Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

Today we set aside to recognize the contributions of a man to the cause of equality.  A recognition of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to non-violent protest, equality, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

An ordained Baptist minister, you can see the inspiration he drew from the commands to love the Lord your God above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemies.  His call for non-violence from Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek.

He serves as a reminder to us that we are all derived from one creator; that there is "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We could add to that list that there is neither black nor white.  

And he reminds us that our founding documents declare that "all men are created equal" and it is our job to hold our country to that truth.  

"All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."


"There can be no gain saying of the fact that our nation has brought the world to an awe inspiring threshold of the future. We've built machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gargantuan bridges to span the seas and gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. And through our spaceships we have penetrated oceanic depths and through our airplanes we have dwarfed distance and placed time in chains. This really is a dazzling picture of America's scientific and technological progress. But in spite of this something basic is missing. In spite of all of our scientific and technological progress we suffer from a kind of poverty of the spirit that stands in glaring contrast to all of our material abundance. This is the dilemma facing our nation and this is the dilemma to which we as clergymen and laymen must address ourselves. Henry David Thoreau said once something that still applies. In a very interesting dictum he talked about improved means to an unimproved end. This is a tragedy that somewhere along the way as a nation we have allowed the mean by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. And consequently we suffer from a spiritual and moral lag that must be redeemed if we are going to survive and maintain a moral stance.


And the words of Jesus are still applicable. What does it profit a generation, what does it profit a nation to own the whole world of means televisions, electric lights and automobiles and lose in the end the soul. The words of Jesus are still true in another sense. Man can not live by the bread of colored televisions alone but by every word, the word of justice, the word of love, the word of truth, every word that procedeth out of the mouth of God. And the problem is that all too many people in power are trying to get America to live on the wrong thing. And this is why we are moving in the wrong direction. This war is playing havoc with our domestic destinies for all of these reasons. We are fighting two wars today.


And so I say we need your support and we expect it as we move on into this area and I want to thank you for the support that so many of you have continually given. As we were marching today, some 5,000 strong, I thought about Selma because I could look around and see so many who have marched with us in Selma, and from Selma to Montgomery. And we are still marching and we are still moving. And I give you my commitment today that I plan to continue. Someone said to me not long ago, it was a member of the press, 'Dr. King, since you face so many criticisms and since you are going to hurt the budget of your organization, don't you feel that you should kind of change and fall in line with the Administration's policy. Aren't you hurting the civil rights movement and people who once respected you may lose respect for you because you're involved in this controversial issue in taking the stand against the war.' And I had to look with a deep understanding of why he raised the question and with no bitterness in my heart and say to that man, "I'm sorry sir, but you don't know me. I'm not a consensus leader.  I don't determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking....  Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion."  Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.  On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right."

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Proper Sense of Priorities, February 6, 1968

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

What good does it do us, what does it profit us today to remember the man, to post quotes from his life, if we are not actively working towards change?  Are we honoring his legacy if we pretend his struggle existed only in the past?

Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been recognized as a day for service.  The only federal holiday to be a day on, not a day off, reflecting our responsibility to each other.  This Martin Luther King, Jr. day, may we be active supporters in the cause of justice, of mercy.  May we be taking positions because our conscience tells us that it is right.  May we truly be in service to all.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Thank You For Being a Friend

"Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say

Thank you for being a friend!"

I'm not exactly sure when it started.  I know I watched some episodes when they originally aired and I remember that period.  We certainly watched that era of sitcoms in our household growing up and I remember the ones around them.  Empty Nest, Nurses, Blossom.  And I remember enjoying it at the time.  

At some point though, The Golden Girls became my go to comfort television show.  It was that way in college, law school, and living on my own.  When I had cable, it was so easy to turn to the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime and catch a re-run.  I even went through it when we had Hulu and rewatched several seasons.  

There was many a night where I would turn on The Golden Girls, lay on the couch after a long day, and fall asleep as the episodes played.

