A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! FROM THE SHINBONE STAR – Marilyn Armstrong

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

WRITTEN BY MADMEGSBLOG

A small but significant Christmas miracle recently happened on Friday.

The magazine Christianity Today published an op-ed that said Trump should be removed from office.

It seems like the Evangelicals denounced their quasi-prophet, and boy, what a denouncement it was! Yes, the very same people who claimed with absolute certainty and not an ounce of shame, that Trump was sent from God himself to the White House to save us from….well, I’m not sure what, but it’s all moot now.

That unbelievable whirlwind romance between a narcissistic sociopath and the conservative, religious elite is over.

I am so delighted that I am not even going to nit-pick the Evangelicals with silly questions like why is this particular sin the winner? Or ask them why after all this time they suddenly find his Twitter rants and treatment of women immoral?

Even though I really want to, I’m not going to try to uncover the mystery of God’s horrible choice in a president allegedly, of course. Instead, I’m going to sit back and watch this surprising yet absolutely satisfying gift unwrap itself. Or rather, unravel. Bigly.

As you’d expect, the IMPOTUS responded instantly to the op-ed that called for his removal from office as all the cool commander-in-Cheetos do it … It started off pretty ‘Presidential’ for him:


Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
114K –
Twitter Ads info and privacy –

I’m guessing there may be a few Muslims who disagree with that last part … just saying.  And just like a screen door in a hurricane, his retorts escalated from there. I guess he was expecting more than an “It’s you, not me” rejection from the very people who could ignore the multitude of this man’s “indiscretions” (sins) and abhorrent hateful rhetoric just for political power. Apparently, Jesus approved though?

Now, as the orange hurricane grows and Trump keeps showing us who he truly is, as he abandons his TV luster (still ungodly), the cheap and obviously orange veneer can’t hide what was really in front of his believers and yes-men the whole time. All the people who actually sacrificed, in some cases, everything for this charlatan might pause to ask how God and their churches could be wrong?

This dissidence and public rejection from a powerful, nationally influential congregation sends a message to everyone. Many fans and followers of the Orange One won’t question their Church and their congregation. Sanity could even be restored in some areas. Perhaps another miracle in the making!

Trump’s ego sold him on his ability to con the Holy Grail of marks — religion. He went after the biggest target because they were necessary. The Conservative Right Wing Evangelicals’  wealth and influence are paramount to Republican politics. And their stunning and scathing rejection was an assault he didn’t see coming. Trump was conned by his own con.

And maybe you can’t screw with God and get away with it?

Since the Evangelicals swore it was God himself who sent The Orange One to Washington, it would appear someone has some explaining to do.

I’m in the camp that believes there’s no longer a point of return for the Republican party; morally ethically and possibly politically. Everyone needs to stop hoping that these people will find their hearts or conscience or, I don’t know, maybe their duty to their country.

This is not the same GOP you think is just buried somewhere deep down in Mitch McConnell’s neck. That party isn’t going to come back. They sold their souls long before Trump won the Republican nomination. The GOP is responsible for Trump and they have been the trick behind his con.

Trump is their Frankenstein and the irreparable damage is deeper than anyone thought possible.  I know my hope has been all but lost….unless this beautiful stocking stuffer that could be a “sorry” from above, makes them pause.

No, they don’t suddenly get their hearts back like some Christmas movie and start doing the right thing. But just maybe they realize what will happen to their own careers, and even their futures outside of politics if this man does get kicked out of office.

All it takes is one Republican to worry about covering his own treasonous ass to start thinking somewhat clearly. They aren’t going to suddenly agree with healthcare for all or that poverty is the government’s problem, but they might vote to push the clown back into its box.

Whatever happens, I’m making popcorn watching it unfold without despair for the first time in what feels like a century within three years and I know I’m not alone with his misery.

So I say to you all: Just enjoy this little nugget of glory! Let’s all bask in this real-life Christmas movie/heavenly blessing sent from a possibly sheepish savior above. And dammit, hark those herald Angels sing!

Hallelujah!! Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad!!

Let’s Make America Sane Again!

THANKS, NOW LEAVE – Rich Paschall

Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time and dedicated school worker was to be honored, many alumni were thrilled at the idea.  In fact, they wanted to put on a special tribute and all got together to discuss the matter.  Soon after Roger was handing the proposed event to the pastor, who seemed a bit skeptical at first, but eventually supported the plan.

It's really a one way street.

It’s really a one way street.

The pastor was young and ambitious, as pastors go.  He seemed to like everyone and at first, everyone liked him.  He wanted to make an impact on the parish and if you could help him with that, he was your friend.  Soon he saw Roger and Roger’s friends as a path to increased alumni involvement and successful events.  He did not help organize in any way, but he did not hinder the progress.  For the alumni, it seemed like a great thing.  The pastor was letting them do their tribute the way they believed was appropriate.

