respectfully, along with, presumably, all the other thousands of gawking, phone-clicking touristas and believers who darkened the door of Sagrada Familia Basilica today in Barcelona.

Respect for the Christ child who had been born to Mary back in the day of the Incarnation of the Word-made-Flesh person of Jesus Christ?

Yes, I entered respectfully.

Respect for the traditions of the the Catholic Church?

Not so much, having rejected that tradition in my born-again youth. Nevertheless, who am I, as a born-again child of God, to judge the spiritual legitimacy of this high-church, pope-revering institutional “etched in stone” architectural representation— possibly even faith-enhancing experience— of deep religious faith that I encounter and enter into here?

Gosh, guys, thanks for letting us in here. What a cool building! 

Meanwhile, back at the Cross. . .

SagradaCrux

Yep. I know that part. He died for my sins. Let’s not forget.

And of course, ascended into heaven and sits at the right  hand of the Father.

Yep, we can agree on that part. You gotta  believe it.

That’s the real clincher anyway, don’t ya think? The real tie-breaker.

I mean, who else in the history of the human race has made that claim and gotten away with it?

Like I said, you gotta believe.

And I, like, think I’m finding some common ground here.

Belief in the Resurrected Son of God.

Pretty amazing idea, really, if you think about it. You’d have to be crazy or Catholic or Christian to believe it.

And here you have it—“etched in stone” as the Audioguide lady voice says it . . .the story of how it happened that the Son of God Son of Man was crucified and then raised from the dead.

SagradaGospl

King of Soul 

What people Dotoeachother

August 26, 2018

Seems like folks these days are gettin all wound up about politics and stupid stuff like that. Democrats v. Republicans. Progressives v. Conservatives. Extremists v. Moderates, blah blah blah.

And to make it worse, with the intensifying effects of cellphones and pads and pods and whatnot and so-called social media blather, what we are barreling toward is a vast dumbing-down, barbarizing of all public discourse.

What was called debate in earlier times now has degenerated to knee-jerk bluster hubris yada yada blahblah hatred the-loudest-loudmouth-wins trouble.

People take sides on every little controversy that rears its ugly little head in the public domain. Seems to me more like, as William Faulkner or William Shakespeare might have called it, sound and fury signifying nothing.

My studies of human history indicate some recurring characteristics of the tactics employed by extremist diehard yahoos: Such people want to push public discourse farther and farther toward extremist tactics so they can impose their great radical-fringe remedies on the rest of us who want only to live in peace and security with a little justice, mercy and neighborly good will toward our fellow-man thrown in.

I was born in the middle of the 20th-century, 1951. Looking back on all that happened during that century, I’ve noticed a few alarming things, such as:

The two worst 20th-century  assholes who ever came along the pike and pretended to be great leaders—Hitler and Stalin—both of them manipulated evolving political institutions, and the idiot people within them— to make a grand bloody mess of their two nations and the whole damn world at large.

Both dictators, Hitler and Stalin, were idealogues. Historians call Hitler a Nazi, which is a type of Fascist. They call Stalin a Communist.

What’s more important, however, in the historical classification game is this:

Both Hitler and Stalin were mass-murderers. They did not do justice to the people they claimed to govern.

StalnDown2

This factual identification is more important than the ideological label by which each of these two demagogues manipulated their bloody way into absolute power.

And they weren’t the only ones. In the 20th-century, there were others: Pol Pot, Idi Amin. Some would say Mao. And onn a small scale. . . Jim Jones, Charles Manson?

This scenario to which I make reference— this human behavior attribute of folks being swept up into murderous behavior by a maniacal leader driven by ideological or religious frenzy that results in mass murder—it could be right around a historical corner now.

If people do not allow the practice of mercy, decency, compassion, reason— and most of all forgiveness— to overpower imminent institutionalized manipulations of bloody power-mongers, then we’ll have another terrible round of mass murder on this planet.

Religion (old-school) and Ideology (new school) are both, when carried to extremes, cut from the same extremist cloth, and can drive people to endorse mass murder.

Don’t go there.

Ideology is a big circle. On one half of the circle is the arc of conservatism, which in its extremism leads to fascism; on the other half is the arc progressivism, which in its extremism leads to communism. They both start their movements at the top of the circle going in opposite directions. But at the bottom where they collide, we find extremism so lethal that it requires mass-murder as a so-called final solution.

You know what I’m talking about: “Somebody needs to kill them bastards!”

Religion, same thing. “Somebody needs to kill them _____” (fill in the blank)

Which is why we must harken to the greatest clarion call of all, the one spoken by the man from Galilee who stood on a mountainside and taught us:

“Whatever you would want done to you—do that for everybody else.”

