Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Stickin’ to it.

February 18, 2018

In the late ’70’s many of us wandered up to a cool mountain town; we were trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Some had survived the excesses of countercultural lifestyle; others were just there to do the college thing.

  By that time, the ’60’s flower-power revolution that had failed to actuate had been appropriated into the Establishment. Now you could buy faux hippie threads from the JCPenney catalog; that reality was really a bummer, but people were buying the stuff anyway.. The free love thing had been commandeered by Hollywood. It seemed like everybody was “doing it.”

Our little group of wanderers and students found ourselves congregated in the mother-earth lap of an Appalachian river valley. We had gravitated here to, as John Denver had phrased it, “find Jesus on our own.”

“On our own” turned out to mean: apart from the institutional Church, because it was out of touch with what was happening in the real world and everybody knew it was full of foolishness and hypocrites. Haha.

As the gathering developed, however, our little charismatic experiment turned out to be a little more infected with the ways of the world than we had anticipated. Even though we were a bunch of young bucks and does banded together, raising our kids as a sheltered new testament tribe, showing all the local old-school religious folks what the kingdom of God was all about, eventually after about 20 years it flew apart and we all went our separate ways.

But the failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

By the late ’90’s when our little congregation fell apart, our three offspring had gone off to University, where they got a different view of things, different from the churchified bubble they had been raised in. Long story short: it was good for them to be educated, and all three retained their faith.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, some of us maturing saints—shell-shocked survivors of the great postmodern charismatic reactionary push—began gathering in our homes to “on our own” collectively continue our covenantal search to discern the Lord’s will for us. So we were then, and still now, gathering in our living rooms to read the Bible, pray, and seek God.

As for me and my wife, we have walked a middle road between that house-church body of Christ and another church, which is  a more conventional arrangement for presenting and living out the gospel in society.

This has worked well for us.

By ’n by, all three of our offspring became world travelers for one reason or another. Over the years we have done a lot of globetrotting, following them to various fascinating destinations around the world.

Like for instance, Europe. When we went to that Old World, I began to understand that America is the new kid on the block. Over there, they’ve been doing this Christianity thing for a very long time, about 2000 years.

While it is plain to see that there is a huge institutional legacy of the “Church” in the Americas, the cathedrals of Europe can be seen as indicators of a very different religious experience in days gone by.  Every major city presents evidence of some stupendous religious megalith that dominated European society in a big way for a very long time, until the purveyors of human rationalism came along to challenge their authority.

This Church as a human institution, whatever it shoulda woulda coulda been spiritually, was for a very long time the big kid on the block, the elephant in the room, the megalith institution that dominated  Old World society and cultural In a BIG way.

Those 1st-millennium continental Catholics erected a bunch of huge, monumental edifices. You can find them in every major city and small town.  Europe displays an infrastructure of past religious hegemony on a massive scale. The Reformers later did more of the same.

Case in point. Last year, when we were in Prague, Czech Republic, I snapped this pic inside a cathedral:

PChrch

So I’m thinking. It’s plain to see, this Christianity thing is much, much larger than what is represented by, say, the quaint quasi-classical structure down on our Main Street USA. Beholding this magnificent structure presents a challenge in many ways: it’s a theological, cultural, architectural wonder!

Who built this thing? Was it erected through the blood and toil and sweat of impoverished medieval slave-serfs? Was it founded upon the heretical  manipulations of indulgence-selling ecclesiastical con-men? What kind of empire were they building here? A corrupted hierarchy of covetous clergy? Does it give glory to God, or to the works of Man?

Now I could speculate vainly about the motivations and corrupt practices of those who went before me as  constructors of what is purported to be the Kingdom of God. I could judge them as users and abusers who took advantage of clueless poor people who probably could barely afford to pay the light bill and keep gas in the cart and the kids in shoes while they were fretting about their deceased relatives in purgatory or limbo. I could conclude presumptuously that this humongous structure is nothing more than a work of vanity and hubris and systemic abuse that was erected by men who were surely just as guilty, just as culpable, just as sinful and suspect as myself. I could condemn them as robber-baron ecclesiastic manipulators who were no doubt serving  Babylon or Rome or the  Pride of Man.

But, sinner that I know myself to be, I shall not so judge them. Rather, I shall admire the building for being, in an imperfect world, what  it should have been, and is generally in retrospect considered to be: overpowering evidence of the human impulse that strives to glorify God.