On the other hand, the pastor’s staff was not a bit enthusiastic.  The school administration was already overburdened with projects and fund-raisers.  The grade school principal was also running the high school, or neglecting it, depending on where you heard it.  Teamwork was only something written on the gymnasium wall.  It was not practiced by those who loved to point it out.  They wanted to run the upcoming honor as a small event as they had done for others in the past.  They were not happy to share the event with “outsiders,” that is, former students.

The alumni crew worked diligently.  They looked for every way to promote the big event and make it a success.  They had been warned not to count on the school administration to do their part, but they trusted them to do what they said they would do.  When the administration looked overwhelmed at a request, the alumni chairmen would advise, “Just say no if it is too much.” Unfortunately, they were already in the habit of promising what they could not deliver.

When the big event was held, the school’s part was chaotic and ran behind schedule.  The alumni tribute was forced to start late, but went well and was loved by those in attendance.  In fact, it was the most well attended alumni event held in decades.  It would certainly be the last to draw a crowd.

When the reverend contacted Roger in the week that followed the celebration, Roger knew what the topic of conversation would be.  Since they had been friends from before the time Jared came back to be pastor, Roger thought they would have a meaningful conversation.

On the day of their coffee talk, it was cold and damp, rather like the expression on the pastor’s face.  He only put on a smile when a parishioner recognized him in the small coffee shop and came over to say “hello.” Roger and Jared sat in two large chairs with a small table in between.  Jared started.

“I was rather disappointed in the event last Saturday.  It did not go as planned,” Jared said with a bit of a scowl.  “I do not like things like that in my parish.”

Roger tried to explain what happened and how it happened and why it happened the way that it did.  Jared was not interested.  His purpose seemed to be to place blame and absolve his staff of any wrong doing.  “I hold you personally responsible because you brought the plan to me.  I do not care about co-chairmen or committee members or school administrators.  I blame you.”

It would be an understatement to say that Roger was in a state of bewilderment for almost an hour as the former friend declared that Roger was not to be involved in running any more events, in fact, “You are not welcome at any school events.  I will not tolerate anything that might embarrass me in the slightest way.”  Roger was not sure how anything that did not go quite right could embarrass someone who had no hand in running the event.

Cold, grey day

When Jared was done with his coffee, he advised Roger he could still come to services on Sunday.  Roger thought, “And I am still welcome to give to the collection,” but he did not say it out loud. He watched Jared walk out into the cold, grey day which was a perfect match for his attitude.

Roger only went back to the church one more time.  He came on Christmas to read as previously scheduled.  He wished his fellow readers, and friends well but said nothing about moving on.

A former classmate told Roger that her brother had decided to go to a different parish.  “The pastor there is warm and welcoming.  It’s something they forgot here.”  Roger smiled and nodded, but said nothing.  He left the church and walked out into the pleasant Christmas weather.  He thought of the irony of the assistant who invited him to come back home to the church 15 years earlier and the pastor who invited him to leave, since they were the same person.

FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #33

Fandango’s Provocative Question #33

It’s hard to talk about this stuff without sounding pious or self-righteous. Personally, I always wonder if I have a price too and it’s merely that no one has offered to pay it that I have managed to stay true to my fundamental beliefs. When you’ve never been tempted or at least not tempted enough, it is hard to know what your own boundaries truly are.

This question was plucked from my post, so to a large degree, I’ve answered it already. Still, it’s a valid question with many possible answers and even more questions that lie along its borders.

The question of whether morality is part of “God’s personal patch” versus being a basic human issue is old. It’s a question that goes to the heart of every religion and dogma — as well every set of personal beliefs. It’s older than our literature and for all I know, they were pondering some version of this in cave dwellings.

For at least most of my life, as a child, adolescent, and adult, I have believed that we are all born with a fundamental knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong. It isn’t something we need to be taught. We know it. Actually, Genesis essentially says more or less the same thing.

In our bones, in our brains, in that strange space we have that is neither physical or “brain matter,” but rather a special place where we preserve our personal beliefs.

That we all know what is right and wrong from our earliest youth through all of life does not mean that we always adhere to it. We have all done the wrong thing, whether it was big and bad, or little but nonetheless, wrong.

The cynical saying that “Everyone has a price” means no matter what you believe — or why you believe it — if you are offered a good enough deal, you’ll fold and do the wrong thing. It insinuates that greed is ultimately the most powerful emotion of which man is capable.

I want to believe that this is untrue and some of us cannot be bought. But do I know that? Or have many of us never been offered a high enough price? After all, the payment doesn’t have to be money. It can be power: legal power or religious power. It can make us godlike or rich beyond the ability of our calculator to count.

Greed can be the lust for knowledge, power, drugs, or land, though somehow money seems to squeeze into the equation somehow.


To quote Gordon Gekko, “Greed is good.”


Do you agree that greed is good? Or only that greed is good within limits, to a certain extent, but not beyond? That it’s okay to be greedy as long as you don’t get excessive about it?

What is excessive?

Does it mean only if you aren’t killing or crushing other people to reach your greed level, it’s okay? Or are there other issues?

I don’t believe that greed is good. The concept that greed is good offends me. I understand why greed feels good, though. I understand everyone wants to be safe from hardship and live life in comfort and dignity. I don’t consider that greedy. More like survival with benefits.

