Tea Party Douche Bags do not Define Christianity


Tea Party Douche Bags do not Define Christianity

I’m irked that my fellow liberals understand “Christian” to be synonymous with tea party douche bags! And Judaism to be the Zionist genocide of Palestinians. And Islam to be the Taliban. (Hindus are just unfathomable. But Buddhists are hip because, really, they are atheists.)

In our fear and loathing we forget our own stories and families. What about the favorite aunts and uncles, neighbors and teachers of fading generations who were quietly Christian or observantly Jewish?

When I try to remind friends that many people are still sanely and intelligently observant find a deep, rich, inspiration in the tradition, art, thought, mysticism of Christianity or Judaism or Islam they freak out.

I must be defending THEM because I am ONE of THEM. Do they/I really believe that there is a God? If God is Love, what about all the evil? By definition, they say, Christians BELIEVE that Jesus CHRIST the SON of God. Jews believe they are CHOSEN. Moslems believe in Jihad.

I can beg the questions and babble about the living history of liberal religion (loving religion) all I want but that they have NO INTEREST in religion beyond denouncing the idiocy. A funny friend just says ACK! And tells the stories of nuns in his high school who told a young girl who’d been raped that she was the cause and that her parents were ashamed.

But what, really, I ask about all the Religious people in the front lines of all the important human rights battles in the 20th century in America? Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, The Berrigan brothers, Jimmy Carter.

They were the exceptions that proves the rule: Christianity supported Capitalism. Apes and Elephants are kinder and more collective then human beings because they are NOT religious. Morality is just fine without God.

I didn’t know Dorothy, Martin, Malcolm, Cesar, or Jimmy. But I do remember my mother’s Aunt Clara whose Christian Science gave her solace as a young woman who couldn’t have children living with an imperious mother-in-law. Thaddeus Clark the Philosophy Professor minister of the St. Louis Unitarian Church who pondered much and made it clear. Harry Diehl who taught me about Marxism as we dried dishes when he was 80 and I was 12 who was a trial lawyer for the Wobblies before he left Detroit to farm his wife’s Illinois land and teach Presbyterian Sunday School—never relinquishing his Marxism.

Iris Markham the Jewish English Teacher at Ladue High School who shared amazing books and directed the musicals.

Mary Ann Nagy the artist who came out of the New Covenant group here in Champaign Urbana who works with homeless kids in Seattle. Holding their hands while they have babies or die of aids.

Lucinda Strehlow whose spine is fused and who when her husband Jim was dying said, “ We know how to do this,” relying on her Presbyterian Church to give her support.

Eva Blum the irreverent psycho-therapist who puts my head together when I can’t hold it up. Whose grand children are orthodox Jews.

Mohammed Al Heeti the Iraqi Pater Familia of World Harvest Grocery Store who is so deeply angry about what happened to his country but so unfailingly polite to his customers.

And friends who are in the trenches? Claudia Lenhoff who leads the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Esther Patt of the ChampaignTennant Union, the Ack! Man who does their books, who truly have no time for discussions of God? The fact that the code they live by just maybe, probably, came from theologies of social justice encoded in their religious culture, is beside the point.

And no, Bryan Savage, I am not saying that these lovely people prove that God exists. Only that they are the saving remnants of their beliefs (Perhaps, only they know what they really believe in the middle of the night. But I doubt any of them think there is a guy at the end of the telephone granting them and their loved ones immunity.)

The Bible, and most of the Religious Scripture I’ve read, is steeped in meditations and contradictions. Dire threats are followed by beautiful paeans to delight, and exhortations to take care of the Poor. Propaganda has been around forever. The Bible itself was the propaganda of it’s day. And all revisions and translations of the Bible have been made, in part, for political purposes including egalitarian ones: Let the PEOPLE read for themselves.

My point, I think, is it would be better to challenge those who have simple and conservative ideas of God, with the vaguer, more ambiguous, more nurturing God-thoughts of a tolerant liberalism.

By the way I am not a good representative of this tolerance. But Anne Lamott is. Read her Stitches. You will laugh. And feel better about everything with the exception of the Douche Bags.

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Talking About Religion

My friend Bryan and I have talked religion until we depressed each other. He bows out of the discussion with a plea to just enjoy the spring.

This is my over and out:

Dogma as I understand it is all the Creeds, everything DECIDED in the Councils, everything taught in Catechism classes. It is the Our Father, pleasant as it can be to murmur that along with everyone else on a solemn occasion.

It is the Bull Shit of why God must exist or cannot exist and the crux of most discussions of the VERY First Cause of the Cosmos, Death or Morality.

Dogama is taking anything in the Bible literally,

The interesting in Religion is the quest for clues and best practices about how to rest in the very muddy water of life (death, self, family, culture).

For all its incomprehensibles the Bible is rich when read for solace and insight. It can really help when searching for “easy.” As in easy does it. Letting one’s self and other’s be.

Religion can help people enjoy what there is to enjoy and endure what can’t be escaped.

At its best religion is about being less alienated from other people. And at its very very best it is all about ridding oneself of hypocrisy.

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Wittgenstein and Religion.



For Bryan Savage.


What is your PROBLEM? Ask old friends as I INSIST that they reconsider Christianity and recognize the validity of faith.


And I do have a problem. It’s not smart to insist on talking about religion. Especially not to people who have broken free of Dogmatic religion.


They can’t understand that I’ve broken free of Secular Humanism


I’ve  known people of faith who have admirable reserves of sweetness and optimism and kindness. And stalwart atheists blessed with the same qualities. And as such I consider myself a double agent.


My surviving parent, my brothers, and most of my friends sneer cynically at the strange irrational beliefs of Church people.


My early life was a minefield that I trafficked alone. I longed for respectful recognition among the stakeholders in a 1950s divorce. Long after my parents got over their guilt and rage and entered new relationships I still carried the torch of their conflict.


Religion and education played a part. My mother’s people were St Louis Christian Scientists. My father’s progressive academics who thought the faith Healers were freaks. On her own after the divorce my mother JOINED Unitarian Church. She JOINED. Which my fathers folk disdained. She taught Sunday school. She was the teacher when we built Sumerian city state out of sawdust.


Behind the choir in the sanctuary there was a scene of a sunset, or perhaps a sunrise. No crosses. No crucifix.


I danced in College and like many other aging modern dancers I now teach Yoga. My favorite teachers influenced by Hindu Interiority and Buddhist compassion, opened my mind to the idea that Religion is a good thing. But coming from material culture of Christianity they do not trust it.


Hindu Interiority: The story is: Ask a Christian child where God is and she will point to the sky. Ask a Hindu child and she points to her own heart.


I imprinted on the Christianity of the Civil Rights movement, the Anti war movement. I respected the religious tenor of MLK, and like Social Justice Christianity of the Sojourner movement.  I am stirred by the lyrics that  “This land was made for you and me!” My friends here in downstate Illinois are political. Many of them fallen Polish, Irish, Slavic Chicago Catholics. They are VERY Angry at the church.


My problem? I want to re-introduce religion to those who would sneer. And talk about the cruelty and criminality of Dogma with those who would believe.


Mostly I am talking to myself as both sides retreat in contempt.


But I persist.