The thing is, it's a deceptively good sitcom.  And it works because of the well created characters found in Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche, and Rose.  Each of the characters is perfectly crafted, and the actresses bringing them to life are at the top of their game.

There's one episode in particular that never fails to make me laugh, and it's a bit with Rose and a Saint Olaf Story.  It involves a herring circus.  The delivery makes it clear that the actresses are struggling to keep their composure through the story.

Betty White played Rose Nylund perfectly.  It always remains interesting that White was originally envisioned for Blanche Devereaux, as it was similar to the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Rue McClanahan was originally intended to play Rose, as it was similar to the role she played on Maude.  Both eager not be typecast, they took the suggestion of the director and switched roles at the last minute.  

I'm so thankful they did, because White was able to bring out such a well rounded character in Rose Nylund.  She brought the naivete and innocence required for the role, but also grounded it in warmth, sincerity, and earnestness that quickly shown through.

Her career is littered with such roles, particularly in television, making her honorary title, the "First Lady of Television" quite fitting.  She was the first woman to produce a sitcom, one of her first starring roles in Life with Elizabeth.  The dual natured Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Ellen Harper Jackson on Mama's Family.  A great supporting role opposite Leslie Jordan on Boston Legal.  The judgmental caretaker Elka Ostrovsky on Hot in Cleveland.  

She was the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live after a successful Facebook based campaign.  The spot garnered her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress on a Comedy Series.  She earned a Guinness World Record for the Longest TV career by an entertainer (female) in 2014 and then again in 2018.  She received eight Emmy Awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Grammy Award.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

She was a comedy genius and her spirit will be missed greatly.  Both as an actress and comedian, and as an activist and philanthropist for animals.

Ms. White passed away on the morning of December 31, 2021, the end result of a stroke she had on Christmas Day.  She would have been 100 years young tomorrow.  Ms. White was preceded in death by her husband Allen Lunden.  Lunden passed away in 1981.  White remained unmarried following Lunden's death, saying, "Once you've had the best, who needs the rest?"  She always believed she would see him again.

Rest in Peace Betty White; may your love story be continuing.

Thank you for being our friend.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Obsolete Mind

"You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be.  This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one.  It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time.  It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom.  But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.  This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth.  He's a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he's built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone."
Rod Serling's opening narration for The Obsolete Man
The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Episode 29, June 2, 1961

The Twilight Zone keeps becoming more and more prescient.

Indiana, like several other states, is debating new legislation ostensibly aimed at removing bias from education.  Labeled "Education Matters," Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 1134 create a system in which teacher's lesson plans must be posted by June 30 for the following year and available to parents to review, curriculum must be determined by a committee composed of 40% parents and community members and 40% educators, allow parents to opt their child out of any part of the curriculum they desire with a simple request, prohibit educators from repeatedly interacting with students on social-emotional issues without prior parental consent, and prohibit teachers from providing any qualitative assessment on a host of categories.

There are a lot of sections of these bills that are getting attention.  For example, the bill includes:

Chapter 1.5 Diginity and Nondiscrimination in Education
Sec. 2 (a) In accordance with IC 20-33-1-1, a state agency ..., school corporation, or qualified school shall not include or promote the following concepts as a part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program or allow teachers or other employees of the school corporation or qualified school, acting in their official capacity, to use supplemental instructional materials that include or promote the following concepts:
(1) That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation is inherently superior or inferior to another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(2) That an individual, by virtue of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
(5) That an individual's moral character is necessarily determined by the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(6) That an individual, by virtue of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(7) That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.

The intent is clear.  This is the anti-"Critical Race Theory" boogey man bill.  This is really an "anti-dealing with race in anyway" bill.  It isn't even subtle.  There are provisions that prevent schools from promoting any kind of race based instruction for their teachers.  There are provisions that prohibit any kind of racial sensitivity training for school employees.  As you can see above, teachers are prohibited from taking any side in discussing this with students. It prohibits colleges from including anything related to the categories above in a teacher preparation program.  All curriculum must be approved by a newly created committee and every parent can opt out of any portion they object to with the ease of a click.

