Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peacemakers Are Special

There’s something special about peacemakers

In all the copies of my Bibles I find Jesus saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." It has been my impression that this was not a sound bite. This was not just an off-the-cuff remark. Peace making was not just a passing fancy of his. It was not just a good quote his hearers to jotted down in their discipleship study books.

Jesus knew the subject of peace was not considered important to his hearers. Coming from Nazareth, how could he know the problems of Jerusalem, the great City of David. What made a carpenter’s son think he knew anything about the real world of dog eat dog. “Git ‘em, afore they git us” was not the national anthem of Israel, but of the whole universe.

Jesus did know his Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and knew the history of his people. He knew that for centuries king after king led them into bloody wars. He knew too of the society and laws never helped the poor or outcast among them.

Seldom on the table for discussion (then and now) were peaceful remedies to problems. The Roman Pax was anything but a peaceful solution for the empire. Jesus also knew that the different sects of Israel had little love for each other. Too many wanted to fight. Sling shot trigger-fingers were always cocked. A few knew there had to be a better way to work out their differences with their spouse, or town councils of the immigrants in their midst.

Jesus knew his audience just as he does today. His disciples were keen on fighting just as churches of all labels apparently do. Jesus’ disciples probably talked behind his back, such as:

“You suppose he is serious?” “Nobody talks of peace with those depraved half-breed Samaritans next door.” “How can he know God with such talk?” “Other countries have a God of War.” “You can tell he ain’t got a wife like mine…a mother-in-law like mine…problems like mine.”

The rabbis, with all their knowledge of ancient times, could quote without end of how God’s armies vanquished the enemy. How the God of their Bible sent Joshua out to destroy the original Canaanites. The Prophet Jonah had no sympathy for Nineveh even after he saved them. The Apostle Peter refused to eat with the hated Gentiles. He knew they were bad. He had heard nothing else from birth.

Social scientists tell us the first few years of an infant’s life are molding and nourishing the brain. If those precious (once in a lifetime) years are filled with goodness there is hope for that child. A pattern is laid that affects all the years of life. Any kind of trauma for that infant is present all their days.

When children are traumatized by war, they are more apt to become warriors and killers too. What will the next 80 years be like for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Thanks to being unprovoked into two wars the last decade we should expect hatred and violence to come America’s way. Around the world people love America and hate our government. A vast majority of the world want love and peace. While most governments want conflict and the ability to cover it up.

It’s a mystery to me why some Christians make up excuses for violence and war. So few Christians go all out and “take him at his word…” as in the hymn:

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus/

Just to rest upon His promise/
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord

We sing ‘em, but it’s more fun when we believe ‘em.

Working Poor Deserve Break


While eating out recently I ask our waitress if she worked two jobs. She said yes. She has another job, not because she wants to, but because she has to carry such a load. She and her husband have three children nearing the teen years.

Unlike many working wives, she has a working husband. The widows, the divorced or deserted wives are among the working poor in the gravest predicament. But it is a sad commentary that the richest country in the world has reached such a condition.

I grew up in a fairly sheltered world. There were jobs when I finished college. No lotteries. Casinos, we walked a lot around the neighborhoods. No Internet trivia to tempt our base moments. Downtowns, large and small, thrived with parking meters, mom and pop stores an

Not so long ago families were not as separated as they appear to be today. I grew up with uncles and aunts and seven funny cousins. Too many of today’s kids have never met their cousins; siblings grow up with one parent or the other through no fault of their own; children with little idea of their heritage or self-worth.

The fun of having a grandmother two blocks away was special. Mammy, as all the grandkids called her, came to Texas in her mother’s womb in a covered wagon in 1870. Her “learning” did not come from books, but she could spell any word ever invented. Her common sense came from dirt farm living, nourished by Garrett’s snuff, giving the extended family security and a sense of being.

Minimum wage was thirty-five cents an hour and up to age 12 a movie cost a dime. No malls, just bicycles and drug store milk shakes. But memory can be tinged with myth. “I remember when” is not always trustworthy.

Today my grandson is on his way toward graduation at Texas Tech. Happy? Yes and no. Glad, because he had the grit to work and give it his best. Sad, because he will have student loan debts over $30,000 with little chance of a good-paying job.

We forget that over half a million Americans have gone through bankruptcy court, primarily due to health care costs. The rest of the industrialized world gets along fine without FOR PROFIT health insurance companies. Education for profit as well as for profit health insurance is wrong. European countries may pay fifty-percent taxes but they get free health and college education, books and all (look at Denmark).

Our ultra-wealthy Americans are upset because there is a possibility of losing what President Bush did for them ten years ago. Thinking people see the wisdom of doing away with the Bush tax cuts by letting them expire. If congress can get a spine they might let them expire for the wealthy.

