Sunday, August 1, 2010

This should be......

a HOLY SH*# moment for every American.

House Resolution 1553 (link and selected text below) states in part (introduced by Louie "Gomer Pyle" Gohmert):

"Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel."

So, representatives of the United States Government are, in fact advocating a military strike on Iran.

Silly us, we all thought this option was "off the table" with the election of President Obama and the ushering out of President Bush and his crew who were eager to shoot at anything in the middle east that moved.

Of course, some will say, "well, the resolution applies to Israel attacking Iran, not the United States".

Any attack on Iran by Israel will be viewed on as an attack on Iran by the United States. If you don't understand and believe that, you are, essentially, a moron.

On paper, it looks great. Israel sends a few planes in, bombs some stuff, and it's all good - never mind that a one time military strike against multiple targets will not stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon if it wants one. In fact, an attack on Iran will most likely accelerate Iran's development of a nuclear weapon to have the deterrent to stave off future attacks.

Some believe that a military strike on Iran will rally the opposition into action to topple the regime. How likely does that sound? Most likely, an attack on Iran by the hated Israeli's will draw the opposition closer to the regime - maybe not permanently, but for a time. When a country is attacked by outsiders, most of the time, the response is to rally around your country and your sovereignty.

What are some other possible scenarios for Iranian responses? Every one by now knows that you cannot stand toe to toe with the United States. Every one by now KNOWS how to fight a war against the Americans (and, the Israeli's). It's called Asymmetric warfare. Most of these actions would most likely be taken by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

One possible response would be stepped up attacks against US interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are countries where there are currently a lot of US personnel (already facing deadly insurgent campaigns), and these are countries which border Iran. Iran could easily flood these countries with stepped up attacks against US soldiers. Bill Lind (a prolific writer on current warfare issues, especially "fourth generation warfare") has argued that because of fragile supply lines that could be attacked, the Army in Iraq or Aghanistan could be literally cut off and destroyed.

Another possible response would be attacks on naval and oil interests in the Persian Gulf. For a snap shot of how that might look, it would be helpful to look at General Paul Van Riper's low tech asymmetric warfare actions as the "bad guy" in the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame (there is a good chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink on it), where he inflicted DEEP damage on the "good guys".

Attacks on oil interests would have a devastating effect on an already shaky global economy.

It's fairly interesting to me that this House Resolution is not a bigger story.

Have we gotten to the point where we are so ground down from war, and so numb that our leaders are just going to do whatever the hell they want, that we don't want to think through the ramifications of what can actually happen?

At the beginning of our protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of observers predicted bad things were going to happen - worst case scenarios. The worst case scenarios didn't necessarily happen, but 8+ years of continual war (which has severely gutted our military's capability), several thousand dead Americans, an untold number of Americans broken physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially has been bad enough, especially if you look at it in a "big picture" fashion.

The ramifications and fall out of both of these wars are starting to be really felt, and are going to be felt for a long time.

Eventually, our luck is going to run out and the worst case scenario IS going to happen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I have spent more than a year studying the writings and the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (since the end of December 2008). I have read a a lot his work and I have read a lot of biographical information on him.

I read that a lot scholars don't think his work was "systematic". I believe that his work was very systematic. I think he was one of the first systems thinkers. I believe he was an early person successful in looking at the whole systems and the interconnectedness of things.

A lot of people think that Thoreau eclipsed Emerson both in writing ability and in fame. While I view Thoreau as a brilliant writer, I view Emerson as being equally as brilliant.

I think Thoreau is for the young and idealistic, and Emerson, while still very idealistic is for the mature, and for those who've been through a bit of life.

I told a friend awhile back that I'd like to be able to write like Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said "who wouldn't".

But, I don't think he got my meaning. I'm not talking about writing as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson - I just don't think anyone could write that well again. I certainly don't believe that in five life times my writing could ever be that good.

I'm talking about writing LIKE him.

Writing about what is important. How to best live a good life. Writing about how all of us are interconnected. The search for God. That kind of thing.

Not so much about specific events (like health care reform, or the wars, etc), but about life.

When you read Emerson's writing, he doesn't usually talk about specific events. Certainly there were some big events in his life, most notably the Civil War and Slavery, and a whole lot of personal tragedy.

Emerson writes not specifically about events a lot of the time - you know the events are happening in the background because you know the history.

The events certainly must be on his mind, and they certainly must be influencing him.

