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Friday, November 29, 2013

Please Take Sixty Seconds to Pray for the Central African Republic, Potential Site of Genocide

After the marauders have left 

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest nations on earth. It is landlocked, remote, and underpopulated.

Muslims and Christians are fighting there now. Mass slaughter. Entire families, throat cut. Incipient genocide.

It is one of many countries in Africa where jihad is ongoing, or has been ongoing in the recent past. These countries include Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Tunisia, Somalia, etc.

American news media is not giving a lot of coverage to this conflict. Again, The CAR is very poor, remote, and its abundant resources, including diamonds, are hard to exploit. In short, we don't much care, and we don't think we can do anything. That may be true. It may not be true. Maybe peace keeping forces could help.

I've been to the CAR. I can tell you that the people being murdered are impoverished agriculturalists, often practicing the most primitive slash and burn agriculture. They have no way of defending themselves against marauding bands who show up, murder, burn, and destroy.

Here's something the news media might not tell you. CAR was heavily exploited by the Arab Slave Trade. That's one reason there is tension between Christians and Muslims. The Christians in CAR resent Muslims.

Here's a quote from the Wikipedia page on the history of slavery: "The eastern regions of the Central African Republic have never recovered demographically from the impact of 19th-century raids from the Sudan and still have a population density of less than 1 person/km."

Once I was traveling through CAR. I understood Sango, the lingua franca. I and others were riding in the back of a pick-up truck. The truck broke down repeatedly, typical of CAR. The drivers would stop, fix it, and keep traveling. I heard the people seated beside me whisper in Sango, "The next time the truck breaks down, let's kill the Muslim passengers." Thank you, God. The truck did not break down again.

That comment was a sign of the tension between the groups sometimes called "Black Africans," "Sub-Saharan Africans," "Bantu Africans," or "Christian-Animist Africans," and "Sahel," "Muslim," or "Arabized" Africans.

The former, the "Black Africans," tend to be Christian or animist, and they or their ancestors were enslaved by the latter, the Arabs or Arabized Africans. The Arabized Africans tend to hold Black Africans in low regard.

They hate each other. They hate each other in CAR and Sudan and Nigeria.

When I was young and stupid, I traveled through CAR at night, alone. I was traveling through raw rain forest. I was given a ride by Sudanese smugglers. These were Muslim men who spoke Arabic. They were part of a truck caravan. They could have done anything. I was alone. In fact they treated me with great respect and care. They transported me for hours through the darkness, and they never laid a hand on me. They shepherded me to my destination.

There are good people on all sides. There are victims, and killers, on all sides.

Please join me in praying that the international community steps in and stops the senseless killing in the Central African Republic. 

Here's an article from the Washington Post.

Here's an article from Human Rights Watch

Good general background on Christians and Muslims in Africa here

Source

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Alone


Yup. It's Thanksgiving, I'm alone, and it sucks. 

I wanted to post, though, because I got the idea for the above graphic -- Norman Rockewell's "Freedom from Want" with Xs drawn through all the faces but one. I adore Rockwell's work. I hope he can forgive me.

So, if you want to cheer me up, go to Amazon and order your copy of "Save Send Delete" here. It has gotten good reviews.

What am I grateful for? Or, more properly, for what am I grateful? 

I am grateful for you. I am grateful for computers. I am grateful for the internet. I am grateful for Facebook.

I am grateful for Liron Rubin, and Lukasz, Sue Knight, Danuta Reah, Magdalena Pasnikowska, Sandy, Chris, Jeff, Otto, and anyone else who has ever read or commented on a post here. 

I am more grateful than I can say for ALL of my Facebook friends. You can never have any idea how much your photos, brags, woes, worries, prayer requests, poems, essays, passions and picadillos have enriched my life. 

Thank you, every single one of you, more than you can ever know. 

Let me ask you this one thing. Please keep doing exactly what you are doing. Please keep being passionate about horses, and greyhounds, and cute food, and your newborn premmie, and your broken leg, and being politically incorrect and iconoclastic, and fashionable, home-sewn clothing, and gardens, and Japan, and Islam, and good hair, and painting, and WW II, and the L-8, and football, and space alien abductions, and horror literature, and apple cider from the backyard tree, and scuba diving, and world travel, and women's rights and Obama, and your dog, and Disneyland ... 

You are my favorite celebrities. I wake up in the morning eager to read your posts. I scan them before bed at night. I keep you in my prayers. 

Please keep breathing, please keep shining your magnificent presence into the world. 

Your life warms me. Distant though we are; after all the sun is very distant from Paterson, NJ, but it is blaring through my apartment right now. Just so, you warm me. 

Thomas Merton once said, "There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun."

You've just been told. And I just thanked God for *you.* 



"I hate it when people like Al Sharpton Play the Race Card." You'll Be Surprised Who Said This.

Uncle Remus by Norman Rockwell
Uncle Remus in Song of the South singing Zipadeedoodah

Good Soldier Svejk drunk, singing, in jail
Good Soldier Svejk pleads for his life 
"I hate it when people play the race card all the time."

"I don't see any racism in that. It was a story for children. It reminds me of my childhood. It gave me a warm feeling. It was funny."

"I can't wait for everyone who was alive in 1946 to die. Because we are young people and we see the world differently. Everything is not about race to us. It is normal for us to hang out with people of different races."

"No matter what the makers of this film did, the race baiters would criticize it. Like that creepy Al Sharpton."

At the mention of Al Sharpton, other students grumble.

