Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Easter Feeling

It is Holy Saturday as I type this.  And the Ku Klux Klan is scheduled to march in Memphis.  Seems the historians and scholars that make up the particular diocese of the North Carolina Klansmen that bought the parade permit are hot under the hood over the City of Memphis' plan to rename all of the parks there that are named for the Confederacy or for its heroes.  Thus, Nathan Bedford Forrest Park will get renamed after Larry Finch or something more politically correct.

I view this sort of historical revisionism as particularly silly.  I remember when Confederate Boulevard here got named something else lest visiting dignitaries to the Clinton Library get their sensibilities ruffled.  Never mind that Confederate troops actually camped over by where the Little Rock National Cemetery is situated where the former Confederate Boulevard once ran.  And it's not like Memphis doesn't have bigger problems.  But this is the kind of bullshit political issue that is easy to do.  Like the Arkansas legislature passing blatantly unconstitutional bill after bill instead of dealing with the expansion of Medicaid.  And another thing.  Rewriting history can get out of control really quick.  Ask George Orwell.

Problems, being problems, are sometimes hard to resolve.  Obsessing over the names of parks and handguns is easy.  But look at the problem they got in the Bluff City now. Bet they didn't see that one coming.  As of this writing, the Boys in the Hood claim they are bringing "thousands."  The law enforcement presence at the rally is predicted to be "massive."  And the usual peaceful counter-protesters will be there in uneasy symbiosis with the certain unbidden presence of gang bangers which exist in abundance in Shelby County.

All of this ugliness on the day before Easter.

I know that this is romantic nonsense but there is a time and a place for everything.  Even for rabble-rousing by morons.  This couldn't keep until NEXT Saturday?  As I have written before, I don't believe in much of anything anymore.  But I believe in Easter.  I believe in the message that redemption is possible and available.  And that victory remains in love.  It is hard to square that message of peace and love with the High Drama that is scheduled for Downtown Memphis, an area of square footage that has known its fair share of racial strife.

But, as I said, to wish otherwise is romantic nonsense.  The world doesn't stop for Easter.  There are wars and rumors of wars.  There is violence upon women and children.  There are way too many people who don't know where their next meal is coming from or who don't have access to adequate medical care.  And conversely Easter can't stop all of that.

And it won't stop what may go down in Memphis.

Now, if the weather over there is as nasty as it is here, maybe their cross won't ignite.  After all, we are not exactly dealing with folks that are all that widely read in thermodynamics.  Maybe the Imperial Wizard, Grand Wazoo or whatever equally fatuously entitled person who has dominion over these idiots will call the rally on account of rain.  Maybe they will all catch colds after marching around in their wet Klan drag.  They got it comin'.

But it is my hope that the Klan marches around, spews their sub-literate venom and crawls back under their respective rocks over at the pool halls and parts stores back home from whence they came.  It is my hope that nobody is injured, least of all the cops that will be there to protect the Klan as they exercise their Constitutional rights to be bigots and fools.  God Bless their underpaid little hearts.

Then maybe we can get back to Easter.  Where victory remains in love.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Programme Note

No MSF this weekend.  Between the NCAA Tournament, having to prepare an outline for a CLE presentation that I found out Friday is due Monday and working on pictures, I ain't got time.

Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

No matter what your religious persuasion might be, one would have to concede that the election of a Pope is a really big deal.  As my Baptist preacher buddy Randy said at lunch the other day, "He's a head of state and the spiritual leader of over a billion people world-wide.  What the Pope does affects us all if only indirectly."

How could it not?

My interest in the events since Pope Benedict retired, which was completely amazing in and of itself, is not just because I enjoy history or because I have many Catholic friends.  It's a lot more personal than that.

Despite being a Methodist, I somehow wound up with a Catholic Godson. Or he wound up with me. Neither one of us had much say in the matter as I recall.  Anyway, I promised at his baptism that if the unthinkable happened and I wound up in charge of Sam's spiritual guidance and welfare I would "raise him Catholic" as the old saying goes.  And so I have to pay attention to what's going down over to the One True Church Apostolic and Universal in the improbable event that random laughing chance hands me the keys.

I wondered what Sam was thinking when the white smoke went up.  I'm sure that they watched it at school as it would be a very big deal over at Holy Souls.  Sam is 11 or so.  So he is not a Catholic by persuasion.  He just is.  Indeed, as I know the kid his persuasions are limited to pizza, soccer and messing with his younger brother.

But I wonder if he found it quaint that the world was informed of a new Pope by smoke instead of a tweet.  Or if he detected the irony in the Vatican using technology to jam cell phone and other transmissions from both into and out of the conclave but still made the announcement by igniting something.

I wondered if it struck him as odd that the selection of the successor to Saint Peter was picked by mostly elderly, mostly European, men.  Looking at the process with my Methodist eyes, it strikes me as amazing that half of the workforce of the human race, and I am talking now about women, have no say in the selection of the leader of the Universal Church.

Sam's world will be one that is more pluralistic than even mine is.  It will be even more driven by technology and science, 2 areas in which the Roman Catholic church has not particularly distinguished itself historically speaking.

