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Leaders from the Roman Catholic Church including Pope Francis met with leaders from the worldwide Wesleyan Connection.

As a Christian whose spiritual DNA is pure Methodist, I was thrilled to see that Pope Francis met with Methodists from around the world yesterday.

The occasion was the 50-year mark of Methodists and Roman Catholics seeking common ground through dialogue in spite of serious theological differences.

See here for more details on this.

Pope Francis noted that the words and example of my spiritual grandfather (Saint?) John Wesley and his brother Charles brought many people to Christ.

My differences with the Roman Catholic Church are such that I have no desire to be a Catholic. (And John Wesley who drew inspiration from a lot of Catholic saints wasn’t always real papacy-friendly in his writings.)

But that doesn’t mean I don’t admire much about the church, especially Catholic spirituality and tradition. I’ve been on more Catholic spiritual retreats at abbeys and monasteries than many devout, practicing Catholics I know.

I don’t care what the loon Trump supporter and leader of First Baptist Church in Dallas says about you, my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love you and respect you.

* * *

I once wrote a concise, two-page paper in seminary about “My Top 10 Christian Heroes,” complete with my reasons for internalizing their theologies in developing my own theology.

The Wesley Brothers were first on my list, of course. But I explained in the paper why most of my heroes were, and are, Catholics. My heroes are Catholics like “radical love” activist and lover of the poor Dorothy Day, who will always be high on my running heroes list. (She who heavily influenced in developing her own “radical love theology” by reading the sermons of John Wesley.)

Pope Francis took his papal name from Saint Francis, another faith hero of mine.

See a wonderful review of my book — written by a most grace-filled and fair-minded atheist! — below, along with links to buy it.

And of course Pope Francis himself has been added to the top of my list. With as many enemies and harsh critics as he’s fired up in his utterly Christ-like leadership, he’s doing something right.

Which isn’t to say the Pope hasn’t made mistakes with his plainspoken and easy-breezy-going tendencies. He’s a leader who knows who he is, knows what he wants, and understands to the fullest extent that the radical-love Christ Jesus himself never said be nice and don’t be rocking old, tradition-made boats.

No, Jesus never said play nice and don’t rock the boat, nor did any of the Apostles for that matter. Which isn’t to say they were never kind. Big difference in that and nice. Very nice people can be very cunning and passive-aggressive. The churches are full of them and they have a tendency to make life miserable for clergy who teach and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, News that Jesus delivered in uncompromising language and actions.

The Christ-like John Wesley made so many enemies and shook up so many good Christians in his day that he and Francis actually have much in common. One common thread is the radical commitment to advocacy for, and care of, the poor and powerless people of the world.

Pope Francis loves the poor and marginalized and wants them to be of first concern to every powerful business and political leader in the world. Wesley wanted the poor and powerless thought of and lifted up at every turn as well.

Long may their teachings be heard and stories be told.

Vaya con Dios.
————–

* I’m extremely grateful to Jim Barlow, who like me is an old graybeard ex-newspaper scribe, for the following wonderful review of my book. He very well articulates the entire message I wanted to convey in the book, which is illustrated by my friend the retired United Methodist pastor Keith L. Head. And like me, Jim is a sixties rock and roll lover who gets extra kudos for working in a reference to a Grateful Dead classic in the review.


Diving into a book centered on Bible scriptures and commentary on the poor and poverty today was intimidating. While I learned a lot about right and wrong from my childhood exposure to religion, as an adult I have chosen atheism, but with the understanding that religion for many is truly a worthy guiding light.

That said up front, I read and received a spiritual lift from Paul McKay’s thought-provoking book “The View from Down in Poordom.”

A disclaimer: McKay is a friend. At one time we were journalists with the same employer. He turned into a Methodist minister.

How do Christians today respond to the poor?

That’s the big question of McKay’s book, which runs just 83 pages. The way McKay presented his chosen scriptures and translated them to fit today’s world was superb and intellectually educational. However, I read the book with a broader view.