Furthermore, I understand that my assessment is considered to be an obsolete way of thinking. I realize, from both my common observations and study of history, that the religious  hegemony of this huge institutionalized Church has been supplanted, governmentally and socially, by the humanistic, democratic and socialistic movements of  the 19th and 20th centuries.

And that’s okay. Shit happens and nobody’s perfect, not even the humanists, who havre proven through their own systemic abuses that human government and politics falls far short of true justice.

We Christians do need reminders that there are other people in this world who have different fixes than we do for rectifying human injustice and misery. We don’t have to agree with everybody, but we do have to, as Christ and his apostles commanded, live peacefully with everybody insofar as it its possible.

What I am seeing now, in the present predicament of our world is this:

That big guilty-as-charged Churchified juggernaut that sought to order human activity and governance in the last sixteen hundred years—it is being challenged and threatened by a newer Religious juggernaut from the east.

And if I must choose between the two, I’ll go with the one that I know to be true, even though it has not always been righteous. In the end, I think it is better to build upon the testimony of the one who died on a cross and was, three days later, resurrected. It is better to stand with Him than with another religious empire whose plan would be to get us kaffirs all on our knees five times a day.

In his final revelation to those he loves, Jesus counseled his friend John to “strengthen the things that remain.”

So therefore and henceforth, I say unto thee: I’m with Jesus.

The failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

That’s my faith and I’m sticking to it.

King of Soul

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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 

Re: Logos generating Order out of Chaos

January 23, 2018

If a human can hang around in this life long enough to reach maturity, he/she is probably lucky, or blessed, or both; and by the time that person reaches maturity he/she has probably pondered the question of where all this stuff in the world came from.

Perhaps it all evolved from the Big Bang; or maybe God created it all.

Generally I find that people who like to think a lot are likely to lean toward the Big Bang and/or Evolution as a path toward rationalizing the physical universe; and it seems to me that people who stay busy with the business of living, without being too analytical about it, will typically lean toward Religion or Faith as a way of dealing with life’s persistent questions.

What’s important is that we can all find a way to tolerate each other in the midst of these two world-view polarities. If we don’t find a way to live in peace and productivity then we might really screw this thing up and render the world uninhabitable.

No matter which of these two camps you may find yourself drawn to, you must admit that if this universe were not founded upon some organizing principle, we would have nothing except perhaps a bunch of cosmic dust floating around the universe.

How, for instance, how can you account for the fact that every atom has a nucleus of protons and neutrons, with electrons orbiting around it?

How did the first atom get organized?

That’s the microcosmic question. Now here’s the same conundrum on a macro level:  How can you account for the fact that the Sun has Planets orbiting around it?

Did it all just happen, or did something/someone organize it?

Perhaps it all evolved from the Big Bang; or maybe God created it all.

Now we in this postmodern period of human of human history have generally divided ourselves into two categories concerning these important questions.

At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, let me just propose that we could say some of us are in the Rational camp and others of us are in the Religious camp.

I myself try to be a sojourner in both of these universes, but that’s neither here nor there.

I use the word Rational to classify the folks who like to use data and their brains to figure out all this stuff, because Rational suggests that by their thinking they can actually figure most of it out enough to proceed with the business of living life intelligently.

I use the word Religious to classify the folks who prefer to depend on faith or theological revelation to account for this world, and then use their faith to inform and fortify their life decisions.

Now here’s the rub.

Whichever of these two camps you find yourself drawn to, you must admit that there are still some questions that your chosen system of thought/belief will not fully answer.

There are some things we just don’t know!

SpidrWebColr

You Rationalist, can you prove how quantum mechanics or whatever made arrangements for a nuclear proton to serve as the center-point for that first atom?

You Religious person, can you prove that there’s a Just God who allows such evil as we see in this world to exist?

But these challenges are rhetorical.

We cannot prove the veracity of an answer to either of the above challenges. If a Rationalist could prove to me how the first atom was organized, I would probably not understand the proof. If a Religionist could explain how or why God allows evil, I would likely disagree with him/her on some point, based upon my cultural religious heritage.

There is an end-point (or a beginning point) to both world-view systems where another unknown prevents absolute conclusion of the matter.

There are some things we just don’t know.