This is the most important principle of all. Far greater  than communism or fascism, far more effectual than Democratic or Republican power-mongering, far more spiritually effective that the Church or the Caliphate.

Peace on this planet ultimately comes down to what people are willing to do–or refuse to do– to each other in the name of  _______.

You fill in the blank.

King of Soul

The killing of God

May 2, 2018

Just because the potentates of old Europe wrangled the Bible away from its Hebrew roots and turned it into dead religion doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist.

God did, after all, create humans with a free will. We are not programmed bots. Just because we homo sapiens screwed it up over the course of a few thousand years doesn’t mean that God wasn’t in the midst of it all somewhere, trying to break through our cerebral density, carnal shenanigans and political bullshit.

Actually, God did break through. But look what we did to him.

In the Middle Eastern crossroads where our wayward cruelties had taken advantage of 1st-century Empire-building power politics to nail him, a stake was driven in the ground. It turned out to be a bloody mess and a sacrifice of universal proportions.

So, as the centuries rolled by, the movers and the shakers among us took that bloody sacrifice and ran with it, transformed it into a first-class religious system that rolled on through time and continent like a runaway ox-cart on a roman road. A thousand years later, we’d manhandled that pivotal sacrifice into high-powered religion, through which men and women worldwide were either convinced or manipulated (depending upon your interpretation of it) into the mysteries of practiced religion.

Long about 1500 ad dominum, a few upstart readers who were paying attention to the original scripts started to figure out that something had gone wrong somewhere along the line.

HusPrague

So they raised some issues. Well, long story short, all hell broke loose.

That great institutional juggernaut that had rolled down through a millennium of pox humana religiosity suddenly was under attack from men who were trying to get to the bottom of it all, which is to say . . . trying to get through all that institutional religiosity to . . . the truth.

The truth? What is truth?

Haha glad you asked.

This little question became a matter of serious debate.

Now that the snake was out of the bag, everybody and their brother was trying to figure out what the truth really was and how it should be used to improve the human condition. People like Rousseau, Hegel, Engels and Marx, Lenin and several other notorious bastards.

As the movement to replace God with human wisdom and government gathered steam, human history heated up quite a bit. And the conflagration of it increased exponentially because this historic development just happened to coincide with the 19th-century Industrial Revolution. So we had a lot more fire power to implement all the big changes that needed to happen in order to get mankind delivered from the great religious debacle that had held us in bondage for so long.

Some guys in Prussia figured out that, since the great juggernaut institution of religion had been exposed to be the manipulative Oz-like empire that it was, the immediate conclusion was that not only had we killed religion, but we humans had managed to finally kill God! Voltaire, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche made this point perfectly clear.

Several bloody revolutions and a couple of world wars later, we are in the process now of finally getting our ducks in a row and ourselves straightened out, now that we’ve finally gotten God out of the way.

Even though we had already killed him one time before, but that’s another story.

Actually, it’s The Story.

His-story.

You can’t kill it, because that death-sentence strategy has already been implemented several times, yet without conclusive results.

We humanos insist on perpetually resurrecting that Story. We just can’t get enough of the un-killable presence among us. It refuses to stay dead. Might be worth looking into.

King of Soul

The New Opiate

March 10, 2018

You may have read somewhere that Karl Marx, the chief promoter of early communism, said that religion is the opiate of the people.

Marx

During the time that he wrote of such things—mid-1800’s—industry was rapidly progressing in the modern European world. Things were changing so fast that industrialists and capitalists were able to take advantage of poor working folk who did not understand the cataclysm of enslavement they were themselves getting into.

As the Western world industrialized at a whirlwind pace during the 19th-century, millions of people (the masses) got left behind in the rush.

Economically, that us. They got left behind in the money and wealth part, while the the fat cats and movers and shakers ran roughshod over them with a burdensome industrialism that slowly robbed the poor working-stiff proles of their only real precious asset—their labor—and nullified the workers’ ability to prosper and get ahead of the game.

Marx wrote in 1843 that religion was the opiate of the people. He explained that religion allows oppressed workers to be be inappropriately consoled, comforted, while they are being taken advantage of. The fulfillment that religion brings people cultivates a  false comfort among the masses. Such stupor enables an old autocratic system—or a new capitalist one— to justify its uncaring abuse of the masses.

This idea was used in a very big way when the Bolsheviks took control of Russia in the early 1900’s. Those rabid revolutionary communists worked relentlessly among the people to eradicate religion, because, according to developing communist doctrine, clueless Orthodox faith was the opiate that allowed the rich people to take advantage of everybody else.