Three of the four speakers, above, were African American students. I'd just shown them clips from the "banned," allegedly racist, Walt Disney film "Song of the South."

I show these clips every semester. I never tell the students in advance what I am about to show.

I ask them, after the lights come up, to write two things: an objective description of what they just saw, and a subjective account of how it made them feel.

They watch a scene in which a little white boy runs away from his Southern home. He is rescued by Uncle Remus, an elderly black man. Uncle Remus tells the boy the story of Br'er Rabbit, and his attempt to run away, and how that attempt ended badly.

Uncle Remus uses this frame story to teach the boy that "you can't run away from your trouble."

"Song of the South" is condemned as racist because Uncle Remus is happy, he is integrated with whites, and he is meek. He is not a warrior. He doesn't fight against white supremacy for black liberation. Also, he speaks in dialect typical of former slaves from the American South.

When I've shown this clip in the past, this is usually what happens. Most students say that they liked the clip. They like it as a colorful, funny, educational entertainment for young children. They find the song "Zip a dee doo dah" to be catchy and upbeat.

One or two students, though, will find the clip horribly racist and offensive and wrong.

This is the first time I've shown the clip that not a single student described the clip as racist.

A third of my class identifies as African American. They were the loudest and most adamant in defending the clip, and condemning race baiting.

I once remarked to a superior on campus, "You know, my African American students often are not very radical. They often have old fashioned values. They often voice respect for hard work and impatience with race baiting. Many think that people should be allowed to keep the fruits of their labor rather than pay high taxes for welfare programs."

My superior said to me that it was my job to instill radicalism in my students. To steer them onto the correct, leftist, path.

I don't agree. I think it's my job to help my students be themselves.

Below please find a previous blog post describing a very different screening of "Song of the South."

***

You are in a college classroom. The professor tells you that she is about to show you a film clip. After you finish viewing it, she wants you to write two paragraphs. The first paragraph will record the objective facts of what you just saw: the who, what, when, where, why, and how. The second paragraph will record your feelings about what you saw.

Something about the professor's attitude has you a bit scared. There is tension in the dark classroom. You are anxious. What are you about to see?

In fact, though, the film clip turns out to contain no sex or violence or sedition. It's a clip from a 1940's Disney film. It's set in the South, probably sometime in the late nineteenth century. A very cute little boy is running away from home. He happens across an elderly black man who takes the boy to his cabin and tells him a story about Br'er Rabbit. Br'er Rabbit runs away from home and almost falls into the clutches of Br'er Fox, but, through his wits, manages to escape at the last minute. The fable warns the boy that running away from home won't solve his problems. The old man sings a peppy song, "Zip a dee doo dah." The boy is delighted.

The film clip ends. The screen goes up; the classroom lights come back on.

You breathe a sigh of relief. That was a simple enough film clip. Nothing scary. It's easy enough to write up the two paragraphs. You liked the sweetness and sentimentality of the film, and think that it would be good for small children, but it's not your cup of tea.

The teacher tells students to put down their pens. She asks for student reactions.

Explosion.

An African American student is outraged. She hasn't spoken much all semester. Today she speaks rapidly, angrily and loudly. The film is racist, insulting and demeaning. It is part of white supremacy. Just watching the clip has poisoned the whole class.

The student holds her hand to her chest. She had been shy for most of the semester. Speaking has obviously cost her some effort. She glares at the class. Who will support her? Who will dare to disagree and support this racist film? Who are the racists in class? Her eyes seem to defy anyone to disagree.

A white student, an outspoken feminist and English major, joins in. She's heard about this evil film and denounces it roundly. "Disney banned 'Song of the South'!" She shouts. Not really. Disney has not released it on DVD. You can watch the film on youtube.

You were going to raise your hand and contribute to the discussion, but now you are nervous. "What's wrong with me?" you think. "Why didn't I realize that I was watching an evil film?" You shrug and wait for the discussion to boil over.

Some students, obviously flabbergasted, look to the teacher. What is the approved reaction? What reaction will earn the highest grade?

***

I've been showing this same clip from Walt Disney's 1946 film "Song of the South" for some years now.

Two aspects of this oft-repeated scenario frighten and educate me.

One: Many students don't know the difference between thoughts and feelings. Students produce meaningless sentences like: "I feel that this is good for children." "I think that I enjoyed this."

What's more troubling – much more troubling – the students who react most vehemently to "Song of the South" often can't describe the objective facts of what they saw.

Really. They cannot tell you what they saw. They cannot tell you what Disney put on the screen.

What can they say? "I am outraged. That is racist. I've been victimized. That is racist. I'm very hurt. That is racist."

"What? Tell me, what specific feature of 'Song of the South' is racist?"

"It's racist, I'm telling you. Don't tell me you like that movie. It's racist."

"What? What aspect of the film is racist?"

"It's racist! I'm hurt!"

"Okay. I get it that you are hurt. That's subjective. That's emotions. It's good that you can report that. Let's turn to the objective, to consensus reality. What specific aspect of the film is racist to you? Is it that Uncle Remus speaks in a Southern black dialect? Is it that he is wearing shabby clothes? What specific feature strikes you as racist, and why?"

"You are white! You cannot know how much that film hurts me! It's racist and we should not watch it!"

I've had the conversation, described above.

I want to change it. I don't want to make students who don't like "Song of the South" like it. I want students, all students, to know how to differentiate thoughts from feelings. I want students to be able to say, with specificity, what feature of a work of art makes it a racist work of art, and why. I don't want anyone to use a sense of victimization as a weapon to intimidate, bully and silence others. "I am hurt and my people have been hurt; therefore, you must agree with me." That approach denigrates and circumvents thought, scholarship, and why we have college classrooms in the first place.

