Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I'm tired of being serious so I decided to just list some random things.

Paula Abdul critiqued the second song from one of the performers and she did not like his performance of that second song. Thing is, he only sang one song. Turns out she read the wrong script or something. I do not understand why people watch that show.

If the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates much more soon we will be paying the banks to hold our money for us.

I delight in people telling us that the marketplace solves the problems. Leave it to the marketplace!!! Gas is now $3.75 a gallon. Guess what the number 1 issue for the election in November will be? Gas is $3.75 a gallon. Hard to fathom...

President Bush wants to fight global warming. He has announced his plans to attack the sun. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have announced that they are in opposition to this invasion. John McCain has not made any public statements but he has been inquiring about asbestos suits... Faux News is supportive of the invasion and their science experts have suggested that all flights to the sun be done during the day so that it can be easily found...

Sports Illustrated has ranked baseball stadiums. Shea Stadium, in New York is near the bottom. Both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium ranked very low on 'hospitality.' You just have to love the New York Metro area...

Which reminds me. The official state bird for New Jersey, at least when I was growing up, was the eastern goldfinch. I have actually never actually seen an eastern goldfinch. In New Jersey we saw a lot of robins and blue jays, and if you lived near the ocean there were lots of sea gulls, but I've never known anyone from NJ who has actually ever actually seen an eastern goldfinch. The truth is, everyone from New Jersey and who has ever driven there, actually knows what the real state 'bird' actually is.

Tuesday is the big primary election in Indiana. Who'd have thunk it?

You know what I think is not patriotic? When people change their party affiliation during primaries to vote for a candidate of the other party to create chaos ala Rush Limbaugh. It is a denial of the freedom of the people of a party to choose who they want to run for office. It is about as unAmerican as you can get to deny people the right to choose their candidate. We should only vote in the primaries for the person we will choose to be the next President in November. Rush Limbaugh thinks that voting is a big joke and that is pathetic. He'd of course, deny it, but when you treat a primary election like this and chortle about creating chaos, you're making a joke out of a right that was bought and paid for by so many people by their heroism in so many wars. Shame on him and double shame on the people who do this.

The following is an excerpt, out of context, from a satirical essay. It is not really from the Reagan Diaries, but it is funny. I couldn't resist:

A moment I've been dreading. George brought his n'er-do-well son
around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida ; the one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and
has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The NewRepublic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."

The origins of this are found here:

The two major Kentucky quarterbacks both had disappointing draft days.

Brian Brohm, who marvelously stayed at U of L for this senior year, and was rewarded with a dismal team performance. Instead of going early in the 1st round, as he would have a year ago, he was drafted in the second round by the Packers who were good enough to make it to the NFC Championship Game that they lost to the World Champion New York Giants. (I really good have ended this sentence with "Game." but I had to add the rest. It was gratuitous on my part.) He comes into camp in second place behind highly regarded Aaron Rodgers. I do hope Brohm gets to play. I'm frightened that he might have have the opportunity to do so. What baffles me is that the Bears really think that Rex Grossman is better than Brian Brohm will be? They passed him twice.

Andre Woodson, of UK lingered until the 6th round where he was picked up by the World Champion New York Giants. (equally gratuitous). Woodson will be a backup to Eli Manning who has only played four seasons. Woodson, I think, may be a real talent. What baffles me is that the Bears really think that Rex Grossman is better than Woodson. Woodson went in the 6th round. Lovie Smith will not last long as a Head Coach in the NFL because he is too loyal to an obviously poor player and does not seem to realize that you need a capable quarterback to win championships.

I was feeling better having ranted away today, but I do need gas and gas is $3.75 a gallon....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Sadly, over the last few days, it has appeared that Jeremiah Wright has done something I would have never expected. He appears to have thrown Barack Obama under the bus. I write this as a person who has defended him. I write this as a person who appreciated the interview with Bill Moyers and was angry with him being taken out of context. I feel that I have extended a great deal of good will towards Jeremiah Wright and that he deserved it for his many years of faithful service, etc.

His attitudes and words over the last few days have, sadly, made me great angry.

Wright is rhetorical expert, well trained in language and speech patterns. He is educated in it and can pretty much do any accent across the nation and do them well. Using this to mock John Kennedy, however, was, frankly, tasteless. His point was not all bad, but his way of making his point was, well, as I said, tasteless.

I also feel that his belief that all the attacks on him are attacks on the "Black Church" is not fair or remotely accurate.

Within the United Church of Christ we live with certain realities. Sometimes people will speak of a typical UCC congregation. Most people who have lived within the denomination can pretty much tell you that there is no such thing as a typical UCC congregation. I have heard the expression that a particular church was the most UCC that people knew of. That is, pretty much by design, an oxymoron. What makes the United Church of Christ particularly unique is that we are all particularly unique. Most people who make broad generalizations about the denomination or even congregations are people who don't know much about it or need to remove their shoes and socks in order to count to 11.

This, I know, seems like a digression, but I'm doing it to make a point. To make a claim that an attack against him is an attack against "Black Churches" is saying likewise. I don't believe that there are typical African American churches any more than there are typical African Americans. People and congregations are unique and that is an amazing and wonderful thing. I can't imagine any one saying that they are representative of the whole.

Barack Obama, to his credit, has not embraced much of what Jeremiah Wright is saying. In his book, "An Audacity of Hope," Obama exudes great generosity towards all people and is very sensitive to avoiding stereotypes. He is, however, being lumped together with his former pastor with some issues that I cannot imagine he wants to be lumped together with.

I can't imagine what is going on. Is Wright mad that Obama didn't jump up and down with support and express his love enough? Is Wright angry that a member of his church is now very famous? I truly do not know the answer.

I have always admired Jeremiah Wright a great deal. I have met him and I enjoyed hearing him preach on several occasions. When he was interviewed by Bill Moyers, the man I admired was sitting at the table with Moyers and I felt that many people saw a portrait of a man I had admired.

Sadly, what I've witness over the last few days had greatly began to change my opinion. Even worse, I think that we are witnessing the destruction of a long relationship of a pastor with a church member who so admired him that he named a book after a sermon title.

Not much to celebrate with all of this, to be sure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus, her parents, and Disney are outraged at the pictures of Miley, aka Hannah Montana, that are appearing in Vanity Fair magazine. The pictures were taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. Evidently the pictures of 15 year old Miley Cyrus are very sexy and provocative with one of them showing her topless with a sheet around her showing her bare back. Evidently another one (I have not seen these pictures and and just reiterating what I have read) has her showing her bra while pulling her blouse down a bit.

