Archive for November, 2010

What’s amazing is that these Fox “News”* geniuses are singing the praises of something they read in The Washington Post.

Fox “News” people aren’t supposed to read The Washington Post and like it; they are supposed to read it and hate every word of it and bash it relentlessly as leftist trash.

Most peculiar, Mama Grizzly.

(Note to the many newcomers to this blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states. We always put Fox “News” in quotation marks because Fox “News” is a news organ in name only.)

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I’m now into roughly Day Five of Bronchitis Hell, which has had me laid low and ailing as much from cabin fever as anything.

The Hydrocodone the doc prescribed (kids, don’t take this drug without a prescription) keeps the violent cough quieted down. It also keeps me woozy and too off balance to operate a coffee pot, much less a motor vehicle.

Woe is me. Now that I’ve read a stack of books till I’m cross-eyed I need some healing, balancing music to listen to and sexy dancers to look at.

Habib Koite and his world beat vibe is so mellow and healing–small wonder that Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne are among his biggest fans because Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne have taste in music almost as good as yer Jitterbugger.

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If you remember these commercials, remember to take your Geritol tonight.

(Gotta say in all seriousness, though— the first commercial vid of the doctors who love their Camel cigarettes feels a little creepy. Hard to believe smoking was considered a relaxing and tasty and downright healthy habit, isn’t it?

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What other people think of you is none of your business.

Paulo Coelho

That insight from Paulo Coelho is a good thought to think about all day and maybe into tonight too. It could be a liberating thought for a lot of people if they would but only let it sink in and let go of the disabling fears that keep them from finding their true callings, needs and desires in life.

To heck with what other people may think of you. Your only business is to be you.

Find what God put you here to do, be who God made you to be. And if someone doesn’t like it–if someone thinks harshly of you or less of you, or thinks you’re crazy or weird or whatever they may think of you for doing what you were put here to do and being who you are at your core being where that divine flame flares, that’s not your business anyway.

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*Stanley Hauerwas in an interview with Colman McCarthy on the now traditional White House “Prayer Breakfasts”: “The God that’s prayed to [at the breakfasts] is such a vague God that it’s very hard for me to see how it avoids idolatry. It’s dangerous for Christians to think that the state is sponsoring their faith. Is it really about prayer? Or a display of piety? Prayer breakfasts are just parading the piety to ensure a kind of righteousness that isn’t commensurate with confessional sin. You’d never catch me at one.”

** “If you ask one of the crucial theological questions–why was Jesus killed?–the answer isn’t `because God wants us to love one another.’ Why in the hell would anyone kill Jesus for that? That’s stupid. It’s not even interesting. Why did he get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be. The church is a political institution calling people to be an alternative to the world. That’s what the cross is about.”

— Stanley Hauerwas in a 1991 interview

In his memoir Hannah’s Child, the great theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes with his usual brutal honesty about his extremely unusual life, his working-class background as a Texas bricklayer, his enormous pain and struggling to care for a wife with severe mental illness, and the books and friendships that have formed him. He writes as honestly as he does affectionately about the flaws of his “manipulative” mother, a father who was often too good a man for his own good, and the loving son he bonded with as they dealt with Hauerwas’s first wife.

And of course, Stanley Hauerwas writes in brutally honest terms about the flaws of Stanley Haeurwas.

Read on for more about this colorful character and formidable theologian and man of rock-like faith. (With brief video at bottom.)


If I had a vote for the Pulitzer Prize, Non-Fiction Books Div., it would go to the man who Time magazine dubbed “The Best Theologian in America,” and that would be the wild and weird (and seriously weird) and wonderful and wacky-mad genius Stanley Hauerwas.

If you don’t know, Stanley is a native, hardscrabble Texan who is wild and weird and wonderful and something of a theological genius who cusses like a sailor whether in polite company–such as, say, in church–or in lecturing his students at Duke University where he’s taught for 20-something years and where he landed after stints at Yale and Notre Dame. As he is fond of saying, he’s come a long way from Pleasant Grove, outside Dallas, Texas.

I would daresay that not many academics are more widely and deeply read as Hauerwas, who takes a fierce, Texas-boy brand of pride in being one of the most deeply read and hardest working academics in American academia.

Stanley is an Episcopalean who considers himself a Methodist (although not really, as he considers himself a “Wesleyan” with extremely strong Roman Catholic as well as Anglican leanings and heavy on the Anabaptist/Mennonite theology) who grew up a bricklayer’s son in a dusty Texas burgh and went on to great things at a few of the country’s msot elite universities.

This is a man who naturally and casually uses the words “shit” and “bullshit” a lot in his lectures, speeches and books, even though he claims in Hannah’s Child (subtitled A Theologian’s Memoir) that he made the conscious decision to quit using dirty words in churches and at school.

Having said that, he goes on to use dirty words (the “s” word and the “bs” word are among the more sugary of his salty language) for the next 250 pages.

Hauerwas, as clergy and theologians and people serious about Christianity and ethics and religion know, is the kind of guy who speaks and writes his truth and, more often than not, speaks it brilliantly  and without mincing nary a word. He is a true force of nature and a theologian to be reckoned with no matter what your theology or philosophy of life or politics or worldview may be, or how far left or right it may lean.

Name it, and Stanley has a thoughtful and forceful and quite possibly maddening opinion on it, and will assert it to you in no uncertain terms, maybe in saltiest and the most irreverent ways.