At the end of any unanswerable question, however, we surely do discover that an assumption, or thesis, is required if we are going move beyond indecision.

Or we could say it like this: at the end of every Rational thought progression is necessarily found (reap ‘em and weep) a Leap.

A leap of faith, if you’ll forgive my trench, because you can’t know everything.

Maybe you’ve figured out that this world is going to hell in a carbon-basket.

What else is new?

We faith-based types understand that not everything can be figured out or calculated. So most of us concede to this perplexity by subscribing to divine revelation for our cosmological answers.

And there are enough of us religious types out here to assure you that all humanity will not be driven into agreement about what is to be done to save us. After all, we still yet fail to agree on whose god is the correct one and what would that supreme being requires of us.

We’re into day-to-day living; many of us are just getting by.

So do your data thing. Collect your Big Data. Have a good time with it. Drill your polar ice cores and try to arrive at conclusions that will convince us billions of blockheads out here in Peoria or flyover country or working class lala land.

Consider this. Going back to middle school science. . .

At the end of every Geological Age on Earth we find a change of climate. Looking forward, exactly how it will work out in the next shift we do not know because there are too many variables to predict or calculate.

Yes there are too many variables, too many individual decisions to be made, too many quantum mechanics, too many people—to come into agreement about how to solve the  problem. And any Final Solution would not be appropriate.

Even if there is one school of scientists who figure out all these warming consequences, can the vast mass of humanity be manipulated into getting with the program enough to make a difference?

No. We billions would have to be cajoled, intimidated, manipulated, deprived of our life, liberty and pursuits of happiness to go along with the program. You can’t teach an old dog’s-life new carbon tricks; we’ve been throwing soot into the air ever since we figured out how to make fire.

Try to convince us, if you must, of what’s to be done to arrest global warming. My personal opinion is you are probably correct. Our depraved pollutive ways have probably already sunk the ship.

So Good luck with that.

Educate the masses if you can, but don’t get too excited about it. Most of us are dim bulbs compared to the Enlightenment that would be required to activate such a tectonic shift in human behavior.

Changing the consumptive habits of entire human population is about as likely as getting us all rounded up to shag in a Pangaean prom.

So give us a break.  Try to convince us if you can, because we are, believe it or not, paying attention.

But don’t be taking away our civil liberties, and don’t be messing’ with our faith-based solutions to life’s persistent questions.

Forget not the words of our great prairie home companion: Do good work, and keep in touch.

And remember also these words that were, back in the day, crooned by the king of Rock’n’roll:

Don’t ya step on my blue suede shoes.

MornGlor

King of Soul

This thing’s all crossed up.

January 4, 2018

So now it’s come down to this:

a global schmobile electric hectic dyss-topia,

each faction nursing its own myopia

manifesting all the genetical heretical traits known to man,

in the clashes of history clashing again and again.

We’re racing down a  four-way street—

devolving in a  manic humanic socialistic beat

boiling in amped-up dead religion defeat

escalating in jihadi mahdi sunni shiite heat

leaving the deceased at a Roman soldier’s feet.

So now it’s come down to this:

That holy man lugged a rugged cross for you and me

exposing all our genetical heretical cruelty,

revealing our relentless senseless dysfunctionality

then abiding in the tomb for one, two, three. . .

Then by the light of that third day’s dawn

he’s shown us life’s insistence to go on and on,

whereby your assent to his demonstration

enables your ascent to his resurrection.

Now if that’s not enough simplicity

to provoke your complicity

Then feel the gravity

of our depravity

and the immensity

of his intensity

to dispense

eternal sense.

Hence,

It’s an old rugged cross, you see,

a stubborn damned thing

you cant kill his accomplishment there cuz he’s already been

beaten to death

you cant derail his train of believers cuz history

did already nail that good news

to an eternal signpost that is hewn

in the midnight star and the midday noon

at the crossroads of the old world and the new

to be seen by all the many and the few

at the intesection of ancient empires

at the apex of a million rising spires

you cant make it go away cuz its sign was forever staked

midway between Moses and Mohammed

a big blood-red light at the intersection of Torah and Q’ran,

a stopping point between Plato and Plutarch

the apogee of history’s arc

the fulfillment of the covenantal ark

the most convincing kabalistic spark

CrossC

and the greatest subject of great art

history’s liveliest encore part

world stage’s greatest curtain call

the rising to recover from our fall

an uprising  beyond Robespierre

a tragedy to provoke your tear

a word in every ear:

Death, where is your victory?