Further, to some of my Catholic friends, the Vatican is as out of touch with Catholic life on the streets as is Washington in the secular realm.  And how will an older man, as holy and humble as Francis seems to be, but nonetheless selected from a subset of other older men, continue to make the church relevant to Sam's sisters?

The new Pope seems to be committed to the "preferential option for the poor" as they say.  Francis is said to be an unassuming sort.  He took public transportation back home in Buenos Aires.  He prepared his own meals.  After being elected Pope he went and paid his hotel bill and retrieved his own luggage, for God's sake.

And yet the new Pope has a lot on his plate.  Secularism is on the rise in the church's European back door.  Indeed the European Union is high pissed at the Vatican Bank, whose finances and "records"are cloaked in secrecy.  The tragedy of child abuse at the hands of the clergy still lingers.  The ranks of the priesthood and the "peoples religious" are shrinking.  How will the church engage with Islam?  Gay folks ain't going away.  Neither are women.

That's a lot for a man in his seventies to unpack. Will Pope Francis bring about the reforms many in the Church feel are required to insure its continued relevance?  Will he bring it into this century?  It will be interesting to watch.

Sam and I need to get some ice cream at Leo's and talk about this here new Pope.  I'd like to know what he thinks.

Because of the promise I made at Sam's baptism, I got skin in the game.  I have to pay attention.

Good luck, Your Holiness.  You will need it.  But for what it's worth, Sam and his Methodist Godfather are pulling for you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

" If you are a Christian, and you believe God's Word, then our beliefs would be the same."
                                                                        Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow

" Do I believe in infant baptism?  Believe in it?  I've seen it done."
                                                                        Roy Blount Jr.

I guess I don't read the same Bible that Jason Rapert reads, although I forthrightly concede that I don't read the Good Book as often as I should and certainly don't read it as often as the pious senator from Faulkner County.  And while I have my own thoughts and beliefs about God's Word, my beliefs are different than Rapert's.  Conversely, there's lot of folks that subscribe to beliefs different than mine.  I don't have any problem thinking of them as Christians.

My Catholic friends believe that Mary's body was assumed into Heaven.  Well, the Church believes that.  I know lots of Catholics who don't.  Anyway, they also believe that the bread and wine at Holy Communion literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus upon consecration by the priest.  I don't believe that.  I'm a Christian.  They are Christians.  But our beliefs are not the same.

According to his page on the Ledge's website, Mr. Rapert is a Baptist.  All kidding aside, Baptists do not believe in the practice of baptism of infants.  The Catholics, the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the Greek Orthodox, the Lutherans all baptize babies.  And I'm pretty sure that the Presbyterians do as well.  I apologize if I left anybody out.  All Christians that believe God's Word.  And yet their beliefs are not the same.

Speaking of baptism, the Mormons baptize the dead which logistics require be done by proxy seeing as how the dead are, well, not here to immerse or otherwise lay hands on.  Nobody else does that as far as I know.  Still, the Mormons read God's Word along with a supplement which is, at least to my mind, of dubious provenance.  And while only the least charitable among us would refuse to believe that Mormons are Christians, yet again we must concede that our beliefs are not the same.

I don't believe that glossolalia, or "speaking in unknown tongues" is a sign of the Holy Spirit.  Neither do I believe in handling serpents.  I don't believe in the so-called "prosperity Gospel."  I don't believe in faith healing.  At least not during revivals.  I don't subscribe to Christian Science although they put out one hell of a newspaper.  All of these folks fervently believe that they are Christians, they read God's Word, and yet their beliefs are not the same.

By now you can probably guess where I am going with this.  But at the risk of tedium, these are all examples of plurality of religious views and practices of folks that I am willing to bet think they are every bit the Christians that Jason Rapert thinks he is.

The larger point is that it seems that a humble and thoughtful person would be hesitant, if not outright reluctant, to believe that his or her position on a political issue is superior to others because he is following "God's Word" in light of the plurality of religious beliefs held by other perfectly good folks.

But some people cannot resist the temptation to confuse their agenda with that of a higher purpose in the universe.  It is odious enough when such egotism and hubris is confined to the pulpit.  It is even worse when it turns into social policy some of which flies completely against the rule of constitutional law.

But, hey, don't blame Rapert.  His side is winning.  They have the votes to transport the State of Arkansas back to the Fifties socially and by God, they are going to do it if they can get away with it.  And some states are even worse.  Which provides but scant comfort to those of us living in these latitudes.

Maybe the quote above reflects Rapert's occasionally inarticulate ways.  But maybe it doesn't.  Maybe he thinks that there is only one Christian position and that he is the Lord's instrument of that position.

Then he needs to be medicated.  Which he can afford since he, unlike many of his fellow Arkansans that are also Christians and believe God's Word, has government subsidized health insurance.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

No MSF tomorrow.  Between Governor's School Auditions, pictures tomorrow morning and out-of-town guests tomorrow afternoon, there's no time for blogging.  Will be back soon.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back.