Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snowing again

I look out the window and softly, what do I see?

Silent white crystals descending thru the air
Promising to change the world around me
Making all seem pure and fair.  

These cold crystals, silent as the night,
Without the noise of combat, take their place;
Descend to cloak the world in white,
And slow the bustle of the human race.  

Beneath this wintry shelter, now unseen,
Lie hid the remnants of last season's strife,
Soon to show forth in glorious shades of green
The joyful chaos simply known as:  life. 

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book available online

Announcement:  my book, Building on the Rock:  Practical Advice from Jesus! is now available in your favorite e-book format for a mere $3.99.  Follow the link and I'll appreciate it.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Morning thoughts

When I wake up in the morning, some things call for my attention right away:  bodily needs, personal hygiene, whoever else in the house is moving about right then.  I usually step on the scale and note with dismay or pleasure what I have gained or lost overnight. But because most mornings this happens fairly early, without a need to rush out to meet the demands do the day for at least an hour or two, there is an opportunity for quiet time.  So I may compose a brief thought and tweet it, or focus on a bible verse and share that with my friends online.  


Today I am thinking about the possibilities a new day can bring. Of course it brings pressures:  pretty soon I'll look at my calendar or my to-do list, or remember something that was left unfinished yesterday, or, as happens many days, the phone will ring and call my attention in some unexpected direction. All those things will press on me; but I want to establish sooner rather than later: where in this day will God be at work? Everywhere the answer immediately comes.  God is in the calendar, in that undone task, working with that person on the other end of the phone call.  God is also in those places I will leave untouched. My task is to rest in his presence, whatever the activity may be.  It is a given that I will be inadequate, that my time, energy, money, and attention will come up short. When I know that to be true, I will also know that it is not all about me.  I am called to be a witness to the infinite power of God in a finite world... God has given me a ringside seat in an unfolding story, and I even get to play a small part.  As a member of his audience, I want to pay attention so I can applaud his performance.  This is worship, and it is also life. Sometimes I find myself part of a company who can see and applaud together. We call that church in the best sense, a foretaste of the great celebration when every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth, the sea and all that is in them, will unite in a spontaneous, joyful chorus of praise to the Creator and Redeemer for his brilliant performance. My goal today is to get in practice for that day.  Way to go, God!

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Monday, September 09, 2013

A narrow window of opportunity?

So in the run up to military action in Syria, some interesting developments today. This morning Secretary Kerry, asked what might deter the U S from going forward, suggested that if the Assad regime were to turn over, this week, all of its chemical weapons stockpile to international control, that might do it, while hastening to add that of course Mr. Assad would never do this. Later in the day, Kerry's bluff was called on this very point:  by the Russians, who publicly suggested the Syrians should do that and also sign on to the chemical weapons convention. The Syrian foreign ministry made favorable comments and so did leadership at the UN. 


I am put in mind somehow of the George Aiken strategy for getting out of Vietnam. The then-senator from Vermont said we should declare victory and withdraw. I think there is a narrow window of opportunity to do just that.  The accompanying rhetoric would go something like this:

"In response to international pressure including the threat of immanent military action by te United States, the Syrian government has agreed to take the steps necessary for assuring that it will never in the future have the capacity to use chemical weapons, against its own people or anyone else. The Russians have offered to take an active role in enforcing and implementing the dismantling of Syria's chemical arsenal under UN supervision. Since our objective in the first instance has been to deter and prevent the use of such weapons by sending a strong and unmistakeable message to the regime, we now see that the message has indeed been heard.  We applaud the Russian initiative and will join with them in seeking UN support for supervision of compliance with this action.  We will not, however, accept any delay, and will stand ready to act should this agreement not be quickly finalized and implemented." 

Declare victory -- take credit for creating conditions that led to a diplomatic solution that changes the dynamic on the ground -- and withdraw.  

Of course, as in all such cases, some things would remain unresolved. There would still be a civil war in Syria. There would not necessarily be an admission of responsibility for the August chemical attacks. But the international prohibition on chemical weapons would be strengthened and enforced, and that specific threat reduced.  

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Not Dead Yet

I haven't used this Blogger venue for quite a while.... looks like a year or so.  But not to worry, I'm still dancing...  Having found that one's presence on the Web can bloat like overcooked spaghetti, with Wordpress here , Blogger there, Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and who knows what else (ok, I do... LiveJournal, Tumblr, oh yes GooglePlus....)  well, it gets to be a bit of a chore to maintain. 

I did learn that even cyberspace does not equate to the Akashic Records.   Some things once posted no longer exist.  The Bridges Across the Divide website is down, and with it the various essays and comments I contributed to that once-cutting-edge bit of conversation.  Myspace turned into a special-interest space for entertainers mostly.  StumbleUpon stumbled, changing its format and losing many of its participants, including me.

I've seen other places pop up, mostly geared to random dating things which seem to cater to people more isolated and lonely than myself (MeetMe, Shtyle.com, MyDailyFlog) or very short-term postings (Instagram).  Time sinks, for which I have little time.  For my own (semi-) private conversations, there has been for a long time things like AIM, Yahoo messenger, and more particularly Jabber (and its Google implementation, Gtalk, now morphing into Hangouts.  And for really real-time, the long-fictional world of live video conferencing is now in place, more or less, with Skype and FaceTime. I don't use them much, but I do appreciate the potential there.

So a wise man once talked about purging or pruning what is fruitful, so that it may bear more fruit.  In ordinary human life this translates into cutting back, concentrating on doing fewer things better.  So wander on over to the Search for Integrity or if you are interested in poetry, to Fearless Symmetry, which are the two places most likely to have recent entries from me.  I've been less prolific in general over the last year or two, but that could change.  Anyhow, thanks for stopping by. 

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where is the Search for Integrity?

Most of this author's activity has been consolidated at a single website. Just for the record, here are my active sites, more or less arranged by how much I do with them these days.

I'm trying to keep all my stuff together at the site that has my name on it. This one used to be called Bob Buehler, A Country Preacher, but I have re-named it The Search for Integrity.

That name also belongs to a site that I've had for some years hosted by Wordpress.com. It is now inactive as of the end of 2011, but I'm leaving it up, because search engines know how to find it.

Also on Wordpress.com, is my poetry site, Fearful Symmetry.

I also have started a Tumblr blog mostly for photographs, which I call Peace Through Pictures. This takes the place of the one I had on StumbleUpon, which is now an embarrassment since they totally revamped their format.

I do some strictly Bible stuff on Red Letter Bible Readers.

Um, I have a presence on LiveJournal, where I bought a lifetime account and I do post there occasionally still.

Once upon a time there was MySpace. Still there. Oh, and you can find me on Facebook if you try. I even have a page there as a public figure.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Real Christianity

Posted this on YouTube a little while back. Tea party people might want to give it a listen.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pastor Bob: Life Wins! - December 11, 2009, 08:24 PM

A few thoughts on life and death. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sunset over Potomac


Sunset over Potomac
Originally uploaded by therevr
It's amazing what can be done with just a simple camera, no focus, no flash. I've been photographing things like mushrooms and flowers lately, but last week I was down by the water with some friends, and captured the shot you see here. I think it's the best picture I've ever taken. Thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, anyone?

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Friday, August 14, 2009

False Prophets

I feel the need to quote myself again.  Consider whether this commentary on Jesus' warning against false prophets, penned by me back in 1998, resonates with anything concerning current news accounts surrounding "town hall" meetings this August.
Consider a preacher or politician who sets out to raise the alarm about some threat to the comfort or values of his audience. He tells stories of horror or atrocity designed to arouse fear or revulsion. He identifies as dangerous some individual or group that is clearly foreign to the persons to whom he speaks, whether it is a racial group, or an ideology, or an opposition political party, or a religious movement, or a foreign political or military leader. He calls his hearers neither to repentance nor to reconciliation, but instead seeks to arouse anger and indignation against the identified source of threat. He proposes ways his audience can protect themselves, warn their friends, and counterattack against the threat described. Note that the content of this type of preaching could be almost anything. The individual may be denouncing religion, or atheism, or big government, or liberalism, or conservatism, or Satanism, or pornography, or fundamentalism, or communism, or capitalism, or sexism, or feminism, or homosexuality, or homophobia, or militarism, or pacifism. The fruit he produces, however, is the same in all cases: fear, mistrust, alienation and ultimately hatred.