I’ve been reading the New Testament for the first time. Over the course of a Year I have made it thru the Gospels, Paul’s letters. And the trippy Revelations underlining the Bible I acquired as a Freshman at Oberlin for Herbert Mays course on the Old Testament:  The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version edited by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger.


The verse below seems to me to capture the strength of those at Peace in the Spirit. And offers an answer to those who feel utter contempt for the absurdities of belief. Absurdities that may not be more absurd than the unprovable premises of mathematics: two plus two is four.


So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain….Heb 7:18,19


Jesus, our forever advocate, is behind the curtain.


All Religions have teacher- advocates. In their purest form all Religions offer individuals in the dark night of mortality a steadfast anchor for the soul.


My college friend, the Christian film maker and writer, David Paul Kirkpatrick, says the Bible can be read in the Spirit, and when it is read that way it leads to the fruit of the Spirit:


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23


During a dark night after my husband’s death David recommended I repeat the fruits of the Spirit as a mantra. It helped.


But Bible can also be read as Bertrand Russell read it in the Twentieth Century. pointing out the cruelty of Creed. The cruelty of Creed that is in play today  the current US  culture war. The Creed of Dominionists and Tea Party.


When people think of Christianity as a help in fighting the Russians [liberals, Socialists], it is not the Quaker type of Christianity that they have in view but something more in the style of Senator McCarthy. What makes a creed effective in war is its negative aspect that is to say, its hatred of those who do not adopt it. Without this hatred it serves no bellicose purpose. But as soon as it is used as a weapon of war, it is the hatred of unbelievers that becomes prominent. Consequently, when two faiths fight each other each develops its worst aspects and even copies whatever it imagines to be effective in the faith that it is combating.


But I think that the Viennese-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein illuminates the issue as I would like to:


Christianity is not a doctrine, not, I mean, a theory about what has happened and will happen to the human soul, but a description of something that actually takes place in human life. For ‘consciousness of sin’ is a real event and so are despair and salvation through faith. Those who speak of such things (Bunyan for instance) are simply describing what has happened to them, whatever gloss anyone may want to put on it.


Wittgenstein respects this experience and contrasts it with Dogma which he says takes things too far: to “the point of nonsense and repression of freedom of thought.”


Context: Ludwig Wittgenstein was a student of Bertrand Russell at Cambridge, 1912-13. He served in the Austrian Army during the First World War, and wrote his masterpiece, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, while a prisoner of war. After the war he left philosophy to became a gardener and then a schoolteacher. He went back to Cambridge in 1929 where he taught Philosophy until the Second World War. At age 50 he enlisted and served as a medical orderly. He went back to Cambridge after the war. He retired in Ireland. Went to the States briefly. Came home with a terminal cancer and died in 1951 at age 62. In the course of his life he rejected his Tractatus and pondered ethics, life and faith.


Now for his words on belief, the words in bold are as he wrote them:


“…Historical proof (the historical proof-game) is irrelevant to belief. This message (the Gospels) is seized on by men believingly (i.e., lovingly). That is the certainty characterizing this particular acceptance-as-true, not something else.


“A believers relation to these narratives is neither the relation to historical truth (probability), nor yet that to a theory consisting of ‘truths of reason….”


“I read: ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.’ And it is true: I cannot call him Lord; because that says nothing to me. I could call him ‘the paragon’, ‘God’ even—or rather, I can understand it when he is called thus; but I cannot utter the word ‘Lord’ with meaning. Because I do not believe that he will come to judge me; because that says nothing to me. And it could say something to me, only if I lived completely differently.


“What inclines even me to believe in Christ’s Resurrection? It is as though I play with the thought. –If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, –what I need is certainty—not wisdom, dreams, or speculation—and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not by my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: only love can believe in the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption. Holding fast to this must be holding fast to that belief. So what that means is: first you must be redeemed and hold on to your redemption (keep hold of your redemption)—then you will see that you are holding fast to this belief. So this can come about only if you no longer rest your weight on the earth but suspend yourself from heaven. Then everything will be different and it will be ‘no wonder’ if you can do things that you cannot do now. (A man who is suspended looks the same as one who is standing, but the interplay of forces within him is nevertheless quite different, so that he can act quite differently than can a standing man.)”


It seems to me that this is the “As if” (“Fake it til you make it.”) that William James wrote about in psychology. This is the phenomena of the visualizing that good athletes train with. This is chutzpa. This is relief:


“It strikes me that a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although, it’s belief, it’s really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. It’s

passionately seizing hold of this interpretation. Instruction in a religious faith, therefore, would have to take the form of a portrayal, a description, of that system of reference, while at the same time being an appeal to conscience. And this combination would have to result in the pupil himself, of his own accord, passionately taking hold of the system of reference. It would be as though someone were first to let me see the hopelessness of my situation and then show me the means of rescue until, o my own accord, or not at any rate led to it by my instructor, I ran to it and grasped it.


This also reminds me of AA which was where I first experienced a miraculous intercession and the wobbly steps toward redemption. My academic father was unable to turn himself over.


And he looked at me as if I were NUTZ when I explained that as a dancer I was reaching for an artistic. “Apotheosis.” Martha Graham recommended it. My father had never heard the word “Apotheosis,” to become as God.


I never achieved it as a dancer. Though I have glimpsed it as a lover of art, and as a mother.


Here is late Wittgenstein pondering justice and the bad stuff that befalls good people. Remember this philosopher/gardener/teacher served in both World Wars where he saw the ultimate in futility and barbarity and came out in tact.


How God judges a man is something we cannot imagine at all. If he really takes strength of temptation and the frailty of nature into account, whom can he condemn? But otherwise the resultant of these to forces is simply the end for which man was predestined. In tat case he was created so that the interplay of forces would make him either conquer of succumb. And that is not a religious idea at all, but more like a scientific hypothesis.


So if you want to stay within the religious sphere you must struggle.


And if you want nothing to do with the religious sphere you also struggle.

Life involves struggle. With God or without. There are folks on both sides who hold it together and carry on.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23



Quotations from The Wittgenstein Reader, Edited by Anthony Kenny.

And Bertrand Russell on God and Religion, Edited by Al Seckel

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Let’s Hear from Bertrand Russell.


Going on with Bertrand Russell

In a recent Blog I wrote about my Daughter’s Christianity which she understands to be antagonistic to the Science of Evolution. And my distress that as a  Christian she receives lots of Tea Party propaganda against Socialism.

I want to stay connected. So I’m reading the New Testament. For the first time.

It’s amazing. I didn’t totally realize that it’s the source of so much in Western art, literature, genocide and progress.

I am not an Atheist in the strictest sense. I’ve had mystical experiences. And I ‘ve also had delusional episodes in which I “enjoyed” the exstatic paranoia that my leftest Russian grandmother was Anastasia and I as her heir was the darling of both the highest European Aristocracy and the cadres of Socialism.

As I get more and more involved in questions of Religion, Dogma, Philosophy and Science I have vowed to strangle my self-centered creative impulses in the entrails of better minds. To strive less and quote more.

I believe in checks and balances and am a little tired of bearing the scorn of my ex-Catholic, Church-loathing friends, so I decided to balance the Saints with Bertrand Russell, one of the great Socialist atheists of all time.