From the section provided above, teachers could not, for example, state that Nazis are bad, because Nazism is a political affiliation.  Because teachers can not even include anything above in their instruction, they could not include contemporaneous statements of people regarding their positions in the Civil War, or the Civil Rights movement.  Teachers could not discuss any kind of systemic racism, only referring to it as an individual belief.

Another section even prevents a qualified school from providing a student with ongoing or recurring consultation, collaboration, or intervention services for mental, social-emotional, or psychological health issues, or from referring a student to any such services without prior parental permission.  What's the point of a school counselor then?  

There are so many sections like this, it's almost overwhelming.  But this is not the worst part of the bill.

The worst part of the bill is not what it adds to education laws, it's what it removes.  Existing educational law has the following provision:

Section 12 IC 20-30-5-17: Sec. 17 (b) A student shall not be required to participate in a personal analysis, an evaluation, or a survey, that is not directly related to academic instruction and that reveals or attempts to affect the student's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings concerning:
(1) political affiliation;
(2) religious beliefs or practices;
(3) mental or psychological conditions that may embarrass the student or the student's family;
(4) sexual behavior or attitudes;
(5) illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(6) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom the student has a close family relationship;
(7) legally recognized privileged or confidential relationships, including a relationship with a lawyer, minister, or physician; or
(8) income (except as required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under a program);
without the prior consent of the student if the student is an adult or an emancipated minor or the prior written consent of the student's parent if the student is an unemancipated minor.

The new proposed legislation removes the defense of a request directly related to academic instruction and removes all of "concerning" limitations.  So the new text reads:

Section 12 IC 20-30-5-17: Sec. 17 (b) A student shall not be required to participate in a personal analysis, an evaluation, or a survey, that reveals or attempts to affect the student's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings without the prior written consent of the student if the student is an adult or an emancipated minor or the prior written consent of the student's parent if the student is an unemancipated minor.

Now a teacher cannot have a student provide his opinions without the prior written consent of the student's parents.  


How far does this extend?  Doesn't that just prevent a teacher from asking a student to provide any answer in English, Arts, Music, Literature, etc..?  Previously, the law was structured to have a teacher avoid topics that would be illegal to ask under other provisions of the law.  It was having a teacher avoid First Amendment issues, issues of privilege, issues of embarrassment/harassment.  Now a teacher cannot ask a student to reveal their opinion about anything without the parent's written permission.

And this strikes at the ugly heart of the proposed law - it does not view children as people.

Children, under this provision, have no independent persona of their own.  They are an extension of their parents.  And they are to be instructed in only what their parent wishes them to be instructed, so that they believe exactly as their parents believe.

A child cannot be allowed to have independent thought.  That would not do. 

Their mind is obsolete.

This is simply an extension of that primal fear that White conservatives have, of their children going off to college and being corrupted by "liberal" thought.  The fear that colleges are just indoctrinating our youth.

It was never true, but that's beside the point.  Sure, you may find a handful of professors that will sneer at conservative thought.  But that's not the reason that children would change their beliefs when they went off to college.  That doesn't happen because people are pressuring them to change their beliefs.  It happens because they go out into the world and encounter a wider world of differing thoughts and experiences.  It's because they escape the bubble of their existence and find out what they really believe, not just what they were told to believe.

All we are seeing is an attempt to enlarge the bubble.  We're seeing parents desperate to keep their children under their belief system, by making sure they are exposed to nothing else.  To never have their beliefs questioned or challenged.  To never see or experience anything else.  To never have anyone disagree with them.

To make sure their children never really grow.  No challenge, no struggle, no growth.

The mind is treated as a slate to be programmed, not grown.  Education must only input facts and data, and never teach to question.  Do not encourage curiosity.  Do not encourage debate.  Do not encourage real belief in anything.

To that end, teachers must be only babysitters.  They become extensions of the parent's in providing only the instruction on topics they agree to and with.  Children are clones to be programmed with that content.

