Let’s see how this fits in reverse

About four or five years ago, I returned to my car in the supermarket parking lot and found a magnetic strip attached to the door. Mine wasn’t the only one. Many other cars had them.

The message deeply offended me. Still does.

For perspective, let me change one word – and then a few others to match – to see how the logic flows, or doesn’t. Here goes:

So you support Trump-Pence. This means you …

  1. Are stupid (which can’t be cured)
  2. Have been duped, indoctrinated or brainwashed (curable!)
  3. Actually believe in class warfare, white supremacy or the failed concepts of Capitalism, self-made man, etc. (which makes you a domestic enemy of the Constitution and the U.S.A.)
  4. Are ignorant of the facts – which are readily available. So if you have no desire to get the facts or once learned, you refuse to change your ways – please refer back to 1, 2, or 3.

“If we lose freedom here, then there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth” – Ronald Reagan.

~*~

The original, however, accused me of supporting a Socialist, along with an entitlement mentality, Collectivism, and Marxism, all because of my Bernie sticker.

The hit-and-run messenger was cowardly, of course. Presumptuous. Prejudiced (this person knew nothing about me, after all, except for a campaign sticker). A bully, trying to intimidate me or stifle my freedom of speech.

But I’m still deeply miffed about the bigger problem of a blinding power of labels to obstruct civil discourse and thoughtful consideration of public issues.

Socialist, after all, does not necessarily mean Marxist. To the contrary, it was an element of early Christianity, if you read the book of Acts and New Testament epistles closely.

Old soldiers never die, as we used to sing

My novel What’s Left began percolating as I considered the dimensions of the hippie movement and realized it had never really died but continued disguised in many streams of action. Yes, I’d published my Hippie Trails series but so much still felt unfinished.

And, as a consequence of Cassia in the new novel, I went back and transformed the others into Freakin’ Free Spirits.

Looking at the world today, what pressing issues do you consider unfinished?

~*~

My novel is available at the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Scribd, Smashwords, Sony’s Kobo, and other fine ebook distributors and at Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

Within a daughter’s own living Greek drama

Why Wycliffe and Tyndale matter

John Wycliffe, who introduced the Bible into English back in the 14th century, shows up as a major character in the opening novella in my book, The Secret Side of Jaya, only he’s taking refuge out on the American prairie.

And a century-and-a-half later, William Tyndale picked up the mission in England, though he didn’t move on to my fiction.

Could they be the most important translators in history? Apart, maybe, from Martin Luther, who could be the basis of his own Tendril, one with 95 points rather than ten, and his German rather than English?

Here, then, we go.

  1. Wycliffe (1328-1384) was a dissident priest highly critical of the Papacy and much of Catholic teaching and practice. With his emphasis on scriptural authority, he is now seen as an important predecessor to Protestantism.
  2. He translated at least all four gospels and perhaps the entire New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English, while associates translated the Old Testament into what became known as Wycliffe’s Bible.
  3. His followers, known as Lollards, were a major underground radical movement leading up to the Protestant Reformation, despite being highly persecuted.
  4. His writings in Latin highly influenced Czech reformer Jan Hus, whose execution in 1415 sparked the bloody Hussite Wars.
  5. Wycliffe was declared a heretic and his books, burned. His corpse was later exhumed and burned, and the ashes, thrown in a river.
  6. About 150 manuscript copies, in part or complete, survive.
  7. William Tyndale (1494-1536) was a scholar influenced by Erasmus and Martin Luther.
  8. In translating the Bible, he drew directly on Hebrew and Greek texts. He was the first to rely on them in translating to English, and his was the first English translation to make use of the printing press. He introduced the word Jehovah in English.
  9. Many consider him the father of modern English, more than Shakespeare a generation later. His translations were widely plagiarized by others, including the committee of scholars who composed their authorized version for King James, where perhaps 83 percent of the New Testament and 76 percent of the Old Testament are lifted from Tyndale. The Bible was certainly much more widely heard and read throughout Britain than was the Bard.
  10. He was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake in Belgium after his criticism of King Henry VIII in divorce matters only aggravated the situation.

~*~

There we go, politics AND religion. In this case, both of a radical nature. 

Ten major Trump disasters

It’s so massive, it’s hard to pick where to start. Let’s try, anyway. Obama warned him to have an in-house critic, someone who could envision the worst, but Trump only laughed him off. It’s not funny. Just see where it led.

