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The universal church is impossible to defend, and extremely difficult to hang with.

I don’t know how many times a week — sometimes even a day — I feel like quitting the church and so-called “organized religion” and doing my own things with God and Jesus.

Vatican Reforms

I don’t know how many times a week somebody scoffs and looks at me like I’m a 3-headed version of Gomer Pyle when I tell them I’m a retired United Methodist deacon.

I’ve had two especially hurtful encounters in the past two weeks with American expat acquaintances who never knew I’m a retired clergyman and member in good standing of, uh, “organized religion” (i.e., a ghastly church denomination!).

Small wonder that the number of church haters expands as revelations of more atrocities in the Catholic Church are brought to light every are endless.

And now comes a similar scandal in the Southern Baptist Church, which two Texas newspapers (including my former employer of many years The Houston Chronicle) joined forces with the San Antonio Light to expose. (And good for them for their great journalism — in spite of print journalism being on life support, there is still some terrific print journalism being practiced on occasion outside of New York and Washington.)

All that said, I want to share with you something that the great Carlo Carretto wrote about his love-hate relationship with the church, reflective as it is of my own love-hate relationship. Carretto was a member of The Little Brothers of Jesus, a contemplative community of lay Catholics who lived in the desert. Read more about this joy-filled ascetic and superb writer here.

And I commend his Collected Writings book to you, still in print available for order online.

This is adapted from the book Carlo Carretto: Essential Writings, which is still in print and available online.

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!

“And that is where the mystery lies. This mixture of good and bad, of greatness and misery, of holiness and sin that makes up the church… this in reality am I.” — Carlo Cattetto

How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!

I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.

You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful.

How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. . .

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? I would not be able to establish it without the same faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me. And if I did establish another, it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ. I am old enough to know that I am no better than anyone else.

The Church has the power to make me holy but it is made up, from the first to the last, only of sinners. And what sinners! It has the omnipotent and invincible power to renew the Miracle of the Eucharist, but is made up of men who are stumbling in the dark, who fight every day against the temptation of losing their faith. It brings a message of pure transparency but it is incarnated in slime, such is the substance of the world. It speaks of the sweetness of its Master, of its non-violence, but there was a time in history when it sent out its armies to disembowel the infidels and torture the heretics. It proclaims the message of evangelical poverty, and yet it does nothing but look for money and alliances with the powerful.

Those who dream of something different from this are wasting their time and have to rethink it all. And this proves that they do not understand humanity. Because this is humanity, made visible by the Church, with all its flaws and its invincible courage, with the Faith that Christ has given it and with the love that Christ showers on it.

When I was young, I did not understand why Jesus chose Peter as his successor, the first Pope, even though he abandoned Him. Now I am no longer surprised and I understand that by founding his church on the tomb of a traitor… He was warning each of us to remain humble, by making us aware of our fragility. (…)

And what are bricks worth anyway? What matters is the promise of Christ, what matters is the cement that unites the bricks, which is the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit is capable of building the church with such poorly moulded bricks as are we.

And that is where the mystery lies. This mixture of good and bad, of greatness and misery, of holiness and sin that makes up the church… this in reality am I. (…)

The deep bond between God and His Church, is an intimate part of each one of us. (…) To each of us God says, as he says to his Church, “And I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2,21). But at the same time he reminds us of reality: ‘Your lewdness is like rust. I have tried to remove it in vain. There is so much that not even a flame will take it away’ (Ezechiel 24, 12).

But then there is even something more beautiful. The Holy Spirit who is Love, sees us as holy, immaculate, beautiful under our guises of thieves and adulterers. (…) It’s as if evil cannot touch the deepest part of mankind.

He re-establishes our virginity no matter how many times we have prostituted our bodies, spirits and hearts. In this, God is truly God, the only one who can ‘make everything new again’.

It is not so important that He will renew heaven and earth. What is most important is that He will renew our hearts. This is Christ’s work.

This is the divine Spirit of the Church.

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I have many and very many friends who share this belief about the Super Bowl. They’re more into green tea, herbal and food gardening, cleansing music and spiritual conversation. May their tribe increase.

— From the Sanskrit mantra in the Tina Turner video below.

Om Sarveshaam Svastir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Shaantir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Purnnam-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Manggalam-Bhavatu |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meaning:
1: May there be Well-Being in All,
2: May there be Peace in All,
3: May there be Fulfilment in All,
4: May there be Auspiciousness in All,
5: Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

So you’re put off by today’s latest edition of the Super Bowl of American Excess & Vulgarity.

That’s understandable. I don’t think I’ve missed a Super Bowl game in my life, but my interest in it — and in football in general — wanes more every year.

I’m not even sure I’ll watch tonight’s game.

Super Bowl fans this year — including those with no taste for football but who watch for commercials or the halftime performances — are now being entertained to a ludicrous controversy over the halftime act. As a friend of mine opined about the flap on Facebook, “For God’s sake just get a marching band!”

So if you’re as put off as I am about the whole Super Extravaganza to End All Super Extravaganzas Until This Time Next year, I recommend you take a few minutes to bathe yourself in the sights and sounds of some great Mantra Rock on videos with that force of cosmic love and positive energy Tina Turner.