Nailed to a cross, you see,

by the light of that third day’s dawn

we continue on and on.

We were a fallen pawn

but only until that third day dawned.

Got it?

King of Soul

The Hollowness of God

August 20, 2017

So many people dis God these days–criticizing him because he (she, or it) doesn’t correct the dysfunction and atrocity of this world. And the word on the street or in the web is that the Deity, if he (she, or it) does exist, doesn’t seem to care enough about us and our faith  to make our proper expression of that religion a little easier to validate.

My guess is that God is a little skittish. When he did show up here to give us some direction, we nailed him to a cross. So perhaps you can understand why he doesn’t just throw his weight around; he knows we’re likely to just crucify him again. In fact, some of his people are probably being given the third degree in places right now here on this earth.

One thing that God has done lately that I know of, however, is: he has taken a lower profile. The deity’s presentation to us these days doesn’t appear to be aimed at  compelling us to revere the high and mighty aspect of his being.

This is a different scenario than what it used to be among us homo sapiens.

There is evidence in the earth, however, that in ages past, God’s presence was experienced and conceived of amongst his people in way very different than what his minimal interface with us today would indicate.

In times of long ago, it seems that God was Big.

Which is to say, when humans strove to express their devotion to the Almighty, they did it in a big way. They built big structures for a big God.

We were in Europe a few weeks ago, traveling between three fascinating capitals, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. Traipsing through such ancient cities was a real eye-opener for me. These old megalopoli are amazing in the eyes of a clueless American such as I, who was born and raised, you see, in a the “new world.” I have discovered now that America truly is a new world, compared to this very old place.

In the new world we do have Big, but our Big is mostly applied to commercial stuff, like the Empire State building, Sears Tower, TransAmerica building, World Trade Cent–er, not that one. Anyway, we Americans developed Big Business, so we have built big buildings to express our big ideas about capitalism, and our big development projects and our big bank accounts.

In Europe, hundreds of years ago, Big was all about God. Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a shot of the inside of the Cathedral that the Czechs built in Prague, at a complex called Prague Castle. It’s named the Church of St. Vitus:

Pretty huge, huh?

You betcha. The Catholics worked on this thing for over 600 years before they got it finished. As you can surmise from the photo, the inside view of this structure is quite impressive, possibly incredible enough to even inspire the beholder’s belief in God, or at least provoke a thought or two within the viewer’s brain that God’s non-existence is an unlikely proposition, since humans would go to so much time and expense to build such a place of worship for Him.

The outside is pretty impressive, too:

PChrch2

In the 21st-century, however, most folks, mostly tourists such as myself, walk around such places and snap pics on their phones, and maybe ooh and ahh a little bit at the remarkable immensity of human propensity to fill the God-shaped hole in our collective souls by going to all the time and trouble and blood and sweat and tears to erect such an edifice.

Surely they. . . we. . . would not do all that for a God who doesn’t exist.

In the olden times, when believers would gather together in this place and others like it, they would attend masses that were performed by priests, and they would pray to God and pray at God and receive communion and then be dismissed by the priest to go back to their humble domiciles and live their simple lives. That’s what doing church was all about back in the middle ages when the construction of this Catholic temple was begun.

Nowadays, though, doing church is typically more like what these folks  were doing in Vienna, on a typical summer Monday morning,

lingering outside the incredibly impressive superstructure of the cathedral, buying trinkets, snapping pics, sipping coffee, then going inside and oohing and aahing at the hugely structured religion, or excuse me, the the huge religious structure, and whispering to their companions, admonishing them to be quiet so as not to disturb those Catholic worshippers who are up there in the front as we speak doing their religious thing. . .

Apparently that’s “doing church” in the 21st century.

But for the worshippers in that sancturarial up-front, whatever transpires mysteriously in that hollowness between the congregants and their risen Saviour is not the same as whatever we tourists are doing in the periphery as we gaze up at the distant ceiling.

I do wonder what’s going on up there. It’s a long way up. Incredible what men and God can do when they put their souls to it.

King of Soul

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 Nutcase

February 8, 2017

Recently I discovered this empty shell of walnut.

NutSquirl

I saved it, because I wanted you to see it. Looking into its vast crevice provides a poignant glimpse into the world of a squirrel.