Or, in this instance, health care reform.

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Who's in charge here?

On whether taxpayers have responsibility for the well-being of their neighbors, by means of government programs:

In the theocratic state envisioned by the Hebrew prophets (or even, in their critique of every nation) the responsibilities of kings was clear: plead the cause of the fatherless and widow, demand justice for the poor. See, for example, Psalm 82:3-4: Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Nations were judged by how well their rulers implemented these simple principles.

In the United States of America, "we the people" (the voters and, yes, the taxpayers) are sovereign. Therefore "we, the people" are under divine judgment if we fail to use our sovereign power to take care of the elderly, the disabled, the orphan and widows of our world. "We, the people" as sovereign refers to our corporate role as king, which is to say, the government. It is laudable for individual persons to do what they can by means of "charity," but "we, the people" are not just an aggregate of individual persons. We, together, are king, and as such are answerable to God for how well we rule.

Been meaning to say this for quite a while, but I think it is well worth bearing in mind this August as "we" (in the royal sense) debate with ourselves about health care.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Commanded to Love!

This is Pastor Bob's first attempt at producing a YouTube video. Basically a rambling rant on one of my favorite subjects, done while preparing for a Sunday sermon. Enjoy.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

dream 12.13.08

A large gathering, a banquet, was assembling at which I was to be, for some reason, a guest of honor. Many of the people present, including the organizer of the event with whom I had previously spoken, were Oriental: Chinese perhaps. I had been told I was to take my seat at the center of one of the head tables. As I entered the hall, I was half carried by the crowd. S (my wife) was there, and she was also carrying me. In this fashion we swept past the most prominent tables and she set me down at the end of a table toward the back of the room. I told her that I had been told to sit at the center of a table nearer the front, and there ensued a brief altercation that went something like: “Well, how am I supposed to know that? you never told me!!” “I did, just now!.... How was I supposed to know that no one told you?” etc. In any case we made our way toward the front of the room again, and at the head table there were set up chairs and a microphone (apparently I was also to speak?) near which some workers were spray-painting a wall, last-minute touches to make the background white for videographers later in the program.

Before we could take our seats, something else happened. The perspective changed, and I could see and hear a series of vehicles arriving very quickly, up the road and through the woods. They were painted white and read, open on the sides like safari vehicles, and each carried a number of soldiers or police. These jumped out and quickly entered the hall from the sides (it was now more of a tent or pole building, open on at least three sides, and was arranged now more like a church with pews than like a banquet hall)), and people began to shrink away from them as they attacked. They attacked not with guns or other weapons but with something that looked like two-pronged wands, whose function seemed to be to inflict severe pain.

I was now outside the hall and a short distance away, watching from the shadows, when one of these official-looking attackers, an Oriental of indeterminate age or sex, overpowered me (I think I was knocked down by several at once, but this one took charge). I found that if I did not resist but went limp, it seemed as if this attacker did not feel the need to activate the pain-inducing device, but if I moved or looked like I would resist, this was threatened. The attacker appeared to be reporting my status, perhaps over a radio, as I lay helpless. I decided this weapon must be some kind of taser, and asked about that. “Am I going to get tased?”

At some point early in this exchange, my attacker and I had introduced ourselves to one another, I as “Robert” and my attacker also as “Robert.” Now, however, he/she responded to one of my questions calling me by the name of a dear friend who recently deceased. “M.” Here is the remainder of that exchange:

Me: M. is not here, she passed away
R: That’s right..... you were there, holding her hand
Me: (amazed that this person would know such a thing)
(more forgotten details in this exchange, revealing that the person I’m speaking to has access to recent events from a spiritual vantage point)
R: The baby is healthy, doing fine.
(more exchange verifying that I really knew M... including images of a newborn, and the sense of M’s re-entry into the world)
R: I know who you are now.
Me: That’s more than I know!

All this time, of course, I am still physically restrained by the threat of this weapon. R. now reports to superiors that I appear to have died. I am able to get up and head away from the commotion surrounding the cabin/hall, toward the woods and the road. As I am leaving, I hear a voice, turn my head and see my former attacker some distance away, saying: “Goodbye, Robert.” I respond with “Goodbye, Robert” and continue on my way.

I head through the woods to the nearby country road. It will be a long walk, but I know the way to where I have a hotel room, money, car, etc. . . but I am walking away in freedom, leaving my old life behind. I pass very close by a fawn that is resting by the side of the road.... this animal does not stir or startle, just observes me as a normal, non-threatening part of her landscape. I think this occurs with one or more other deer as well. Something has changed. I wake up feeling content.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Twisted Scripture

It is one thing to distort the record or facts concerning a candidate for political office; it is much, much worse to distort and even invent portions of the Word of God for such an end. A couple of different people have forwarded the following email to me within the last few weeks:
This will make you re-think: A Trivia question in Sunday School:
How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelations?


Revelations Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months, and you know what that is.
Almost a four-year term of a Presidency.


All I can say is 'Lord, Have mercy on us!'

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is:  The anti-Christ
will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations
with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the
prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope
and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything..


Do we recognize this description??

I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to post this as many times as you can!  Each
opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet..do it!
I refuse to take a chance on this unknown candidate who came out of nowhere.


This email seems designed to prey on the ignorance and fear of those who know a little bit, primarily by hearsay, rather than study, about certain limited interpretations (with elaborations and imaginative exaggerations) of that highly symbolic book of apocalyptic literature which ends with the warning: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

Let me just go through the errors in this line-by-line, because it is chock full of distortions and complete fabrications, misrepresenting the Word of God for the purpose of creating fear, mistrust, and confusion: none of which, last I looked, qualified as fruit of the Spirit.

Now let’s compare the fabrications with the actual text of scripture:

42 months: This number is referenced in Revelation (not “Revelations”) Chapter 13. That’s three years and six months, so it might be technically accurate, if you don’t care about details to say that forty-two is “almost” forty-eight. I’m only a little surprised that the letter-writer would argue that in divinely inspired prophecy, close is good enough.

a man: “I saw a beast rising out of the sea having ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion...One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.” (Revelation 13:1b-2a, 3) Interestingly, there is no reference to this entity being “a man” anywhere throughout this passage.  (And I missed the news accounts of Obama  —or, I guess, one-seventh of him — having recovered from a fatal wound.)

in his 40s: This is completely made up. Some things are taken out of context, but I can’t even find a false context for this one, in Revelation or anywhere else in the Bible.

of MUSLIM descent: Nope. Also completely made up. There are no references to Muslims in the Bible, as the religious movement known as Islam did not arise until six hundred years after this text was written.

who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal
If by “Christ-like” is meant things like “He was given power to make war against the saints” “a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies” I’d like to see where Christ ever did anything like these.

the prophecy says that people will flock to him
No word about people flocking to him, although Rev. 13:8 says “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”

and he will promise false hope and world peace,
Once again, this comes from the letter-writer’s preconceptions and imagination. There is no mention in Revelation 13 about anyone promising anyone world peace, but “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.”

and when he is in power, will destroy everything
Good news — no he won’t! While there are terrible plagues and disasters described in the book of Revelation, they are attributed to God and his angels, as punishments poured out upon "anyone who worships the beast and his image“. This figure “is going to his destruction” according to Revelation 17:11.

Do we recognize this description??
Not if we are actually reading our Bibles.

Now, just suppose that despite my careful readings, I’m the one who is missing something, all these corrections of mine are inaccurate and the allegations of the email are true? What’s the appropriate action according to scripture?

I STRONGLY URGE each one of you ...
“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12; see also 13:9-10).

Yep. Not frantic action, not fearful reaction. Patient endurance.

By the way, here's every verse in the Bible that actually mentions the antichrist (a term that does not appear in the Book of Revelation):
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

2 John 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Real Problem

At the present moment in historical time, the United States government, and both political parties, are seeking, with a kind of quiet desperation, ways to shore up the financial system of Wall Street, and with it the national and even the global economy. The bailouts, recent and contemplated, stagger the imagination in their scope. The problem? Overwhelming debt based on risky corporate decisions, compounded by an alphabet soup of derivatives, swaps, and other schemes that make Enron’s in-house deceptions look like children messing with play money. The government is now taking on responsibility for huge amounts of debt, and everyone is talking about how much of this is going to become a liability for the taxpayer.


