Archive for June, 2015

With Independence Day approaching I’ve been re-visiting the writings by, and writings about, our fascinating Founding Fathers.

In high school and college I thought seriously about a career in academia as a historian. Every year in the weeks leading up to July 4th I dust off my biographies and history books or go online to read about our Founding Fathers.

This week I’ll be sharing a few nuggets from those refined and enlightened men who envisioned America and made America happen.

For today’s reading . . .

Imagine the reaction if a presidential or congressional candidate from either party today were to say this kind of stuff about war and liberty (with my italics for emphasis):

    “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debt and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

    “In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

    “The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.

    No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

That was America’s Founding Father James Madison, known as “The Father of the Constitution” for championing the Bill of Rights.

He was also the 4th President and was married to First Lady Dolly.

He had real issues with taxation, but real issues with constant war, too.

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Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

— Proverbs 18: 21


“If you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”

— American folk wisdom


“Don’t be so contrary.”

— What my parents said to me, a lot

Violence is always preceded by violent language.

Violent words in wars are fought with violent, nasty, demonizing language.

I’m talking about wars in the broadest sense: that is, in wars that play out in divorce and child custody courts every day; or in wars in the Middle East; or in the wars that are the shouting matches in media and in government and political arenas and “social” network posts every day now.

In order to “win” against the other in a “war” of words, you have to hammer the other one with destructive, denigrating words.

Some of the most demonizing words — including words like the “n” word or “faggot” (a word that stems from the days when they used homosexuals for firewood) — can kill or deeply wound someone in soul and spirit.

My youngest-born daughter, who was born Megan McKay, has had a heart for physically and mentally challenged kids since she was a little girl, when she attended her first Special Olympics with her mother. Naturally, the grown-up Mrs. Megan Bidelman, a kindergarten teacher, majored in Special Education at Texas A&M.

You do not want to use the word “retard” even in a joking manner around Mrs. Bidelman — she’ll give you a fierce “education” about the pain that the word inflicts on millions of American families.

We hear so much lamenting of “politically correct” language, and Lord knows the p.c. police — especially, but by no means only those on the Left side of the political gauge — are out of control these days, putting a chill on freedoms of expression at every turn.

No less a liberal than the stinging, killer-bee comic Bill Maher is on a crusade against his own political tribe these days, rightly noting that progressives are taking political correctness to serious extremes.

Maher, who lives by extremism, is such a militant atheist and religion hater that I have a hard time abiding him; but as offensive as he can be, he’s definitely an equal opportunity offender.

I’m drawn nowadays to more civil progressives, though, like the very civilized and unapologetically Christian liberal Kirsten Powers, one of the more calm and palatable pundits at the all-too-often shrill Fox News. (See my post last week about young Fox star Greg Gutfeld’s nasty, god-awful take-down of Pope Francis.)

Powers has written a book that apparently cites a long litany of anti-freedom sins by the left-wing thought police. (Of course, Powers is anti-abortion, which, in the view of so many intolerant progressives who preach tolerance from every rooftop that they can climb up on, automatically makes her just another wrong-headed Fox conservative.) See more on Kirsten in a nice Washington Post piece here.

There’s a fine line, usually very difficult to discern, between what is genuinely politically correct nonsense and what is just plain thoughtless, mean-spirited, hateful, tasteless, undignified and unnecessary language. And to simply slap the “political correctness” label (or “race-baiter” or “racial divider”) on somebody or some issue is a good way to cover a multitude of mean-spirited, conservative sins, by the way.

Kirsten Powers, a contrarian librul and ulrta-smart contributor to Fox News who has written a much-acclaimed book about how the political left is chilling free speech.

Kirsten Powers, a contrarian librul and savvy contributor to Fox News who has written a much-acclaimed book about how the political left is chilling free speech.

Like so many millions of Americans (and not just in Texas and the South, by any means), I used a lot of ugly, demonizing language, and shared racial jokes or laughed along with some of the ugliest jokes imaginable, from the time I was a child and into my youth, coming of age as I did in a thoroughly segregated Texas town, a town that Texas writer Larry McMurtry once described as nice little “crumbling” Southern hamlet. (Speaking of fearless, contrarian independents–read McMurtry’s first book of essays from early in his long career, In a Narrow Grave.)

I probably joked more about “fags” and mocked them like so many Americans and Southern good ol’ boys did — until I went to college. I’ve always made friends easily and I made several great friends in college whom I very much love and remain in contact with to this day.