I fear, though, that previous teachers have rewarded by students for that stance of public outrage. Whipping up outrage is a practice of political agitators; it is not the best strategy for real teachers. Too many teachers today are eager to whip up outrage, and resist actually supplying students with problem-solving skills.

Two: Students can be intimidated into saying what appears to be the most politically advantageous thing.

My students write down their reaction to "Song of the South" before they know what other students will say. The vast majority of students – over ninety percent – report that the film is a sentimental tale for children, a typical Disney cartoon. Only about ten percent, in their written work, allege that the film is racist.

When classroom discussion begins, those who object to "Song of the South" are often the most vocal. The majority of students who found the film sweet and old fashioned often look confused. Were we supposed to find this film racist?

I strive to remain neutral. When the students who object to the film speak, I write their points on the blackboard. It's frightening and depressing to me to view the facial expressions of many, but not all, of the students who liked the film. Some of them appear to be deciding that they, too, will find the film racist – not because they really believe that it is, but because that is the politically advantageous stance to take.

I fear that if I took a strong stance that "Song of the South" is a racist film, some students might parrot that stance – not because they really believe it, but because the teacher says so.

***

Me? I see both sides. I see why some object to "Song of the South." I see why others embrace it. I strive to present both sides to my students.

BUT the important thing is this – however students feel about "Song of the South," the best teachers, and the best education, will not indoctrinate them into parroting the teacher's stance. It will not browbeat them and bully them with others' suffering to adopt an opinion that is not their own.

Rather, the best teachers, and the best education will encourage students to separate facts from feelings. The best teachers, and the best education, will equip students to make their point using objective facts.

***

I'm not black. I'm Slovak. We are also the oppressed. I told my students, who have never heard of Slovakia, that, historically, Slovaks have been peasants who are invaded and massacred and oppressed. I told them about Lidice, a village the Nazis wiped out. I told them about Soviet tanks rolling in to crush Prague Spring.

I told my students that we greatly admire a folk hero named Good Soldier Svejk. Svejk is fat, unshaven, and a slob. He gets drunk and behaves stupidly. And he is our hero.

Why?

My students totally understand. Of course people who are oppressed and massacred would want a hero who is a Wise Fool, a man who keeps his head down and displays his intelligence in ways that appear foolish, a charming subversive.

Can you understand, then, I ask, why Uncle Remus is a Wise Fool? And why some might admire him, even though his clothes are shabby and he does not speak Standard English?

Hmmm … maybe.

***

A couple of good scholarly articles about Joel Chandler Harris and Uncle Remus:

"The Ultimate Irrelevance of Race: Joel Chandler Harris and Uncle Remus in Their Times" by Wayne Mixon, here.


"Black Father: The Subversive Achievement of Joel Chandler Harris" by Robert Cochran, here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NJ Waitress Fakes Homophobic Incident; Rakes in Donations; Facebook-ers Get Huffy; Waitress Is Exposed as a Fraud. What Did We Learn Here?

My God! She's a returned war hero!
And those judgmental Christians denied her a tip cuz she's gay!
All right, all together now, LET'S GET HUFFY! 
No, wait ... Okay. Maybe not.
Morales confronted. 
Observers report an incipient genocide in the Central African Republic 
Recently a NJ waitress, Dayna Morales, a veteran and a lesbian, claimed that a couple she waited on did not leave her a tip. Instead, she claimed, the couple wrote a message on their bill. "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle."

The allegation went viral. It was as if my Facebook page were on fire. "This is so outrageous!" "I am so upset!" "Who the fuck do they think they are!" "Gay people deserve our respect!" "This waitress is a veteran for Christ's sake!" "Those self-righteous Christians! I wish I could give them a piece of my mind!" These lyrics were sung with the vigor and brio of an orchestrated concert.

The story smelled false to me. I didn't believe it. I didn't share it. I didn't comment on it.

Rather, I sat back and watched. I wondered why intelligent Facebook friends believed this story. I wondered why they shared it so eagerly and rapidly. I wondered what would happen when and if the story were exposed for the hoax I suspected that it was.

The world is full of an infinite number of funny pictures, cute cat videos, and heartbreaking stories. Why THIS story? Why did it grab people?

Here's my guess. I think people want to feel righteous indignation from a distance. I think people find Christians easy targets, and, yes, Christians do sometimes engage in homophobia. I think getting huffy about presumed Christian homophobes on Facebook was an enjoyable exercise for those who embraced this story.

There's no penalty for getting huffy at Christians. No one will give you a hard time, least of all Christians. Christians love to self-flagellate in public. It shows how hip we are.

The outrage was hollow, though. Facebook outrage doesn't fight homophobia. Fighting injustice is a bit messier and harder than clicking "share" and posting, "WTF!!!"

When I was a kid, it was obvious that I was an abused kid. Never, not once in my childhood, did anyone do anything. People knew. They told me that they knew. And no one ever phoned a cop, or got me to a real doctor, or even said, "I'm sorry this is happening to you." No one ever said, "You can come to my house if your mother threatens to kill you again."

Sometimes people express outrage at injustice and sympathy for pain because it's an easy injustice, with an easy target, and an easy pain that we've all decided we can feel sympathy for.

Sometimes the person or group committing the injustice is a harder target. Sometimes the person who needs sympathy is close and needy and smells bad and is a difficult person to deal with.