They do sound like sexy pictures taken of a 15 year old girl.

I don't even know where to begin to scream on this one.

First off, why does Vanity Fair need provocative pictures of a 15 year old girl in its magazine?

Secondly, Annie Leibovitz is a famed, artistic photographer who has taken provocative and sexy pictures in her career. She also took pictures of Queen Elizabeth and the queen did not pose for anything very provocative and remained completely clothed for the entire session. Feel free to add your own 'smart' comment to this.


Okay, the parents. Where the heck were the parents and what were they thinking?

And, Miley. I have two daughters. They are both well past 15 but at age 15 they both knew the difference between topless and wearing a top. One can question the judgment of adolescents at times and the questioning can be quite justified. I have never met a teenaged girl who didn't know the difference between clothed and naked. I have never met a teenaged girl who was ignorant of what a camera in the room and their naked, or partially naked body meant. Miley took her shirt off and pictures were being taken. Miley seems to be a smart girl----so she's outraged that she was fooled? Huh?

This entire story is pretty pathetic. Annie Leibovitz should not have taken the pictures. Vanity Fair should be be publishing the pictures. The Cyrus parents are pathetic for consenting to this shoot. And Miley ought to stop feigning outrage at how she was used and come to grips with her own complicity in this. She is old enough to know better.

Wright Contextually

When I watched the Wright statements via sound bite form, like most people, I was taken aback by the G-D America and the ‘chickens come home to roost,’ statement. The first sounded, obviously, like a “I hate America,” statement ( and was vulgar), and the second made it sound like 9/11 was something we totally deserved, which, honestly, on context, might not have changed a great deal.

In context here is what I heard. The G-D America sermon was contextually a Torah sermon about blessings of God and curses of God. Something devoid in the Torah was the concept of grace and blessings were earned, and were not gifts from God. Wright was talking, rightly at this juncture, that governments fail and God does not. He made the move that governments (and people) ought not expect the blessings of God when they choose unrighteous paths. His overall point seemed to be that we have no right to expect the blessings of God when we deserve the curses of God for our behavior. My sense was that he observing that blind nationalism was not something people should put their faith into. Big picture I would agree with him on this.

Does this mean that I was with him on everything in this? No, not at all. For one, I didn’t appreciate the vulgarity. I don’t want to get caught up in that, but it was hard to miss, obviously.

That is what I saw in context. Issues I would have with Wright on this also stand out.

First, I think that his focus seems to be on the United States as a whole not noting or acknowledging that as a society we are a mixture of good and bad, of righteous and unrighteous. I believe that his focus is more on what he perceives the Bush Administration to be and to be about and not acknowledging that there is more to the country than this.

Secondly, I’m not a particular espouser of Liberation Theology. It’s roots are very Latin American and came to fruition at a time when oppression was the order of the day in the regions where it grew. Not unlike Wright’s sermon, it is very Old Testament in its approach and seems to lose sight of redemption as a greater good. I found him making some distinctions between black America and white America that I found disquieting.

The other sermon was interesting. I have always found Psalm 137 to be a remarkable Psalm. Its words were made quite famous in ‘Godspell” with that haunting beautiful song, “On the Willows.” (In the play it’s the crucifixion song and is used in an amazing out of context form!!!)

In any case, the Jews are captives of the Babylonians and they are being mocked by their captors. “Sing is one of the songs of Zion.” One can picture the captors on the sideline mocking them. Their response is “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.” The psalm ends dreadfully when the captives are longing for the day when they can rise up and defeat the captives and even crush the heads of the babies against the rocks. It is pretty dreadful.

Wright’s sermon was that when people are angry, really angry, that in their response they can and will resort to violence and kill everything, even the innocent. Even the children. It was a horrible image and he presented it as such.

I believe that his point was something of a question as to why are we surprised that someone has done this to us? He did make an indictment that our hands (American hands) are not without blood in our history and we have done likewise.

The big question I have on this one is wondering if he was justifying the attack in 9/11 or not. I find great ambiguity of this as he seems to be leaning in this direction and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable, if not angry.

I don’t want to belabor this, but this is where I’m coming from. Here are my final thoughts.

First, I found more to Wright and his comments in context than out of context. Does this make Wright right? (I couldn’t resist that.) It does not make him correct and his words are not comforting or assuring by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, they are way too Old Testament for me and, frankly, seem to segregate responsibility from one portion of America to another----without making many distinctions on “America.’ I honestly think that he made some good points but went over the top on these. Was this hyperbole on his part of his genuine thoughts? That I cannot answer.

Secondly, my starting premise in this was that I was and am angry at the news media for not doing much of a story about this. It is interesting to note that they are doing the same thing to John Hagee about the Roman Catholic Church and not looking at the larger point he was making in his book. Again, whether you like Hagee or not, he is entitled to be taken in context of his entire thought. I don’t think that we have a liberal or conservative news media in our country, but we have a lazy news media that enjoys playing ‘gotcha!’ more than doing good research.

Thirdly, I’m not sure any of this makes much of a difference. People’s opinions about Wright are pretty much set already. People who wanted to like Wright enjoyed the Moyers’ interview and people who don’t like Wright didn’t enjoy it. I’m not sure it changed much on the landscape.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

NFL Draft

Well, lest I get to taking myself of my blog too seriously about theology and politics, it's time to get down to serious business. The NFL draft was this weekend.

Several thoughts.

The first thought is this. Any judgments made by anyone after the draft are subject to being seen as totally insane. The reality is that no one is truly a 'can't miss' prospect. The NFL is littered with a lot of players drafted in the high rounds who did nothing. Tom Brady and Joe Montana were not drafted early....nuff said on that.

It's also interesting to note that it's always difficult to see how a season plays out. In the 2004 draft the Chargers drafted Eli Manning (who would not play for them) and traded him to the Giants for Phillip Rivers. During the season people were making the judgment that Rivers might have been better than Manning. The Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger and he made it to the Super Bowl (on a great team) and his team won, but Big Ben had a dreadful game. Everyone decried that the Giants choice of Manning was a bad one. Of course, of all the quarterbacks drafted that year, Manning is the one with a Super Bowl MVP. On the first week of December he looked like a flop and then was a hero. Who can figure?

The Dolphins and the Rams both took linemen which is amazing. Smart, but amazing. Most teams like to go for the more sexy positions, so these were bold moves. The Falcons drafting Matt Ryan made a strong statement that they are not waiting for Michael Vick to come back. Vick was exciting, to be sure, but I, like many, wondered if he was coachable and would be a great NFL player. He hadn't proven himself to be.