But please REMEMBER not all Socialists are atheists and visa versa. In fact many Socialists coming out of Latin America have been priests. Their movement is called Liberation Theology. You can watch the film about one of the martyrs of this movement Archbishop Oscar Romero: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romero_%28film%29.

Few people on the planet have been endowed with the mind of Earl Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) whose Wikipedia bio is below. As is his own summary of the meaning of his life.

The quotes here are taken from a wonderful book: Bertrand Russell on God and Religion, edited by Al Seckel that fell into my hands last week via Priceless Books, the used book store in down town Urbana. There is much in the world that is magically helpful.

And by the way you might read Professor Russell with the words of the Apostle Paul in mind: “Finally, brethren [and sistren], whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.

The wisdom of Zen Buddhist teacher Shunryu Susaki also applies.

Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.

Bertrand Russell believed in Reason.

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, carelses of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid…. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief flory of man. But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest their they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.”

In the beginning he trusted Mathematics.

“… I wished to persuade myself that something could be known, in pure mathmatics if not elsewhere.”

His great work was Principia Mathematica which he wrote when he was young and confused. I haven’t read it but I checked with my smart friend Brian Foote who explained that it argues that arithmetic, and pure mathematics generally, is nothing more nor less than logic based on uprovable but irrefutable premises.

Russell was an Earl, born into one of the most important families in England (Downton Abby is the seat of an Earl’s family.). As a very young man he believed England and English values were good for the world.

But he changed his mind in 1901:

In the course of a few minutes I changed my mind about the Boer War about harshness in education and in the criminal law, and about combativeness in private relations. “[The Boer war was England vs. Netherlands for control of South Africa. See below],

He ran for eletion to Parliament on a platform of women’s rights in 1907 which people found ridiculous. They threw eggs at him. And heckled him as to whether his mother knew what he was up to.

The coming of WWI really radicalized him. He was amazed at how excited people were before the first casualties started coming home. He realized a majority were “filled with destructive and peverse impulses” and that nothing would change untill there was “an education that stressed rational thought, skepticism, cooperation instead of competition, and kindness over strife and prejudice” (Seckel).

He was excoriated for his pacifisim and dismissed from his Univiersity gig. Crowds rioted at his talks and the Police let them.  He was asked to lecture at Harvard but the British government revoked his passport. He was not allowed to lecture on the English coasts for hear he was signalling German submarines!

As a serious thinker he was alone. He rejoiced at the end of the war

“…but I could find nothing in common between my rejoicing and that of the crowd. Throughout my life I have longed to feel that oneness with large bodies of human beings that is experienced by the members of enthusiastic crowds. The longing has often been strong enough to lead me into self-deception. I have imagined myself in turn a Liberal, a Socialist, or a Pacifist, but I have never been any of these things in any profound sense. Always the skeptical intellect, when I have most wished it silent has whispered doubts to me, has cut me off from the facile enthusiasms of others, and has transported me into a desolate solitude”

Happiness is rooting for the home team.

He was sympathetic with the the aims of Bolshevism, but he couldn’t get with their methods or the idea of final submission to the state.

“Russia seemed to me one vast prison in which the jailors were cruel bigots. When I found my friends applauding these men as liberators and regarding the regime that they were creating as a paradise, I wondered in a bewildered manner whether it was my friends or I that were mad.”

His favorite Biblical text was, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” Exodus 23:2  As for Christ he liked some of what he said in the Gospels: “Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” And “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And, “If thous wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” But he didn’t think most Christians took them very seriously. He didn’t think the Prime Minister, a Christian, of course, would turn the other cheek if someone slugged him.

And he had serious reservations about other things Christ said like, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels,  and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Mathew 13:42..


“It comes in one verse after another and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth or else it would not occur so often. “

“… I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. … [ a doctrine that] put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take him as his chroniclers represent him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible. “

Like me he was shocked by the story in Mark where Christ curses a poor fig tree until it withers away. Mark 11:12-25. And conluded:

 “I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above him in these respects.”

He was attacked by those who feared that without Religion, and Christianity in particular there would be no virtue. His answer was:

As to the idea—that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burnt as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.  …And that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step towards the diminution of war, every step towards better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every  moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently oppoesed by the organized Churches of the world.

And he went on:

You may think that I am going too far when I say that it is still so…. It is not a pleasant fact but the Churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today aninexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man, in that case the Catholic Church says:’This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must stay together for life’ and no steps of any sort must be taken by that women to prevent herself from giving birth to syphilitic children. That is what the Catholic Church says. I say that that is fiendish cruelty, and nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

And on:

“There are a great many ways in which at the present moment the Church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call moraltity, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering… it is in a major part an opponent still of progress and of improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do witth human happiness… The object of morals is not to make people happy. It is to fit them for heaven.”

JUsT A MInUTE  anyone who knows enlightened and commpassionate Christians, Anne Lamott, David Kirkpatrick, for example, knows that they are way beyond the narrow morality of the organized dogmas that Russell is railing against.

When distilled (i.e., editing out the 1st Century bullshit) the compassionate ideas of Jesus have inspired great people who have defied the organized churches of their day. Lincoln, Caesar Chavez, Dorthy Day to name a few.

The ideas of sin and punishment cruelty and slavery have bewildered humans all ways in all times. So have the psychologies of cruelty, slavery, racism, sexism. Paul can be over the top revolting but he was evolving! He was coming out of the invested power of organized Judaism. He spoke out of both sides of his nature and experience. On the one hand women were not to be trusted. On the other we have nothing if we do not have love.  

But back to Russell and his views on Sin and Christianity

You could take up the line some gnostics took up… that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment that God was not looking. There is a good deal of truth to be said to that.

“The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.

Russell’s point was that Christ made people miserable with exhortations like  “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell.” 

“ This was said to people who did not like  his [Christ’s] preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about hell. [Such as] ‘Whowever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world nor in the world to come’ “That text has caused an unpeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.

When his children were born in late 1920s Russell became interested in Education and Sexuality. “I believe that nine out of ten of those who have had a conventional upbringing in their early years have become in some degree incapable of a decent and sane attitude toward marriage and sex general.”

Contrary to his reputation he was in not a proponent of sexual liscence. But his objections were ethical and not moral. He was concerned about human happiness not about getting into heaven.

In answer to the question whether the denial of religious dogma meant the denial of marriage and chastity he wrote:

“… one must reply by another question: Does the man who asks this question believe that marriage and chstity contribute to earthly happiness here below, or does he think that, while they cause misery here below, they are to be advocated as means of getting to heaven? The man who takes the latter view will no doubt expect agnosticism to lead to a decay of what he calls virtue, but he will have to admit that what he calls virtue is not what ministers to the happiness of the human race while on earth. If, on the other hand, he takes the former view, that there are terrestial arguments in favor of marriage and chstity, he must also hold that these arguments are such as should appeal to an agnostic. Agnostics, as such, have no distinctive views about sexual morality. But most of them would admit that there are valid arguments against the unvridled indulgence of sexual desires. They would derive these arguments, however, from terrestrial sources and not from supposed devine commands.

Similarly he knew that War is a great evil that causes incredible suffering. But he was not a  doctrinaire Pacifist. He thaought that Hitler was intolerable and that the Nazis would make the world and absolute hell if they were not stopped.