That's where we all lose from this law.  It seeks to create a generation of compliant copies of their parents.  An appeasement to keep our current balance, a detente if you will.

If there is any good news, it's that the current generation won't stand for it.  They are already calling us out on our bull, and they will see right through this as well.  They are rightfully deconstructing their faiths already and are finding the earthly representations of them wanting.  They will do the same with education.  It's already been occurring, as far too many of them see the harm that has already been done.

Hopefully, we can convince the Indiana House and Senate of their error as well.

Let's avoid that Twilight Zone if we can.

The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct.  He was obsolete.  But so is the State, the entity he worshiped.  Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions, but convinces nobody.  When it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all.  Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man...that state is obsolete.  A case to be filed under "M" for "Mankind" - in The Twilight Zone.
Serling's scripted closing narration for The Obsolete Man

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

TCM Remembers 2021

This week seems it may be a lot of memorials.  I typically share this at the end of the year, but that was a bit full this time.  TCM always puts together a classy memorial reel, providing the most comprehensive look at the loss that film suffered in the past year.

This past years list included legends and so far 2022 is following in that vein.  There will be a couple more posts for specific individuals later this week.

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Reminder 2022

We've made it to 2022.  Through the set of Christmas posts and into the new year, and there were a lot more eyes on the posts this December than there have been over the past year.  With that in mind, it's probably a good time to give this reminder about the blog.

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all too often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
    • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
    • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
    • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
    • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts, then informed opinions, then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading.  Here's to the new year of posting!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Christmas, A Summary

It's interesting how we set a couple of chapters of the Bible aside to really only teach them once a year.  We set aside everything to do with the birth of Jesus and reserve it for December.  As if that were the only time we could learn from it.  

It's odd, because we wouldn't recommend someone reading through the Bible in a year, or whatever period of time, set aside Matthew 2 and Luke 1-2 for December.  Rather we would recommend they read it and study it when they come to it. For context and for understanding.

In that spirit, I've collected all of the posts that have focused on the birth of Jesus and the religious celebration around it into this summary post.  It can serve as a reference point for me to jump back to and expand as the years progress and hopefully will prove useful to others as well.

May we not leave the power, the joy and wonder of the incarnation of the Holy Christ to one season a year.


The Nativity

The Twelve Days of Christmas (An Overview)

Ephiphany, or Three Kings Day

Saturday, January 8, 2022

To Sir, With Love

"The time has come
For closing books and long last looks must end
And as I leave
I know that I am leaving my best friend

A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong, that's a lot to learn
What, what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon
I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, with love"

One of the great joys of watching film is discovering great filmmakers.  Not only those who make great art, but also those who live great lives.  Poitier was always recognizable, even to me as a young film viewer.  The voice instantly let you know who was on screen.  And his presence on screen captivated anyone's attention.

Over the past two years, I've really explored Poitier's filmography.  Prior to that, my exposure to him was only through Sneakers and Lillies of the Field.  But over the past two years, we've seen No Way Out, Cry, The Beloved Country, Blackboard Jungle, Edge of the City, The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, A Patch of Blue, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.  These roles meant something.  They said something.  And Poitier blazed a trail in them.

"Before Sidney, African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out in certain parts of the country. But you couldn't cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture."
Denzel Washington

Poitier was the first African American to receive the Academy Award for Best Actor, the first in either of the Best Actor/Actress categories.  He has received a Grammy Award, two Golden Globe awards, and a BAFTA.  He further received two Academy Award nominations, ten Golden Globe nominations, two Primetime Emmy Award nominations, six BAFTA nominations, eight Laurel nominations, and one Screen Actors Guild nomination.  In 1995, Poitier received the Kennedy Center Honor and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  He was also named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.  

He was an icon, an activist, and an ambassador.  He made our film better and he made our world better.  He will be greatly missed.

"Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans."
President Barack Obama

Friday, January 7, 2022

One Year Later

"The mob was fed lies.  They were provoked by the president and other powerful people...They tried to disrupt our democracy, they failed...This failed insurrection."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), January 6, 2021

"The violence, destruction, and chaos we saw earlier was unacceptable undemocratic and unamerican.  It was the saddest day I've ever had as serving as a member of this institution...We saw the worst of America this afternoon..."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) January 6, 2021

"last week's violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal...those who are responsible for Wednesday's chaos will be brought to justice...The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters."
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) January 13, 2021

"Today was a dark day in the history in the United States capitol...We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms...To those who wreaked havoc today, you did not win."

Vice President Pence (R), January 6, 2021

"Once you start taking violent actions against law enforcement you're not a protestor anymore, you are an anarchist.  Whether it's anarchy or terrorism, they were trying to storm the Capitol and stop our democracy from working."

Rep. Steve Scalise (R), January 6, 2021

"When it comes to accountability the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem not the solution."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), January 7, 2021

"Chaos, anarchy.  The violence today was wrong and un-American."

Sen. Rand Paul (R), January 6, 2021

"On Wednesday the Capitol of the most powerful nation the world has ever known was stormed by an angry mob.  Americans surely never thought they'd see such a scene...It was a display not of patriotism but of frenzy and anarchy."

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R), January 7, 2021

"There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill.  This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R), January 6, 2021

I could go on...


What a difference a year makes.

Yesterday, the House held a moment of silence in remembrance of the attempted coup on the United States Capitol exactly one year prior.  The event was not meant to be partisan, rather a solemn remembrance of the tragedy that event represents in the history of our democracy.  Though the House is not officially in session, a majority of Democratic representatives attended.  For the Republicans, only Rep. Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, attended. The rest of the party could not seem to be bothered to attend.

They used to at least pretend to care.

Now we see that we are sadly no better off this year than we were last year.  Nothing has changed.  Despite all of their bluster, the Republican party simply fell in line.  

I wrote a year ago that we had to face two issues with the insurrection:  Inevitability and Identity.  We had to face that the events of the insurrection were inevitable.  They were the logical conclusion of all the events leading up to it.  The lies, the distortions, the instigation by people in the very highest offices.  Trump's team identified a base that could be manipulated and followed through.  They got what they wished for.

We also had to face that this was our national identity.  We couldn't sweep this away as not being a part of us, as being something external.  This was perpetuated by Americans.  The part of America that we do not want to acknowledge or deal with.  What we want to forget.

Our choice, though, was in how we proceeded.  Would we finally address the scabs that January 6, 2021 revealed?  The deep scars and healing that needed to occur?  Would we decide to live up to what America could be? Or would we continue to living in that paradoxical state in between?

Yesterday provides the clear answer.  At least a noticeable section of America is going to pretend like January 6, 2021 never happened.  Or that it wasn't that bad.  Or worse, that it should have gone farther.

I fear that those who believe that January 6, 2021 was not the end of an attempted coup, but rather the beginning of one are right.  This will happen again, it will be worse, and it will have more disastrous consequences.  

I pray I am wrong.  I pray we heed the better angels of our nature.  That we stand up for what unites us, rather than divides us.  I pray leadership comes to it senses and leads for the benefit of all of the nation, not just panders to their base for re-election.

Maybe we will listen.

Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats.

Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.

Our democracy held. We the people endured. And we the people prevailed.

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.

But they failed. They failed.

And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.

I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. This is where the House of Representatives met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War. This is — on this floor is where a young congressman of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191.

Above him — above us, over that door leading into the Rotunda — is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history. In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below.

Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years. She recorded what took place. The real history. The real facts. The real truth. The facts
and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.

The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth.

Well, here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021:

Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.

Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021.

What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol. American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears. Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.

A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.

Over 140 police officers were injured.

We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.

They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through?

We saw it with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.

But what did we not see?

We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.

This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection.

They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people. They were looking to deny the will of the people.

They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one.

They weren’t looking to save the cause of America. They were looking to subvert the Constitution.

This isn’t about being bogged down in the past. This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.

That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it. Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.