There are always going to be events. One hundred years from now, the events that we have fretted over, and spent so much time thinking about and arguing about (sometimes with a vehemence that borders on hatred) are going to be something for the history books, and something for the people who come after us to study.

The people then will have all new issues.

But, the big questions will always be there no matter the events. In fact, sometimes I think believing in the importance of the events keep us from asking the bigger, important questions. We focus on the events, and think the events to be the important things, and not the questions.

We forget to keep asking the questions. What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Am I doing the right things? How can I be happy? Is being happy the most important thing, or is it living a good life? What does living a "good life" mean?

All of these and more.

A lot of the time over the past year, I feel like being able to dip into Emerson kept me sane and grounded.

It certainly was better for my psyche than anything Fox News, MSNBC or anyone else had to say.

I'll close with one of my favorite Emerson quotes, from his brilliant essay Self-Reliance:

"These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."

Emerson goes on to say:

"But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Church

I write this on Easter Sunday, 2010.

I have been thinking about my stormy relation to the Roman Catholic church, which I joined in 2003 for quite some time.

As a lifelong Protestant (Lutheran) prior to my joining the church, I have struggled with the hierarchical nature of the church almost since day one. I don't know that I'll ever resolve that struggle from an emotional or an intellectual level.

I cannot defend what happened now, nor can I defend what happened shortly before I joined in 2003 (the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston). I cannot try to defend the Vatican or Pope Benedict XVI or any Bishop involved. In my opinion, they show themselves sometimes to be so far out of touch with what the average Catholic is thinking, and the teachings of Christ, I just cannot believe it.

All I can do on this Easter Sunday is to continue to do what the Apostle Paul instructed me to do in Philippians 2:12-13: "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure"

What drew me to the church was not the Vatican, or the Pope, or the Magesterium, or the hierarchy, or anything like that.

What drew me to the church were prophetic, hard working men and women. Some of them known, some of them not well known. Some of them Saints, and some of them on their way to being saints. Some of them, not ever destined to be saints - at least within the formal canonization process of the church.

People like Saint Francis of Assisi. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Saint Maximilian Kolbe of Auschwitz. Franz Jaggerstatter of Austria. Thomas Merton. The Patron Saint of my Parish, Saint Therese of Lisieux. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And so many more, including good people I've met in my faith journey.

I could post the reasons why I was attracted to these people's lives and actions, and how that related to my finding a home in the church. But each person has to find these people for themselves.

The people mentioned above, and the work they did through the ages was important. Their examples helped me to enhance my faith, and gave me good examples of how to live out my faith. But, they didn't do it for themselves. They did it for what the church is really about. The central figure of church history. Jesus Christ.

He is the true focus of my faith. I hereby reaffirm that on Easter Day 2010.

Last night I went to the Easter Vigil at my parish. The Easter Vigil is traditionally the Mass where those who have been preparing to enter the church are brought into the church. Last night we had one person come into the church. He was baptized last night, confirmed, and had his first communion.

As I looked around at the people, people who I know, people who I worship with each week, each of us watching a person come into the church, I realized that THIS was what it was about.

Each of us living our faith in a community of faith. Struggling to deal with the sin and ugliness of the world, and sometimes the sin and ugliness of those who are entrusted to be our leaders and teachers in the faith. Being perplexed about it, being angry about it, and sometimes being incredibly sad about it. But also dealing with beauty, and the greatness of the faith.

It is a gift in having those rare moments like last night, where you get a sense of what it is all about.

I realize that my words here are grossly inadequate to explain it all, so I'll close with a great quote from Dorothy Day:

"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Social Justice

I have written this blog for almost 3 years.

I have very rarely commented on people like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. I have made general comments, especially as to my belief that "media" like this is harmful to the solving of complex problems and to the tenor of reasoned debate in this country.

Once in awhile though, something comes along that is so fundamentally flawed, so egregiously wrong that it must be challenged.

That something is Glenn Beck's assertion that churches that preach "Social Justice" are really only using code words for Communism and Nazism.

When I read about this, and heard about this, I could only shake my head. Criticism of him is coming in from all kinds of different places - and rightly so.

But, in thinking about it, I think a lot of people believe exactly the same way that Beck does about "Social Justice" and helping the poor. To a lot of people, Christians included, to be poor is to be weak and morally flawed. If you are poor, it's YOUR fault.

First, to define "social justice". Remember, Beck says if your church or priest preaches Social Justice, you are supposed to run away - that that really means embracing Communism or Nazism.