I certainly don’t think survival is greedy until you have to murder other people to achieve it. At which point you need to put down the gun and think about it.

It’s the excessiveness of greed that’s the problem. Because once you’ve broken through the comfort barrier and moved into luxury, when is enough, enough? What amount of whatever is sufficient?

When everything the eye can see, a man desires and comfort has long been surpassed, at what point do you stop? Do you ever stop? Can you stop? When you have the greedy bit clamped between your teeth, is there an end to your run?


ALEXANDER LEARNS VIRTUE

Gold coins of Alexander of Macedon

When Alexander had flown on the back of an eagle to the gates of Heaven itself, he bangs on the door until finally, a wise man answers. Because he is a great and powerful leader, he demands the right to ask questions of the wise men. These are his questions:

“Who is wise?” asks Alexander.

“He who can foresee the future,” answers the wise man.

“Who is a hero?” asks Alexander.

“He who conquers himself,” replies another wise man.

“Who is rich?” asks Alexander.

“He who rests content with what he has,” the wise men respond.

Alexander depicted on an ancient synagogue wall

Following this question, there is a story Talmudic legend about Alexander (who was a Jewish hero — a story too long to explain here), a balance scale, and a human eye.

The eye is placed on one side of the scale. On the other side, are piled mountains of gold, gems, and all other riches. Yet the human eye is heavier, no matter how many riches are put on the other balance. Finally, one of the wise men sprinkles a bit of dust over the eye. From that moment, even a feather is heavier than the eye.

Until a man is dead and covered in earth, he will always desire more. Only death can end his greed.

“By what means does man preserve his life?” asks Alexander.

“When he kills himself.” (Talmudist notes: By this, the wise men meant when a man destroys within himself all passion.)

“By what means does a man bring about his own death?” asks Alexander, referring back to the previous question.

“When he clings to life.” (Talmudist notes: When a man holds onto his passions and belongs to them.)

“What should a man do who wants to win friends?” asks Alexander. This is his final question.

“He should flee from glory and despise dominion and kingship,” the wise men conclude.

At the end of the Judaization process, Alexander is a humbled dictator. Although the lesson does not make him a wise man, the Talmudic dialectics bring Alexander the Great down a notch or two, make him a better person and a more benevolent leader.


If anyone assured me that one can be moral and hold a strong belief system without a formal belief system, my mother did that. She believed in virtue — goodness for its own sake. She believed in dignity, kindness, fairness, and equality. She was not a racist although she was positive that education made you a better person. If there was a break in her “system,” education was it.

She loved beautiful things for their beauty, yet before she died, she gave away or sold all her jewelry and art.


In the end, I do not believe anyone of any faith is incorruptible. We all have a weak spot. Something about which we feel so passionate, we would give or do anything to achieve it.

Incorruptibility is a choice. To find out if you are incorruptible, you’d need to be tempted by whatever it is that means the most to you. You would have to make painful choices and would forever wonder if you were a fool for choosing virtue over greed, especially if you urgently needed what you refused.

If you do not have a God about whom you can say, “His laws made me do it,” you will probably feel even sillier than the religious man who at least believes he is following the route God laid out for him.

A non-believer has only his self by which to gauge the rights and wrongs of life. Standing alone is hard. A good life is a hard life.

And no one ever promised it would be easy.

PEDIATRIC RELIGION – Marilyn Armstrong

When my first husband and I were getting married, he was something vaguely Protestant, though no one in his family knew what. They never attended church and while they were wild about Christmas, it was a very non-Christian version of it.

I’m not even sure they were Christian, but they weren’t anything else, either. I think it’s possible on the paternal side of the family, they might have been Jewish several generations back, then drifted into Christianity because they weren’t Jewish enough to hang with it.

Thus when my granddaughter was hitting eight or nine and Passover/Easter was approaching, I asked Kaity what Easter was about. She had never heard of Jesus or Christianity — or for that matter, Judaism.  She was sure that Easter was about baskets of sweets. She didn’t love chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate?) — but always preferred the hard-boiled eggs. Funny kid.

In a Jewish family, religion comes through mom, but in Christianity, it devolves from dad. In theory, she could have swung either way.

Owen was Jewish because he had a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem. In Israel, it was the natural thing to do.

Here, in a very Christian valley with dozens of churches and not a single synagogue, it made more sense to find her a Protestant niche. Later, if life took her into “choices of religion,” she could make up her own mind.

I didn’t feel, without any backup, that I could raise her as a Jew. I don’t practice Judaism. I like Jewish food, Jewish people, and deeply appreciate Jewish law and how far ahead most of most kind of law it is (and was).

I studied in Yeshiva in Jerusalem because I needed to know more, but I knew I would never be Orthodox. This was a big disappointment to my teachers who thought my interest and intellectual involvement preceded a religious commitment. They didn’t “get”(most people don’t) that I love learning for its own sake, but it doesn’t presage any follow-up.

