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Archive for August, 2010

I didn’t see the Emmy Awards because I was at work, and I have to take such shows in bits and pieces anyway. But I ran across George Clooney’s speech in his acceptance of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award and was impressed, as I usually am by Clooney’s acting and his social activism.

I’m a huge fan of Clooney and his flicks. He can do wild and crazy or quiet wit as good as he can do heartbreak, and boy–he did heartbreak brilliantly in “Up in the Air,” the last flick of his, or the last I’ve seen recently. That was a little gem of a movie, but Clooney is a smart guy who does smart acting in usually smart movies.

So, the fact that he is a humanitarian, and sometimes a prophetic voice, makes him all the more likeable to my way of thinking. I was always a huge fan of Paul Newman, who wore his fame and fortune with such grace and good humor and generosity, and Clooney is cut from the same mold in terms of his acting, humanity and generosity.

Here’s a snippet from his acceptance speech, which–like pretty much everything about Clooney–ran to the very smart:

“It’s important to remember how much good can get done because we live in such strange times where bad behaviors suck up all the attention in the press and the people who really need the spotlight, the Haitians, the Sudanese, the people in the Gulf Coast . . . Pakistan, they can’t get any [press].

When the disaster happens, everybody wants to help, everybody in this room wants to help, everybody at home wants to help. The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story . . . honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts.

I fail at that.

So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you.”

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CHINESE JEWS OF KAIFENG

Your favorite blogger has been light on the blogging lately because he’s been so busy with preps for his upcoming two-week trek around China. I fly out Friday night.

There’s a lot of prep to be done for going anywhere for two weeks, and trying to prep for a trip in a country where I speak only about 10 words of the language (“kung pao,” “egg roll” and a few other Chinese words like those) — and preparing for a trip where I’ll be the guest of a Chinese family I’ve never met in person –well, such a trip presents unique challenges for preparation.

Especially since I’m not even sure where I’m going to be spending all my days and nights. I do have a hotel stay booked in the little and historical city where my hosts live–Kaifeng in the Henan Province–but there’s places I want to fly to for day trips or short ventures where I’m going to be relying on my hosts and the kindness of strangers.

Oh well, I’ve ventured to really strange places before on my own. Shoot, I even lived alone in one of the strangest places on earth in the back woods (Deep East Texas, also known as the land behind the “Pine Curtain”), where I survived two years with long hair as a young, opinionated country newspaper editor.

So yesterday I was telling one of my chaplain colleagues at the hospital that I still haven’t bought any gifts to take to my host family over yonder in the People’s Republic, and asked her if she had any ideas. “Yeah, that’s a tough one,” my colleague said. “Everything’s made in China.”

Stoopid me–I’d never had that insight. What do you buy as gifts for Chinese hosts that aren’t made in China?

That’s your thought for the day–what can you buy for Chinese folk that isn’t made by Chinese folk?

Napa Valley Wine is still made here isn’t it?

I think my Chinese hosts, who are conservative Christians, BTW, are tea sippers anyway. And yes, there’s always been churches and Christians in China, which comes as a big surprise to my friends here in the land of the free. Kaifeng has three thriving churches I plan to visit— and maybe a few of the old underground house churches–and remnants of a Jewish population and synagogue that I plan to find. My Jewish doctor friends at the hospital want me to send their regards and take lots of pictures.

Is Lipton tea made in America???? Well, I wouldn’t think American or British tea would be the best present to give to Chinese hosts for their Chinese hospitality. When their turn comes to visit me here in these great States I’ll buy them some good old American made Hershey Bars (Almonds Div., my favorite chocolate after all these years).

Please don’t tell me those are made in China now.

I’m open to ideas here, Jitterbuggers.

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If you don’t like the whimsical mainstream poetry of Billy Collins, try one of these other creative works from some very creative people who put poems into interesting motion in videos.