Like many scientists and philosophers he realized there were genuine, authentic mystical experiences. And that they arise when the soul gives up it’s questing.

“After passionate struggle for some particular good, there comes some inward or outward necessity to abandon the pursuit of the object which has absorbed all our desire, and no other desire is ready to replace the one that has been relinquished. Hence arises a state of suspension of the will, when the soul no longer seeks to impose itself upon the world, but is open to every impression that comes to it from the world. It is at such a time that the contemplative vision first comes into being, bringing with it universal love and universal worship. From universal worship comes joy, from universal love comes a new desire, and thence the birth of that seeking after universal good which constitutes the will of our infinite nature. Thus from the moment of self-surrender, which to the finite self appears like death, a new life begins with a larger vision, a new happiness, and wider hopes. “

And he recognized valuable elements in Christianity.

There are in Christianity three elements which it is desirable to preserve if possible: worship, acquiescence, and love. Worship is given by Christianity to God; love is enjoined toward my neighbors, my enemies, and, in fact, toward all men. The love which Christianity enjoins, and indeed any love which is to be universal and yet strong, seems in some way dependent upon worship and acquiescence. Yet these, in the form in which they appear in Christianity depend upon belief in God, and are therefore no longer possible to those who cannot entertain this belief. Something, in worship, must be lost when we lose belief in the existence of supreme goodness and power combined. But much can be preserved, and what can be preserved seems sufficient to constitute a very strong religious life. Acquiescence, also, is rendered more difficult by loss of belief in God, since it takes away the assurance that apparent evil in the constitution of the world is really good. But it is not rendered impossible; and in consequence of its greater difficulty it becomes when achieved, nobler, deeper, more filled by self-surrender than any acquiescence which Christianity produces. In some ways, therefore, the religion which has no dogma is greater and more religious than one which rests upon the belief that in the end our ideals are fulfilled in the outer world.

Finally he sorts out the question of Dogma

“All the great organized religions [ including Communism] that have dominated large populations have involved a greater or less amount of dogma, but “religion” is a word of which the meaning is not very definite. Confucianism, for instance, might be called a religion, although it involves no dogma. And in some forms of liberal Christianity, the element of dogma is reduced to a minimum. “

Liberal Christianity, Liberal Islam, and Hinduism have all reduced dogma to a minimum. And, no Virginia, not all Buddhists are liberal and enlightened. In many a shrine you will see men and women on their knees begging Buddha to intercede in their lives. They do not do as Buddha exhorted, find their salvation without him.

Unfortunately the politics of hate based on dogma are faster assimilated in this world that Satan made than the word of a “nobler” acquiescence.

Whatever. Each of us has to work out our own salvation. If we are not to be monsters we have to find a mature and integrated acquiescence.

As for worship I am thinking about Pete Seeger and hope we’ll find ways to sing and dance, holler and howl.

May we support each other and make movements that raise a thoughtful and disciplined ruckus.

And our prayers and meditations in the middle of the night bring us peace.




Bertrand Russell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bertrand Russell


Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS[51] (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British nobleman, philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic.[52] At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these in any profound sense.[53] He was born in Monmouthshire, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain.[54]

Russell led the British “revolt against idealism” in the early 20th century.[55] He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, colleague G. E. Moore, and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century’s premier logicians.[52] He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy”.[56] His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science (see type theory and type system), and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics.

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed anti-imperialism[57][58] and went to prison for his pacifism during World War I.[59] Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.[60] In 1950 Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”[61]

Bertrand Russell’s summary of his life:

“ Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.


I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy–ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I ought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.


With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.


Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.


This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”



The Boer Wars from Wikipedia Main article: First Boer War



The Boer War by Richard Caton Woodville

The Boer Wars from Wikipedia

The First Anglo-Boer War (1880–1881), was a fight to keep sovereignty by the South African Republic against British invasion.

  1. The war was between the South African Republic (ZAR) and the British.
  2. When the British annexed Transvaal in 1877 the Boers were angered.
  3. In 1877, the Pedi attacked the Boers of Transvaal, and Boers claimed the British had not adequately assisted them.
  4. The British wished to bring Transvaal by force into a union, which furthered chances of war.

The South African Republic was victorious.

Second Anglo-Boer War

The Second War (1899–1902), by contrast, was a lengthy war—involving large numbers of troops from the Empire, which ended with the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies (with a promise of limited self-governance). These colonies later formed part of the Union of South Africa. The British fought directly against the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, defeating their forces first in open warfare and then in a long and bitter guerrilla campaign. British losses were high due to both disease and combat. The policies of “scorched earth” and civilian internment in concentration camps were the cause of suffering in the Boer civilian populations in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. When news of these strategies reached Britain, there was an erosion of support for the war. Ships like RMS Umbria served Britain during the Second War. Her sister ship, Etruria,didn’t go into the war.


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Paul and Lois


Dear David

Impulse Control: You know, I hope, how I hear the calm, the patience, the restraint, the gentleness, the complete goodness, of how you serve your Lord? Your favorite passage in the Bible : “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22,23

And, I continue to hope, you can hear some of this in me. Even though like the Zen Buddhist teacher, Shunryu Suzuki I  believe the mischievous is good medicine: …” Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.” Shunryu Suzuki

 Ok? Or not.

As per your prescription for finding peace,  I’m  reading the Bible every morning. This morning it was Second Timothy, Timothy 2.

I love these passages:

“An athlete is not crowned unless she competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” Tim2  2:5,6

And: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  Tim 2 2:15
This has meaning for me in that I am longing to be able to see myself as one who is approved. As an honest worker for truth.

But what  really inspires my mischievous is  Tim2  2: 18  where Paul talks about going after those “who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the truth of some.”

Yes! And they also upset the power of those who preach by threatening the retribution and wrath of the coming Christ. The carrot is Jesus’ love. The stick is the punishment of damnation if you screw up.

I dream of a rebellious preacher. A woman! One of those “weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Tim2  3:6,7 Yuck.

I can imagine a profoundly curious woman, a generation younger than Paul,  but living at the end of his life and teaching  @ AD60. She is a Blue Blooded Christian as the daughter and grand daughter of Christian women.  And she has had her own Damascus experience in which she realized that Christ has already come again.  And in fact he comes again and again! (pun INTENDED) in the hearts and minds of many.


She realizes that He, Jesus,  does not like some of what his disciples have been doing. He does not want the polemics, the swords and shields. He is NOT interested in the Branding and the Conversions. He LOATHES the idea that all virtue depends on HIM. That without Him there would be NO GOODNESS! He knows that many individuals of all backgrounds have mystical encounters with the INFINITE and that is ALL that matters.

So she begins to teach. As Socrates taught, in questions that point to the absurdities and fears and controls of the Dogma as it is being developed by the Disciples, principally Paul. Many bright women and men are struck by the radical extension of the method and message. She urges them not to put her on any pedestal but to trust themselves.

And Paul finds out.

And she finds herself in conflict with the head of her own beloved community.

And the story unfolds. You write Paul’s part. I’ll write hers. Perhaps her name is Lois. Like Timothy’s grandmother.