The Giants drafted Kenny Phillips from Miami and many people said that he was the best safety in the draft. They chose Terrell Thomas a cornerback from USC. I think that their secondary was the part of the team that had the most questions and so if these players play well, it will be a good draft.

Interesting to note, people didn't think much of their draft last year and after the Super Bowl they were touted as one of the teams that drafted the most intelligently. As I said, who can figure.

My postscript on this is simple. I never get myself overly excited. I still remember the Giants drafting Rocky Thompson. Thompson was fast and a running back in college but the Giants drafted him as a wide receiver. Thompson, however, was about as bright as an unlit lightbulb and couldn't learn to run routes... Sigh.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This Interview Made Me Angry

Last night I watched Bill Moyers (the only person I would have trusted to do this interview) actually sit down and interview Jeremiah Wright. It was a one member of the United Church of Christ (Moyers) interviewing a UCC minister and it was an excellent interview.

This interview made me angry. Not at Moyers or Wright but at the insidious job that the news media did in reporting this story. Moyers showed longer excerpts from Wright's 'sound bite' sermons and what we have been seeing is SO amazingly out of context that it will practically make your hair stand up. Wright also used the words I attributed to him (different is not deficient.)

If you missed it, here is the link:

Wright did something interesting. He was preaching from the Bible. He got his cues from the Bible instead of making the Bible validate his opinions. Amazing. Watch the video. You'll be amazed at what you didn't see before.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dining Out Pet Peeves

We eat out a great deal and, over the years, I've developed a lot of pet peeves with dining out. They might not apply to you, but they annoy me. Feel free to add any additions to my list!

1. Serving margarine instead of butter. Margarine is good for one thing and when I determine what that one thing is, I will be sure to pass it on. When you give me bread and want me to 'butter' it, give me butter. I'm also semi-annoyed by the 'olive oil' craze that is sweeping the nation. I grew up in a classic Italian American family in New Jersey and guess what we put on our bread growing up? BUTTER!

2. Restaurants that make you a nice salad and give you an envelope with real fake dressing inside of it. Of course, to make these $#% envelopes strong enough to not leak, they wrap them in industrial strength aluminum to make them difficult to tear open. They truly are Manzo proof and, frankly, don't taste like anything I'm interested in eating.

3. You to to a restaurant, they give you water and you are thirsty and drink the water down very quickly. Someone comes by and asks, "Would you like a refill?" DUH!!!!!!!!

4. You order a steak, and chains are notorious for this, and they put some sort of weird seasoning all over the steak. Instead of a beef taste you taste a weird combination of salt, chili powder, pepper, and secret spices all of which I could have done without.

5. Asian food on a buffet. I love Asian food and really good Chinese food as few peers. The stir frying technique makes the vegetables mostly especially hot, cooked, and crunchy. If you go to a buffet this marvelous cooking technique gets afflicted to a steam table which renders what started out as wonderful into yuch. Asian buffet restaurants should be avoided at all costs.

6. Boiled unto death hot dogs. Yuch. Grilled all beef franks and the puffy, colorless things that people take out of a vat of hot water and place on a bun have little semblance to each other.

7. Corned beef or pastrami with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Anyone who really has a comprehension of what 'deli food' is can tell you that this is truly a mockery of food. It is like putting ketchup on filet mignon. Anyone who can count to 11 and keep his/her shoes on should know better than this.

8. Not saying, in the menu, what is actually in the dish. I cannot eat onions very well. I do not feel great after eating them. I will always read the menu to see if onion is a big part of dishes and I often ask and will order things without the onions. All too often I have read the description of a food item and I receive something fairly accurately described---except they used a copious amount of onions and didn't mention it. A friend ordered something and what she received had curry flavoring that wasn't mentioned. Since she didn't like curry flavoring...

9. McDonalds. I'd rather eat dirt.

10. Fish on the menu without telling me what kind of fish it is. Most places do not simply say "Meat sandwich" on the menu and let you hope you like the choice of meat. Maybe it's because I'm a northeastern elitist who grew up and learned that not all fish were the same or tasted the same. Before I bite into the fish, I'd like to know what kind it is.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Barack Obama Comes to New Albany

It definitely was exciting. I went to see Barack Obama with a group of people from St. Marks. We all had tickets but we want to make sure we got in and got close enough to see and hear it all. We arrived at IUS a bit after 8:00AM, had chairs, and waited on line. A good friend made a mad dash down from Columbus when we called him and told me that we had one extra ticket. He made it just it time for us to go in at 10:00AM.

The place was packed and people were definitely excited. When Senator Obama walked in the room people were incredibly enthusiastic. He spoke for a while then answered some questions.

Some things did strike me.

First, he is amazingly bright and articulate, and maintains his intelligence, and his speaking ability with a sense of humor and surprising warmth. I actually was taken aback by his warmth and approachability. He was at great ease taking questions.

Secondly, I had a different sense of this race. The positions of Obama and Clinton are, when you look at them, remarkably similar. He did make this point quite well; and when you contrast the positions with McCain, wow. This next election can't be about 'who' but 'what.' The 'who's' are important because of 'what' they are about. I have a sense that either the Senator from Illinois or New York will have comparable approaches.

Lastly, I'm realizing more and more that there is a higher level of racism that I could even grasp. The word 'elite' is being used about Barack Obama more and more. This morning they were criticizing how he is dressed. The reason for this is that he is dressed well. He was wearing a crisp white shirt and a dark suit.

Barack Obama dresses well and his is criticized. He uses big words demonstrating that he has received a good education and can read and write and is criticized for this. The word 'elite' is used about him almost more than anyone else.

The word 'elite' has replaced the phrase 'uppity n...."

A friend said that there is a thinly veiled use of racism towards him. I disagree. I don't think the veil is that thin.

The event was interesting. He was a person of intelligence, of great insight, well-spoken, and humble enough to say that he often relies on the wisdom of others to help him learn about things and make decisions.

He would be a definite change in the White House, that is for sure.

John McCain’s North Carolina Dilemma

John McCain is opposing the state GOP in North Carolina which is running commercials linking Barack Obama with state officials. They are using the association of Barack Obama and his retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They are using the 30 second sound bites everyone has seen 1001 times before.

Senator McCain is opposing this. He doesn’t want to run this kind of campaign and that’s great. He ought to oppose this. If you watch the commercial, it’s a not very thinly veiled use of racism and McCain, frankly, does not want to be associated with this. All of this is good.