A couple of “studies” have evolved from “learning” to hobbies. Photography. History. Literature. Ecology. Music. Some kinds of art. Technology. Other stuff.

Thus I knew a lot ABOUT Judaism, but not much about how to actually “be” a Jew. I also know a lot about Christianity, because I studied that too and even converted to it, though I practice it to the exact same degree that I practice Judaism — which is to say, I don’t.

Happy birthday at 15!

I am religiously non-dogmatic. I am pretty sure I believe in something, but I don’t know what. Not nothing, though.

Meanwhile, Garry and I felt some pediatric religion was necessary. I didn’t expect Kaitlin to make religion her life, but I thought she needed to know that Christ was not a chocolate bunny and Judaism is a religion, not a bad word you call someone.

You can’t make a choice if you don’t know anything.

To my great relief, she is happily practicing nothing, considers herself vaguely protestant — and prefers eggs to chocolate.

HERESY OR HILARITY? by Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Heretic

We are lucky to be living in a time when heresy is a personal, private issue rather than a constitutional one.

When Garry and I got married, we married in his Lutheran church because my husband still believes that stuff. I never believed it. When you are raised sort-of Jewish, you generally don’t believe that stuff. I was a lot clearer about what I didn’t believe than what I did believe … but Garry wanted a church wedding.

I wanted to get the mayor (who was a friend) to marry us on the steps of city hall. Invite our whole world. Get a lot of pizza for dinner then grab the next flight to Ireland.

While we were discussing the service — who was supposed to do what and when — they said I had to kneel.

I said, “My people don’t do kneeling.” Everyone cracked up.

But that’s the thing. MY people don’t kneel. I didn’t mind the ceremony because Garry wanted it, but kneeling? Not only do Jews not kneel but if I had to get to the floor they’d have needed a grappling hook to get me back up. It was a narrow skirt and I was wearing heels. Down I could get because there would be gravity working for me, but up? Wearing heels and a snug white dress?

In another time and place, my attitude would have landed me in a dark, damp dungeon. Followed by having my head lopped off. I sure hope they kept the axe sharp.

This being “modern times,” I didn’t die for my religious preferences or for wearing a snug dress and heels.

Times change. This is a change of which I definitely approve.

A LIVELY NEW SIN FOR A TIRED OLD WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I did a some quick, shallow research on the original seven big ones, known lovingly as “the seven deadly sins.” Here is a quick reminder for those who didn’t do Dante, or who have (conveniently?) forgotten:


Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride.

The original sins are more than words. They are concepts.

Starting from the top, we find Lust.

Lust isn’t really about sex, indiscriminate or otherwise. Or doing it with people to whom you aren’t married. Or with sheep, for that matter. Lust is not just for horny teenagers, starlets, or white-collar men having a midlife crisis.

Lust is an intense, possibly obsessive desire. Narcissism falls under the category of lust. Lust can involve the intense, overpowering desire for money, food, fame, power, or sex. I’m sure there are more, too.

In Dante’s Purgatorio, the penitent walks in flames to purge himself of lustful thoughts and feelings. Those who already have too much yet must have more.

On this earthly plane, there’s a lot of lusting going on and sex is the least of it. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say sex is the best of it. Possibly the only piece of the “lust sinology” that’s fun and might do some good.

So how about Gluttony, eh?

If you think it means you eat too much, you’d be right, though eating is a just one of many gluttonous activities in which you can indulge. Again, like lust, it the need to “gobble the world.” To consume beyond your needs.

Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony (Latin, gula) is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. Gluttony is often interpreted as selfishness, to essentially put your own interests above the well-being or interests of others.

As far as I can tell, our whole society has been doing a lot of gulping … of natural resources, of fancy cars, houses, gadgets, widgets. We also eat too much, but in the overall scheme of things, food is the least of our problems. Probably gluttonous could be a good description of our world.

Then there is Greed.

You can’t go wrong with greed. For thousands of years, greed has been on everybody’s “most popular sin” list. Especially apt for the wealthy. It is not merely a sin, but the single most motivating of all sins. In recent years, it has lost its evil connotations and been enshrined as a wonderful goal to which we should aspire. So much for deadly, eh?

Greed rules the “bottom line.” It is idolized, enshrined, and canonized by corporate America. We don’t even think of it as a sin. Yet it’s one of the seven deadlies. Amazing how time changes everything.

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and the pursuit of material possessions. (Like money and profit?) Scavenging, hoarding materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are actions likely inspired by greed. Or maybe greed and wrath working together.

According to Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good.” So don’t worry. If Hollywood promotes it, it must be okay.

Sloth is almost charming compared to its companions.

Sloth (Latin, acedia) can entail a variety of vices. While sloth is sometimes defined as physical laziness, spiritual laziness is emphasized. Failing to develop spiritually is key to becoming guilty of sloth. In the Christian faith, sloth rejects grace and God. Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do. By this definition, evil exists when good men fail to act.

Wrath is a big deal and considering the state of our state, wrath might indeed be the cause for much of what ails America.

Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as “rage,” may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries. Wrath can persist long after the person who committed a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or suicide. And, of course, ranting on social media.