But they become friends in controversy and In the end as Paul is dying she holds his head. They laugh and they quote his Galatians. He gives her his blessing as she forgives his small tyrannies. And he scores one on her by gently pointing out that perhaps in her Soldier spirit there is some fear of intimacy. She is his favorite. He is hers. She moves on in the woman -hating world that was Judaic Christianity in the first century. But she finds and accepts those who love her.

 Follow your meditations, Dear One, or Take your Meds.

Green Coffee!



PS  The time is NOW and always has been  “when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own liking and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” Tim2 4:3

PPS and very impulsively. Perhaps she also realizes and relishes that Jesus is gay. But Jesus, unlike Paul likes women. And trusts them. In her communions with the Spirit of Jesus they have a good time laughing  at Paul’s aversions. Remember the best part of her message is to NOT take the battle too seriously. except when a Hitler is involved. Or the Tea Party????


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Happy Martin Luther King Day


Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s hard when one of your children, who has become a Christian, asks if she can, being Christian, “believe” in Evolution! It’s hard not to gasp and begin babbling about the age of the rocks. Which quickly becomes throwing Rocks at Fox News and the Koch brothers and Tea Party reactivity as said daughter glazes over and wonders why shared her question

 She won’t read this so I can talk freely. And beside the daughter in my prose is fictional. She exists in my head not in hers. I should have just said, “Darling many Christians accept Science.”

But I didn’t.

Then she sent a blog about how an economics professor taught his class that socialism is the same as giving everyone in the class a C.  I wrote her a long manipulative impassioned response that you can read on my word press page.

I should have just suggested she watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp6icJG7RV0. Thomas Merton may not yet speak to her. But he sure puts Christianity into the context of the values of socialism for me.

 To add clarity to the world I have decided to quote more and write less.

I’ve been reading the New Testament and Anne Lamott and learning a lot about Good Religion. The Bible blows me away.  “For the whole law is fulfilled by one word, ” You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another thake heed that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:14,15.I realize that it’s been inspiration for so much of the literature, social theory I’ve loved: Lincoln’s Second Inaugual. Dostoyevsky, Karl Marx.

Anne Lamott is just plain funny and honest.  Her community of clear-tongued believers are spot-on in their advice about how to honestly and compassionately bear children and our lives as selves. “Life is change, what we need is muscle, flexibility, awareness… not held breath and false cheer.” Some Assembly Required

 As for fielding my daughter’s questions Wittgenstein puts it best, “…A philosopher has to treat a question like an illness. He must not cut off the thought illness but must lead it slowly along the natural path of healing. In doing so he has to take care that he does not overlook a cause of the illness: the one-sided diet, being nourished with only one kind of example.” (Though it’s questionable who is sicker, she or me, the Mom who would Control her philosophy?)

 In case it’s me, I’m adding Bertrand Russell, a famous, and clear-spoken Atheist, to my morning reading.

 “ Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

 “I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy–ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I ought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

 “With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

“Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too sufer.

“This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

 And because it is apropos of the short comings of the humanity who would be Religious, here is an excerpt from Tolstoy’s letter to Gandhi written in 1908, the period leading up to the Russian revolution:

 “Thus it went on everywhere. The recognition that love represents the highest morality was nowhere denied or contradicted, but this truth was so interwoven everywhere with all kinds of falsehoods which distorted it, that finally nothing of it remained but words. It was taught that this highest morality was only applicable to private life–for home use, as it were–but that in public life all forms of violence–such as imprisonment, executions, and wars–might be used for the protection of the majority against a minority of evildoers, though such means were diametrically opposed to any vestige of love. And though common sense indicated that if some men claim to decide who is to be subjected to violence of all kinds for the benefit of others, these men to whom violence is applied may, in turn, arrive at a similar conclusion with regard to those who have employed violence to them, and though the great religious teachers of Brahmanism, Buddhism, and above all of Christianity, foreseeing such a perversion of the law of love, have constantly drawn attention to the one invariable condition of love (namely, the enduring of injuries, insults, and violence of all kinds without resisting evil by evil) people continued–regardless of all that leads man forward–to try to unite the incompatibles: the virtue of love, and what is opposed to love, namely, the restraining of evil by violence. And such a teaching, despite its inner contradiction, was so firmly established that the very people who recognize love as a virtue accept as lawful at the same time an order of life based on violence and allowing men not merely to torture but even to kill one another.”

You can read the whole letter at: http://www.davidpaulkirkpatrick.com/2013/06/09/a-letter-to-a-hindu-tolstoys-letter-about-love-that-changed-the-world/

Thank Heaven for the beings of light who have pondered the way.

Happy Martin Luther King Day 2014

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On Socialism, Propaganda, Justice

In reply to a young friend who asked what I think about about:http://www.newsninja2012.com/this-teacher-rocks-entire-class-fails-when-obamas-socialism-experiment-fails/?hubRefSrc=email

Darling Girl.
About socialism

And the idea implied by the professor’s blog that the affluent are the hard working victims of the lazy greedy poor.

I’m reminded  of the propaganda wars before the Civil war.
In the time of slavery those who relied on slaves to do all the hard work argued that they were caring for the lazy slaves.

Those who rationalized slavery ridiculed the abolitionists and played on racial fears in their propaganda. Freeing the slaves would unleash chaos! Civilization would be destroyed! White women would be raped! Good, genetically superior white blood would be corrupted! The civil order of the God would cower before drums and shouts and Black magic.

The Abolitionist argument about the essential worth of all human beings had to overcome the economic advantages of slave labor, racial fears and Biblical justification for slavery.

The propaganda on both sides used projection. Projection is adefense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable qualities but sees them in others. Thus the sins of the slave owners were projected onto the slaves. For example the rape of slave women, the practice slave owners got away with, was projected onto slave men. It wasn’t the land owners who raped without consequences but the field hand who could be beaten within an inch of his life for even looking at the owner’s wife or daughter.

And slave owners dressed and served by slaves were not LAZY but the slaves who resisted working without pay and no breaks were .
Free the slaves and they will steal the silver. Somehow the theft of slave lives was not at issue.  

Of course Abolitionists used propaganda to get their point across. One of the more compelling “arguments” against slavery was a book by a woman, Uncle Tom’s Cabinet by Harriot Beecher Stowe, that showed warm-hearted slaves under harsh slave drivers. It spoke to the heart and changed some minds.

Similar projections and confusion of issues is in play with the debates about socialism.

Social-ism and the economic ideas known as social-istic are based on the dream of a society that is good for working people as well as to the traditionally privileged elites and institutions.

Socialism has been evolving since the beginning of human history. It claims Jesus as one of its heros: Render to Caesar what is Caesars and devote yourself to God’s justice, mercy and decency through me. Robin Hood is another socialistic folk hero.

The political struggle against the unchecked powers of kings, the Church, the owners of land and industry is fraught with terror.

The powers that be, the kings et.al. fight rebellion with calculated ruthlessness. Put them down hard. Make them really really AFRAID. An early king of England who loved to hunt threw people off their land to make bigger forests for himself. The punishment for poaching, for wounding a deer, was blinding, if you were caught with a deer you killed you were beheaded. Poachers were trespassing. The appropriation of their lands was not at issue.

Regimes can be cruel. Revolutions are also cruel “The end justifies the means” goes on both sides. Decency and restraint are thrown to the cause.