One such college friend was — he is — gay. Talk about somebody who has always made fast friends — he’s one of the most personable, charming, outgoing, friendly and warm people you could ever know, and that I’ve ever known. He prospered in a long career at one of the airlines and now travels around the world in his retirement, most of the year, with both straight friends and gay friends alike.

Partly because of him, and because of so many people of other races and ethnicities and sexual orientations that I met on a very diverse college campus (the University of North Texas) in the turbulent sixties–when the times they were a-changin’ and changin’ in fast and sometimes ugly ways–I started outgrowing and taming some of my darker impulses, the sort that spring from racism or homophobia or whatever.

I can’t say that taming such strong impulses–that trying to grow into a better, more tolerant and understanding person–came overnight. The impulses in fact are still way down there in my “shadow side” somewhere. We all have our dark “shadow sides,” all of us.

For a long time I could still laugh along in private with an ugly racist or homophobic joke with trusted friends, using or shrugging off hurtful words that I nor the joke tellers would never, of course, dare to use around someone who would be offended to the point of real hurt.

I mean, what racist or homophobe would dare tell a racist joke or direct a racial or homophobic slur at Dallas Cowboys football legend and gay-rights advocate Michael Irvin to his face? (See more on Michael’s background here.)

How cowardly is it to demean someone of another race or color or sexual orientation behind their back?

Football legend Michael Irvin with Michael Sam, who was the first, openly gay player in a brief pro football career.

Football legend Michael Irvin with Michael Sam, who was the first, openly gay player in a brief pro football career.

And yet it’s often the people who pride themselves on being fearless “truth tellers” and “tell-it-like-it-is” types who use the most cowardly language — in private, not in public, where they risk being held accountable for their words.

But here’s another angle regarding all this — and let’s face it:

    Who among us didn’t, or who doesn’t, do or say things in private, intending no pain or harm to anyone, that we wouldn’t want exposed to the growing billions on the Internet?

    Who among us doesn’t just “go along” sometimes–or used to go along–to get along, in our thinking that no real harm was done to anybody in private?

As a writer whose style is prone to a very personalized writing style, I’m not one to pour out all the details of my personal life to the world.

In fact, if and when I ever take over this crazy world, I’ll banish Dr. Phil and the troubled people he counsels in front of God and everybody in the world on worldwide TV back to the privacy of his counseling office where counseling belongs. We got way, way too much public and not enough private in this world now.

But as a divorcee, I’ll just say here that in my private life I can’t say that I’ve always been good at taming my tongue in love and marriage and personal relationships.

Nor has my tongue been entirely tame in my attempts at political and religious persuasion right here. I’ve used overly harsh or “snarky” language right here at this blog. But I’ve made a conscious effort in recent times to tone down my honest-to-God-felt contempt for people with whom I fundamentally and fiercely disagree about things. A good-faith effort to “hold my tongue” and not get into verbal spitting matches with people that do nothing to advance the kingdom of God, not to mention democracy or civilization.

Besides, denigrating or demonizing someone with whom we fiercely disagree with snarky or clever language is commonly more of an attempt at puffing ourselves up to look cool and clever anyway, so that we can get some “atta-boys” and Facebook “likes” from like-minded friends. We see this on Facebook, a lot.

The word for it is “self-aggrandizement,” and there is a lot of it going around, thanks largely to everyone trying to out-clever everyone in the endless whirlwind of social and other media.

Of that I’ve been too guilty at times. Mea culpa and all that.

But, again, I’ve tried in recent years, in my spiritual journey as a Christian, to practice more Christian humility in my writing life as well as the whole of my life.

I’ve had to repent of a fiery tongue that used to get out of hand in relationships, in writing and debating, and I still have to work, at times, to keep this potentially “poisonous” tongue tamed.

I am nothing if not a fierce “opinionator.” You may have noticed this before. And I will be fierce, passionate, in my convictions until my last breath; of that you can remain assured.

But I’m more aware now that it’s one thing to use direct, sometimes firm or even strong language in conflict, as did Jesus, who even though he was equal with God, “he humbled himself.”(See Philippians 2: 1-11 here.)

It’s another thing to “trash talk” or do a “gotcha!” just to put down somebody or somebody’s point of view that you don’t “like.”

The word “life”–as we can see from page one of the Bible to the end of it, and as we can see in all of literature and so much art–is pretty much just another word for “conflict.”

It’s all about how we resolve our differences, because we’re going to have conflict–and necessary conflict. And the only real way to resolve our differences, in the final analysis of all conflict, is with words.

Wars–“culture wars” or a bloody wars–don’t really end up with any “winners.” Even we “the good guys” tend to become the very evil that we detest and fight against.