This is an excellent excerpt from "Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish" on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website:

The introduction of the report has the following to say about Social Justice:

"One of the most encouraging signs of the gospel at work in our midst is the vitality and quality of social justice ministries in our parishes. Across the country, countless local communities of faith are serving those in need, working for justice, and sharing our social teaching as never before. Millions of parishioners are applying the gospel and church teaching in their own families, work, and communities. More and more, the social justice dimensions of our faith are moving from the fringes of parishes to become an integral part of local Catholic life."

Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners has logged a lot of time on CNN, MSNBC, etc over the past few weeks answering questions about Beck's comments and the wrongness of them. Reverend Wallis has talked about a time where they cut out with scissors or a knife all of the passages in the Bible that relate to the care of the poor. After the completion of this task, so much of the bible was gone, that from a structural standpoint it barely held together.

I personally do not see how you can reconcile the rapacious, winner take all, consumer driven, "me first" capitalism that a lot of us seem to be living (including those in the churches - and among those, I count myself) with passages like Matthew 25:31-46 which culminates with Jesus teaching in verse 45: "He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me."

Now, of course there will be those people who say that I didn't interpret the scripture correctly, or missed the true message, or whatever. That may be so, and I take full responsibility for that - but, to me, unlike a lot of bible verses, it seems pretty clear cut.

Take care of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and those in prison.

It's interesting that when you get into early church history, after Jesus active ministry (Acts), you find that this type of taking care of each other STILL existed. Acts 2:44-45 says:

"All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need."

That seems pretty clear cut to me as well.

What happened along the way to change that?

No more to say really. It isn't Communism or Nazism, It isn't something I made up. Or gleaned from Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto.

It's the Gospel, and it's there for anyone to read if they care to.

I'll let the Prophet Micah close it out:

"What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8)

Sunday, January 24, 2010


If one part suffers (talking about the body of Christ), all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Usually when I am compelled to write here it is because something I have read, or heard has jolted me.

The above line from 1 Corinthians jolted me last night at mass, as did this part of the Gospel (Luke 4: 17-21)

"He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” .

We had a visiting Priest last night, and he was with Food For The Poor ( As he said, he was there to beg on behalf of the world's poor children.

The readings were not picked to coincide with his visit (he goes to a different church every week and has to preach whatever the weekly lectionary says), the reading was part of the normal weekly lectionary.

His stories were obviously calculated to tug at the heart and purse strings, which they should have, and, in fact, they did.

For example, he told of a Jamaican mother whose 3 year old died of diarrhea from a water borne disease. The baby couldn't be saved because she couldn't afford a $3.00 jug of pedialyte.

Food For the Poor's area of operation is the Caribbean basin. Obviously the place in the news most lately is in that area - Haiti.

As Father Greg pointed out, Haiti was desperately poor BEFORE the earthquake. He said that 1 out of every 5 children there die of hunger and other things. 1 out of every 5. That should shock us, but I think a lot of times there is so much pain and suffering in the world it does not.

Which brings me to what unsettled me about 1 Corinthians 12:26.

First, it should be said that the response to the earthquake in Haiti has been generous. People have been giving their time and money in large amounts, and that's to be commended.

But, how do we account for a lot of the inaction on the continual misery and suffering prior to January 12th, the day the earthquake happened?

I'm not saying that I'm any better or any worse than anyone else at grasping this or doing anything about it, it just disturbs me. The passage is very clear - If ONE part suffers ALL the parts suffer with it.

That is so impossibly deep and heavy, I can't even start to get my mind around it. I think a lot of the time when a lot of us Christians think about "the Body of Christ", we are thinking about our own local churches, or the people that we know and deal with in our churches on a weekly basis.

But, I don't think that's what this is talking about. I think it literally tells us that if one part suffers, we all should be suffering. A long time ago, when people were insulated, and were not exposed to a large part of the rest of the world, this was probably a little easier.

But, now, we can see the horror from Port Au Prince and other places. What excuse do we have of not knowing of the suffering of our brothers and sisters all over the world?

Stories have been told recently about Christians in Haiti doing the best that they can (in some cases sharing their meager possessions) for their fellow countrymen.

To me, this is humbling and very unsettling.

One point to continually ponder - what does it mean to "suffer" with all the parts of the body of Christ?

How deep are we supposed to go in that suffering? A few, like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day were called to go all the way. Leaving all they had behind and going to live day to day, year after year with the poor.

But, for the rest of us, how deep are we supposed to go? That is a question that has disturbed me, and a question that will continue to disturb me.