  1. His failure to accept personal responsibility or admit wrong or take criticism. See above. That’s why he appointed only yes-men and promptly fired them. Can you name any of the cabinet officers in his revolving door?
  2. Failure to accept warnings about pandemics, even before Covid-19, even before he took office, and then his failure to admit its presence and act to contain it. Much waffling and obfuscation thereafter.
  3. Repeatedly putting himself above the law, contrary to the Founding Fathers’ conception.
  4. Appointing party hacks to federal judicial benches and other public offices. That corrupting influence will remain for their working lifetime.
  5. Insulting everyone and then whining, “Nobody loves me.”
  6. Shattering environmental regulations and treaties. Just wait till Mar-a-Lago is underwater and he wants a bailout.
  7. Wasting taxpayer money on his own properties and that “wall” against Mexico. Yes, he soaked Secret Service for his overnight golf trips or Manhattan visits. Guess who was the highest paying tenant in the Trump Tower? For only a night or two a year.
  8. Alienating American allies while currying personal favor with the free nations’ enemies. Really. Even the Queen was appalled.
  9. Racist agitation that included abuse of immigration agencies against people of color. Dividing children from parents and holding them like animals in cages for months on end. Seriously.
  10. Attacking peaceful demonstrations, turning American military against the public. Seems to think it’s OK to murder unarmed black men. And then can’t understand the message he’s uttering.

~*~

On top of it all, an inability to negotiate a deal, presuming instead that insults, ultimatums, and tweeting are effective. No, they only fail. A real deal is a win-win for all. Just look at FDR for a model. If only he had an attention span sufficient for history.

Oh, the list is endless. What would you add?

On that day

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel,

For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; and all those alert to do evil shall be cut off – those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right. …

And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Isaiah 29:19-21, 29 (NRSV)

Let’s get back to addressing some really big social problems

Had enough with boogie men spooking us? The last four years have only let the really big issues fester. Here are some top items that need our full attention now. All of us.

  1. Ending systemic racism in society and its underlying assumption of white superiority.
  2. Climate change. It’s real and worsening.
  3. The environment and energy. We were making progress, weren’t we? Clean air and water should belong to all, not the corporate polluters.
  4. Curbing the undue influence of political lobbyists and PAC funds. Yes, Citizens United, too.
  5. The gross imbalance of wealth in America and the demise of the middle class. Progressive tax rates could provide for many services such as health care and education – now borne privately, largely by the lower brackets – to instead be provided across the board.
  6. Also, reviving Social Security. Taxing excessive incomes at the full rate would be a start.
  7. Redress the changing realities of labor, compensation, community, and commonwealth. In short, who benefits when computerization takes over? It’s a much bigger issue than simply raising the minimum wage.
  8. Abolish the Electoral College and voter repression. Under the current system, a shade over 25 percent of the total votes – meaning a bare majority in just 12 states – could elect the president. The majority of the nation’s voters lost their voice in three recent presidential elections, with Republicans given the office. It’s still an attack on democracy and the people.
  9. Health system reforms. Obamacare was a start, but much more needs to be done, including mental health systems and, as we’ve seen with Covid-19, pandemic planning.
  10. Education systems have also gone largely unchecked. Student loan debt is a serious burden on their lives and our economy, just for starters.

Yes, we really can get the upper hand here, if we join together. But the damage has been deep and need time to repair.

~*~

What would you add to the list?

Speaking Truth to power

We’ve heard the phrase a lot lately, but few know that it originated as a Quaker expression.

Most of us Quakers, or members of the Society of Friends, assumed it was one of those many great expressions from the beginning of the movement, back in the upheavals of the mid-1600s.

Not so, it turns out. Nor even the 1700s or 1800s. It’s much more recent than that.

The expression originated with a 1955 pamphlet published by the American Friends Service Committee titled “Speak Truth to Power: a Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence,” which promoted pacifism.

Still, it rings true to the early Quakers, who spoke boldly with an alternative Christianity that  brought many changes to British and American society. The faith and its practice went far beyond mere religion. It extended through one’s relationships, including labor, possessions, business, politics, education, leisure, and nearly everything else.

For them, Truth was Christ, so speaking Truth to those in authority was to challenge the rulers and oppressors, countering them with the greater life and dominion of Jesus.

This goes way, way beyond being factually correct.