Yet we don’t get to tolerance and reconciliation by “playing” at nice. It seems to me that grandma’s advice about not saying anything about somebody unless it’s nice is a trifle flawed.

Again, some of the language that Jesus used in blasting his enemies will blow your hair back, assuming you have hair.

But Jesus, not always sounding like Mr. Nice, never said “don’t make enemies.”

Jesus did tell us — commanded us — to love them, and taught us to deal with our enemies in all the tensions and paradoxes that love holds. Another of those “fine” or “fuzzy” lines we tread sometimes is the one separating righteous indignation that is truly on the side of right, vs. self-righteousness, cynicism or a little and maybe a lot of hate, which is evil.

Loving enemies is no small–and certainly no easy–spiritual challenge, since our “shadow sides” harbor all kinds of evil. Or what might be called our sin-sick dis-ease.

But all morally great things come out of conflict and dealing head-on with the huge, mountainous challenges in resolving them.

Conflict is the only way we reach understanding and reconciliation and, ultimately, peace.

James the brother of Jesus warned: the tongue can be “a restless evil, full of poison (James 3: 8).”

He also opined that the tongue can’t even be tamed at all, and I’m not sure why he said that. He was probably suggesting that the tongue is just too full of evil for that evil to be eliminated entirely, and that taming it requires eternal vigilance.

But the toxic or potentially toxic tongue sure as hell can’t begin to be tamed if we don’t even try to monitor the words and language that we use.

A physician friend of mine back in Bryan, TX, used to have an etching he kept on his office desk that said:

“Throw a little salt on what you hear and sprinkle a little sugar on what you say.”

We might want to throw a little salt on what we hear and sprinkle a little more sugar on what we say, and do more fruitful listening and less reactionary talking, even at out angriest and most outraged.

Grace and peace.

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Think nothing of it, you of the Jitterbug Cult–you are quite welcome for all the cool rocking music, some soft, some hard, that follows:

“Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup,

you never know until you try.”


“Sometimes late when things are real

and people share the gift of gab,

among themselves”

“I ain’t ready for the altar but I do agree there’s times,

when a woman sure can be a friend of mine.”


The folk-rock seventies band America gave us some memorable and lyrical lyrics and were great performers, too — the kind of musicians who just stood and looked pretty for the girls and delivered without much glitz and glamour and seventies disco-era over-kill to distract from finely crafted music.

I never get tired of hearing about that “sister golden-hair sublime” and the band’s homage to the Beach Boys with the feel-good song’s ending.

So with no further ado, more music from “America,” AND, memes and more:

And while you’re listening, here’s your Belizean Face of the Day and his name is Cisco and he was, and is, a friend of mine, and maybe the best shoe repairmen south of the American border.

Sometimes we chase de gringo rustlers through de fields and steal their wine and whiskey although most of the time we just sit at his shoe repair stand and pass the time shooting the caca and watching the tourists go by while he works.

Your Belizean Face of the Day, now a regular feature here at the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole  continents.

Your Belizean Face of the Day, now a regular feature here at the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole continents.



And speaking of great people from south of the border, los lobos, another stand-up bunch of talented Mexicanos whose lead singer David Hidalgo, poses the age-old question about ol’ Peter Wolf–will he survive in such a graceless climate???

And if you can listen to this song without patting your foot or jumping up and doing a jitterbug jig, you may be the living dead.

This is dedicated to Donald Trump, who loves people everywhere as much as he loves money.

Until next time . . . remember that everything’s gonna be all right when Love incarnate comes back around:

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According to authorities, the two men walked into the Walmart on Highway 49 around 8 p.m. Witnesses said the man holding the shotgun was actively loading and racking the firearm. Walmart does not have a policy about guns inside its stores.

“If I were in a situation where I’m in the store shopping with my family and I see an individual loading a 12 gauge, and racking it, I’m not coming to the conclusion this is good,” said Papania. “While the actions of these two men are sanctioned by state laws, what they did negatively impacted our community. . . .

“Gun laws should be such that it provides us security. As we look at this fact pattern, do you feel safer?”

— Mississippi’s Leonard Papania, on the disturbance that two men with firearms caused in Gulfport, where Papania is the Chief of Police

Gulfport's police chief is not happy at all with Mississippi's unrestricted gun laws after incidents drained his resources at Walmarts and other businesses in the wonderful Gulf city.

Gulfport’s police chief is not happy at all with Mississippi’s gun laws after incidents drained his resources at Walmarts and other businesses in the wonderful Gulf city. Of course, Gulfport got nothing on Texas Our Texas.