Gandhi, Robin Hood aside, revolutionaries have been terrible. Marie Antoinette, just a woman, not the architect of the evil empire, went to the guillotine in front of cheering masses. The last Tsar of Russia, a relatively gentle and would-be reformer and his family were slaughtered. .

In the 18th century, the century of our Constitution and the amazing idea that all men should be free to pursue happiness with some kind of equality there was a skeptical expression that man would never be free until the last king was strangled in the entrails of the last priest. (Skepticism is a fascinating stance. See below for a link to a page of the skepticism of Diderot.)

THE BIBLE as Base of Propaganda, Philosophy of Justice,
In the last 2000 years the Bible has always been used to defend the laws, the privilege of those who HAVE.

Kings had the Bible translated and reinterpreted to emphasize certain things and minimize others. Henry the VIII had to have a new translation. King James another. The will of God or the conscience of the Scholars involved kept the message of the Gospel: Blessed are the meek. And they need decent jobs, healthcare, and good education.

Philosophers have long pondered what Justice really means. Plato (b. circa 420 BCE) talked about the difference between law and justice. Laws are made by those who HAVE. Slaves don’t write law. Neither do poor people.
There has been much debate to the effect that this is NOT because the slave and the poor are denied educations/ access, but because they are inferior to the slave owner and the wealthy. God doesn’t love them enough.

Socialist economic theory says the slave and the poor are kept as slaves and poor so the owners of land and industry and restaurants can have cheap labor.

Socialism has often been very popular. And as such it is a threat. Hitler’s movement was called National Socialism. In calling his movement Socialism he was trying to redefine socialism and use its popularity to confuse the socialists of his day and turn them into Aryan nationalists.

Christianity is popular. Its message about the poor is threatening to the powerful.  The Koch brothers are using Christianity and the Bible to convince Christians to focus on anti gay, anti abortion, anti women, anti-“socialism.”

Serious reflections on justice require more than 140 words.If you want to understand the heart of socialism read Charles Dickens’ stories of the abuse of children and the struggles of the working poor in England.

Read Dostoyevsky as he investigates the hearts and minds and confusions of individuals at all levels of society in the period leading up to the Russian Revolution.
Check out who was who. Martin Luther King was a socialist. There was a Catholic woman named Dorothy Day b. 1897 who was an unmarried mother who opened soup kitchens and housed the poor in defiance of the legal teams and sexual anxieties of her church.

The socialism and socialists I admire based their activism on the Gospel or the “atheism” of Voltaire and Thos Jefferson who thought the way toward ideas of reasonable pay, reasonable work schedules, good schools.

 Do not think for a moment that they wanted every one to get a C in finance, art, lifestyle.

Look at your own journey. Really see the ways that you have been supported ( public schools, public health) as well as blocked and oppressed (the politics and economics of women sport). Then reach out. As best you can.

Ask, always, what the motivations of any writer/poster seem to be? What ax are they grinding and why? What fear, greed, grace motivates them.
Look at what they stir up in you when you read /watch them? Do you feel bigger, more generous, happier? Or smaller, meaner, more righteous?

Look at the ways of propaganda. OMG! if we give Gays the right to marry we will all end up having  sex with pigs? Our teachers will sexualize exploit “pervert” our children!? We will undermine the love between men and women!

The Bible says…. Many many many things.  It has been egregiously used.

Listen to talking books on economics. When capitalist economies are in recession the way to get them moving is to employ and spend. Read Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz.

Do not let “them” work you into frenzies of contempt. When Europe was devastated after WWI “they” blamed the Jews. Within a few decades communities who loved and respected their Jewish doctors and butchers and librarians had devolved into yellow arm bands, skin-head beatings, and eventually gas chambers.

Let your ear and your gut tell you who is coming from where.

I am a socialist. As was your father. Your grandparents. Your great grandparents. And their parents. This doesn’t make us good people. The name calling confuses the issues.  

It doesn’t matter.

But something does.

Some sites to check out.




About Plato

“His statement is an expression of his belief that, in the world imperfect as it is, the ruling element in the city, or as we would say today the dominant political or social group, institutes laws and governs for its own benefit (). The democrats make laws in support of democracy; the aristocrats make laws that support the government of the well-born; the propertied make laws that protect their status and keep their businesses going; and so on. This belief implies, firstly, that justice is not a universal moral value but a notion relative to expediency of the dominant status quo group; secondly, that justice is in the exclusive interest of the dominant group; thirdly, that justice is used as a means of oppression and thus is harmful to the powerless; fourthly, that there is neither any common good nor harmony of interests between those who are in a position of power and those who are not. All there is, is a domination by the powerful and privileged over the powerless. The moral language of justice is used merely instrumentally to conceal the interests of the dominant group and to make these interests appear universal. The powerful “declare what they have made – what is to their own advantage – to be just”

 A life to consider, Dorothy Day:

The National Socialists, Nazis:

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Post Traumatic Stress. I have it from my years as mother of 4.


It comes out in recurring dreams in which chaos reigns in a big shabby house full of “unruly” children.


In last night’s version of the dream we were amidst a spontaneous holiday party thrown by my son and daughters. Every outsider, stoner, would-be- teenage-homosexual, gang banger in town seemed to have got word that there was Open House at the Masars’. Whole families came, illegal Mexican families with sweet nursing mothers, tough sullen teenaged brothers, Spanish-Speaking-Only grandparents were encamped. There was a Romany family. (I am aware of the Racial/Sexual/Class Anxiety revealed in these categories.)


The dream house had its usual features: on the fringe of town, crammed with  stuff that would be better thrown away. A hopeless place where no doors locked and whole walls swung open to the cold.


Terry and I had been on the outs and I was boycotting Christmas. So our old friend, Yvette Long, had decorated. In reality Yvette is a retired African American schoolteacher—orderly and meticulous. In the dream her touch was offset by Sydney Stevens’ punk accents. In reality Sydney is 25, back in school and doing really well in tough subjects. Her mother, one of my closest friends, is a brilliant wack job who adopts severely handicapped animals, and somehow finds the money to have them cured and live out their happy yappy incontinent lives in her home. (Look up Liddia Stevens on the internet to see what I mean about brilliant. She has serious skills like Rembrandt’s.)


In the dream the decorations made me ashamed of my most recent attempt to abdicate my family. In the dream I was in a relationship with  a soft-eyed craftsman who lived in a striking house with working locks and solid walls.


I was trying to hangout with my dear friend Mary Ann Nagy who was apparently visiting us from Seattle. (You can google Mary Ann Nagy too. Her paintings express her love for animals.) In reality Mary Ann is a saint and a healer who always turns up when I am on the edge.


Mary Ann was exhausted and trying to sleep on a day bed that was in one of the main rooms of the party. I kept waking her up by screaming at people to turn off the lights and hold the sound down.  I was too afraid of the surly Mexican brotherhood, so I vented my wrath on “the floozies,” my name for my son’s Frat brothers and their hangers on. Like my son, and as in reality, they were/are adept at politely ignoring my “opinions”. By the end of the night I was after them with pots and pans that they were too loaded to feel.


In the dream I had acquired a second son who had changed his sex and was nursing a new baby. He had pendulous breasts and good supply. I was fine with it and with his role as Mary in the Christmas Tableau. I was also the only person calling any attention to it.