“I have to be a pacifist because I’m such a violent son of a bitch,” he’s often said. And he is a radical pacifist and relentless, uncompromising and tough-minded anti-war Christian, which doesn’t much endear him to a lot of American Christians. But he articulates the Christian history and case for Christian pacifism with intense logic and knowledge of the Bible and age-old theology.

And anyway, even if you hate him you can’t help but love him for that aforementioned charm and for having the steadfast courage of his convictions.

Click here for your typical Stanley Haurwas interview and then read his memoir. There’s not a hint of B.S. in it and it makes a fine Christmas present for your Christian friends who are squeamish about certain words that cowboys, warriors, bricklayers and Texas boys like me and Professor Hauerwas use so naturally and casually.

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“Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle”
By Freya Manfred

I spy his head above the waves,
big as a man’s fist, black eyes peering at me,
until he dives into darker, deeper water.
Yesterday I saw him a foot from my outstretched hand,
already tilting his great domed shell away.
Ribbons of green moss rippled behind him,
growing along the ridge of his back
and down his long reptilian tail.
He swims in everything he knows,
and what he knows is never forgotten.
Wisely, he fears me as if I were the Plague,
which I am, sick unto death, swimming
to heal myself in his primeval sea.


“Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem'”
by Barbara Crooker
Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

“Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem'” by Barbara Crooker, from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008.

And one more poem to grow on, also from Barbara Crooker

“All that is glorious around us”

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

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O great creator of being grant us one more hour
to perform our art & perfect our lives

— “An American Prayer,” The Doors

I’m on one of my total Doors kicks lately, which happens occasionally and can persist for for weeks.

Usually as Dec. 8 approaches, the birth date of you-know-who.

(For Adam, blood of my blood and a lean machine with a blues guitar)

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You cannot worship God, and then look at a human being, created by God in God’s own image, as if he or she were an animal.”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel,
as quoted by his daughter Rabbi Susannah

IN THE PHOTOS: Rabbi Susannah Heschel and her with her father the Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Her father was equally known and respected as a Jewish scholar who wrote a seminal book about the prophets as well as other important books, and as a political activist who opposed the Vietnam War when it was unpopular to do so, and who was close to, and who marched with, MLK Jr.

I’ve said here before that one of the joys of being in seminary is discovering the thought of biblical and religious scholars who speak to you in powerful ways. One of my joys in my years at Perkins School of Theology was discovering the books and theology of Rabbi Abraham Heschel. His very life was a sermon. My books of his–especially his classic and important one in the world of theology, The Prophets, are starting to show signs of wear from my pulling them from the bookshelf and dipping into them so much.

This was one incredibly holy man of God, and a fearless prophet himself, who was always at the forefront of good and righteous causes that found him locking arms with MLK Jr. for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.

This quote of his comes back to me sometimes when, on duty at the ER at the hospital, I see old people come in from “nursing” homes (some of them are hardly “nursing” in their care) who are emaciated and on the other side of no tomorrow:

“A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.”

Rabbi Heschel’s theology and thought are a rather large part of my own theology, so his theology and thought come to me often whether ministering at the hospital or just being in the world and trying to be kind to everyone I encounter. Sometimes, like His Greatness the Rabbi, I feel downright “maladjusted” by a society as violent as ours, even though it’s a healthy maladjustment that keeps me motivated to preach and speak and write against violence and raise people’s awareness of just how accommodating of violence that we as a society are.

I remember when those kazillion-ton bombs were being dropped in Baghdad, resulting in the deaths and maimings of untold numbers of innocent men, women and children. I heard people speak excitedly about how “awesome” it was watching those bombs aimed at producing “shock and awe.” Watching real-time violence on cable news–entertainment doesn’t get any better than that.

Some of those kids who were psychologically shocked and awed will be scarred for the rest of their long lives, the ones who weren’t killed. Some may very well grow up to be American-hating radicals.

Rabbi Heschel said,

“I would say about individuals, an individual dies when he ceases to be surprised. I am surprised every morning that I see the sunshine again. When I see an act evil, I’m not accommodated. I don’t accommodate myself to the violence that goes on everywhere; I’m still surprised. That’s why I’m against it, why I can hope against it. We must learn how to be surprised. Not to adjust ourselves. I am the most maladjusted person in society.”

Some forms of maladjustment are holy and good, so I’m retaining ownership of my own “maladjustment.”

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Yeah well, if I you had Jerry Jones coinage and a football team that couldn’t fight it’s way out of a paper sack, you’d probably take your jet to Vegas for the week too.

(Note to Mr. Jones: Speaking of paper sacks, you might want to put one over your head if you’re going to try to sneak off to Vegas to escape the media glare.)

Q. What do you call 47 millionaires around a TV watching the Super Bowl?
A. The Dallas Cowboys

Q. What do the Dallas Cowboys and Billy Graham have in common?
A. They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell “Jesus!”

Q. How do you keep a Dallas Cowboy out of your yard?
A. Put up a goal post.

Q. What’s the difference between the Dallas Cowboys and a dollar bill?
A. You can still get four quarters out of a dollar bill.

Q. What do the Cowboys and possums have in common?
A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road.

Q. What makes skunks hold their noses?
A. You guessed it.

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Don’t laugh–this is how Elvis got started back when he was standin’ to his daddy’s knees in Tupelo. . .

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