It’s time to talk about the one issue that no one is mentioning.


The best leadership (and the worst) is always by example. The United States Government has set a terrible example, and the markets have followed: it has put itself in increasing levels of debt, with no plan in place to repay the creditors. The guiding fiscal philosophy articulated by Vice President Richard B. Cheney that “deficits don’t matter” has been applied by large institutions, and unfortunately by many smaller entities including households, to their own situations. It’s that simple.


Until we do the hard thing that was done in the waning years of the Bush I presidency, and come up with a bipartisan plan to balance the budget (even if it violates someone’s sacred “read my lips” pledge), and go further and return to the action of the Clinton administration (in cooperation with a Republican congress) by coming up with a workable and working plan to begin in the present tense the task of paying down the national debt, all we have done is kicked this ball further down the field, and the next thing you know it will be the U. S. Treasury that people will be talking about with comforting (?) words like “too big to fail.”

When the Bush II tax cuts were put in place, enough members of Congress recognized this fact that there had to be promises for some of those giveaways to the wealthiest among us (call it income redistribution) to expire beginning in 2010, or some of those who voted to thus eliminate the surplus (remember surpluses?) would never have signed on. Thus, any call to “make those tax cuts permanent” represents a deliberate breach of promise, and a betrayal of the trust of the American people, because no one can show how, with such an action, the debt will ever be repaid.


Until the United States gets its fiscal house in order, and enacts policies like we had in the 1990s, when there was prosperity, low interest rates, surplus budgets and no threat to Social Security in the process, global financial markets will be understandably and justifiably nervous. This is the reality that will face the next President of the United States, and the incoming Congress. Somebody is going to have to show some real spine.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Police? What about the soldiers?

I just saw an item on CNN about a 15 year old Iraqi girl wearing an explosive vest who was apprehended by police, and police were now interrogating her and her family. And it made me think that someone in Washington must be livid, reacting something like this:

"Police???? What the *&())(^&*^ are police doing stopping terrorists???? Haven't they got the memo that law enforcement is the wimpy, wrong-headed approach here? This is war!!!! We must immediately go on the airwaves and denounce this misguided slippage into the idea that using law enforcement against terrorists can have any effect whatsoever!!! Here is proof that we can never leave Iraq, they just don't get it over there!!"

Just like Mayor Bloomberg of New York doesn't get it; like the Spanish, the French, the Germans and the British, don't get it, all of whom have prevented terrorist attacks on their own soil using good police work.

My point here is, of course, that the whole approach to terrorism as a "war" is wrong-headed. Osama Bin Laden has been elevated to the status of a head of state, instead of hunted down as the murderous criminal he is. The "war on Terra" has failed in its objective, has promoted more terrorism, especially in Iraq, where there were, for example, no suicide bombers until well after the US invasion there. Treating terrorism as an object of war has promoted more terrorism. Treating it as criminal activity has proved successful. The British government last year quietly abandoned "war on terror" rhetoric as a matter of policy. It's time for the Americans to do the same. Let the police in every country go about their business, and bring our American soldiers home.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

portrait




Rev. Bob Buehler

Posted by ShoZu



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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CATHOLIC WORKER 75th ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT


A press release like this ought to get some attention... but because it doesn't fit the media storyline about religious priorities in the United States, this probably won't get nearly as much airtime as any statements that might be made in religious circles about personal choice.... still I ask: is this any less a "pro-life" issue?

CATHOLIC WORKER 75th ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT


[Full text version]

We are Catholic Workers from communities throughout the U.S. and Europe who have come to Worcester, Massachusetts to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Catholic Worker. At this critical point in history, as we face unending war, including U.S. plans to attack Iran, ecological destruction and economic collapse, we call on our church and nation to join us in repenting our affronts to God.

The U.S. has become the wealthiest nation on earth at the price of the collective loss of our souls through our acceptance of the sins of war, torture, racism, discrimination, killing, nuclearism and environmental destruction - - all in the name of profit. We live a lifestyle that demands war and distracts from our true calling of loving and caring for one another.

We urge our church to heed the nonviolent example of Dorothy Day and the critique of modern war by Vatican II. Taking God’s command "Thou shalt not kill" and the Sermon on the Mount as our Christian manifesto, we commit ourselves to upholding the sacredness of all life wherever it is threatened. We recommit ourselves to the Catholic Worker vision of creating a new society in the shell of the old.

Saint Paul tells us that when one member of our community is suffering, the health of the whole body is affected. In our various communities we have daily contact with the victims of our society, including homeless veterans and our undocumented sisters and brothers. Many of us have been arrested and jailed for nonviolent acts of resistance to state-sanctioned injustice and killing. We strive to do the works of mercy and to follow Jesus' command to be nonviolent witnesses for peace and justice.

We once again implore the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States, now and without evasion, to break its silence and to wield the authority provided by the nonviolent gospel of Jesus Christ, by calling the entire nation to repent for the war crimes we have committed in the so-called War on
Terror.

We yearn to be part of a church that prays and works for peace, loves our neighbors and enemies alike, and embraces the redemptive power of forgiveness. We cry out for a church that speaks without fear of consequences, including loss of revenue. We implore our church leadership to follow the example of Jesus and unequivocally renounce the sins of our empire's warmaking, the possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, oppression, scapegoating and aspirations of global domination.

When our body issued its last national plea in 2006, the response was profoundly disappointing and no less than tragic. Rather than a clear pronouncement condemning the illegal and immoral nature of our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the evil wrought by torture and other crimes against humanity, the U.S. Catholic Bishops merely stated that "our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition."

The insufficiency of this response has been demonstrated, not only by the continuation of these wars in the face of a clear public desire to end the war in Iraq, but also by the reality of US covert actions aimed at destabilizing Iran and the apparently imminent military attack on that nation.

Out of our shared and abiding love, we remind the Bishops that we continue to wait for their clear call to our nation to end these threats and provocations that carry no other outcome than an ever-widening sea of agony and death. In this prayer we invoke the spirit and witness of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter who exemplified Christ's instruction to peacemakers that, as children of God, we may be required to give up our lives rather than participate in evil.


In the name of God, who calls us to love and not to kill, we appeal to the church and all people of good will to:


• Call for prayer, fasting, vigils and nonviolent civil resistance to immediately end the U.S. military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


• Advise all soldiers to refuse to participate in these wars.


• Denounce and actively resist U.S. plans to attack Iran.


• Embrace the nonviolent witness of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter and actively support and encourage all conscientious objectors.


• Urge Congress and the military to offer appropriate care and support to returning soldiers.


• Call for an immediate end to the use of torture.


• Call for the closing of Guantanamo and other secret U.S. military prisons.


• Call for the redirection of our resources from war making and exploitation to meeting human needs and preserving life on Earth.


• Call for an equitable redistribution of resources and simplification of our materialistic lifestyle.


• Call for disarmament and the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction.


We call on our church to be a prophetic voice, a sanctuary, and a source of encouragement to those who want to work in community toward peace, justice and reconciliation.


Affirmed in assembly Catholic Worker 75th Anniversary Gathering

Our Lady of Mount Carmel / Saint Anne Parish Center,

Worcester, Massachusetts USA


On the Feast of St. Benedict


July 11,
2008

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

quick testy thing

These are not the droids you're looking for.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tragedy in Pakistan

A complex, sordid story

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

A meltdown in personal integrity

This note on integrity deserves a wide readership. It's written by the first person to go to jail for crimes committed on behalf of the White House in the Nixon Administration.  An excerpt:

In November 1973, I pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy in depriving Dr. Fielding of his civil rights, specifically his constitutional right to be free from an unwarranted search. I no longer believed that national security could justify my conduct. At my sentencing, I explained that national security is “subject to a wide range of definitions, a factor that makes all the more essential a painstaking approach to the definition of national security in any given instance.”

Judge Gerhard Gesell gave me the first prison sentence of any member of the president’s staff: two to six years, of which I served four and a half months.