I was drawn to Terry who was increasingly in his cups. I wanted to go back to how things used to be but I was so repelled and frustrated by “his/our mess:”  In reality we had Dutch friends who once called us “The Messers.”  Our sagging garages were, in reality, too full for cars, our house propped up on layers upon layers of misaligned broken-ness that we never had the time money, skills, or sobriety to fix. To be fair we were in the restaurant business. Twenty Four Seven.


In the dream, as in reality, my skin crawled at the prospect of really shouldering my half of the problems. But my heart filled was with guilty affection for my husband. In the dream, as in reality, I knew some women fixed doors and organized garages. Surely I could too, if I really wanted to.


Like Tara in the United States of Tara, my multiple personalities were at war. The Wanna-Be Drill Mama facing off with She who Loves ALL, Mrs. Masar, Shelley-Mom, fond of and fond to All.


In the dream as in reality my daughters were happily avoiding me with their guys and gals. My real son, not Mary in the Manger, placated me to his  annoying amusement ( his father’s son) as he slipped out of ear shot passing out Jell-O shots.


I kept waking up in relief that it was just a dream and falling back asleep for more of the same


By the end of the long night, it was dawn in both the dream and reality. In the dream patient Sydney was helping me collect all the Christmas things and look for a box and a place to put it in the garage. Then she followed me around me with a tape measure measuring the broken doors and walls.

In the dream I told Terry that I would stay (In reality it was not my choice.) IF we cleaned up our act, disciplined the kids, fixed up the house.


In the dream I kept going to the computer to break things off with my Craftsman.


In the dream I wondered if I couldn’t just keep him on the side. Like, um, Terry who had his little escapes.


But in the dream, as in reality, we both knew neither of us really had it in us to get back in the saddle. We were co-dependents. But we knew we were not good for each other. And yet there was Love in it.


It was a bad dream. But it roots in some good Masar Christmases. In reality the kids, except the one in the manger, are back at their good jobs and solid relationships. Terry is Dead, but his green eyes are in our hearts.


In reality we did have messy closets but there was a place for Everyone, and Everyone was free to make that place.


Or that was the dream?


** Psychologist Fritz Perls said that everyone and everything in a Dream: Yvette, Sydney, Mary Ann, Mexicans, Romanies, Gang Bangers, Homosexuals, Husband, Kids, Open doors and Broken Walls are aspects of the Dreamer. It’s interesting.

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This blog is about the Apostle Paul.

 In my quest to understand how selfish ass holes like me can do any good in the world without becoming even BIGGER ASSHOLES I’ve gone down a few paths. Some were forbidden. Like my Grandparents’ Christian Science.

My Unitarian Mother’s parents were Christian Scientists. I learned to roll my eyes at their sayings at an early age. But I understood that Mary Baker Eddy got up out of her 19th century sick bed with the idea that:

“Divine Love will meet and always has met every human need.”

 She sent her faithful healers to encouraged people who were sick and afraid to trust in God at a time when medicine was prescribing leaches for failing kidneys. She also wore glasses. And Christian Scientists went to dentists.

 My Mother thought they were idiots.

 My alcoholic professor father had file drawers of studies on alcoholism. But never turned himself over to AA and the Big Book.

 When my adult-onset Alcoholism kicked in I did turn to AA and the Big Book which teaches that the only redemption from drinking too much and becoming a huge Pain in Everyone’s Ass  is to turn oneself over to a divine power and make amends for the fuck ups one created as a drunk.

 As an imperfectly sober Yogi I’ve spend a few decades studying Hinduism which evolved 5000 years before Christ. The Hindu movie, my trope for a dramatic enactment of the gist of a faith, first aired between 500-200 BC, is called the Bhagavad Gita,

The plot is set before a terrible battle in which Prince Arjuna must reluctantly take arms against people he loves his uncles, cousins, brothers. The Avatar Krishna comes to the overwhelmed young Prince’s chariot and counsels him to be honest, clear and brave in his situation and in his capacity as a leader. In Hinduism God has many projections, Avatars, i.e., Krishna, Shiva, Sita, Hanumas, Ganesh, who encourage and provoke human kind in various ways.

 A kindly elephant-headed God named Ganesh serves as a reliable go between suffering humans and the Avatars.

 Hinduism counsels humans to Trust in the Divine within and do what they are predestined to do in the world. The Ramayana is another good Hindu movie.

Judaisim evolving contemporaneously with Hinduism was all about the rules of decency between God and Humanity, and between Human and Human. You know Jews. They make the best movies: Noah’s Arc, Jonah’s Whale, Samson and Delilah, Joseph and his Brothers, Moses and the Mountain.

 Stories aside, Religions have intellectuals too.

 One hundred years before Christ the Jewish intellectual Rabbi Hillel summed up the essential truth of the Torah, “The Old Testament:”

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”


“Whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” [4]

 Buddha was a Hindu Intellectual. Teaching 600 years before Paul he didn’t claim to be God nor preach His message.  His thought was that life is suffering. And that the solution to suffering is compassion for others. To him  “saints” are Boddhisatvas, people who have resolved their own fears and reached a state of acceptance and happiness that they stay on earth to share with others. The Buddhist Movie is Siddhartha.

Least atheists over-credit Buddhists, many Buddhist intellectuals imply that compassion has Supernatural consequences. And folk Buddhism involves shrines and rituals that give Buddha supernatural powers and call him to the rescue.

Islam, about which I know little beyond the poetry of the Sufi Rumi, came into the world 600 years after Jesus, and spread even more rapidly than Christianity. One hundred years after the death of the FINAL Prophet Muhammad in 632, Islam extended from Spain to India. It’s scriptures were delivered in verse to the illiterate poet Muhammad. They make less of suffering than Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism and describe a single god, Allah, who sees and predestines all. Allah saves absolutely. For many people in the 7th century AD and after Islam trumped Christianity in its absolutism. But it also had a message of sweetness and Love.

The point I have wandered away from  is my new found respect for the Apostle Paul who was the Roger Ebert of his day. He gave God and his Jesus a thumbs up. And spent his life telling folks that their lives would straighten out if they would get with the program.

He was a great psychologist and philosopher. And a zealous man. He did terrible things and had the grit to realize them. Not one to suffer alone he rolled his personal insight and repentance into a logic of apostolic salvation that came galloping out of the monotheistic Judaism of justice, prophesy and collective discipline. And he galloped off to deliver the message.

Paul’s theological logic, laid out in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 goes like this. Jesus, the Christ, Messiah, Messenger, was the mortal son of God, sent by God to reveal the real nature of God and to solve the problems and questions of human suffering, sin and death. ( I can hear Bryan snorting now. For “sin,” Bryan, substitute Rush Limbaugh’s and you’ll feel better.)

God sent Jesus to us as a human being who would suffer and die like we do. Jesus was to be an example, THE example, of how to live, deal with self and others, and face death. His life and death were condensed and dramatic. Like a movie.

The life of Jesus was God’s last movie!  THE message: It’s You, Human, and Me, God, take my hand, IT Works if You Work it!

God, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohn, know that we come to terms with God in our weakness, when we suffer, when we or someone we love are looking Death in the eye. Jesus came to tell us that we won’t die and CAN be forgiven BUT ONLY if we wake up to our new lives as messengers of the Way, The Way of compassion for other miserable human beings.