Most Republicans say letting Bush's tax cuts expire at the end of the year would increase the tax burden for the rich. Actually it would only be returning to a more reasonable fair tax situation. Remember, the wealthy once paid ninety percent. All other thriving democratic governments pay more taxes than the U.S.

Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, writes: “Temporary tax breaks for the rich are stunningly bad economic policy. . . Basic economic theory tells us that affluent taxpayers are likely to save rather than spend the great bulk of any funds they receive via a transitory tax break.” The middle class and working poor would not squirrel away a tax break, but spend down their debts and buy more goods. This, we are told, helps families and the economy.
Getting back to our waitress friend’s situation, realize how difficult it is for them in this economic downturn. Don’t forget to tip. Be generous and give a gratuity of more than twenty percent. Twenty-five percent would really help. It is a golden opportunity to do something for those who work so hard and have so little. You will enjoy your celebration of Thanksgiving Day a lot more.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

USA loves Immigrants. REALLY?


It is a well established fact that The United States is a country of immigrants. No debate on that historical fact. Americans have shown true affection for some immigrants: those who have been here for awhile –- a long while.

As the Irish Catholics began coming in large waves in the early 19th century, Protestants feared being taken over by the “bloody hand of the Pope.” There were even riots in Philadelphia, setting fire to the Irish part of town.

Richard Shenkman’s book “Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History,” relates after the Irish immigrants, the Southern and Eastern Europeans began arriving. Many old-line Americans reacted as if the country was being invaded by a horde of criminals. One old New Englander, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, lamented: “O Liberty, white Goddess! Is it well to leave the gates unguarded?”

Shenkman’s book calls attention to excesses of our countrymen. Bernard Weisberger, “American Heritage” editor, writes “Richard Shenkman briskly applies the varnish remover to American history.”

Even into the 20th century, our “more civilized” century, immigrants were not treated much better. In a popular book endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt, the racist Madison Grant suggested the state had a moral obligation to put certain immigrant types to death.

In the 1920s the federal government decided to limit those coming into the country. Russia was allowed two thousand, China and Palestine, a thousand. It was not so many years ago that Vietnamese fishermen on our Texas Gulf Coast were threatened with their fishing rights and livelihoods.

It is often overlooked that historians estimate that of the twenty million immigrants who came to America between 1820 and 1900, about five million returned to their homeland. Immigrants have always returned home in great numbers. (“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn)

Early on John Jay wrote in “The Federalist Papers,” America was “one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, …sharing the same language, professing the same religion, … very similar in their manners and customs.”

Not everyone agreed with Brother Jay. A French immigrant farmer, whose wife was Dutch, had four sons. Each married wives from four different nations.

In 1790 three out of five Americans were not of English origin; two out of five didn’t even come from English-speaking backgrounds (“The Melting Pot” by Arthur Mann).

The term “melting pot” came into circulation much later, about 1908. Webster’s dictionary included it in 1934. Then sometime later it was suggested America was not a “melting pot” but a “salad bowl.”

Tennessee State Rep. Curry Todd takes issue with America as either a “pot” or a “salad.” His idea is more like “spoilt curry.” Curry Todd has trouble with the birthright citizenship clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Rep. Curry Todd was quoted in USA TODAY (Nov. 11) volunteering that pregnant immigrants will "multiply" like "rats …" Sounds more like an Oklahoma senator than a gentleman from the Volunteer State.

The beat goes on. As the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud said: the cerebral challenged will be with us always. (I have no written proof Brother Freud actually said that – it might have been old fogey Thomas Bailey Aldrich.) Adiós.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Keith Olbermann, voice of truth

Olbermann and Maddow two of the few lights revealing the real world.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of the few senators who is not afraid of the truth and facts. I admire the fact he spoke out on Keith Olbermann's suspension from MSNBC. Sander's called it: MSNBC's Disgrace. Here's is quote:

"It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America."

I have little respect for network nightly news casts. No substance, no news, just something "funny" or weird, but never what is actually going on in this country and the world.

Network and cable wheel-horses like to remind us "the airwaves are ours." What a joke. They are controlled by major corporations who are about as interested in America and the future of this land as a wombat in heat. Just make money and be sure the world knows what Spears and Hilton are showing off.

I am thankful for the BBC and the BBC-America newscasts. You can get them on both DishNetwork and DirectTV satellite providers. People like Amy Goodwin"s Democracy Now! and Thom Hartmann's show are useful with telling us what the networks and cable never dare speak. See them on FreeSpeech and LinkTV.