This book need not apply only to Christians. In this world of growing income inequality in the aftermath of the Great Recession, McKay is asking us to re-evaluate who we are.

McKay tells of his own background and how family experiences shaped his thinking and led him into the ministry. He gives us a framework for considering suffering and poverty, especially in Belize, where he now lives.

In Chapter Two, we meet Francisco, whose story became known because McKay took the time to talk with him. Once a hard-working man, Francisco was left destitute and on the streets because of an accident that wasn’t his fault and cost him both legs and livelihood. His ultimate fate was heart-breaking.

Later, we meet Chanzy, who McKay stopped to help when he saw him resting against a broken-down car, crying. McKay calls upon the Bob Dylan song “Everything is Broken” to shape his story about both Chanzy’s life, which was one of poverty and strong spirituality, and similar situations confronting all of us.

As I read about Francisco and Chanzy, I could hear the voice of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia singing in “Wharf Rat” to a down-and-out man: “I got no dime, but I got some time to hear your story.”

Chapters Six and Seven deliver the punch of McKay’s message.

Chapter Six tackles the notion, often used by politicians, put forth by the apostle Paul: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” McKay addresses the “troubling aspect of acrimony over who should provide for the poor and struggling people,” taking on politicians, corporations and Christians, as well. He hits on our consumer-oriented culture and political and religious scapegoating.

Chapter Seven addresses personal responsibility and calls for honesty about how some poor seem to take comfort in their poverty. McKay tells the story of a minister who struggled with a decision to refuse monetary help to an angry, young woman. Was the minister’s decision wrong, or did it plant a seed? Can we, should we, help everyone?

Both chapters should be required reading, regardless of anyone’s religious affiliation, and, especially, for politicians, both liberal and conservative.

McKay provides thought-provoking nuggets about poverty (material and spiritual), about individuals and families living poor, and about the dangers and pitfalls of greed and wealth.

In closing, McKay asks, “So What?” Do we as individuals give money directly to the poor, donate to food banks or shelters, minister to them or ignore them and walk away?

McKay hits us on the head with the issue of poordom, but he also provides intelligent perspective that might just provide us a roadmap.

McKay’s overall message, in my view, emerged in a paragraph early in the book.

“When it comes down to it, the poor aren’t ‘the poor,’” McKay writes. “The poor are people, and people need loving, caring friends. Poor people are people who want and need the same thing that you and everyone else, including the rich, want and need — and that’s love.”
———

Go here to see the review of my book at GoodReads online available for purchase in softcover, hardcover, and electronic form at Amazon (see here), Barnes & Noble online, at the publisher’s online bookstore WestBow Press here.

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IN WHICH THE WHITE BOY GETS A HERNIA.

I’ve never believed that God reveals God’s self to us only in the Bible, though it of course is our main source of revelation.

I’ve said her before that God reveals and has revealed God’s self in all kinds of ways to me (and you too, I’d say) — in music, in movies, in photography, in books and in all kinds of creative arts, not to mention revelation through nature and loving relationships with friends and family.

I have felt close to God in the soaring beauty a Mozart andante; in hearing the sad beauty of taps played at a military funeral; in stroking dogs I’ve loved — in some mean old Mick Jagger song, too.

And, definitely, through the kind of blues music that gets your Jitterbug leg shaking uncontrollably.

Thank you Lord for the divine gift of the blues and the release the great comedians like Robert Klein, who, in a comedy career spanning 50 years, still can’t stop his leg.

[

And a bonus play….

Georgia state Sen. Michael Williams: the Georgia Republican is giving away the devices that converts a semiautomatic weapon into one that can almost match an automatic.

Further evidence of our short little spans of attention.

It seems like a hundred years ago, and not 20 days ago, that most Americans and politicians — and even the NRA — were briefly united in possibly banning the “bump stock” devices that enabled a domestic terrorist to mow down almost 600 of his fellow Americans. (See here for my take on that at the time. And also my first response to it when I was spiritually blown away by it.)