But things have changed since then.

Now here we are, a hundred years past the forced imposition of communism on this gullible world, and we see that everything has morphed into a quite different scenario. Communism—at least the official version of it— appears to have been tossed into the dust heap of 20th-century Berlin Wall history.

And now Religion is no longer the opiate of the people, because it is way out of fashion. Who the hell believes all that old stuff anyway?

Well, there are still a few of us around, and we are noticing a thing or two about the present state of affairs.

We find ourselves mired in a new opiate: entertainment. It’s all around us. Can’t get away from it. I confess that I, too, have at times succumbed to this counterproductive opioid.

Being overtaken by Entertainment is, as some promoters love to proclaim—addictive. And it has an agenda.

Can you figure out what the agenda is?

Some media pushers promote product  this way: “It’s addictive!” as if that that’s. . . something good!

Habit-forming, bingeful, cringeful, winkin’ blinkin’ and nodding as we in our tickee-tackee nests drift off to sleep in front of the screen only to drag ourselves to bed and then to work the next day. Talk about your opiate of the masses.

But hey, sleepers Awake! The infamous opiating old-time religion’s got to be more productive than this.

Picture it: bunch of seekers gathered in a room reading out-of-style scriptures, singing songs and praying, maybe even proseletyzing other wandering souls.

Seems pretty to active to me, maybe even subversive—downright vitalizing and invigorating compared to the passivity of comfortably numb binge-watching video and obsessively tapping our tickee-tackee deviant devices as we scrunch down the manufactured munchies.

Something needs to change. We need to take back the means of fulfillment.

Believers of the World Unite! because

He is risen! and I ain’t talking about Marx.

ChristCruc

King of Soul

What the Jews did

January 30, 2018

What the Jews did was establish about half of the narrative foundation of the Western World.

Their Old Testament, combined with the New, were received as Holy Scriptures  by the Church, which, after Constantine, dominated European cultural development for over a thousand years.

Long about 1500 or so, the Protestant Reformation began the process of unshackling the chains of dogmatic error that the Catholic hierarchy had, over 1400 years, lapsed into. Then Reformation disruption of Papist hegemony broke ground for another new emphasis—the Renaissance. This humanist  arts movement unearthed the  quasi-dormant other half of the Western cultural narrative, the ancient Greeks, most notably Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. On the coattails of the Greek philosophers, the Roman writers, most notably Cicero, Cato and Virgil later appended their contribution to the philosophical and governmental legacy of ancient Greece. It later became a bedrock of Western culture and government.

That ancient Greek heritage had initiated an idea called democracy, which was later amended to Republic by the Romans in their Empire.

Judeo-Christian Religion, Greek Democracy and Roman Republic became the religious, philosophical and governmental foundations upon which the Western World was established in Europe and beyond.

In the early stages of Western history, during the period of the Roman Empire, along came a Roman general named Titus. In 70 a.c.e., he ran most of the Jews out of Israel, their homeland, and he sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, even though it had had been constructed by one of the Romans’ own puppet kings, Herod.

Titus apparently thought it was a notable accomplishment that he had expelled most of the Jews out of their own ancient capital;  the Hebrews had previously managed to reclaim Jerusalem after the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had expelled them about 670 years earlier.

Titus’ Roman victory over the Jews was thought to be quite impressive by his successors. A few years after he died, his brother Domitian commissioned the Arch of Titus to be constructed in the main area of Rome. Among the conquests of Titus depicted in stone on the Arch, the plundering of Jerusalem is plain to see.

ArcTitusMenr

In this picture that I snapped, the Jewish Menorah can be plainly seen. To the victor goes the spoils, eh? The Roman big shots must have thought themselves something special after they ran those upstart Jews out of Jerusalem back in the day. The Jews were infamous among several historical empire-builders for being ungovernable.

One reason that Titus and Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus and their ilk had so much trouble governing the Jews was because the people of Israel always insisted on being free.

This whole idea of freedom, around which Western culture revolves, originated largely with the Jews.

Long about 1400 or so years b.c.e., Moses rounded up the Jews and lead them out of the slavery that Egyptian pharoahs had inflicted on them.

This turned out to be a major event in world history.

Why? Because Moses and some of his people wrote a book about it. We know it as the book of Exodus. Along with the other books of the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, it later became an international best-seller for many and many a year, many and many a century and several millenia of time.

What later became the Bible was passed down through the ages to many and many a person and group of persons to read and spark inspiration.

That spark of freedom that enabled the Jews to throw off the bondage of Pharoahic slavery—it has been an inspiration to many freedom-seeking people throughout history.