It’s more like invoking what others might do when they form a sign of the Cross when facing a demon.

Let’s not forget that authority.

And as the semi-official state religion of today?

Church and synagogue attendance and membership are declining as the population turns gray, but that doesn’t mean many younger Americans aren’t worshiping something. It just might be an unacknowledged idol rather than the God of the Bible.

So what is the idol? One befitting the state, or secular society, rather than what’s more strictly defined as religion?

~*~

The first clue might come it that nemesis for Sunday school programs – soccer and softball leagues, which schedule many of their games and practice sessions on Sunday mornings. (Parental visitation in divorce decisions further affect the youth religious training.) It’s fair to ask just what values are the sports programs are giving our children.

Sports, of course, points to professional athletics, and if you tune into any of the radio sports talk shows, you can get a taste of the ways the players and games are worshiped by adult males. Just listen to the passion and attention. It’s fair to bet few of them have engaged spirituality with such devotion.

Beyond that, consider how much of their identity arises from their chosen team. Where I live, it’s not uncommon for an obituary to list a person as an avid Red Sox or New England Patriots fan (or Celtics or Bruins). Sometimes the following even extends to a favorite sportscaster.

Many of the teams, we should note, play in arenas and stadiums built with taxpayer money or similar concessions.

Sports also points to the cult of physical fitness – people who can find five hours a week to spend at the gym but not an hour a week for worship. Sunday mornings often turn into fundraising walks or races, too.

~*~

Another, but more passive cult idolizes celebrities. Generally, the figures are venerated for their physical beauty or sexual magnetism, which are parlayed into the entertainment or fashion business. Some professional athletes cross over into celebrity status, while a perplexing few more are simply born rich and have no talent at all other than being celebrities, kind of like royalty without the responsibilities. No scientist, surgeon, teacher, corporate executive, senator, governor, or other working leader can match the recognition a typical celebrity possesses.

For much of the envious public, following their contortions occupies a lot of time and brain space.

The whole scene looks to me like a modern-day cyber-Parthenon full of semi-mortals.

~*~

Less obvious is the way art has become a semi-official state religion in America, now that state and federal funding exists. There’s long been the recognition of the fine arts as an adjunct to wealth, for whatever reasons. Many sense an abstract “goodness” in the products of art – chamber music, art museums, Shakespeare festivals, opera, poetry, the “book” that so many people dream of writing – even if the artist himself/herself remains (often with good reason!) somewhat suspect, a shady character. Perhaps that’s why these big institutions stand between us and the rest of ourselves, as artists and audiences.

Something abstractly “good” even when they themselves admit they don’t know much about the field. Contrast that to the lesser state religions in America: collegiate and professional athletics, Hollywood movies, and rock concerts, wherein no one actually advocates any common wealth.

I raise this to point out the materialism we, even as starving artists, are enmeshed in – one way or another.  It is so easy to hold the artist up in some idealized light – or the product itself – as the object of worship, totally forgetting to turn to the source of all. The dilemma of the news photographer: Should he rescue the victim and lose the opportunity of taking a great photograph? Or remain instead “professional” and observe the world as an outsider? This holds for all artists: at one point are we being selfish in our pursuits? At what point is our solitude essential for the well-being of all?

Gets complicated, doesn’t it.

Living into the Kingdom

It really is a revolutionary concept, presented toward the end of the Lord’s Prayer taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

To invoke God’s kingdom on earth as well as in heavenly spiritual expanses takes us way beyond nationalities, social status, even economics. It transcends our experience in everyday relationships. It’s a call for justice and peace, especially.

The idea of kingdom is, of course, unfathomable for Americans, as is a dictatorship or any other form of authoritarian rule. We can try to translate it as commonwealth, dominion, realm, or sphere, each with its own limitations. The Blessed Community comes closest for me.

Some of us take this seriously. What steps can we take to bring this closer? How do we honor the creation we’ve been given? How does governing by love rather than fear really appear?

It’s something we can take baby steps toward in our families and local congregations. It’s not always easy, but we need practice.

I find it a more engaging approach to following Jesus than the question, “Are you saved?”

Especially with the kicker, “as your personal lord and savior.”

I believe the concept of Living into the Kingdom is more essential than the Resurrection.

Yes, that is startling, even as I write it.

But it is also of the here-and-now.

How are you Living into the Kingdom?