Even the Peach State’s two United States Senators were open to the ban. (They really were — see here.)

Never mind that experts surmised that the ban would have reduced the casualty count by maybe a small percentage in a slaughter that still would have been the worst in American history by far. A lot of people saw this moment as an opportunity for the right and left to come together on some kind of sensible gun-control measure, however weak it may have been in curbing mass slaughters.

Now comes Michael Williams, a state senator running for governor in Georgia. In the most god-awful campaign gimmick imaginable, he’s giving away a rapid-fire device like the one Stephen Paddock used to kill 58 people and injure hundreds in Sin City.

Said Williams:

    “Many firearms experts determined the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock actually prevented more casualties and injuries due to its inconsistency, inaccuracy, and lack of control. There is zero evidence that banning bump stocks would prevent any gun violence deaths.”

Of course, his “many firearms experts” work for the NRA lobby, that great American institution that employs most of the people in Congress and keeps them employed at every election.

Williams said he will give away a bump stock “to one lucky winner” in a show of defiance as momentum grows for more restrictions in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Yes, some other lucky American would-be terrorist stands the real possibility of acquiring this charitable gift from the could-be governor of the great state of Georgia. I wouldn’t wish the guilt on anybody that Williams would surely feel if that possibility became a reality.

Something tells me Jesus did not approve this idea.

Would Jesus approve of a device and weapons that enabled this apocalyptic event?

It is total hypocrisy to pretend that something didn’t happen.”

— Former Fox News star Gretchen Carlson on how Fox News totally ignores its own dirty laundry

“You want a sex scandal, the Republican party, baby, that‘s where you go.” — Tucker Carlson in a 2006 interview
(Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Speaking of influential men who are icky to no end… (see the previous post writ about the Weinstein fallout here).

You’ll recall that after Bill O’Reilly, one of the predators ousted from the buzzard perches at the Fox News empire, was given the boot, he was replaced by Tucker Carlson.

Tuck, who has turned out to be a bigger Fox star than the shameless O’Reilly, has had the audacity to come down hard on Democrats for being so chummy with the revolting Hollywood fat-cat Weinstein. So, predictably, have Hannity and the other Fox apologists for their sick friends like the late fat-cat Roger Ailes.

One would think that Fox would have been humbled by all nasty behavior at Fox that was, uh, exposed by former Fox star Gretchen Carlson and so many other women who once were such popular broadcast stars in Murdoch World.

But I’ll have more to say on Gretchen below.

Gretchen Carlson, keeping the burners burning on her former colleagues at Fox News and power to her.

Regarding Tucker, this excerpt from a Huffington Post piece tells you everything you need to know about how deplorable Tucker Carlson’s attitude toward women is.

    During a 2006 segment on Carlson’s former MSNBC show, “Tucker,” Democratic strategist Steve McMahon claimed that Democrats taking control over Congress would usher in an era of “a lot more fun.”

    In a slight departure from the topic, Carlson responded with a reveal of his own feelings about sexual harassment.

    “A lot more fun?” Carlson said. “This is a group that made up the concept of sexual harassment. ‘You look great today.’ ‘Boom, I‘m charging you with a crime.’

Yes, unbelievably, Tucker claimed that Democrats “made up” the concept of sexual harassment.

What’s worse, he followed up his cringeworthy crack about Democrats with this amusing(?) little crack:

    “Do you know what I mean? It’s not a group I associate with fun. You want a sex scandal, the Republican party, baby, that’s where you go.”

See more on the exchange here.

A prince of a fellow, that Tucker Carlson.

* * *

There was a time when no would could have foreseen the ultra-conservative Gretchen Carlson being a feminist crusader on behalf of the multitudes of women who have been harassed, assaulted or abused by powerful men with money.

Who would have dreamed that she would turn out to be the darling of progressive feminists? But she has been relentless in exposing the hypocrisy at Fox as evidenced by the interview at this link.