SqrlEat

Even more significantly, however, it affords us a view into nature itself. Furthemore, this empty nutcase gives us a profound view into life itself, the meaning of it.

Peer into that void and ye shall see the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

When I was a young man, I make some poor choices, some mistakes. At one juncture, when I was about 27 years of age, my life went into a skid. I hit bottom, was in a bad spot, between a nut and a hard place and I was at a loss as to what to do, so I turned to God; Jesus pulled me out of the pit of my own errant ways.

Everything got better after that, although it has certainly been no bed of roses in the 38 years since I the Lord of the Universe saved me.

Shortly after that salvation turnaround, I met a loverly girl and married her. By n’ by, she presented a son and two daughters to me and since that time we’ve been in squirrel heaven, insofar as we abide in a woodsy area, happy as a squirrel in sugar maples.

In the first year of our marriage, we did an exodus from the rat race and relocated ourselves to a remote mountain town where we have lived ever since. A big part of that move was our involvement with a group of Christian believers, good people who are saved and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb.

Those were good, productive years, in which we took possession of our promised land–which is to say, our very own lives, instead of life as defined by superfluous externals such as success and keeping up with the Jones’ blahblah. Up here in the Blue Ridge we were living as  a bunch of young bucks and does, with many fawns coming along as a natural outcome. Many of us had been refugees from the destructive influences of countercultural excesses, having slogged, wounded and bleeding through the minefields of a corruptive world.

We were pretty excited about our quasi-communal churchified project, most of us raising our kids together, training them up together in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It was all good for a sufficient time; then things changed and we eventually went our separate ways, although a few of us still hang together, and that collective friendship is as satisfying now as  the old wine that might have been bottled in Napa valley or somewhere  during that era.

Our son recently joined with his wife near Napa Valley. Life is grand.

But back in the day, you see, when we were . . .  as Don McLean sang, “. . .  all in one place, a generation lost in space” (although we were no longer lost because we were all found, in Jesus) . . . back in that day– a primary reason we were of one mind about such things as God and family was this:

We were all reading from the same script, the Bible.

And this was a good thing, although it had its drawbacks.  We were trying to do everything “by the Book” instead of getting bogged down by the religious systems from which we had fled; as time passed, we did have a problem with spiritual pride. Arrogance.

Well, by ‘n by, we–long story short–we paid the price for that pride, which is a very real sin issue for folks who think they know a thing or two about God and spirituality.

But in our born-again zeal we had a tendency toward legalistic judgements toward others who did not share our vision. So doctrine became a real sticking point for us, and  actually, further along in the big picture, it turned out to be quite a stumbling block.

This is nothing new. It’s been going on for thousands of years in the human race. There’s always some person or group around who thinks they’ve got it all figured out better than everybody else.

But it was new to us, being young and wet behind the ears. In some ways. . . although we were living in a woodsy region, we could not see the forest, because of the trees that occluded our immediate vision.

Uncle Remus might have spoken that there is, among all creatures great and small, another minuscule mammal who inhabits our fancified forest: the squirrel.

And somehow or another, back in those old dogmatic days, we maligned that lowly creature’s integrity when we used his identity for purposes of identifying what we considered to be bad doctrine.

If we didn’t agree with the way a person or group interpreted scripture or even life itself, we’d called them “squirrely.”

It was a euphemism, much easier to utter than saying plainly that we judge them to be wrong about something. Because, deep down in ourselves, we knew that we were not right about everything either.

But I’m here to tell ya that we were too hard on the squirrel; heshe is actually blameless, and I appreciate herhis dutiful purpose in the great forest in which we live. HeShe’s actually a pretty good little critter, minding herhis own business and feeding their young’uns. And I greatly appreciate hisher Museship for having inspired this here squirrely stash of nutty musings.

No wise-cracks please. We live in a dangerous world. Remember another nutcase from back in our boomer childhood: Nikita Khrushev stood at the UN and said: We will burrow you!

SqStandg

Glass Chimera

supremacist, really?

November 23, 2016

I got in the car to drive home from work. Radio was on. Juan Gonzalez was interviewing Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now. Jeremy was speaking about a political thing that is reportedly happening in our country now, a  movement of misguided zealots who are striving to impose on the rest of us some so-called  “Christian supremacist agenda.”