But John McCain has another problem. In an ironic twist of fate, the two leading Democratic candidates are more church affiliated people than John McCain is. Both Obama and Clinton are more deeply invested, church wise, than Senator McCain is, and they are both more politically aware of religious leaders, who they are, and what they stand for.

Senator McCain was having a problem with Evangelicals so he courted John Hagee, a mega-church pastor from Texas. The only problem was the Hagee was probably not the best person to chose from. John Hagee is one of the people who proclaimed Katrina to be God’s vengeance on the city of New Orleans. John Hagee is one who aligned the Roman Catholic Church with rampant anti-semitism and has referred to it as the ‘great whore’ in the book of Revelation. Oh yes, and on women: Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick.”

If John McCain’s campaign uses commercials linking Barack Obama to Jeremiah Wright then John McCain runs the risk of commercials being run linking him to John Hagee.

The argument is going to be made that Obama sat in Wright’s church for 20 years. True enough. But, the more people look into Jeremiah Wright, the more substance they are going to find that he is really an incredible individual and more and more people will understand why Obama sat in that church. The more they look into John Hagee they will wonder what John McCain was thinking when he sought this endorsement.

Senator McCain has, to his credit, looked to take the high road here. It demonstrates good character on his part, but also an insight that there are some gutters one does not want to play in. His North Carolina dilemma is real and offers nothing good for anyone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Random Musings

Despite myself I keep following the Mets. Grr.

The Giants should trade Shockey. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. I'm just saying it.

I found it interesting that the Pope was bid farewell by Darth Vader himself. I'm not sure Lord Vader realized it, but the Pope eviscerated US foreign policy during his UN speech.

Well, the earthquake the other day was my first experience with an earthquake. Hard to believe; it was not something I expected to take up to. I'd like not to repeat the experience.

Eli Manning got married in Mexico over the weekend. I know one person whom I love dearly who is not a happy camper about this.

I ate at the new fish restaurant in New Albany the other day and had an excellent fish sandwich. Good for downtown!!!

A very hand site to have if you live around here is this:

Robin Garr runs a first class site and it has the best information on dining out in the Louisville metro area.

I am really vexed between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I truly am.

Lastly, I am weary of barking dogs in my subdivision. Why do people get dogs and keep them outside barking at all hours. Cruel to the dogs and the neighbors!!!!


I was watching MSNBC on the coverage of the Pope’s visit to the United States. I found this trip to be entirely fascinating. In any case, I thought that the coverage was mostly pretty good other than the constant chatter over some very fine music.

In any case, MSNBC had a commentator who was a priest from the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania and he made a very foolish statement. He observed that Roman Catholic churches, now, are the safest place for children in the world. This was, obviously, in response to the whole crisis that the Roman Catholic church had with pedophiles.

It would be a nice thought, but it was an incredibly foolish and arrogant statement to make. It is that kind of foolishness and arrogance that got the Roman Catholic church in trouble in the first place, and the kind of foolishness and arrogance that all places that serve children can be vulnerable to.

Children should be safe. It is up to churches and any place that has children to assure that. It requires some due diligence in who children are with, the environment that they are in, accessibility to others, etc.

The problem the Roman Catholic church had was that they weren’t diligent in the past. I was never sexually abused or approached in any way, shape, or form and I did spend time with priests. I was fortunate, however, that the priests with whom I associated were not predators. Safeguards were not in place and parents readily dropped their children off for altar boy practice, etc. After all, what would be safer than having children spend time with clergy? Actually, nothing should be safe, but, sadly, we’ve found out that not all clergy ought to be alone with children. We found it out sadly and tragically.

I hope that this guy is right that the children are safer in churches than ever before. I do wish, however, he’d be a bit more cautious in that and remind all of us that diligence and safety are not innate, but worked at.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On the Flip side...

I have said some really nice things about the current Pope. One would get the impression from reading my blog of late that I am a huge fan of Pope Benedict. I’m really not. I see some good qualities about him that I do admire. I am not, however, moved to the point that I long to be Roman Catholic again.

His background was as a theologian and a seminary professor. Under the reign of Pope John Paul II he was the theological point person to enforce John Paul’s rigid views of theology. John Paul was elected when I was still in the seminary (and was Roman Catholic) and found myself very inspired to become Protestant.

I am not an admirer of John Paul. People now like to call him John Paul the great and many have said that he needs to be on the fast track towards becoming a saint. How a person who turned a blind eye, an intentional blind eye on sexual abuse within his church to be called ‘great’ or a ‘saint’ is beyond my comprehension. But, oh well. When Paul VI was the Pope there was a great deal of theological diversity and open discussion within the Roman Catholic church. John Paul ended that. Frankly, he was an international superstar, but an ecclesiastical nightmare to many. Me included.

The current Pope is as rigid as John Paul, probably more theological astute than John Paul, and unlike John Paul, may actually have a heart. John Paul demonstrated an almost callous indifference to abuse victims and people who disagreed with him. Benedict his showing a heart. Good thing.

But here are some points I don’t like.

First, I think that his concept of “truth” is way too narrowly defined to a very old brand of Roman Catholicism. There is much depth to much in Roman Catholic theology, but, sometimes, in practice, there is an almost superstitious silliness. His conceptualization on being ‘too’ Roman Catholic is that he really has diminished ecumenical exchanges.

Secondly, he is at least acknowledging the sexual abuse scandal. He has finally grasped that it is real and vile. (While a Cardinal under John Paul II he called this a media creation)

His acknowledgment is a good thing and a major step forward. The problem, however, is that there is a systemic problem within Roman Catholicism that no one will confront. Many have been trying to state that celibacy is not the problem-----but they are whistling in the dark on this one. They truly are. Additionally, the lack of women in the priesthood has also helped perpetuate the problem. It is not to say that denominations with married clergy and female clergy don’t have problems, they do. But you do not see the level of this kind of activity.

Thirdly, Pope Benedict has made all sorts of statements about gay priests being defective and, frankly, he probably was making reference to a staggering percentage of priests. He put them down and they really didn’t deserve this. Many of them have served God and served God’s Church very, very well and his words came as a dreadful shock to them. Part of the dilemma that the Roman Catholic church has faced is that they do have a large number of gay priests and, in their formation programs, do not provide the formation to enable these men to grapple with celibacy, etc.