I disagree a bit with her assessment, though, that Fox was hypocritical to ignore the cases of Boss Hog Roger Ailes and the other Fox predators.

For one thing, Hannity, Boling and others rushed to the defense of Roger Ailes and lamented “the rush to judgement” by the female whisteblowers.

Even some of the other females who stayed on at Fox, the other Gretchen (Van Suren) were in denial about Ailes for a long time before they were convinced of the obvious truth.

Secondly, our whole culture and society–politics, business, the media, the church, entertainment and all the rest–is saturated with enough hypocrisy to go around.

But what Fox does in seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil when it to its own monkey business (as happened with Weinstein in the entertainment culture) is something beyond hypocritical.

Carlson and Hannity and company give Academy Award performances every night in lying brazenly and lying just as much by omission with their sanctimonious grandstanding.

Good for Gretchen Carlson for standing up for truth.

Notwithstanding the fact that the deplorable behavior of men with power is not bound by any political parties — since sexual predators have all kinds of political and apolitical stripes — I think Gretchen Carlson brings a certain gravitas to the cause for women in and out of the workplace, to some extent, because of her conservative bonafides.

People are more likely to stop and listen to what she has to say than the baggage-laden Hillary Clinton so more power to her and long may she live and long may her story be told.

In the wake of yet another scandal involving a powerful man using women by threatening their careers, hearing people say, “Why didn’t she come forward sooner? Why did she smile in those photos?” makes my blood boil. These are questions men never face, because the power differential still tilts heavily towards the masculine. Women have smiled long enough for our place at the table.

— blogger Carole Reardon

This is what Not Pretty or Thin Enough looked like circa 1980

I have a Facebook friend in the great state of Texas Our Texas named Carole Reardon who blogs at “Southern-Fried Californian: broodings of a barbecued beach baby.”

The name of the blog tells you right off that the woman’s got some snap, crackle and pop.

I love the way she identifies herself at the blog:

    Raised on the Left Coast, transplanted to Texas, and now to the Deep South, I am a cock-eyed optimist with a darkly sarcastic streak a mile wide. I am ever grateful to a merciful God for waiting to inflict me upon an unsuspecting world until the existence of indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, and nail polish. I’ve never been accused of not having an opinion, and am ever so thankful to all those nerds in Silicon Valley who invented a place for me to put them where they can’t hurt anybody. I read, write, and have taken up photography.

    Beyond This Point Thar Be Dragons, or all my ramblings on Life, the Universe, and Everything, along with photos of food, my pets, and anything that strikes me as entertaining, unusual, or beautiful.

    Don’t say you weren’t warned.

As colorful as her writing can be, she had something to serious to say at her blog about the fallout over the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

She says it so well–and as only a woman with her experience could–that she gave me permission to share it in full below. Or better yet you can click here to see the original post and check out her other musings at Southern-Fried Californian.

Read it and think…..

The Harvey Weinstein revelations this week have been a particularly loathsome example of the hurdles women still face professionally but for me, it hit rather surprisingly close to home. It brought up a memory I guess I’d have to say I repressed, as it was days in before I realized, standing in my kitchen and listening to one of the accounts, that my visceral reaction was more than just my increasingly ardent feminism being offended. An incident I hadn’t necessarily forgotten, but had minimized in the way women do to these things, returned in glorious technicolor.

The memory returned, whole, connected, and with all the original revulsion, rather than the pale fragments I had allowed at the surface consciousness level for the intervening years. That I would only ken the wrongness, the vileness of an event thirty-odd years later speaks, I believe, to how endemic misogyny still is in our society and why women are 100% over being told to “Smile”.

I was 18 – literally, I had turned 18 years old the proceeding week – when I was asked to meet with the head of the modeling agency I’d signed with. He was the owner of the agency and at least forty years my senior.