Yes, this is the kind of stuff you get only here at JitterbuggingforJesus.com, the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably) alienating whole towns, cities, nations and states. The blog that values creativity, originality, imagination, idealism, fearlessness and visionary thinking.

In other words, the blog that values all the attributes of that fearless and visionary dude Christ Jesus.

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My supervisor at the hospital, Bob the Baptist–who has been serving in various forms of hospital ministry for about a hunnerd years–spent several of those years counseling addicts in the hospital’s drug and alcohol rehab unit.

One day in his counseling he introduced himself as a counselor and chaplain to a young man of bitter and menacing appearance, who by way of introducing his own self said gleefully to Bob the Baptist: “I’m not a Christian–I’m a devil worshipper!”

Bob just casually crossed his arms and retorted: “Really? How’s that workin’ for you?”

Occasionally we Christians all encounter the hostile atheist or agnostic who is not content to just be a good atheist or agnostic. This obnoxious atheist or agnostic is just as obnoxious as the Happy but overzealous Christian who knows every word of the Bible but has never been transformed much by it, if at all. This is the Happy Christian who will get hooked into another silly argument with the nonbeliever and neither one really wins anything, even though the grace of God gets diminished and-or averted once again as the nonbeliever breathlessly tells his peers in non-belief how he socked it to that Happy Christian. And the Happy Christian goes away smiling as he believes he just struck another valiant blow for God in God’s battlefied.

Onward Christian soldier.

Maybe the best response to the hostile nonbeliever who wants to taunt you or hook you into a spitting contest over your belief and his belief–which is no belief in God–is to say something like, “Look, my loving trust in God’s love and grace is working for me and a lot of other people who believe and trust in that love and grace, and that’s all I have to say about that, OK?”

Witness to God’s love and grace doesn’t have to contain argumentative words in defense of God, and certainly not words in some battle-like offensive on behalf of God. That kind of battlefield mentality is of the sort that turned off the famous writer Anne Rice and turned her away from church. And it’s the sort of spiritual mentality that turns off and averts more people from church or Christian faith every day.

Witness to God’s love and grace is mainly about just having love and grace in your heart. If your Christian faith is in fact working out for you, just let it be, and let God be God.

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</strong>[EDITOR’S NOTE; I posted this posting on Friday the 27th and said that it was on this date in 1963 that MLK Jr. made his historic speech. It was actually on August 28. This is the first error I’ve ever made in my entire 60 years.]

I mean really–watch the video below and tell me: Can you imagine how MLK and his theology of social justice and his opposition to the Vietnam War and his “radical” and “Marxist” activism and his movement and his speeches and sermons and writings — which were always heavily peppered with scriptures from the Old Testament prophets and other biblical quotes– would have been received by the revisionist historian and self-appointed Christian theologian Glenn Beck and everybody else at Fox News had Fox News been the dominant “news”* network that it is today?

Can you imagine how Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or any number of other of the loud clowns trying to pass themselves off as conservatives would have received this and other speeches from MLK?

Listen to the words of his speech given on Aug. 28, 1963, and understand why he was so feared and hated and why he was constantly denounced and attacked as a “Communist.” And why he is still feared and hated and denounced as a Communist– and dismissed as an adulterer with no moral authority to this day as becomes on Facebook postings I see on MLK Day every year. I mean, there are still millions out there who refuse to give MLK his due and want to define him as nothing more than an adulterer or Communist or both.
And click here to check out the history of MLK Day and make a note of where the great state of Arizona stood on it. (I’m glad we always have Arizona and South Carolina to get especially bizarre in their politics to give Texas a break from national embarrassment.)
And note that the mavericky John McCain was all over the place on MLK Day, doing his usual flip-flopping whenever the national tide started turning.

(*Whatever else it is, Fox News is not a “news” network.)

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“I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.”

— Albert Schweitzer, musicologist, organist, organ maker, theologian, preacher, physician, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and all-around Renaissance Man.