There are so many news stories of outrages that get zero response. The Central African Republic, right now. Human rights workers say it's a human rights inferno. Women and children are being mass murdered by Muslim jihadis. These outrages are receiving almost no coverage in the press. Not a single one of my Facebook friends has shared a single protest against the Muslim jihadis slaughtering defenseless African Christian villagers.

Don't get me wrong. My Facebook friends are good people. The friends who shared this viral story are good people. But in sharing this story, they were giving in to something phony.

NBC has learned that the waitress faked the story. She received lots of money after doing so. According to NBC, the couple was told that their waitress’ name is Dan. In fact her name is Dayna. They called her “Dan.” She may have taken offense and gotten revenge by playing victim. Our society sometimes rewards some victims, and Dayna profited monetarily from this trend. 

You can view the NBC expose on this event here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bully and Zealot Roy Speckhardt of American Humanist Association Shuts Down Christmas Presents to Poor Children

Dear Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association,

I am writing to you regarding your recent attempt, in the name of atheism, to prevent poor children from receiving charity Christmas gifts from public school students at the Skyview Academy in Colorado.

I am especially interested in this story because I teach future teachers. I introduce them to the complexities of church and state in relation to public education. I am also interested in this story because I have participated in charity. I am a former Peace Corps Volunteer and I donate to several charitable organizations. I am also interested in this story because I was a poor child, and I did receive charity gifts from a variety of sources. Finally I am interested in this story because my book "Save Send Delete" recounts my debate about God, and relationship, with a prominent atheist.

A clip of your interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly appears on the web. In that clip, you look like a clueless zealot eager to cause suffering to innocent, poor children. I thought that Megyn Kelly was playing "Gotcha." I thought that there must be more to the story.

I've read more about your efforts, including at your own website, and your group's Facebook page. Alas, Megyn Kelly played softball with you. You, your motivations, and your organization are actually worse than Ms. Kelly allowed her audience to see.

SkyView Academy is a small, charter elementary school in Colorado. Students there voted to participate in Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child, according to the Samaritan's Purse website, has distributed Christmas presents to one hundred million children in 130 countries. Most normal people would assess that as a wonderful thing. That SkyView Academy students voted to participate in this program demonstrates that they are maturing in the way that most of us want young people to mature. We want young people to learn, not just how to add figures or differentiate nouns from verbs, how to serve those less fortunate than themselves.

Needy children who would otherwise receive no Christmas present; fortunate American children who want to change that; a partnership: so far so good. But in steps the Godzilla foot of the American Humanist Association. Organized, militant atheists.

You sent a SLAPP letter. SLAPPs are "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation." You bullied the generous students at SkyView Academy into ceasing their generosity. You wanted to stop poor children from receiving Christmas presents. I can't imagine anything more perverse, blind, or pathological.

I visited your Facebook page. I see your members are frothing with hatred like rabid dogs. They are spewing false accusations against Christians. They are demonizing Christians. They are doing this in order to justify your own perverse, pathological decision to sabotage Christmas presents to poor children. You and your members are also stewing in the juices of your own hypocrisy.

Your argument runs like this: If poor children receive Christmas presents from Christians, they will somehow be forced to become Christians.

This is utter nonsense.

Let's confront reality, shall we? When organized, militant atheists give charity, they do so to improve their public reputation. This is true of you, Roy Speckhardt, and true of the American Humanist Association. On your homepage you trumpet that you raised money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. That money comes with a string attached. It's a very small, innocuous string. The string says, "Atheists care and help."

See USA Today, December 21, 2011. Headline: "Atheists Aim to Change Image of Penny-Pinching Scrooges" Atheists know that they have a reputation as stingy and ungiving and atheists are struggling to change that image by donating in the most public ways possible. Atheists are doing that because sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell published research in 2010 showing that atheists are less likely to donate than people of faith.

Atheists donate to charity: that's a good message. If I were a typhoon victim in the Philippines, I'd be happy to hear it. I do not begrudge you that message. I cannot imagine how disturbed my heart and soul would have to be for me to try to stop you from sending money to typhoon victims because I begrudged that message and wanted to spite atheists, at the expense of typhoon victims. I think the world is a better place for knowing that atheists can be good people. I support free speech.

All gifts have strings. All gifts communicate something. I received charity as a child. The Salvation Army helped us. The US government helped us. Our food had stamps on it. We used to receive something called "surplus food." We relied on it. I can't imagine anyone hating America so much that they would stop America from distributing surplus food to poor people like us. Without it, we would have gone hungry. In Peace Corps I saw sacks of US aid rice. Those sacks always came emblazoned with USA logos. Recipients knew that America had contributed.

Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child, unlike your aid to Typhoon Haiyan victims, is NOT just about "Atheists are nice people." It's about something much deeper. Operation Christmas Child doesn't just distribute toys that might be broken in a week or a month. Operation Christmas Child sends this message to poor children: "God loves you. No matter how pretty or ugly you are. No matter how rich or poor you are. No matter how fit or handicapped you are. Your life matters to God. The choices you make every day can make the world a better place, or a worse place. Make good choices. Be nice to other people. Everything will be okay, someday."

This magnificent message, totally different from the message than any message the secular world, including the most well intentioned atheists, have ever delivered, has been changing lives for the better for two thousand years.

There's something else sick, twisted, hateful and extreme in your action. You appear to believe that poor children are so dense that they can't decide for themselves whether they want to be Christians or not, and they need militant Atheists to protect them from their own thought processes. You seem to believe that the mere presence of a nice present from a Christian would so overwhelm a poor child that they would immediately be lured, by some malevolent magic, into becoming Christian.