We seem to be in the middle of an epidemic of wrath. Politically and socially, we are an angry, hate-filled people.

Moving on, let’s talk briefly of Envy! The motivator of crime, the inciter of ambition. Like greed and lust, Envy (Latin, invidia) is insatiable desire. It is similar to jealousy in that it causes you to display discontent towards someone’s traits, status, abilities, or rewards.

The difference is that envy also desires the entity — the thing or person — and covets it. Envy can be directly related to the Ten Commandments, specifically, “Neither shall you desire … anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Stop staring at your neighbor’s ass.

Pride is the real downfall for many of the smart set. If there’s a sin to which I can’t quite get away from, it’s pride. It pops up in so many ways. Believing yourself to be more intelligent, knowledgeable, in control of your life? Pride, my friends. Because you aren’t. You just think you are. You’ll find out. Time will show you your error.

Believing you are fully in control of your fate (yeah, right!), Pride is the sweetest sin, the most comfortable and cozy sin. It is the beloved sin of the educated and sophisticated. Certainly, it is my personal favorite.

If it turns out a Judeo-Christian God is truly in charge, this sin guarantees I will not make it to heaven because that deity was firmly again anyone’s pride but his own.

In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins.

Pride is the source of all the other sins. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, as well as an excessive admiration of one’s self — especially in not holding oneself in a proper position toward God.

What could I possibly add to this prestigious list?

Allow me to suggest Willful Ignorance as a possibility. That would be a determined blindness to facts, reality, and knowledge. Willful Ignorance fits comfortably with Wrath, Envy, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, and Pride.

I don’t know if it would be an improvement, but so many people are already there, we might as well have a sin for it.

ABUSE AND FORGIVENESS – Marilyn Armstrong

All religions have some good points, even ones with which you don’t quite always agree.

Personally, I am very fond of the Christian concept of “forgiveness.” It is not “I forgive you, let’s go hang out.” It is closer to “God forgives you, now please go away and never come back.”

You can forgive someone and not want anything to do with them. It took me the better part of a lifetime to figure out that my version of “forgive” and the Christian concept of “forgiveness” were not the same thing. Actually, they were not even close.

Forgiveness is about handing over your burden of pain and anger to your more powerful entity or whatever you want to call it.

It’s a brilliant concept. Dumping the burden, whether you throw it into the air to be absorbed into the never-ending universe or write it into your computer’s hard drive, it doesn’t matter. Whatever gives you your freedom, do it.

Forgiveness works because it’s a process. When you understand it, it gives you a place to start and a finish that includes freedom from anger and hate. Forgiveness matters. Not just religiously, but personally. If you never let go of the pain, anger or hurt, you can’t grow. You dry up.

After all these years, I wonder how so many smart people do such incredibly stupid things even when we (they) know better. Women marrying vicious men and staying with them long years after anyone — EVERYONE — can see they are in a hopeless, dangerous situation. Ditto men with women who are awful for them and make their lives into a hell. These are choices people make. Voluntarily. It isn’t always oppression or victimization. It can also be bad personal choices. Shame and pride keep people stuck in terrible situations.

Abuse is a huge issue in my world. If I can’t understand the bad choices people make when choosing mates, how can it be that parents abuse their children? Rape them? Beat them? Torment them? And sometimes kill them?

It turns the meaning of life upside down and inside out. Where is faith to be found in this horror? I can’t answer it because faith has always eluded me. The depravity of which people are capable is literally beyond my ability to contemplate. Torture? Intentional slaughter of an entire people? Abusing a child or dog to death?

Where is God in this?

The issue of abuse was important, to me because I was abused. The more I learn about it, the more people I discover who were also abused. It is not all that rare after all. Many people were abused as children and a lifetime later, still can’t talk about it.

I don’t mean can’t talk about it much. Can’t talk about it at all. I was able to get people to talk to me, at least a bit. To the extent, they could admit something happened. The sense of shame, anger, and horror which clings to victims is hard to understand given that victimization was unsought, unwanted, and terrifying.

Yet there it is. We are shamed by the evil others committed on us.

What makes it so much more difficult is that people whose lives were untouched by abuse don’t believe it happened. Their disbelief intensifies the shame. Not only do “regular” people disbelieve us, but judges, lawyers, police officers, teachers and other family members refuse to accept it. Nor has anyone a solution to fix it. Taking kids away and handing them to a stepfamily isn’t an answer. So many of these “temporary placements” are worse than the places from which the kids came.

It’s a problem we spend a lot of time talking about — and little effort solving. It’s a weird world in which we live.

A TINY, MONSTROUS FANGED HEAD – Marilyn Armstrong

Being Jewish is a religion, but for many of us, it isn’t only a religion. In fact, for a lot for us, Judaism isn’t religious at all, but rather a commitment to a lifestyle. It entails a wide range of ethical and moral beliefs.