Fourthly, he had a conference with all the Bishops a couple of years ago in Roman about Holy Communion. There was great excitement through many Christian circles because the Roman Catholic church and Holy Communion is a big deal. The Roman Catholic church has a closed table (which to me is a sin) and they close it off to other Christians who are not Roman Catholic, but also close it off to people who have been divorced and remarried. It’s interesting to note that NOTHING blocks a person from the table at my church, including a Roman Catholic who was divorced and remarried, but they are blocked from the table in their own church.

But I digress. Problems have tentacles. In any case, he convened this huge event and they talked about distribution of the wafers, how people held their hands in receiving, Holy Communion, etc. Nonsensical stuff.

I could go on, but I won’t. The more I see, the more I observe, the more delighted I am to be a part of the United Church of Christ.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some Papal Lessons

It seems that, of late, I've been writing an awful lot of good things about Pope Benedict XVI. One would think, reading what I've written, is that I'm a big fan. I'm actually not. There is much about him and his positions that I take great issue with. His presence, however, has served as an interesting and troublesome contrast. As a result, I think that he has taught us some major lessons.

The first lesson is a lesson in morality.

In contrasting the President and the Pope, one represented a kind of 'I'll preach what'll get me elected' type ethics whereas the other essentially just taught ethics as a complete picture. The Pope was elected by his peers and is not a part of any ecclesiastical political party, he just preaches what he believes to be right. He is remarkably (sometimes to his detriment) oblivious and indifferent to what people think about him.

The second lesson is about education.

One thing that concerns me a great deal is that the word 'elite' is thrown around whenever a person is well educated. Interesting note about education. The more a person is educated the more a person realizes what he or she does not know. Education not only increases knowledge, but it increases an awareness that we know a whole lot less than we think we do. If one wants to remain steadfast in certainty, it's best NOT to receive much of an education.

Which brings me to the Pope. This guy is a highly educated individual, a theological scholar of very high regard. He is a high esteemed Scripture scholar who, I wish, they would take to the so-called Creation Museum to watch him eviscerate the founders of that place on their poor Scripture interpretation.

He is not running around doing sound bites. He speaks using big words with complex thoughts behind them. If one ever chooses to read whatever he writes, plan to take a long time and bring aspirin. But he's a nice change of pace from the usual moronic theological exchanges we have grown so used to listening to.

Lastly, I was delighted to see him meet with sexual abuse victims and begin to acknowledge the horror of what had taken place and the complicity the Roman Catholic Church had in it. Before he was the Pope he was 'blaming the media' for hyping a 'small story.' He has since learned better and seems genuinely concerned. It'll be interesting to see if he is willing to see the systemic nature of the problem and look to solve it, but that might be too hopeful.

Okay, next post will be what I'm not happy about this Pope about.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Deliberately Insulting.....Or Stupid?

I have rarely seen such a display of bad diplomacy in my life. We seem to have hit a new low.

Pope Benedict XVI (16 for those who think I’m being elite by using Roman numerals) visited the United States and the White House. President Bush seemed to roll out the red carpet for him....

Some people were critical of the President’s “Awesome speech your Holiness,” but I didn’t see that as a big deal. But there were a couple of monumental things in terms of diplomacy that really stood out. As well as comments....

For one, the 21- gun salute. Again, I am not opposed to 21- gun salutes and have seen many of them and find them quite moving. They are most often used at the burial of a veteran and are most appropriate. But for welcoming the Pope?

Pope Benedict, nee, Joseph Ratzinger is 81 years old and was born and raised in Germany. Considering he was born in 1927 he grew up during the reign of Adolf Hitler and grew up in Nazi Germany. He spent time, pretty much against his will, like mostly all the youth of his era, in the Hitler Youth. At great risk he went AWOL from the Hitler Youth and very much despised the Nazi regime....and war. So, being highly sensitive to the Pope they chose to give him a 21- gun salute? Huh?

Then there were the President’s comments about life being sacred and not being a moral relativist.

Moral relativism has become a big tent to encompass lots of things. It is often simply stating that moral relativists don’t believe in any principles, but all ethical decisions are made subject to circumstances. Actually, lots of people who are classified as moral relativists do believe that there are definitive principles, but they are either not totally knowable (aka, God’s Truth) or unachievably. Joseph Fletcher, in this work, “Situation Ethics” said that all morality was situational, but based on the premise of Augustine stating, “Love and do as you will.”

The reality is that moral relativism pretty much encompasses everyone. Most people do cafeteria pick and choose their ethical principles. But not everyone in some circumstances.

Take the Pope. The Pope would consider himself to be pro-life. He is opposed to abortion under all circumstances. All. No exceptions. He’s opposed to stem cell research, euthanasia, capital punishment, and most war unless it strictly adhere to the Just War Principle. Guess where he would stand on torture?

President Bush is not pro-life. He may be opposed to abortion and stem cell research, but he’s an absolute moral relativist on other life issues. I was wondering when reading his comments if he realized how inappropriate he was in stating his view of morality in front of a person who has such a hugely different perspective than he does.

Then, of course, Laura Bush wore a white dress. When you invite the Pope, you don’t wear white. He does. That’s it. Major protocol error. Not on Mrs. Bush’s part, mind you, because someone needed to have a clue.

So, here’s my question. You completely blunder protocol (this is the White House, mind you) and you really step in it with your words. Was this an attempt to deliberately insult a foreign dignitary or just plain stupid?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Random Musings

The Pope arrived in the United States and he was greeted at the White House with a 21 gun salute. I'm not opposed to 21 gun salutes. They are a wonderful time to honor veterans and often used at funerals. I find them to be an impressive tribute.

The thing is, the Pope represents the, ahem, Prince of Peace, and he has been sharply critical of President Bush about the President's almost gleeful usage of the death penalty, of the President's tolerance for torture, and the waging of, philosophically, an unjust war. A 21 gun salute from President Bush was not unlike Eliot Spitzer welcoming the Pope with "Girls Gone Wild" videos. You don't do war things with Popes. They should have asked me...

Speaking of Eliot Spitzer, rumor has it that the Pope has put aside 4 hours in New York to hear the confessions of New York's latest two governors...

I found Hillary Clinton's description of her love of guns and her father, etc., to be a bit of a stretch. Hillary grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois which is a first suburban town out of the city. This means, for those who are not from large cities, that Park Ridge borders Chicago and is the first town you hit when you leave the city. When you are a close suburb in to a very large city, I grew up outside New York, the world is very crowded and guns are not part of the culture. The only people I knew who had guns when I was growing up were the police, the army, and the local mobsters.

Of course, Barack Obama saying that she's trying to sound like Annie Oakley was one of the best lines of the campaign...