Thanks to Texas Gov. Abbott and other Texas leaders who are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association and owe the NRA so much in return–and the liberal gun laws Abbott just signed off on–the kind of threat and drain on local tax dollars and law-enforcement resources cited above in Gulfport may well be coming to your Texas town and your favorite Texas restaurant, college classroom or keg party, your favorite pub or dance hall, movie theater or quite possibly your church.

And of course, your friendly, down-home Walmart.

Thanks to even fewer restrictions on guns, we Texans now have more of these incidents to look forward to before some catastrophic incident erupts from it all. (Don’t forget–a lot of the weapons compensated in the Waco massacre, a sure preview of catastrophes to come, were under legal permits.)

During the recent Texas legislative session, gun-toting militants weren’t altogether subtle in moseying into the state capitol and making less than subtle threats on the lives of lawmakers to, uh, “secure” the votes of those lawmakers.

Talk about a pressure group–Texas gun militants don’t fool around.

But Texas got nothing on Ol’ Mississippi over yonder, another state mecca of Christianity (they do love God and guns, not necessarily in that order in Texas and the South and other parts) and Enlightenment.

Then again, as it turns out, even Mississippi has enlightened, plainspoken people, like the Gulfport police chief, who refuses to be intimidated. Something tells me that if he were a sheriff, the NRA-backed lawmakers in the state would bury this sensible man.

And oh yeah–this wasn’t the first such incident in the chief’s city! Read here for a scare earlier in this year there.

Where will it all end?

    FROM TV STATION WLOX in Gulport:

    Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss a situation that had many Walmart shoppers terrified Sunday evening.

    “That’s not normal.”

    That’s what Papania said about two men who went into Walmart, Winn Dixie and Krispy Kreme armed with a shotgun.

    While openly carrying a firearm in Mississippi is legal, Papania said this situation could have turned into “a very violent misunderstanding.”

    According to authorities, the two men walked into the Walmart on Highway 49 around 8 p.m. Witnesses said the man holding the shotgun was actively loading and racking the firearm. Walmart does not have a policy about guns inside its stores.

    “If I were in a situation where I’m in the store shopping with my family and I see an individual loading a 12 gauge, and racking it, I’m not coming to the conclusion this is good,” said Papania. “While the actions of these two men are sanctioned by state laws, what they did negatively impacted our community.”

    Papania said his department’s resources were stretched thin while officers and the SWAT team responded to this situation.

    According to Papania, no one was threatened, no weapons were discharged, no one was shot and police officials and civilians responded to the situation appropriately.

    Gulfport police will not release the names of the men, because they did not violate the law.

    “If there was something I could have arrested these people for, I would,” said Papania.

    Papania pointed out a question he thinks people should ask themselves as we move forward with the gun laws conversation.

    “Gun laws should be such that it provides us security. As we look at this fact pattern, do you feel safer?”

(Link to WLOX here.)

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The most dangerous person on the planet is someone who is seeking strange new respect from their adversaries. And that is what the Pope is doing.”

Fox News Channel pundit Greg Gutfeld

Fox News pundit Greg Gutfeld has targeted Pope Francis as “the most dangerous man on the planet.”

WARNING: You’re about to enter the “No Spin Zone!

God help us.

It turns out that the most admired and popular man alive — the most respected religious leader on the planet — is, in fact, “the most dangerous man on the planet!”

This according to the up and rising star at Fox News Channel, Greg Gutfeld (see bio here), who apparently pines to be the next Rush Limbaugh.

Naturally, Rush Limbaugh shares Fox star Gutfeld’s bizarre estimation of the head man in the Vatican.

* * * *

Speaking of the Vatican, my own Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said last week — and as comic writer Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up! — that while he doesn’t know “how the pope thing works,” the Vatican needs to “fire this pope” and get a new one!

Now, one might expect a puffed-up young broadcast news star, and Rush Limbaugh wannabe who makes a lucrative living off of TV ratings, to spew the stuff of his dark heart and willful ignorance out to his millions of viewers who, like him, would never read a serious Catholic encyclical before assailing it if their lives depended on it.

But for a United States Senator like (the Honorable???) Ted Cruz, who is seeking the highest office in the land, to demonstrate his casual ignorance of Catholicism 101, and his utter disrespect for this admired Pope, and alienate a huge segment of the huge block of American Catholic voters and Catholic leaders, can only be filed under “Rank Stupidity.”

But then, what might we expect from a man who announced his presidential candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s “Liberty” University.