But this Christian says, I beg to differ; consider this:

Here is a picture of the man who established the Christian religion:

ChristCruc

Does this person look like a “supremacist”?

This pic, taken from a very old painting, is an artist’s rendering  of the man who long ago said:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

This is the man who, when two of his disciples wanted to call down a firestorm of judgement on people who had rejected them, denied them permission to impose such a vengeful retaliation, and then explained, “. . . (I) did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

This is the man who, on the night of his arrest, who would not allow his right-hand man to wield a sword to resist their arrest.

Does such a strategy sound like the beginning of a “supremacist” uprising?

I do believe Mr. Scahill has confused us Christians with some other group, a group whose identity is not rooted in the One who was willing to give his life for me and for all the rest of us.

Mr. Scahill is referring, I believe,  to those honky whites who think they own the place. They need to read the gospels instead of whatever white supremacist webstuff  they’ve gotten a hold of. And they need to quit emulating the jihadi supremacists who want to impose a caliphate on us dhimmi-witted Christians.

As for you, Juan and Jeremy, just keep on doing what you’re doing, if that’s what floats your boat. But please, try to get your nomenclature correct next time you go reporting on us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Glass half-Full

Covered Women

September 20, 2016

DegasLA

I was a Catholic kid growing up in the 1950’s. During that era, the Church schools were administered by nuns whose habits included keeping themselves covered by black and white cloth.

But during my lifetime, now extending into 65 years, all that nunnery garb has gone the way of the buffalo. You don’t hardly see old-style nuns walking around in public any more.

On the other hand, there appears to be a worldwide movement by some religious people to keep their women covered. More about that in a moment.

Another thing that was going on back in the day, when I was a youngster, was the growth of viewership in playboy magazine, a publication that was eagerly snapped by pubescents like myself and many others, for the sake of looking at naked women.

Generally, us good Catholic boys preferred to train our eyes onto the girls in the magazine, instead of the nuns who were teaching us at school.

That infamous magazine was not the only one, as you probably know. There were many others, such as penthouse and hustler. As the years rolled by, those rags just got raunchier and raunchier. Then along came the X-rated movie houses, peep house, topless bars and ultimately the worldwide web on which any female genitalia and mammary-triggered acting out can be fantasized. At various times I sampled them all before God got a hold of me and got me straightened out on a few things.

Now I notice, ubiquitously, we inhabit an hyper-stimulating post-religious world where many women who court the public spotlight compete with each other for  male gawks by flaunting outfits that take exposure, instead of fashion, to the max.

This is very titillating, and at times seems pleasant and quite alluring, but it doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, as a certified old geezer now I am starting to think this whole hefneresque uncoverage trend has generated more trouble than its worth.

All these sexy women sauntering around in the world can actually make a man’s life much harder–not easier–to bear.

My personal experience uncovers this truth: when you get right down to it, there is nothing better for a man in this world than a real, live woman who loves him, and there is nothing better for a woman than a real, live man who loves her.

But now we have millions of horny men walking around in the post-modern, post-religion, post-playboy, post-marriage, post-internet world being constantly tormented by all these uncovered women.

And so along cometh the Muslims imams, raising their hajibual judgements against our licentious western ways.

As a Christian, I cannot deny they have a point.

They want to keep the women covered. Western women see this as oppression. Maybe it is, but there are some western men who discreetly understand why it is that the Muslims want to cover their women with hijab and niqab. My born-again assessment of this conundrum is that Law (of covering women, or anything else) is no salvation–and no solution–for delivering us over-stimulated males from our sexual obsessions. We each have our own frustrations to deal with, and that is an issue between each man and his God. And his woman, if he is fortunate enough to have one.

In other news, it has been reported that some great historian said somewhere that what goes around comes around.

I could say that, in my lifetime, the notion of women being modestly dressed has incrementally disappeared; maybe it went around the dark side of the moon or somewhere to be disposed of forever. Religious people are criticized for being old-fashioned, puritanical, repressed, blahblahblah, for their antiquated ideas about keeping women covered.

Now the idea of modesty comes back around, but this time from a different source–a different religion–not the old Catholic one, not the old Puritan one, not the old Calvinist one, but the new/old Muslim one that comes slouching from the east.

And this old guy wonders if now we really get what’s coming to us. Nebuchadnezzer is not just mouthing empty fatwahs.

Maybe it’s time to take cover.

Glass half-Full

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