Yesterday it cost me $36.00 to fill up my car with gas. I drive a Toyota Corolla. Small car, small engine. It cost me $36.0o to fill up my car with gas. I keep hearing people telling me that the 'market' always takes care of things. I'd love to drink some of that Kool-Aid...

I read today that Martha Stewart's dog died. Made the front page of a major web site news organization. I thought I'd pass that on as I expect everyone is riveted by such news.

I'm wondering when the Pope is opening his campaign office in New Albany...

Okay, that's a wrap!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Problem with Dishonesty

Some years ago the former DA of Los Angeles and author of Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi, mad the observation that we have grown tolerant of dishonesty. Very tolerant. So tolerant, in fact, that it is expected in most court cases and we overlook the fact that many of our nation’s leaders lie. A lot.

I’ve been watching the Hillary Clinton campaign disintegrate and I’m coming to the conclusion that people are growing weary of dishonesty. The problem with dishonesty, long term, is that, at some point, it has to stop if progress is going to be made.

Her ‘dodging snipers’ issue as, if taken all by itself, perhaps little. It, however, was impacted by the fact that there has been long term dishonesty by occupants of the White House and her answers strained credibility. I found myself sighing in disbelief wondering if she even believed herself.

Here’s the problem. There’s a long term honesty issue in the White House.

Bill Clinton did not earn the nickname “Slick Willie” for nothing. There are volumes to be said about the impeachment process with him, Kenneth Starr, etc., but part of Bill Clinton’s problem was that there was also a major amount of dishonesty coming from him. He lied through his teeth and only was forced into telling the truth by a looming DNA test.

George W. Bush ran on the platform that he was going to bring honesty and integrity back to the White House. (I often wonder ‘back’ from who? I think that Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were, in fact, honest, but there’s been enough chicanery in the White House from both parties to indicate that using the word ‘back’ strains credibility.)

In any case, George W. Bush ran talking about his honesty and integrity. To be blunt, his complete lack of honesty and integrity have proven to be breathtaking.

Into this mix there is an election. Hillary Clinton has not appeared to be honest, and frankly, I’m totally understanding Clinton Fatigue. I’m tired of it. I think her slickness with words is doing her in. Sadly, she might, in fact, make the best President of the final three candidates, but I suspect we’re never going to find out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Karola Ruth Siegel

Karola Ruth Siegel was born in Germany in 1928. In 1939 her father was taken away by the Nazis and her mother and grandmother sent the young Jewish girl out of harm's way to Switzerland. She would never see her family again as they were all lost in the Holocaust. When she was 16 years old, and without a family, she moved to where Israel would come to be a joined Haganah, an underground Jewish military organization. She was trained as a guard and a sniper, though she never did kill anyone.

She eventually was severely wounded in 1948 thus ending her military career. She moved to Paris and studied Psychology and even taught Kindergarten. She eventually furthered her education after moving to the United States.

So, the next time you listen to Dr. Ruth....there's a lot more to her than you probably realized..

Monday, April 07, 2008

Not So Sure About Baseball Any More

The first time I saw a Major League Baseball game was in 1961 when the Yankees defeated the Washington Senators. I was all of six years old and was enchanted by Yankee Stadium. My Dad, however, was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in mourning and becoming a Yankees’ fan in our home was not acceptable. In 1962 I had the chance to see the New York Mets play in the Polo Grounds and I became a life long Mets fan.

I’m not sure I’m interested in Major League baseball this year. I might stick just to the Bats and AAA Ball.

I’m rapidly losing interest in Major League baseball. The thought is coming to mind for several reasons.

First, the great records of the game are no longer great records of the game. The single season home run champion is Barry Bonds who most probably cheated his way to the record. He, of course, passed Mark Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa who both cheated on their way to the records. Roger Maris and Hank Aaron, who learned their records honestly, are no longer the record holders.

Additionally, when Aaron the Maris broke their records, it was a pitcher’s game. They played against truly great pitching on higher mounds than now. And they didn’t use steroids.

Secondly, a baseball game was, at its best, a game of strategy and attrition. Starting pitchers often pitched the entire game or the vast majority of it. You’ll rarely see a starter pitch past six innings and now it’s all set up men and closers. Lost is the attrition in the game. The usage of the DH, well, is sinful. Managers no longer have to plan around the ‘weak’ hitting pitcher. Blah.

Thirdly, the money. It now costs a fortune to go to the ball game. There is no bargain in going to a baseball game.

Lastly, it’s not about the kids any more. It used to be that kids had heroes and you could watch your heroes. Growing up it was common on a summer’s afternoon to get out of the sun and hang out with your friends and watch the ball game on TV. We’d all watch our favorite players and go outside and emulate them. We all learned to pitch with the great high kick of Juan Marichal, we could mimic the strange stance of Willie Mays, do the practice swings of Mickey Mantle, and drop the ball like Marvelous Marvin Throneberry. And we could all spit and chew 12 piece of gum at one time.

Now the games are in ‘prime time.’ Kids are asleep. Beside, there are no more pick up games of baseball any more.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to follow baseball this year.

Oh, and before you comment that the same could be said for the NFL. Please don’t. I’m still watching my Giants this year!!!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin Luther King---40 Years Later

40 years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I remember it quite well. I was 13 years old and in the 7th grade. One of the Presidential candidates stood out and worked diligently as a healing agent that day and the days to come. He, unfortunately, would be assassinated two months later. 1968 was not a very good year.

We have learned a great deal over the years.

We learned that J. Edgar Hoover loathed King and was attempting to destroy the civil rights leader.

We have learned that King was a rather imperfect man who struggled with his own personal life in the midst of his public life.

We have learned that he was incredibly sincere, however, about his desire for justice and that the justice he sought was not just racial, but across the boards social justice. He believed that the great enemy of any society was poverty and at the core of so much of what he believed in was fighting poverty.

We have learned that, for him, his faith called him, even demanded him, to follow a non-violent approach. Not everyone did, but King's influence called for a peaceful approach as opposed to a violent approach.

Here we are 40 years later and it always does cause one to take pause.

I heard a news commentator report making an observation that the candidacy of Barack Obama would not be happening if it had not been for Martin Luther King. Perhaps. It is difficult to say. It is impossible to truly know what would have taken place in that 40 year period of time had it not been for Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is, of course, the great question as to what would have taken place had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not been assassinated at the age of 39. What kind of influence would have have been had he survived?

Looking over that time period there are, at least to me, some things that have changed dramatically.