Not that Jerry Falwell ever spoke out from a moral-Christian perspective on political or scientific (Creationist Div.) issues like the alleged Marxist in the Vatican you-know-who.

* * * *

But back to Fox News Channel’s increasingly popular pundit, young Mr. Greg Gutfeld.

According to him, Pope Francis — “the most dangerous man on the planet” — is obviously more dangerous than the following world-class evil terrorists on this God-given, green planet:

    — that evil leader in North Korea who pops up once in a while to remind us that he may be No. 1 in dangerous threats to the world;

    — those dangerous ayatollahs in Iran;

    — more crazed, presumably, than bin Laden or Saddam Hussein were;

    — that sick guy in Nigeria who specializes in slaughtering girls;

    — and of course, to cite just one more example, Pope Francis apparently is more of a threat than those blood-thirsty haters from ISIS.

If that were Pope Francis, and I had the power to do it, I would fire the pope and get a new one myself.

And I’m not even Catholic, in spite of a lot of Catholic sensibilities and years of studying Catholic writers, theologians, teachers and papal documents, including encyclicals that, to paraphrase Mark Twain’s definition of the classics, “everybody talks about and nobody reads.”

They come with footnotes, after all, to support a pope’s moral argument. And who but a scholarly Christian or a simple theology geek like me reads documents with footnotes?

* * * *

As if he were not insanely shrill, bizarre and simply disrespectful enough of one of his elders, young Fox star Gutfeld in his clever voice of reason(?) went on to say:

    “He doesn’t want to be your grandfather’s pope, he wants to be a modern pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandana and he could be on Occupy Wall Street.”


Pope Francis is just another anti-Wall Street slacker in Catholic garb.

Young Gutfeld might as well have come right out and dubbed Pope Francis as the anti-Christ, which a rising number of crazy American Protestant fundamentalists fear.

I grew up around ignorant, paranoid, Protestant fundamentalist Christian zealots, of which there is never a shortage in Texas and the former flag-waving Dixieland, who claimed that the Catholic Church was “the whore of Babylon” mentioned in the Book of Revelation, it which is surely the most misused, abused and misinterpreted book of hope, when properly interpreted, ever put to a scroll.

But the Catholic Church has never peddled in wrong-headed “rapture” theology, which makes the church a target of suspicion, if not contempt, to so many Protestants to this day.

    (NOTE to any fundamentalists reading these words: I’ve written fondly of my Aunt Newell, a fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christian who understood that the overarching message of the Bible is fundamental love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithful, self-control, respect for other people’s opinions and common, American decency.)

Back in the day, I also heard it said by a lot of Protestant Christians that “Catholicism will take over before Communism.”

Such harsh dismissals of the Catholic faith tradition have long been virtual mantras of the Klan, of course, who doesn’t limit its hatred to blacks, Jews and God knows who else.

Honestly, I fear for the Pope’s safety when he comes to America because of the mindless and dangerous vile spewed out by Greg Gutfeld all over America, paranoid America included.

God forbid that something does happen to this pope, which Gutfeld will be obliged in his seat of punditry at Fox to discuss, with, presumably, some measure of appropriate remorse.

* * * *

Gutfeld did acknowledge that this traditional, very conservative Pope Francis is against same-sex marriage, against condoms and doesn’t want female priests, but went on to ask “why aren’t we focusing more on that before heaving a nightmare-worthy cackle out of his face.”

I am hoping against hope that Gutfeld does not “identify” (to use a trendy word) as “Christian.”

Now, in the interest of that old Fox-style fairness and balance, one of Fox’s diminishing number of generally sane and sober broadcast journalists, Chris Wallace, hosted an actual U.S. Catholic Cardinal and gave him ample opportunity to respond to critics who have assailed the pope’s encyclical addressing the ways we are destroying God’s good, green earth, and how it affects the poor among us most of all.

You can view it on the video below, where the Cardinal politely schooled not only Rush Limbaugh, but also a very Catholic candidate named Bush.

And in the interest of why not?

I wonder why Fox New’s Chris Wallace served up Rush Limbaugh, and not Fox’s own Greg Gutfeld, for the American Cardinal’s response????

[Click here, for example, to the traditionally very conservative Catholic journal First Things for another welcome response (and check out the critical responses in the journal, too)].

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For “Deanie” McKay (1909-1979), out among the stars.

It’s been interpreted a thousand different ways to Sunday, but “Danny Boy” has all the markings of a song about the bond between a father and son, making it the perfect Fathers Day song and poem.