San Angelo, Texas, radio has only right-wing wackos day and night. NPR comes via Texas Tech University for which we are grateful. FM 90.1 locally.

There are three Christian radio outlets, but two of these spend all their time fussing and complaining about having a black man in the White House. They give Hannity, Beck and Limberger a run for the money when it comes to "give us back our country" Well, just watch and see what Republicans can do in going back to the future and making an even bigger mess than the Democrats.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

With Mother Teresa, 1977

Mother Teresa and new believer in her doorway, Calcutta, India. I took this photo the one time I was in India, November 1977. That was two years before she was recognized world-wide receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The death a few years ago of Mother Teresa brought back the personal memory of my one occasion of meeting this one who was called of God to work among "the poorest of the poor."

I was there to visit this diminutive woman of such personal devotion and see for myself what God could do with a dedicated soul. I was allowed the privilege of joining in an afternoon prayer session with a dozen or so of her assistants. My visit in her sitting room was one remember. Simple wicker chairs, a small table. That was it. Simple, but powerful just as the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. She gave of time as if I was the most important person in the world. This one who cared for the dying and gave her every day to others could not have been more patient and kind to me, an associate pastor from Texas.

After a walk through the grounds and buildings with the ill and dying "no bodies" I left at a side entrance of her Home for Dying Destitute. The sign was also written in several Indian languages. No door, you just step out into the small but crowded backwater lane. But not leaving in spirit. Her spirit of loving our Lord and the outcasts has stayed with me. The little Albanian nun who first taught the well-to-do when she got to India but soon was granted her request to be with what the world calls dregs of humanity.

British author Malcolm Muggeridge brought Mother Teresa to the attention of the world several years before the 1970s. A woman who demonstrated the value and importance of the spirit of discipline in prayer.

She answered my question that so many have ask her: "With all the poverty and suffering so staggering here, where does one begin to make a difference?" She said, You start with what crosses your path, what is right before you ... give dignity to the first dying person you meet ... take in your arms the first abandoned baby you see just do what comes naturally.

FROM MY BOOK, "Saints Alive, saints are sinners who keep on trying" 2006.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Political campaigns ignore our wars

Leaving the war on the back burner

The “war on terror” is seldom mentioned these days; like “war on drugs,” a complete misnomer. How can you have war on fear, horror, fright, dread or shock? We have swallowed that phrase without thinking what it means.

Call it what we will, it is a tragic time of despair and grief to millions of military and civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S.A. Doves are more my kind than hawks.

Never have our troops, with such minimal backing and even fewer resources, faced such an overwhelming mission. A mission that appears to slow down but with no solution in sight. The purpose of the war has changed throughout this decade. Invasion and war was not the answer to the crime of 19 Saudi Arabians who hijacked planes and killed thousands. Wasted money and lives.

Our military men, women and their families are the only ones making sacrifices. Over 2 million American military have served as best they could for almost ten years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. To do that takes a lot of sacrifice and money. According to Paul Rieckhoff, only 3 percent of our citizens “have war on their radar.”

Rieckhoff is a veteran of these wars and is the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. With the ridiculous expanded TV cable and network coverage of the just ended election season, the war disappeared from public view.

But the killed are still being buried. The injured are still being brought back for treatment. The involved families are still experiencing pain. Over 20,000 have been injured and more than 500 have lost a limb. The post-traumatic wounds grow by the day. Hundreds of these are homeless.

A footnote in this war is the large number of combat wounded women. This is a war with no front lines. It is similar to our 17th century fight with the American Indians, hidden snipers in the forests. The front lines are around any sand dune, corner teahouse, or potholed road.

As good as the rehabilitation efforts have been, Congress has shown little commitment to these wounded men and women. With very few exceptions, the government has shown even less interest in ending the war. Leaving the troops to linger any longer does not solve anything. Now is the best time to stop the war. The war has raged for the entire lifetime of American youths 15 years or younger.

This has been an election year and Congress has ignored the wars. Not a single politician, of any party, spoke of the war’s horrors. It is anti-American to ignore a war during a election season. Political rallies completely avoided the war. It was the overlooked elephant at the rallies.

If the war continues to be out of sight and out of mind, what can we civilians do? I am sure some entrepreneur will suggest printing more bumper stickers to show how “supportive” we are. We can buy more flags and wave them with more patriotic passion. Our government can borrow more money. The pastors might give the challenge of being peace-makers a greater priority. Those of us in the pews have a short memory when it comes to sermons.

“God bless America,” a nice anthem, but what does it have to do with baseball’s seventh-inning stretch? To ease our conscious? To show we support the troops? Why should Go bless our land? Fortunately, I have run out of space. I must take up that question at another time.