I read a children’s biography of Schweitzer when I was a mere child, and have read numerous biographies of him since. To my way of thinking he was one of the most inspiring Christian figures of the 20th century. Not a flawless man by any means. As a product of the 19th century, he looked down on the very Africans that he loved so much and anyway, geniuses who make a huge difference in the world always have huge flaws and blind spots. But like the very flawed Mother Teresa–whose petulance and attitude of “my way or the highway” made her difficult for some of the people who knew her to like and much less admire her even as they respected her–Scweitzer’s flaws make him no less inspiring. He lived out his Christian faith in a most radical Christian way, giving up all the creature comforts to live in hardship healing the sick and extending the lives of jungle dwellers. His kind of religious integrity is something to behold.

Click here for this amazing minister and doctor’s obituary from the New York Times, Sept. 6, 1965.

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BECK'S THE ONE ON THE LEFT OF ARCHIE BUNKER

My Mormon friends–and yes, I have those as well as Muslim friends, which by no means means I share the beliefs of Mormons or Muslims–are embarrassed to no end that the painfully ignorant but loud rodeo clown Glenn Beck has somehow emerged as the face and voice and image of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (There’s no such thing as “the Mormon Church,” really.)

Joanna Brooks has this smart take on Beck from religiondispatches.org, which is one of the smartest religion-related depositories of smart essays on relevant religious issues that you’ll find anywhere.

Beck Claims Obama is “Not Christian”
Post by Joanna Brooks
Last night on his Fox television program, Glenn Beck (now fashioning himself a religion expert) tried to launch a theological attack on President Barack Obama’s Christianity, opportunistically pasting together a predictable string of Jeremiah-Wright-Michael-Pfleger-Jim-Wallis clips to suggest that the President’s espoused a rogue brand of Christianity that was not Christianity at all.

Surely Glenn Beck is just trying to whip up the faithful in time for his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

But he’s also going to inflame evangelical Christians who have long accused Mormons of practicing a rogue brand of Christianity that is not Christian at all.

“You’re not a Christian.” Growing up in the 1980s as a young Mormon in Southern California, that’s what I (and my brother and sisters) heard time and time again from evangelical Christians drawn into an anti-cult movement that set its sights on Mormonism. It baffled us. Especially since we learned in church every Sunday that Jesus was the son of God, who suffered and died for our sins.

“You don’t believe in the right Jesus,” they told us at Friday night pizza parties designed for local youth, in letters taped to our school lockers, in messages scrawled in our yearbooks, and when they picketed our church meetings.

Perhaps Beck, a convert, has never experienced how it feels when someone challenges the legitimacy of your religion.

Or if he has, perhaps he doesn’t care. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to generate turnout for his media events and build his media empire.

“The president apparently has a deeply held belief that his salvation cannot come without a collective salvation,” Beck said Tuesday night. “I don’t know what that is,” he continued, “other than it’s not Muslim, it’s not Christian. It’s a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

Not so fast.

You could convene a room of theologians and have a robust debate on the nature of salvation across traditions, over time, and find lots of evidence of people of faith (including Christians) believing that the concept of salvation is more expansive than Beck’s theological demagoguery makes it out to be. Even Mormons don’t actually believe that we enter heaven alone. In Mormon theology, eternal marriage is crucial to eternal salvation. And many orthodox Mormons I know speak of Christ’s atonement as an infinite event not contracted to the individual but covering collective suffering and loss, including the suffering humans intentionally and unintentionally cause one another.

But you’ll never find such a robust, thoughtful discussion in the world of Glenn Beck.

It’s Beck who is perverting Christianity by opportunistically casting doubt on the sincerity, honesty, and legitimacy of Barack Obama, a man who has as good as grounds as he does (if not better, in the eyes of America) to call himself a Christian.

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KATIE SOKOLER: SHE'S GOT THE JITTERBUG SPIRIT


She’s an artist, a pioneer; she’s got the right dynamic for the New Frontier”

— From the Donald Fagen song New Frontier

Katie Sokoler is sort of out there, but fun, and certainly creative and free-spirited.
And free-spirited is always good.

dancing with strangers from katie sokoler on Vimeo.