I finally realized that what had gone wrong in the Nixon White House was a meltdown in personal integrity. Without it, we failed to understand the constitutional limits on presidential power and comply with statutory law.
That was over three decades ago.  Is anybody paying attention?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Moving Day

First posted back in August of '06; date changed as a reminder to my even vaster current readership.

I'd like to let my vast readership know that I've migrated this site because I like Wordpress better. Will likely keep this one also, cross-posting etc as I see fit, but there will be more stuff there, I think, over the long haul.

Edit 5/24/07: There have been a few crossposts, and there might be more when and as I get around to it; but really, friends, The Search For Integrity is where the action is.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

What bothers me about Iran


Now that the drums are beating which will eventually make war with Iran look like it was unavoidable, two significant items stick in my brain. First, of course is the nebulous “evidence” which no one has seen about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I took note last May that one side-effect of the leak of a CIA operative’s name may well have been to degrade the capability we have of knowing whether or not Iran’s nuclear ambitions are for the purposes of develping weapons, or not. Meanwhile there is a new dribble, dribble, dribble of commentary masquerading as news to the effect that Iran is involved somehow in the guerrilla ground war in Iraq; not implausable, but again, no actual evidence has been produced, and what few, mostly old, bits of information that might be construed as evidence in that direction are being fed through the megaphone and into the echo chamber. Have we seen such a pattern before?


It’s unthinkable that in the Office of the Vice-President of the United States, there could have been someone who would think it a Good Thing to make us less capable of knowing what Iran is up to — less capable of knowing whether or not Iran’s claims that its nuclear ambitions are for energy, not weapons, comports with the facts. Isn’t it?


The second thing that bothers me is a short passage from Page 224 of Bob Woodward’s book, State of Denial,
which contains the following short narrative. The scene is the White
House, after Jay Garner, the first person appointed to run
post-invation Iraq, has returned from Iraq, having been replaced by
Jerry Bremer.


As Garner got up to leave, Rice stopped him and extended her hand. “Jay, you’ve got to stay in touch with us,” she said….
….. On the way out, Bush slapped Garner on the back. “Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?”


Seemingly, The Decider already had plans on his mind, way back then, for how to administer Iran post-invasion. The same Iran concerning which the official line has been that we want to solve its issues “diplomatically” while at the same time refusing to have an actual conversation with its leaders.


Whaddya bet The Decider “runs out of patience” at some politically convenient time?


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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sweet little Jesus boy .... We didn't know 'twas you.

Just seems like we can't do right;

Look how we treated you.

But please, Sir, forgive us, Lord;

We didn't know 'twas you.



Last Sunday night these were some of the words sung at our church's Christmas cantata, part of the lyrics of the lovely song, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy." Here it seems to me we have the great problem with humanity, with each one of us and all of us together. If only we'd known it was you, O Lord, lying helpless in the manger; if only we'd known, we'd have done right by you. We'd have welcomed you into a warm place, given you honor; as it was, it was left to the stinky shepherds and the illegal aliens who came from their far countries to offer you gifts.



If only we'd known it was you that was hungry, calling to see if someone could provide a little food; if only we'd known it was your rent that was due, or your electricity that was about to be cut off, Lord, we'd have been glad to pay that bill. If only we'd known, Lord, that you lay sick in the hospital, or languished for months in the nursing home, we'd have come to see you. If we'd known you were cold at night, far from home, we'd have welcomed you in. If we had known that it was your house our soldiers broke into, looking for terrorists, we'd have treated that family with a little bit of dignity. If we had known that you were the person with the funny name and the funny look, that we stopped at the airport and rendered under cover of night to a secret prison, we'd have believed you when you said you were innocent.



But Lord, we didn't know. How could we know?



When you were hungry, and we gave you nothing, and thirsty, and we gave you nothing, and you were homeless and we did not welcome you, without adequate clothing and we figured it was your own choice, sick and in prison and we did not come to you? How could we have known?



How could we have known that the least of these, the people we call ugly names, the ones we learn to hate and fear, are your sisters and your brothers? What can we possibly do to keep from making that mistake again?



How could we have known that the death that you died, was to reconcile us with these brothers and sisters of ours, a real and costly reconciliation without which our reconciliation through your blood to God is a fanciful illusion? How could we have imagined that you rose in power for their sakes, and not just our own?



How could we have known that the living God is the Savior of all people, especially those who believe? Could not one of your apostles have written that down?



How could we possibly have known that until we see you in every human being, we have not seen you at all?



Sweet little Jesus boy. We didn't know who you was.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

brief test post, and an irony

This is a test post in which I'm trying out an add-on in Firefox that should let me post to multiple blogs simultaneously. Watch this space (or on of my other spaces). While I'm here, let me briefly mention a highly ironic entry at forbiddenlibrary.com:

A Wrinkle In Time. Madeleine L'Engle. Dell. Challenged
at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a
parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft,
crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston
Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the
book's listing the name of Jesus Christ together with
the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists,
and religious leaders when referring to those who defend
earth against evil. Got it. Let's cross Jesus off that
list, shall we?






powered by performancing firefox

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Act Two, Scene Two

Or maybe it's just a staging of the same one-act play.

Scene one: Unsubstantiated rhetoric about a major Middle Eastern country secretly harboring weapons of mass destruction.

Scene two: The CIA presents findings to the White House that undermines this idea. The findings are rejected, and the rhetoric continues unabated.

Scene Three: Major media campaign in favor of doing something before it's too late.

Scene Four: Military action initiated. When it eventually turns out that there was no good reason for it, everyone blames the CIA for bad intelligence.

Next: Curtains (for hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of human beings).

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Pelosi's Ploy

The talking heads today are all talking about what a big mistake Nancy Pelosi has made in backing Jack Murtha in his failed bid for majority leader, how she has divided her party and weakened her position as the incoming Speaker of the House.

What they are missing is the disarming effect this is going to have on a standard Republican weapon in any upcoming smear campaign. By going to the mat for a positon she has declared, even though the politics were against her, she has shown that she is willing to stand on principle (however misguided that may be perceived to be) without regard to political calculation. She is establishing a character trait for herself as the new Iron Lady, someone with enough backbone to stand toe-to-toe with George W. Bush. She’s no flip-flopper.

Since in the Republican lexicon, Democrat equals Liberal equals Wishy-washy with no spine, this early political move adroitly takes a lot of those talking points off the table. And it was done with little to no real political risk for the party, as the moderate candidate, Steny Hoyer (my Congressman, by the way), had almost no chance of losing and is experienced in working alongside Pelosi. Looking at his demeanor before and after the vote, one wonders if he was maybe in on this thing himself.

It will be interesting to see whether her decision to display a match for what some on the Left consider to be one of Bush’s worst character traits — his refusal to change position or admit he is wrong — ends up working in the Dem’s favor. But it’s a fascinating political move, the import of which has been missed by most observers.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A turning tide?

I retract my paranoid speculations, admit I was wrong, and rejoice at the resilience of the electoral system, for all its flaws, in America. Turns out that RoveCo has collided with the law of diminishing returns, and the sleeves turned out to be as short as the coattails. Our President’s absolute refusal to contemplate the possibility of a political defeat in the mid-term elections appears to have been cut from the same psychological cloth as his refusal to expect anything but military victory in Iraq. Chances are he has as much as of a plan for dealing with a Democratic house as he did for dealing with an occupied country: none. But I’m in a hopeful mood this morning, and I now fervently hope that in both categories the realities on the ground will educate him in the direction of doing something practical, more realistic, less grandiose, in response to (as Don Rumsfeld* might say) the situation he has, not the situation he doesn’t have.

*(whose resignation was in the works, even as I wrote those words)

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Economics of Immigration

Cross-posted.



Got to get down some thoughts on the question of immigration. It’s a hot-button political issue right now in the United States. I’ll leave aside for the moment the compilation of biblical texts showing how, in the theocratic state envisioned in the Torah, foreigners were to be treated (hints: not to be oppressed, to be loved as oneself, not to be barred from gleaning the leftovers of the wheat and grape harvest, to be included with those celebrating national feasts), and talk in real-world contemporary political and economic terms about the elephant in the room in the whole conversation about illegal immigration in the United States.

