Archive for January, 2011

I don’t think I’m an especially good human being. But you know, I’m interested in the teachings of Jesus and try to be conscious of them in my life; it’s worth thinking about because there’s no narrative in the history of Western civilization that’s more influential than the Gospel of Mark, which is the oldest Gospel. If you can name a story that’s had more effect on human beings than the first gospel ever written, then I would be happy to hear your candidate. I’ve tried to think of millions of candidates, and I couldn’t think of anything else.

So many people never actually sit down and read a gospel, or even hear somebody else read one.


The great Southern writer Reynolds Price has died at age 77.

I could never get into the novels of Reynolds Price, if only because his prose sometimes required more hard work than I’m willing to give an author. And it may be that I could go back to his novels now and be spellbound by them. I find that to be the case with a lot of writers and singers and such. I sometimes find that a novel or a song or album or work of art or entertainment of some kind that didn’t appeal to me years or decades ago will appeal to me big-time now that I’ve officially reached geezerhood. Our tastes and points of view do change over time, or they should change, lest we get stuck in some decade without growing any.

Reynolds Price certainly understood the growth and maturity process. That I didn’t like his novels is not to say that I didn’t slug through some of his memoirs, nor to imply that I didn’t find him very interesting. In fact, I heard him speak and met him in Austin about a hunnerd years ago, pre-cancer, and he was funny and charming and still the fiery young raconteur.

There was certainly much to admire about Price’s Christian faith, and his courage and strong will in the face of the debilitating spinal cancer that he fought through so admirably for so long. One less gracious than himself may have sued for medical malpractice for the cancer treatments that left him a paraplegic, but here’s how he looked at it:

“The fact that my legs were subsequently paralyzed by 25 X-ray treatments … was a mere complexity in the ongoing narrative which God intended me to make of my life,” he said. Price’s account of cancer survival is captured in his 2003 book, A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing.

So Click here for a fairly recent interview with him and with him covering a lot of interesting ground about everything from his humor–and the lack of it in his writing–to what he got out of a stroll with Clint Eastwood.

Take your rest, Mr. Price.

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As much as I love me some Beatles, there’s a lot of Beatles music and Beatles videos and stuff that would gag a maggot, much less one as refined and superior in musical taste as I.

For the record, I always hated, detested, loathed and gagged any time I heard “Penny Lane” those millions of times of the radio. (And thank you, Sir Paul, for leaving it out the night I saw you live and in the flesh in concert at Cowboys Stadium, the show that I sold the family farm to attend, remember?)

However, “Penny Lane” and the famous Beatles horrible video does make for some good parody as it turns out.

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I believe that if our world survives the nuclear threat — and I believe it will– if it survives that we will move into a new age, when the emphasis will not be on making piles and piles of money and being scared to death the stock market is going to drop tomorrow, but rather the emphasis will be on truth, on joy, on understanding, on beauty — these things that to my mind make life really worth living.

— Rollo May

The interview down below of Rollo May, who wrote some wonderful books on theology and philosophy and psychology and was a close friend of the towering 20th century theologian Paul Tillich, is a bit dated but still relevant.

What May had to say about the great poem by the great Christian poet T.S. Eliot (“The Waste Land”) and the great novel Gatsby remain plenty relevant.

You can read more about the interviewer Mr. Mishlove here.

You’ll find more about Rollo May here.

And more on the liberal Protestant theologian Paul Tillich here.

With no further of that ol’ ado, here’s an excerpt from the interview:

MISHLOVE: I know in your book Love and Will you refer to the great poem by T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land,” and the way so many people when it was first written at the early part of this century seemed to relate to it, not understanding its prophetic nature — it seemed to characterize the emptiness of modern society.

MAY: Yes, the king in “The Waste Land,” remember, was impotent. The wheat and the grass did not grow. Therefore it was a waste land. And he goes on in marvelous detail. Now, just about that time, in the 1920s, in the Jazz Age, there was written another book that is prophetic. That is The Great Gatsby. The movie was terrible, but forget the movie, and take the book.

MISHLOVE: F. Scott Fitzgerald.

MAY: F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a small book. It’s a marvelous picture of how our age is disintegrating. He ultimately dies, and dies a completely lonely man. There is nobody at the funeral, and it’s a tragedy. But Fitzgerald saw that this was happening not in the Jazz Age — then everybody was earning lots of money and trying out new styles, just like nowadays. But he knew what was going to happen, and therefore The Great Gatsby. We are now in the age when those things, “The Waste Land” and The Great Gatsby, are coming to fruition. That’s why I believe that if our world survives the nuclear threat — and I believe it will– if it survives that we will move into a new age, when the emphasis will not be on making piles and piles of money and being scared to death the stock market is going to drop tomorrow, but rather the emphasis will be on truth, on joy, on understanding, on beauty — these things that to my mind make life really worth living.