We are a great nation.

My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and,
tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.

We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.

And here is the truth: The former president of the
United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.

He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.

While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.

But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible. Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.

And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?

Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?

Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?

Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?

We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.

The Big Lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day — November 3rd, 2020.

Think about that. Is that what you thought? Is that what you thought when you voted that day? Taking part in an insurrection? Is that what you thought you were doing? Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?

The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people.

Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America? I cannot.

Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.

More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history. Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at grea- — great risk to their lives. They should be applauded, not attacked.

Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.

Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections.

It’s wrong. It’s undemocratic. And frankly, it’s un-American.

The second Big Lie being told by the former President and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.

The truth is that no election — no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.

Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected — often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself, from state courts to the United States Supreme Court.

Recounts were undertaken in state after state. Georgia — Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand.

Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states. None changed the results. And in some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly.

So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020. Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results. He built his lie over months. It wasn’t based on any facts. He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.

He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.

There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.

Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House.

They challenge none of that. The President’s name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives. Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed?

And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters.

The only difference: The former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own.

Finally, the third Big Lie being told by a former President and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots.

Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress? Patriots? Not in my view.

To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 [million] Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote, and the heroes who defended this Capitol.

You can’t love your country only when you win.

You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient.

You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.

Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy.

They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.

Those who incited the mob — the real plotters — who were desperate to deny the certification of the election and defy the will of the voters.

But their plot was foiled. Congressmen — Democrats and Republicans — stayed. Senators, representatives, staff — they finished their work the Constitution demanded. They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us — to “We the People” — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive.

That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.

Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history.

Both at home and abroad, we’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self- — the self-seeking autocrat.

From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered. They’ve actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world.

And they’re betting — they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us. They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman.

I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be.

Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.

Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.

And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.

The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.

They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama. What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.

And with rights come responsibilities: the responsibility to see each other as neighbors — maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary; the responsibility to accept defeat then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case; the responsibility to see that America is an idea — an idea that requires vigilant stewardship.

As we stand here today — one year since January 6th, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.

So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted.

Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort.

Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol Rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th: once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack, and a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.

We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day — from those defending this Capitol to members of Congress in both parties and their staffs, to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.

Don’t kid yourself: The pain and scars from that day run deep.

I said it many times and it’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6th: We are in a battle for the soul of America. A battle that, by the grace of God and the goodness and gracious — and greatness of this nation, we will win.

Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is. And I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces. But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope.

From the death and destruction, as the Vice President referenced, in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism.

From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.

So, now let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.

I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either.

I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.

We will make sure the will of the people is heard; that the ballot prevails, not violence; that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.

I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”

Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality.

This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats. We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence.

Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.

So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.

God bless you all. May God protect our troops. And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.
President Joe Biden, January 6, 2022, 9:16 am

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Epiphany 2021


"A manifestation of a divine or supernatural being; a moment of sudden revelation or insight."

Today marks Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.  Twelfth Night has ended, and the magi have arrived.  A celebration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and the physical manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.

After today, the twelve days of Christmas are over and we enter Carnival.  King Cake season.  A celebration in preparation of the coming fast.

I think the Biblical account of the Magi provides us a blueprint for how to approach this new year with the appropriate viewpoint.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:

'"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel."'

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (They rejoiced with exceeding great joy).  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

What would it look like if we started the year with exceeding great joy, celebrating our encounter with the Messiah?  If we brought Him the best gifts we can, that reflect His character.  Gold celebrated His kingship, frankincense celebrated His deity, and myrrh celebrated His death.  What would we bring, what aspect of His character would we celebrate?

That's our call in this season, in this new year.  To rejoice with exceeding great joy.

There is also a warning in this passage.  When the Magi question the leadership of Israel, it's clear that all the priests and scribes know what to look for, where the Messiah will be born.  They have all the knowledge necessary to go and find him.  But the Magi are the only ones who do.  You would think some of those scribes would be curious enough to go and see if this is finally it, if the Messiah has arrived.  But none leave their routine.  None leave their pattern or comfort.  