See here for more on its background.

Of all the singers who’ve covered it, nobody ever sang it better than the late, great country music legend and Texan Ray price.

But then, this Texas boy started listening to Ray Price music in the fifties and throughout the rocky (“rocky” in music and in every other way) the sixties.

Then as a teen and young adult, I had the pleasure of dancing to the music of Ray and his great band the Cherokee Cowboys when they played gigs at the VFW Hall in my hometown Navasota, Texas. It was a great Texas dancehall that the Cherokee Cowboy, a WWII Marine veteran, loved to play.

Except for his flashy old-school Country and Western suits and ultra-shiny boots that he wore back in the early days, there was nothing flashy about Ray Price. Like Sinatra and Sam Cooke and his best bud Willie and other elite vocalists, Ray just stood up and sang his songs of joy and pain.

Small wonder that even as he was dying fast from cancer, he very vocally lamented the pathetic state of what passes for “country” music today, with all its slick, over-the-top, urban, Hollywood-production cool.

But that was just the one man Ray Price’s opinion, which happens to be that of my own self.

So being the old-school music guy that I am — especially when it comes to country music — I’m a trifle prejudiced toward Ray Price, and you can click here for more on him.

And with no further ado . . . Happy Fathers Day, fellow dads.

    Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
    From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
    The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling
    ‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.
    But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
    Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
    ‘Tis I’ll be there in sunshine or in shadow
    Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

    And when you come, and all the flowers are dying
    If I am dead, as dead I well may be
    You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
    And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.
    And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
    And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be
    For you will bend and tell me that you love me
    And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

    I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
    And I shall rest in peace until you come to me.
    Oh, Danny Boy, Oh, Danny Boy, I love you so.

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To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

— Karl Barth


The good news coming out of the beautiful city of Charleston is:

    the news of so many people of different colors coming together and clasping hands in prayer against the disorder of a world that is violent and broken and ever and always in need of the healing power of the living Christ who weeps over it all.

I noted on my Facebook page yesterday, when I was pouring out a lot of my distressed thoughts and feelings about this act of unadulterated hatred, that if I had the means I’d go to Charleston to be in prayerful solidarity with the praying people there.

But I can pray — and I’ve been praying a lot — for the nine victims and all their loved ones.

    Because prayer, not the sword or the gun, in Christian faith has always been held up as the ultimate spiritual weapon.

I’m praying even for the disturbed young man Dylann Roof, he who committed such an incomprehensible act, that somehow he will come around to the realization that he lives in the only real and literal Hell there is — the Hell of his willful separation from the love that overcame hatred and violence on the cross.

Such Christian conversions have happened before in the lives of hate-filled racists. Consider the case of the white hater who brutally whipped down African-American Congressman John Lewis at the Selma bridge and left him for dead. That man eventually repented and found Christ, asked the ever-merciful Lewis to forgive him, and embraced the Congressman in an act of Christian reconciliation. (See here for that story from 2012.)

And reconciliation, not vengeance, is at the core New Testament teachings.

There are other forgotten cases of the most hard-hearted Klansmen and racists who killed in denying freedom to victims, only to repent and find new freedom in Christ.

Personally, I oppose the death penalty largely, but not solely, for that reason, the fact that it denies one born in the image of God to be re-born in new life in Christ. I just don’t believe that the Christ who cried out for the forgiveness of his tormenters would stand by an executioner and give his blessings to the very justice of an eye for an eye that he denounced.

And yes, I get that not everybody shares this stance of mine, and that’s OK.

So while I hope you’ll join me in praying for 10 people and not just nine, let’s at least pray and commit toward the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus ushered in by reaching out to those of different colors, faiths, world-views and cultures until all is made new.

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They’ve destroyed walls and historical sites, but they were unable to destroy the faith of the community. And that’s the good news, that our people are strong enough to leave everything behind and just stay Christians.”

— Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda

There seems to be no end to the fear-mongering about the imaginary “War on Christians” by the likes of Mike Huckabee, Franklin Graham, Fox News Channel’s self-appointed keeper of Christianity Bill O’Reilly and so many others.

This imaginary “war” has the unintended effect, in my humble opinion, of trivializing and diminishing the very real war being waged on Christians by ISIS.

I’ll share a story with you below about three monks and six students, who’ve taken refuge in an ancient Christian monastery, who are perfectly willing to die rather than flee from the real threat of real persecution by the god-awful terrorists of ISIS.