One of the things it includes — if you are of my generation — is a lingering belief that all non-Jews are secretly your enemy, no matter what they say to your face. This remains true even when you are married to a Christian and got married in a Christian church. And your kids don’t even consider themselves Jewish. Somewhere inside, some little piece of you is screaming “Remember the Inquisition and the Holocaust.”

It’s an angry and frightened little voice, always alarmed and ready to grab the Torah (like I own a real Torah, right?) and run for the caves.

My kids don’t have this voice in their heads or this fear because I did not bathe them in the blood of our tortured ancestors or the piles of corpses from the Holocaust. I didn’t push this on them because I thought it was time to let it go and move on.

My mother was an atheist. She did not believe in God or gods. Her bonds to Judaism were entirely ethnic and tribal. So are mine … but ethnicity and a fondness for our cuisine isn’t something one can always pass along.

Regardless, Judaism is a religion. When you are ethnically Jewish but practice no aspect of the religion, what do you pass to your children other than recipes and a totally irrational fear of non-Jews.

Your ethical and moral commitments can stand on their own. They don’t need a religious attachment. They ought to be a part of the mental armament of any sane person. Religious or not, you ought to know the difference between right and wrong.

I didn’t pass this on to my kid or grandchild because I thought it was time to end the terror and move on to a different world.

These days, though, I wonder if maybe I was precipitous. Just because I thought the danger ended, it reared up its monstrous little fanged head again. And suddenly, safety is not so safe.

Maybe it’s about more than recipes for matzoh balls. Hatred appears to live a lot longer than I imagined possible.

GOD HAS A PLAN – Marilyn Armstrong

I was still trying to figure out if John Oliver was really going off the air, or it was the end of this season, or we’d just missed the final few minutes of his piece because we have a stupid DVR that clips the final few minutes. Instead, the Sports News Final came on.

It was retribution for Bruins fans. They lost. Bigly. All five games. So I left it on until finally one player admitted that the other team “played better than us,” and no amount of analysis was going to change that. This was the hour that I spend trying to find all the missed typos in new posts and that usually  takes me about an hour.

Garry goes off to bed because he has a DVR in there with all his favorite old westerns on it … plus a bunch of 1930s and 1940s black and white movies he loves which I don’t love nearly as much. He watches with the headset on and he is finally happy. No one is going to ask him to do ANYTHING. He has found true peace.

At some undetermined point, the Bruins concluded their apologies to all their fans and it being late Sunday night, a preacher came on television to announce that God has a plan.

For everything. Every single thing.

March Equinox Sunrise

Everything you think. Every illness, every idea, every mistake. Everything. Effectively humans have no control over their lives because it’s all part of God’s huge, gigantic, amazing plan that covers everything, everywhere forever, amen and probably the Bruins will win next year.

After a while, the harangue got a bit intense and I had to turn it off. I was getting ready to yell back at the television and ask about cancer and pain and death and Donald J. Trump, but I have found that yelling at the TV isn’t nearly as effective as I want it to be.

I gave the dogs their final biscuit and went into the bedroom. I made Garry remove his headphones and told him that God has a plan.

“Okay,” he said. “What brought this on?”

“The Bruins lost five to nothing and then there was a preacher and he was shouting how God knows every idiotic idea in your head, every ridiculous thing that might happen to you or me or anyone, so no matter how painful or scary life is, IT IS ALL PART OF GOD’s PLAN.”

“What were you WATCHING?’ he asked me. He then pointed out that on television they were singing Shall We Gather At The River with the ultimate intention of hanging someone.

I pointed out that this too was part of God’s plan and Garry said I should stop watching that stuff because it was ruining his viewing experience.

So, I wrote this instead. By the way — they hanged the guy. Not to worry because it was all part of God’s plan. I know because they told me. On television. So it must be true.

How The Universe Began ~ The Dogon View – Tish Farrell

This is absolutely brilliant! Too good not to reblog!

Tish Farrell

Dogon10_072 (549x375)

The Dogon people of the Bandiagara Plateau in Mali, West Africa have an extraordinarily complex cosmology that informs every aspect of their socio-sacred lives. First communicated  by Dogon elders to French anthropologist, Marcel Griaule, in the 1930s, it reveals, in particular, some astonishing conceptions relating to the star Sirius and of its smaller orbiting star now known to be a white dwarf and referred to by astronomers as Sirius B. The circumstances of how the Dogon may or may not have known about this invisible star companion have been hotly debated in recent years, and I’m not going into it here.  Instead, here is my very simplified version – or at least as far as I have grasped it – of how the universe began. Apologies to the Dogon for any error in my understanding:

Of the Cosmic Egg and Pale Fox 

In the beginning, so the Dogon people…

View original post 1,384 more words

COVET NOT YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS

So there we were in the car driving home. I was mentally shuffling the heap of miscellaneous stuff that passes for my brain and trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

Moses the Celebriduck

 

Why? Because I thought I should know them. They are supposedly the basis of all moral law, right? Why don’t I know them? Why aren’t they all on the tip of my tongue?

I found myself at a full stop around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section which contains a lot of run-on sentences that could be interpreted as two or sometimes even three commandments but have — I suppose for convenience — been lumped into one.