First, racially, I do sincerely believe, we are in a better place than we were 40 years ago. Barack Obama is running for the Presidency and has a significant chance to win the nomination of the Democratic Party. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, have both served as the Secretary of State. A year ago Oprah Winfrey did a 'surprise' special in a town on rural Louisiana, a mostly white town, and the people were in the streets jumping up and down with great joy and enthusiasm that Oprah had come to their community. I do know that these events would not have taken place 40 years ago.

Secondly, I still think that we have a major hate problem in this country. I find myself deeply offended that people use the Bible to justify hate conveniently overlooking the nuances of ancient vrs. modern languages. God is not a God of hate----in fact quite the opposite. King did not promote hate, he promoted love of brothers and sisters of all people. He actually did preach the Gospel in that regard. Sadly, it seems to me that hatred is too often promoted.

Thirdly, I think it would be naive, painfully naive, to say that race is still not an issue in American life. One of the things that seemed to anger many people about the comments of Dr. Jeremiah Wright was that they were angry that he was still angry. They couldn't grasp why he was still angry. Some of that anger is perceived as a generational issue and perhaps that is somewhat accurate. There are still issues of race, however.

We've watched many political leaders go down in flames these days. Eliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, David Vitter. The news stories and analysis of these individuals did not include any racial or ethnic commentary. When Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick got in trouble, suddenly racial slurs and rap labels began to appear. He was the Black Mayor of Detroit instead of just the Mayor of Detroit. Race is still an issue.

Hardly a news story about Barack Obama goes by without someone reminding us that he is an African American candidate. He is an African American candidate, but I wonder when he will just be a candidate. Race is still an issue.

I think that in the 40 years we have lived through since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we have grown a good bit and improved a good bit in terms of race. We are still, however, nowhere near the promised land he envisioned.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Faith and Character

I have been watching the HBO mini-series on John Adams. Good stuff. In watching this, something they haven’t highlighted but is very much a part of John Adams was his faith.

John Adams was a Congregationalist and most of the Congregational Churches are now a part of the modern day United Church of Christ. John Adams, often by his own admission, had the ability to be an irritable person who often was the person in the room most desired to be quiet. Often Adams did not sit down when others wish he would have.

Adams was also a person driven by personal convictions as to what is right. His cousin, Samuel, over stated the ‘Boston Massacre’ as an example of oppressive British forces when, in fact, it was a group of frightened soldiers facing an unruly mob of people which resulted in violence. John Adams swam against the tided and defended the soldiers and won the case. It wasn’t because he was ‘pro-British’ but because he learned the accusers were lying and the soldiers were telling the truth. He chose to do the right thing.

Adams would later become angry at many of the things the British did and became a great leader in the history of the American Revolution.

Much of what drove Adams was his faith and his faith helped form his character.

I do believe that faith often is a great factor in character development as one thing it does attempt to do is create people who are righteous folks.

Righteous folks (not to be confused with self-righteous) are people who attempt to do that which they perceive to be right and good.

Truly righteous people treat everyone with the respect and dignity that they believe all people deserve.

Truly righteous people want justice for all people.

Truly righteous people attempt to live out their lives remaining ‘above the fray.’

Often righteousness gets confused as self-righteousness. Self-righteous people are people who attempt to set parameters for everyone and often are very judgmental on people who do not live within the parameters set by others. An imposition of one’s values on another is not really righteous, but it moves into the realm of being self-righteous.

For me, I do like to believe that it is my faith that has enabled me to develop a sense of charity for others, a sense of compassion for the less fortunate, and a sense of welcoming towards those who often feel unwelcome.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

March 30th Sermon

Knowledge, Doubt, and Faith
Text: John 20:19-29
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
March 30, 2008

Ever have that moment when you had it all figured out and someone or something came along and your conclusions turned out to be all wrong?

Thomas missed Jesus’ appearance and didn’t believe it. The world of Thomas changed too quickly, too many times.

He was an apostle, a follower of the most popular man in Jerusalem. He was one of the people in the parade that people thought was wonderful.

Then Jesus was arrested. Thomas demonstrated his commitment to Jesus, his love for Jesus, and his courage by running away. Then when Jesus appeared to the others, Thomas was still away.

As I was reading this story three words kept coming to mind. Knowledge, doubt, and faith. These words and the problem with certainty were the things I kept wrestling with.

Knowledge is that which we can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell and know that it is real. It is not speculation, it is not argument, it is not even discussion. It is not even faith. Faith, by definition, cannot be knowledge.

Then there is doubt and faith. The story of Thomas is both a story of doubt and faith. Both. In theories of faith development people cannot really grow in faith until they experience doubt. And doubt can hit hard and painfully.

Several years ago I had the opportunity at the National Pastor's Conference in Nashville to hear Rev. Ed Dobson speak.

Dobson was the Pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a pastor who built a mega-church, was a widely sought after speaker and author, as well as the editor of Leadership magazine. Dobson was a been a mover and a shaker in the Evangelical world and an early leader in the Moral Majority. To be quite honest, he was not a person I was particularly interested in hearing. His talk, however, the one night, had most of us in tears.

Dobson's talk to us clergy, however, was one of those ‘bomb going off' kinds of tales. There were probably about 1000 people in the room and you could have heard a pin drop----and the floor was carpeted.

Dobson recounted his struggle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The disease is a debilitating neuro-muscular disease and is terminal. The death process can be long and, frankly, brutal.

Dobson said, some years ago, he visited the Holy Land and the ‘tomb of Lazarus.' He said that the Holy Land is noted to have a lot of ahem, lies, meaning that a lot of the places labeled to be this or that either are not, or may not be those places. (They weren't good about putting Jesus slept here signs around.)

His point was that when they were in Bethany there was this tomb, reputed to be the tomb of Lazarus and the experience in the tomb was, in a word, dreary. He had to crawl down a hole, down a ladder. They would then crawl on the ground, under a barrier and into a dark, smelly, cold room. He said that the dark, smelly, cold room was awful. The experience, shared Dobson, of being diagnosed with ALS was a lot like being in the tomb, and he wondered how he'd climb back out. His talk is a rather long one, recounting this, but a powerful one.

He found in the midst of doubt and despair he ultimately found himself with a greater faith.

Often people presume that doubt is the opposite of faith. It’s not. The real opposite of doubt is certainty.

Little Jimmy’s grandfather was something of a philosopher and never missed an opportunity to give out bits of sage advice to his grandson.

“Jimmy,” he said one day, “remember, one thing in your life, something I have learned through experience, fools are certain, but wise people hesitate.”