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PHOTO OF CROSS AT GROUND ZERO

IN THIS United Methodist News Service PHOTO BY Mike DuBose: Students peer out through windows covered with anti-Muslim graffiti while neighbors of various faiths gather to help clean up the vandalism at the Al-Farooq Mosque in Nashville, Tenn.
————
A couple of weeks ago on my Facebook I wrote this: “I’d like to see more Christians walking like Christians, talking like Christians and behaving like Christians rather than tearing down other great faith traditions like Islam out of fear and ignorance. I work with Muslim doctors and nurses every day who just grin and bear it when they hear the Christian patients they treat railing against Muslims. These are Muslims who in some cases have saved these Christians’ lives.”

Two “friends” of mine on Facebook–make that two ex “friends” I didn’t really even know– sent me email messages telling me in so many words what a dupe I am for terrorists, and informed me they were de-friending me, which is OK with me, actually, because I have another 200 or so good friends on Facebook who, theoretically at least, still love me real good like friends should. And in Facebook world, the potential for new friends who will always love me, even if I wouldn’t recognize them in an elevator, is unlimited.

But back to Muslim healers.

The medical profession in this country has thousands of peaceful, compassionate and caring healers who are top-notch doctors, nurses, lab techs and medical pros of all kinds. I work with them every day. I’ve been in their homes. I’ve been out to eat or drink with them. I’ve prayed with them, and I’ve prayed with Muslim patients and their families too, who wanted me–the chaplain who wears the cross around his neck on hospital duty for all the world to know he is a Christian–to pray with them. I don’t look at “those people” as Muslims. They’re just my friends and colleagues. Some of them were practicing medicine and medical care, right here in ultra-conservative and mightily Christian Dallas, Tx, many decades before 9-11.

My one regret about what I posted a couple of weeks ago on my Facebook is that I said the doctors and nurses just “grin and bear it” when they hear patients or their families or people in waiting rooms trashing Muslims. They hear it, and the fact is, they are hurt by it. They do grin and they do appear to bear it with winks and nods, but a couple of them have told me since they saw that posting on my Facebook that it really does cut pretty deep to pass through a waiting room, or step onto an elevator, or draw some patient’s blood and hear the very person you are helping and caring for trash your peaceful religion.

And Islam is a peaceful religion. (I probably just lost several more Facebook friends with that assertion.) It is, at least, as peaceful as Christianity, which is not a very peaceful religion all in all. Turn on your teevee and watch all that throttling rage on Fox “News” before you argue to me that Christians are peaceful.

It’s been especially hurtful lately, with so many fearmongers fanning the flames over the bizarre turn of events at Ground Zero. Maybe there is a legitimate debate to be had about the appropriateness of the plans for the Islamic Center and its location, but the hatred and raw emotion and outright bigotry arising from what has become just another hot potato in the ridiculous “culture war” makes me sick.

It’s amazing how many experts and theologians there are on Islam these days. The pool of experts and Islamic theologians includes the usual suspects: self-serving politicians and pressure groups, most of the self-serving, power-mad pundits and theologians(?) like Sean Hannity at Fox “News” Network and, well . . . even too many Christian clergy who’ve never met a Muslim in their life, unless they were maybe unknowingly treated by one at a hospital when they went to the cath lab for emergency heart treatment and received a new lease on life from a Muslim doctor who didn’t look like a Muslim.

But then, what does a Muslim look like?

You may very well have your life saved someday by some Muslim doctors and nurses and other medical caregivers.

If you don’t want a Muslim medical caregiver saving your life–or even a Muslim paramedic on an ambulance crew–you might want to put that in writing and make sure you carry it pinned to your chest.

Meanwhile, I would invite you to read this “fair and balanced” news story from the always fair and balanced United Methodist News Service.