Why do people risk their lives to cross the border from Mexico into the United States? The commonly reported answer: to work at low-paying jobs that American citizens don’t want, usually as fieldworkers in agriculture. This much is pretty well agreed upon. Solutions proposed to this problem range from building a hundreds-of-miles-long fence at the border and hiring lots of agents to keep the border “secure” so as to reduce this flow of workers, all the way to providing a means for these “undocumented” workers to gain some sort of legal “green card” status, allowing them to be in the country for the purpose of working at those jobs, and eventually, perhaps, if they go through all the right procedures, begin the long and arduous task of applying for citizenship; all of which, in current political discourse, falls under the pejorative word “amnesty.” There’s all kinds of political conversation going on right now about these matters, and whether an “enforcement-only” approach or a “comprehensive” approach is better for the country. But nobody is talking about what really needs to happen to stem the flow of people across the border.

What is needed is for jobs paying a decent wage to become available in Mexico (and other countries). And what is needed for that to happen, is for the United States government to adopt a policy which will (a) put pressure on governments that do not have a decent minimum wage and, even more importantly, (b) provide economic sanctions in the form of tarriffs, taxes, or other penalties against companies which do business both inside and outside the United States but pay their non-US workers such a significantly low rate that those workers would risk their lives to get over here so they could earn bottom-of-the-economy US wages to support their families.

Full employment at a decent wage within the country of origin would shut down the economic motivation for illegal immigration to the United States. It’s a free-market solution to a social problem. It would keep US jobs for US citizens. The only losers would be, in the short run, coporations which take their profits from the sweat of below-subsistence-wage workers (whether here or elsewhere) and, again in the short run, consumers who might get a real-world free-market shock over the price of beans, bananas, coffee, sugar and other agricultural commodities (and manufactured goods in the case of companies which have shipped their jobs overseas in order to escape the cost of labor in the United States). However, our recent experience with the price of oil and gasoline has shown that at the consumer level we seem quite surprisingly capable of absorbing rather steep price increases in response to market forces.

In the long run, the winners would be:

* workers in Mexico and elsewhere who would get to stay home and support their families without risking their lives at an increasingly militarized border;
* workers in American agriculture, some of them, to be sure, recent immigrants, who could command somewhat higher pay because the endless supply of cheap throwaway labor would have begun to dry up;
* that seemingly large segment of Americans who are alarmed at the influx of illegal immigrants, which would slow dramatically;
* the United States government, which would be able to implement a border policy that requires fewer resources than would otherwise be necessary
* Economies south of the border who would begin to see the emergence of a middle class
* Workers in US industry, who would see fewer of their jobs transferred elsewhere as the differential in labor cost from country to country is reduced.

Now, there is an immigration policy. Anybody want to talk about it?

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Political Paranoia

Crossposted: Philosophickal Ruminations:

"It's quiet. Too quiet.

Fifteen days before the general election, the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats will regain the House of Representatives, and maybe the Senate. Oddly, Messrs. Bush and Rove appear unconcerned; which could be spin, or there could be something up their sleeve. I'm betting on the sleeve.

So I will make a prediction here, in the fond hope that I am wrong.

One possibility is that Rove & Co. still have a genuine October Surprise up their sleeve, something that will frighten and distract the electorate some time within the next seven days, late enough so that reasoned analysis will not be able to gain a foothold in time for the election. A preemptive strike on Iran was my early thought, and I still don't rule it out. The North Korea crisis seems to have been prematurely defused by the evil machinations of Kim Jong Il, who had the audacity to depart from the script and apologize for making trouble lately. Why can't the bad guy ever be as unreasonable as we make him out to be?

But geopolitical events are too unreliable, so here's what my gut tells me: on Election Night, the election will be stolen, right from under our noses. Ohio 2004, which stole the general election for the president largely using electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Inc., was a dry run for the real thing: the simultaneous theft of multiple congressional elections by undetectable electronic vote-tally flipping. Polling will show Democrats winning big until late in the evening, but official results will curiously show the polls to be, suddenly and inexplicaby, unreliable — just as happened with exit polls in Ohio in 2004. It's a bold move that can work in America precisely because none of us really can make ourselves believe that such a thing could happen in America. We'd rather mistrust the voters, the pollsters, our own eyes, than the integrity of the electoral process. The rotten corpse of democracy will lie in the street, and we'll pretend not to notice the smell.

That's my prediction. I do hope to God I'm wrong. For the record, in case I'm not wrong, you heard it here."

Edit: 11/7/06 11:40 PM EDT: Looks like there is a God, I am, thankfully, wrong, and there is a possibility that democracy is not dead in America. However, Ken Mehlman is still spouting puff and bluster about Virginia and Maryland. Since Maryland has gone all electronic, it's a great candidate for pulling one more test run in the Senate race; we'll see if that's where the final "official" results contradict the exit polls. Nevertheless, it does look like the People's House cannot yet be taken out from under us wholesale.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pacifism in 2006 « The Search For Integrity

Pacifism in 2006 « The Search For Integrity

Crossposted.

Many thoughts have been rumbling in my brain.....

Let's talk about civil disobedience and terrorism. I met someone this summer, a grown man, who had never even considered the idea that being willing to die and being willing to kill are not necessarily the same thing. He wouldn't know the difference between a pacifist and a terrorist.

The provocative claim I want to make is that at some deep level, the suicide bomber and the practitioner of civil disobedience — I'm thinking here of our old friends Mahatma "Great Soul" Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and those who are influenced by them — have, I would suggest, several commonalities and one major difference.

Commonalities:

* Both act from a deep religious conviction, or from an ideological commitment that arises from an overarching religious view of the world.
* Both are convinced that they are doing something for a cause much greater than themselves.
* Both are willing to go outside the law to achieve their goals.
* Both are radically committed to taking responsibility for their own actions.
* Both have made up their mind that their actions are taken on behalf of the oppressed.
* Both are familiar with the religious concept of martyrdom. Both are willing to die.
* Both believe history is on their side.

Now for the difference.

* The practitioner of civil disobedience has made a decision to renounce violent action as a means to a good end.

In that one thing, the terrorist has more in common with the authorities than he does with the practitioner of civil disobedience. The terrorist and the government authorities he opposes are agreed that violence is a legitimate way to solve problems.

Because they challenge that very idea, the practitioners of civil disobedience are a greater potential threat to oppressive governments than a bomber could ever be. It's just that to really practice civil disobedience, a huge level of clear-headed commitment, courage, and integrity is required. Such people are, seemingly, all too rare.

Martin Luther King, Jr. applied what he learned from the New Testament to the social conflicts of mid-twentieth century America, and instructed enough people in nonviolent methods of confrontation that a great social revolution brought about change, without recourse to the kind of violence that some, who also wanted change, were convinced was going to be necessary to make it happen. Indeed, King explicitly repudiated violent methods and trained people in the methodologies of nonviolent civil disobedience. Building on a similar vision, the bloodbath everyone expected to see with the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa didn't happen, because leaders arose who learned and applied the same lessons. Reconciliation, a word rooted in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ himself, entered the global political vocabulary at that time.

What I'm saying is this: Nonviolent confrontation works to bring about large-scale transformation in modern societies. It worked in Poland with the Solidarity movement. It worked when Gandhi led an independence movement in India. It worked to bring about enormous social change in the United States and in Africa.

Of course, when the authorities meet up with a leader who engages in nonviolent confrontation and teaches others to do the same, that leader often finds that several things occur. Think about this with regard to, say, Gandhi, King, and Nelson Mandela.

* First the leader is opposed, denounced, spied on, inveighed against, sometimes imprisoned, and the people he trains in nonviolent methods are often confronted violently. There are casualties. People die. Often as not, at some point the dead include the outspoken leader.
* Second, the movement is found to succeed, and eventually gains some advocates among those who wield power. Transformational change occurs. The advocate of nonviolent confrontation is now treated with respect, though perhaps posthumously.
* Third, some among those who have followed this leader begin to move among the powerful. This is a dangerous time, because they are now tempted to forget some of what they have learned and begin to use the methods (including legitimated violence) that tend to be available to those in power.
* Fourthly, the population at large is encouraged to do two things at once: continue to neglect the actual teachings of the leader, while also admiring said leader's character.
* Finally, an officially sanctioned personality cult emerges as a substitute for the study and practice of the leader's ideas and methods. His ways are forgotten, and instead, let's say, his birthday is made an official holiday.