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If you want to be a genuinely obedient Christian, if you want to be as Christlike as you can be, be prepared for people to mock you, to make fun of you, to denounce you, to tell you you’re “crazy” or a crazy fool.

They will say worst things about you, usually behind your back, of course.

And what really might hurt, if you’ve got thin skin is–those attacks on your character will come from other Christians.

In fact, you’ll often find that a lot of nonbelievers respect you more than many fellow Christians respect and honor you because many nonbelievers are good people of great integrity who will respect you for having the knowledge and courage and commitment of your convictions. Not all of them and not always, of course. But I’ve had fellow Christians tell me I’m “crazy” for going on mission trips to Juarez, or for approaching homeless people on the streets and talking to them and finding out their stories and praying with them and giving them a few dollars, or having them over for a shower and a meal, or for my belief that Christ was a total pacifist who calls us to pacifism or, or engaging Muslims and people of other faiths in respectful dialogue, or whatever it may be that rankles fellow Christians who think I’m crazy or not normal or whatever the hell they may think of me.

I’ve said here before that when I’m on duty at the hospital I wear a modest sized but very visible, sterling silver cross on a modest but visible chain, which I don’t wear as a piece of costume jewelry. Because I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed or embarrassed or apologetic in any way for having Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. Nor do I have any fear in being a Christ follower. And certainly have no fear of what people may think about me or about my theology, because at the end of the day I don’t answer to other Christians but rather to Christ who is at the center of my life, not other Christians or hostile nonbelievers or libruls or conservatives or Democrats or Republicans or patriotic Americans or readers here or, to anybody or anything else.

I pledge my allegiance at the end of every day to my Creator, Redeemer and Savior, not to any nation, of which America is only one of many, or my employer or fellow employees or government or political party or blog subscribers.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Here’s what the great Harvard preacher Peter J. Gomes says in one of his many fine and mighty fine books, Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living: A New Collection of Sermons, followed by a couple of scriptures for thou to mull on when you have time, dear reader.

Grace & peace

“The normal, natural instinct is to protect one’s interest, go with the flow, find the acceptable way, and stay in it. . .

“Someone, anyone, who goes contrary to all this, especially when his own life is at stake and his reputation with it, is thought to be crazy, mad, having taken leave of his senses. He attracts attention and the notice of the crowd. This is what happens to the Apostle Paul . . .

“Who is he? He is a man who has had his mind changed and who wants to change the minds and hearts and ways of others in the vision of Jesus Christ; and sometimes–not always, but sometimes–when you change your mind, ‘they’ think you are crazy.

“All the people at the trial, the Jewish accusers and the Roman judges, would have preferred the ‘normal’ Paul. Remember him? The ‘normal’ Paul, the preconversion Paul, was the superzealous, overly ambitious young Jew who took it upon himself to persecute and prosecute people believed to be disloyal to the conventional wisdom. The ‘normal’ Paul was the fellow who volunteered for missions to root out subversives and maintain orthodoxy among his co-religionists.

“The ‘normal’ Paul was the zealous young spear carrier for his movement who asked no questions, questioned no orders, and did what he had to do by any and every means necessary. He was promoted in his movement, and he could have had a house in the suburbs and a good pension: all that was his until he was converted and lost his mind, found his soul, and became crazy in the eyes of the only world that once counted to him.”


Mark 3:20-35, New International Version
Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”


From Acts 26: 24-32, on the occasion of Paul’s trial before Agrippa:
At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

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Hell will freeze over before we have so much as any reasonable discussions about gun control in this country.

But I’m just astounded that this came out of Dick Cheney’s mouth as opposed to, say, President Obama’s. (Cheney and Obama are blood-related, BTW, as Mrs. Cheney discovered in shaking the family tree; you never know what will shake out when you go climbing that tree.)

But good for you, Mr. Cheney, for saying it. (Not that I’d be comfortable hunting birds with you, mind you. Your reputation for gun safety very much precedes you.)

FROM NBC . . . .

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a staunch gun advocate, says tighter weapons regulations might be “appropriate” to prevent another tragedy like the Arizona mass shootings that left six people dead and a congresswoman seriously wounded.

Cheney, an avid hunter, said he is “willing to listen to ideas” on how to better control the purchase and use of firearms.

“Whether or not there’s some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon — we’ve had that in place before. Maybe it’s appropriate to re-establish that kind of thing, but I think you do have to be careful obviously,” Cheney told NBC’s Jamie Gangel, national correspondent for “TODAY.”

“We’re looking for ways to make sure this never happens again, but you’ve still got to go back to the fact that it looks like the cause of this particular tragedy was this one individual who apparently has very serious mental problems,” Cheney said in the interview, parts of which aired Wednesday.

The Arizona shooting spree on Jan. 8 in Tucson that claimed six lives and left 13 others wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has renewed the debate over gun control measures.