Don't get so stuck in your routine that you miss the miraculous around you.

Go forth, celebrate the season.  Let's start the year with joy.  And may we carry that spirit forward throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Twelfth Day of Christmas 2022

Twelfth Night

Tonight marks the end of Christmastide. The Ghost of Christmas Present lives through midnight this evening, so may the spirit of the season still be with you.  Tonight we feast.  The decorations have all been left up, the lights are all on.  We gather together to spread merriment and cheer.  

It's a time to eat king cakes and rum cakes, and to drink wassail.  It's also a time for the upending of the normal.  Where the Lord of Misrule enjoys one last night of his reign, calling for songs, entertainment, and plays.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.

It's this atmosphere Shakespeare captured in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  A comedy of errors and misunderstanding.  Of mistaken identities.  It's a celebration of love and joy and a fitting end to this holiday season. 

"If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity 10
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

I pray this Christmastide has been a joyous season for you, that these Twelve Days of Christmas has been full of love and laughter, of exceeding great joy, and this new year has started well for you.  May it continue in the days ahead.  

"Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year."

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Eleventh Day of Christmas 2021

Elizabeth Ann Seton

"Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage."
Pope Paul VI, September 14, 1975

For the eleventh day of Christmas, we honor the first person born in the United States to be canonized as a saint, Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton.  This is the most recent celebration added to the twelve days of Christmas, marking the anniversary of her death.  

Seton was a Catholic religious sister and educator, born August 28, 1774.  Though married early in life, she was widowed by the age of twenty-nine, and from there turned to Catholicism and charitable work.  She would go on to open the first Catholic girls' school in the nation and the first congregation of religious sisters in America. This religious congregation was dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America.  This led her to be remembered as the founder of America's parochial school system, and earned her the title "Mother Seton."

Her modest work would spread to great affect.  From her initial congregation, six separate religious congregations across the United States and Canada can trace their origins.  Her name has been honored on hospitals, schools, and churches across the country.  Seton Healthcare in Austin comes from Seton Infirmary founded by her Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, the first hospital west of the Mississippi River.

Her last words to her Sisters were "Be children of the Church."

That is good advice for us today. 

And what does being the Church look like?

It means we are known for our love.

It means we loose the bonds of wickedness, we let the oppressed go free, we break every yoke.

It means we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, cloth the naked, look after the sick, and visit the imprisoned.

It means we do what is right, we love mercy, and live humbly before God.

May that spirit carry us into this new year.

May we be children of the Church.

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Tenth Day of Christmas 2022

 The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus."

Luke 1:31

"But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel'

(which means, God with us)."

Matthew 1:20-21

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."

Luke 2:19-21

"That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth."
Philippians 2:10

"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
Romans 10:13

Though often celebrated on January 1, or the Eighth Day of Christmas, today marks a celebration of the Holy Name of Jesus.

And what a name worth celebrating.

Jesus is derived from the Greek name Ἰησοῦς, a form of the Hebrew Yeshua or Joshua, meaning Yahweh saves, is salvation, is a saving-cry, is my help.

That Jesus is born is the good news of Christmas.  That our salvation is born.  That God saves.  And that He is Emmanuel. God is with us.  God cares for us.  Our God saves.

Names matter in Hebrew culture. When a parent gives a child a name, the parent is giving the child a connection to previous generations.  The parent is also making a statement about their hope for who their child will become.  In this way, the name carries with it some identity for the child.  This is why it was so striking that the angel would tell Mary what the child's name would be.  He was asserting God's parentage and identifying the child for the world.  

Our God saves indeed.  He is worthy to be praised.