The monastery where 3 monks and six students have taken refuge rather than run from ISIS sits on one of Iraq's front lines. (Photo: Abed al Qaisi)

The monastery where 3 monks and six students have taken refuge rather than run from ISIS sits on one of Iraq’s front lines. (Photo: Abed al Qaisi)

But I’ll preface that with some thoughts about the state and future of American Christianity . . . . .

First, there’s not a Christian believer or pastor in the United States of America — God bless her great national soul — who is under anything remotely like the threat of being killed, nor even having a church shut down or destroyed by anybody, least of all by the small minority of American homosexuals among us.

Even if gay marriage is legalized across the land, Christians in America will carry on, and do so with all their constitutional rights intact. And never mind the constant, shrill warnings from Huckabee and others that gays will seize a Supreme Court ruling as an opportunity to somehow “destroy Christianity and churches in America.”

Furthermore, it’s a sure bet at the casino nearest you that the overwhelming masses of heterosexual American Christians and their families and friends populating America will continue to consume copious amounts of America’s most dangerous drug (alcohol) and indulge in gluttony (no American Christian dare calls gluttony a sin) at the thousands upon thousands of supposedly “Christian” weddings held every weekend in America.

There’s a reason that the movie “Wedding Crashers” (click here for details) was one of the biggest box-office hits of 2005. It resonated with tens of millions of American Christians who could relate to the pagan excesses of so many weddings, and perfectly captured how mindless and hedonistic wedding parties can be.

By and large, a wedding reception nowadays is no tea party celebrated with maybe a glass or two of champagne for toasting and social lubrication.

Wedding receptions nowadays can be as rowdy, and the behavior as randy, as at any Republican convention. (I speak from experience as one who covered a Republican Party convention and made the late-night, all-night party rounds, pre-ministry.)

The smash hit comedy “Wedding Crashers” was one that so many wedding-goers could relate to.

Look, dear reader . . . no priest or pastor is ever forced to preside at the wedding of any couple, be it a straight or gay couple, and won’t be regardless of the much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

I was once asked to do the wedding of a couple who had known each other exactly one month — yes, I said one month — and wanted to get married as soon as they could get their hands on a government-issued license. (Churches and clergy don’t get to issue licenses, for good reason.)

I advised them that they might want to take — you know — more time to get to know each other before they stood before God and exchanged Christian vows in the great covenant, and maybe to take the time to cultivate a church life together.

They got married about two weeks later anyway by a justice of the peace. This marriage occurred six weeks after they met — no kidding — at a big wedding bash. (The young woman was a registered nurse, by the way, and the young man had just received his MBA, so it’s not as if they were a couple of starry-eyed teenagers.)

Nobody forces a pastor or priest to marry two people, and nobody is going to force a priest or pastor to preside at the wedding of a gay couple, contrary to the now widespread and growing belief — thanks to the Huckabees and Grahams — that that’s going to ensue.

Christianity in all its many and diverse expressions in our many and various faith traditions, and all the many varied wedding and wedding-party traditions, from the solemn and sober to the pagan, will carry on — with not one American Christian or person of the cloth being beheaded or any Christian’s house of worship torn asunder by any gays supposedly out to “kill Christianity,” as asserted by Bill O’Reilly, a man who has a strange obsession with killing as evidenced by the themes and titles of his books.

* * * *

The following story from the Catholic News Agency, about three monks and a half-dozen students taking refuge in an ancient monastery, underscores what real persecution and the threat of it is like.

It also underscores what the freedom that comes with devout faith is. Here are three monks and six students living in the shadow of death, but fearing no evil. Nine believers so full of faith and freedom as to be willing to die on holy ground rather than run away.

Their story reminded me of one of the best of Christian movies ever made, “Of Gods and Men.” I blogged about this beautiful faith film, based on a true story, a few years ago. Click here to read that past posting.

One of the greatest Christian movies ever made was the French-made “Of Gods and Men,” based on the book The Monks of Tibhirine, about Christian monks who made the excruciating decision, after a lot of debate and prayer together, to be killed by terrorist Muslims rather than flee from where God had called them to serve peaceful Muslims. I wish every Christian in America would see the movie and read the book.

And so with no further ado:

Here’s the Catholic News Agency report — or click here to read it.

(And there is this related article from USA Today, complete with a video.)

    Erbil, Iraq, Jun 9, 2015 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite the potential threat from the nearby Islamic State, several monks and students in northern Iraq have found refuge in an ancient monastery, certain they are in God’s hands no matter what happens.

    Erbil’s Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda said that those who have chosen to remain in the fourth century Monastery of Saint Matthew have “expressed their faith that this is a secure place.”