You don't just want these poor kids not to get presents. You want them not to know. You want them not to hear. You want them not to think. You want them not to be allowed to decide for themselves about one of life's biggest questions. You don't want to just shut down love and joy. You want to shut down speech and thought and decision making. You are motivated by the same extreme hate, obsessive need for control, and destructiveness of a Robespierre, of a Stalin.


The American Humanist Association insists that the SkyView Academy's alliance with Operation Christmas Child is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is nonsense, as anyone who has studied cases related to that clause can attest. The Supreme Court has taken a variety of stances on these matters, allowing, for example, state funding of transportation to parochial schools and the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. No one knows who would win were you ever to sue the school, but you don't have to sue. The goal of your SLAPP was to put the kibosh on the giving of presents to poor children, without the case ever going to court. You need never argue your position on its merits. Bullies never have to argue their position. You just smash, hate, destroy, and move on. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What It Meant to Me Today to Be a Christian ... And ... Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association Stomps on Poor Children's Christmas Morning




What it meant to me today to be a Christian.

My computer crashed Monday night. A very kind friend came over Tuesday and worked on it for hours. God bless him. He got it running again. I spent much of Wednesday, and all day Thursday, trying to get it fully functional.

I'm a writer, a teacher, and a job seeker and I spend all day on the computer.

I lost the time I devote to writing and job seeking. I wasn't able to respond to my students as fully as I liked.

Thursday I never left the apartment. Never got in my daily walk, sorely missed. Never prayed my daily rosary, also sorely missed. Never did my daily writing, missed more than I can say.

Friday I tried to do something on my own, without relying on others' advice, and I screwed up the computer and sabotaged my own work. I was very frustrated, frazzled, and fried.

I am dyslexic. It is manageable. I am a writer. That condition is completely unmanageable.

In my efforts to bring the computer around to what it had been before, I had to rely on my rational, systematizing, calm brain.

In order to write, I let loose my passionate, intuitive, creative soul.

I was feeling the tension I feel when the two conflict, when one is crowding the other out. I was also castigating myself deeply for sabotaging the computer all over again by trying to do something independent of others' advice. I was also beating up on myself for not having computer knowledge, while being so very dependent on them.

I left the apartment only after nightfall, something I almost never do, because I live in a high crime neighborhood. My shoulders were very tight. I like to feel alert and aware when I am outside in my neighborhood, especially at night. I was not alert and aware. I was obsessing on computer woes.

I went to the post office to buy Christmas stamps. Like all writers, I hate the post office. Post offices are torture chambers. We send off our beloved babies, our manuscripts, from post offices. From the post office, we receive rejection letters.

In this post office, the postal clerk was rude, as postal clerks often are.

I took my change and walked away.

I had a quick glance at my change. The white board inside my brain suddenly became blurry. That's a snapshot of what it's like to be dyslexic. When some input is too much for me, because I am too tense, hungry, tired or preoccupied, the white board inside my brain becomes blurry. I couldn't make out the numbers on the white board.

I could have just shoved the change in my pocket and kept walking. I had an excuse. I was tired and overwhelmed. But I felt a prod to check.

I put my bag down and approached a stamp display case. I splayed out the bills on the display case glass. I counted the bills, breathing deeply. S l o w l y.

I realized that the rude postal clerk in the torture chamber post office had given me twenty extra dollars. On this day that sucked so badly and really needed redemption, a little boost, a little something nice for me.

I felt a little jolt of triumph. I wanted to keep this lovely twenty dollars, a lot of money for me. I knew I had many reasonable excuses to just shove the money in my pocket and keep walking. Because I was so tense and overworked, it's possible I was doing the math wrong. The clerk was rude. I had a bad day. The post office has screwed me over so many times by losing my mail. Etc.

And the voice inside my head said, "Jesus does not want you to keep this money." The voice did not sound censorious. The voice didn't threaten, "You will go to hell if you keep this money." The voice didn't promise, "You will go to heaven if you return this money." It just said "Jesus does not want you to keep this money," in a kind, informative, neutral tone.

I turned to the clerk. I fanned out the bills she had given me. "Count these," I said. I asked her to do that because given how tired and overwhelmed I felt, I really needed another set of eyes.

She was immediately loud and combative. "What's the problem? You gave me a fifty. I gave you. Oh!" And she snatched the extra twenty out of my hand and turned away, never saying thank you.

***

I posted this admittedly minor story because I ran across a post by a Facebook friend who is an atheist. She and a group of other Facebook friends who are atheists were talking about how stupid and weird Christians are. They were slapping each other on the back congratulating each other that they were not as stupid and weird as Christians.

I don't think that most Christians are the stupid and weird people self-congratulatory atheists make us out to be. I think most of us are doing what I describe above: negotiating life, moment by moment, trying to do what we think aligns with Christian teaching. I don't think most of us are Mother Teresa; I don't think most of us are Fred Phelps. I think most of us are debating what to do about matters as small as twenty bucks.

I also posted the above because I saw a video on Facebook that knocked me on my ass. (I am a Christian who swears. I edited the previous sentence inside my head before typing it, but then I realized, heck, that's how I talk. Let it stand.)

Roy Speckhardt – Speck Heart! It's too perfect! – Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association smashed a toy drive for needy children because Christians were involved.

