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“For what does it profit a man if he loses his soul?” — The Lord


At one of his frequent pep rallies with his cheerleaders in their China-made MAGA caps–this time in Montana–the President of the United States was “on,” as the comedians say.

— He trashed George H.W. Bush, who at age 94 is frail and grieving the loss of his beloved (one) wife and First Lady by mocking the former president’s “Thousand Points of Light” program.

Meanwhile, down on the border…

For those too young to remember, that was a program aimed at rewarding patriotic Americans who had started and sustained effective volunteer programs.

It was one of the few Bush programs Americans on both sides of the political divide supported and respected Bush for.

That’s because American volunteers make America great without costing American taxpayers the millions of dollars Americans have paid to underwrite Trump’s weekly trips to his Florida Resort where he attends church at Easter before getting back to his beloved golf course.

But back to the Montana rally.

— Yet again he thoroughly trashed the great American war horse and hero John McCain, who is dying a slow, horrible death.

Pass the pom-poms!

That was some funny yuckin’ shit right there, weren’t it?

But seriously, he was just getting warmed up …

— He once again denigrated every Native American alive–including the Indian war veterans he has honored at the White House who have pleaded with him to stop with the racist slurs.*

— He praised two of the world’s most brutal dictators, his BFFs Kim and Vladimir.

And … well … he just loves to hear himself talk smack about decent Americans who deserve our honor and respect.

Once again …. President Trump is not only not being presidential –which, perversely, he loves not being–he is continuing to be an anti-Christ leader.

Once again I plead with those fellow Christians who think Jesus put him “back in the White House” to stop and think about what this is doing to the integrity of the Christian faith tradition; how is steadily destroying the influence of Christianity and the universal church; and how much it wounds our Lord Christ Jesus every time this president assassinates the character of fellow Americans and the poor and marginalized people Jesus loves.

———
*What Sen. Elizabeth Warren said about her Indian blood was a dumb and awful case of a white politician appropriating Native American culture. She shouldn’t have done it. The thing is, her dumb gaffe does not make Donald J. Trump’s brazen racism for some laughs acceptable. Racism is never acceptable. This is sort of Christianity 101.

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If you love great films and high-quality film making, and, like me, you love Texas movies most of all, I urge you to read “The Top 50 Texas Movies” list compiled by five writers at The Houston Chronicle.

You can read their picks at this online link, as the Chronicle will allow if few views for non-subscribers.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine channeled Paul Newman in Hud and James Dean in Giant in their grade-A performances as a pair of Texas brothers seeking to justice from callous bankers.


As a movie fanatic and a nationalistic, patriotic Texan, I like the Chronicle’s picks, even though it’s not the list I (or you anyone else) would have compiled.

All in all, however, I’m OK with their Top 10 Texas picture shows.

I’ve always thought Hell or High Water, which I’ve watched at least six times as it’s frequently shown on cable movie channels, should have picked up a wagonload of Oscars in 2016.

I really like the Chron’s terse, “Notable Texas Moments” they included with their picks. Their notable moment for Hell or High Water: “When the brothers rob a bank and find they aren’t the only ones who are armed.”

Indeed, there were a LOT of notable, pucker-up Texas moments in this movie.

Jeff Bridges, one of the three or four greatest actors alive, and the excellent Gil Birmingham as Indian partner in the gritty (and oh-so wonderfully politically incorrect) Hell or High Water.

Movies like Hell or High Water, which tell powerful stories about broken-up human beings seeking and finding hard-won grace and redemption, are out of fashion in Hollywood now.

If the filmmakers had made Jeff Bridges’ Texas Ranger a Marvel Comic character, with him able to leap whole West Texas towns in a single bound, it would have would won 15 Oscars and broken box-office records. (Note that the ever-great Jeff Bridges is in the Chron’s Top 2 movie picks, btw.)

In addition, the entire cast of Hell or High Water would have made group appearances on every late night show on TV* and yapped (lied?) about what a GREAT TIME THEY HAD WORKING TOGETHER!!!!

Hell or High Water is the kind of anti-establishment, anti-hero movie that’s a throwback to great films in that genre like Hud and, for that matter, Giant.

And that’s a pretty high commendation in this Texan’s book.
———–
*(Jimmy Fallon never had a guest on his show who wasn’t a dear friend he loved like a brother or sister and knew to be one of the world’s greatest human beings. David Letterman, please come back and save late night TV!!!)


Chances are, your mom or grandma or whatever nurturer you had growing up rubbed you with Vicks® VapoRub. Just as healing as the menthol aroma was the healing touch of your caretaker’s hands.

(For all those brown-skinned children and their nurturers suffering in America.)

In researching my book about the healing (and potentially destructive) power of touch, it occurred to me that Vicks® pharmaceuticals are as iconic as the great American products invented by Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.