Time passes. Oppression and violence again begin to portray themselves as the only real and practical way to solve problems in the world. The leadership vacuum begins to be filled by those who combine violent ways with unwavering faith. Things get worse, unless and until someone remembers, and a new leader takes courage and begins to practice the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

And that new leader, like his predecessors, will be denounced by those who would prefer, instead of studying and following those teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, to promote instead a cult of personality, satisfied that he too is sufficiently honored by making his birthday an official holiday.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tinsel Wing: Meta-abuse of government secrecy

If integrity is characterized by openness, what do we call Meta-abuse of government secrecy?

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Words are important

My thoughts today on who's saying what about the disruption of a terrorist plot in London can be found over here. But to save you time:


Mayor Bloomberg of
New York today referred to the foiled plot to blow up multiple
airplanes as a “criminal conspiracy” and emphasized the the central
role of the NYPD (”the best police force in the world”) in keeping New
Yorkers safe from future attacks. The intelligence and the disruption
operation, resulting in the arrest of 21 at least 24 suspects, was carried out by Scotland Yard.


To the extent that terrorist acts are being prevented or pre-empted,
worldwide, it is thanks to the work of law enforcement, and the
cooperation of law enforcement agencies internationally. Plots have
been disrupted in a number of European countries, who are not at war
with anyone, as well as in Canada, in addition to (one presumes) the
US. But hizzoner was off-message; the rhetoric you will soon hear from
the US talking heads, starting with heads of government agencies and
the head of government himself, will quickly turn the conversation away
from the effectiveness of law enforcement and back to the concept of
“war.” [Edit: As predicted, George W. Bush lost no time in getting
in front of TV cameras to say that this event is a reminder that we are
at "war" with "Islamic fascists."]
But it was not an act of war
that disrupted these terrorists. No armies, navies, marines, bombs,
explosives, commandos even, were involved. It was good police work.


Wars happen between nations and involve armies and air forces and
things getting blown up, and, inevitably, the deaths of many people.
Wars also have beginnings and endings that are more or less
identifiable. Police work, however, is never finished, even on days
when no one commits a crime.


But the war rhetoricians will tell you that to think of terrorism as
criminality and the efforts against them as police work is to be soft
on terror and an act of surrender. They are wrong. When even a good
nation begins to act lawlessly, then terror has already won.



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Saturday, August 05, 2006

On the nature of Christianity

Reposted with revisions, from early 2004:

On another journal, a friend has posted the following assertion:

Christianity is a death cult. Do good. Spread the word. Die.

He prefaces this with an insistence, which should be obvious to anyone who gives the matter more than fifteen second thought, that the call to take up the cross is an invitation to death, and not just any death, but death of a most painful, humiliating and violent kind —the kind of death suffered at the hands of the state by those who are legally deemed to deserve not only the end of their life, but to be held up as an example of the pain and punishment that goes with criminality.

It is not a new observation, of course. Just a few decades ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer zeroed in on this same point with the opening words of his book The Cost of Discipleship: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
And in every generation (so I assert), there has been a conflict between people who actually GOT the message and wanted to do what Jesus had preached, and those who wanted to stabilize it into a real religion, usually one that provided them with a meal ticket in the process.
—to quote my friend again.

So let me suggest that there is a moral equivalence between (a) the proffered promise of eternal life, which translates (in popular imagination, by a process encouraged endlessly by that party which also embraced Constantine and the ascendancy of the kingdoms of this world) into dreams of a future heavenly existence, but which more properly refers to something that begins with a transformation of this present existence, and (b) the call to embrace death— one's own death, that is to say, whether understood merely as the inevitability of mortality or as the necessary beginning-point of the all-embracing transformation. Christianity sees death as the gateway to life — to this life, not just (or, perhaps, at all?) a life in an otherworldly future. Those who have died have been set free. Those who know how to die well have a message that can set others free. Those who, having died, have lost the fear of death, are free to do the good that such fear would otherwise restrain them from. Thus in those intervening decades between the writing of the New Testament and the establishment of Christianity as an acceptable religion under Constantine, Christians were known, among other things, for their willingness to care for the sick in the midst of plague, giving no regard to their own risk. Like the martyrs, their contemporaries, who faced flame and wild beasts, they took joy in such tasks, by which they bore witness to the Message they had received. Abundant life and the bold embrace of death were one and the same.

Thus letter-writers Paul, Peter and John could talk about death as already having happened, and the new life as that which was the possession only of those who had truly died. To Paul, this meant living in the power of the resurrection. To John, it meant living in love, and thus without fear. To Peter, it meant. being partakers of the divine nature and living the rest of this earthly life by the will of God.

The conflict is always between those who see such things as somehow indicative of otherworldly hopes, and those who see them as descriptions of what it means to fully embrace the instructions of that incredibly charismatic rabbi, Jesus, on how to live in this world, that is, how to embrace death — not only its inevitability, but its painful reality — while living.

It is better to die in screaming agony than never really to live. Live wholly. Do what you can. Die well.

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Small signs of hope

Lebanese and Israeli Bloggers Empathize Online reveals a slightly hopeful trend that is going on under the radar. On both sides of an active conflict, there are people who respond to one another as human beings. I'm not sure that governments, or even leaders of political movements, will ever get the "love your enemy" thing, but people on the ground may provide another narrative than that given by either side.

Pullquote:

More generally speaking, what comes out of these conversations—through blogs or interspersed commentaries between Israelis and Lebanese—is a feeling of powerlessness and sadness regarding this conflict over the civilian losses it has caused, and over the policymakers of their respective countries and their international allies who have subjected them to this fait accompli. Hope is also present in these conversations, for while many Lebanese bloggers today feel hate toward Israel and will now refuse any contact with Israelis, most of those who communicate online do not consider themselves as “enemies” but as “neighbours”.


Perhaps the will toward reconciliation will outlast the will toward annihilation, as life trumps death. All that the purveyors of death can do is kill, themselves or others, or (more often) both. But creative striving toward peace does not have death as its endpoint, but new life, a hope and a future.

Unfortunately, each side in a conflict can also envision peace — what is now being called, by some, a "sustainable" cease-fire; sustainable if and only if by the time it is proclaimed one side has clearly won, and the other clearly lost. Every empire and every dictatorship imposes such a peace upon the territory it has subdued: a peace built on terror, not on opposition to terror. But this kind of false peace is actually what is not sustainable. It is of this kind of peace that the seeds of new conflict are sown, as could be shown by many historical examples.

For my own part, I would say that any nation which for any reason belittles, discounts, repudiates, eschews or diminishes talk of forgiveness or reconciliation and all that goes with it, has forfeited, indeed explicitly repudiated, any meaningful association with the values that would truly be necessary for it to be called — as some would like to do — a "Christian" nation. In the New Testament, reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration are the means by which God is made known in the world, by which it proclaims that the Kingdom of God has already arrived: that peaceable kingdom in which every man is free to invite his neighbor to sit with him under his own vine and under his own fig tree. If Israelis and Lebanese are still seeking, while missiles and bombs are falling, to call each other neighbor, not enemy, we can yet pray with hope: "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on Earth..."

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quote for the day

Lest we forget....

MODERATOR: New question. How would you go about as president deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force, generally?

BUSH: Well, if it's in our vital national interest, and that means whether our territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force. Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear. Whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy. I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. . .


And one more:
[BUSH:] If we don't have a clear vision of the military, if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road, and I'm going to prevent that.

—The First Presidential Debate, October 3, 2000.

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Birth Pangs

For those who are paying attention, this week's comment by Condoleeza Rice, on the occasion of her holding out from what would have been a consensus about a call for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, containing the cryptic phrase "birth pangs of a new Middle East," sends a coded signal to a huge number of American evangelicals that the United States is seeking to become a midwife to the onset of the Great Tribulation.

Disclaimer: "Rapture" is an evangelical technical term, and the entire dispensatonal-millenial belief system that promotes it is a latecomer to Christian theology. Suffice to say here that while I have an insider's understanding of what all that is about, neither I nor the faith tradition that has nurtured me find reason to make use of it. I'll leave for another day all the ins and outs of interpretation involved. However: even though this is rather an intramural discussion among Christians, it has huge implications for how people think about the course of world events.