He told me how pretty I was, though not pretty enough for high-end, cosmetics company work. “The girls who get those jobs are perfect,” he said and while pretty, I was not “perfect”. At 5′ 7″ I was too short for cat-walk, but ideal for catalog or calendar work. They didn’t mind “curvy” girls, he said, though losing a few pounds would only help me. Thanks to existing on one salad a day, I weighed 115 pounds at the time.

The bottom line was he had the power to give me a career. He found me attractive enough that, despite my obvious deficits of imperfection and 115 pounds distributed over a 5′ 7″ frame, he’d happily further my career if I’d sleep with him. He could provide cocaine, if that sweetened the deal.

I would like to say I didn’t think about it at all, that my morals were such I turned on my heel and left in high dudgeon, but I’d be lying.

What I did think, for a maybe a nanosecond was, It would make everything so much easier. How bad could it be?

But then, completely unbidden by me and surely born by the voices of what President Abraham Lincoln referred to as “our better angels” came a solitary thought: but then I’ll never know. I made some lame excuse about not thinking of him in that way, but more like my Uncle Harry, and (of course smiling!) uh, thanks for the offer… and I beat feet out of the office. I never went back. Thus ended my modeling career.

There are concepts it is difficult for even an intelligent teenager to fully comprehend. On one hand, I could sleep with an old, ugly, and clearly immoral man and have a lucrative career. On the other, I’d never know if the career was earned or given as payment. With the black and white thinking of most teenagers, I thought accepting his offer would confer upon me a particular label: Prostitute. It never occurred to me to label him: Predator. I did know I had little power in this exchange, that my attractiveness to him was currency with a definitive expiration date, the date the next barely-legal girl he wanted to sleep with arrived.

Like most women I took the guilt upon myself, thinking that to sleep with this troll would make me a whore, rather than the truth, which was that offering young women cocaine and a career to sleep with him, made him an exploitative libertine, a predator, and morally reprehensible. It was his moral character on trial, not mine. And lest anyone take the mistaken notion that I condemn the women who made different decisions, let me refute that right here and now. It is always the predator who is in the wrong.

It is so endemic in our society that I had almost forgotten the entire, slimy episode. Oh, through the years people have occasionally asked why I hadn’t pursued the career, and I tell the more or less true story that my parents moved out of state and I chose to stay in California, and waiting tables was more immediately lucrative than hoping for a career in modeling to catch fire. Even through the many years since, I told few people about the meeting with the agency owner because then as now, who would believe me?

My life has not been glamorous or wealthy, but it has been rich. I have not known fame or fortune, but I have known love, friendship, loss, joy, motherhood, so many things, good and bad, that make an excellent life.

But, in the wake of yet another scandal involving a powerful man using women by threatening their careers, hearing people say, “Why didn’t she come forward sooner? Why did she smile in those photos?” makes my blood boil. These are questions men never face, because the power differential still tilts heavily towards the masculine. Women have smiled long enough for our place at the table.

For every Rose McGowan or Gwyneth Paltrow, I expect there are at least 100 other women, standing in their suburban kitchens recalling similar circumstances that left them remembering either a choice to walk away and the loss, personal and/or financial of that decision, or remembering an event that left her feeling dirty and used, and questioning her own talent and ability. This extends far beyond Hollywood. I had subsequent, uncomfortable episodes with male employers in Corporate America, just nothing so egregious as the modeling agency. I know I am far from alone. I have legions of sister-company.

To my sisters I say: it isn’t us who are dirty, we are not responsible for the immorality and predatory behavior of others. Let us support each other, vocally, and remove the conspiracy of silence once and for all. Let us embrace our sisters as they come forward, let us form a protective circle around them, let us assure our daughters they will be believed and we are their advocates. Finally, let us shout a collective, ENOUGH!


Former Judge Roy Moore Jr. of the always reliably backward state of Alabama could be a United States Senator soon. This man is the poster boy for Trumpianity, that god-awful perversion of Christianity that is a plague on the United States.

The conquest of the United States by fanatical fundamentalist (not) Christians — who are homophobic, racist liars, crooks and thieves — becomes more frightening by the day.