Yet chances are you don’t know the name of the Greensboro, N.C. druggist who, in 1890, concocted Vicks® VapoRub in his pharmacy–it and a lot of other healing Vicks products marketed today by Procter & Gamble.

That Greensboro pharmacist was named Lunsford Richardson. His name wouldn’t fit on his famous menthol balm, so he named it after a brother-in-law — Dr. Joshua Vick.

Chances are that when you were a child, your mom or grandma or primary nurturer gave you fast-acting relief from your cold and cough by laying some of that wonderfully gooey Rub on you.

Chances are good that you have it in your medicine cabinet to rub on your children or grandchildren or your spouse or significant other even now.

I don’t know much about the science of how the aromatic, menthol goop works to promote relief of the sinuses and respiratory system. I just know that, to this day, when anybody rubs it on me when I’m laid low with congestion and coughing, the rubbing motion of the hands full of Vicks VapoRub is just as relieving as the menthol aroma.

I’m sure you’d agree that rubbing it on your own chest and neck and facial areas when you’re struggling to breathe just doesn’t have nearly the same relieving effect as someone laying those menthol-cool hands on you.

I moved to Belize six years ago this month. I lived at that time in the ancient Mayan village of Succutz, home of the world famous Xunantunich temple. The temple compound is a full mountain mile above the mighty Mopan River and only five miles from where I live now.

That oil-and-herb concoction in the cosmic-blue jar is so perfect that Mayan healers in Mexico and Central American keep it on hand.

On my first day in old Succutz, I was walking down a trail in the bush and passed by a typical clapboard house with kids and dogs running around a yard that sloped down to a stream.

Beneath a shady mango tree just outside the house, a boy about age 8 was lying flat on his back in his underwear on a blanket. His mother, clad in Mayan threads, was bent over him on her knees and rubbing him. Being the incurably curious creature I am, I strolled up the slope and said hello to the woman, curious about what she was doing.

It turned out she was slowly and methodically massaging the child’s chest, neck and head with that not-so-ancient Mayan salve called Vicks VapoRub.

Mind you, this was a Mayan bush woman who had all kinds of healing herbs and ancient remedies at her disposal to relieve a child’s deep cough and congestion.

And yet she had a jar of the same Vicks VapoRub, with its simple but perfect mix of oils and herbs, that has given me and you and people around the world healing relief since we were babies.

I see the blue Vicks jars in even the most remote villages everywhere south of the U.S. border for three reasons: 1) it’s so effective and 2) it’s oh-so-affordable for even the poorest people I meet and 3) it has a long shelf life.

Such is the power of that great American balm that the nerdy pharmacist Lunsford Richardson stuffed into a now iconic jar that was and is and always will be a soothing cosmic blue in color.

And such is the divine, healing power of touch in a body rub, appropriately rendered.

——————
Read more about the nerdy pharmacist who invented the world’s most famous healing ointment in Greensboro, N.C.

This is also a good overview if you’re a fellow history buff.


In spite of the deaths of their comrades, two working-slug journalists put their grief on hold to spend the night doing the unappreciated jobs they do for a living. Josh McKerrow, left, a staff photographer, and Pat Furgurson, a staff reporter, worked Thursday on the next day’s newspaper from a pickup truck in a mall parking garage in Annapolis. (New York Times photo by Nate Pence)

I left the journalism profession in the year 2000 because I was called to serve God and the church in ordained ministry.

But my first calling in life, at age 16 or so, was to journalism. I even worked my way through the first two years of seminary at SMU working full-time as an associate editor for The United Methodist Reporter.

Nobody loves reporters and editors except other reporters and editors, people like myself who were called into a profession in which you won’t ever win any popularity contest–not if you do your job with honesty and integrity.

Even though I left journalism a long time ago, I’ll always miss the camaraderie unique to the news profession.

I’ll always stand in solidarity with journalists around the world who slug away every day seeking the truth in the face of enormous resistance from people who want very much to keep people in the dark and can’t stand the light that journalists are trying to shine on them.

Journalists are definitely not perfect people and sometimes they blow it. In fact, resisters work hard sometimes to make sure they blow it so they can bash them. It’s a hard, tricky profession where a lot of people are out to get you.

Yet contrary to what some shamelessly corrupt, lying American leaders want you to believe–and you may believe it yourself–they (we journalists!) are not “enemies of the people.”

Gosh, you’d be surprised to know how many of them love the God and feel like they are doing God’s work in speaking truth to power.

See the profiles of the dead journalists here and pray for their families if you will because Journalist’s Lives Matter just like yours.


With respects to Monty Python…

“JUST AS WELL … WHAT’S HE GONNA DO WHEN ALL THOSE DOUBLE POOPS START PILING UP?”