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GRITS: They have sticking power

A few thoughts and this-and-thats while wondering–Does residue from a dip of snuff stick to the ribs???:

Yer Jitterbugger is back from a trip on church business to Nashville, which has always been high on my list–probably No. 1, in fact–of friendliest cities in the country. The friendliness on this visit started almost as soon as I took my seat on the plane and met a friendly Southern gentleman and Titans football fanatic from Nashville, whose last words to me as we stepped off the plane were, “I hope you enjoy your stay in Nashville.”

I did enjoy it, and have always enjoyed Nashville, as it’s a nice city to visit and probably nice to live in, although I would think it would help to be a country music fanatic to live there. I have very discriminatory tastes in country music and tilt toward the older country music and stars and moreso the long-dead country stars, back to Bob Wills and beyond. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see, say, Toby Keith, although “Beer for My Horses” is sure-enough a great title for a country song.

Nashville has abundant grits, and I love me some grits, although it wasn’t always so. For a couple of years in my growing-up years I lived with my grandmother, a few blocks from my parents. She was such a strong-willed pioneer sort of woman–born in the 19th century and married at 16 with little schoolin’–that when she announced she wanted me to come live with her there was no argument from Deanie and Goldie McKay. She never learned to drive and she had become too feeble to do much walking, so she moved me in with her and Miss Trannie Franklow–an old school teacher and spinster who rented half her house to my grandmother–so that my grannie (“Nannie,” as we called her) could send me walking to the grocery store almost daily to pick her up two cans of Garrett snuff. She dipped snuff pretty much all the time except when she was eating grits or oatmeal. She was always going to cut down but she never did or could cut down at all, which is why, when I walked into the corner grocery store in downtown Navasota, Texas, they threw down two Garrett Snuffs on the counter before I could get the coinage out of my pocket.

Oatmeal and grits were her staples–and especially grits. She ate them at every meal and force-fed me with so many grits (“eat them grits [or that oatmeal]–they stick to your ribs!”) that it was about 35 years before I could look at another grit or a bowl of oats.

But I did eventually regain my taste for the grit and for oatmeal too, and I eat a lot of both now. One of the best parts of my trip to Nashville was the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which had good, hot grits available by the ton. One of life’s simple pleasures is dropping a scoop of real butter onto hot grits and watching it melt before you stir it in and get those white grits all jaundiced up.

I leave for my trek around China in a couple of weeks and I’m thinking I may have to take some grits, along with all the peanut butter I’m packing as I figure I’ll need lots of peanut butter for a quick and homey taste as all my hosts over there keep telling me the delicious treats they’re going to serve me like pumpkin soup. I’m trying to withhold judgment on pumpkin soup until I’ve tried it but I’m thinking I may need to chase it down with some peanut butter and crackers. Or grits.

Americanized Chinese food is not one of my favorite foods by a longshot, which is yet another reason I’m crazy for planning a trip to far-flung places in China where the Chinese food is, I would think, very Chinese. But I can subsist on peanut butter, which I pretty much subsist on anyway, and as long as I can whip up some grits to stick to my ribs on occasion I will have no fear of going hungry.

BTW, one of my hosts-to-be in Kaifeng, China, asked me in an email if I play ping-pong, which is the national sport in China, along with drinking tea I think, which seems to be the national pasttime. (Guess what everybody will be getting for Christmas from Jitterbugger this year. If you guessed all the tea in China, you got it right.)

I play ping-pong–who doesn’t, or who at least hasn’t played ping-pong–although it would probably be foolish to take on a ping-pong player in China. I had to explain to my friend in China that here we are big on football, which entails 22 men crushing each other’s bones into powder–and basketball and baseball. I had to explain that ping-pong is down on the list of American sports and we’re talking wayyy down the list.

However, I’m told that China now has basketball courts for the kids even in far-flung locales these days, thanks to Houston Rocket Yao Ming, so I’m packing lots of Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavs t-shirts to win favor with the kids over yonder. I’m sure they’ll like those.

Whether they’ll like grits remains to be seen.

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