    He told CNA June 8 that although these Christians are now being protected by the Kurdish military, their sense of safety is not only due to the military presence.

    “There is a kind of feeling that they cannot express but they at least feel relaxed in a way that even if, God forbid, something would happen, they are in safe hands.”

    The Iraqi archbishop was the main speaker at a Thursday press briefing in Rome regarding the latest developments in his war-torn country.

    Although the Islamic State maintains control over much of the region after seizing the area last summer, and many people in nearby villages have fled, three monks and six students have expressed their determination to remain in the monastery.

    “We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us, especially at night,” Yousif Ibrahim, a monk at the monastery, told USA Today. “The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us.”

    In June 2014, the Islamic State launched an offensive against northern Iraq, overruning the nation’s second-largest city of Mosul. In August, it further extended its reach in the regions surrounding the city. The militants have displaced hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims from their homes while slaughtering or enslaving thousands of others.

    The monastery, known also as Mar Mattai, was established in 363 by the hermit Saint Matthew, who had fled Rome during the persecutions of the emperor Julian the Apostate. The monastery is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in Iraq. It is currently under the authority of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

    Sahar Karaikos, a student at the monastery, said he is not afraid despite the very real possibility of the monastery being invaded.

    “I don’t even want to think or speak about the destruction the Islamic State would cause if they took our monastery,” he told USA Today.

    Located on the edge of the conflict, Saint Matthew’s Monastery risks becoming the latest Christian landmark to be destroyed by the militant group’s campaign throughout Iraq.

    Archbishop Warda said the destruction of the Christian heritage is tragic, but he is more concerned with the people’s faith.

    “They’ve destroyed walls and historical sites, but they were unable to destroy the faith of the community. And that’s the good news. That our people are strong enough to leave everything behind and just stay Christians.”

    Many Christians have been killed since the militants began their campaign to establish a caliphate. For those who remain, martyrdom remains a possibility.

    Archbishop Warda at the June 4 briefing responded to a relevant question: whether he was prepared for martyrdom.

    He responded: “It’s better not to think about it.”

    “When it comes, my wish is just to be ready. All I wish is to be ready and to have the courageous response like my people have given. Christ is the only wish that we love.”

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This 17 minutes — we’re talking seven . . . teen . . . minutes! — of sixties musical weirdness will put the boogie in your boogie, the jitter in your jitterbug feet.

You’re welcome.


However, if you prefer to dance dangerously close to somebody tonight . . .

You’re welcome for this Aaron Neville, dark-bar, honky-tonk, soda-shop jukebox classic for some Friday Night Music Therapy.

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When Mitch McConnell asserts that the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) is “the single worst piece of legislation” in McConnell’s lifetime, he’s right.

After all, it destroyed Big Business and Big Banking and, worst of all — it decimated the handful of private health-care insurance companies.

Remember how the health insurance industry used to rake in huge profits by denying benefits to sick and dying people rather than coming through for them?

Those once-profitable private heath-insurance companies are now on life support, drowning in red ink. As you can see from this meme below — which I checked out and found to be accurate, by the way (anybody can make up facts and figures and put them in a meme that looks authoritative) — it’s a wonder that the CEO’s of the health industry behemoths can feed their families, assuming that they can!


Then again, my guess is that private enterprise’s insurance industry might just suffer through the “socialist” insurance reform law, despite Sen. McConnell’s best efforts to kill and bury Obamacare rather than work with the President and Democrats to refine the legislation.

After all, the President from the start has said that the legislation — like all major legislation ever passed — has some bad and ugly along with all the good, and there is plenty good about Obamacare that most Americans want.

Meanwhile, people in states where governors have refused to accept federal Medicaid dollars have no coverage for terminal diseases or life-threatening illness and injury.

An untold number of those sick and injured Americans who were left without federally subsidized insurance have died as a direct result of those governors’ political games.

That’s not just a sad political fact.

That’s a sad moral commentary on the state of the American union.

Oh well, those stubborn, Obamacare-hating governors* and lawmakers in D.C. are living large and, God bless em, look to be plenty healthy and are well covered if their good health takes a terribly sick turn.

We can only hope that the struggling insurance companies and their CEO’s survive.
* Meanwhile, residents of states where Republican governors have refused to expand the Medicaid program are still paying taxes to support it — without getting the extra benefits that potentially save lives.

The extra federal money spent on Medicaid goes directly to local health care providers, such as hospitals or physicians, and helps a state’s economy by creating jobs from the new money flowing in. That’s why states are eager to get federal military contracts.

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