AND BY AGE 65 YOUR ATTIC WON’T HOLD ANYMORE OF THESE AND THEN WHAT?

WOCKA! WOCKA!

SHOULD HAVE GONE WITH THE CHARMIN, MOM.

What he learned to say first day in medical school.

But they could probably go $1.4 and survive.

FOR YOU WINE SNOBS: From his greatness James Thurber back in the day.

AND SPEAKING OF COFFEE AND WINE … MAKE MINE A DOUBLE.

IT’S CALLED KARMA, DUDES


I mentioned in my last post — written in a fit of righteous indignation or what may have been, Lord help me, just sanctimonious self-righteousness — that I’m researching and writing a book about the theology of touch.

The abiding reference point of this book — or the touchstone (pun intended) — will be the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is constantly touching or being touched.

That makes it a book about God’s gift of the healing power of touch — touch appropriately applied. “Appropriate” is a word that will show up repeatedly in the text in a time when people are scared to touch anybody in a loving, consoling way.

I will of course, uh, touch on what is appropriate and not in this age of the me-too movement.

But drawing on research and interviews with all kinds of experts on the skin and physical human contact, the book will delve into matters like how the body, mind and immune system react to human touch.

Just as important, it will delve into the potential lethal danger of touch deprivation in young children and anybody else, like so many old folks who are trapped in the darkness of loneliness in homes and nursing homes and places like VA hospitals.

God only knows how many sick and old folks in this broken, sin-sick world– and in the USA alone — are starving and dying of thirst for someone to hug them or hold their hands and just be a quiet, listening presence to them.

And of course, today we’re seeing even babies in diapers dying for the maternal and paternal touch that’s been lost — or any other touch at this point from any consoling caretaker that they can get.

Touch deprivation: it’s potentially lethal. (photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

I hope this border crisis will go down in history as the time when the American church united to be the church, a time when church people stepped up and stepped in to help the poor and vulnerable innocents who are now being spread out in shelters all over the country. It’s going to be a long and very long time before the issue is resolved regardless of whether a win-win political solution for all sides concerned is hammered out.

A star is born. July 12, 2013. My brown, Central American daughter Paulita McKay was born into Central American poverty. Yet she’s been blessed to have an enormous amount of loving touch from me, her mom, sister, brother–and many people in Cayo, Belize, who are drawn to her magnetic personality.

So the book wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include a chapter on this political crisis and the response to it from political leaders and everyone else — especially the response of the American church which is just as divided as the political tribes and so desperately needs to unite and just be the church to the poor and vulnerable whomever and wherever they are in this world, our border included.

Still, the book I’m developing will be not be a political polemic but a theology book on the theology of (appropriate!) healing touch.

It so happens that on a hot June day outside the Vatican two years ago, Pope Francis had something to say about how Jesus invites us to touch the untouchables, as follows (with my italics for emphasis):

    (ADAPTED FROM: Vatican Radio Online) Pope Francis on Wednesday held his weekly general audience. …. During his catechesis, the Pope focused his reflections on the Gospel story of the leper who was healed by Jesus as a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    As Jesus reached out and touched the unclean man, he said, so we must never be afraid to reach out and touch the poor and those most in need. At the same time, he said, the Lord invites each of us to feel our own need and to ask for his healing touch.

    Please see below the English summary of the Pope’s words at his Wednesday General Audience.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider Jesus’ healing of the leper (Lk 5:12-14). As we know, lepers were considered unclean and bound by law to avoid contact with others.

    Saint Luke tells us that one leper, moved by faith, did not fear to pass among the crowds and beg Jesus to cleanse him. If this leper broke the law, Jesus did likewise by touching the man and cleansing him of the disease.

    The Lord’s example teaches us not to be afraid to reach out and touch the poor and the needy in our midst.

    Significantly, the encounter does not end there. Jesus tells the healed leper to present himself to the priest to make the prescribed offering, and as a testimony to his healing. In this way, he shows us that his miracles of healing aim at the rehabilitation of sinners and that true faith bears fruit in witness.

    The Lord invites each of us to feel our own need and to ask for his healing touch. Like the leper, may we turn to Jesus in faith and let our lives proclaim his gifts of mercy, forgiveness and spiritual rebirth.

Reach out and touch someone — the health you boost may be your own.

This child will be sent to a United States government shelter where she will have a comfortable bed and toys, but caretakers will NOT be allowed to give her what a traumatized child desperately needs: human touch. Caregivers of these kids are not allowed to hug, cuddle or console these children with any touch whatsoever, according to an American Pediatric Association report. (photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

President Trump is being the Supreme Liar-in-Chief, as always.