Jared Loughner, 22, is accused of shooting Giffords in the face and then turning his gun on a crowd of people waiting to meet the congresswoman. The weapon used in the attack, a Glock 19 with an oversize clip capable of firing around 30 rounds without reloading, was legally purchased by Loughner two months before, Arizona authorities have said.

The shootings have prompted some lawmakers to call for banning high-capacity gun magazines. A 1994 assault weapons ban outlawed such clips, but President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans allowed the ban to expire in 2004.

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Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done. . . ”

–from a letter “To Mrs. L.”


Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”

–The Problem of Pain

More on Lewis here . . .

and here . . .

and a bunch of quotable quotes from this remarkable Irishman here . . .

And Roger Ebert’s review of the fine and mighty fine movie based on the play Shadowlands here.

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Above is the first photograph ever made, taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a Frenchman.

(And you thought the French were a bunch of lazy socialist layabouts good for nothing but making love, food, wine and an occasional revolution, didn’t you?)

From National Geographic’s “Milestones in Photography”: Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world’s first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled “View from the Window at Le Gras,” at his family’s country home. Niépce produced his photo—a view of a courtyard and outbuildings seen from the house’s upstairs window—by exposing a bitumen-coated plate in a camera obscura for several hours on his windowsill.

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I personally have nothing charitable whatsoever to say about Sarah Palin’s brand of patriotism . . .

her religion and theology of God as some kind of blond-haired, blue-eyed, Western Hemispheric All-American (as opposed to Christianity as I see it and Jesus who was mid-Eastern to the bone) . . .

her hybrid of Darwinian, Ayn Randian, Wild Western, anything-goes brand of capitalism . . .

her willful ignorance and fear and contempt of empirical evidence for Evolution, Climate Change and Science in general . . .

her ever-shifting and extreme me-me-me politics . . .

her lack of true grit in quitting as governor to take on a full-time and lucrative career as an attack dawg endlessly attacking the President but anybody else (principled conservative Republicans included) who criticizes or disagrees with her in the least . . .

her 24-7 selling of herself as a celebrity.

In short . . . I don’t like much about her as a politician or self-absorbed celebrity . . .

but say what you will . . . she’s a genuine folk hero to a lot of genuine folk.

And these folk are keeping it real, folks.

(HAT TIP: Andrew Sullivan)

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We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”

–Martin Luther King, Jr

Some days it doesn’t feel like we’re all in the same boat, but we’re all in the same boat. . . .

MLK Jr. was a prophet in the best sense, a prophet in the tradition of the biblical prophets demanding justice and paying heavy, heavy prices for their uncompromising demands for God’s will for justice.

King’s many speeches and sermons and lectures and interviews said one incisive and truthful thing after another, the most famous being his “dream” speech,” of course. Like the biblical prophets he confounded, even angered some of his own friends and allies, as when he came out forcefully against the Vietnam War from the pulpit of the historic Riverside Church in New York. Why, his friends and allies pleaded, did he want to distract from the cause of civil rights and alienate scores of more Americans by speaking out against the war? Click here to see just how forceful that speech was, and how radical (and prophetic) it was in 1967 when he gave it a year before his assassination.

Or consider how radical (and prophetic) his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was–in 1963.

Both the Riverside speech and the letter are so timeless as to bear reading now and in ages to come.

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Why do I need television when I can go outside and explore, or get active, or take a walk with a friend?

— The Minimalist


The reflection down below is from that contented blogger at mnmlist (as in minimalist).

It puts me in mind of what Paul said in his epistle to the Philippians (See Philippians 4: 10-13) about having it all and having nothing, being in want versus being content.

You could look it up; it’s in your Holy Bible (New Testament Div).

From the minimalist:

The more I focus on living, the less it seems I need.

What does it mean to focus on living? It’s a shift from caring about possessions and status and goals and beautiful things … to caring about actual life. Life includes: taking long walks, creating things, having conversations with friends, snuggling with my wife, playing with my kids, eating simple food, going outside and getting active.

That’s living. Not shopping, or watching TV, or eating loads of greasy and sweet food not for sustenance but pleasure, or being on the Internet, or ordering things online, or trying to get popular. Those things aren’t living – they’re consumerist pastimes that tend to get us caught up in overconsumption and mindlessness.

When I focus on living, all those other fake needs become less important. Why do I need television when I can go outside and explore, or get active, or take a walk with a friend? Why do I need to shop when I already have everything I need – I can spend time with someone or create, and I need very little to do that.

These things I do now — they require almost nothing. I can live, and need little.

And needing little but getting lots of satisfaction … that’s immensely rewarding. It’s an economy of resources that I’ve never experienced before.

These days, I need nothing but my loved ones, a text editor, a way to post what I create, a good book, simple plant-based food, a few clothes for warmth, and the outdoors.

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