It's in His very name.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There's just something about that name. 
Master, Savior, Jesus,
Like the fragrance after the rain.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there's something about that name.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Ninth Day of Christmas 2021

Saint Basil the Great

It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year

High incense tree

Beginning of my good year
Church with the Holy Seat

It’s the beginning of our Christ
Saint and spiritual
He got out to walk on earth
And to welcome us

St. Basil is coming from Caesaria

And doesn’t want to deal with us
May you long live, my lady

He holds an icon and a piece of paper
With the picture of Christ our Savior
A piece of paper and a quill

Please look at me, the young man

Today, in many traditions, marks the Feast of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, an influential Byzantine bishop from the mid-300s.  Basil was an influential theologian in the early church, marked by his care for the poor and underprivileged.  Though Basil was born into wealth, he gave away all of his possessions to the poor, the underprivileged, those in need, and children, forgoing luxury for the creation of the communal monastic life.

Because of his care for the needy, Basil in certain traditions even becomes the Santa Claus like figure of Christmastide.  In Greece, on January 1, it is Saint Basil who brings gifts to children on Saint Basil's Day.  On St Basil's Day vasilopita, a rich bread baked with a coin inside, is served, mimicking the actions of Basil as a bishop, wanting to distribute money to the poor and commissioning some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins.

We talk a lot in Christmas about how it is a season of giving.  And we do see some evidence of that fact.  Nearly one third of all annual giving in the United States are made in December, with ten percent of all annual giving occurring in three days before New Year.  

But there is still a bit of a disconnect.  While we gave $309.66 billion in individual donations throughout 2019, we spent $707 billion in retail sales between November 1 and December 31, 2018 alone.  

And we're at a time when the need is as great as ever.  The latest data from the census indicates that roughly 13.4% of America is below the poverty line.  This means that 42.5 million Americans live below the poverty line.  Keep in mind, the United States poverty line is around $12,880 for individuals, $26,500 for a family of four.  If you expand the criteria for those below, at, or near the poverty line, it can account for nearly half of all Americans.  The amount of people living paycheck to paycheck, remains incredibly high.  Meaning most families are just one sickness, one emergency, one inconvenience, one accident away from losing everything.

In the spirit of Saint Basil, perhaps we remember our calling.

"Is this not the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Isaiah 58:6-7

Saint Basil was at the center of many important theological debates and is known as the Doctor of the Church because of his influence on our understanding of the trinity and the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  But, we celebrate him because of his charity.  We recognize him because of his practical and lived out faith.  His writings confirm that our duty is to each other.  

He served the Lord by serving the least of these.

May we go and do likewise.

“Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words… We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but the power of prayer should be expressed in the moral attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions that extend throughout our lifeThis is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer.”

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Eighth Day of Christmas 2021

New Year's Day

Welcome to 2022.  An opportunity to start a new chapter, a new story, a new verse.  

It seems we are all in want of that lately.  We want to shake off 2021 and all it brought and move back into brighter times.  There's no reason a new start should limited to today alone, but the day and the occasion does make for a good transition.

In this season of resolutions, I pray you make them and work towards them.  If nothing else, to try something new and different.  Something you've always wanted to do.  Be bold.  Be daring.  Shoot for the moon.  Be wild and ambitious.  But most of all be kind.  If it's one thing I've observed and wished for my life, it is that we need more kindness in the world, especially now.  Pure, unadulterated kindness.  To view the whole world as our neighborhood.  I hope to be a part of that change.

"Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness."  William Shakespeare

If we should keep anything of 2021, it should be a reminder that human connection is absolutely necessary.  We've seen how our time with our immediate families could be strengthened through time together.  We've longed for the ability to connect with friends, with family, with others around us that we've missed through these months.  We recognize that kindness, that friendship is a warmth shared between us.  

In year's past, I've shared a poem with thoughts and hopes for the new year ahead.  This year is no different, and the poem shared is a new one of hope from America's young poet laureate, Amanda Gorman.

“New Day’s Lyric”

May this be the day
We come together.

Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.

This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.

What was cursed, we will cure.
What was plagued, we will prove pure.
Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
Those moments we missed
Are now these moments we make,
The moments we meet,
And our hearts, once all together beaten,
Now all together beat.

Come, look up with kindness yet,
For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
But to take on tomorrow.

We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...
We'll drink a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year!  To 2022!