He says repeatedly, to a base that chooses to believe the dozens of lies he spews in a day (I guess because he’s not a lyin’ Clinton or a lying’ Obama so his nonstop lies are OK?), that federal law requires families crossing the border illegally must be separated.

Federal law and the usual suspects (Democrats).

“I hate it. I hate to see the separation of families and children,” he says, lying through his teeth yet again.

He doesn’t hate to see this evil government policy at all.

He wants to rip these families apart to demonize and blame Democrats and Obama and anybody except himself for a whole new and cruel zero-tolerance policy that he and Sessions imposed on a whim. They gave no notice whatsoever for the government officials who have to prepare to detain these children and other separated family members.

So now the government is scrambling to set up tent cities for children under 5.

At least the tents are air-conditioned.

How humane of them.

Although, not allowing the children to be touched by their caregivers is not so humane at that. According to a pediatrician who was allowed to tour some of the government shelters, the kids are given beds, toys, and meals — but aren’t allowed to be touched whatsoever.

That’s a government rule. You can’t hug and console a traumatized, crying child in U.S. government detention.

Think about that.

You know and I know that human touch and consolation is the one thing every baby and child in this world needs every bit as much as food, water and toys.

In fact, we all need consoling hugs, kisses and pats on the back no matter what our age.

But to a child, consoling touch is as necessary as oxygen for healthy development. Many studies have shown that young children literally die from touch deprivation.

I know this, because it so happenings I’m researching and I’m writing a book about the healing power of the touch of Jesus, with the gospel of Mark as (no pun intended) the book’s touchstone.

So now we have traumatized children in America who are being denied any healing care by contact whatsoever. It pains me to say that is ugly episode in American history will be included in the book. I wish it weren’t so.

See here for what a prominent American pediatrician who has seen the kids reports about this.

Is this child some kind of animal? She looks much like my brown Belizean daughter Paulita McKay to me. Click on the photo to enlarge

What’s so maddening is that Trump (and Jeff Sessions of Romans 13-fiasco fame and the ever-heartless Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and everybody else) knows good and well there is no law requiring children be taken away from their parents when they cross the border.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump’s ally and golfing partner who sometimes goes off the Republican reservation to speak the hard truth to Trump and everybody else, said today he plans to tell Trump that since he (Trump) hates to see these separations, he can stop them cold “with one phone call.”

And should.

He could do that, but he won’t, because he doesn’t want to end this cruel action. Approval from his rabid base trumps the need for common decency.

The fact is that crossing the border illegally is a federal misdemeanor that has almost never been enforced for a lot of good reasons.

Children have been separated from parents if the parents are referred for criminal prosecution.

The huge spike in the separation of these families in just two weeks was caused by that cruel zero-tolerance policy introduced by the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and defended by the likes of my Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Huckabee Sanders of course is the daughter of an ordained Southern Baptist preacher-turned-greedy-political-opportunist who lives in a seaside mansion on the Florida Coast that Fox News built; Fox News been very, very good to Mike Huckabee.

Trump, finally by his own admission today, is trying to force Democrats to agree to an immigration bill to provide the money to build the wall he promised that Mexico would pay for.

I’ve said before that I would never call Trump the anti-Christ, because metaphorical anti-Christs of all kinds are always with us.

People like Trump’s buddy in North Korea Kim Laugh-a-Minute, who is so funny and has a great personality and is so respected that his people run up to him in tears to bow down to him–he’s a biblical anti-Christ.

Trump himself is just another in a long line of anti-Christ figures. But this is a first. He’s the first American president who was so anti-Christian.

I’ve seen many Trump supporters on social media say Democrats and “the mainstream media” hate Donald Trump because he’s white and because he’s a Christian.

I look at him and see a man who is orange, with tanning booth eyes and a strong but craven personality. And Christian?

If Donald Trump’s a Christian, his pal the leader of North Korea is the latest incarnation of Buddha himself.

What’s sad is that it turns out Attorney General Jeff Sessions–who reportedly is a Sunday school teacher at a United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala. — is an embarrassment to Christianity, the United Methodist Church with its Wesleyan Connection and tradition, and America itself.

It was bad enough that Sessions completely lied by omission about what the Apostle Paul really said about obeying government authorities. He’s been roundly rapped for that violence to scripture by everybody from the Southern Baptist Church to Franklin Graham and most of the world’s Roman Catholic Church leaders — especially the American Catholic leaders.

What really irked me, and irked even most of my conservative and very conservative evangelical friends upset by this zero-tolerance horror, is that Jeff Sessions said the separation of children is biblical with a shit-eating grin on his face. As if he is delighted to see these families separated and children terrorized because it’s God’s law.

I hope he and Trump and the boys have had a cheerful Father’s Day.

I’ve had a hard time fully relishing mine with my beloved America so utterly, tragically lost.