I asked Garry if he knew the ten commandments. He replied, with some irritation, that he had to pay attention to the traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying to not ram him.

Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them, at least not in order.

“A sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two educated souls cannot recite the ten commandments.”

“There’s a lot of stuff about not making idols. Not murdering or coveting.”

“Yeah, and taking one day off each week.”

When I got home, I looked them up.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

It turns out there quite a few “proper behavior to God” commandments. Not all Christians — much less Jews — divide them the same way. You can count as many as fifteen (à la Mel Brooks in “History of the World, Part I”) or as few as eight. It depends on how you look at them — and punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects, plus a second list containing my streamlined, easy-to-remember set.

Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

I’ve always wondered how come we need laws from God to know that murder is not okay. Aren’t we born knowing this? Don’t we know without being told that stealing is bad? That we should take care of our parents and show them respect? Do we really need laws to tell us?

Modernization is all the rage, so here’s my take on them. Not etched in stone. Jealousy is mentioned once in the second commandment where it is good because it’s the Lord’s prerogative.

In the tenth, it’s covetousness, which is not good because jealousy is good for God, but not for us. That is also where your neighbor’s ass comes into the picture, one of the many things you are not supposed to covet.

A Streamlined Top Ten

  1. I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
  2. Idols are O-U-T.
  3. Don’t swear using God’s name. Maybe no swearing at all. I’m not sure.
  4. Take a break on the seventh day of your week. It doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants, and animals. No work. Got that?
  5. Respect your parents. Take care of them.
  6. Don’t murder anyone.
  7. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t envy other people’s stuff, especially not your neighbor’s ass.

I’m just here to help.

AIN’T GONNA STUDY LORD NO MORE, AIN’T GONNA STUDY LORD NO MORE …

Someone asked a pastor with whom I am acquainted if he had any proof that praying on the Internet actually accomplished anything. He said “No. The prayer is really for you!” Still and all, the last time we went to church — a long time ago, I have to admit — this was pretty much the way it went.



Bring We In The Sheaves

PASTOR: “Praise the Lord!”

CONGREGATION: “Hallelujah!”

PASTOR: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet, PC, iPad, smart phone, and Kindle Bibles to 1 Corinthians, 13:13. Also, please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”

(P-a-u-s-e … )

PASTOR: “Now, Let us pray committing this week into God’s hands. Open your Apps, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God”

(S-i-l-e-n-c-e … )

PASTOR: “As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready. You can log on to the church WiFi using the password Lord-131. The ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshipers. Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the church. If you want to use your iPad, please open them. Those of you who use telephone banking, you can take out your cell phones to transfer contributions to the church account.”

(The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes electrified as smart phones, iPads, PCs and laptops beep and flicker.)

AND IN CLOSING …

DEACON: Thank you all for being here today. Remember this week’s ministry meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out! Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 19:00 GMT. Let’s see your face too! You can follow Pastor on Twitter this week #PastorCounsel for counseling and prayer.

God bless and have a great day.


I don’t know why, but we felt … out-of-place. And I forgot to bring my smart phone!

THE MIKVEH

In 1980, I got married. In Israel.

Israel is a funny country. A democracy and also, a theocracy. Family matters fall under religious courts, including marriage. To get married in Israel, you have to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. If you want a non-religious wedding, you have to go somewhere else. Another country. People of mixed faiths who want a neutrally religious ceremony have to leave the country to get hitched. The good news? An out-of-country marriage is honored in Israel. If you’ve made the contract, it’s legal, but a lot of people would prefer not having to go overseas to get married.

Mikveh in a modern hotel in Israel

The guy I was marrying was a Jew. Not much of a Jew, but to be fair, I wasn’t much of a Jew either. Not religiously, anyway. I had done a lot of reading, so I understood what it was about. I was good with it. It was medieval, but as medieval stuff goes, it was a good kind of 14th century.

Since the destruction of the Temple (by the Romans, in case you were wondering), the Mikveh’s use is almost entirely for the purification of Jewish women and men, and as part of the tradition for converting to Judaism. And before you ask, yes, people convert to Judaism. Not only because they are marrying a Jew. Some people do it because they find Judaism a religiously logical structure. As I do, even though I don’t practice it.

The Mikveh is used to purify people and sometimes, things. Like a body for burial, utensils for use in a Kosher home. But mostly, it’s for people.

An ancient Mikveh

Most forms of impurity can be fixed by immersion in any natural collection of water, but some things require “living water.” That is to say, moving water, such as springs or groundwater wells. The Mikveh is designed to simplify the whole process by offering a bathing facility that is permanently ritually pure and in contact with a natural source of water.

Back in the old days — like a couple of thousand years ago older — rivers and lakes were the place to go. But that water was cold. There were no hair dryers. You couldn’t get your fingernails done after your ritual bath. What about those lovely warm towels? The modern Mikveh doesn’t merely purify. The water is skin temperature and very comfortable — and clean. You exit to heated towels. Hair dressers. Manicures. And, of course, there is food and you can bet it’s Kosher.