“Are you sure, Grandpa?” asked Jimmy.

“Yes, my boy,” said the old man, laying his gnarled hand on the youth’s head, “I’m absolutely certain.”

Certainty is often a trap, one that the old grandfather had obviously fallen into himself.

In the January 1997 of Money Magazine there was a report in which a group of people were asked which is longer, the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal, and then asked how certain they were that their answer was correct. Among those who were 60% certain, 50% of them got the answer right—meaning that this group was 10% too sure. But among those who were 90% certain, only 65% got the answer right, meaning that this group was 25% too sure.

Apparently, according to this reported study, the more convinced we are of our knowledge, the bigger the gap between what we actually know and what we think we know and it often lead us to make mistakes.

Oh, and just so you know, the Panama Canal is 48 miles and the Suez Canal is 101 miles long.

One of the hardest challenges for people is to accept just how little we really know. An example of overestimated knowledge took place a few years ago when a Spanish national lottery winner was asked how he selected the ticket number. He answered that he was positive his lucky number ended in 48—because, he said, “I dreamed of the number seven for seven straight nights. And seven times seven is 48.”

At least he won.

The problem with certainty in this scripture passage is that Thomas is certain that Jesus had not been raised from the dead. The issue with Thomas isn’t his doubt; his doubt was actually a prelude to his faith. The issue with Thomas was that he was certain. No matter what he knew the truth, no matter what anyone told him.

And, to make matters worse, he was willing to tell the world that he was certain.

But his certainty was challenged. And then he began to doubt his certainty and it was that doubt that began to make him open, again, to having faith in Jesus.

The problem with certainty is that it’s great in a two dimensional world. It is awesome when everything is black and white and when everything is easily defined as right and wrong. A two dimensional world is a comic book world where everything is apparent and easy to know and understand. When you read a comic book, you know that Superman and Batman are good and will always save the day. Always.

And it’s great. There is no doubt and all is certain.

Except the world is not two dimensional. It is not easy to always define right and wrong. It is not always easy to understand or comprehend good, bad, or indifferent.

The problem with certainty is that it thrives on myths.

The first myth it thrives on is that there are two sides to every story. We’ve all heard that before. “There are two sides to every story.” This is one of the great all time lies in human history. Most issues have way more than two sides. In two dimensional worlds, in comic book reality, things have two sides, but lie is a lot more complicated than that.

The second myth is this. We understand God and God’s will. Some state they do. Most of us wish we did. The reality is, however, when we say that we truly understand God and understand God’s will, we are putting ourselves on God’s level. The same level of the God of the universe who created the vastness of this universe.

Sometimes we get asked the question, “Do you know the Lord?” It’s a tough question. I’ve heard people say that they did, but, here’s another question. “Do you really know the people you live with? I mean, do you really know them?” Or, maybe better you, “Do we really understand ourselves?” I may be dumb, but to be quite honest, I still find myself a mystery, I don’t totally get everyone I live with, and God remains a great mystery to me.

Which brings me back to Thomas. Thomas had a lapse to be sure. He had doubt that Jesus had been raised from the dead. For him, however, that doubt was the genesis of his faith. The biggest obstacle of his faith was not his doubt of Jesus’ resurrection, but his certainty that Jesus’ death was permanent. When the apostles spoke to him, and he doubted, that doubt opened a whole new door for him.

We all, at some point, venture down the same path as Thomas. We all, at some points, have been overly certain of things and made mistakes as a result of it.

We have all, at some point, found ourselves filled with despair to the point that we had little to no hope and doubt was much more real than faith.

But in the end, Thomas embraced Jesus in faith, and walked as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. And Jesus, for his part, welcomed Thomas back.

Ultimately it was Thomas doubt that led to certainty; but it was also doubt in that certainty that led him to faith.


WalMart has decided to drop the lawsuit and the Shanks can keep the funds needed for long term care. Thank you to WalMart for doing the right thing. Be nice if those attorneys who charged her so much do likewise.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Wal Mart and Grotesque Immorality

Debbie Shank of Missouri used to work at a Wal Mart. When they offered her to participate in the company health insurance plan, she signed up. Unfortunately she didn’t read the fine print where it said that should she ever receive money in a lawsuit pertaining to any sort of health care, Wal Mart had a recoup whatever it paid out.

Mrs. Shank was in a very bad automobile accident and has been confined to a wheel chair in a nursing home with major brain damage. She has virtually no short term memory. After the accident Mrs. Shank and her husband received $1,000,000.00 and, after fees, were able to put $417,000.00 into a trust that would pay for her long term care in a nursing facility.

Wal Mart sued the Shanks for $470,000.00 that they believed they were entitled to because they had paid, through her health insurance, $470,000.00 in health care expenses. The won the case, but were only able to recoup $417,000.00 because that was all she was able to receive. As a result of this, her fund for long term care are gone, back in the coffers of Wal Mart. Her husband divorced her because her government benefits are greater as a single woman than they are as a married woman. Mr. Shank, however, still supports his now ex-wife and is working two jobs to keep her in care.

Mrs. Shank is unaware of all of this as she cannot remember things from day to day. She lost her 18 year old son in Iraq and asks about him daily. And grieves daily because each day she hears about his death for the very first time.

The Shanks are fighting this in court and ultimately will lose. Wal Mart does have a signed contract from Mrs. Shank and is well within their right to the money. Courts have to decide on the law and the law alone, not on what is good and decent. Goodness and human decency are not laws, but move into the realm of morality.

I have several thoughts on this.

I find the behavior of Wal Mart to be behavior that is grotesquely immoral and indecent. It may be legal, but it’s legality doesn’t make it any better.

Secondly, I find myself angry at what has become, in my perception, to much of corporate America. I once heard a lecture from a business owner in Pennsylvania who said that in the past businesses were supposed to do three things. First was to make or provide a good product. Secondly was to make a profit. Third was to give something back to the community. His fear was the many places were skipping one and three and just worrying about two. Rarely was the third, giving something back to the community, part of the equation.

In fairness to Wal Mart, they often do try to give something back to communities in which they are located. But they obviously do not show great loyalty to those who have worked for them.

Thirdly, I am bone weary of the ‘all about me’ culture we live in. In Genesis Cain asks that immortal question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the rest of the Bible goes on to answer that question in the affirmative. Sadly, even within Christianity we don’t embrace this or even recognize this.

Yesterday I needed something at the store and I was right near Wal Mart. I thought of Debbie Shank and drove on by.