Case in point, within our lifetime. (All ye Boomers out there, hear ye, hear ye. . .)

Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr., on the night before he was assassinated, declared this message to his people in Memphis, and ultimately via audiotape to America, and to the world:

“I’ve been to the Mountaintop. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land . . .”

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

We can see that Dr. King was inspired by Moses. A long time ago, I wrote a song about it. Mountaintop

And we know from the Hebrew scriptures that Moses was inspired by God.

Now this may seem a little old-fashioned to you, a little bit religious. But this religious thing is much more than belief in God. It’s not just out-of-style old hat. Faith also includes the idea of freedom. It also includes the idea of freedom of religion , freedom to believe what you need to believe, and freedom to act on what you believe to be true. It goes way back, way back . . .

Here’s another example from American history. A hundred and fifty years ago when black folks in this country were still enslaved . . . in a situation not unlike what the Jews had found themselves in ancient Egypt, one of those black former slaves, Harriet Tubman, started a secret society for the purpose of providing an escape for self-freed slaves who wanted to come up to the free states.

The name that was given to Harriet’s clandestine network was the Underground Railroad. Have you heard of it?

I’m here to tell you that the Underground Railroad has been transporting people from bondage to liberty for a very long time.

Last century,  freedom-seeking people did another version of it to smuggle the children of Israel  out of the Nazi Third Reich. Have you heard of it?

But know this: it’s still going on.

Underground Railroad Rides Again.

 And we can thank the Jews for that, because way, way back in the day . . . they started it; they started the freedom track that runs through human civilization.  The first one ran from Egypt to the Promised Land, and its been going, whenever needed, under the radar ever since.

It will never be shut down.

Glass half-Full 

Vienna

July 8, 2017

My mama raised me to be a Catholic. Daddy wasn’t into religion much.

After I grew up, and became a man who could/would relate to the world on my own terms–after I had reached the age of reason and I had decided for myself what this life was all about. . . after I had lived life to the full, and managed to do a few things right and many a thing wrong–after I had made a grand mess of my life, then allowed the Lord of the Universe, our Creator, to take hold of me at the ripe old age of 27 and turn me around and plant my wayward feet firmly in the ground of the gospel of Jesus Christ–after all that. . .

I met my wonderful little women, Pat from New Jersey. We got married in 1980 and by n’ by she presented three lovely children to me. Eventually the kids grew up, became responsible adults, etc and, long story short, we have followed each one of them to various points of interest all over the world.

Our current adventure in following progeny has brought us to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.

Now I have to say that this is an amazing place. Walking around this city for just one evening has already taught me some profundities about what life is all about and where things came from, long before I was born. Previously unexplained elements of my childhood, my heritage as a Catholic kid who later turned born-again Christian, can now be contemplated from the perspectives of history itself, and the movement of certain people groups at various periods of time from the Old World to the New, which is to say, America.

I mean, we grow up and we see things and we don’t really have a clue where all this stuff came from or how it got here and how we came to be in the midst of it all. In my case, I was a kid in the middle of the Deep South, in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Growing up, snotty-nosed and clueless as I was, now I’m wondering how likely it could have been that I grew up Catholic instead of Southern Baptist.

Well, my mama was a French-American Catholic from Louisiana, and my daddy’s people were from Scotch-Irish stock from up in the piney wood of Mississippi and before that they had come through Pennsylvania and before that from the old country, Ireland or Scotland or somewhere over there on the other side of the Pond.

So now, at this particular moment in time, it just so happens that I wake up this morning on the other side of the Pond, which is to say: now we are in Europe, the Old World, because yesterday (or maybe it was the day before that) we flew from America– formerly the New World– to this Old World, and one plane led to another and now I find myself in Vienna on a sunny morning and thanking God for such a wonderful life a the one we now find ourselves in.

As we strolled along the Karntnerstrasse last evening, we encountered this very impressive big cathedral structure, so I snapped a pic:

Steph-z

The immensity of history–what has gone before–is what I’m feeling as I pondered this structure. The erection of this church building took lifetimes of work and toil and sweat, and devotion, back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, whatever that was, and its long tails of historical development through Peter and Paul and later Constantine and then all the Popes in Rome and eventually the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Hapsburgs and their hunky-dory relationship to the Catholic Church. . .

Until that fateful day in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in Sarajevo by an angry young Serb and the Empire ended and the Old World ended and World War I dealt the final death blows to the ancient reins of power and the reigns of the royal houses that had ruled Europe for a couple a thousand years or so.