“I have to do what?” I asked.

La-mickve-de-besalc, Spain

My friend, who was religious and regularly went to a Mikveh, was patient. She told me she’d make sure I went to a good one, where they would treat me properly. By which she meant they wouldn’t question me very hard about my level of religiosity. Which was fortunate. I didn’t have much to say except that I quite liked the way Judaism believed winning God to your side was more about doing the right thing and a lot less about repentance. You could repent your ass off as a Jew, but if you weren’t kind to the poor, diligent in your prayers and all that stuff, God was not going to be impressed. You might not get to be part of the rising of the dead to …

Well, maybe heaven. Maybe … something else. Judaism doesn’t have anything at all to say about the afterlife. Believe whatever you choose. It’s not in The Book. I like that. It was sensible. Although I didn’t practice, I appreciated it. Also, she told me to not tell them I was getting married because they were a lot stricter when you were getting married.

Stricter? About what? I’d been married before, after all.

“No,” she explained. “It doesn’t count. You didn’t marry a Jew.”

It was dizzying. She also explained that you had to walk into the water and take a complete dip. Every single inch of you had to be under the water. Including the top of your head and if you missed, they’d make you do it again until you did it right. You had to do it right so they would stamp your official purity ticket. The one you had to show to the Rabbi to prove you were pure enough to get married.

Say what?

In my lifetime, purity was not an issue. I’m pretty sure we abandoned purity sometime during the 1960s, right around the time when we smoked pot, but didn’t inhale. Oh, don’t be silly. Of course we inhaled.

Purity is not something you can ignore in Judaism. It’s a very big deal. Before I could get married, I had to be purified. Whether or not I’d ever do it again, I was going to do it at least this once. I was supposed to be peeved about this reversion to medievalism, but actually, I was intrigued. I’m a history buff. I like ancient rituals and this was an honest-to-God ancient ritual of which I would be a part.

Did I mention that you also have to be incredibly clean to be purified? Your fingernails and toenails have to be as clean as the day you were born.

A modern Mikveh — much like the one I used in Jerusalem

I did it. I was confused, especially because they spoke only Hebrew and mine wasn’t good, which is an understatement. But I cleansed, dipped, and got my stamp of purity approval. I liked it. It felt good. I felt cleansed. I thought if I’d been in a different place …

I left the Mikveh wishing life was offering me other choices. But I was missing the point.

Life always offers you other choices. The hard part is seeing them and doing something about them. Recognizing options can be extremely complicated, but the choices are always there. Grab those choices before they get away.

But I didn’t see them. Time passed and life moved on.

NOT FINDING ANSWERS, BUT STILL ASKING QUESTIONS

I have not found a religion to follow and it isn’t because I haven’t tried. I have flirted with many, gave a solid try to at least three (formal) religions, though arguably Buddhism is the most informal of formal religions.

Christianity is great — if you don’t look at it too carefully. At one point, I figured it must work because so many people follow it. But then I tried to figure out what Christian actually meant and I got lost between sects and more or less gave up. A row of people all attending the same church can’t agree on what it is, so how am I supposed to figure it out? Also, Christianity requires you to accept Christ. If you can’t do that, you are not a Christian.

If I had to pick a single God, I’d pick Ganeesh. He’s the writer’s God and I appreciate that. But to get Ganeesh, you have to buy at least a piece of Hinduism … a religion far too complicated for me.

I might as well stick with Judaism. Judaism is the original legal system and everything in it is weirdly logical. Even the illogical has its own logic. I like all the laws and the rulings. I love the courts and how you can take your case to an actual jury. I am glad “repentance” doesn’t fix everything. I’ve always considered that a cheat. Be a really horrible human, but repent and hey, you’re good? Bugger that.

Judaism has laws you need to follow. You can be as repentant as you want and apologize your heart out, but it won’t get you past the guard at the gate. Judaism is about work.

Note that nothing in Judaism indicates if there is a Heaven or a Hell. Whatever good works you do may get you into heaven. But quite possibly, they won’t. The stuff you do is for your own sake, good or bad. There’s no guarantee of a reward to come. You get to choose the kind of person you want to be. There’s something deeply existential about this.

Judaism is about work. If you really get into it, it is work that never ends. From your first breath in the morning to closing your eyes at night, there’s always something you need to do. I admire it greatly, but I don’t live that way. If I were to pick a religion, that’s the one I’d pick, but I’m not picking.

I’m sure I will never take the leap to faith. It isn’t because I don’t believe there is faith-worthy shit happening. I’m sure there is. I’ve had too many experiences I can’t otherwise explain. The problem is I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe. Is there a god? Many gods? No gods but a giant thought? Is it magic? Who is in charge? What does prayer have to do with any of this? Why do churches exist? What’s with the whole dogma thing? Do gods exist because we worship or do we worship because there is a god or gods?

I’m never going to have answers, so I’m never going to walk a defined path. It isn’t because I haven’t spent most of my life searching for answers. It turns out that you can search from childhood to old age. And still not get the answers.