Come to think of it, Tina’s cleansing mantra music and movement could bring some class and dignity to the Super Bowl Halftime Shows and put some much needed harmony-and-love vibes out in the broken world. But then, American consumerism left class and dignity in the dirt a long time ago.

We’ll never see a Super Bowl of Love & Harmony as long as there are beer and pizza and insurance to sell.

Longtimers here at The Cult of the Jitterbug know that I, a Christian minister,

One of the many books by my former World Religions professor Ruben Habito, professor at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

have had an abiding interest in Buddhism and other Eastern religions for about half my rather long life. It’s not that I want to leave my Christian faith for Buddhism or Taoism or Hinduism or anything else. The interest is in all the congruity with the other great religions.

Many illuminating books have been writ about those intersections in faith traditions. A number of those were written by my friend and former seminary professor Ruben F.L. Habito, a former Jesuit priest who keeps one foot planted firmly in his Christian faith and the other planted in the Buddhism of which he’s a world-renowned master.

He’s one of the most calming people I’ve ever known and was one of the best and kindest teachers I ever had. I commend his books to you.

But back to Tina.

When I was young and wild, I was wild and crazy about sexy Tina Turner. And what American male lover of rock wasn’t wild about the primal rock of Tina Turner?

But there has always been so much more about Tina than her rock life. She went from being a rock superstar to being a true American hero when she shared the story of her escape from her hyper-violent rock-legend husband Ike Turner.

Her legend grew as the world became aware of her full conversion from her traditional Baptist-Christian faith to Buddhism.

You won’t get much hyper-thrill watching these vids, but you might get some hyper-chill.

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We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.

— Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Peace Prize speech

Members of white hate groups who blame Jews and non-white minorities of all kinds for all of America’s ills used to feel so disenfranchised that they never bothered to vote.

Not until candidate Donald Trump came along. Following the clarion call of KKK icon David Duke, they all rushed down to register to vote, they all came out in massive numbers to vote for Trump, and they all support him still — and quiet openly.

Jewish writer Talia Lavin noted this in The Washington Post last year about the constant lies and demonization of George Soros by Republicans:

    The far right has ecstatically embraced the spectacle of elected political figures such as Trump … theorizing about Soros. After Trump’s Soros tweet about (then Supreme Court nominee) Kavanaugh, the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer echoed and surpassed Trump’s assertion that anti-Kavanaugh dissent was a nefarious, paid-for plot.

    “It is impossible to deny that subversive anti-American Jews were the primary force involved in a sinister plot to destroy (Supreme Court nominee Brett) Kavanaugh,” Lee Rogers wrote on the site a couple of days later. “These Jews do not represent the interest of America. They represent the interest of their diabolical and evil race first and foremost.”

(See Lavin’s full story here.)

But then there’s Louis Farrakhan, who is admired and embraced by a lot of liberals and civil rights leaders who are quick to say they don’t share his views on Jews, but insist that he’s an admirable man.

Just last year Farrakhan boasted at his Million Man March anniversary in Detroit that “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” And that is by no means the most hateful thing that Farrakhan, who was invited by Aretha Franklin’s family to his funeral, has ever said.

Oddly a lot of civil rights leaders including celebrities also give him a big fat pass on his hatred of homosexuals and his far less-than-liberal views on women and how they dress and behave themselves.

Read the list of his Greatest Jewish Hits here and help me to understand how so many civil rights leaders and celebrities can give him a pass on his hate speech
And now for a few cold, sobering facts on this International Day of Holocaust Remembrance:

Two faces of American hate: David Duke and Louis Farrakhan.

Read how black women organizers of the recent Women’s March strained at gnats to defend Farrakhan here.

— A study last year found that 22% of American millennials haven’t heard of, or are not sure if they have heard of the Holocaust. More than 4-in-10 respondents (41%) did not know what Auschwitz was.

(According to Newsweek, another poll conducted in seven countries in Europe had similar findings. Among the people who were surveyed, 20 percent of people, who ranged between the ages of 18 and 34, had never heard of the Holocaust.)

— Everyone remembers the Pittsburg Synagogue slayings from a few months ago. But anti-Semitic incidents of all kinds have been rising sharply, and especially in schools and on college campsuses, for years.

Last February, for example, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual report, finding that “the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.”

The report continued: “The sharp rise, reported in ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.” The ADL tabulated “1,015 incidents of harassment, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, up 41 percent from 2016; 952 incidents of vandalism, up 86 percent from 2016; and 19 physical assaults, down 47 percent from 2016.”

— One in 20 British adults (2.6 million Brits!) do not believe the Holocaust happened, and 8% say that the scale of the genocide has been exaggerated, according to a poll marking Holocaust Memorial Day. (Story here.)

— And then there’s Germany, where neo-Nazism is a real and scary phenomena. (More here on the extreme right, anti-immigration party there.)

Here’s another word from Elie Wiesel, who said in his Nobel Prize lecture this:

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

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And Jesus said to Trump, “Sign right there and shut her down, shut her down good.”