You can watch the video here: 



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sarah Silverman Anti-Christian Hate Monger on NPR; Tax Payers Foot the Bill; Criticism of Islam Still Taboo on NPR



Sarah Silverman appeared on the NPR broadcast Weekend Edition Saturday on November 23, 2013. NPR receives tax payer support. The bulk of Silverman's material consisted of anti-Christian hate mongering. Silverman implied that Catholics pray a prayer called the "Heil Mary" -- from Heil Hitler -- and that Catholics approve of sending Hitler to heaven for murdering Jews. Thus, Silveman promotes the canard that Nazism = Christianity. 

Silverman pretended to be oppressed. In fact she's a very successful Jewish woman living and working in a majority Christian country. 

NPR would never allow a Christian spokesperson to be allowed the microphone to point out why Silverman's hate mongering and lies are so odious. 

Silveman's hatred against and lies about Christianity are enough to make your skin crawl. NPR's censorship of Christian rebuttal is cowardly and skews public discourse.
But that's not all!

Tax payers pay for this. National Public Radio receives funds from the government. It also receives funds from individuals and corporations.

Please don't donate to NPR. Please protest corporations that donate to NPR. 

Your tax dollars, your donation dollars, and corporate funding are used to finance hate.

Look -- maybe you hate Christianity, too. Maybe you lie about Christianity, too. So maybe Silverman's, and NPR's, hatred and lies are good for you. 

But look at it this way. Would NPR ever approvingly broadcast a neo-Nazi who hated Judaism as much as Silverman hates Christianity? No. Would NPR breathe one word of honest criticism against jihad and gender apartheid? I'd like to see it. Would NPR ever broadcast anyone who mongered hatred against Muslims as Silverman mongers hatred against Christians? Never. 

If NPR's lies and hate don't bother you, shouldn't at least its hypocrisy and cowardice? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coming Soon: Love on the Road

A new anthology, including a piece by me, will be available on December 1, 2013. It's called "Love on the Road" and it's about love on the road. 

There's a brief article about my contribution to the book here

Witnessing Child Abuse. Taking Action

Was just shopping. A woman passed me. I got a sense that she was a dark entity. A human black hole. I saw her child. The child looked unkempt. The child's long hair looked like a rat's nest. The woman, by contrast, was fit and well dressed. I said a brief, silent prayer for the child and continued shopping.

As I was leaving the store, I realized that the woman and her child were ahead of me. As soon as the family exited the store, the woman grabbed the daughter's long, messy hair, grabbed it close to the child's scalp, and started jerking the little girl's head around on her neck. Her body jerked as well. She cried. The woman cursed the child in a voice of complete anger.

There were also other family members.

I followed them to their car and took note of their license plate. They saw me and asked what was up. I said, "I saw what you did to your child. I'm reporting you to the police for child abuse."

I walked away.

I phoned the police. A bored-sounding woman answered. I reported the incident. The woman had trouble keeping the facts straight. I told her the make and color of the vehicle and she even screwed that up. She didn't convey any sense of urgency.

***
I posted the above account on Facebook shortly after the incident. Facebook friends Karla and Vivian, God bless them, urged me to phone, not just the police, but also state authorities devoted to child abuse. Karla looked up and provided that number: 1-877-NJABUSE (652-2873). I am very grateful to Karla and Vivian for their support.

I did phone the above number and the woman I spoke to was superb. She was intelligent, courteous, and thorough.

I hope to God that this child gets help.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Politically Correct Speech Codes, Catholicism, Islam, Birth Control, and Sandra Fluke

Work with me here for a minute.

Suppose a guy named Frank worked for years as an anti-Islam activist. Suppose Frank then enrolled at a Muslim school, the Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya, say. Suppose Frank then wrangled his fifteen minutes of fame. He would testify before a Senate committee. He would testify against the Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya. He would tell poignant stories of how students at the Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya had been denied pork in the school's cafeteria.

Suppose Frank insisted that students need pork for their health. Suppose Frank told very sad stories of students so beggared by their tuition to AMAI that they can't afford pork. Suppose Frank painted a convincing picture as to why the AMAI cafeteria is the only place students can eat pork. Suppose Frank insisted that the United States government must bring to bear all of its weight to force the AMAI to serve pork.

Tell me something, please. At this point in my little story, do you hate Frank as much as I do? Do you see right through Frank? Do you get it that Frank is a liar, a sneak, a troublemaker?

I'm a critic of jihad and gender apartheid, but Muslim's private abstention from pork is none of my business. I respect it.

To me, anyone who tried to force Muslims to break a harmless tenet of their faith that has no impact on non-Muslims is a despicable person. Anyone who tried to harness the government to strong-arm Muslims to serve pork would be the lowest form of life there is. An agitator. A potential war monger.

Well, you know I'm not talking about Muslims, I'm not talking about any fictional Frank, and I'm not talking about pork. I'm not even really talking about Catholicism, Sandra Fluke, or birth control. I'm really talking about Political Correctness, and how it has warped our language, our morality and our minds.

A Facebook friend passed along the photo, below, of Sandra Fluke.



One Facebook friend, a liberal male, sent me a private message calling me "hateful." I regret that he did not have the courage or integrity to say that to me publicly.

Another Facebook friend accused me of "licking the boots of thugs" who oppose a heroine who just "was trying to speak for all women who desperately need health care."

Please note that this Facebook friend is a wealthy man, and I happen to be a "poor women who desperately needs healthcare." In my experience, rich liberals do lecture the poor about what poverty is. This is one of liberalism's departures from consensus reality.