Some of us would actually like to follow Jesus, and some want a ringside seat at fulfillment of prophecy. Many, no doubt, think the two are the same thing. And since biblical prophecies are replete with predictions of calamity, we have the bizarre sight of followers of the Prince of Peace acting as cheerleaders for more calamity. I wonder if this is what the Master wishes, when he comes, to find his servants so doing.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

The Stealth Veto

The New York Times reported this morning that the American Bar Association is issuing a report strongly denouncing the current president's practice of issuing "signing statements" after putting his signature on bills passed by Congress.

In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.

The issue now being revealed has to do with the linkage between the proliferation of these signing statements (more than 800 so far) and the paucity of vetoes (one) in the Bush presidency. It's very simple: If the president doesn't veto a bill, Congress has no way, short of impeachment on grounds of violation of the "faithfully execute" clause, to directly address his refusal to comply with portions of it.

And since Congress wouldn't give him the line-item veto, he just went ahead and took it, on the sly. With no opportunity for Cogress to override. Sweet. When the King finally dissolves Parliament, will anyone even notice?

For further reading: Fellow blogger Tinsel Wing has provided a "top ten" list, first published early this month by the Boston Globe.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Till Death Do Us Part?

Cross-posted.

I’ve seen a lot of people get divorced, some after decades of marriage. I’ve been one of those old-fashioned folks who really would like for the marriage vows “until death do us part” to mean something. Lately I’ve decided that really, they do.

One of the last few conversations I had with the mother of a large family before she died had to do with this topic. She had seen numerous family members go through this painful process of separation from their spouses. She said this to me:

“You know, sometimes I think in the church [meaning, our little congregation] we’ve made a mistake, because we’ve been so anxious not to judge people or condemn them who have been divorced, that we’ve not really talked about what a terrible thing it is.”

I agreed that divorce is a tragedy in every case, even when it seems like it was the right thing to do, even if there’s no blame to be placed on the divorced person, even if later on the parties experience growth and change for the better in their (now separate) lives. We should never pretend that something heartwrenchingly painful and soul-destroying has not occurred.

So I got to thinking again about the wedding vows, and whether or not they mean something that is somehow true even in those cases that end in this tragedy of divorce. And I realized, that divorce itself involves a kind of a death, and that makes the marriage vow true “until death do us part” even in those cases. No one gets a divorce without something dying, or having died. You hear it in the language: “I felt like I had died inside.” “It seemed that there was no life in our relationship anymore.” “I knew it was over.” People in this process go through deep mourning, just as real and severe as when one mourns a loved one’s passing. All the stages of grief apply: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and at the very last, acceptance. The tragedy is real, incontrovertible. The difference is that what has died is not a person, but a relationship: something as real, in the realm of the spirit, as anything can be.

For the believer in the living God, however, it is necessary to go through that mourning, and receive the promise: blessed are they that mourn. It is possible to acknowledge the depth of the tragedy, without imposing a rigid requirement that the person live the rest of their lives in its shadow. We bury our dead; we say goodbye, and turn to the next task of life. We don’t pretend there has been no loss, but neither do we devote our existence to building monuments to that loss. We look for new life, new joy, beyond this death a resurrection. We comfort one another, and are comforted. We remember the good. We create new relationships. We live again.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Calculus of Death

News reports at the hour of this writing indicate that the attacks by Hezbollah rockets on Haifa and the towns of northern Israel have resulted in 24 Israeli deaths, while the retaliatory barrage of Israeli airpower on targets in Lebanon have killed at least 170 human beings. What I see no one asking is this:

In the deadly calculus of war, are we prepared to accept that a lethality ratio of a little better than 7 to 1 deaths, in the name of a right to self-defense, is acceptably proportional, so long as the seven are somehow associated with the bad guys?

By that calculus, America should be perfectly happy to kill about 21,000 Saudis and Yemenis and whatnot in retaliation for 9/11. Except, oh, wait: we substituted Iraqis, didn't we, and raised the ratio by another order of magnitude.

Remember, it's the bad guys who have no respect for human life. That's why we have to kill so many more of them, than they ever do of us.

Or maybe I just never was that good at math.

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Lies, damn lies and FUD

This is SOOOOOOOOO evil!

An outfit calling itself "Hands Off the Internet" has just fielded a television spot opposing Net Neutrality. In 30 seconds it makes a series of utterly false claims and even more twisted buzzwords, designed to have the following effect:

1. Convince the viewers that some nutcases out here are trying to get congress to ENACT something called "Net Neutrality" thus preventing "progress" and "competition" on the internet.

2. Pretend that when a major newswpaper such as the Washington Post editiorializes that Congress should "stay out of cyberspace," this supports the goals of the backers of the ad, when in fact it does just the opposite by supporting the status quo, which has been assigned this label of "Net Neutrality."

Thereby,

3. Stirring the emotions of an unthinking public to bring an outcry that in fact is contrary to the interests of that public's actual opinion, which is generally that, yes indeed, rules governing how internet access is distributed SHOULD NOT CHANGE.

I am about willing to pay a hundred bucks cold cash* to anyone who can demonstrate that this "Hands Off the Internet" organization is not a wholly-owned or fully-funded creature of the telecommunications giants, whose goal is to get congress to ACT by enacting NEW arrangements that would allow those companies to impose control of bandwidth based on content, and control of content based on the payment of big money. This corporate control of the flow of information is what is referred to in Orwellian style, in the ad, as "competition." Make no mistake: The opponents of so-called net neutrality want to make it less likely that the average surfer will ever see what YOU post to the internet.

Expose them. Please.

(a public service rant.)

* [edit: I get to keep my cash. See the page listing supporters of handsoff.org, including AT&T, Cingular, Bell South, etc... According to Sourcewatch.org,

The bulk of HOTI's financial support comes from the newly re-formed AT&T, which has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into HOTI ad campaigns, including extensive advertising buys across the blogosphere and in mainstream and beltway press. Nowhere throughout these ads is it disclosed that the effort is funded by the nation's largest telecommunications companies and lobbyists. Instead, HOTI ads are fashioned to look and feel like genuine grassroots efforts, backed by broad popular suport.
]

[EDIT as of August 1, 2006]: There is a slashdot discussion today rehashing the arguments, and buried deep within is a link to an excellent summary of the issues involved.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

A quote for today

[War] is instinctive.  But the instinct can be fought.  We're human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands!  But we can stop it.  We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today.  That's all it takes!  Knowing that we're not going to kill today!
                -- Kirk, "A Taste of Armageddon", stardate 3193.0

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nine Dollar Gasoline

Had a dream last night.  It seems the federal government had finally decided to get serious about the dependence on fossil fuels, and announced a program for alternative energy transportation to be put on the fast track.  I don't remember the details of that program, but in conjunction with that came another announcement:

Effective immediately, the retail price of gasoline, nationwide, would be set and frozen at nine dollars ($9.00) a gallon.  

Presumably this would serve as consumer protection on the high side (to keep the price from going to, say, twelve).  But in the immediate effect, there would be two consequences:  

1.  Short-term decrease in demand, some of it permanent as people adjust to different ways and schedules of getting from place to place.

2.  An immediate revenue stream to fund the change to alternative energy sources, presuming that the difference between this madated price and what the market would bear is forfeit to the government for that purpose.

Good thing I woke up when I did, eh?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Infallible presidency?

We know that the claims for papal infallibility extend to formal occasions only, when the senior pastor of the world's Roman Catholics speaks "ex cathedra." Apparently our Chief executive is on more sure footing than that, at least according to this lawyer whose salary is paid by your taxes:

The President Is Always Right

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

A real slogan to fight for?

What if people started upholding the values espoused by Jesus and his apostles? Check this link to the One Commanment campaign.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

economic musings (a fragment)

Been thinking about economics.

The current prevailing economic/political paradigm is one of growth/surplus. The equations go something like this. Economically, sustained growth is the Holy Grail. A healthy economy is a growing economy. You know you’re doing well if you have a higher level of economic activity, productivity, profit, and so on, this year or this month than in the previous period. This idea drives all the talk that we hear about the markets, stock prices, employment, goods and services, international trade, the whole ball of wax.