As I was pondering all this, we did stroll inside, into the Church at Stephensplatz. We found there a group of devoted Catholics celebrating Mass. This kind of thing has been going on here for a long time. And I don’t care what you think or say about it . . . This was a good thing.

Steph-in

That devotional setting took me back to childhood memories of being Catholic because that’s the way Mama raised me, even though Daddy wasn’t into it.

So as I contemplated, and in some sense, entered into. . . the devotion of these congregants to their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their expression of that devotion in the sacrifice of the Mass,  and as I reconciled in my mind between those ancient strains of high-church faith and the Protestant Reformation that later changed everything . . . right down to the johnny-come-lately tides of Charismata that had drawn me into my experience of the Christian faith in 1978, and my present appreciation for all that God has done for me and Pat and our grown-up children and their spouses. . . as I stood there in the quiet reverence of a tourist who just happened into a cathedral while other believers worshipped in their strange high-church way . . .

I could relate. I could relate to what they were feeling.

This morning, I can still feel it, devotion.

Devotion goes way back. This is a good thing.

King of Soul 

The Two Trees

July 3, 2016

It’s no accident that the first human story in the Bible is about a man, a woman, and two trees. One tree is referred to as the tree of life and the other is called the knowledge of good and evil.

Here’s a pic, so you’ll a have visual to help you visualize the scene. Images are, as you know, so important these days on the internet, because it is generally thought that text is boring and doesn’t really get the point across like images and icons do. So here’s a pic of two trees; you can get an idea of what the man and woman might have been dealing with:

TwoTrees

You’ll notice that this image is a little faded, but that’s okay. The photo itself is over 5000 years old, so I was quite lucky to obtain it for this presentation.

As you go through life you will come across many different people, places, things. Sometimes you know what to think about them; other times you don’t quite know what to think. So knowledge itself can be a sketchy thing, especially when it comes to knowing the difference between something that is good and something that is not good. Occasionally you may come across something that is so “not good” that it can be classified as “evil.”

Death that results from a car accident, for instance, is a bad thing, but not necessarily evil. On the other hand, if some jerk runs you down deliberately on the street and kills you, that would be evil–both the act itself and the person who did it.

If someone gives you an apple and you bite into it and it tastes good, then you know that it is good, so to speak. This is knowledge that comes from tasteful experience.

If someone gives you a mushroom, will you just bite into it like you would bite into an apple? I hope not, because some mushrooms are poisonous, while others are not. To be able to identify a poisonous one from a nutritional one would require knowledge. If a friend of yours grows a portobello mushroom and gives it to you for your dining pleasure, that is is good. The mushroom is good in your salad or some other prepared dish. You could even say the person is good because of their generosity to provide this tasty proteinous food for you.

If, on the other hand, a person knowingly gives you a poisonous mushroom, this is evil. The mushroom itself is not evil, because it has no evil intent; rather the person who knowingly gave it to you is evil. So to know the difference between good mushrooms and bad ones is knowledge; not only that– it is useful knowledge.

Now, understand this: there is a difference between knowing something and believing something.

If you wake up at 5 a.m. and it’s still dark outside, you still know that the sun will rise and and day will come. This is not a matter of faith; what you believe about the sun coming up has nothing to do with whether the sun actually does come up. The sun rises to a new day, every day, whether we believe it or not. We know this.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the day will be a good day– that is a matter of faith. Because your believing that it will be a good will probably make a difference in whether you do have a good day or not. Furthermore, it you believe that there is a God who is good and can make any day good even if bad people are trying to screw it up for you, then that is a matter of faith.

And more furthermore, if you believe that a good God can give you good instruction about how to discern between good and evil, that is also a matter of faith. And you can believe it if you want to, no matter what anybody says. And if someone comes along and tells you there is no evidence to support the existence of God or the tree of Life or any other good thing that you believe, you tell them to go jump in the lake.

Because knowledge can only take you so far in life, in liberty, and in the pursuit of happiness, while a little faith fan take you a lot farther. In the days ahead, we should remember this. All the humble people of the world whose well-being is founded in faith should retain, no matter what happens, their right to believe.

And the people who think they need to make everybody conform to some proven facts and the big data–they don’t know what they’re talking about. To hell with them.

In this picture, see if you can guess which one is the tree of life and which one is the tree of knowledge.

TwoTrees

I’ll give you a hint. Both of them are growing on a planet that has survived very long ages of warming and epochs of cooling. As you ponder and choose among the trees of life and the many branches of knowledge, try to cultivate a warm heart with a little faith, while still keeping your cool and being wisely analytical. And it will go well with you.

Also, watch out for snakes.

SnakeRoot

Glass Chimera