In any case, when Sandra Fluke testified against Georgetown, she was not speaking for poor women who desperately need healthcare. That was Fluke's mask, her performance. In fact Fluke presented a picture to the public that was not matched by consensus reality. See link below.

Here's what Wikipedia said about Fluke:

"She put forward reasons why Georgetown University should be compelled to offer contraceptive drugs, in spite of the Catholic university's moral opposition to artificial birth control.

She claimed that, during her time as a law student, birth control could cost in excess of $3,000. She also stated that 40% of Georgetown Law School's female population suffered financial hardship as a result of birth control not being covered by the student health insurance plan, and that the lack of contraception coverage in the university insurance plans would induce many low-income students to go without contraceptives.

Fluke insisted that the women of Georgetown, other religious schools, and employees of religious institutions such as hospitals have endured 'financial, emotional and medical burdens because of this lack of contraceptive coverage'"

What Fluke said is just not true. Contraceptives are not that expensive, and even poor women can get them at low cost or not cost. Google "Free condoms" and you will find literally millions of web pages.

According to one website, birth control pills cost nine dollars a month at a Target store near Fluke's address.

Other devices are similarly low cost. I know. I've obtained and used low cost birth control. I've been poor all my life and I've never had to demand that Uncle Sam or the Vatican supply me. Never even close. I'm so tired of rich people's lies about the poor.

Fluke's testimony was about the Left's war of hate on the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is imperfect. It benefits from honorable criticism.

As I mentioned above, I, a Catholic, have used birth control. Studies show that the vast majority of American Catholics both use and approve of birth control.

Here's the thing, though. I respect Catholic institutions' right to reject birth control, in the same way that I respect Muslim institutions' right to abstain from serving pork.

I am genuinely afraid of people like Fluke who use any subterfuge to try to strong-arm people of faith into violating tenets of their faith that don't have an impact on others outside their faith.

I am all too aware of totalitarians who coerce people of faith to violate their faith as a matter of course.

That Fluke put on her show under the guise of helping desperate poor women is all the more despicable to me. Me. Someone who has used birth control, and who approves of its use.

It boggles my mind that leftists, that my Facebook friends, can be so blind to the core principles here. When they support creeps like Fluke, they are supporting the violation of private religious beliefs.

Everyone knows I am looking for a job. I've made noise about being denied jobs by "Christian" institutions that don't hire Catholics.

Guess what. I would NEVER testify before a Senate committee demanding that Protestant schools be forced to hire Catholics.

Do I want those schools to hire Catholics? Yes, yes I do. Do I want the US government to force those schools to hire Catholics? Not only do I not want that, if I woke up in a country where that was the case, I would realize that my worst nightmares about my country had come true.

I would so love it if any liberal reading this would realize how far what we now think of as liberalism has departed from the true meaning of the word "liberal."

Expose of the disconnect between Sandra Fluke's performance and the reality here.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Protestants v Catholics; What Goes Unsaid; A Schoolboy's Essay Reminds Me Why I Am Catholic

Source: Artzone
A Facebook friend posted an essay her son had written for homeschool. The essay provides a brief history of the Reformation. It is well written. My friend was proud and she had reason to be. As a teacher I was impressed by the economy and clarity in the boy's writing.

My friend is, herself, a really good writer, and she has a story to tell. I have urged her to write a memoir. If there were any justice in the world, her memoir would find a publisher right quick and it would inspire and entertain many.

Her son's history of the Reformation is one page long. It is four paragraphs. The first sentence: corruption in the Catholic Church. The second sentence: corruption in the Catholic Church. The bulk of the first paragraph: details supporting the claim of corruption in the Catholic Church.

Second paragraph: Martin Luther. A bare bones bio. Third paragraph: the pope excommunicates Martin Luther. Fourth paragraph: Martin Luther translates the Bible and founds the Lutheran Church abrupt and final full stop. Capital T The Capital E End.

I learn a lot from Facebook. Facebook friend Magdalena Paśnikowska told me once that "what is not said is as important as what is said." She said this in the context of a discussion of censorship, including censorship in the old Soviet Empire.

Schoolboys aren't Soviet-grade censors. But schoolboys know where to put that abrupt and final full stop, and to leave the bottom twenty percent of the assignment page completely blank.

After I read this schoolboy's essay three times, I walked to work. My mind could not help but fill in the rest of the page.

Yes, the Catholic Church was corrupt. It was then and it is now.

But there's a bit more to the story of the Reformation.

My guestimate of a key statistic: most Protestants in the world today are Protestant not because of the genuinely admirable desire to address corruption in the Church, but because one of history's most odious figures.

Henry the VIII was a fat – a fifty-two-inch waist – madman who murdered his own wives. Henry VIII wanted to dump his first wife in order to marry his mistress, and the Catholic Church told him not to.

Divorce wasn't about choices and liberation. It was about older, divorced women being reduced to begging social outcasts. The Church wanted men to respect and provide for the women they married even after they lost their youthful glow. Henry didn't want to respect and provide for Catherine because she was barren – certainly no fault of her own.

Historians depict Henry's mistress, Anne Boleyn, as sexually hot, and either a manipulator or a victim of manipulation. Before his passion for Anne, Henry VIII was one of the great champions and defenders of Catholicism, and he still believed in key Catholic tenets after he worked to destroy Catholicism in England and establish Protestantism there. Henry burned, looted, and murdered. In another context, his actions against the Church might be called a genocide.

I often think about converting to Episcopalianism. I like it that women can become priests. And then I catch myself – do I really want to be a member of a church founded by a lustful, hypocritical, murderous, genocidal fatso? Nah.