October is the season of the witch and all things scary, though, what with Halloween upon us.

* * *

An overwhelming number of of these crackpots, who take the Bible and everything in it literally, hold all the power in the White House, Congress, statehouses, and many local councils and school boards.

People like the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example, from the always reliably backward state of Alabama.

And then there are the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson (with whom the POTUS sat down for a TV interview recently), and the ayatollah preacher of First Baptist in Dallas, and the pistol-waving “Christian” crackpot Judge Roy Moore of Alabama.

The infamous former (twice disgraced by his judicial peers in Alabama) Judge Moore will probably be Roy Moore the United States Senator soon. This in spite of a damning report by The Washington Post. Moore has attacked the Post, of course, but hasn’t denied the corrupt acts that the Post exposed. See here for more.

The disgraced judge and wannabe U.S. Senator is so ignorant of the issues in this country that during his primary campaign for Senate, he was asked what his position on DACA and the so-called “Dreamers” is in a radio interview in Alabama.

Unbelievably, Roy Moore the presumed next Senator from Alabama had never heard of DACA or the Dreamers.

If it’s not about putting prayer back in school and hating on them funny people who want to get married who ain’t real men and wimmin and all, Roy Moore ain’t interested.

The Moores, the Falwells, the Robertsons and others of their perverted Christian faith are the so-called “Christians” whom the godless POTUS celebrates as “such amazing great people.”

Of course, Trump supported the other Alabama fundamentalist who ran against Roy Moore, who was supported by the oily white supremecist Steve Bannon, who, never forget, put Trump in the White House and who would make a model fascist or is he more of a Nazi.

People actually have legitimate debates about which of the two horrible camps Steve Bannon (and, for that matter, Donald Trump) falls in.

* * *

Roy Moore’s win in Alabama is yet another manifestation of Trumpianity. (See here for my definition of that.)

Trumpianity (see also here, as I’ve written often about it) is as frightening to me as the threat of fanatical terrorist groups and dictators in places like North Korea.

* * *

I was raised by wonderful Christian parents, two prayerful people who loved God and their Methodist Church. But it was always understood in my home and hometown church that God and the Bible were more about mystery than literalism.

My parents knew instinctively what the great Methodist writer and theologian Joseph Campbell meant when he wrote this, with my italics for emphasis:

    “The virgin birth has nothing to do with a biological accident. (It’s about) the awakening of spiritual life in the human animal. It’s a mythic symbol. It should not be read, finally, as historical fact.

    “All mythology is misread when it is read as referring to historical events or geographical places. The Promised Land is not a piece of land to be conquered by military might; it is a condition of the heart.”

The Bible contains the Truth and the true God — and endures and will endure — not because it is a literal take on God, but because it’s not . It’s a book of myths and great poetry and songs (all of the Psalms are songs that were sung, not read) and wise but fictitious narratives and short stories.

But because it contains so much fiction does not mean that that the Bible is not true, or that Jesus (a real historical figure who changed the world forever) is not the Truth and God’s only real Truth.

The two greatest American novels ever written in my view are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huck Finn.

These novels and the stories within them reveal more to us about love and hate and justice and injustice and the entire human condition than any amount of great reporters and scholarly historians could ever reveal.

The two novels are fictions, and yet they are as true as true can be.

And how interesting is it in the Year of our Lord 2017 that both of these old, beloved great American novels reveal so much truth about slavery, racism and social injustice in America?

The Bible, like classic literature, is timely and fresh in every new era.

* * *

Trumpianity is a national plague and an assault God, the Bible and the Christian tradition.

And oh by the way, did I mention that Harper Lee, the great American novelist of the great state of Alabama who exposed her beloved state’s backward ways better than any reporter or historian ever could, was a devout, lifelong United Methodist and churchgoer till the day she and her devout Methodist sister died?

Don’t let them take your minds.

Pour out the Kool-Aid.

Vaya con Dios. (Go with God.)

HT: Limping to Jerusalem

That’s all, folks. For now.