The idea that the good we do is God’s not our own is supposed to keep us humble because we are not celebrating our own virtue,  and creativity but God’s.

The idea is  to empower us and maybe keep us from succumbing to corruption. We are supposed to go out and be Rosa Luxenburgs  Not Joseph Stalins.

The reward for our submission (and activism) is a life of purpose, kindness, restraint, gentleness and grace.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. More about the lyric of Paul later. He has some great great lines.

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“Autocracy Tempered by Assasination”


In the early 1980s James Nowlan, then U of I Political Science professor,  later candidate for Illinois Lt. Governor, a pragmatic Republican, was walking on the University campus where my late husband and I ran a jazz club. I hollered something snarky like, “Go Left Young Man, Go Left!”  Jim, a very nice and civil person, winced, smiled, and suggested we might do better without the directional labels.


This hasn’t worked for President Obama, because me and my fellow Americans love labels: “Leftist,” “Progressive,”  “Liberal,” “Socialist,” “Capitalist,” “Classist,” “Racist,” “Sexist,” “Moron.”


As a liberal labeler reading The New Testament for the first time is to gain access to an AMAZING source of inspiration. And frustration. Especially the Pauline letters. What the hell, man?! Which side were you on?!


Educated in the late 60s early 70s I managed to (“help”) take over the Oberlin Administration Building, and study Marxist theater as a dance major at Cal Arts, but my grasp of World History, Theology, and Geography remained wobbly.


Corinth? Ephesus? Paul was in Macedonia? Where is Macedonia again?


So deep the ignorance. So shallow the discipline. I sat down to write this at 7 am, but opened Word two hours later via “Like”ing and Commenting on my friends’ Facebook posts.


Lately the clouds of confusion have centered over what is meant, historically and geographically, by “Byzantine” and “Byzantium?” What was the schism between the Eastern Church, Hagia Sophia/Constantinople and the Western church St. Peters/Rome? And which side was better, more democratic, ecumenical, tolerant. And which worse, racist, sexist, slave-ist, crusadist?


My patient history mentors, not up to my concatenating labeling in face of the complex history of Byzantium, told me to go find a book. When this happens, I turn my to my old mother’s reference library. (When provoked, she once said she’d forgotten more in a day than I would muddle-up in a lifetime.)


The yellowing but still yielding pages of her copy of THE COLUMBIA HISTORY OF THE WORLD edited by John A Garraty and Peter Gay had a helpful chapter called Early Byzantium.


I couldn’t follow every thing. Byzantine history refers to a thousand years! It began when Constantine I dedicated Constantinople in 330 A.D., ( btw, Constantinople is now modern Istanbul) in 330 AD and continuied until the Christian city state of Constantinople capitulated to Islam in 1453.


There are libraries full of the story, but as I understand it, Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. He moved the capital of the Roman empire from Rome in Italy east to present day Turkey to get away from plagues (literally, sickness) and pests including barbarous invaders from the North (present day France and Germany).  Peter Gay and his Columbian fellows introduce Byzantine history and culture, as follows:


“It has been characterized as a combination of Greek culture, Roman institutions and Christianity, but it may be identified equally satisfactorily by the three objects of its ascending allegiance: the City, the Emperor, the Faith…founded as the heir of Old Rome with all the privileges and prerogatives of the former capital of the

classical world, but cleansed of its pagan associations. “


But were “they,” those Byzantine Christians, Good Guys or Bad Guys? And what was their culture like for the people?


History confounds the labeling impulse.  The story is complicated. The Byzantine emperors decided that they were the incarnation of Christ. This was resented and opposed by the priests and popes still in Rome who believed Christ’s authority was left to successors of St. Peter. The Eastern, Byzantine Christians and the Western Roman ones spent the millennium arguing over who was the image of Christ and who the Antichrist.


(The Colombian scholars get off a really good line, to the effect that  “the agitated and often bloody history of the Byzantine state” could be characterized as “autocracy tempered by assassination.”  Could we, I wonder, characterize 19th and 20th century American history as democratic enlightenment resisted by assassination: Lincoln, Malcolm, King, the evolving Kennedys, the Starr report, Fox news?)


Liberal bells started chiming when the Big Book of History explained that the Greek-ish  theologians of Byzantium thought  the Christian promise of salvation had been fulfilled by the Resurrection. Jesus had already redeemed us and we could see the divine when we looked in the mirror. In contrast Western theologians thought we would not be off the hook until the second coming.


Disappointingly, the Eastern emperor and administrations went on: the heavenly kingdom was already here; Christ was already running the show, and the emperor was His chief colleague and image. And if you couldn’t get with the logic of theocracy you could be blinded. Literally. But blinding was in place of capital punishment and more Christian as it gave you the opportunity to atone for your error. 


Aghast the West resisted: the emperor was a sinful mortal and the pope was the representative of Christ. Infallibly the Western papacy would eventually emerge and Western medieval civilization would evolve. Feudal tenants would be given their land in return for committing their bodies to military campaigns that would slaughter tens of thousands of people (and their horses).


The short moral of this history in quotation is that Jim Nowlan was right. “Left” and “Right,” “Liberal” and “Conservative” are not useful in rendering history, motive, and the pursuit of happiness.


That said, it is deeply valuable to go on trying to sort out where real freedom, light, and cooperation are possible.



James D. Nowlan

Jim Nowlan is a Senior Fellow with the University of Illinois

Institute of Government and Public Affairs and an adjunct professor of public policy at Knox College. In addition, he currently serves as Director of Research with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and as Project Director with the Illinois People’s Budget Project. Prior to these positions, Jim served as president of the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois from 1991-94. Nowlan considers himself a jack-of-all-trades in government and politics. Former Illinois Governor James Thompson called on Jim to take over troubled state agencies on three occasions and to assist his administration in eight different capacities. In recognition for his work in the public arena, Jim received the 1994 award for “distinguished leadership as a public administrator ” from the Illinois state capital chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, and the1995 Ben C. Hubbard Award for Leadership in Education from the Illinois State University College of Education. Jim was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1968, at age 26. Four years later Governor Richard B. Ogilvie asked Jim to be his running mate as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, when they were narrowly defeated. Former U.S. Senator Charles Percy asked Nowlan to manage his successful campaign for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 1978. The following year, U.S. Representative John B. Anderson called on Jim to organize his national presidential campaign. Nowlan’s planning work for Anderson was described as “brilliant” in the Washington Post book, Pursuit of the Presidency. His book Inside State Government is considered by many to be required reading for executives in Illinois state government. In a 1989 book,

A New Game Plan for Illinois, Jim presented a specific, dramatic platform for Illinois in the 1990s. Nowlan and Samuel K. Gove are co-authors of Illinois Politics and Government: The Expanding Metropolitan Frontier. Jim writes frequently for the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business. Active in public service, Jim has been a founder, officer, or board member of numerous nonprofit groups, including the Stravinsky International Music Awards, the Illinois Tax Foundation and the Committee of 100 of Voices for Illinois Children. In the 1970s, Nowlan owned and operated a group of community newspapers in central Illinois. Nowlan received his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in political science from the University of Illinois.


Read Nowlan on the debate whether to label GMO foods



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