Returning to the schoolboy's essay on the Reformation. In these four paragraphs of elegant and spare prose, Martin Luther is a courageous reformer. Full stop.

When I think of Martin Luther, I think about his writings on Jews, and the impact of those writings. Wikipedia lists what Luther recommended regarding Jews:

  1. for Jewish synagogues and schools to be burned to the ground, and the remnants buried out of sight;
  2. for houses owned by Jews to be likewise razed, and the owners made to live in agricultural outbuildings;
  3. for their religious writings to be taken away;
  4. for rabbis to be forbidden to preach, and to be executed if they do;
  5. for safe conduct on the roads to be abolished for Jews;
  6. for usury to be prohibited, and for all silver and gold to be removed and "put aside for safekeeping"; and
  7. for the Jewish population to be put to work as agricultural slave laborers (Source) 

The notorious Nazi propaganda film "Jud Suss" quotes Luther, "set fire to their synagogues or schools and bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them." "Jud Suss" was routinely screened for Nazis about to go on a raid against Jews.

Not just in relation to Jews, Luther's speech was violent. He insulted people in hateful ways. There is an internet site where one can press an icon in order to be insulted by Martin Luther. (Here)

Luther used much scatological language. That is, he talked about rectums, feces, and outhouses a lot. He said that the Holy Spirit unveiled the Bible to him while he was relieving himself. Luther said he could chase Satan away with his flatulence. When he was near death, Luther said, "I’m like a ripe stool, and the world’s like a gigantic anus, and so we’re about to let go of each other."

The Lutheran Church is not named after God or Christ or Love or Truth. It's named after Martin Luther, an anti-Semitic, hateful man obsessed with feces.

The Reformation, in the schoolboy's essay, is all about reading the Bible in the vernacular and not selling indulgences.

The Reformation was also significantly about war. Kings decided to convert, and their conversions meant that they dragged their people into war. I don't know if anyone has a death toll count, but Wikipedia lists the wars here.

Here's a pretty typical paragraph describing a king's conversion, followed by resistance, followed by imprisonment of Catholics, state confiscation of church property, and the immediate enrichment of the state:

"In 1524, King Christian II converted to Lutheranism and encouraged Lutheran preachers to enter Denmark despite the opposition of the Danish diet … war broke out between Catholic followers of Count Christoph of Oldenburg, and the firmly Lutheran Count Christian of Holstein. After losing his main support in Lübeck, Christoph quickly fell to defeat … Lutheranism was immediately established, the Catholic bishops were imprisoned, and monastic and church lands were soon confiscated to pay for the armies that had brought Christian to power. In Denmark this increased royal revenues by 300%."

Royal arrogance, bloodlust, power, and filthy lucre were as much the appeal of the Reformation as the Bible in the vernacular.

There was another dreadful effect of the Reformation not alluded to in the schoolboy's essay. Historian Lyndal Roper says that the chaos and societal breakdown caused by the Reformation played a big role in the witch craze that took so many lives of innocents, especially older women but men, too.

The Protestant obsession with conquering corruption lead to a different form of madness and sin than that found in the Vatican. While popes certainly had ermines, wine, and mistresses, Protestants went too far in the other direction. Their push for purity created corrupt societies like that critiqued in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." This is why the word "puritanical" is not a compliment.

There's another thing left unsaid in that history of the Reformation. During that century, that the Catholic Church was so very corrupt, Catholicism gave us spiritual giants like Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, Bartolome de las Casas, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, Paulo Miki, Ignatius Loyola, Rose of Lima, Juan Diego and Margaret Clitherow. No history of Christianity would be complete withouty of those names. These are the fruits of the admittedly corrupt Catholic Church.

Don't get me wrong. I also dislike corruption. I think most sane, mainstream Catholics think that selling indulgences and not translating the Bible into the vernacular were mistakes. Reform is good. It is often a vexed debate whether to get along and go along, or throw the baby out with the bathwater. Had I lived in those times, I would have been as confused as I am now.

I just wish that my Protestant friends would fill out that bottom twenty percent of the page that is left blank. I just wish that as they celebrate Luther and the Reformation, that they acknowledged important and obvious facts about who Luther was and what the full, very heavy cost of the Reformation was.

I wish that Protestants would acknowledge that the urge for perfection is itself a sin that kills and maims. We are human. We will never be perfect. We will never be part of non-corrupt institutions. Every Protestant church is every bit as corrupt as the Catholic Church.

The push for purity is itself a sin. It drives us to obsess on flaws and miss the larger picture. Rose of Lima managed to do the amazing amount of the good that she did in spite of the flaws in the church.

Yes, I admire Luther's reform, and all the reformers. I know the Church was corrupt. I think this is all very complex. If nothing else, I would have liked to have seen that sentence on the bottom, blank, twenty percent of the page: "this is all very complex."

I also wish that Protestants would get over their prejudices against Catholics. I've been Catholic all my life and I've never heard a single Catholic talk about Protestants the way that Protestants routinely slander and obsess on us. This is NOT a comment about my Facebook friend's son's essay. It's a comment about the Catholic-bashing I often encounter among Protestants, in real life and on the web.


In other news: a Facebook friend posted a link to a blog post by Walid Shoebat. Apparently Mr. Shoebat is also tired of Catholic bashing among protestants. That blog post is entitled "Them 'Damned' Catholics" and you can access it here.

Anti Catholic Jack Chick pamphlet 
Many Protestants refer to the Catholic Church as the "Whore of Babylon"