So in the previous blog post (see here), I shared with you readers the mindset of Lara Trump, she who seems to believe that government workers who aren’t allowed to work, or who have to work without pay while the Trumps and those in his employ feel no pain, are suffering “a little bit of pain.”

To her way of thinking, it’s as if the unpaid workers are a little bit pregnant and suffering a little bit of labor pain, but labor pain ain’t so bad in the long run.

But let’s move on to another insensitive take from Trump World.

Donald J. Trump’s Secretary Commerce, Wilbur Ross, says he’s “confused,” that he doesn’t understand why the furloughed government workers are going to food banks–why they are fretting about trifling matters like making their mortgages and their rent and car payments and such.

Ross is stinking rich. But to his lack of credit(bility), he is also deeply insensitive. He told CNBC in that interview that he is puzzled by reports of federal workers turning to food banks and other forms of relief.

He said they should obtain loans to tide them over until the government reopens — though he fails to mention that, at this rate, the government might not reopen until Jesus gives the order and we all know that Jesus put Trump back in the White House.

“True,” Ross granted to the network, “these people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” (They may be paying a little interest on mortgages and loans for their kids’ tuition and vehicles and stuff but so what?)

And anyway, Ross noted, 800,000 of “these people” who are currently unpaid are but a tiny slice of working-slug America, not to mention a tiny slice of the GDP.

“While I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases, 800,000 workers, if they never got their pay — which is not the case — they will eventually get it — but if they never got it, you’re talking about a third of a percent on our GDP,” Ross said. “So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

So here’s your thought for the day, inspired by Wilbur Ross:

    We as a nation cannot afford to lose sight of this historic fact: that our nation was founded on the ideal that the GDP enjoys the right to the pursuit of happiness. In fact, the GDP is mentioned more times in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence than “the people.”

Wilbur Ross: Government employees not receiving paychecks at this time can obtain loans and so what if they have to pay a little interest on top of their mortgages and vehicle payments and tuition payments for their kids. The GDP comes first.

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President Kennedy’s famous line that inspired millions of Americans to serve their country has taken on new meaning.

    “Ask not,” Kennedy famously said, “what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy reminded us that sacrificing for others with service and volunteerism is the highest form of nobility.

Lara Trump: Feeling the “little bit of pain” (she actually said that) that struggling government workers are suffering.

Now comes Lara Trump, Donald J. Trump’s peppy daughter in law, suggesting in an interview with BoldTV, that the “little bit of pain” (her exact words) that furloughed government workers are suffering during the shutdown is heroic in the long run.

This is because it builds character in these commoners who make America great by living paycheck to paycheck when they’re receiving paychecks at all. It’s a radical twist on the Kennedy quote: “Ask what you can SUFFER while we Trumps live large, OK? Because, gosh, we love you people. Believe us.”

According to Ms. Trump, the children and grandchildren of these masses of public servants (including military service members) will thank them after long they’re dead and gone for having lost homes and vehicles and stood in lines at food banks so President Trump could finally fix the broken immigration wheel.

Here’s exactly what Lara Trump said of the 800,000 Americans (needlessly) missing their paychecks for weeks on end. Read it and weep, sweet Jesus.

“But this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country. And their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”

“I know it’s hard. I know they have bills to pay, they have mortgages, they have rents that are due, but the president is trying every single day to come up with a good solution here.

“The reality is it’s been something that has gone on for too long and been unaddressed ― our immigration problem. If we do nothing right now it’s never going to get fixed. This is our one opportunity.”

If WE do nothing? This is OUR opportunity to fix the problem?

My gut tells me that nobody will be seeing any Trump bloods sacrificing anything for any common Americans for any generations to come.

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These boots have covered miles and very many miles of terrain in Belize, Mexico and Guatemala — and are finally broken in good.


Because I like nothing more than taking an aimless walk or hike in God’s good, green creation, these boots have covered a lot of rugged Central American terrain.

They’re broken in real good now.

I think I would have been happy in some place in the days when it was nothing to take a journey of thousands of miles. The kind of perilous, 3,000-mile journey (with some waterway rides) that the great haiku poet Matsuo Bashō took, engaging so many hospitable people (and a few not so friendly) along the way. (Learn more about him here.)

I’m constantly dipping into his book that speaks to me at such a deep and meaningful level. I’ve packed it on many a journey in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala, meeting nothing but hospitable people (well, almost nothing but that kind) along the way.

Scroll down below for a sample of Bashō’s adventurous treks from his classic book.

A short little classic that speaks to me, who suffers from incurable wanderlust, on every page.

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The deeply spiritual, Pulitzer-winning poet Mary Oliver has died at age 83.


Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer-winning poet who yearned to be at one with everything she so deeply observed in nature, once penned a poem titled “When Death Comes” in which she wrote:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

(FROM NEW AND SELECTED POEMS)

    Oliver has died at age 83.

    In her beautiful memoir Long Life she wrote this about prayer:

      Men and women of faith who pray — that is, who come to a certain assigned place, at definite times, and are not ashamed to go down on their knees — will not tarry for the cup of coffee or the newsbreak or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. The habit, then, has become their life. What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice or Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.

    Here are a couple of her most popular poems:

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