Now, if you overlay this underlying presumption about the virtue of growth, which is really a corollary of the notion that profit is good, therefore a lot of profit must be very good, with another basic economic assumption that has driven Western thinking since at least the days of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus, namely that the economy as a whole is also a zero-sum game, then something else comes into play. The pursuit of a surplus economy against a backdrop of limited resources leads to the virtue of deficits. Simple accounting: where there is a profit, somewhere there must be a loss. So the vision of sustained surpluses cannot be extrapolated to a global economy, because somewhere there has to be a loser: other nations, the working class, future taxpayers. You can only keep this thing going as long as all the balls stay in the air. It all crashes down the day the last payment comes due. So the name of the game becomes to put off that day of reckoning, or see that it falls on someone else. This drives trade policy, and inevitably, military policy. One of the great benefits of a huge military in the service of unlimited expansion is that the military is a great way to generate a huge amount of totally non-productive economic activity. That keeps the balls in the air, and also keeps those in the game that might get tired and want to get out.

But what I’m interested in is whether there might be other possible models for an economy. When a surplus economy collides with limited resources, you get a zero-sum situation with all the attendant evils: wars and rumours of wars, a widening gap between rich and poor. Profit is good, living wages diminish profits and are therefore bad. Is there another way?

Historically, other ways have occurred. What I’d like to explore is what I want to call a sufficiency economy. Here the goal is not surplus, not profit, but sufficiency, and of course here I will be talking about sufficiency for, in the first instance, living breathing humans. But even if we could think about sufficiency for those non-human (not to say inhuman) artificial persons, that is, corporations, whose profits are today thought to be the only real moral good in the universe, this would not be such a bad idea either.

In a sufficiency economy, the goal would be to have enough economic activity for the purpose of making sure that all participants are fed, clothed, adequately housed, and allowed to enjoy their life as well as they can. There is actually a biblical precedent for this, and several attendant mandates.

The precedent is found in the story of the manna in the wilderness: every morning, when the manna would appear on the ground, the people would go out, household by household, to gather food for the day, and “he who gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.” Those who tried to hoard a surplus found that it putrefied overnight. Sustained activity was assured, because new food had to be acquired each day; but there was no chance of anyone garnering a profit from the needs of others.

The mandates that support this way of thinking are many, but I’ll mention only two to begin with. One was the prohibition against any one person acquiring large tracts of land, enforced in part by the second, which was the release of debts every seventh year. One of the major driving forces behind a profit/suplus/deficit/debt-driven economy, the creation of a permanent debtor class, or a situation of permanent indebtedness, was anticipated and cut off at the knees by these provisions of the law of Moses. The goal was not to create an unattainable Utopia by the elimination of poverty (“the poor you will always have with you”) but to provide for its continued mitigation and relief by both structural and social means (therefore you shall be openhanded and not close your heart against your brother).

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Nothing to see here. Move along

Or was that, MoveOn?

This affects us all. Take a look. The issue is something called Net Neutrality.

save the internet

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Friday, June 02, 2006

No Comment


Does the church ever send a mixed message?

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jesus isn't magic

Could hardly have said this better myself. A highly recommended article.

Excerpt:

Rather than the magic Jesus, there is a very real and powerful Christ whose teachings continue drawing the world to his kingdom community from many neighbors. Ironically, many who preach about absolutes and literal interpretations use situational ethics and complicated arguments to explain that Jesus did not mean what he said.

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decoding Dan Brown

Okay, so I finally swallowed my gum and got a copy of The Da Vinci Code, and read it. I wasn't so interested that I would pay for a new copy, so I got a used one through Amazon. I read it out of a sense of professional duty; in my line of work, people are likely to ask me what I think of this book (and movie, which I don't intend to inflict on myself for a while yet).

Full disclosure: I really, really can't stand the way Dan Brown writes. I got through maybe five or ten pages of Angels and Demons and couldn't bring myself to read further. He's juvenile, overdramatic, does not know how to portray simple human emotions, so he doesn't try; he just tells you that his characters are scared, shocked, confused, puzzled, worried, relieved or whatever. So, okay, going in I have a fairly well-formed resentment at a guy that can have the chutzpah to pass this stuff off as good writing, and actually make money at it. Fine.

Add to that the myriad ways he gets his basic facts wrong (I counted at least six separate errors in one short but particularly egregious paragraph, and that's not the whole of it by any means). So okay, as fiction it's junk, and as reliable material for anything like history, it's worse than junk. And the cryptography is grade-school level and implausible to boot. What's left, then, is a fairly ordinary page-turner of an adventure story, with a few puzzles and twists to keep the pages turning.

I'm not about to take up the cudgels on behalf of post-Constantinian Christianity, but really in this instance there's no need. For all that he bashes, in various ways, the institutional Church (and some of its colorfully imagined components), the bashing is limited to an idea of a monolithic mind-control organization which, to the extent that such a thing exists, would not be worth defending. As to the big controversial idea that he expropriates from the 1983 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is supposed somehow to be in danger of shaking the faith of millions, even if it were accurate, I've only got two words:

So what?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kurt Lortz


Kurt Lortz, a friend of mine for thirty years, died Monday.

Steve and Kurt Lortz are the brothers responsible for the now hard-to-find game Panzer Pranks and Kurt's never-published Dark Worlds, which, after it was replaced, pursuant to a creative dispute with the publisher over certain details, by the moderately successful Call of Cthulhu, continued to be developed as a more generic (non-Lovecraftian) vampire-hunting roleplaying game. Back in 1976, Steve introduced a number of us to the role-playing-game concept; Dungeons and Dragons was a fairly new thing back then, and Steve knew the authors, or at least Dave Arneson, pretty well. So Steve taught us game mechanics and something of the basics of how to run an rpg, and has gone on to design more games and sculpt a lot of miniature figures, making him fairly well-known in gaming circles; whilst Kurt, his more flamboyant younger brother, did research into arcane background material, and with his flair for the dramatic could be counted on to create conditions for a dynamite (sometimes literally) interactive story. Many nights we spent, with various groups of unwashed geeks, into the wee hours and beyond, especially as we playtested the various iterations of that great project, Dark Worlds. But we might also be discussing the great questions of life, delving into spiritual truth or political untruth.

Some people you meet, and get along with, and spend time with pleasantly enough, because you happen to live nearby and have some common interests. Other people you choose, and keep in touch with no matter what the geography, and despite how interests may change. I've known Steve since the fall of 1968, and Kurt since 1976. We've kept in touch because we wanted to, and have become legends in one another's lives. Locations, relationships, marriages, various jobs and responsibilities change over time; but friendship has remained a constant. So it was that this past March when I was in central Indiana for a day or so, I called Steve, and the two of us took a few hours and went to visit Kurt, who due to a series of deteriorating health conditions, was by then residing in a nursing home outside Indianapolis. For the past several years Kurt has been teaching in a private school, and had continued to do so until this most recent series of hospitaizations. He was absolutely devoted to his students. Last year he told me how he had, over the previous year, battled successfully against an agressive cancer, and consciously used his own situation as a teaching tool for those in his charge. He wanted them to learn how to face the realities of life, including suffering, with dignity and faith, and he was proud of how they had succeeded. Now the cancer was back, along with other issues. But he was still the same Kurt: deadly serious about facing reality head on, but full of humor, able to laugh at himself and evoke laughter, and at the same time able to make every situation into a larger-than-life story. He had a laptop computer in his room, on which he was composing music. Our visit together was like old times, though his body was failing him: confined to bed and wheelchair, painful sores on his body, his hands wrapped in bandages, periodic bouts of pain so severe that sometimes he would pass out from the pain. But in heart and spirit bouyant, the twinkle never leaving his eye, always full of gratitude to God for his grace. It was a good visit. I couldn't help wonder if it might be the last.

Last night, Steve phoned to give me the news. There had been time enough for his family to gather, some from far away, and be with him in his final moments. Steve told me that when the moment came, strange to say, they felt like dancing, the way you would when a runner on your team breaks the tape at the finish line. I'm sure you just would have had to be there.

Kurt Lortz: a legend in my life, large in every way. A man of courage, and dignity, indomitable faith, and utmost loyalty.

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